sabbatical project (winter-spring 2022)

= consent in and around and through medieval Occitan poetry.

This post will be updated along the way; my leave is for 1 January through 30 April 2022, and after that I’ll be working on this solidly through May and intermittently in June—by then service work will have resumed—and slower from July onwards, once my teaching resumes.


Juliet O’Brien – Leave Application (partially-paid professional development) for 2021/22, submitted 15 October 2020, approved 22 March 2021.

Having been employed at UBC Vancouver in the Faculty of Arts as a Lecturer since 2012, I [applied] for partially-paid professional development leave. The projected work is flexible and can be done at any time—as fits with department needs—anywhere; but needs focus.

Consent is an ever more pressing topic, usually appearing in its negative form: silence as assumed consent, lack of consent, individual defensiveness, fear, alienation. This project looks to medieval  Occitan poetry for other models of consent that may offer hope and help to the here and now, reaffirming the con– and the –sent that are the roots and core of the word and its meaning, and advocating collaborative consensual community. Through shifting the terms from the nominal to the verbal form of “consent,” medieval Occitan poetry and medievalism can help us to move from rape culture to consent culture; from passion to compassion, towards thinking anarchically and ecocritically, in transformative sustainable convivencia.

This project continues developing my expertise in a peculiar knowledge and skill set: teaching (French) language and literature, translation, medieval literature and culture, and specialist research in medieval Occitan poetry and poetics; on the latter, especially dialogic and debate forms, didactic and satirical poetry, and treatises on poetry for and as language-learning. The immediate corpus of primary texts for the project comprises over 300 poems, around a dozen of which are longer narrative works, from the 10th-15th centuries C.E.; in around 100 manuscripts, mostly 13th-15th century C.E. 

Projected next stages continue research using the Concordance of Medieval Occitan database and digitised manuscripts online, moving all materials onto a new website, and further reading in ecocriticism and in philosophy of education. Earlier stages of the project are freely available online, collected at

Its midpoint (before project suspension due to greater teaching and service obligations and then COVID-19 overwork), a work in progress talk to the UBC Vancouver FHIS Research Seminar, is at: 

Explicit objectives:

To create open access online materials and a book.

Anticipated contributions of the work:

To add knowledge and materials in the course of these activities that will be useful for future teaching, my own and that by others.

To make specialist materials for potential future upper-level courses in literature.

To “translate” (in the broad sense) practical educational techniques from a different culture for discussion, comment, imaginative role-play, and debate today.

To develop pedagogical techniques for interactive, collaborative, sociable teaching and learning: close reading, deep reading, and research; philological and poetic activities around a single sound or word; critical and creative continuations; and commentary in distance learning—across generations and space and time, including online—shaping a living knowledge-community.

To contribute to work in philosophy of education—as, crucially, distinct from educational management and leadership—through the ethical and social idea of “consent” and its application to the political situation that is a classroom (including a virtual one), course, and university.

If pigs could fly … dreaming of four months’ happy Mondays. Clumsily hoofingly working to retrain what were once crafty hands with fine motor skills back into some shape befitting the textile arts, hoping to embroider pearls / „sie spinnt gerade” …


1 Prelims

2 Build a home / make a space

UBC BLOGS / WP site to house it: it will be in stages, and different kinds and levels. Some will be written: to be html, pdf, and AV. Some will be resources for teaching, with suggestions on how to use them (“translation” in the broad sense) for a range of potential audiences and situations.

  • rejig MMM site, redeploy as hub?
  • start/restart new “JÓB” site (think there’s an old one? or keep MMM and just rename banner etc.), for everything that looks like writing to do with teaching and learning;
  • anything else goes to MMM (or elsewhere, new spinoff?) + stand-alone sites ex. Dendromorphoses and Enimia; all cross-referenced, inter-linked, and constellated;
  • might mean more architecture and construction work? major reconceptualisation and redesign and remaking?

3 Make the COM usable

  • work with UBC IT 
  • get ancient macbook restarted, with ancient rosetta-compatible OS
  • or PD funds to buy another restored antique
  • (for this present research’s purposes; unfortunately this database, repository, and vital resource is about as far from open as is imaginable, though maybe it or something similar will be openly accessible one day)
  • primary materials 
    • (at least online manuscript links and suggested resources, see for ex. ARLIMA approach)
    • lyric, dialogic, and narrative poetry: canso, tenso, partimen, judici d’amors, novas, roman
    • composition, collection, and commentary: poetic grammars / treatises and commentary, satirical sirventes; chansonnier manuscript superbooks;
  • materials and approaches for teaching and learning, medievalistically and poetically
    • some of this will be rewriting and reorganising previous MMM writing about teaching and learning;
    • some will be annotated bibliography, for non-OA materials (ex. translations and editions);
    • some will be MSS, with ideas on how to work with them.
  • this will include essays about 
    • knowledge- and learning-centred-learning, and curiosity and wonder, in association with “mastery pathways” and ungrading; 
    • ethical pedagogy: open access (free, demonetised), opening up materials and kinds of knowledge perceived as exclusive or elite (dead languages and cultures, poetry and poetics), with “mastery pathways” and ungrading approach to assessment (anti-authoritarian, -hierarchical, -competitive: feminist, anarchist, decolonialist);
    • method-reading and method-medievalism: the art of zoning in and zoning out (reading as meditation and therapy), allegory and analogy (reading through “a distant mirror” and with a critical distance the better to engage with sensitive and traumatised subjects), questioning and imagination for survival and resistance;
    • examples of past assignments in past courses;
    • and examples of courses designed and built around final projects, in turn growing out of the very start and course title; holistically rather than separating objectives, outcomes, assignments, assessment, evaluation. All of which are: demonstrate your wonderful knowledge and learning.
    • move work to office for this stage:
      • Barthes, Ducrot, discourse analysis
      • home Occ books to office
      • library
    • form of writing: 
      • essays;
      • a research paper: long version of “Translating Rape in Flamenca” feat. signs of reading through annotations on the manuscript;
      • OPEN ACCESS PROBLEM: readings / texts – poems and translations in existing editions.
    • first places of publication to try: 
      • medieval feminist venue +
      • general medieval venue
    • essay collection;
    • in a generalist / politically feminist venue;
    • book, open access, free and $0 to me too

That creative, fraying, patchworked, rewoven, continuing cycle of reading, thinking, and writing: a trivial detail in the knowledge-fabric. Hope for the triviality that’s whimsy and details that are worlds in themselves, grand decorative miniatures; wish to be a sparkly spiderweb.


The pig and their spinning live in a Book of Hours (Hours of the Virgin, Use of Rome), and the artist is Simon Marmion. French and Belgian (inc. Breton, Flemish, Burgundian), c. 1480 CE. Morgan Library, New York MS M.6 f. 79r. I first met them through Melibeus (@melibeus1) on Twitter. Learn more about the manuscript and see more pages via The Morgan Library & Museum’s Collection Online. To find out more about what a Book of Hours is, Wikipedia is a good place to start (and offers some nice selections, more images in Commons, further reading, and external links).

The spider and web live in another Book of Hours (Use of Rome). Probably Flemish, c. 1300 CE. Trinity College Library, Cambridge MS B.11.22 f. 155r. I first met them through Melibeus too; the image has been preying on me and/or haunting me for most of January, in a good way mind you, so I might write some more about it as a spin-off creative reading. Read the whole manuscript online in the Wren Digital Library.

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