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date: 05 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Portrayals of noblewomen and the courtly love ideal are familiar themes in medieval songs and romances. This essay challenges the legitimacy of these themes, tracing an archeology of courtly love as a scholarly and cultural construct: a medievalism in and of itself, with origins in the nineteenth century. Using the Arthurian tradition as a case study, the essay explores reinterpretations of medieval portrayals of love in postmedieval cultures from Restoration Britain to the Swinging Sixties. As women increasingly occupied public and private spaces that were once exclusively men’s domain, male musicians in these settings employed the character of Guinevere and the idea of courtly love to address contemporary cultural anxieties about gender.

Keywords: courtly love, gender, sexuality, Guinevere, Purcell, Donovan, Arthur, Camelot

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