Susan Sarandon introduces the following lecture by Joseph Campbell on the topic of chivalry and courtly-love as they took shape in the Middle Ages.
Susan Sarandon: “We like to think that romantic love is an idea as old as humanity. But it was only in the twelfth century AD that this concept appeared suddenly, not only in Europe, but in Islam and in India and the courts of East Asia. To quote Joe Campbell, for one brief shining moment in every castle in the world from the English Channel to the Persian gulf and the Sea of Japan, the one song was variously ringing the liege-man of love. Chrétien de Troyes was one of the great troubadours of this new song; he was the court poet to Marie de Champagne who ruled as the Queen Regent of France from 1181 to 1187 gathering around her the greatest poets of the age and inspiring a humanistic flowering that would lead in centuries to come to the renaissance.”
Joseph Campbell: “Our particular topic today is one that I think can serve to guide us from the general universal themes of myth into the material specifically of the European consciousness which we inherit. The period of the Authurian and Grail romances is dated almost precisely from 1150 to 1250 AD. And in the historical context of this second great phase of occidental culture (the first phase being that of the Greco-Roman periods starting with the Homeric epics) the period of the Authurian romances is the counterpart for the Gothic and modern worlds of the Homeric period for the Greco-Romans. That is to say, it is in that period that the main themes are stated and developed in terms of culture values and the spiritual dimension. The great works appear suddenly and this is the remarkable thing about the dawn of civilizations: within 200 years the whole thing is there and it wasn’t there before.”