The jeu-parti is a lyric poem in which two individuals who usually name each other at the beginning of each stanza debate a ‘would you rather’-style question: would you rather see your lady naked from the waist up or from the waist down? would you rather have a husband who is great at jousting but is always away at tournaments or one who stays at home with you but is rubbish at a tourney? And so on. Some of the questions are racy, some silly, some fairly courtly, but the jeu-parti stages a medieval precursor of the rap battle for two poet-composers to thrash it out, complete with insults, ribbing, and boasting.
Less formally, the demande d’amour is, literally a Love Question, often similar to the sorts of dilemmas in the jeux-partis, but which is posed in prose and rather simpler in format. It clearly amused courtiers who wanted to play the game themselves rather than merely listen to two performers singing about it.
It has been assumed that the informal prose practice of Love Questions pre-dated the more formal practice of the jeu-parti, but the sources for the former are almost all later than the latter — with one exception: the Bodleian library manuscript Douce 308, which I’ve been working on for years now, has the oldest collection of Love Questions and some of the latest collections of jeux-partis. In this article, I examine what these can tell us about the relationship between these two kinds of courtly entertainment.
The lovely people at OUP have given me a link that I can post here on my blog which should take you to a free version of the text. The full reference is:
The estampie is usually thought of as an instrumental genre, but the ones in Douce 308 survive as extensive (and complicated) poetic texts. My essay attempts to glean what we can about their musical form from these unnotated and unique traces (none of the Douce 308 estampies has any concordances). I argue, ultimately, that these vocal estampies are closer to the surviving notated instrumental versions that people have previously believed.
A brief overview of how medieval vernacular songs might inform and be informed by the social contexts that produced and consumed them.
Podlecture 5: Songs, singers, and society
Suggested select reading on political and religiousorganisation and conflict
Coss, Peter. “The Origins and Diffusion of Chivalry.” In A Companion to Chivalry, edited by Robert W. Jones and Peter Coss. 7-38. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2019.
Galvez, Marisa. The Subject of Crusade: Lyric, Romance, and Materials, 1150-1500. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2020.
Harvey, Ruth E. “Joglars and the Professional Status of the Early Troubadours.” Medium Aevum 62 (1993): 221-41.
Lee, Charmaine. “Richard the Lionheart: The Background to Ja nus homs pris.” Chap. 8 In Literature of the Crusades, edited by Simon Thomas Parsons and Linda M. Paterson. 134-50. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2018.
O’Sullivan, Daniel E. Marian Devotion in Thirteenth-Century French Lyric. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.
Paterson, Linda M. The World of the Troubadours: Medieval Occitan Society, c.1100-c.1300. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Paterson, Linda. Singing the Crusades: French and Occitan Lyric Responses to the Crusading Movements, 1137-1336. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2018.
Reynolds, Susan. Fiefs and Vassals. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.
On gender, desire, and subjectivity
Bloch, R. Howard. Medieval Misogyny and the Invention of Western Romantic Love. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
Boynton, Susan, ‘Women’s Performance of the Lyric Before 1500’. In Medieval Woman’s Song. Anne L. Klinck and Anne Marie Rasmussen, eds., 47-65; 219-23. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.
Bruckner, Matilda Tomaryn. ‘Fictions of the Female Voice: The Women Troubadours’, Speculum, 67/4 (1992), 865-91.
Bruckner, Matilda, Laurie Shepard, and Sarah White, eds. and trans. Songs of the Women Troubadours. New York: Garland: 2000.
Coldwell, Maria V. ‘Jongleuresses and Trobairitz: Secular Musicians in Medieval France’. In Women Making Music: The Western Art Tradition, 1150-1950. Jane Bowers and Judith Tick, eds., 39-61. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987.
Dell, Helen. Desire by Gender and Genre in Trouvère Song. Gallica. Vol. 10, Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2008.
Doss-Quinby, Eglal, et al., eds. Songs of the Women Trouvères. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. [See especially the Introduction]
Gaunt, Simon. Gender and Genre in Medieval French Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Gravdal, Kathryn. ‘Metaphor, Metonymy, and the Medieval Women Trobairitz’, Romanic Review, 83 (1992), 411-26.
