essays & commentaries & other writing

sabbatical project

= consent in and around and through medieval Occitan poetry

This post will be updated along the way …


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: 


To create open access online materials and a book.


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.

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



on work, overwork, folly, and resistance

Last year I worked every weekend from mid-March to the end of September. (more…)

Last year I worked every weekend from mid-March to the end of September. (more…)