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Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Seminar Series 2014: The Power of Place

The Enchantment of Song in Guillaume de Machaut

8th May 2012, 17:30 to 19:00, Birley Room, Hatfield College, Professor Sarah Kay, New York University

In the 13th century the lyric undergoes a process of disenchantement. Words become disconnected from music and from the expression of desire. But this gives rise to a counter mouvement that reaffirms the unicity of song (as opposed to its division into two complementary disciplines, words and music) and its (even dangerously) affective intimacy. Guillaume de Machaut manifests this development most fully in his Remède de Fortune. Appealing to the models of both Boethius and Orpheus, he sets about the seemingly contradictory aims of singing in a way that will be pure song, singing to voice the inspiiration of desire, and singing as part of an aesthetic that can be formalized and even taught.

Sarah Kay is professor of French at New York University. Her fields of interest are medieval French and Occitan literature and modern thought. She has written many books on medieval literary culture, of which the most recent are the co-authored Thinking Through Chrétien de Troyes and Knowing Poetry. Verse in Medieval France from the Rose to the rhétoriqueurs (both 2011); she is also the author of Zizek. A Critical Introduction (2003). Her next book will be called Parrots and Nightingales. Troubadour Quotation and the European Lyric.

Contact administrator.imrs@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.