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Publication Detail
Singing in (different) tongues: sonic and formal warfare in Langtoft’s “political songs”
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Gilbert J
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  • Series:
    Explorations in Medieval Culture
  • Editors:
    Campbell E,Sunderland L
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  • Book title:
    Horizons of medieval French and Occitan: new approaches to manuscripts and texts. Essays in memory of Simon Gaunt
  • Keywords:
    Langtoft, Cusick, Suzanne, Goodman, Steve, sonic warfare, sonic torture, chronicle
This essay builds on two research projects led by Simon Gaunt: Medieval French Literary Culture outside France (where Gilbert was a Co-Investigator) and The Values of French. Like them, it discusses a legendary history produced in French but outside France: Peter Langtoft’s early fourteenth-century Anglo-French British historical chronicle. Moreover, like the Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César (a principal focus of both projects), Langtoft’s work is to some extent in mixed form, including lyric passages that break up the historical narrative. In Langtoft, these are ‘political songs’ in tail-rhyme form, contrasting with the narrative’s alexandrine laisses, and which sometimes switch into Middle English. Critical discussion has focused on how these songs express English hostility to the Scots, especially concerning the battle of Dunbar (1296), where Edward I routed John Balliol, king of Scotland. Discussions have worked with modern print editions. Following Gaunt’s emphasis on the fruitful interrelations between manuscript culture, philology, and literary readings, Gilbert aims to expand our engagement with conflict in Langtoft’s work. The essay will draw on codicology and on recent Sound Studies and musicological discussions of acoustic aggression, to show how some (but not all) Langtoft manuscripts present these songs as a kind of acoustic and graphic detonation, unsettling readers instead of comforting their supposed political partialities. These material and affective dimensions show Langtoft’s work to be more complicated and less partisan than is usually thought.
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