Belated Valentine’s Day

Without Wi-fi since Sunday, I’ve spent the last two hours going through e-mails and trying to catch up on Chicagoboyz. One e-mail was a Valentine’s Day greeting from a charming friend, whose later-in-life marriage and three children have been as deeply fulfilling as her scholarly career. She is often a contrarian in the bitter world of academia – partially because of the joy she finds in uniting these passions. So, here is an intro to her article, from a more casual forum than she usually chooses:

As a chivalric literary historian who has studied the origins of the holiday, I find this [“for the birds”] a shame. When the notion of Valentine’s Day as a day for romance emerged in the 1380s it was all about love as a natural life force – birds choosing their mates, the freedom to choose or refuse love and the arrival of springtime. But even then many people did not understand or value these things. In fact, that is why it was invented.

The first to write of Valentine’s Day – a feast day with ancient pagan roots – as a holiday celebrating love and lovers were the 14th-century English squire Geoffrey Chaucer and his friend, the internationally admired knight and poet Oton III de Granson, from Savoy in modern-day France. Both poets were recognized in their own time as chivalrous advocates for human rights. And in tandem, they seem to have concocted Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers.

Chaucer and Granson encountered one another in the service of Richard II of England and admired one another’s poetry. Their poems about Valentine’s Day show them operating as an international chivalric team to address pressing issues in the theory and practice of love, then and now.

2 thoughts on “Belated Valentine’s Day”

  1. I wonder if college students, even those majoring in English Literature, will learn about Chaucer or study some of the language of his writing?

    I had been an Engineering student but had gone back to major in premed when I learned a student loan would not be allowed since premed was “not a worthwhile major.” I was told that most premeds did not get into medical school and the loans were from a program called “National Defense Student Loan program.” I left the student aid office, walked around the block and returned to a different clerk. When asked my major, I answered “English Literature.” My loan was approved and I took premed classes as electives. A year later, I was accepted to medical school for the fall of 1961 and I finished my combined premed and English Literature courses in June of that Year. I took 28 units that semester and enjoyed them all.

    Including a deep class on Chaucer.

  2. Back when academic/vocational tracking was a vogue, I thought that the idea of teaching the vocational track only the most basic, “practical” level of English and other “academic” classes in High School was a mistake. Where else would the vocational students get any exposure to art?

    At the same time, I’ll bet most electricians use more math than most managers. The last people in the world that should be in charge of deciding what to teach are educators.

    Art is like brussel sprouts, you can’t say you don’t like it unless you try it.

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