- Series: Introductions to Older Languages (Book 4)
- Paperback: 636 pages
- Publisher: The Modern Language Association of America; Pap/Com Bl edition (January 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1603290540
- ISBN-13: 978-1603290548
- Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 5.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #999,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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An Introduction to Old Occitan (Introductions to Older Languages) Pap/Com Bl Edition
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"This hefty and scholarly book is very welcome and deserves a place in every university library." ―Modern Language Review
“A work of impeccable scholarship, which manages to convey a great deal about troubadour language and culture, synthesizing much of the latest research in the field.” ―Speculum
About the Author
William D. Paden is Professor Emeritus at Northwestern University. A specialist in literature of the Middle Ages, he was co-editor with the late Mario Trovato of a 13th-century philosophical treatise in Latin, Guillelmus de Aragonia, De Nobilitate Animi (2012); co-author with Frances Freeman Paden of a book of English verse translations, Troubadour Poems from the South of France (2007); editor of essay collections on Medieval Lyric: Genres in Historical Context (2000), The Future of the Middle Ages: Medieval Literature in the 1990s (1994), and The Voice of the Trobairitz: Perspectives on the Women Troubadours (1989); editor of The Medieval Pastourelle (1987); and co-editor of The Poems of the Troubadour Bertran de Born (1986). He was awarded a Mellon Emeritus Fellowship in 2011 for a project on "Love and Marriage in the Time of the Troubadours."
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Top customer reviews
The book comes with an audio CD with readings and explanations from Paden himself, as well as authentic reproductions of the music and accent of 5 different poems/songs, performed by Elizabeth Aubrey. I love this feature. It is very useful for learning the pronunciation, especially if, like me, you're studying the language independently and not in a classroom environment.
"An Introduction to Old Occitan" is a big book that is designed to cater to a number of readers with different backgrounds and interests. The trick, then, is to decide what you want from this book and read the parts of it that provide for those needs, rather than reading the thing cover to cover.
Some reviews of the paperback and hardback versions have emphasized the difficulty of the book and the necessity of already knowing other languages. My perspective, as someone who bumbled around learning Occitan before the publication of this book and has also studied other medieval languages, is that the Occitan language itself is the difficulty here, not Paden's presentation of it, which is almost always clear. Occitan is certainly harder than medieval Catalan, its closest cousin. The grammar is about the same difficulty as Old French (to which Occitan is quite similar), but because of the phonology (the way word forms developed), the vocabulary is trickier, with even more homonyms or near homonyms.
That, of course, is what makes Old Occitan such a brilliant language for lyric poetry (so much wordplay is possible). And most people who sit down to learn to read the language do so in order to read the lyric of the troubadours. But if you think simply of English, you realize that lyric poetry represents the most difficult/challenging use of a language (concision, wide vocabulary, wordplay, experimentation with the order of grammatical elements in the sentence). Just imagine that you don't already read English, and in your third or fourth English lesson, the teacher hands you a poem by John Donne to translate...
That caveat aside, I don't think that you need to be a romance philologist to profit from this textbook. You do probably need knowledge of another Romance language (modern). And you need patience. If you haven't studied Latin, that won't stop you from learning to read troubadour lyric from this textbook, but you'll want to use the textbook strategically, focusing on Parts 1 and 4 and skipping Parts 2 and 3, which are devoted to the historical development of Occitan out of Latin and may not even interest all Latinists (it's historical linguistics, which isn't for everyone).
The readings are well chosen and placed so that readers start with the simplest texts and work toward the more difficult ones (even if you skip parts 3 and 4, you'll probably want to read the selections of original text at the end of the chapters). The notes on the readings and glossary at the back of the book will mostly allow you to figure the poems out, and if that's not enough, there are also English translations.
Happily, there is also a CD, which allows you to hear the language both spoken and sung, lifting it off the page and giving you an idea of how these lyrics originally circulated (orally, not in written form). If you want more, there are a number of excellent recordings out there by professional musicians specializing in early music; I particularly recommend the groups Beatus, Camerata Mediteranea, and Sequentia. Scholars can tell you what this lyric was supposed to have been like, but performers recreate it, and that's a revelation.
My big criticism of this textbook is how few reference charts there are for verb conjugation and pronoun/article declension. Another ten pages would have sufficed to give charts of all of the major irregular verbs, which trip many readers up. It would have helped to see all the pronouns and articles set out as well. Instead, the chapters give an explanation of how the forms of these words change, but some people just learn better by staring at charts. Maybe that's considered too old-fashioned, pedagogically...
If you want to strike out on your own and start reading texts not included in this book, then you'll need an anthology with original texts (a number are available) and a good dictionary. I recommend starting with the full collection of prose lives of the troubadours (out of print now, but there was an edition of the Vidas and razos published in the Garland series some time ago and you can sometimes find used copies online) and getting comfortable with prose syntax before plunging into more lyric. For a dictionary, I recommend Emil Levy, "Petit dictionnaire provençal-français", which is the best (only?) pocket dictionary in print. You can also access it online, along with a number of other dictionaries, through this site: [...] . Almost all dictionaries will require you to be able to read French or have a French dictionary on hand. If you do read French, you will also find Joseph Anglade's "Grammaire de l'ancien provençal" offers more extensive charts of pronoun declension and irregular verb conjugation than Paden does. You can learn to appreciate the troubadours' formal innovation by reading Chambers, "An Introduction to Old Provençal Versification," if you can find a copy (it's also lamentably out of print). Finally, if you'd like to take your grammatical mastery to a new level, you'll need Frede Jensen, "Syntaxe de l'ancien occitan," which is definitely for advanced students only.
And for a clear presentation of the troubadour tradition in its social and cultural context (including an explanation of the music), you can't do better than Akehurst and Davis, "A Handbook of the Troubadours."