Next up: work in progress, #femfog


Currently connecting up:

  • The Maria de Ventadorn & Gui d’Uisel partimen
  • Some other medieval Occitan partimens & tensos
  • Questions: are rape jokes possible or permissible? Is there any way in which they can be positive and productive in educating and acting against rape (pseudo-)culture? And more immediately in preventing assault?
  • The K-Beauty débacle, feminism, academic feminism, and the point and public purpose of academia & academics
  • Having been obliged to think about the absurd foolish #femfog and #GYB bollocks, and how this feels… how shall I put it… intrusive?
  • Foolish and wise laughter and their social and ethical side: Plato (ideas triggered by talk on Friday), via Jean de Meun and Erasmus and Rabelais, looping back to medieval Occitania (and surrounds, i.e. Catalonia): Raimon Vidal de Besalú, Guilhem d’Aurenga, Socratic irony, true nobility of soul, and taking the piss (out of oneself and generally)
  • Satire, sincerity, play and its imaginative hypothetical space, and mesura (in whichever language, time, and culture; or as utopian ideal)
  • On which: it would be nice and proper if “PC” were to be returned to its original and longest-running meaning: the standard abbreviation for “Pillet-Carstens,” that is, the standard numbering system for the Troubadour lyric corpus (at least, for the 478 poets identified at that time, which has expanded since) and our industry standard since Alfred Pillet & Henry Carstens, Bibliographie der Troubadours. Schriften der Königsberger Gelehrten Gesellschaft, Sonderreihe, Band 3. (Halle: Niemeyer, 1933); for the record, this was one of these monumental two-generation-spanning works actually completed in 1931 and NOT a member of that other species of 1930s German philology. William P. Shepard’s classic 1934 Modern Language Notes review may be recommended as a splendid quick introduction in English.
  • So: #FeministHardcorePhilologySaysFogYou and #FogYB

One version of this will be in the form of a talk at the ICLS in July. Herewith its abstract:

“Occitan lyric poetry as defence against the dark arts”

This paper is a reading of Maria de Ventadorn and Gui d’Uisel’s tenso/partimen, “Gui d’Uicel, be.m peza de vos” (PC 295.1=194.9; c.1196-98). Maria asks whether a lady “ought to do equally for her lover as he ought for her” (Linda Paterson’s translation of ll. 5-7: deu far engualmen/dona per drut, quan lo.i quer franchamen/com el per leis). Topics can, from here, be teased out: equity, reciprocity, and relationship; and their relations to larger matters of seduction, sincerity, playful seriousness, serious play, and the point of debate-poetry.

After Maria’s opening, Gui chooses the side he will argue, engualmen; Maria argues for a contrary position. These are neither the only positions available, nor the only argumentative options: the poem is a game whose players act out parts which are more interesting when more challenging. What is expressed does not bear any necessary relation to actual persons and their world, but it is illuminating that the poem’s arguments and ideas are expressed as is the way in which they are expressed. An intertextual network–other debate-poems by Gui, or invoking Maria as judge, and thematically-and codicologically-related partimens–weaves together equity (ex. engualmen) and its contraries (ex. fals cor ni trichador) revealing a critique of sexual and courtly cultures.

Tornar, tensos, razonar: tensions are defused, and poetic brio and flirtatious wit turn attack to abstracted exchange and playful eroticism, in a forum for open discussion, an equitable safe space for free expression through role-play and hypothetical exploration including gender fluidity and motility. Translated to our contemporary context of university communities confronting issues of equity, safety, and sexual assault, the debate-poem offers modes of engagement for “seducating” against rape culture.


The larger written version (which will be here on MMM) will include lots of poetry. This has been an interesting idea to pursue—started thinking about it in November, partly in reaction to events in our real world (UBC, the feminine condition, the human condition, Bataclan, …)—as they got me back to thinking about and reading Troubadour lyric in different ways. I had, to be honest, been rather turned off the whole lot and especially male-voice lyric for some time (years) until 2015 made me think about straight-faced irony and satire and suchlike. Change can be good. Mending a broken heart, falling in love anew, renewed. It feels good to be able to like Troubadour lyric again. I missed it; or more accurately I was missing a part without it, it was missing to and in me, ça m’a manqué.

