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The Allegory of Love

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  488 ratings  ·  56 reviews

The Allegory of Love is a study in medieval tradition—the rise of both the sentiment called "Courtly Love" and of the allegorical method—from eleventh-century Languedoc through sixteenth-century England. C. S. Lewis devotes considerable attention to The Romance of the Rose and The Faerie Queene, and to such poets as Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, and Thomas Usk.

Kindle Edition, 489 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by HarperOne (first published 1936)
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Douglas Wilson
Mar 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-study
Great. And completed again in September of 2017. Still great.
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook, non-fiction
Reader beware. This book was probably C. S. Lewis at his worst: an academic tome written in 1936 about his day job, long before he’d reached his peak as a communicator.

However, the payoff is modern readers’ greater understanding of a time and place which served as the background for many contemporary fictional fantasies. (See below)

It traces the rise and decline of the love allegory as a mainstay of European literature in the late Middle Ages. I read it to mine the nuggets of Lewis wisdom
Outdated now, but still one of those things that you probably should read if you're doing anything about courtly love. It charts the development, through literature, of the kind of romanticisation of relationships we do now, and the development of chivalry.

It did make me headdesk a couple of times when he said things like, "Monotheism should not be regarded as the rival of polytheism, but rather its maturity." It's just -- ugh. C.S. Lewis, your bias is showing.
Daniel Wright
And I'm finished. It was beautiful, and erudite beyond belief. I think its biggest flaw is a lack of an underlying coherence - is it about allegory? Is it about courtly love? What is the central thesis? Perhaps it's there, but I'm too dull to see it.


I'm finally starting!


Don't read this book without having read:

Arthurian Romances by Chrétien de Troyes
The Romance of the Rose by
Carol Bakker
This was a difficult book. Many literary works and authors are obscure; CSL assumes a working knowledge of Greek, Latin, Old English and French [he doesn't translate]. Occasionally, though, I like to challenge myself with a worthy book that requires tenacity and determination to finish.

There were rewards, to be sure. Lewis sprinkles delightfully direct side remarks in, e.g.:

It is idle to seek deep spiritual causes for literary phenomena which mere incompetence can explain. If a man who cannot
VERY interesting. Although all of Lewis' ideas are not spot on, his explanation of them is clear and easy to read. Lewis' attempt here is to show how the idea of love changed from pre-Courtly Love through post-Spenser and, for the most part, he does a good job. That is not to say, of course, that his conclusions are true, but that he has a good sense of the literature and the ideas and is able to explain them well to the reader. One thing that Lewis does that I particularly enjoy, though which ...more
Tommy Grooms
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
C.S. Lewis has said "in my own reading I always sacrifice critics to the poets, which is unkind to my own trade." I'm afraid my reading of The Allegory of Love sacrificed the poets for the sake of reading more Lewis. I was unfamiliar with most of the authors discussed and nearly all of their works, but hearing Lewis analyze this branch of literature was fascinating nonetheless. This is an academic work, and especially in the early chapters Lewis will frequently spout of passages and phrases in ...more
K.P. Ambroziak
C.S. Lewis is such an accessible writer you don't have to be a literary major to enjoy his contribution to the study of the early modern period. More specifically, I love his reasoning that Catholicism is allegorical because “allegory consists in giving an imagined body to the immaterial” and the “allegorist’s symbol will naturally resemble” any material body that Catholicism has already claimed for itself. I think this observation is particularly deft and speaks to his genius. He comprehends ...more
Mary Catelli
Lewis with his don hat again. Indeed, one of his earliest works.

Tracing some of the threads of allegory and courtly love through medieval history to the Renaissance. Heavy emphasis on the English part of the development. From Cretien's work to The Romance of the Rose through many English allegories to The Faerie Queen.

Interesting stuff. I would quibble about some points -- that there was, in the early days, so much argument that married couples could not love shows that many people disagreed
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2019
I need to return to this book one day and read it again with greater attention. Sadly, I don't have time for that now because there are other books that need to be read for my graduate thesis.
Jan 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Allegory and Courtly Love in Medieval Poetry

