Before the 12th century, love didn’t figure much in English literature. Instead the historical epics and myths of the distant past dealt with inscrutable heroes, high causes, and sacrifice; unknowable monsters and unfeeling Gods. Then, in the 12th century, there was a sudden shift to a new focus on the individual, on a psychologically realized self. And this new fiction brings with it an exploration of relationships – of love.
And this led to the new, strange idea – strangeness now obscured by its familiarity – that love is life’s most profound purpose, an idea that is still at the centre of our culture today.
Laura Ashe explores the cultural legacy of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine; visits battle sites and castles and talks to experts in medieval history and literature; and considers how some of her favourite films reflect ideas of love born 800 years ago – ideas which still captivate our imaginations and emotions today.
13th August 2014, BBC Radio 4 at 11am.