Department Colloquium: Mary Caldwell (Penn) “Musical Grammar and Lyrical Learning: Cato’s Distichs and Medieval Latin Song”

Thursday, October 29, 2020 - 4:30pm

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Title: Musical Grammar and Lyrical Learning: Cato’s Distichs and Medieval Latin Song

Abstract: Widely acknowledged as emerging from clerical, monastic, and pedagogical communities, the poetry of medieval Latin song was informed by the vocabulary, grammar, and rhetoric emanating from these spheres of knowledge and practice. In this talk, I explore the musical and poetic manifestation of these spheres in grammatical citation, a practice in which noun and verb paradigms poetically shape and structure the strophes of Latin songs. Grammatical citationality in Latin songs, whose poetry otherwise chiefly explores festive, devotional topics, serves as a signal of their implicitly disciplinary and didactic function. With grammar operating as an emblem of correct, moral behavior, these sacred songs performed morally and spiritually upright Christian behavior for singers and listeners. My central focus will be on a capstone to this sung didacticism: Cum animadverterem, a thirteenth-century song that uniquely links grammatical citation with a quotation from Cato’s Distichs.

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