“Flamenca” at #Kzoo2016 (1): before the climactic event, an introduction to international medievalist congress

The Old Occitan Romance of Flamenca has long been known, to Occitanists and other similarly fine noble persons of taste and distinction as A Good Thing. And fine, noble, etc.

It has been growing in repute. Part of that is its availability in four new paperback editions and translations, all in the last ten years. In Medievalist, publication, and book-historical terms this is Major.

Here’s a rough list, in chronological order, of editions and translations.

So: we have a panel at the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies, aka Kalamazoo.

#Kzoo is one of the two main international super-mega-conferences for everything in medieval studies, and around and about and beyond. (The other being Leeds.) While the all-embracing friendly huggy all-encompassing community that is All Things Medieval And Medievalist includes re-enactment, cosplay, etc.; this might be an Academic outreach Moment to lay certain popular stereotypes to rest.

Medievalists are a congenial, collegial, gregarious bunch. When congregating at a congress—or gregariously engaging in congress in our congregations—we don’t actually all do the following when medievalising together; not all the time, honestly and seriously…


And while we eat and so on like any other human beings, if you’re thinking about OTT Feasting, then we’re actually talking Early Modernity; Modernity being distinguished from other periods within the Anthropocene by its particularly appalling selfish greed and a destructive cult/ure of short-term profit and blinkered growth:


Medievalists, medievalism, and our conferrings are more like this:


But back to Kalamazoo and FLAMENCA!

We = our merry band, being one of the two international associations of Occitanists:

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 10.26.51 AM

Why yes, that is my best-beloved mon aisimen et aizi / mon compagnon en eisil / celui per cui fui trobatz from #WhanThatAprilleDay16 – Guilhem de Peitieus / Old Occitan (2016-04-01).

Here is something about the session from the programme:

Here was the call for papers:

The Société Guilhem IX invites parties interested in discussing the romance of Flamenca to join a roundtable for the International Medieval Congress in May, 2016. Discussions by participants are limited to 10 minutes to ensure to encourage exchange between participants and also with listeners.

The important Occitan romance, Flamenca, has received quite a bit of attention of late. The romance was translated and edited in 2008 for an Italian-reading audience in Flamenca: romanzo occitano del XIII secolo by Roberta Manetti. Anton Espadaler has recently produced the first modern Catalan translation of the text while Jaime Covarsi Carbonero’s translation into Spanish was published in 2010. The excellent translation-editions produced by Lettres gothiques have also added Flamenca to the collection with an edition/translation produced by Zufferey and Fasseur in late 2014.

And here is my abstract:

“New editions: history reading Flamenca, reading Flamenca’s history, Flamenca reading history”

This contribution will revisit a Nehamasian “promise of happiness” made ten years ago:

While Flamenca has long been recognized as a core work in the medieval Occitan literary canon, and is known in medievalist circles, it remains largely unknown to the larger community of literary criticism. Recent work in medieval literary study has started to interact with the larger critical community and to draw its attention. The barriers between modern and pre-modern may be coming down, as has already happened with other marginal entities such as feminine, queer, and post-colonial writings. Aside from supporting this topical cultural-politics agenda, I would like […] to draw attention to Flamenca as a fine piece of work, playing a part in French literary history, and—most vitally—well worth reading.

(O’Brien, diss. 2006, third paragraph of the “Introduction”)

In a first part, “history reading Flamenca / reading Flamenca’s history,” I will re-evaluate that statement from 2006 in the light of the last ten years’ work on Flamenca, looking at how this recent period has contributed to the work’s whole reception-history and to the current state of knowledge of that reading-history and of the work itself, and what changes might be detected when this period (and its surrounding intellectual landscape) is compared to Flamenca’s prior reading-history.

Why Flamenca? Why now?

As most of Flamenca’s audience over the last two centuries has been an academic medievalist one, this reception-history is also a history of medievalist scholarship, textual work, and literary criticism: a history that forms a complete literary world (including Flamenca and all that has been said about it) which can be explored through Flamenca and academic work on it; rendered all the more accessible to a broader audience of future scholars thanks to the four recent editions and translations. This first part will include a number of questions, most of which are genuinely open and intended to trigger reflection and, perhaps another ten years hence, further ideas and questions; many of these questions may be summarized as: “what next for Flamenca?” and will include a plea to unbind the manuscript.

While our four new splendid paperbacks à des prix bien démocratiques may expand Flamenca’s current readership, for example allowing its inclusion on more university course reading-lists, it is to be hoped that they might also bring the work to a larger audience. The text and the history of its reading generate higher-order questions about literature, history/ies, culture, and The Point Of It All; matters of interest to other scholarly fields, including non-medievalists, to be enticed by these new editions into becoming part of Flamenca’s world: an intellectual but also a creative ecosystem. This second part of the round-table contribution, “Flamenca reading history,” will ask questions (and perhaps suggest a few answers) about Flamenca’s future: as (amongst many splendored things) an irrealist atemporal work that looks around itself, comments on its surroundings, and looks sideways and forwards as much as it looks back and “straight.” Suggestions will be made about possible future directions for translations (sensu amplo) and other vaguely book-shaped newfangled imaginings (or, novas e romans), including “non-book objects” (to use the British book trade term).


The main changes between September last and now:

  • pulling my talk—this being a round-table—into my fellow speakers’ contributions so as to create A Harmonious Holistic Whole
  • possible ecocriticism: I’m not sure if this is the place for it, but I’d been thinking and writing (since about March 2015) about springs and water, and in (appropriately) slow response to Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s brilliant and beautiful Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman (2015)
  • possible ecocriticism (2): thinking about certain individual works (metaromances, superbooks, …) and highly allusive networked literatures (Old Occitan, romance, …) in larger dynamic whole-ecosystem terms
  • and bringing assorted other notes and thoughts of the last eight months from the back of the mind to the front.

I’ll post up notes etc for the talk in a next post: while writing is in progress, this will be password-protected and shared with my fellow round-tablers; finished version of notes including changes, expansions and contraction, questions and discussions, … will be open as per usual.

As I’m also finishing up other “work-work” today so as to clear everything for The Happy Intensive Conferring Time, the end of today + tomorrow (Tuesday) will be the main reading/writing/thinking/rereading/rewriting/rethinking/eatsleepraverepeat time. I just realised that my flight leaves on Wednesday morning at a time that beings with “6: and is in the a.m., so there will doubtless be a combination of further working, sleeping, and drooling that day.

In the meantime, here are some more posts about Flamenca on this present blog:


All images from Twitter except “Wealth Is Shared” by Chad McCail from his food shelter clothing fuelseries.

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