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The Allegory of Love Paperback – 1958


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Product details

  • Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (1958)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195003438
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195003437
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.5 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,175,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a fellow and tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954 when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics, the Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures.


Product Description

Book Description

A classic study of the allegorical power of love in literature, traced through major works of the medieval and Renaissance periods, by one of the major literary critics of the twentieth century. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Johanna Kershaw on 14 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
Even though this book was written in 1936, it's still essential reading for anyone who's interested in mediaeval literature. It's an introduction to the technique of allegory, a method of writing which often seems artificial to modern readers, and one which can actually convince you that, yes, there is something to it. It's also the story of how romantic love came to be considered a subject of literature - or even considered at all. So, in a way, without these poets, we'd never have had Mills and Boon...But we'd never have had "Romeo and Juliet", either, so you probably have to forgive them. Like all Lewis' books, it's written in a clear style which manages to be both informative and, dare one say it, entertaining. But don't that mislead you - it's still serious scholarship.
Of course, a book that's almost seventy years old isn't exactly at the cutting edge of research. Things move on, even in mediaeval studies,and some of his conclusions have their critics. Still,
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ms. L. C. Cousins on 15 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
Written as only C.S. Lewis can. This is a comprehensive coverage of the allegorical, courtly love poems but with bias toward Lewis, opinion at times. Nevertheless it is an invaluable help in understanding Medieval love poems when used in conjunction with related literature.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DM SHERWOOD on 22 July 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Still the set book on Courtly Love
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By KATE on 10 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Scholarly
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 30 reviews
62 of 64 people found the following review helpful
Ian Myles Slater on A Critical Masterpiece 17 Sept. 2003
By Ian M. Slater - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the book which made C.S. Lewis' reputation as a critic of medieval and renaissance literature; in the original, medieval, sense, it was the "piece" that marked his transition from Apprentice to Master. It was first published in 1936, and has been reprinted many times. (I have 1960s copies of Oxford's 1958 "Galaxy Book" paperback edition; the cover of the recent Oxford Paperback is a great improvement.) As originally written, it covered the development of allegorical narrative from late classical antiquity to the Elizabethan poet Spenser's "Faerie Queene," with particular attention to the "Allegorical Love Poems of the Middle Ages" (the working title).

Unhappily for the book's long-term reputation, Lewis was persuaded to add to the planned text an earlier summary of modern theories of "courtly love" in medieval life and literature. Lewis himself noted that this theoretical construction did not quite fit the texts he analyzed in detail, and the whole approach is now regarded as at best problematic, and by many as simply wrong. Since Lewis presented the material with unusual clarity and wit, however, he has come to be treated as an authoritative source on "Courtly Love" theory by some, and attacked as such by others.

The rest of the book, being based on original studies of primary sources, retains much of its value. Later textual studies and shifts in crticial theory have only slightly diminished its value, and his discussions of such now-obscure writers as Martianus Capella remain among the most inviting of introductions. Lewis' treatment of "The Romance of the Rose" is still illuminating (and the point of departure for many recent re-considerations). His chapter on "The Faerie Queene" is regarded by some competent scholars as the foundation of modern study of the unfinished epic.

Although Lewis never looses sight of the entertainment value of many of the works he discusses (and some of them never had any), he is concerned to show that they addressed real problems of human behavior and emotions, and their presentation in narratives. Norman Cantor (not, on the whole, a great admirer) reports from first-hand experience that the book helped make the study of medieval romances respectable in academic circles. My own reading of the secondary literature (pre- and post-Lewis) brought me to a similar conclusion.

It is probably of interest to note that, according to Lewis himself, the "Chronicles of Narnia" did NOT arise from his studies of allegory, and that their allegorical implications arose spontaneously in his mind. One has to wonder whether he would have written "The Allegory of Love" differently after, rather than before, those experiences.

Serious students of English literature, and medieval literature in general, will find "The Allegory of Love" more than worth their time. So will those who simply enjoy reading Arthurian literature, and several other types of story. For many who are familiar only with Lewis the fantasist, or Lewis the Christian apologist, it will open new perspectives.

[Extended Addendum, October 21, 2013]
[This is one of my earliest reviews, which I've revised slightly to suit other editions of the book. However, it has been attached to a new Kindle edition of "The Allegory of Love" (Illustrated and Annotated by Glenn Langohr), about which I feel I should make some comments.]

