Albrecht Classen

title.none: Amor est passio (Classen)

identifier.other: baj9928.9910.005 99.10.05

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1999

identifier.citation: Alfred Karnein. Amor est passio: Untersuchungen zum nicht-hoëfischen Liebesdiskurs des Mittelalters. Hesperides - Letterature e Culture Occidentale, IV. Trieste: Edizioni Parnaso, 1997. Pp. xi, 191. ISBN: 8-886-47421-0.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 99.10.05

Alfred Karnein. Amor est passio: Untersuchungen zum nicht-hoëfischen Liebesdiskurs des Mittelalters. Hesperides - Letterature e Culture Occidentale, IV. Trieste: Edizioni Parnaso, 1997. Pp. xi, 191. ISBN: 8-886-47421-0.

Reviewed by:

Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona

Th e Frankfurt Germanist Alfred Karnein has made a name for himself through his intensive and long-term research on Andreas Capellanus and its reception in the late Middle Ages. In 1970 he published an edition of the early-modern German translation of De amore by Johann Hartlieb, and in 1985 his monograph on De amore in volkssprachlicher Literatur appeared in print. In a number of articles Karnein pursued his scholarly interests until his sudden death in 1996 and each time expanded his investigation to include other contemporary sources and literary and theological reactions to the famous love treatise in later centuries. Karnein carefully examined the implications of Capellanus' theses for the public debate in the high Middle Ages pertaining to sexuality, marriage, and illicit love affairs. A monograph Karnein was working on was to have the title Liebe, Sexualitaet und Geschlechterbeziehung im Mittelalter. Both in recognition of Karnein's considerable contributions to his field and as a kind of posthumous festschrift his colleague at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Friedrich Wolfzettel, collected most of Karnein's most important articles, either already published or still awaiting publication, and here presents them as our colleague's lasting tribute to medieval studies.

Since many medievalists will already be familiar with Karnein's work, not every aspect will have to be examined here in great detail. Some of the book's chapters, however, represent new research material and add important information to the overall topic discussed in the various articles. In his introductory study Karnein problematizes the concept of 'courtly love' on the basis of C. Stephen Jaeger's excellent monograph Origins of Courtly Love (1985), but contrasts Jaeger's findings with the statements in Capellanus' treatise. At issue is the difficulty of finding a bridge between the poetic projections of courtly love and the historical reality of the gender relations in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Next Karnein examines Andreas Capellanus' tractate in greater detail and underscores, on the one hand, the intertextual relationship to Ovid's love treatise, on the other, the deliberate (?) inconsistency of Capellanus' discourse. It is interesting to observe, as Karnein points out in the next chapter, that De amore was not at all a unique text and found many parallels in contemporary clerical literature, such as Master Boncompagno's Rota veneris or the anonymous De vero amore . These authors, however, seem to have felt a certain dislike of the topic and tended to ridicule its basic elements; Andreas Capellanus followed this model and was, as Karnein suggests, far removed from the ideology represented by the courtly love poets. Karnein also considers in an hertetofore unpublished chapter the emphasis which the cleric placed on the insignificance of social rank, but also shows the contradictions which surface in the text as soon as the class of peasants is mentioned.

In "Krankheit, Suende, Leidenschaft" Karnein discusses the intriguing relationship between love as presented in Capellanus' treatise, love sickness, sexuality, and religious attitudes toward marriage. In "Frauenliebe im wissenschaftlichen Diskurs" we are briefly informed about how medieval scholars, including Capellanus, viewed the love of and for women from a theological and scientific point of view. Another example which Karnein uses to illustrate the academic debate of love is Dino del Garbo's philosophical and medical commentary (1325) of Guido Cavalcanti's "Donna me prega."

In an article already published in 1989, Karnein then explores the topic of how women were evaluated by high medieval authors of love treatises, such as Richard de Fournival, Thomas Aquinas, and Abelard, who all made attempts to understand women's erotic psychology and sexual biology, thereby, of course, recapitulating the standard misogynist attitudes.

Many of the following chapters begin to sound quite similar and deal with more or less the same literary material. From changing perspectives and with differing emphasis, however, Karnein approaches the now familiar questions of how the gender relationship was structured in the high Middle Ages, what Andreas Capellanus and Richard de Fournival had to say about it, and how scholastic treatises contrasted or conformed with secular love poetry and narratives. At one point Karnein carries out a comparison between Capellanus and the Styrian poet Ulrich von Liechtenstein to highlight the curiously close relationship between life and literature in the latter's work, his Frauendienst . He also reconfirms the well-established observation that in the Middle Ages marriage was a sociological phenomenon, love, however, an aesthetic one.

In "Liebe, Ehe, Eifersucht in Predigt, Traktat und Minnelehre" the opinions of some very popular preachers such as Berthold of Regensburg (ca. 1210-1272), of humanists such as Albrecht von Eyb (1472), and monks such as the Dominican Marcus of Wida (1487) regarding sexuality, marriage, and love are considered, but Karnein also incorporates a number of worldly voices, such as Die Winsbeckin (middle of the 13th century) and Ulrich von Liechtenstein (ca. 1198-ca. 1276). In another study Karnein explores the medieval debate of the appropriate age for love making; and again Andreas Capellanus gains the author's full attention.

At the end follows an appendix with other articles by Karnein with a slightly different emphasis. Here he discusses the motif of the army of the dead as it shows up in medieval French literature, then the function and structure of the sparrow-hawk adventure in courtly romances such as Chretien's Erec and Bel Inconnu , and so also in Andreas Capellanus' love treatise. Finally we come across a shorter article in which Karnein inquires about the significance of courtly adventures in late-medieval German courtly romances.

Although recent developments in Capellanus research and in courtly romance scholarship are not reflected here, the reprinted articles demonstrate the lasting impact which Karnein has had on our understanding of medieval literature. Most important, with his insistence on including the opinions of clerics and scholars in the discussion of medieval views on love, sex, and marriage, Karnein has forged a path which recommends itself for further exploration. This volume nicely reflects the author's important contribution to the vast topic of medieval love and sex both from a literary and a philosophical-religious point of view.