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IMC 2019: Sessions

Session 1: Keynote Lecture 2019: Text or Book?: A Material Approach to the Medieval Passover Haggadah (Language: English) / Things that Sing: Song-Object Relations in European Court Culture, 1160-1360 (Language: English)

Monday 1 July 2019, 09.00-10.30

Introduction:Anne E. Lester, Department of History, University of Colorado, Boulder
Speakers:Emma Dillon, Department of Music / Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Bristol
Katrin Kogman-Appel, Institut für Jüdische Studien, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster / Department of History of Art, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva

Abstract 'Text or Book?: A Material Approach to the Medieval Passover Haggadah':
Ever since the first publication of the Sarajevo Haggadah by Julius von Schlosser and David Heinrich Müller in 1898 the illustrated manuscript haggadah was highlighted in the historiography of Jewish art. The haggadah, a relatively brief text to be recited during the ceremony on Passover eve, counts as one of the obligatory prayers. As such it was originally included in the regular prayer book, the siddur. However, when we open a modern siddur, the haggadah is no longer there. At some point, thus, the haggadah was separated from the siddur and emerged as an individual book. As early scholars of Jewish art soon observed, this process of separation is closely linked to the emergence of the illuminated haggadah in the 13th century. Since then, according to the common narrative, the haggadah has existed as an individually bound, oftentimes richly illustrated book. This assumption has been widely accepted in the field so far. This lecture will challenge the notion of the sudden appearance of the individually bound Passover haggadah in the 13th century and pose the question of how dominant it really was during the late Middle Ages as a book genre. Approaching this and other questions, I shall look at the haggadah not as a text, not even as an illustrated text, but as a book. It will approach the haggadah as a test case, but from an angle which can, I believe, be relevant for other books as well.

In the first part of my talk I will show that during the late Middle Ages and the early modern period the individually bound haggadah was, in fact, the exception. Once we understand whether the individually bound haggadah constituted a norm or not, the main part of my talk will focus on the question of how and why it came about, especially in its illustrated form, and who used it and how? What I hope to show is that even though the text is the same, and even though its basic liturgical function remains the same, as an object the individual haggadah functioned differently from those that came as part of the general prayer book. My thoughts about these questions approach the medieval haggadah as an object, a material artifact that is aimed at guiding the seder leader and his family through the various performative parts of the ritual.

Abstract 'Things that Sing: Song-Object Relations in European Court Culture, 1160-1360':
While notated manuscript sources are the more usual focus of enquiry into medieval musical culture, this paper explores alternative sources of sonic record: the objects with which songs cohabited in the environments of their performance. My presentation centres around the vernacular song repertories that originated in the courts of Northern France in the second half of the 12th century, and especially those associated with the first generation of trouvères, and the troubadours they interacted with. For song-makers of this tradition, songs had a very palpable aspiration: to be a 'thing' that could endure, robust enough to bridge vast distances (geographical, temporal, and psychological), and which could serve as a proxy for the person that first made and sang it. Situated in the environment of Northern French courts, and in the context of attitudes and values attached to objects in that world, the material metaphors in song take on new meaning. How might a song’s prestige and identity be informed by the broader economies of courtly 'joyaulx', or inventoried treasures? How did a song's desire to endure across time and space connect to other media of aristocratic memory and heritage? Conversely, in what sense could a precious fabric or luxurious brooch be understood as song-like?

Drawing on approaches from musicology, sound studies, and art history, my paper begins with methodological reflection, and maps some models for engaging with song-object relationships in medieval culture. It then examines some configurations of song-object relationships in the world of the first trouvères via four courtly objects: an ivory casket, a chansonnier, a lyric-interpolated romance, and the song A vous, amant, plus qu’a nulle autre gent, attributed to the trouvère, Gui, Châtelain de Coucy (d. 1203). By tracing ways in which these items interact and speak (or sing) across generic and disciplinary categories, I hope in turn to invite further cross-disciplinary consideration of how song history might inform the understanding of objects and vice versa.

Please note that admission to this event will be on a first-come, first-served basis as there will be no tickets. Please ensure that you arrive as early as possible to avoid disappointment.