medieval commentary

Being in time, in images and imagination

Hieronymus Bosch, Graden of Earthly Delights (1490-1510); Museo del Prado, Madrid

Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights (1490-1510): outer wings closed; Museo del Prado, Madrid

Images accompanying MDVL 301A – week 5



Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, gift shop, 2012; via @divafancypants


Occitan Lyric Poetry as Defence Against the Dark Arts

Full version of a talk given at the 15th Triennial Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society; University of Kentucky, Lexington; 24-29 July 2016 (some parts cut or expanded on the fly, as is usual for live talks).

It includes a selection of medieval Occitan poetry (with Englishings) that might be interesting and perhaps even useful to general readers, feminists, anti-rape activists, paranomasiacs, comedians, and assorted other 21st century live human beings (and any other intelligences not covered above).

There are also pictures.

Including, as promised to a certain amic, owls.


“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… (more…)

Extending #HugAMedievalist and #WhanThatAprilleDay16 into a weekend Occ Fest

With apologies to Ozzy and in festive continuation of Twitter’s virtual medievalise-ins, #HugAMedievalist (2016-03-31) and #WhanThatAprilleDay16 – Guilhem de Peitieus / Old Occitan (2016-04-01).

Medievalists and philologists are here to help, at your service and for the public Good. Even at what for others is “the weekend.” Manning the Medievalism Helpdesk today is the master satirist Marcabru. He’s joining us today from 870-ish years ago to help our Powers That Be with Words Of Wisdom and Thoughts For The Day from another world; from nobler, more gracious and honorable, yet humbler times. In the humility of looking back in turn, in the ever-repeating virtuous cycle of nostalgia, at better less barbarous times.

Welcome to a civilisation where: (more…)

#WhanthatAprilleDay16 – Guilhem de Peitieus / Old Occitan

Phylologystes unite, lat us maken melodye

This post is for
mon aisimen et aizi
mon compagnon en eisil
celui per cui fui trobatz
alter dicat:

Guilhem de Peitieus (1071 – 1127) (more…)

The Old Talks Series: “Richard the Lionheart and the poetics of imprisonment”

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Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Trinity College Dublin
Cultures of War Research Network Inaugural Conference: TCD CMRS / IMEMS (Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Wales) / associated with CARMEN (Co-operative for the Advancement of Research through a Medieval European Network)


This was a talk to an interesting audience: Medievalists but not Occitanists, literary scholars and historians. Consider it an experiment in juggling the four, and as an exercise in Occitanist Outreach. It’s a short piece, padded out somewhat as my original talk notes were somewhat telegraphic or, at times, verily gnomic. There are still a few patchy bits. It was put together at speed but may have a few good ideas; it was fun to do, the geeky puzzle-solving fun of comparing multiple versions of a poem and hypothesising about things to which there are no factual answers (and maybe there can be none). It’s an exercise in the limits of editing, and the frustrations of limiting oneself to a (modern) single edited text, in comparison with the extra joys to be derived from keeping a poem multiple and open and true to itself, as a moving living thing. I hope it might have communicated some of that fun, in an introductory manner. Next piece to go up here, a companion from even earlier, is on a related poem by Guilhem de Peitieus…


There may, as ever, be typos. There are, as ever, holes and other navigational hazards needing to be mended. Further footnotes and references. The usual nonsense to be tweaked into sense. But I’m still posting this up, in its current state. May it be useful to someone!


“The poetics of imprisonment: A reading of Richard the Lionheart’s Ja nus hons pris ne dira sa raison / ja nuls hom pres non dira sa razon (1192)”

Richard’s best-known poem may be Ja nus hons pris…, supposedly written while imprisoned Austria on his return journey from the 3rd Crusade. (Sung by, amongst others, Bryan Ferry.) Richard’s family poetic connections already tie him to the Occitan “Troubadour” lyric tradition: great-grandson of the first known Occitan trobador, William, 9th Duke of Aquitaine and 7th Count of Poitiers (c.1071-1126); son of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1202), patron of further troubadours – e.g. Bernart de Ventadorn – and of some of the early French poets – e.g. Benoît de Sainte-Maure; half-brother of Marie de Champagne (1145-98), who continued a similar patronage pattern, including for example Chrétien de Troyes.

Ja nus hons pris… is best known in its French version, and has usually been read in its immediate historical context. An Occitan version also exists. After a brief comparison of the two versions, this paper shows how the poem may be read in its literary context, a poetic culture in France that is both French and Occitan.

