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The University of Southampton

‘Lacan, Courtly Love, and Distributed Cognition: some analytical perspectives on unison resolution in fourteenth-century French-texted song’ Seminar

16 April 2013
Room 1083 Music, Building 2 Highfield Campus University of Southampton SO17 1BJ

For more information regarding this seminar, please telephone Dr Florian Scheding on 023 8059 5873 or email .

Event details

Part of the Music Research Seminar Series

The language of gender and sexual identity permeates medieval ethical thought. Immoral or dangerous social relations and desires are often figured as a disruption of the masculine/feminine hierarchy but these same masculine-feminine imbrications are also the objects of pleasure and fascination in the later Middle Ages, as well as the means of new forms of self-awareness and articulacy.

This paper focuses on two fourteenth-century songs that have structurally important resolutions to unison sonorities: one by Machaut, the other anonymous but widely transmitted. It argues—using a broadly Lacanian approach—that the unison resolution allows medieval love song to figure the desire for, and impossibility of, an imaginary Self fusing with the fantasy of the Other. The discussion takes as an implied starting point that sung medieval counterpoint is a product of distributed cognition, and that the interaction of the voice parts reflects an interaction of the embodied minds of human musicians, both enabling and complicating the sung production of a poetic subject.

Speaker information

Elizabeth Eva Leach, University of Oxford. Professor Leach is both a music theorist and musicologist.

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