Musique Naturelle and Cerdd Dafod: An Exploration of Sound Poetics in the Fourteenth Century
MetadataShow full item record
CitationFurchtgott, Deborah. 2019. Musique Naturelle and Cerdd Dafod: An Exploration of Sound Poetics in the Fourteenth Century. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation studies the development of interest in sound in poetry in a variety of texts dating from the fourteenth century in Wales and France. It examines these texts in two parts: first, the development of attitudes towards poetry in treatises about poetry from Wales and France, and, second, the development of poetics of sound in the poetry itself.
I begin my dissertation looking at the Welsh grammar from the fourteenth century, and I argue that, in their attention to syllables and diphthongs, poetic faults, and rhyme, they betray an implicit interest in the building blocks of sound that go into making poetry. I compare this interest with the rhetorical tradition represented by the thirteenth-century Poetria nova of Geoffrey de Vinsauf, which considers the subject of sound in poetry from the perspective of elocutio (delivery). I next consider the Art de dictier, composed in 1392 by Eustache Deschamps, only a few decades after the probable original composition of the Welsh grammar. The Art de dictier opens with a brief account of the seven liberal arts, and focuses in on musique, which it divides into two parts: musique artificielle (instrumental music) and musique naturelle (poetry). Deschamps sets poetry above instrumental music, because only one whose heart naturally inclines to it can learn to compose it. I argue that all of these treatises show an interest in the sounds used in the composition of poetry, and, in particular, that Deschamps makes this interest in sound explicit, putting into clear words the implicit interest of the Welsh grammarians. I then turn to fourteenth-century poetry to prove that this interest in sound wasn’t merely theoretical, but was exhibited in practice, too. I first argue in my reading of Deschamps’ poetry that his use of sound was both extraordinary and tactical: that it could support, overwhelm, or subvert the plain meaning of the text, depending on his desired outcome. Finally, I read the poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym to demonstrate that in Welsh poetry of the same period, poets were using similarly extraordinary poetics to ornament their poetry and inform the sense of it, thus creating a Welsh equivalent to the French musique naturelle.
The main argument of my dissertation is that in both France and Wales in the fourteenth century, a growing interest in the sound of poetry is discernible, both in the poetic treatises surrounding poetry and in the poetry itself. Both traditions experience a burgeoning of musique naturelle, and both manifest that in a flowering of sonorous verse. Thus, the name musique naturelle might have a very specific locus in one French poet’s treatise, but it has implications that resonate far beyond it.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029510
- FAS Theses and Dissertations