The Making of Romantic LoveLonging and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia, and Japan, 900-1200 CE

The Making of Romantic LoveLonging and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia, and Japan, 900-1200 CE

William M. Reddy

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226706269

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

In the twelfth century, the Catholic Church attempted a thoroughgoing reform of marriage and sexual behavior aimed at eradicating sexual desire from Christian lives. Seeking a refuge from the very serious condemnations of the Church and relying on a courtly culture that was already preoccupied with honor and secrecy, European poets, romance writers, and lovers devised a vision of love as something quite different from desire. Romantic love was thus born as a movement of covert resistance. This illuminates the birth of a cultural movement that managed to regulate selfish desire and render it innocent—or innocent enough. It strikes out from this historical moment on an international exploration of love, contrasting the medieval development of romantic love in Europe with contemporaneous eastern traditions in Bengal and Orissa, and in Heian Japan between the 9th and 12th centuries, where one finds no trace of an opposition between love and desire. In this comparative framework, this text tells a tale about the rise and fall of various practices of longing, underscoring the uniqueness of the European concept of sexual desire.