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Desire by Gender and Genre in Trouvère Song

Desire by Gender and Genre in Trouvère Song

Helen Dell
Series: Gallica
Volume: 10
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 254
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  • Book Info
    Desire by Gender and Genre in Trouvère Song
    Book Description:

    This study brings the songs of the ‘trouvères’ to an encounter with Lacanian psychoanalytic theories of signification, sexual difference and unconscious desire. In ‘trouvère’ song desire functions as a means of generic and 'genderic' differentiation. The ‘trouvères’ distinguished between sexual need or lust and desire, the latter usually confined to the masculine voice in high style. Less exalted persons, in whose company women were already implicitly included, appear as incapable of desire in the ‘fin'amors’ register. Critics have treated the issue of desire as represented in the courtly ‘chanson’ but, because criticism has followed the ‘trouvères'’ distinction between desire and need, discussion of desire has been limited to songs in the courtly register rather than across the system of genres. Desire in Lacan's sense, that is unconscious desire, is present in all genres and voices and this book unearths the unspoken desires of ‘trouvère’ song by an attention to the characteristic means by which subjects subvert their demands in different genres. HELEN DELL is a research fellow in English Literary Studies in the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-626-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: A Kaleidoscope of différance
    (pp. 1-22)

    The aim of this book is to explore the gendering of desire in the songs of the trouvères, with the accent in particular on feminine desire. It will consider desire as an aspect of register and genre in the light of the Saussurian understanding that signification is established through difference. While this understanding is often acknowledged, it is difficult to follow into practice. Positivity has a way of creeping back; the semantic emptiness of terms on their own – the lack in the Other of language – is a difficult matter to embrace. This project constitutes an attempt to follow seriously the...

  6. 1 The Song System I An Unstable Hierarchy: The Unmarked Masculine
    (pp. 23-41)

    Desire in trouvère song is constituted differently according to where it appears within the loose web of genres, genders, registers and voices which make up the entire system. This chapter will examine the system itself and the nature of the relationships within it. The fundamental structuring categories within the system are those of high/low, courtly/non-courtly, and masculine/feminine. Difficulties arise, however, with the attempt to categorize the feminine side. It is not so easy to distinguish between high and low or courtly and uncourtly here because ‘feminine’ is already included on the low, uncourtly side. It is the struggle of femininity...

  7. 2 The Song System II The Ignoble Words of Eve: Femininity in the System
    (pp. 42-68)

    This chapter explores the constitution of textual ‘women’ as speaking subjects in the system, and the registral and generic implications of their femininity. It is a necessary step towards a consideration of feminine desire. The exploration takes place mainly in the work of ancient and medieval theoreticians, but their understandings of femininity are brought into dialogue with the understandings of twentieth-century structuralist, psychoanalytic and, to a lesser extent, feminist theory.

    In trouvère song, the posing of sexual difference as an opposition is taken up as a way of providing contrast. Matilda Bruckner observes:

    [C]ultures – like that of the medieval courtly...

  8. 3 Desire by Gender and Genre I Low Lusts and High Desires: Pastourelle and Chanson
    (pp. 69-95)

    This chapter outlines the operation of desire in the trouvère system, from the point of view of the masculine subject and his objects, in low- and high-style song. The following chapter attempts the same operation with feminine subjects and masculine objects. The question of terminology is crucial here, but difficult to resolve in a reading which attempts to contemplate desire from two incompatible perspectives: those of the trouvères and of Lacan. Jean-Charles Huchet’s schema of desire and jouissance, neatly expressed in the epigram: ‘She whom I enjoy (l’autre femme) is not she whom I desire (la Dame)’ L’amour 49) works...

  9. 4 Desire by Gender and Genre II Ignoble Desires of the Triumphalist Chanson d’Ami
    (pp. 96-114)

    This chapter investigates the sorrows and, more particularly, the joys of low-style feminine desire as it appears in the chansons d’ami. Like the lust of the pastourelle, low-style feminine desire is presented by the trouvères as not really desire at all. A knowledge generated intergenerically opposes it to the exalted experience of masculine fin’amor. Like her speech, the desire of the amie is presented as trivial and childlike.

    The joys of the amie are sometimes underemphasized by scholars. For instance, although Bec allows the variant in which the ‘young girl […] sings her joy at having a friend who loves...

  10. 5 Chronotopes of Desire I Case-Study of a Malmariée: Feminine Space-Times
    (pp. 115-140)

    The next two chapters address positions of desire in relation to issues of time, space, causation, chance and change: Chapter 5 focusing on the feminine, and Chapter 6 on the masculine. Like Chapter 4, this chapter stays with the low-style chanson de femme, represented this time by the chanson de malmariée, here making its first appearance. Chapter 6 returns to the ground of the pastourelle and the chanson. Of the chansons de malmariée, we shall examine, as with the chansons d’ami, those which Bec designates ‘songs with joyful content’ as opposed to those ‘of serious content’ (Lyrique française 74).


  11. 6 Chronotopes of Desire II The Contained and Containing Heart: Masculine Space-Times
    (pp. 141-165)

    This chapter returns to ground already covered in Chapter 3, the pastourelle and the chanson, but from a different angle. In Chapter 3, an exploration of desire led inevitably to questions about the representation and operation of space and time in the songs. Here, it is hoped, an explicit exploration of those spatio-temporal issues may lead to a fuller understanding of masculine desire.

    The stated demand of the masculine subject of trouvère song has two aspects which aim in different directions. In the high mode he looks upwards to la dame, who stands in place of the Thing and defers...

  12. 7 Desiring Differently: The Chanson in the Feminine Voice
    (pp. 166-203)

    This chapter is concerned with those few songs in the chansonniers which, on the basis of their discursive forms, might be classified as feminine chansons.¹ I shall consider these songs in the light of the criteria developed in the course of Chapters 2, 4 and 5, criteria relating to discourse, desire and the chronotope. I shall not take up directly the question of authorship here, but remain in the realms of textual femininity, leaving that work to others. Nevertheless, I take it for granted that at least some of the songs attributed to women were in fact composed by women,...

  13. Afterthoughts ‘ “[T]hat’s not it” and “that’s still not it” ’
    (pp. 204-210)

    What then becomes of femininity when la femme leaves her supposedly natural habitat of low style? In a system which relies for its effects of meaning on binary oppositions favouring masculinity, what position can she then take up vis-à-vis the masculine? Moreover, if, as Lévi-Strauss contends, a ‘structure is made up of several elements, none of which can undergo a change without effecting changes in all the other elements’ (Structural Anthropology 279), what happens to that ‘masculine’ when it cannot be signified by contrast to the feminine?

    These are the questions with which I began this exploration, the questions Chapter...

    (pp. 211-228)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 229-242)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 243-245)