Lyric and Care in Late Medieval French Poetry

Harper, Elizabeth J., French - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
McGrady, Deborah, French, University of Virginia
Lyu, Claire, French, University of Virginia
Singer, Julie, Romance Languages and Literatures, Washington University in Saint Louis
Holsinger, Bruce, English, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines an overlooked yet vitally important expansion in late medieval thinking about the relationship between consolation and lyric poetry in France. Anchoring my analysis in the works of Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300–77), Eustache Deschamps (c. 1340–c.1401), and Christine de Pizan (1365–c. 1430), I argue that French poets of the long fourteenth century were vitally concerned with developing a more capacious concept of lyric consolation that extends beyond authorship and poetic identity to cultivate relations of care. I contend that each of these poets stands out not simply because they claimed compositional authority, but because they insisted on the unique capacities of vernacular lyric to foster new forms and terms of engaging carefully with their vulnerable world and others. This is a remarkably different way of approaching the poetic enterprise and it encapsulates the approach to lyric consolation that I term lyric care. To develop this contention, I draw on María Puig de la Bellacasa’s definition of care as both “a concrete work of maintenance, with ethical and affective implications” and “a vital politics in interdependent worlds” ("Matters of Care" 5), to explore the affective, ethical, and socio-political dimensions of lyric care in the practices and preoccupations of Machaut, Deschamps, and Christine. These poets’ shared belief in the caring capacities of vernacular lyric forms led them to meditate on lyric’s urgent intersections with emotional, mental, physical, and social fragility and isolation, while calling for urgently needed ethics and politics of care.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: