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Chretien de Troyes & Western Literature

Chretien de Troyes was a twelfthcentury French court poet who played a major part in shaping both the tone and the subject matter of popular literature, not only in his own time, but to our own day. He helped to popularize the legends of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table as a subject of literature, and to him, in large measure, we "owe the colour" in which Arthurian subject matter is still presented, as recently as the 1964 movie "Camelot."1 This paper is a study of the role which Chretien de Troyes played, specifically, in the development of the medieval tradition of "courtly love."

To understand the importance of Chretien de Troyes in Western literature, and in our very ways of thinking, we may begin by considering the word romance. It has three main meanings in English. Two are fairly closely related; the third has no obvious connection to either of them. By far the most familiar meaning, the meaning that most people will immediately think of on hearing the word romance is "love affair." Two people falling in love are said to be having a romance. A romance novel is a novel about a love affair. An atmosphere which we associate with love affairs  candlelight dinners, soft music, walks by moonlight  is called a romantic atmosphere.

The second, related meaning of romance is a story or atmosphere of adventure. It is related to the most familiar meaning because a love affair is supposed to be an adventure of sorts, and because in o


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Chretien de Troyes & Western Literature. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:24, August 27, 2015, from