Troubadour lyric poetry

Work in progress

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50 years ago: philology, decolonisation, deconstruction

Image above: from the Gradual of Saint-Etienne of Toulouse, France (Toulouse), last quarter of the 11th-first quarter of the 12th century, British Library Harley MS 4951, f. 299v (more…)

#femfog avant la lettre, #fembuée, & #femflow

(For Eileen Joy.)


(Also a post about how reading works. (Book of Hours, The Master of Evert Zoudenbalch. Active Utrecht, ca. 1460. Via Miranda Bloem a.k.a. @Zweder_Masters))


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.


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…)

Next up: work in progress, #femfog


Currently connecting up:

  • The Maria de Ventadorn & Gui d’Uisel partimen
  • Some other medieval Occitan partimens & tensos
  • Questions: are rape jokes possible or permissible? Is there any way in which they can be positive and productive in educating and acting against rape (pseudo-)culture? And more immediately in preventing assault?
  • The K-Beauty débacle, feminism, academic feminism, and the point and public purpose of academia & academics
  • Having been obliged to think about the absurd foolish #femfog and #GYB bollocks, and how this feels… how shall I put it… intrusive?
  • Foolish and wise laughter and their social and ethical side: Plato (ideas triggered by talk on Friday), via Jean de Meun and Erasmus and Rabelais, looping back to medieval Occitania (and surrounds, i.e. Catalonia): Raimon Vidal de Besalú, Guilhem d’Aurenga, Socratic irony, true nobility of soul, and taking the piss (out of oneself and generally)
  • Satire, sincerity, play and its imaginative hypothetical space, and mesura (in whichever language, time, and culture; or as utopian ideal)
  • On which: it would be nice and proper if “PC” were to be returned to its original and longest-running meaning: the standard abbreviation for “Pillet-Carstens,” that is, the standard numbering system for the Troubadour lyric corpus (at least, for the 478 poets identified at that time, which has expanded since) and our industry standard since Alfred Pillet & Henry Carstens, Bibliographie der Troubadours. Schriften der Königsberger Gelehrten Gesellschaft, Sonderreihe, Band 3. (Halle: Niemeyer, 1933); for the record, this was one of these monumental two-generation-spanning works actually completed in 1931 and NOT a member of that other species of 1930s German philology. William P. Shepard’s classic 1934 Modern Language Notes review may be recommended as a splendid quick introduction in English.
  • So: #FeministHardcorePhilologySaysFogYou and #FogYB


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…)

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…)