[Although it is nice to have this too-long out-of-print book available again, and at a very nice price, there are some drawbacks to the edition. Footnotes are missing entirely, including those which provide original texts for quotations which Lewis translates in the main text. Some of those translations were into verse, which is at least partly printed as if prose, concealing Lewis's considerable skill. (The combination also conceals his general accuracy at catching the sense and tone of, e.g., Ovid.) The "annotations" and illustrations attributed to Mr. Langohr consist of captions to a photograph of Lewis and some stock pictures of medieval and Pre-Raphaelite (or similar) art. The captions inform the reader what the book is about, not about the illustrations or artists; they amount to an extended blurb, rather than a contribution to understanding the text.]

[HarperCollins has announced another edition, as a Kindle (and, I think, other ebook) for November 2013. This will cost over twice as much, which is still a good price compared to used copies in good condition. Presumably, HarperCollins, a major publisher with a long Kindle catalogue, tried to do the job right.]

[In the meantime (short as it is), or for those who can't afford it, there are, from time-to-time, copies readable on-line or as pdfs, put up, I think, mainly by English Departments (and the like), frustrated that their students have not had ready access to a notable book.]
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
A Milestone in the Lewis Canon 4 July 2005
By Jacob Schriftman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"The Allegory of Love" is an academic work that, among other things, traces the concept of love in literature, particularly the concept of courtly love in medieval literature. In the "Encyclopædia Britannica," it is listed before all the other works of Lewis as "his finest scholarly work." This shows the book's importance in making Lewis a respected literary critic.

The main point of the first part of the book is that the concept of love changed in the literature of France in the eleventh century and has influenced the arts up to our day. Many years later, however, in "The Four Loves," Lewis admits that he had treated the concept of love too much like a literary phenomenon and failed to see that many characteristics of erotic love which he had attributed to eleventh-century France are in fact characteristics that lie in the very nature of erotic love (e.g., the tendency to make love into a god who sanctions any crime committed in its name).

Having said this, "The Allegory of Love" is still a great academic work that delights as much as it instructs - a milestone in the Lewis Canon.
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Allegory of Love 15 Dec. 1999
By jack schaaf - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
While most associate Mr. Lewis with an assortment of tomes of otherworld fantasias (Narnia, Lion, Witch and Wardrobe, etc) or contemporary crisis, Allegory of Love is a very well written and scholarly study of medieval period (he once wrote that while the Renaissance was always a personlized venture for scholars, the dark ages belonged to boyhood), replete with references to not only incubala but extensive Greek, mystics, and Shakepeariana. It's nearly in the stylization and tradition of Fraser's "Golden Bough" with the precision of someone devoted to writing on, say, Milton or Donne. I hadn't really expected as fine and as much from this, but found without reservation it to be one of the hundred (perhaps fifty) best books I've ever read. Strongly recommend
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Ian Myles Slater on: A Critical Masterpiece (again) 6 Oct. 2003
By Ian M. Slater - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
[Note to readers, November 7, 2013: Amazon (or its software) has seen fit to attach my October 2003 review of the hardcover edition of C.S. Lewis' "The Allegory of Love" (as slightly emended later) to the 2013 Kindle edition of the book from HarperCollins. I've decided to up-date it, using my 2012 review of a paperback edition as a basis. You also can find reviews by others under some of the various, separate, Amazon listings of the title.]

"The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition" is the book which made C.S. Lewis' reputation as a critic of medieval and renaissance literature, in advance of his later fame as a Christian apologist, a fantasy writer, or a poet; his earliest works in these fields having been published under pseudonyms.

"The Allegory of Love" was first published in 1936, and has been reprinted many times, in hardcover at least into the 1970s, and in paperback from the late 1950s. Unfortunately, it has been out of print for some time, and third-party offering of re-printings (which have been listed separately by Amazon) have been rather high-priced.

It is therefore a pleasure to report that it has been scheduled for re-release in December 2013, by Cambridge University Press (Canto imprint); and that, as of November, HarperCollins has made a less expensive version available on Kindle, with hyper-linked notes (but no index; apparently the Kindle Search Engine is supposed to serve, IF you can remember the spellings of medieval names....).

There is (or was) another Kindle edition, without the notes, but using the cover art of what was the most recent Canto edition. I have no information on the legality of this (it is NOT from Cambridge University Press), but, given its truncated form, I don't find even the lower price asked for it to be really attractive.