Green, D. H. Women and Marriage in German Medieval Romance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Jackson, William E. Reinmar’s Women: A Study of the Woman’s Song (“Frauenlied” and “Frauenstrophe”) of Reinmar Der Alte. German Language and Literature Monographs. Vol. 9, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1981.
Kay, Sarah. “Desire and Subjectivity.” In The Troubadours: An Introduction, edited by Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay. 212-27. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Paden, William D., ed. The Voice of the Trobairitz: Perspectives on the Women Troubadours. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989.
Peraino, Judith Ann. Listening to the Sirens: Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to Hedwig. Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 2005.
For further reading and an overview of the secondary literature, see:
Doss-Quinby, Eglal. The Lyrics of the Trouvères: A Research Guide (1970-1990). Garland Medieval Bibliographies. New York and London: Garland, 1994.
Tischler, Hans. Trouvère Lyrics with Melodies: Complete Comparative Edition. Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae. 15 vols Neuhausen: American Institute of Musicology and Hänssler-Verlag, 1997.
On the music of the Trouvères
Epstein, Marcia Jeneth, ed. “Prions en chantant”: Devotional Songs of the Trouvères. Vol. 11, Toronto Medieval Texts and Translations. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.
Leach, Elizabeth Eva. “Do Trouvère Melodies Mean Anything?”. Music Analysis 38, no. 1-2 (2019): 3-46.
Leach, Elizabeth Eva. “Imagining the Un-Encoded: Staging Affect in Blondel de Nesle’s Mes cuers me fait conmencier.” Early Music 48, no. 1 (2020): 29–40.
Mason, Joseph W. “Structure and Process in the Old French jeu-parti.” Music Analysis 38, no. 1-2 (2019): 47-79.
O’Neill, Mary. Courtly Love Songs of Medieval France: Transmission and Style in the Trouvère Repertoire. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
O’Sullivan, Daniel E. “Editing Melodic Variance in Trouvère Song.” Textual Cultures 3, no. 2 (2008): 54-70.
Page, Christopher. “Listening to the Trouvères.” Early Music 25 (1997): 638-59.
Quinlan, Meghan. “Can Melodies be Signs? Contrafacture and Representation in Two Trouvère Songs.” Early Music 48, no. 1 (2020): 13-27.
Saltzstein, Jennifer. “Cleric-Trouvères and the Jeux-Partis of Medieval Arras.” Viator 43 (2012): 147-64.
Haines, John. “Aristocratic Patronage and the Cosmopolitan Vernacular Songbook: The Chansonnier du Roi (M-trouv.) and the French Mediterranean.” Chap. 4 In Musical Culture in the World of Adam de la Halle, edited by Jennifer Saltzstein. Brill’s Companions to the Musical Culture of Medieval and Early Modern Europe, 95-120. Leiden: Brill, 2019.
Huot, Sylvia. From Song to Book: The Poetics of Writing in Old French Lyric and Lyrical Narrative Poetry. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987, chapter 2.
This page hosts the audio for the first of my six ‘podlectures’ on Vernacular Song for List A Compulsory Topics (final year exams) at Oxford, delivered in this form because of ongoing restrictions caused by the current pandemic. It also gives links to some further reading and things mentioned in the audio.
NB: These podlectures form only part of the Vernacular Song topic as taught at Oxford, which is significantly supplemented by additional teaching in tutorials that demand extensive reading, essays, and presentations.
Podlecture 1: The Troubadours 1
Good general reading
Akehurst, F. R. P. and Judith M. Davis, eds. A Handbook of the Troubadours. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
Gaunt, Simon and Sarah Kay, eds. The Troubadours: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Rosenberg, Samuel N., Margaret Switten, and Gérard Le Vot, eds. Songs of the Troubadours and Trouvères: An Anthology of Poems and Melodies. New York and London: Garland, 1998 [book contains a CD of some of the music].