The 12th-century Occitan troubadour culture produced hundreds of songs – a lyric and musical legacy illustrating a world of chivalry, courtly love, knights, and ladies. Though the artists of this culture were mostly male, a healthy number of female “trobairitzes” contributed as well. Disappointingly, however, only one trobairitz song remains fully intact with text and melody – “A chantar” by the Countess of Dia. This singularity has certainly interested historians. Yet some scholars have gone further still in their assessment of the uniqueness of “A chantar,” claiming that it is set apart by its unusual poetic meter and textual organization, along with its subject matter, a direct critique of the ideals of courtly love at the heart of the male troubadours’ works. I argue, however, that while the piece is indeed unconventional, it is not unique for these particular reasons; as I will show, there are other trobairitz pieces that fit this description. Instead, it is unique because of how the Countess de Dia seems to have utilized a unique kind of text painting, evoking her raw, deeply personal subject matter via the jarring, seemingly asymmetrical poetic structure.
Eleanor Backman, ’16
Sponsor: Jama Stillwell