The Allegory of Love is a scholarly book, but I think it can be read with enjoyment by anyone interested in medieval poetry. The first two sections discuss of courtly love and allegory. These sections are primarily theory. If your main interest is the poetry, I believe they can be skipped with no diminution of understanding. Lewis, in fact, doesn't make use of them in much of his analysis of the poetry. The major area where he sticks close to them is
Excellent text book on medieval poetry as far as I can tell. This is the first book of that genre I have read. I was slightly annoyed that Lewis did not translate the old English, Latin, or French texts, but I suppose he was assuming that you have a base of those languages if you took an interest in medieval poetry. As hard as it was to get through this book because it was hard for someone of my ignorance to stay interested, the main concepts Lewis presents are brilliant and have inspired me to ...more
James Nance
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though full of insight and truth, Lewis assumes more of his reader than I am able to produce: a familiarity with a wide variety medieval poetic literature; and fluency in Latin, Greek, French, Old and Middle English. Perhaps these obstacles should do for this old man what obstacles did for me as a boy: present a greater challenge to overcome. If only there were not so many more books to read.
Noah Nevils
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To borrow a phrase from the master critic himself, "to praise it
would seem an impertinence" since I know nothing of criticism.
But despite the fact that I had read almost nothing that he writes about,
I was greatly benefited by reading this book. Lewis' style is always a
a strong corrective to ignorance and clumsiness on the one hand and
overwrought prolixity on the other. His thoughts edify like no
writer's I know. I can easily say of him (and this book in particular among
all his scholarly works)
May 16, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medieval
Well written. What has C.S. Lewis ever written that wasn't great? For lovers of medieval literature and students of romance allegory it is a must-read. For anyone who wants to see another side of Lewis, his scholarship is much different from his theology and fantasy stories.
Sierra Gardner
Sep 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
A fantastic overview (okay - it is actually pretty in depth) look at medieval love traditions. If you like history, language and love then you will enjoy this book.
Donn Headley
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: criticism
In God in the Dock (published posthumously, 1970), C.S. Lewis argued for the reading of old books. He recommended that modern readers intersperse an old book with a modern book in their reading patterns. Akin to an extended essay on the value of reading such books, The Allegory of Love demonstrates the importance of reading any old book in general, but particularly those in the tradition extending from Chretien de Troyes to Edmund Spenser. Not all of those works are good; some are downright bad. ...more
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: allegory
C.S. Lewis has a way of drawing you in. Of course, this book is intended for academic interest in allegories in the medieval period, of which I am one of them. Allegory of Love is a literary criticism book, but it also offers a good overview of allegory and the medieval era. To get the most out of this book I would suggest that you at least read The Romance of the Rose by Guillaume de Lorris and Psychomachia by Prudentius. Other main poems/books referenced are The Faerie Queene, Chaucer, et al. ...more
Sep 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, poetics
In all honesty, I read this book in order to read through C.S. Lewis work, and not because I have a special interest in allegories of courtly love from the medieval age. For those that have, this book would be a gem for sure. I do however like some parts of the book and slices of the discussion on love and allegory that Lewis makes more approachable. There are other parts though where Lewis expects more expertise from the reader, not only in old language or french or greek - but also in old ...more
Steve Campbell
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lewis-cs
This book gets five stars because of the brilliance of Lewis's scholarship. The reader must beware that this book deals with the history of courtly love in literature and interacts with several authors that most modern readers have never heard of and have very little interest in. You will probably want to pass on this book unless you are interested in the development of allegory and the theme of courtly love. His chapter on Spenser's Faerie Queen is quite insightful.
Joy Schultz
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's...a LOT discussed in this book, but it remains pretty lightweight/digestible for medieval scholarship. I am a poor excuse for a scholar who relies on Lewis's judgment of courtly love poetry and poetic traditions more than I can evaluate his ideas for myself; the most rewarding aspect for me is probably seeing how different ideas, images, poems, and concepts that he discusses turn up, transfigured, in so many of his other books.

More in-depth writeup to come later.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: love, poetry
This is a scholarly work, and not intended for a layman like me; I comprehend maybe a tenth of it. That's my failing and not the author's.

I had to struggle through it, but I'm glad I did. Someday I'll read it again, in the spirit of a child learning new multi-syllable words from the conversation of adults. For now I've come away with some new ideas about the invention of love, and a wholly new desire to read some of the poetry Lewis analyzes in this book.
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A challenging read, much of it over my head, but some gems that helped me more clearly see Don Quixote and others things I have read and a few thoughts that help me understand why the classic books feel richer and have more depth than many of the newer books do and why it is so easy to read Christian themes into stories, even when the author may not have intended them to be there.
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great study of the tradition of courtly love in literature by the great C.S. Lewis! A must read for scholars of the medieval period and those who want to know everything they can about the great love poetry of the medieval and Renaissance periods.
Dec 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read because I’m reading through Lewis. . .really should be read with Medieval literature instead.
Andrew Boyle
Superb monograph by a gifted scholar.
Pamela Tucker
Aug 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book I read was published in 1967 pale yellow with blue boarder, any way I read the book in 1968 July. I always admired C.S.Lewis work along with many others who works are published in America. It has seven sections and my favorite part to read is Courtly Love part I and Allegory Part II, and I have read several of his children's classics. An excellent author and it is interesting that what he wrote earlier before his conversion seemed to correspond to Christianity. I always thought men with ...more
This book deals with the tradition of courtly love which dates from about the 12th century in France up through Spenser's The Fairie Queen, which depicts the triumph of married love over courtly love. One of the main works that it covers is the Roman de la Rose. I really enjoyed this book, even though the only books that it covers that I have read are the Lancelot of Chretien de Troyes and Mallory's Morte d'Arthur. His descriptions of other books are good enough that I can enjoy them even though ...more
Nov 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c-s-lewis
Easier to read than OHEL simply because it is shorter, but nonetheless there is quite a bit of dull author stuffed in for the sake of the story of Allegory and Courtly Love.

The first chapter is quite good and the thread of courtly love is quite fittingly held onto all the way through the book to the end.

The chapter on Allegory is good, and I want to read (at least the first part) of the Romance of the Rose. Chaucer must have wrote a lot of bilge, but Lewis also got me excited about Troilus and
Ashley Burke
The Allegory of Love, published in 1936, explores how love was treated in the Middle Ages and Renaissance times. The book brings up many traditions of the time and draw on the use of allegory and how love is depicted. The book incorporates numerous quotes and poems, some of which are in different languages, such as Latin and French. The book looks at love in different lights and in different manners.

This book is yet another book for older students. The book would encourage history and
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Clive Staples Lewis 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. He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge
“But the detail of the poem shows power akin to genius, and reveals to us that much neglected law of literary history -- that potential genius can never become actual unless it finds or makes the Form which it requires.” 6 likes
“Humanity does not pass through phases as a train passes though stations: being alive, it has the privilege of always moving yet never leaving anything behind. Whatever we have been, in some sort we still are. Neither the form nor the sentiment of this old poetry has passed away without leaving indelible traces on our minds.” 1 likes
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