Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Handbook of the Troubadours

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

A Handbook of the Troubadours

Article excerpt

A Handbook of the Troubadours, ed. F. R. P. Akehurst and Judith M. Davis (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1995). vii + 502 pp.; I map. ISBN o-520-o7g75-2. 17.95.

The aim of this volume, according to the introduction by F. R. P. Akehurst, is to be 'a reference book and a digest of the material known to every troubadour specialist' (p. i). The book begins with `An overview: why the troubadours?' by Paul Zumthor, followed by: Amelia Van Vleck, `The lyric texts'; Moshe Lazar, 'Fin'amo,; Frank M. Chambers, 'Versification'; Hendrik van der Werf, 'Music'; Suzanne Fleischman, `The non-lyric texts'; Elizabeth W. Poe, `The vidas and razos'; Matilda Tomaryn Bruckner, `The trobairitz'; Gerald Bond, 'Origins'; Deborah H. Nelson, `Northern France'; Stephanie Cain Van D'Elden, `The Minnesingers'; Joseph T. Snow, `The Iberian peninsula'; Ronald Martinez, 'Italy'; Hans-Erich Keller, `Italian troubadours'; William D. Paden, 'Manuscripts'; Roy S. Rosenstein 'Translation'; Frede Jensen, 'Language'; Nathaniel B. Smith, 'Rhetoric'; Elisabeth SchulzeBusacker, 'Topoi'; Eliza Miruna Ghil, `Imagery and vocabulary'; Robert Taylor, 'Bibliography'; and, as an appendix, F. R. P. Akehurst and Robert Taylor, `Editions of the troubadours and related works'.

The various contributions are generally sound, but two demand some comment: first, the chapter on 'Language' by Frede Jensen. While the description of the language is factually correct, it is based on an approach which is not likely to commend itself to the non-specialist (and certainly not the specialist). The approach is described by Akehurst in his introduction as 'a succinct and modern account of the language' and he adds that `while the chapter is not intended to teach how to read the language, it will provide a handy reference for many points of morphology and syntax' (p. 5). The background information is adequate, but the decision to base the phonology and morphology on a diachronic approach, while `there is no need to view syntax in a diachronic perspective' (p. 3 5 I) is inexplicable. If this chapter is indeed intended for the non-specialist, not many will appreciate a description which traces the phonological and morphological developments from Vulgar Latin (and not `back to its origin in Vulgar Latin', p. 3 5 ). Jensen continues to refer to Medieval Occitan morphology as if it were Latin with a real case system. In fact, the chapter is very much a summary of his earlier publications, and one would have hoped that this otherwise well-considered book would have provided a linguistic description which was appropriate in terms both of present preoccupations and of the needs of the public at which the volume is aimed. It is a matter of particular concern that there is no lead given concerning acquisition of the language, apart from the brief element included in the Introduction (pp. 4-5). For example, although the basic dictionaries are mentioned three times in the book, nowhere is there an explanation of their relationship, or a guide to their use except for a brief comment in `The lyric texts'. Such comment should have been provided under 'Language', where they are listed in the bibliography (pp. 398-9, although this reference does not find its way into the index).

Secondly, Nathaniel B. Smith has contributed a chapter, 'Rhetoric', which deals, in a way which will be appreciated by the modern reader, with various rhetorical techniques which are most relevant to the poetry of the troubadours: figures of repetition, syntax, description and argumentation and transfer of sense. …

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