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Religious Toleration in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age

An Anthology of Literary, Theological, and Philosophical Texts

Albrecht Classen

More than ever before do we need the critical engagement with religious tolerance. Historical perspectives allow us to gain access to the discourse on this universal, often very contested topic. Already the Middle Ages and the early modern age witnessed the emergence of significant voices addressing toleration, if not even tolerance. This anthology opens many new perspectives toward this centrally important topic, adding a cultural-historical, religious, literary, and philosophical dimension mostly unknown today.

„Albrecht Classen reminds us in this volume that, "we all know just too well that the survival of the human species and its future development depends existentially on its ability and willingness to subscribe to the fundamental ideals of at least toleration, if not tolerance." As with others of Classen's works on the full range of medieval and early modern culture, this book could not be more timely or more urgently needed, especially for its positive approach to a highly volatile topic."

Fidel Fajardo-Acosta, Creighton University, Omaha, NE

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Aucassin and Nicolette: Playful and Loving Embrace of Foreignness


Only if we pay close attention to the wide variety of texts composed in the Middle Ages, are we empowered to grasp the full dimension of the vast choir of voices, some very loud and imposing, others hardly audible, each addressing the critical issues of race, religion, gender, or identity. The thirteenth-century chantefable, a prosimetrum, or a combination of verses and prose, Aucassin et Nicolette, has survived in only one manuscript, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Fonds Français 2168, which was discovered by the medievalist Jean-Baptiste de La Curne de Sainte-Palaye in 1752.91 The term chantefable appears only here, in the final chapter 41 as “no cantefable prent fin” (v. 24), and the poem itself seems to have drawn from many different sources, such as the chanson de geste, troubadour poetry, and courtly romances, mixing and combining them in a unique fashion. As much as modern research has been fascinated by Aucassin et Nicolette, as much it seems to have failed in appealing to its contemporary audience.

Although Nicolette, a former Saracen slave girl, has converted to Christianity and is baptized, she continues to represent the Muslim world, where the two lovers return to at the end for sometime. For Aucassin, the religious and social differences are completely irrelevant because he loves Nicolette and has to fight his evil father who is trying to prevent his son from marrying that young woman who seems to be of such a low social ←135 | 136→status and...

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