Peter Montgomery wrote:
> From: Nancy Gish [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> I do note that Gerda Lerner does not discuss Eleanor of
> Aquitaine, and her history of "feminist consciousness" is extremely
> packed with specific women. Why do you name her?
> She is largely credited with originating the
> tradition of courtly love, and putting women
> on a pedestal. Her aim was to create a sense of
> respect for women amongst the rowdy knights
> (and company),
From what I know of her, I've always been somewhat of an admirer of
But really, if we are going to talk about history at all coherently we
can't be this dissolute in our historical terminology. If we started
talking about courtly love in Mesopotamia or Scythia, it would be sloppy
diction, and would help to blur any actually useful comparisons we might
make between Perigord & Hammurabi's law code. We are talking about a
definite historical thread here, & while like all historical issues it
is extremely blurry at the edges, it isn't as blurry as you make it.
Words are our tools, either as literary critics or as historians, and
you are blunting the tools.
It's getting late, I have cataract surgery tomorrow, & I'm being plagued
with my problem of remembering proper names. (A couple years ago I had
to go look at an anthology to retrieve the name Edmund Burke.) Anyhow,
an 18th c. woman, Mary Collins (?), wrote a hell of a vigorous poem in
answer to what we would _now_ call "sexist" material in Stephen Duck's
poem, "[title?]." It _could_ have been a feminist poem, but it wasn't.
It simply distorts our historical understanding to push the term back to
her time. It is useful to see it as belonging to the pre-history of what
we now call feminism. It is even useful to call the Parting Scene in
Book IX of PL part of that prehistory, though Milton was a vigorous male
supremacist (and it is really dippy to write a book called _the feminist
Milton_ or something like that as one prominent contemporary Milton
scholar has done.
If you take shared understanding of history seriously, you can't be so
dissolute in the use of semi-technical terms like "feminism."
Till Louis is wed with Eleanor
And had (He, Guillaume) a son that had to wife
The Duchess of Normandia whose daughter
Was wife to King Henry e maire del rei jove ...
WEnt over sea till day's end (he, Louis, with Eleanor)
Coming at last to Acre.
"Ongla, oncle," saith Arnaut
Her uncle commanded in Acre,
That had known her in girlhood
(Theseus, son of Aegeus)
And he, Louis, was not at ease in that town,
And he was not at ease by Jordan
As she rode out to the palm-grove
Her scarf in Saladin's cimier.
Divorced her in that year, he Louis,
divorcing thus Aquitaine.
And that year Plantagenet married her
(that had dodged past 17 suitors)
Et quand lo reis Lois lo entendit
mout er fasche.
> who knew no such thing. It was
> really quite a successful strategy, and helped
> to create a whole literary tradition in the
> process. Many descriptons of Arthur's Guinever
> would seem to have been base on E de A.
> Dr. Peter C. Montgomery
> Dept. of English
> Camosun College
> 3100 Foul Bay Rd.
> Victoria, BC CANADA V8P 5J2
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