“Flamenca” at #Kzoo2016 (2): notes from roundtable + tidied fuller version of talk


This post is a follow-up to “Flamenca” at #Kzoo2016 (2016-05-09)

Text, after, culture, ecocriticism, time

Added intro: all of us on this panel—Lisa Bevevino, Hartley Miller, Darrell Estes, and myself—were talking, in one form or another, about transformation: so that’s the fil conducteur that continues here…

Lisa: Flamenca in the classroom, teaching with this text (Zufferey & Fasseur Livre de Poche Lettres Gothiques edition, original with facing-page French prose translation). In a 4-year liberal arts college in the U of Minnesota, with students who have at least four terms of language-requirement level French. The accessibility of this text, combined with its richness and allusiveness, opening up intertexts. (A gateway / portal text.) (But not a wormhole!) With great ideas for creative writing…

Hartley: pedagogy in Flamenca: comparisons with inter alia the Roman de la Rose. Nice work on Amors’ shooting the lover then freezing everything to explain all about love. (❤️ as I ❤️ the Rose.) Flamenca: Guilhem vs Amors as case studies, which of the two is a true paedagogue? Ideas of student-centred problem-defining (and solving) teaching that transforms students vs knowledge-centred, higher level, the science of & rationale behind teaching, that transforms knowledge itself. (Great distinction, side-stepping all the fashionable twaddly frowning on teacher-centred learning, focussing instead on knowledge itself, with all of us together as equal participants / worshippers at the high altar. Implications also for slow learning vs “getting it” and other immediacies.) Words to contemplate: garir, enseignar, seignar.

Darrell: a text that continues to bring out new readings and ideas. Here, the bestial demonic descent of Archambault. Not just madness: not just cuckolding: a physical transformation into a hornèd demon. And rehabilitation after, through belief (be that well- or misplaced). Ovid, hedgehogs, squirrels, and what happens when there’s no divine intervention. Watch this space, neat synopsis of ⅓ of a dissertation underway… (❤️ this, but prejudiced as we share a common wonder at Archambault; first element of “our” Flamenca that I worked on, first character I was drawn to in sympathy, and—as yes, he rapes his wife on their wedding-night—my “gateway” into thinking about human/e/ist compassion, its limits, and “applied mesura.”)

[This being a round-table of ten-minute talks then discussion, some sections cut between the draft and the live version have been added here in square brackets; some came up in discussion; others remain cut; some cuts were also made on the fly but I don’t really remember what I cut.]

Fellow Occitanists, we all know, all love a good partimen. So: which “book of Flamencado you favour and why? Which is “your” Flamenca?

[Our session presider circulated some physical books I’d brought along, in lieu of handout… : paperback editions of Huchet (1988, edition & facing-page French prose translation), Manetti (2008, edition & facing-page Italian prose), Carbonero (2010, Spanish prose translation), Zufferey & Fasseur (2014, edition & facing-page French prose), and Espadaler (2015, Catalan prose translation.]

I’m going to cheat and take first pick. And I’m going to cheat and pick more than one. I choose, as “my” Flamencas,

1 = Raynouard from nearly two centuries ago, as he sets up our problem nicely:


[François Juste Marie Raynouard’s 1812 edition of excerpts of Flamenca appear in “Notice de Flamenca, poëme provençal, manuscrit dans la Bibliothèque municipale de Carcassonne, no. 681,” Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque nationale et autres bibliothèques vol. XIII part 2 (Paris, 1827): 80-132; and in Choix de poésies originale des troubadours (Paris, 1816-21); and in Lexique roman (Paris, 1838-44). I’m sure it’s online somewhere, I also happen to still have a photocopy I made when I was a grad student. As one SGIXily does.]

[Sharing a new Medieval Occitan community joke there, courtesy of Ron Akehurst:
Société Guilhem ID + geek = SGIX.
Geek and punny and proud. Yes, that’s how we rock. Well, Ron rocks anyway. Outstandingly.]

2 = the Zufferey & Fasseur Livre de Poche Lettres Gothiques, for general use and balance across a number of potential different audiences, including some who might change from one kind of audience to another. And it’s included decorated capitals, so it’s the most manuscript-y of our four recent paperback Flamencas [in whose honour this round-table was being held]It’s also a midway point—mesura in action—between two extremes. The Italian Job is the most comprehensive and complete, but also the most expensive. It’s a stellar work of solid scholarship. At another extreme and half the price we have the Catalan because it looks and feels like a novel and is the version (I’m thinking of all of these texts as versions of Flamenca, parts of the textual continuum of mouvance…) with the shortest introductory and prefatory material, that allows the reader to access the text most directly. (The Spanish one offers the worst of all worlds, and its scholarship is out of date.) The Lettres Gothiques edition is also the cheapest.

3 = a future Flamenca that doesn’t exist, that goes beyond but also includes physical books, plural, and includes a free and freely accessible online digitised manuscript (produced after the happy future day when the Carcassonne municipal library is persuaded to unbind Flamenca), transcription, and translations. This future Flamenca would be part of, and perhaps at the centre of, an interactive online network of virtual Occitan literature. The recent accessible editions are a great moment, and there’s more still that could be done with Flamenca.

