Introduction  pp. 1-16

Introduction

By Sarah Kay

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Occitan lyric poetry is very similar to modern scholarly writing. Both are obedient to pre-existing rhetorical models that are resistant to change, and constantly express their indebtedness to earlier compositions in their respective genres. Both adopt a first-person perspective which is complicated by requirements of convention and ‘objectivity’ and which is often subsumed to the masculine, even when the writer is a woman. Oral performance of a song or an academic paper, combined with written composition and transmission, can complicate the status of the textuality of both. Medieval poets didn't live on royalties any more than most scholars do, but they exchanged their literary production for inclusion within a courtly life-style in much the same way as academics use their writings as a means of admission to a professional élite. Composition, whether poetic or scholarly, involves an element of competition and self-promotion as well as an inevitable debt to pre-existing traditions.

In writing a book about the troubadours, I, like them, write partly because of what has already been said, and partly, in some sense, ‘as myself’. Although I defer to scholarly institutions such as ‘the literature’, this study is personal – ‘subjective’ in the colloquial sense – in that I defend my own readings of troubadour lyric and criticize some of the readings advanced by others.