Joseph Mason: ‘Songs of War: Politics and Aesthetics in 13th-century France'


OCT 2, 2021

Session: Joseph Mason (University College Dublin)
'Songs of War: Politics and Aesthetics in 13th-century France'

Some historians and scholars of thirteenth-century literature have considered music and poetry to have been a 'civilising' force in the later Middle Ages. There is a tacit belief that music and poetry, as aesthetic and entertaining activities, had little to do with the brutal violence in which the aristocracy engaged and for which they trained. However, a small number of songs have come down to us in the surviving songbooks of the period that respond directly to moments of conflict. This seminar will explore this little discussed aspect of musical practice in thirteenth-century France and will argue that aesthetic features of music and poetry could serve political purposes. Evidence for engagement in military activity by performers of song will be considered, after which one song by Thibaut II, count of Bar, will be analysed. The presentation will include live performance.