Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

World Languages

Major Professor

Anne Latowsky, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christine McCall-Probes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Cazenave, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Arbesu, Ph.D.


mesure, demesure, chevalerie, équilibre, déséquilibre, mariage


Marie de France and Chrétien de Troyes were two of the most influential French writers of the twelfth century. Both of these poets use different devices and themes of l’amour courtois, a model of how love was portrayed in literature at that time, to warn against the folie and the dangers to which adhering to the doctrines of this model could lead. They use narrative voice and commentary from characters to directly explain to readers why l’amour courtois is not an ideal example to follow, and they rely on the outcomes of their stories to portray potential outcomes for those who do or do not adhere to this code of courtly love. They also use their stories to express how important moderation and reason are in all aspects of life.

In this thesis, I analyze in depth six of the twelve Lais of Marie de France (Guigemar, Yonec, Les Malheureux, Equitan, Le Frêne, and Eliduc) to show how her works favor unconditional love and punish selfish love. I explain how she uses narrative voice to directly support or condemn the actions of her characters. I also demonstrate how the end of each story can be a reward for selfless, sacrificial love or a punishment for self-interested love or for malicious intent toward an innocent character.

I continue my analysis with three works of Chrétien de Troyes: Erec et Enide; Yvain, ou le Chevalier au Lion; and Lancelot, le chevalier de la Charrette. I explain how the first two stories exhibit a knight’s immoderation in either love or chivalry and how he must undergo a series of trials and battles to correct this imbalance in his life and strengthen his love for his wife. I also show how these stories promote the idea of a pure and ideal love within a mariage. The last of these stories is about an adulterous love, which does not seem to be condoned or condemned in the text, but the lovers are never given a happy reconciliation at the end. I also explain how this story is in particular exhibits the ridiculousness that can accompany courtly love.

I specifically sought to compare the works of Marie de France and Chrétien de Troyes because they both seem to use different doctrines and devices of courtly love specifically to condemn its practice and its glorification and to instead demonstrate an alternative love one can seek that will be lasting and unconditional. I also wanted to underline how their portrayals of moderation (or immoderation) in love and chivalry were consistent throughout all of their works.