- Remapping Troubadour Landscape / Renewing Literary History
Database, digitisation, literary theory, philology, critical edition, interpretive reading, sex, Bruno Latour, history, Dante, courts, troubadours, Occitan lyric
What remains to be done in Occitan troubadour scholarship in the decades to come? That big question, if posed to a dozen scholars, would no doubt result in a dozen different answers. Some of our differences could be chalked up to age or location, level of academic support, academic training, and, of course, our own previous research topics. I am no exception as I set out my own response, and my own biases are, I am sure, fully on display. This century is a golden time for research, of course, with the opening up of unimagined possibilities thanks to digital imagery and databases, but it comes with a downside as well: the drastic cuts in support for the arts across Europe and the Americas. While Italy continues to produce a profusion of impressive and impeccable scholarship that makes available material previously inaccessible to young scholars around the world, Occitan studies in the UK, as in many other countries, including France, Germany, and the United States, continue to shrink in relation to other fields that have been deemed more socially and economically essential. And yet, despite the fact that today only Edinburgh, Durham, Cambridge, King's College London, Oxford, and Exeter still offer Occitan modules (a subsection of a course lasting one term instead of three), and at that only intermittently, research continues to prosper in the UK, though hardly in a single, sanctioned direction. Thanks to independent and emeritus scholars and large publicly funded projects such as the tensos project of the noughties and the Crusades project of the past decade, both thanks to the diligence and brilliance of Linda Paterson and Ruth Harvey, and both involving collaborations between British researchers and younger Italian-trained scholars (both of those projects produced important volumes: The Troubadour 'tensos' and 'partimens': A Critical Edition, ed. by Ruth Harvey and Linda Paterson; and Singing the Crusades: French and Occitan Lyric Responses to the Crusading Movement, 1137–1336, ed. Linda Paterson), Occitan studies continue to rise from the ashes, much to the consternation of the [End Page 163] nay-sayers and the highly paid prophets of the future bureaucratic utopia. And how to ensure that that continues to be the case?
Twenty-first-century troubadour studies have diversified somewhat, both moving away from, and adding to, the 1990s interest in theoretical topics—rhetorical, feminist, queer, psychoanalytic, linguistic, deconstructive, etc.—toward topics and methodologies emphasising philological investigation, archival work, and the philosophical and theological concepts that underlie much of Occitan poetry. Ruth Harvey, Linda Paterson, and Simon Gaunt set the tone with their collaborative edition of Marcabru in 2000, while others followed the social / historical example set by Paterson's 1995 study, The World of the Troubadours: Medieval Occitan Society. As we have said, Occitan studies in the noughties benefited from the fruitful blend of young Italian scholars and British grant money, but it also moved in new directions, philosophical and psychoanalytical in the cases of Sarah Kay's book, Courtly Contradictions: the Emergence of the Literary Object in the Twelfth Century and Simon Gaunt's Martyrs to Love: Love and Death in Medieval French and Occitan Courtly Literature.
And since then? Where does that leave us today? Some of the suggestions I make follow on from the works just cited. Critical editions continue to be as essential as ever, of course, but they need to be supplemented by a more global and interconnected view of troubadour production. National boundaries and traditions of scholarship are no excuse for viewing the troubadours as preternaturally "French," "Italian," or "Catalan," when, of course, no such distinction was operative in the world in which they composed. Even the best of critical editions need updating—Walter Pattison's Raimbaut d'Aurenga providing an excellent example—and some of that updating means reading the poets not only as avatars of modern thought and witnesses of their own era, but as living poetry that speaks to us in terms that contemporary readers can appreciate. New editions need to be held to the same standards as new...