- Future Directions for Occitan Studies: 2020 and Beyond
More than a decade ago I assessed where things stood in medieval Occitan and French studies (Paden, “The State”). Regarding Occitan, I suggested more work in three areas. Despite the vigorous efforts of scholars during the intervening years, we have not yet seen enough on those subjects. In addition I would like to see more in two other sectors.
The first area is women. Work on the trobairitz peaked, if we consider only editions, during the 1990s.1 The sterling quality of these editions may be responsible for the dearth of editorial work since that time, and I feel no need for new editions now. But I am not persuaded that we have adjusted the balance of our attention between trobairitz and troubadours as we should. To put it strongly, women are one of two genders in play, and the predominance of heterosexual love as a theme in medieval Occitan poetry implies that their importance is equal to that of the men. On the other hand, of course, the relative scarcity of trobairitz songs, in comparison to those by troubadours, assures that we will always spend more time on the men than the women; but insofar as we study the male poets for their love lyrics, we need to keep the female poets always in mind.
Specifically, I would find it useful to have a general review of work on the trobairitz since about 1990. (It could take the relay from Paden, “Some Recent Studies.”) It should address the following questions: What has become of the trobairitz? Has our interest in them subsided, or has it grown subtler? Do we understand love in this poetry better now, having refreshed our attention to the women, or do we continue to read it (always, usually, or sometimes) in an essentially masculist way? What does it mean to understand love between men and women, both in general and in the medieval society of the Midi? Do we understand love as best we can in the context of that society and the poetry it produced? [End Page 87]
The second area is the Arabs, that is, studies of the Arabic contribution to the world of the troubadours and trobairitz. No question could be more fraught with political surges, and I fear that recent years have made it no easier to assess the matter with equanimity and penetration.2 Menocal argued that Europeans generally accepted the Arabic contribution to troubadour love as self-evident until the mid-nineteenth century, when Europe became colonialist, Europeans saw Arabs as subject populations, and their cultural contributions became controversial if not unthinkable. Regarding language, we have had a reassessment of the likelihood that the troubadours, who passed constantly in and out of Spain in the throes of what Christian chroniclers called the Reconquista, knew at least some Arabic (see Beech). We have been reminded that a significant number of Occitan words, especially in the domain of music, came from Arabic (see Ricketts, anticipated by Ribera y Tarragó). But there are other areas of influence as well. Romance languages of Iberia are rich in loan words from Arabic: about 200 in Catalan, 900 in Castilian, and 958 by one count in Portuguese (Monk). It would be interesting to have comparable figures for Occitan and French, which could be gauged by a careful reading of Wartburg on Orientalia (volume 19).3
Regarding society, we also have recent work on the visible presence of Arabs in Provence and Languedoc at the time: Terrisse describes an exhibition of archeological objects that establish the presence of Muslim communities in Marseille, Montpellier, and other towns of the Midi in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. In Marseille Muslims could serve as witnesses in court, though not against a Christian unless the Christian allowed it (Pernoud 88). And for a possible connection to the trobairitz, we have an important translation of women poets in Arabic by Abdullah al-Udhari [End Page 88] that has received some attention, though less, I think, than it deserves. With all due respect for the courageous few non-Arabists who have ventured into this area, I must observe that a general...