All of us here have been enjoying working with a text that lends itself to narrow focus (passages, words) and middle distance (topic, feature, character) and wide view. A text that needs a balance of the three, the balanced applied mesura of sensitive sympathetic reading and critical judgement. I’m adding a further term to balance here, in the here and now: time. Looking back and forward. Thinking not about time in Flamenca—a much-studied topic—but about Flamenca in and through time.

10 years ago, I looked at how Flamenca has been a historical mirror, each subsequent generation reflecting their own mores, preoccupations, social and political and critical and theoretical positions, and fashions. Sarah-Grace Heller (here present)’s work has been key on fashion and fashion in Flamenca. Fashion is one of its dramatic and comic tensions, displaying fashion and fashionableness whilst being outside time (and playing with it, and via Huchet’s irréalisme possibly part of the Arthurian atemporal). Fashion, fashionability, and refashioning in our prinicipal protagonists’ words; combined with classicism (Ovid) and Trobador classicism (Marcabru), akin to the “cultishness” we see today in musical and movie tastes for cult underground classics (a phrase which itself seems very apt for Flamenca). Cult, culture, with all its paradoxes of juggling short-term and long, generational conflict and transmission, recycling, misunderstanding, fresh new unerstandings and interpretations, transgression, transcendence, continuation, loss.

Where this comes into my own work: thinking about dislocation, placelessness, and place. Enclosed spaces and imprisonment. [What they symbolise. Thinking about how Flamenca fits in a literary corpus that includes Fleur et Blanchefleur, Richard the Lionheart’s pris poem, Froissart’s Prison amoureuse, Le Roman de la Rose, Tristan, assorted demoiselles et damoiseaux in distress, the hortus clusus as locus amoenus. So: nothing new here. But think back to a culturally cardinal work on imprisonment and poetry, Boethius’s Consolation, recalling that its first known vernacular translation is to Occitan, and that version’s main addition is refashioning clothing, adding ekphrastic decoration of birds on a ladder to Philosophy’s gown. And to the consolation (and learning space / pedagogy) of otium. For which Flamenca is a satirical foil for all protagonists except the properly well-read Margarida and Alis and the contemplative Archimbault.]

Every one of Sankovitch’s “puppets” is trapped in this paradoxical metaphorical romance about imprisonment and literature and the connections between the two: balancing literary imprisonment with opening the potentiality of escape, being in time and its perception balanced with timelessness.

Think also of the Caracassonne manuscript, rebound super-tightly and so as to hide the quire structure. Flamenca is imprisoned in more ways than one…

Prisons and their stoniness combined with inhabiting Left Coast eco gorgeohs Vancouver, reading Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Stone of 2015, and thinking about construction and destruction and change in stone—digging tunnels, the water of springs—and Deleuze’s creuser metaphors for literary activity. [I had also been thinking about French waters for other reasons, triggered by skin calamity in spring 2015.] Flamenca starts taking another turn: one that might be seen as fleeting fashion, about materiality and yet not pardurable, and precisely about the nonpardurable: that is the ecocritical turn. This kind of literary criticism is a good 30 years old now, plus earlier predecessors back to Morris and Thoreau. Ecocriticism and materials, stone and book, the place of words in a threatened culture fragile because of its oral component. Think of Flamenca’s beautiful intangible evanescences: imagery of metamorphosis and transmission in, for example, Amors’s rapture of Guilhem; Guilhem and Flamenca exchanging inscribed hearts using tears as ink; Flamenca rubbing Guilhem’s salutz-poem into herself. That fleeting fragility, and bodily and earthly fluids. And a very physical interaction with—and using up and transforming—a very material object.

Keep that in mind while we move on to books, because that’s what brought us here in the first place. Books and their contents appear in several ways in Flamenca: amongst them, a general cultural baggage of Troubadour lyric and holy scripture; Ovid at a mediated distance; and the very present Psalter and Fleur et Blanchefleur. These books are actively used: readers may decide for themselves whether that’s misuse or abuse, but it’s repurposing that changes their sense; be that towards greater understanding and new meanings, or inappropriate perverse misunderstanding and crassness. Over to you the reader, in balanced informed judgement: mesura in action.

These physical books are treated as useful objects and used. They are both works that circulate widely and connect communities culturally through time and space: the Psalter for obvious common religious reasons, Floire et Blanchefleur as a much-translated major literary hit throughout Europe at the time. And now, in 2016, Flamenca has the opportunity to become such a culturally-inclusive more usable work too: with the four new versions, one each for French, Italian, Catalan, and Spanish.

Looking back over the past history of Flamenca’s editions and what they tell us about a history of reading, we’ve started out with a description of a manuscript as a Monument Historique which was at once very STONEy and very open outreach-y.

