Date of Thesis



In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, written by the Pearl Poet, courtly love is not at the center of the poem, as one would expect it to be given the time period it was written in. Yet, the underlying critique of courtly love plays a crucial role in understanding the ancient medieval ideas of love and knighthood. Despite its well-known reputation, the text itself has not been scrutinized as closely for the theme of courtly love, especially when compared to the French romances. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight uses humor in order to critique the ancient tradition of courtly love, therefore illustrating how courtly love evolved over time into the modern conception of marriage. Today, the attitudes of many people in society differ from the attitudes of those that lived during ancient medieval times. However, modern society praises the idealization of a sustainable relationship, as seen in reality, the media, and literature, showing that the same concerns associated with love still remain in the twentieth-century. Despite society's familiarity with the concept of romantic love, a word that can be used interchangeably with courtly love, we often mistake it as a universal phenomenon because we fail to look at its historical background. Courtly love is referred to a relationship that was between two lovers, not necessarily a husband and wife. Today, romantic love is a term that is usually associated with a relationship that is between a husband and a wife. Many famous scholars have offered their individual interpretations of courtly love, but the word itself does not currently have nor has ever had a common meaning worldwide. Courtly love does, however, have a common set of characteristics that are consistently used when referring to the term. When exploring the famous works of Andreas Capellanus, Gaston Paris, and C.S Lewis, there are similar trends to be seen between these scholars' interpretations of courtly love, such as the themes of class distinction, adultery, and attraction. These trends will be used to create an in-depth definition of the meaning of courtly love, which will be used when comparing ancient and modern interpretations of courtly love and its existence today, using Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as an example.

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts



Second Major

Political Science

First Advisor

Alfred K. Siewers