This is a curious, compelling study that is likely to generate as much controversy for its style as for its amalgamation of historical, cultural, literary, operatic, biblical and theological traditions. Rougement traces the "courtly love" tradition from its orgins among 12th century troubadors in southern France through the high Romanticism of 19th century opera to the modern-day consequences of a love that is based on Eros, delusion, and selfishness--a passion that lives for passion, and whose only consummation can be death (for were it to endure, to be exposed to the glaring light of day, it would no longer be romantic passion). Rougement's scholarship is solid, his interpretations provocative, and his proximity to his subject uncomfortably "close" for someone bearing the mantle of cultural critic and scholar. In fact, it's impossible not to feel the conflicted emotions of the author himself. On the one hand, he presents himself as the enemy of "Eros" and proponent of "Agape," as the critic of immature, romantic passion and the defender of mature relationships based on a realistic "dialogue" between two unique, complex individuals. On the other hand, he reveals the heart and soul of an incurable romantic, someone who has been love's thrall, who has been swept up in the dark rapture and sublimely lyrical death wish that is Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde." But far from being a liability, that underlying tension provides the book's argument with an energy, vitality and, yes, "passion" that is lacking in similar studies of this fascinating topic. At times I was suspicious that the author might turn out to be an idealogue, tedious moralist, or Christian "fundamentalist," given the zeal and curiously evangelical flavor of many of his sentences. Not to worry. His intellectual kinship is with Kierkegaard, though he finally falls short of the "leap of faith" and spiritual "marriage" achieved by the melancholy Dane. As proof of the foregoing, I defy any close reader of this text to leave the book more repelled than enticed, entranced, and ultimately entrapped by the Tristan and Isolde myth. Rarely have I read a work in which an author so convincingly argues against himself.