While the trope of imprisonment is part of the amorous topical canon, 12th c. Occitan Troubadour lyric also plays with ideas of trobar (“composition,” and “finding” in the broadest sense) and formal elements of the canso (“song,” lyric poem) to produce what may be termed a full poetics of imprisonment. Richard’s poem offers a nice culmination of a century’s cross-pollination, composed as it is towards the end of the Troubadour “golden age” and after three Crusades. (more…)

The Old Talks Series: “Chat-Up Lines: The Expression of Feminine Ingenuity in some Occitan Hagiography” (Faith, Enimia, Margaret)

Here’s something I think I’ll return to this summer, encouraged by discussion with the marvellous Jennifer Edwards and through her talk yesterday (Kalamazoo session 73, Société Guilhem IX; Celebrating Occitania Then and Now: Responses across Disciplines):

“Si me non osculeris, hinc mihi cura nec ulla est”: Radegund, the Leper’s Kiss, and Holy Healing in Poitou.

Kalamazoo, now in its 50th year, is a great and wonderful thing. It, and the acholarly societies here, are part of the living fibre of American liberal arts culture. To a foreigner who’s been able to spend a little time at the institutional expression of this great educational idea/l, this scholarly liberal arts culture seems to be an essential and integral part of American culture, identity, mythical identity, and the dream. Before coming to the US for postgraduate study, I knew about this liberal arts culture more abstractly, in a mythic (mythified) and dream-like way, as the inheritor of the medieval liberal arts and a continuer of scholarly ideals that included the Renaissance Collège de France, the eighteenth-century German research institutes, and English (and other) scholarly societies of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries; I’d hesitate to say that the American liberal arts culture is the pinnacle of academia, though it’s tempting. It does a good job of sitting on shoulders of giants, perhaps with several giants as the solid foundation of a cheer-leading pyramid formation.

I missed Kalamazoo last year, for various reasons, mainly a practical work-relate one. I’ve been coming here off and on since 2004, and it’s always a joy to meet the same people, including the close academic family of international Medieval Occitan studies who welcomed me at my first Kalamazoo. I was there on my own, an academic orphan mid-dissertation, my original superviser having died a few months before. I had met few Occitanists before, never more than one at a time in any place (except Cambridge). At Kalamazoo, I walked into a room of a dozen of them. It was marvellous, as were they, and as they still are. This year’s two sessions had about thirty or so in the audience, and intersections of interest with a number of fields. In keeping with the koine nature of our language and its literary culture we’re an open, hospitable lot.

The Société Guilhem IX is one of two similar-sized international Occitanist associations, the other being the French-based AIEO. It (the former) has a fine journal, TENSO, and two sponsored sessions here at Kalamazoo every year. If any of you gentle readers are interested in medieval (and later!) Occitan, if your work touches on its literature and culture in any way, if you’ve ever even simply used the word “troubadour”: this society is for you. Join. Read and download the journal online: it’s at MUSE. And come see us at future Kalamazoos.

Here’s an old Kalamazoo talk, then, which as you see is rather rough (it was a talk, written as such). I’m putting it up here now, rough and ready and ragged as it is, because we need more medieval Occitan stuff online, in whatever shape. And because some stories should be shared and spread, and talked about. It’s often easier to talk about less finished work, it feels more malleable, clay not yet fired. We had fun yesterday with Enimia: Jennifer is the first other real live person I know who had read and (of course, like any decent person) loved Enimia’s Occitan vita. Saints Foy, Enimia, and Margaret are splendid, fabulous, hilarious. The paper that follows is about their cheeky chattiness.

The Occitan text, in the Clovis Brunel edition (still the main one, was I think the only one when writing this paper???), is freely openly available online at:


UPDATE / REMISE À JOUR : “La Consolation de l’amitié poétique au féminin dans le ‘Roman de Flamenca’ “

Le changement principal : l’ajout de commentaires supplémentaires, pour l’instant en forme de notes, à propos de l’autre côté des relations entre Flamenca et ses dames. C’est à dire du point de vue des dames, Margarida et Alis. Travaux en cours… mais vous voilà la base et les idées principales !

Au lieu d’en faire un nouveau blog, les ajouts se retrouvent en continuation du blog originel :

The Old Talks Series: “La Consolation de l’amitié poétique au féminin dans le ‘Roman de Flamenca’ “

“La Consolation de l’amitié poétique au féminin dans le Roman de Flamenca
Colloque SATOR
Filière : Amitiés féminines
University of Victoria, 2012

First, as a special treat for non-Francophone readers, an entirely misleading but very pretty picture from the Getty museum blog:

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