Medieval French Research Seminar 20th April

Prof. Bill Burgwinkle (Cambridge): “Thirteenth-century troubadour poetry and the rise of post-evental thinking”

Thursday 20th April (week 11), 5.15pm, Buchanan Building, Room 216 (TBC)

The importance that is claimed for troubadour poetry often involves its status as the ‘first’: first vernacular lyric poetry preserved in Europe; earliest vernacular poetry composed by a woman; earliest preserved melodies for a ‘secular’ composition; first explicitly non-religious verse, and plenty of it (some 2500 songs from a period of roughly a century); first to deal almost exclusively with love and the erotic without offering apologies.  That this material has survived, was copied in luxury manuscripts, was imitated widely, and still resonates is amazing and I do not question that; but that is not what interests me most about this production or this phenomenon.  Instead, I want to look at fin’amors as a sample of discourse or a discursive formation (à la Foucault), and read it as emerging from an ‘event’ (à la Badiou).  It is when that discourse founders, when the rituals which uphold these beliefs begin to weaken and cracks appear in the notion that there can be just one account of that event—that is when things get most interesting.  For that we should look to the borders of Occitania, in what is now northern Italy and Catalonia.  It is in those regions and in some of the poets who hailed from the Piedmont, Genoa, and South of the Pyrenees that we find some of the most intriguing material and it is on those spaces and poets that I will focus in this paper.