Skip to:

Medieval Studies Workshop: Johannes Junge Ruhland and Sarah Kay



Johannes Junge Ruhland (French), Sarah Kay (NYU)


Wednesday, October 28, 2020 - 4:00pm - 6:00pm






Medieval Studies Workshop: Johannes Junge Ruhland and Sarah Kay

Co-hosted by the Philosophy + Literature Initiative

Sarah Kay (French, NYU) and Johannes Junge Ruhland (French, Stanford) will workshop their work in progress. Please find the files here.

Sarah Kay’s paper is titled Breath of Beasts and the Ecologies of Song. Johannes Junge Ruhland’s paper is titled Perceptive Modes for Richard de Fournival’s Bestiaire d’amour. Exploring the Investments of Knowledge along the Text/Manuscript Line.


Breath of Beasts and the Ecologies of Song

This is the third chapter of a book called Medieval Song from Aristotle to Operathat is to be published by Cornell together with a companion website that will have recordings of the songs discussed, along with other documentation. The book is an attempt to think what medieval songs have to say about their sound. For example, what is the source of the singing voice that they imply?

This chapter traces the breath that literally in-spires the voice of certain lyrics or conceptualizations of song with reference to two beasts, the lion and the panther, as they are instantiated in bestiaries, encyclopedias, treatises of astronomy, and the texts of four medieval song-works, two troubadour lyrics and two French dits. Song’s ecology in these works is not that of the traditional nature opening, which is “terrestrial” in Latour’s sense, belonging in the “critical zone,” Instead it is vast and discontinuous, embracing the firmament – and what lies beyond it – as well as wild or exotic regions of the globe. The breath in these songs is one of pneuma rather than the element air. Songs produced in this wider cosmic ecology can be both transcendent and feral. Changes between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries imply a movement towards the earth, and towards interiority, over the course of the four works. But all enable arguments for a hybridity, or open-ness, of the singing voice which complicates a view of courtly song as an exclusively human domain.

Perceptive modes for Richard de Fournival’s Bestiaire d’amour. Exploring the Investments of Knowledge along the Text/Manuscript Line

This paper is the first chapter of my dissertation, which examines the effects of incongruence in select multi-text manuscripts in Old French, Old Occitan, and Franco-Italian from before 1350. Within the dissertation, the role of this chapter is to provide some parameters of analysis by scaling up the scope of my inquiry from a single incongruous text, Richard de Fournival’s Bestiaire d'amour, to manuscripts which contain it.

The Bestiaire d’amour, which dates from the second quarter of the thirteenth century, combines the genres of the bestiary and of the lyric to advance Richard’s amorous agenda. By some accounts, the Bestiaireis a failure because Richard does not receive his lady’s favours; by other accounts, it is a failure because, despite being transmitted in 23 witnesses, it was also rewritten, recast, and adapted several times, which could attest to readerly dissatisfaction with it. My discussion examines another type of failure, namely the failure to make a compelling case, and I argue that this might in fact be the driving force of the Bestiaire. I examine the questionable logical cases made by Richard to show one sense in which the Bestiaire stages the failure to deliver, drawing attention instead to the way knowledge is formed, articulated, and received. I also present the Bestiaire's two genres as yielding incommensurate outlooks, which offers another way to maintain the text’s incongruence.

The final sections of my chapter are devoted to manuscripts containing the Bestiaire. I offer two case-studies to examine how the Bestiaire's incongruence impacts the way knowledge is presented and articulated in two witnesses of the text. I also show that one possible effect of the text’s incongruence was to trigger readerly engagement—showcased in the types of adaptations, rewritings, and supplementations mentioned above. This leads me to the double conclusion that, on one side, the Bestiaire's incongruence reaches beyond what are considered the limits of the text, while on the other side, the text’s alleged failure is seen productively at work in eliciting thoughtful engagement with what makes it incongruous. 

To receive the Zoom link, please email Johannes Junge Ruhland.