This being a thing about literature, my main methodology is reading. Reading, thinking, rereading, rethinking, writing various bits and pieces of notes along the way (electronic notes, a notebook, post-its notes which are then stuck in the notebook later or transcribed or binned depending on state of legibility). The result is a mix of process and preliminary products:

—a principal central single First Order Primary Main Thing

—an approximate immediate / Second Layer-Circle of Word-Body, corporeal constellation. Not sure if that’s the right sort of cluster, it feels more like a moving irregular insectile thing where there’s a sense of coherent movement just out of sight. Flies around a rotting corpse is the movement, but the image is all wrong.

—combined with a set of questions;

—and concepts;

—and key terms, words more generally that might or might not be “key,” and Big Words:

—in the original language, in related ones, in English, sometimes cross-lingual puns and other resonances;

—in the poetry, variously around and about, found lying around haphazardly or when looking out a window day-dreaming or via lateral thinking triggered by something vageuly related or completely unrelated;

—I note the whole damn lot down just in case it keeps bouncing around and starts creating interference patterns and Making Sense Of Some Sort;

—this is the stage of imaginatio and collectio when I get very super keen to go to all manner of talks. If something looks or feels interesting, even if I can’t put a finger on why, I’ll go just in case.

So the current stage is a set of ideas and words—which have now taken shape into something resembling an “abstract,” complete with active verbs in normal-looking prose syntax—and a central poem and a first layer of connected poems. There’s a set of hypotheses to pull together into one whole thing, via the intermediary of testing them out on the literary corpus; which testing-out may entail changes to said hypotheses (including the possibility of refutation) or corpus or both.

There are already some further layers of literary constellation-tracking underway: poems connecting to other poems, words to other words, words connecting poems to other poems and to other word-art works, and the whole Third Order of ideas.

Next stage / Fourth Order: back to The Main Thing and its material presence in medieval manuscripts; what lies where in the physical manuscript chansonnier codices, what is next to them and around them, how are they organised. This is always an important and necessary step in reading a poem that’s present in more than one manuscript; shaping another level of mapping. By this stage, you can visualise the poem and its surrounding ecosystem as a four-dimensional moving flowing coloured textured image.

Sometimes this stage can tell you something about what at least one real live medieval human being (per manuscript witness) thought about the poem, how they read it, at a time if not at (this is one of the technical problems with Medieval Occitan literature) then closer to the time of first composition.

It’ll be some way and time along in The Procedure before I get to “secondary literature” (literary history, commentary, criticism, theory). Yes, I always do this, even with texts I’ve read a lot. Yes. somehow The Main Thing usually (as now) reads fresh. Possibly related: I’m a comedian’s dream audience because I have a supreme talent for forgetting jokes. I’ll remember some of the context, or the set-up, and sometimes even the punch-line alone; I’ll recognise that it’s a joke I know; that will in itself be tremendously enjoyable; yet I’ll have forgotten the thing as a whole and enjoy it anew. I sometimes wonder if I deliberately forget jokes so as to be able to keep enjoying them. The ones I enjoy the most are I think translations / transpositions of Old Hat Old Turkeys where I know full well what’s coming up and that’s integral to the enjoyment, of following along and finding how we get there.

Add in some free association along the way, and random (or not, cue Twilight Zone Theme Tune) echoes and shadows, wispy hints, clouds shaped a little like other things, ghosts and traces and precursors, analogy in action.

Anyway. I digress. That’s The Method and The Procedure. As outlined previously elsewhere on here. It can become a bit of a dreamlike haze for some months. A “femfog” if you will. Let’s reclaim #femfog and pervert and queer it into something positive and creative.

Deep poetics, hard-core philology, literary commentary and criticism, creative reading: you’re fucked without femfog.



Here’s the corpus I was reading in December; all references are from Ruth Harvey & Linda Paterson, The Troubadour Tensos and Partimens: A Critical Edition. 3 volumes. (Cambridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2010.) I had bought it back in 2010 at massive special discount, thank the divinities and the salary; read it in various ways and directions along the way (it’s well-formed for that); and brought it with me on my winter break “holidays” because that’s what Medievalists do with their carry-on baggage. It’s not all for duty-free booze you know. As my “restful relaxing reviving holidays” meant zooming up and down the UK, and as I wasn’t going to lug three big hardbacks around with me, I took photos in my mother’s kitchen of all the poems that tickled my fancy (without probing the hows and whys), so that I could work on them in the train on my iPad.

Yes, the Medieval Occitan debate-and-dialogue poem corpus alone makes for nearly 120 poems, and just presenting them and Englishings and reasonable editorial notes comes to 1290 pages. Welcome to a wonderful world!

