Troubadours, Love, and Marriage

I mentioned some things in class that you might be interested to follow up on.

First was the TV program Married With Children, the theme song of which I mentioned in my discussion of changing ideas about marriage:

There are a few clips that will show you what I mean about Married With Children being a satire of the American mainstream concept of marriage and family:

I also talked a little bit about the idea of the transformative power of love being a pretty ubiquitous part of pop culture now, despite its roots in the troubadour era. Here are a couple of scenes that really enact that idea. They should ring a bell… if not, go watch these films/TV shows:

I also talked about the role of the troubadours in individualizing and emotionalizing the concept of love, and transforming not only how we think of the relationship of love to marriage and sex, but also the way we tell stories (especially love stories). I noted how the troubadours were the rock stars of Medieval Occitania (in what is now Southern France). Here are some of their greatest hits, still wonderful music after over 800 years:

Bernart de Ventadour’s “Can vei la lauzeta mover” (translation of the very strange lyrics to English here or see here for another translation in prose):

A l’entrada del tens clar (an Anonymous Occitan song celebrating the spring, dance, love and sexuality and, more vaguely, fertility–there’s a version of the lyrics translated here):

Another version of the same song (I like this better):

And one more song (in two versions): “A Chantar m’er de so qu’eu no volria” by Beatriz de Dia, who was not only a countess but also a famous and important female troubadour (or, “trobairitz”, as female troubadours were called). This gorgeous song tells the story of a broken heart, from the point of view of a woman. There are a few translations  in the discussion of the song here, as well as a bit of discussion of the trobairitz in general:

Here are some of the books I mentioned during my lecture:

  • Lovesickness in the Middle Ages: The Viaticum and Its Commentaries by Mary Frances Wack. A very hard-to-find book about the Medieval idea of lovesickness as a medical disease, and what writings about it tell us about the way Medieval people understood love, sex, power, gender,and illness.
  • The World of the Troubadours: Medieval Occitan Society, c.1100-c.1300 by Linda M. Paterson. An overview of the Medieval French world that had such a powerful influence on Western European (and modern Anglophone, and modern global) culture.
  • The Knight, the Lady and the Priest: The Making of Modern Marriage in Medieval France by Georges Duby. Duby traces the way our concepts of “modern marriage” (and love) were born in Medieval French society.
  • the multi-volume History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault, in which Foucault attempts to describe and explain how we went from the kind of “construction: of sexuality that was common in the ancient Greek world, to the kind of ideas we have about sexuality in the modern, Western world today; how our understanding of sexuality actually works today; and more.
  • Memory and Re-Creation in Troubadour Lyric by Amelia E. Van Vleck. One of the best treatments of the troubadours I’ve ever read, focusing on their music and poetry, its interpretation, and the ideas that shaped troubadour narratives about love, art, and music. Essential reading if you want to understand our modern ideas of love, romance, and marriage. (Unlike the others in this list, this book is in fact available free online: the link leads straight to the book.)

That’s the medieval stuff. We talked less about modern love and modern marriage, in part because they’re largely so dependent on the ideas from the troubadours’ world.

(Note: I don’t know how many of these books are available in our university library, but I have copies of all the books except the van Vleck (which is online for free anyway), and can make them available by photocopy in the office if anyone is interested.)

Hopefully in the panel discussion, we’ll cover marriage in more detail and depth.

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