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Guillaume de Machaut Medieval Refrain Motet

Jennifer Saltzstein on the Refrain

My review of Jennifer Saltzstein’s new book The Refrain and the Rise of the Vernacular in Medieval French Poetry published last year (2012) by Boydell & Brewer has been published in Speculum (July 2014). The link to a PDF follows as does the first paragraph of my review: https://www.academia.edu/8136544/Book_Review_of_Jennifer_Saltzstein_The_Refrain_and_the_Rise_of_the_Vernacular_in_Medieval_French_Poetry_Boydell_and_Brewer_2013_in_Speculum_89_July_2014_pp._824-826

Jennifer Saltzstein’s revisionist study of refrains in the music and poetry of medieval France examines why specific refrains were invoked in specific compositional contexts and within specific communities. The results of this study bring into question the long-held assumption that surviving refrains are the remnants of a lost repertoire of orally transmitted popular song. Through her examination of refrain transmission and distribution, Saltzstein instead relocates refrain quotation within the literate traditions of their clerical poet-composers in order to reveal “an intellectual framework for the practice of refrain usage that has largely been overlooked, namely, the conception of auctoritas in medieval writing” (29).

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