Putting Machaut into the Book - Abstract

Title: Putting Machaut into the Book: The Organization of the Louange des Dames in the Pennsylvania Manuscripts
Presenter: Elizaveta Strakhov, University of Pennsylvania

My research centers on a remarkable manuscript of the late fourteenth-early fifteenth centuries: University of Pennsylvania Codex 902 (formerly French 15). The anthology boasts astonishing scope, with French lyrics from Champagne, Hainault, Savoy, Southern France and even England. It brings together all the major fourteenth-century poets: Machaut, whose work takes up approximately one-third of the collection, positioned physically at the center, flanked by Granson, Deschamps, Margival, Vitry, Le Mote, Grimace, and numerous anonymous lyrics, many found only in this manuscript. This extraordinary diversity reveals the term "French" poetry to be vastly misleading in its reduction of the linguistic and geopolitical differences exhibited in the texts of this document.

I aim to look specifically at the arrangement and dispersal of Machaut's lyrics within the manuscript, focusing on its unusual presentation of the Louange des dames. As Lawrence Earp has noted, the Pennsylvania anthology organizes the Louange lyrics in a novel order as compared to the other Machaut manuscripts that contain them. Most of the Louange lyrics are found in a single section of the manuscript, copied by its main scribe, but stragglers occur in other parts of the anthology that were worked on by several different hands. I use the anthology's arrangement of the Louange lyrics to open up larger questions about the collection's guiding organizational principles. Were its multiple scribes most interested in organization by authorship, by genre, by theme, or by some combination thereof? Can reconstructing some of the material aspects of the anthology's production tell us something about attitudes to and understandings of short-form lyric in this period? Indeed, while the anthology may read as a "Machaut and Co."-type production, does it present itself as such and would it have been read as such within its own time?