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Study information

The Invention of Modern Love

Module titleThe Invention of Modern Love
Module codeMLF3006
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Thomas Hinton (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Every love song, rom-com and gender debate of the modern era has its origins in the dazzling songs of the troubadours. The troubadours were poets who composed in Occitan over a period of about two hundred years, from 1100 to 1300. The body of work they created, which was read and imitated all over Europe, had a profound influence on the development of Western literature and culture, feeding into debates on the nature of desire and the limits of good behaviour. Prior knowledge of Occitan is NOT required; English translations of primary texts will be provided. This MLF-coded module is also open to students not taking French, and may especially suit those studying other Romance languages.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will introduce you to a representative corpus of troubadour lyric songs. You will learn to read these critically by developing close reading skills and basic reading competence in Occitan (supported by English translations). We will consider troubadours both collectively and individually, encouraging you to compare and contrast the work of different poets, but also to identify general trends and common themes.

You will learn about the medieval reception and transmission of troubadour lyric. The primary engagement with the texts will be through modern editions, but there will also be consideration of the role of manuscripts in the reception of pre-modern literature. Similarly, we will consider the influence of troubadour lyric, both formally and in terms of ideas, on the development of European culture and sexual politics through to the present day.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a sound understanding of the set texts, including reference to their place in the historical, literary and cultural context of their time
  • 2. Demonstrate competence in reading and analysing medieval Occitan poetry (supported by modern French and English translations), using technical terms where appropriate
  • 3. Demonstrate sensitivity to the particularities of medieval culture and, if appropriate, identify points of comparison between medieval and modern cultural practices

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. With some guidance from the module tutor, evaluate and apply a range of critical approaches to medieval literature and cultureWith some guidance from the module tutor, evaluate and apply a range of critical approaches to medieval literature and culture
  • 5. Present a detailed argument in the appropriate register of English, mustering a range of textual evidence in its supportPresent a detailed argument in the appropriate register of English, mustering a range of textual evidence in its support
  • 6. With initial guidance, locate and identify library and electronic resources on the specified topics

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Undertake defined learning activities with a measure of autonomy, asking for guidance where necessaryUndertake defined learning activities with a measure of autonomy, asking for guidance where necessary
  • 8. Adopt a critical approach to the selection and organisation of material in order to produce, to a deadline, a cogent written or oral argument
  • 9. Using course material provided, research, plan and write an essay on a chosen aspect of the subject, to a specified length and deadline

Syllabus plan

Troubadour poetry combines stylistic experimentation with the exploration of themes that have become central to the cultural traditions of European languages: love, sex, ethics, and poetic composition itself. In this module, you will study a variety of texts by several of the most significant troubadours, exploring how each poet works within the conventions of lyric to create a distinctive poetic voice. The love-song was, and remains, the most highly regarded kind of troubadour song, and so we will look in detail at how different troubadours approach and modify the rules of the genre. While we will not ignore the musical and performative nature of the troubadours' output, the focus will be on troubadour songs as textual objects, and the study skills engaged will be those involved in the analysis of poetic language, not musicology.

A weekly seminar class will address the question ‘what is a troubadour?’ through the close reading of selected poets, while fortnightly lectures will examine the critical and cultural context of troubadour production. We will discuss the extent to which formal virtuosity and ideological positioning matter to individual poets and their audiences, and how the debates over gender and desire that run through the corpus have influenced modern cultural and social practices. We will also consider both medieval and modern responses to troubadour songs, and the different ways of thinking about their transmission and reception: as live performances or as documents preserved in often luxurious manuscripts.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching5Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1End-of-term conclusion session
Guided Independent Study134Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Commentary 750 words1-9Written and oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1003000 words1-9Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9University re-examination period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

The primary material will be available as a course pack on the ELE, with English translations supplied. This will comprise a representative selection of songs by troubadours including Guilhem IX, Marcabru, Bernart de Ventadorn and Arnaut Daniel, alongside biographical texts and manuscript images.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Introductory reading:

  • F.R.P. Akehurst and Judith M. Davis (eds.) A Handbook of the Troubadours (Berkeley, London, Los Angeles, 1995)
  • Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay (eds.), The Troubadours: an Introduction (Cambridge, 1999)

Selected secondary reading:

  • E. Jane Burns, ‘The man behind the lady in troubadour lyric’, Romance Notes 25 (1985): 254-70
  • Simon Gaunt, ‘Troubadours, Ladies and Language: The Canso ’, Chapter 3 of Gender and Genre in Medieval French Literature (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 122-79
  • Sarah Kay, Subjectivity in Troubadour Poetry (Cambridge, 1990)
  • Linda Paterson, The World of the Troubadours: Medieval Occitan Society c. 1100-1300(Cambridge, 1993)

Key words search

Troubadours, Lyric, Poetry, Love, Gender, Medieval, Middle Ages, Occitan, French, Modern Languages

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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