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IMC 2019: Sessions

Session 351: Performing Materiality in Song and Poetry

Monday 1 July 2019, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Daniel J. DiCenso, College of the Holy Cross, Massachusetts
Paper 351-aSinging to Yourself: The Heart and the Singing Body in Trouvère Song
(Language: English)
Joseph Mason, New College, University of Oxford
Index terms: Language and Literature - French or Occitan, Music
Paper 351-bSailing the Ship of Poetry: The Materiality of the Poetic Gift in Icelandic Rímur
(Language: English)
Pétur Húni Björnsson, School of Humanities, University of Iceland, Reykjavík
Index terms: Language and Literature - Scandinavian, Music
Paper 351-cThe Media of Poetry, the Poetry of Media: Archival Thinking and Material Poetics in Chaucer’s House of Fame
(Language: English)
Grace Catherine Greiner, Department of English, Cornell University
Index terms: Archives and Sources, Language and Literature - Middle English, Manuscripts and Palaeography, Music

Paper -a:
Although most trouvère songs are voiced by a human protagonist, there are a handful of songs in which parts of the body sing. Through a discussion of three dialogue songs in which the heart has a singing voice, this paper explores the trope of the singing heart and its division from the rest of the musical body. The moral and aesthetic aspects of bodily division will be considered, shedding light on how trouvères might have configured their own musical bodies. Drawing on the 'voice-body gap' (Novak 2016), the paper asks what the relationship between the imagined musical body and the material performing body might have been. This paper will include live performances.

Paper -b:
Rímur are poetic reworkings of popular sagas and were the mainstay of epic poetry in Iceland for about 600 years (c.1350–1950) and were always intoned or sung to an audience. In the introductory and closing verses to each fit or part of the rímur, it was customary for the poets to describe their poetic endeavours, not as a conceptual gift or form of inspiration but rather in the shape of the mead of poetry flowing from Óðinn, as a ship on a sea of poetry. The paper will examine the materiality of poetic gift in the oldest extant rímur onwards, and will include live performances.

Paper -c:
In this paper, I will trace the development of Chaucer's material poetic in the House of Fame alongside another equally prevalent phenomenon in the poem, which I term 'archival thinking': a mode of thought characterized by an interest in literary pasts, in the media and materialities of textual transmission, and the construction of literary histories and textual filiations. I suggest that Chaucer incorporates an archivally-inflected, media-centric theorization of poetics into the House as a form of simultaneous consolation and self-recreation in response to conditions of literary and personal uncertainty. Indeed, within this dream vision, we travel alongside a first-person poetic persona which represents itself as largely unsure and unknowledgable; the persona itself becomes a medium for the expression of an 'I' experiencing some form of displacement, whether
geographic (an unfamiliar dream landscape), cognitive, or filial (part of what the poem seems to being doing in interrogating the question of literary fame is searching for - or making for itself - a literary parentage, relying in the process on archival thinking). Poetry, for Chaucer, then, isn't just a matter of fame; poetry itself transforms into the medium, perhaps best imagined as a wax tablet, through which to work out epistemological uncertainties while also formulating a new vision of a material poetic.