Nodal centre on one poem + an intertextual network around it.

  • PC 295.1 = 194.9 Maria de Ventadorn & Gui d’Uisel

(A) context of his other tensos & partimens, and partimens where she’s called on as a judge:

  • 194.2 = 136.1 + Elias d’Uisel
  • 194.17 = 136.4
  • 194.18 = 136.6 + Elias again (deliciously dark, and turns into double partimen; ? attrribution of roles & voices)
  • 194.18a = 413.1 + Rainaut
  • 167.44 = 449.2 Gaucelm Faidit & Uc de la Bacalaria
  • 185.2 = 457.24 ?Savaric de Malleo & Uc
  • 384.1 = 432.3 Provost of Limoges & Savaric de Malleo
  • 432.2 = 167.26 = 449.1a Savaric de Malleo, Gaucelm Faidit, & Uc de la Bacalaria (look / hand / foot as highest sign of love)

(B) Topical intertext:

  • 230.1a=383.1, Guillem Raimon de Gironela & Ponzet on give/take/equity question.
  • 236.12=437.38 dead lover question
  • Reversal 425.1 = 255.1 Rofian & Izarn: love then die, or not returned and live
  • 366.10=119.2, Peirol & Dalfi d’Alvergne, love after
  • 242.22=23.1 Guiraut de Borneill & Alfonso II of Aragon
  • 248.20=179.1 Guiraut Riquier & Cons d’Astarac: to love and be hated, or hate and be loved
  • 249a.1=426.1 Domna H. & Rofin: rape / overenthusiasm, corals vs cortes; also 10.37

(C) Counterpoint: the hilariously flirtatious

  • 449.1 = 91.1, Uc de la Bacalaria & Bertran de Saint Felitz

(D) Also… :

  • 101.8a=290.2, Bonifaci Calvo & Luquet Gatelus
  • 101.11a=433.1, BC & Scot: note, “put rules of courtliness aside” (l. 14, no.i gardetz cortezia)
  • Revisiting Raimbaut d’Aurenga + Guiraut de Bornelh, PC 389.10a = 242.14; [random notes to self] I.1 platz & pleasure, I.7 egal see also 414.1, II.14 coma fraire, IV.28 captal / cabal, X.60 cabal, Fols / fals, Erranza; 10.6 = 16.5 & parallel versification 16.1, 10.37
  • cortes amaire (non es cortes amaire) 366.17 = 167.23 l. 31
  • Razon as “topic”, for philo debate and difference in kind of discourse, quintessence of reason, reasoning, rationality: ex razon ai trobada, 313.1 l. 1

(E) And also, in another layer of notes, …:

  • On love: looking for non-obvious. And vice versa: ex 392.29 = 116.1
  • 451.1 = 293.6, Uc Catola & Marcabru
  • 437.10 = 76.2
  • 436.4 = 282.21a
  • 436.3 = 258.1
  • 432.2 = 167.26 = 449.1a
  • 425.1 = 255.1 Rofian & Izarn: love then die, or not returned and live
  • 424.1 = 393.1 Rodrigo & Raimon and falseness and the set of “renown but no deeds vs deeds but unknown”: questioning courtly values
  • 389.10a = 242.1
  • 388.4 = 167.8 Raimbaut de Vaqueiras & Gaucelm Faidit & falseness (friend of husband)0
  • 366.10
  • 323.4
  • 296,2
  • 295.1 (Maria & Gui)
  • 282.14=200.1 LC=Guillelma de Rosers
  • 282.1a=429.1 Lanfranc Cigala=Rubaut
  • 171.1
  • 194.2 + Margarida / Marguerite d’Aubusson; Gui d’Uisel / Elias d’Uisel group
  • 194.17 + bona fe / vers = autra lei : true love =/= courtly love as courtly = legal. So secondary problem of “leial” as could possibly perhaps maybe be sorta kinda contradictory: “loyal” vs “law-abiding, lawful”
  • 194.18
  • 201.4a
  • 201.4b


= The Main Text.

Photos from Harvey & Paterson. The mysterious dark object is a 4″ long genuine vintage rusty metal clip, one of my grandfather’s Useful Things (date: anytime between 1930 and 1990; to which further uncertainty should be added if he’d rescued it from a skip or when beach-combing), holding down pages in a not very efficient way. Enjoy. The poem, I mean…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.