Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

A conversation with Marisa Galvez, Stanford professor of French literature, on troubadour poetry.


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Marisa Galvez 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. At Stanford, she currently teaches courses on medieval and Renaissance French literature and love lyric, as well as interdisciplinary upper level courses on the medieval imaginary in modern literature, film, and art.

Her recent book, Songbook: How Lyrics Became Poetry in Medieval Europe (University of Chicago Press, 2012), treats what poetry was before the emergence of the modern category, “poetry”: that is, how vernacular songbooks of the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries shaped our modern understanding of poetry by establishing expectations of what is a poem, what is a poet, and what is lyric poetry itself.  The first comparative study of songbooks, the book concerns three vernacular traditions—Occitan, Middle High German, and Castilian—and analyzes how the songbook emerged from its original performance context of oral publication, into a medium for preservation, and finally became a literary object that performs the interests of poets and readers.  Her current research project, entitled "The Confessional Project in the Crusades" investigates the rhetorical and ideological craft of medieval French confessional texts and its impact on the ethics of crusades in the thirteenth century.

Recent publications include a forthcoming article in Modern Philology, “Producing Opaque Coherence: Lyric Presence and Names,” that treats the issue of attribution in the troubadour chansonnier.  "From the Costuma d'Agen to the Leys d'Amors: A Reflection on Customary Law, the University of Toulouse, and Consistori de la sobregaia companhia del gay saber"(Tenso) investigates how the laws of a poetic society in fourteenth-century Toulouse reflect the codification of self-governance seen in the by-laws of the University of Toulouse and the customary law of Agen.

Her multi-year Performing Trobar project 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. She also currently serves on the Executive Committee for the Discussion Group on Provençal Language and Literature of the Modern Language Association and acts as Faculty Coordinator of the Theoretical Perspectives of the Middle Ages workshop at the Stanford Humanities Center.

See her discuss "Performing Trobar" here --