- Singing the Crusades: French and Occitan Lyric Responses to the Crusading Movements, 1137–1336 by Linda Paterson, and: Literature of the Crusades ed. by Simon Thomas Parsons and Linda M. Paterson
Lyric Responses to the Crusades in Medieval France and Occitania, the collaborative project led by Linda Paterson, forms the underlying thread connecting these two publications which appeared together in 2018 under the Boydell & Brewer imprint.
Paterson's monograph, Singing the Crusades, is a magisterial synthesis, in which she puts her detailed knowledge of both primary texts and scholarship at the service of a wider scholarly public; the volume will also hold appeal to non-scholarly audiences looking for a fresh way to approach the ever-popular subject of the crusades. One can only salute the skilful way she has brought her own research acumen together with the insights of a host of other scholars writing in a range of languages, in a way that makes the scholarly context just as accessible as the primary materials themselves. There will be no excuse henceforth for these songs not to form part of the materials studied by crusade historians.
The new digital landscape of the past few years has accustomed scholars to the phenomenon of books published with an accompanying website. In this case, it may be just as accurate to say that the website comes with an accompanying book, such is the volume of riches made available to scholars through online editions of some 200 texts in French and Occitan on the Troubadours, Trouvères and the Crusades site. Half of these have been newly edited for the project; translations and notes are provided throughout. As Paterson suggests in her Introduction (23), the most rewarding way to read her monograph is in conjunction with the website, to which she makes occasional reference and where more detailed editorial comment and analysis may be found. [End Page 177]
Singing the Crusades is structured chronologically, following the evolution of the Crusading movement from "the early expeditions" to the fourteenth century. This approach has the merit of emphasising the relevance of lyric poets as witnesses of and commentators on current affairs. Each chapter is written in such a way as to allow stand-alone consultation by scholars interested in a particular moment or geographic area. For instance, Chapter VII treats Frederick II, while Chapter VIII treats the Albigensian War; the same actors and sometimes the same events are given full exposition in both. The book ends with three appendices which will enhance its appeal as a first port of call for scholars of lay responses to the crusades. Appendix A, written by Marjolaine Raguin-Barthelmebs, constitutes a useful survey of the rhetoric of the songs which complements Paterson's focus on them as responses to historical events. The French scholar outlines the prevalent themes and terms used across the corpus, with especial focus on commonalities between the rhetoric of the lyrics and that of crusade preaching. In so doing, this appendix exemplifies what can be done with the online corpus Paterson has assembled and suggests how productive close attention to the linguistic specificities of crusade lyric can be. Raguin-Barthelmebs concludes by noting the semantic slippage between the secular and the spiritual, a feature found across the wider corpus of medieval lyric. Two further Appendices set out a helpful chronology mapping events against texts, followed by a list of melodies attested in the manuscripts (the website hosts performances of a number of these).
As the Introduction convincingly sets out, troubadour and trouvère texts are historically important not only as persuasive rhetoric, but also as influential contributions to the definition of identities and values of medieval social elites. Summing up her presentation of the contrasting views of Aurell and Asperti on lyric as propaganda, Paterson neatly describes the songs as "the self-reflexive...