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Elizabeth Eva Leach Responds

Another response to Sarah Fuller
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  232 music theory spectrum 33 ( 2011 ) elizabeth eva leach responds: My research is deeply concerned with late-medieval lyrictexts set to music (i.e., songs). These texts—and thus by exten-sion these songs, including their musical element—are usually about desire, oten erotic desire. Recent Lacanian psychoana-lytical approaches to this poetry, particularly as elaborated in the work o Sarah Kay and Nicolette Zeeman, stress the exibility o the desire that is depicted in the verbal texts o such songs. 1  Part o the understanding o these texts in Lacanian terms seesthem as revealing the Real—that which is beyond the Symbolicorder constrained by (and expressed in) language. My engage-ment with this literary scholarship stems rom my perceptionthat it represents an enormous opportunity to understand therole o music—which is not language, despite a huge eort toexplain and contain it using linguistic models in music theory—in constructing and projecting desire. It is possible to arguethat medieval songs engage with the same issues o desire andsubjectivity as the verbal poetry o the courtly literary cultureo which they are a part (and whose texts they set), but that itssensuous and enjoyable quality makes it even more obviously a site o anxiety or trauma about the Real’s ability to lurk behindthe Symbolic order. Those who were anxious about music’s abil-ity to depict and/or inspire desire claimed this desire as sexualor erotic because those terms were morally most readily markedas negative and thus clearly oered a moral analysis o suchmusic. By contrast, those who approved o the musical practicegave a positive “natural” explanation, via Aristotelian physics, asDavid E. Cohen explains in his prize-winning article. 2 In sum,desire in this poetry and its music can be, but does not have tobe, sexual.Fuller asks, “Is it likely that Machaut is pursuing a hiddenagenda o ‘sexual desire’ in his Mass or the Blessed Virgin, anagenda coded in ‘directed progressions’ as Elizabeth Eva Leachinterprets them?” (231). My short answer to this is that Fuller’sunderlying assumption that a liturgical mass or the Virgincannot possibly have any trace o desire in it is patently wrong. As Sylvia Huot has explored at length, 3 liturgies o the Virginare ull o sublimated but very clearly present sexual desire,drawing as they oten do on the explicit eroticism o the Songo Songs. Medieval reading practices were ar more exiblethan Fuller’s rigid distinction between sacred and sexual allows,as the reverse allegorical reading o Machaut’s erotic motets asa spiritual journey by Anne Walters Robertson has also sug-gested. 4 Arguing or the presence o the erotic in music doesnot mean implying that people attending and/or conductingthe divine service would have been driven to sexual congress inthe aisles or to ejaculate where they stood, although many me-dieval witnesses admit to the potential o music— liturgical   music—to generate at least thoughts  o such behavior, Augustine, John o Salisbury, and Ailred o Rievaulx being only the most well known. What apt translation would Fuller advance or John’s claim that “Cum haec quidem modum excesserint, lum-borum pruriginem quam devotionem mentis poterunt citiusexcitare”? (Non-Latinists are invited to put “lumborum pru-riginem excitare” into Google-translate to get at least a avoro the sense here. 5 )I reject the idea o policing modern readings o medievaltexts along modern disciplinary or socio-political lines. Futurereaders o this musicological debate may well analyze theanxieties in play here as being about deending the proes-sionalism o a particular discipline by reusing to countenancean idea that its materials might have any sexual connotations,because that idea might be thought to cheapen or dirty them. Those noting the geographical provenance o the two sides o the debate might fnd them to be in harmony with the relativecultural discomort with matters sexual in the U.S. andEurope (a generalization that can be substantiated by looking,or example, at the dierent grounds or flm classifcation inthe two regions). 6 My own many published readings o notated music—something that Leach (2006) itsel did not allow space or—suggest that there are copious examples in which the musiccan be read as mirroring, inecting, or undercutting variouskinds o desire expressed in the text. A orthcoming analysiso the song  A discort  , co-authored with Nicolette Zeemanand scheduled to appear in 2013, will explicitly connect thepsychoanalytical perspectives o literary scholarship with my reading o medieval counterpoint. Readers—skeptical or sym-pathetic—are invited to read this and other uture analyses o medieval songs and decide or themselves. Free links to many o these texts can be ound via Elizabeth Eva Leach University o Oxord   1 See Kay (1999), (2007), and (2008); and Zeeman (2007).  2 Cohen (2001).   3 Huot (1997).  4 Robertson (2002).   5 This statement was quoted in ourteenth-century music theory: it appearsin the epilogue o an Oxord Boethius commentary and in an associatedtext (see Hochadel, ed. [2002]). The frst three books were also translatedinto French in this period (Brucker, ed. [1994]).  6 “The inuence o specifc actors in deciding a rating varies rom country to country. For example, in countries such as the U.S., flms with strongsexual content are oten restricted to adult viewers, whereas in countriessuch as France and Germany, sexual content is viewed much more leniently.On the other hand, flms with violent content are oten subject in countriessuch as Germany and Finland to high ratings and even censorship, whereascountries such as the U.S. oer more lenient ratings to violent movies.” (accessed 17 June 2011).  elizabeth eva leach responds 233works cited Brucker, Charles, ed. 1994. Denis Foulechat: Le Policratique de  Jean de Salisbury (1372), Livres I–III  . Geneva: Droz.Cohen, David E. 2001. “ ‘The Imperect Seeks its Perection’:Harmonic Progression, Directed Motion, and AristotelianPhysics.”  Music Theory Spectrum 23 (2): 139– 69.Hochadel, Matthias, ed. 2002. Commentum Oxoniense in musi-cam Boethii: Eine Quelle zur Musiktheorie an der spätmittelal-terlichen Universität  . Munich: Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaten and C. H. Beck.Huot, Sylvia. 1997.  Allegorical Play in the Old French Motet: The Sacred and Profane in Thirteenth-Century Polyphony  . Palo Alto: Stanord University Press.Kay, Sarah. 1999. “Desire and Subjectivity.” In The Troubadours: An Introduction . Ed. Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay. 212 – 27.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.———. 2007. The Place of Thought: The Complexity of One inLate Medieval French Didactic Poetry  . Philadelphia:University o Pennsylvania Press.———. 2008. “Touching Singularity: Consolation, Philosophy,and Poetry in the French dit  .” In The Erotics of Consolation:Desire and Distance in the Late Middle Ages  . Ed. Catherine E.Léglu and Stephen J. Milner. 21–38. Basingstoke [UK  ] :Palgrave Macmillan.Leach, Elizabeth Eva, and Nicolette Zeeman. 2013. “Gender.”In The Edinburgh Companion to Music and Literature  . Ed.Helen Deeming and Elizabeth Eva Leach. Vol. 1. Before 1600  . Forthcoming. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Robertson, Anne Walters. 2002. Guillaume de Machaut and Reims:Context and Meaning in His Musical Works  . Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.Zeeman, Nicolette. 2007. “The Gender o Song in Chaucer.” Studies in the Age of Chaucer  29: 141– 82.  Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 33, Issue 2, pp. 230 –231, ISSN 0195-6167,electronic ISSN 1533-8339. © 2011 by The Society or Music Theory. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests or permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University o Caliornia Press’sRights and Permissions website, ato.asp. DOI: 10.1525/mts.2011.33.2.230

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Mar 15, 2018
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