“Kan he speke wel of love?”: Luf talk and Chivalry
Wang, Denise Ming-yueh
Papers from the Fu Jen Fourth Annual Medieval Conference: Chivalry and Knighthood in Middle Ages (2003)
Troilus’s love talk– I mean to designate all of those embodiments of the word “love” that determine Troilus’s private and public place in the City of Troy. In brief, I’d like to explore the ways how Chaucer, as a novel poet, tests and recasts the already clichéd claims for “loves crafte” in his Troilus.
The language of Troilus’s “luf talk,” especially as Chaucer exemplifies in Books I and III of Troilus, is a decisive generic material, one that simultaneously and designedly excludes the other kinds of literature, in that it designates a particular cultural formation of love, a specific social construction of sexuality. The form of speech, as Chaucer shows us in Troilus’s “luf talk,” is an essential part of a chivalric style of love. Larry Benson rightly points out that the main characteristics of a courtly lover—his courtesy, humility, and religion of love, are expressed in speech. Benson calls our attention to Criseyde’s first question to Pandarus when she agrees to meet Troilus: “kan he speke wel of love?” (II 503).