Review of O’Neill, Mary. 2006. Courtly Love Songs of Medieval France: Transmission and Style in the Trouvère Repertoire. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press

Boynton, Susan

Mary O’Neill’s book makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of an important monophonic repertory that has received relatively little attention from musicologists, despite its preservation in numerous manuscripts. The reasons for this neglect are well known: scholarship on the music of the trouvères has generally addressed their songs alongside or in relation to those of the troubadours. Consequently, the trouvère corpus is often viewed through the lens of a historiography that typically privileges the troubadours because of their chronological priority, casting the trouvères as derivative imitators. O’Neill seeks to understand the trouvères on their own terms. Given the wealth of melodies in medieval manuscripts of trouvère poetry (many in multiple versions), a monograph in English devoted entirely to the music of the trouvères is long overdue, particularly when considering that many of the new perspectives on genre, voice, orality, gender, sexuality, and performance in Old French lyric poetry have come from scholars of literature. O’Neill’s study may not satisfy all expectations-at 226 pages including bibliography and indices, it is a slim volume for such a vast subject-but the analyses in Courtly Love Songs offer many insights into the structures and forms of trouvère song and provide ample material for further reflection.


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August 18, 2022