Happiness in the middle ages? Hartmann von aue and Marie de France

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Although the medieval church preached that happiness was possible only in the afterlife if one pursued a virtuous and pious existence on earth, both a number of poets and of philosophers outlined avenues for the opposite approach. John Buridan strongly defended the idea that human life should be based on happiness, and Marie de France outlined clear strategies for her literary protagonists to realize this dream during their earthly existence. In this article both their testimonies, but also those of Hartmann von Aue, Walther von der Vogelweide, Giovanni Boccaccio, and Albertanus da Brescia are considered as support for the thesis that medieval people did accept, at least under special circumstances, a very secular position with respect to human happiness. The literary and philosophical documents do not belittle or undermine the theological arguments, instead they simply open new perspectives which demonstrate considerable anthropological similarities between people in medieval and modern Europe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-274
Number of pages28
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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