On the medieval troubadour tradition


This Space for Capnomancy

Source:  Joshua Cohen, “New Books,” in Harper’s 2012 June pp 67f:

“Before the thirteenth century,” Marisa Galvez writes in Songbook: How Lyrics Became Poetry in Medieval Europe (U of Chicago Press), “the terms ‘poem,’ ‘poet,’ and ‘poetry,’ were reserved for classical authors.” Medieval vernacular versifiers called themselves trobadors, skilled in trobar or chantar. In relating their history, Galvez juxtaposes works such as the thirteenth-century Middle Latin / German / French / Provençal Carmina Burana, which criticized the Catholic Church, with the fourteenth-century Castilian Libro de buen amor, which delineated the joys and perils of carnality, and she interleaves pages from comedic and terpsichorean chansonniers with the comparatively dignified longings of the Liederhandschriften of the German minnesingers. The essential theme being gestured at in these pairings is the creation of authorship, though Galvez prefers to bury herself in manuscript dating rather than address an incipient Renaissance in which an artist could become the lord of his lord, and love could be both an unattainable ideal and a…

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