Magpies (1): on Eugene Onegin, birds of an intelligent variety, how one might distinguish these birds from other birds and from one another and why one might wish to do so, and language teaching


As promised a week ago: magpies.

I was thinking about birds back in July, partly because I had finally got around to reading Sarah Kay’s Parrots and Nightingales: Troubadour Quotations and the Development of European Poetry (2013). This reading and thinking went on hold because a family member ended up in hospital and that rather took priority. While tidying my office, I found the notes I’d taken (mostly on a train so the writing is harder than usual to decipher). They will duly be squinted at, hopefully deciphered and transcribed, and continued and rendered coherent. Wish me luck, my handwriting is bad at the best and slowest-writing of times.

So. Parrots and nightingales.

I was reminded of birds and citation while watching Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin a week or so ago (thanks to my hosts JJI and CIJ, and others in that good company). The opening scene is woven around a “saw” about heaven sending you habit instead of happiness; and that stability, solid banality, being something you settle for instead of wanting Great Exciting Things (= men, in this opera’s case) In Life. Here’s the full text: (more…)

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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The Old Talks Series: “The ‘Trobairitz’ and ‘Flamenca’ “

47th International Congress on Medieval Studies
University of Western Michigan, Kalamazoo
May 2012

Société Guilhem IX: Session 93, “Women and the Troubadours”


Women figure in the large majority of Troubadour poems, whether as the erotic focus, object of mystery, speaking voice, invoked saint or patroness. The Trobairitz corpus has gone from obscurity to possible overexposure in recent decades with the rise of feminism and interest in women’s studies. This panel invites scholars to take stock of the many places of women in Old Occitan studies. Contributions may consider literary, cultural, linguistic, musical, lexicographical, or biographical questions. Many women have contributed to Occitan studies, and this would be an opportunity to take account of their legacy, as well.


The paper pulls together two main threads associated with Flamenca scholarship.

The first is the word trobairitz and feminine trobar: further on which see the work of Angelika Rieger and other, and the theme of this panel.

The second is the double conundrum that is the attribution of authorship to this romance, and the approximation of its date of composition. Attempts at finding answers have moved from an earlier expectation of a single male author, as exemplified by Grimm (1930) and the “finding” of the clerc Bernardet; to Solterer and Grossweiner and a shift towards multiplicity, including composition by two or more hands; and work (Bynum, Kay, Vitz, and others) on the creative contributions of a range of participants in the poetic process: patrons, very hands-on patrons, collaborations, performers, adapters, and so on. To assist in this quest, we may add in Spearing on narratorless narrative; Jewers and Kay and others on play and playfulness and games; gender-ambiguity and gender-play in trobador lyric, and—another of today’s Guilhem IX topics, of course—the linguistic play of dialogic composition, as witness the tensos and partimens. (more…)