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Cambridge University Press
Expected online publication date:
July 2024
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Book description

In the Middle Ages, educated people communicated their love in verse letters that revealed at once their personal commitments and their commitments to an established form of literary art. Medieval Love Letters reveals the fascinating duality of the medieval love letter as literary art and as life-writing by exploring a wide variety of remarkable texts in English, French, German and Latin. These rich texts are made accessible both linguistically, in new editions and translations, and conceptually, by discussing them in a way intelligible to non-specialists. Edited and translated texts include model letters from instructional manuals and fictional verse and actual letters from clerics and lay people, men and women. A substantial introduction explores the interchange and overlap between fact and literary art with reference to wide range of examples.


‘This wide-ranging anthology of love-letters covers both the theory and the practice of love in the medieval period. It includes manuals of instruction on how to write a love-letter and how to seduce a woman, accompanied by model examples, alongside love-lyrics in letter-form and romantic exchanges between real-life lovers, giving fascinating glimpses of the way that life and literature inflected each other. Heartbreak, longing, emotional ecstasy, clandestine meetings, jealousy, the threat of scandal, unwanted pregnancy, all make an appearance. Translation, an extensive introduction, and ample annotation make the texts easily accessible to present-day readers.'

Jill Mann - University of Notre Dame

‘With great philological skill and sure historical touch, uncovering new sources and illuminating much-loved poems, Putter and Stokes allow us to see, more fully than ever before, how medieval English literate and letter-writing society contrived to express amorous desires across three languages. Useful, stimulating, and highly recommended.'

David Wallace - University of Pennsylvania

‘The surprising insights offered by the juxtaposition of these literary and historical texts are skilfully teased out by Stokes and Putter's learned introduction and deeply scholarly commentaries. This volume will make compulsive reading for anyone with an interest in the literature – and the actual practice – of romantic letter-writing in the Middle Ages.'

Rhiannon Purdie - University of St Andrews


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