Séminaire Stanford University

During the brief period from 1100 to 1300, a tradition of poetry took hold in southern France that combined passion and restraint, desire and song, and that still remains part of our cultural heritage.  Emerging in aristocratic courts, this poetry revolutionized the Western imagination. Many songs were dedicated to an inaccessible and unnamed lady, and were a celebration of erotic and sensual love. The poets-performers of these songs called themselves troubadours and their literary language was Occitan after the word for “yes” in the region, “oc,” as opposed to the “oïl” of northern France. Through interaction with Occitan scholars, musicians, and performers of troubadour song, we will read and interpret medieval texts as both literary artifacts and an ongoing vernacular tradition adapted for contemporary audiences. Students will visit sites important to the troubadours and gain historical knowledge of a common premodern culture of southern France and northern Spain—Occitania. Finally, through our study of and experience with premodern and contemporary Occitan culture, we will reflect upon the politics of cultural heritage—the idea of a cultural identity that has historical roots in an international courtly culture, one that included courts in southern France, northern Italy and Spain, Sicily, and Latin crusader states in the East.

The seminar will be supported locally by the Troubadours Art Ensemble and its director Gérard Zuchetto.  Through the arrangements of Zuchetto and his colleagues, students will have opportunities to visit various sites, towns and institutions in Languedoc-Roussillon and Catalonia related to the troubadours and hold discussions with local musicians, curators, and scholars who contribute to troubadour/Occitan culture in different ways. Gérard is a native speaker of French, Occitan and Italian and will be leading many of the site visits and will give lectures.

Marisa Galvez she specializes in the literature of the Middle Ages in France and Western Europe, especially the poetry and narrative literature written in Occitan and Old French.  Her areas of interest include the troubadours, vernacular poetics, the intersection of performance and literary cultures, and the critical history of medieval studies as a discipline. The idea for this seminar came from her research in southern France as part of her multi-year Performing Trobar project that seeks to cultivate, historicize, and compare the experience of troubadour lyrics in literary and performative modes. In exposing students and the Stanford community to the rich aural and verbal texture of the medieval world, Performing Trobar seeks to animate our engagement with medieval lyric both as a philological artifact and as a vernacular art that continues to be translated before various audiences around the world.