Below is a brief comment on Don A. Monson’s study Why is la Belle Dame sans Merci? Evolutionary Psychology and the Troubadours. Monson is a Professor of French and Francophone Studies Emeritus, B.A., University of Utah; M.A. and Ph.D., University of Chicago, with a special interest in Evolutionary Psychology.
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In Don Monson’s paper we read:
While I reject Monson’s presumption that psycho-sexual power of women was given natural expression in courtly-love language (actually the complete reverse is the case), he nevertheless outlines features of a psychological trope that still guides sexual relations in many countries today, as embedded in the European-derived tradition of chivalry and romantic love.
Monson’s belief arises from a blue-pill habit among evolutionary psychologists that places exaggerated emphasis on the Males Compete/Female Choose (MCFC) model of evolution. Steve Stewart-Williams’ challenged that Evopsych fixation and introduced the more human concept of Mutual Mate Choice (MMC) – a concept that supports my contention that the courtly love trope was responsible for exaggerating women’s sexual status.
Its almost as if Monson is asking us to amend C.S. Lewis’ famous characterization ‘The feudalisation of love’ to a reductionist evolutionary formula of ‘A love of feudalisation’ – ie. a formula assuming that males are simply designed to compete for women’s ultimate sexual choices. I reject this narrow explanation and hope that Monson doesn’t repeating it in his forthcoming book Eros and Noesis: A Cognitive Approach to the Courtly Love Literature of Medieval France.
Footnote – [Feb 2024]: Having just now read Don A. Monson’s new book Eros and Noesis: A Cognitive Approach to the Courtly Love Literature of Medieval France, a brief comment is in order. As predicted, he claims that the invention of courtly/romantic love during the Middle Ages is fallacious conjecture made by scholars who believe in a “blank slate” of the human brain (a completely false, hyperbolic and unsupported assertion), and that he, as an advocate of evolutionary psychology, can show that romantic love is a cultural universal of long-term pair bonding that is endemic to the human species. His primary bombshell evidence? – the completely debunked Jankowiak & Fischer paper (1992) which claimed to find evidence of romantic in 146 out of the 166 cultures. That said I would still recommend a read of his book, if you can partition-out this error, as it has other valuable insights that go some way to redeeming the volume.
– Is Romantic Love a Timeless Evolutionary Universal, Or a Creation of The Middle Ages? (Peter Wright, 2022)
– A brief commentary on Jankowiak & Fischer’s misuse of the term ‘romantic love’ (Peter Wright, 2022)
– Challenging The Claim That Romantic Love is Universal: Excerpt from William Reddy’s The Making Of Romantic Love