William Hudson and colleague Christopher Callahan were awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for their project, “Courtly Lyric in the Medieval French Tradition. Poetry as Performance.”
Christopher Callahan and William Hudson, faculty at Illinois Wesleyan University in French and Music, respectively, will direct an interdisciplinary Summer Seminar on the trouvères, medieval France’s lyric poets (1180–1300). The seminar will foster collaboration between language/literature scholars and music faculty seeking to expand their curriculum into the Middle Ages. Trouvère poetry requires a dual approach, as text and as music. The seminar is designed to bring each constituency to relative fluency in the other’s discipline. Studying themes introduced in trouvère poetry still relevant today—such as social conventions surrounding love and relationships, love versus family obligation, gender and empowerment, rhetorical skill in debate on ethical questions, and poetic commentary on current events—will improve integration with participants’ curricula. Interpreting medieval notation which does not include information such as rhythm or dynamics, requires an in-depth knowledge of the poetry for performance. To facilitate this, the participants will work from images of 13th-century manuscripts and learn to transcribe, analyze and interpret them, through recitation and song. Once the monophonic melodies of the ars antiqua have been thoroughly examined, the seminar will study the polyphonic motet settings of the ars antiqua and ars nova.