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The Cauldron of Concupiscence
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Literature and History of Ideas.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4329-4534
2013 (English)In: Pangs of Love and Longing: Configurations of Desire in Premodern Literature / [ed] Anders Cullhed, Carin Franzén, Anders Hallengren and Mats Malm, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013, 1, 26-40 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper demonstrates the essential role played by pagan myth in the medieval and early Renaissance understanding of love. The fact that Christian ideas of love and desire had overshadowed the philosophical conceptions of eros and epithumía by no means dethroned the ancient god with the bow, whose poisonous arrows never lost their sting. In late Roman and medieval love poetry, the conception of love as a toxic syndrome survived and lived on, in love potions, philtres, which helplessly bind the lovers together, as in the great works of the high and late Middle Ages—the legends of Tristan and Iseult or the Roman de la Rose. The Spanish Baroque poet Francisco de Quevedo, in his Canta sola a Lisi, covets a beloved whose force of attraction is described as venenosa, identifying the amada with the sierpe, the Serpent proper, whose power is biblical and equivalent to Satan. In all similar cases, the bewitchment, the spell, the obsession, the folly or the inebriant served the purpose of exculpation and perfect innocence, guiltlessness. So too did the world of dreams, more indulgent than wakefulness, and accordingly dream visions, fantasy and dreamlike moods and atmospheres set their mark on tribulations and temptations as well as on the great poetry of love in pre-modern Christian Europe.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013, 1. 26-40 p.
Keyword [en]
Desire, Eros, Cupido, Amor, Epithumía, Socrates, Plato, Sappho, Christianity, covet, concupiscentia, will, voluntas, voluptas, psychomachia, dreams, intoxication, love potions, philtres, obsession, passion, Francesco Petrarca, Petrarch, Triumphus Cupidinis, Francisco de Quevedo, Saint Clare of Assisi, Hypnerotomachia, the use of Pagan myth, myths of love
National Category
General Literature Studies History of Ideas
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-93980ISBN: 978-1-4438-4763-6OAI: diva2:650540
Configurations of Desire in Premodern Literature
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, OFF09–1331

Anders Hallengren, PhD, is an associate professor of comparative literature. He was the coordinator of the research project Configurations of Desire in Premodern Literature.

The project on-line:

Available from: 2013-09-22 Created: 2013-09-22 Last updated: 2015-06-10Bibliographically approved

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