As originally written, "Allegorical Love Poems of the Middle Ages" (the working title) covered the development of allegorical narrative from late classical times to Spenser's "Faerie Queene," with particular attention to the representation of human emotions (not strictly limited to love). It covered several related topics as well; for example, medieval theories of dreams, and how they compare to the use of dream-narratives as vehicles for allegories. It does not deal with Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," probably the best-known allegorical work in English; not only is it a century too late, it is theological and moral, rather than psychological.

Instead of following the then-prevailing fashion of dismissing allegory as "frigid" or "artificial," Lewis examined why it was used, and how it functioned to portray abstractions like emotions or inner turmoil in dramatic terms. In doing so, he was paralleling developments in art history (see, for examples, works by Gombrich, Panofsky, Seznec, and Edgar Wind, among others). How this stereotype became established in English, in the face of Bunyan's popularity, however, is not a topic he felt it necessary to address.

Unhappily for his book's long-term reputation, Lewis was persuaded to add to the planned text an earlier summary of modern theories of "courtly love" in medieval life and literature. Lewis himself noted that this theoretical construction did not quite fit the texts he analyzed in detail, and the whole approach is now regarded as at best problematic, and by many as simply wrong.

Since Lewis presented the material with unusual clarity and wit, however, he has come to be treated as an authoritative source by some, and attacked as such by others.

The rest of the book, being based on original studies of primary sources, retains much of its value. Later textual studies and shifts in critical theory have only slightly diminished its value, and his discussions of such now-obscure writers as Martianus Capella and Bernardus Silvestris remain among the most inviting of introductions.

(Capella is perhaps slightly less obscure these days. An on-line professional journal, "The Medieval Review," published a few years ago Michael Herren's review of Teeuwen, Mariken, and Sinéad O'Sullivan, "Carolingian Scholarship and Martianus Capella: Ninth-Century Commentary Traditions on 'De nuptiis' in Context," Cultural Encounters in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages 12 [2011]. For Bernardus, see my review of Winthrop Wetherbee's translation of "The Cosmographia of Bernardus Silvestris.")

Lewis writes engagingly of Chretien de Troyes Arthurian romances, in which the thoughts and emotions of characters are represented by brief allegories. Lewis' treatment of "The Romance of the Rose," in which allegory replaces literal narrative, one of the most popular secular works of the Middle Ages, is still illuminating (and the point of departure for many recent re-considerations). His chapter on "The Faerie Queene" is regarded by some competent scholars as the foundation of modern study of the unfinished Elizabethan epic.

Although Lewis never looses sight of the entertainment value of many of the works he discusses (and some of them never had any), he is concerned to show that they addressed real problems of human behavior and emotions, and their presentation in narratives. In "Inventing the Middle Ages," Norman Cantor reported from first-hand experience that the book helped make the study of medieval romances respectable in academic circles. My own reading of the secondary literature brought me to a similar conclusion.

It is probably of interest to note that, according to Lewis himself, the "Chronicles of Narnia" did not arise from his studies of allegory, and that their allegorical implications arose spontaneously in his mind. One has to wonder whether he would have written "The Allegory of Love" differently after, rather than before, those experiences. And how they relate to his experience with the early "Pilgrim's Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism," published under a pen name in 1933.)

Also, some of the medieval material which Lewis used in his theological science fiction novel, "Out of the Silent Planet," and its successors, is discussed in its historical and literary context.

Serious students of English literature, and medieval literature in general, will find "The Allegory of Love" more than worth their time. So will those who simply enjoy reading Arthurian literature, and several other types of story. For many who are familiar only with Lewis the fantasist, or Lewis the Christian apologist, it will open new perspectives.

Those who wish to follow the development of Lewis' thought on some of these issues and authors can consult his collected papers and essays on medieval and other literature, his massive "English Literature in the Sixteenth Century," and the "The Discarded Image," published just after his death, a brief and witty summing-up of the world-view underlying most medieval literature.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
An Embarassing Edition of a Good Work 4 Nov. 2013
By JABurnett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The negativity of this rating has nothing to do with the work of CS Lewis and everything to do with the absence of editing. Typos and spelling errors absolutely plague this kindle edition. Considering the fact that most readers who are interested in this work have some familiarity with academic quality, I am surprised that such an edition found its way into the market at all. This is a poor decision on behalf of everyone involved with this publication.
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