Latin song in the medieval world is elusive, encompassing a wide range of devotional, didactic, and secular song practices, in addition to signifying specific genres such as the versus and conductus. Its language–the lingua franca of the Church, university, courtroom, and administration–enables Latin song to travel widely, yet it is equally unique and regional in its creation, style, and performance.
The poems and melodies that comprise a single song might be carefully copied into deluxe manuscripts and accompanied by illuminations, or a poem could be sent as a sonic aside in personal correspondence or copied into a poetic miscellany intended for silent auralization. Latin song is seldom static in form and content, but instead fundamentally mobile; the mouvance that characterizes so many medieval texts (musical or otherwise) also characterizes Latin song. And although melody and poetry are often taken to be axiomatic, even these two elements do not fully capture the ways in which Latin song can take the form of an idea expressed in text alone; a single refrain; an incipit in an index; a divine vision; or a brief, textless melody.
Given this plurality, what is Latin song? The essays collected in Latin Song in the Medieval World will explore the nebulous and porous boundaries and identities of medieval Latin song by means of novel methodologies, theoretical and analytical perspectives, and interdisciplinary approaches. For the purposes of this edited volume, Latin song is not liturgical chant.
To be sure, plainchant is unquestionably Latin and sung; Latin Song in the Medieval World aims, however, to interrogate Latin song and singing as distinct from, even if related to, the long tradition of Latin plainchant. Moreover, this volume seeks to understand the complexities of Latin song traditions beyond the text|music binary, embracing approaches that privilege the cultural and social situatedness of Latin song and its multivalence across place and time. Ideally, contributions will bring the study of Latin song into dialogue with contemporary trajectories in musicology and medieval studies by engaging critical lenses employed in study of, for example, vernacular song and lyric, polyphony, and plainchant.
While non-liturgical Latin song has long been shunted to the scholarly periphery, it represents a rich and often overlooked source of material for the study of identity, gender, politics, performance, memory, language, violence, sexuality, ritual and dance, and intertextuality, as scholarship of the last decade has begun to illustrate.
In terms of scope, contributions will not be limited geographically, and explorations of Latin songs and sources outside of Europe are encouraged within the flexible chronological boundaries of ca. 900-1500 C.E. Although we distinguish between liturgical and non-liturgical song, we see this boundary as porous and consequently welcome abstracts exploring the intersection between the liturgical and the non-liturgical.
Genre is a key issue for any study of Latin song, and we equally welcome abstracts that tackle questions around genre (considering, for example, the complicated questions around the conductus or the unnotated Latin lyric). We anticipate that essays will reflect the proportionally higher number of monophonic to polyphonic works, although we are invested in exploring the interstices of modern categorizations rather than reinforcing them by exclusion.
Finally, we fully acknowledge and embrace the many possible ways in which Latin song presents itself–with or without notation; as a conceptual or theoretical idea; a cultural practice or devotional rite; a civic undertaking; or any other way in which Latin song existed or mattered to individuals and communities in the Middle Ages.
Abstracts (single or co-authored) should fall between 300 and 500 words in length, and may include a brief bibliography if desired. Abstracts are due by April 30, 2022 through Google Forms along with other required information (name, contact information, etc.), and authors will be informed of the status of their abstracts by May 30, 2022.
We anticipate being able to accept 8-10 proposals. Once the chosen abstracts and finalized proposal are sent to the press for peer review, the final drafts of the essays, if accepted, will be due after April 2023 for publication in 2024. Each full-length essay will fall between 8,000 and 10,000 words (inclusive of notes) and will be subject to peer review. The volume will be published fully in English, but contributions in other languages are possible (translations will be facilitated by author(s) and/or the editors).