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NEH Summer Seminar on French Trouvères Held at IWU

July 31, 2018

NEH seminar on French trouvères
A blend of university faculty members and doctoral students with expertise in musicology or language and literature collaborated during the NEH Summer Seminar on French Trouvères, hosted by IWU.

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Professor of French Chris Callahan and Assistant Professor of Music William Hudson directed a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Seminar for College and University Teachers, held at Illinois Wesleyan University in late June, on the subject of French trouvères.

Drawing upon the combined expertise of Callahan, who studies medieval French lyric poetry, and Hudson, a specialist in the interpretation of medieval music, the seminar “Courtly Lyric in the Medieval French Tradition. Poetry as Performance” offered an interdisciplinary approach to the trouvères, who were lyric poets from medieval France.

Aside from guest lecturers, Callahan and Hudson served as the main instructors for the group, a blend of university faculty members and doctoral students with expertise in musicology or language and literature. In order to fully understand the work of trouvères as both music and poetry, Callahan and Hudson emphasized the need to integrate both subject areas.

“It was natural that we offer a seminar that introduced musicologists and performers to Old French language and literature, textual scholars to medieval music theory, and both to the craft of editing medieval song,” Callahan and Hudson shared in a joint-statement. They have a long-standing history of collaboration themselves, as advisors on books and joint presenters at international conferences.

French trouvères
A participant in the NEH Summer Seminar studies the work of a French Trouvère.

Callahan and Hudson facilitated collaboration between the two groups of scholars through a joint project to transcribe and translate the music and lyric poetry of Gautier de Dargies, a prolific trouvère from the early thirteenth century. Using a “dual approach” to the project as both a musical composition and a work of lyrical poetry, participants came away with a more holistic understanding of Dargies’ work and the work of their colleagues.

“We are confident that participants acquired sufficient familiarity with each other’s discipline to be able to enhance their curricular offering,” Callahan and Hudson said. “The project has shown them the way to do collaborative research at their home institutions, and given them a scholarly community that will last their entire career.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency that has funded programs in the humanities for colleges, universities, museums, libraries and other cultural institutions since 1965. Each summer, NEH provides stipends for a series of tuition-free seminars aimed at school teachers and higher education faculty across the country.

By Rachel McCarthy ’21