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French Ars Nova Motets and their Manuscripts: Citational Play and Material Context
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The discussion of citation and allusion has become an important area of research in Medieval Studies. The application of postmodern intertextual theories has brought scholars to a deeper understanding of the reuse of borrowed material, shedding new light on a culture of music and literature that was once dismissed as dully repetitive. This thesis builds on this work by examining in depth the manner in which citation and allusion was deployed in the fourteenth-century motet. Motets are a particularly fertile ground for discussion of the reuse of material, drawing as they do on a range of citational techniques such as borrowed liturgical tenors, modelling of rhyme schemes on existing works, and quotation of refrains and authorities. The polyphonic and polytextual nature of the motet enabled composers to juxtapose different registers, languages and genres, and thus to create an array of competing possible interpretations. This study is situated against several strands of recent scholarship. It draws on critical theory, as well as discussions of refrain definition, memory, manuscript compilation, and notions of voice, authority and authorship. Each chapter examines a particular body of work: the interpolated Roman de Fauvel, the works of Guillaume de Machaut, the motets of the Ivrea and Chantilly manuscripts, and finally those of Manuscript Torino J.II.9. In each case, looking at the use of citation and allusion connects to other concerns. In the Roman de Fauvel, citation in the motets can be seen as functioning alongside use of the vernacular, manuscript layout and illuminations to elucidate the narrative. In the works of Guillaume de Machaut citation is linked to his ambiguous self-presentation and authorial presence, and connects individual pieces in his complete works’ manuscripts. The Ivrea and Chantilly motets, while not linked by the same strength of context, demonstrate continuing use of thirteenth-century tradition. In this case, studying compilation choices may help us to understand how scribes interpreted citational material. Finally, I argue that understanding the internal use of symmetry in MS J.II.9 and its motets, and the reuse of material between the motets and the chansons of that repertory, vindicates the view that the music and poetry was composed by a single author well versed in mainstream tradition. I have been able to propose some previously unnoted allusions in the major works, and draw out the benefits of a holistic approach to understanding these motet and manuscripts. All this points to motets both continuing the writing traditions of the thirteenth century throughout the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, but also shows individual writers and compilers choosing to cite in a creative and innovative manner.
Arts and Humanities Research Council
PhD in Medieval Studies