- Introduction to this Special Issue
The troubadours composed some of the most sublime love songs in the Western tradition. From Jaufré Rudel's haunting "Lanquan li jorn son lonc en mai" to Bernart de Ventadorn's soulful "Can vei la lauzeta mover" to Arnaut Daniel's virtuosic "Lo ferm voler qu'el cor m'intra," the troubadours gave voice to deeply human feelings of love, desire, and despair. However, they did not restrict their activity to love songs: they also composed debates, satiric songs, pastorelas, and songs in another dozen genres. Importantly, the troubadours were not the only poets to sing these songs: the Old French trouvères cultivated the troubadour art in the north of the territory we now call France. It may be understandable that Occitanists gravitate to the songs of the great troubadours, but once in a while, it behooves us to take note of the traditions and discourses that surround the canso.
In May 2019, the Société Guilhem IX held two sessions at the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies: "Beyond the Canso" and "Thibaut de Champagne and the Troubadours (A Roundtable)." The former was designed to get specialists and students alike to think about either other domains of troubadour lyric or ways to go beyond what have been the usual approaches to the Old Occitan love song. The latter was proposed in light of the recent publication of a new edition of the songs of Thibaut de Champagne, King of Navarre by Christopher Callahan, Marie-Geneviève Grossel, and myself. While both sessions covered a variety of subjects—Arabic studies, pedagogy, musical analysis, among other topics—to a considerable degree, mutual interests became clear, which led to the contributions making up this special issue of Tenso.
Thibaut de Champagne provides an excellent center for all of these studies because of his biographical ties to Occitania and because of the range of his lyric oeuvre. Great-grandson of Aliénor d'Aquitaine and grandson of Marie de Champagne, Thibaut spent much of his childhood at the court of Mantes-la-Jolie, a cultural center intimately connected with Gace Brulé, and it is plausible that troubadours also graced those halls. Furthermore, Thibaut [End Page 43] de Champagne was among the first trouvères to compose a variety of lyric genres and not just love songs. It is believed that he popularized debate poetry in the north and that he was first to compose Old French pastourelles. He also composed religious songs, satirical songs, and a rather puzzling lyrical lai.
Given that love is a constant theme throughout studies of troubadours and trouvères, William Paden's contribution makes a fitting starting point for this special issue. His article, "The Troubadour Canso in the Context of Social Reality," looks past the words of troubadour love song in order to grasp the historical experience of love. It has been more than a century since Gaston Paris coined the term "amour courtois." Ever since, scholars have sought to elucidate what love meant to courtly audiences of the Middle Ages. Paden believes clues may be found in the historical record of marriage contracts—some of which are quite poetic in their own right. It is a commonplace—and a misunderstanding—to think that medieval people married for political or economic reasons alone. Paden counters with textual evidence that suggests the medieval and modern experience of love is not so different.
Christopher Callahan argues in his article, "Thibaut de Champagne at the Crossroads between the Troubadours and the Trouvères," that Thibaut was a pivotal figure in the dissemination of the troubadour spirit in the north. After all, though a whole generation of trouvères preceded him, Thibaut was the first trouvère to explore the wide generic range of troubadour lyric. Gace Brulé, Thibaut's literal or figurative mentor, depending upon how one reads the Grandes Chroniques, composed only cansos. Callahan examines the evolution of both the pastorela and the partimen before looking to Marian song, which spread southwards after Thibaut's death. Finally, turning to material philology, he compares strategies of compilatio in the oeuvre of both Thibaut and of the last great troubadour, Guiraut...