[We’ve moved through at least two Golden Ages of philology; a first one of Meyer’s work, transforming Flamenca into a text, and the object of scholarly, historical study. Fixing points in the fluidity that is the histories of language and identity; searching for origins and Darwinian evolutionary lineages in linear paths; setting a Definitive Authoritative Text. Interesting things happened in the 1960s, which is a tangent for present purposes, but included new French and English translations in parallel-text editions; but none of these were with mainstream publishers, or cheap. We’re still in the world of academic libraries and gentlemen scholars of means.] 1976 sees Gschwind’s serious modern edition, but for a serious scholarly audience. That probably marks the beginning of the scholarly wave we’re all a part of.

Where we are now nearly happened nearly 30 years ago. 1988 saw the publication, in the 10/18 paperback series, of Huchet’s edition and facing-page translation. It’s not the same quality of work as Zufferey & Fasseur, but it was a valiant effort to bring the Flamenca romance—or rather, in its own terms, novas—to ever-newer audiences, itself renewed and renewing them; in Huchet’s case a contemporary audience that was fashionably psychoanalytic.

Our current phase and its potential moment should probably be blamed on the general editor of the Lettres Gothiques series, Michel Zink, who’d been contemplating adding Flamenca since at least 2006 and is a main point of contact bridging communities oft separated by national and ideological differences. He’s not just a point of contact: he’s a major node in the Occitanist and French networks, verily a vertex in a global living breathing medievalist scholarly ecosystem. This community of knowledge and the knowledgeable—or, an universitas outside university walls—is helped by the virtual part of its environment. That is its future, for staying alive and growing. Flamenca needs and deserves more audiences, to be actively physically used by them just as Flamenca and Guilhem did the Psalter, and as Flamenca used Floire et Blanchefleur. Let’s try to learn from them about literature and what it’s for, not just in passive reading but through active and intreactive writing, rewriting, play, and continuation.





(Thanks Wendy Pfeffer…)

Jean-Pierre Chambon, “Un auteur pour Flamenca?” Cultura neolatina 75:3-4 (2015): 229-71. Hypothesis, based on stylistic analysis of Flamenca with/against/through the COM i.e. the complete extant Occitan literary corpus: Daude de Pradas!

(Not seen let alone read as UBC library doesn’t take Cultura neolatina, they have a short run (1966-81 as I recall) for some historical reason. I will report once I’ve read that, and Chambon’s article on Daude in the preceding volume, once I’ve inter-library-loaned them.)

Read more Daude de Pradas at trobar.org



[UPDATED 2016-05-19] We already have this:

Flamenca Project (Indiana University, Bloomington: Eric Beuerlein, Sandra Kübler, Michael Paul McGuire, T.M. Rainsford, Olga Scrivner, Barbara Vance; I think started in 2007?) = digitised manuscript from Project Occitanica + Meyer 1865 transcription & French translation + Blodgett 1995 English verse translation. For more information on these editions and others, in historical overview, see Flamenca: rough list of editions and translations.)

This is principally part of a scholarly project in linguistics (computational, corpora):

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 5.37.30 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-19 at 5.37.58 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-19 at 5.41.56 PM

But the current interface [last checked 2016-05-19] offers options of reading any or all of the following: digitised manuscript, Old Occitan transcription, a French translation, an English translation. (There are issues with the three latter components for me and my purposes but it’s a fabulous start, a wonderful starting-point for anyone starting out in Old Occitan and/or Flamenca, and the fact that this exists at all is massive progress compared to the State Of The Occitan World ten years ago. Or fifteen, when I was starting out in doctoral work, and thinking back to how and what I was reading and working on as “Flamenca-text” before my dissertation proposal, let alone the dissertation proper… )

Here’s an example, the first extant page of Flamenca (as is; it has many lacunae, including one at the very beginning):

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 5.43.42 PM


Thinking ahead: Future Flamenca as a gateway metaromance supertext (see diss. 2006 I think introduction or ch. 1; thanks to John V. Fleming amongst others for early “super” work and discussion thereof) as the beating heart of an open access free (with some parts made to measure that can be paid for, ex. printed versions) online OCCVERSE with some terrible multilingual pun about “digital” and “at your fingertips.” And more puns on “vers.”

Bringing together the COM (Concordance of Medieval Occitan, not online, far from free, as ever with Brepols…) and all that is already online, like the Italian repertorio (the Occ RIALTO & the Cat RIALC), like the venerable ancient amateur (and much beloved by me) trobar.org

Cross-border multiple country major funding in international partnership: France, Catalonia & Spain, Italy for starters; plus all countries containing Occitanists


UNESCO about cultural heritage?

and libraries, as digital repositories?

Crowd-sourcing and community, engaged work of many hands. Just comparing and analysing translations and how they translate yet preserve puns, ambiguity, opacity, nuance, …

And continuations, fan fiction, that larger literary community / communing with Our Shared Text at its heart.

Old Occitan stands in similar relation to French, Catalan, Italian, and Spanish as Anglo-Saxon/ Old English does to English. Flamenca could form the core of an online world like the Electronic Beowulf does, as focus node entry-point gateway. Occitan is at least as rich a language and literature. Most who actually know it would argue for greater richness. We could all debate until the cows come home about value, valor e prez. We would probably be able to come to agreement on the different values, plural, of power vs influence.

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