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Parrots and Nightingales
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Parrots and Nightingales
Troubadour Quotations and the Development of European Poetry

Sarah Kay

472 pages | 6 x 9 | 9 illus.
Cloth 2013 | ISBN 9780812245257 | $79.95s | Outside the Americas £64.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the Middle Ages Series
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"In this erudite, closely documented book Sarah Kay traces the ways in which quotations of troubadour poetry circulated around the Western Mediterranean basin from the late twelfth century to the 1350s."—SHARP News

"Written with clarity, grace, and wit, Parrots and Nightingales is an important book that will illuminate our understanding of the troubadours, the art of quotation, and the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance."—William Paden, Northwestern University

"Sarah Kay's work is erudite, fascinating, timely, and useful. Parrots and Nightingales will become an important point of reference for scholarship on medieval literatures."—Karla Mallette, University of Michigan

The love songs of Occitan troubadours inspired a rich body of courtly lyric by poets working in neighboring languages. For Sarah Kay, these poets were nightingales, composing verse that is recognizable yet original. But troubadour poetry also circulated across Europe in a form that is less well known but was more transformative. Writers outside Occitania quoted troubadour songs word for word in their original language, then commented upon these excerpts as linguistic or poetic examples, as guides to conduct, and even as sources of theological insight. If troubadours and their poetic imitators were nightingales, these quotation artists were parrots, and their practices of excerption and repetition brought about changes in poetic subjectivity that would deeply affect the European canon.

The first sustained study of the medieval tradition of troubadour quotation, Parrots and Nightingales examines texts produced along the arc of the northern Mediterranean—from Catalonia through southern France to northern Italy—through the thirteenth century and the first half of the fourteenth. Featuring extensive appendices of over a thousand troubadour passages that have been quoted or anthologized, Parrots and Nightingales traces how quotations influenced the works of grammarians, short story writers, biographers, encyclopedists, and not least, other poets including Dante and Petrarch. Kay explores the instability and fluidity of medieval textuality, revealing how the art of quotation affected the transmission of knowledge and transformed perceptions of desire from the "courtly love" of the Middle Ages to the more learned formulations that emerged in the Renaissance. Parrots and Nightingales deftly restores the medieval tradition of lyric quotation to visibility, persuasively arguing for its originality and influence as a literary strategy.

Sarah Kay is Professor of French at New York University and author of several books, including The Place of Thought: The Complexity of One in Late Medieval French Didactic Poetry, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

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