The curious case of ‘Malgre Fortune’ (Lay 19): a case study in multimodality - Abstract

The curious case of ‘Malgre Fortune’ (Lay 19): a case study in multimodality
Presenter: Kate Maxwell, University of Agder

The lay ‘Malgre Fortune’ (or the ‘other’ Lay de plour) survives in five manuscripts: A, G, and E from the ‘complete-works’ sources; and M and Pa among the anthology sources. Its position in mss A and G, both of which transmit the music, is in line with their broadly chronological presentation of the lays, a presentation which has become accepted as ‘standard’. In the other manuscripts, however, all of which transmit only the text, the positioning of this lay is intriguing, and sheds light not only on the lay itself, but also on the items surrounding it and on the collections as a whole.

As part of a larger investigation into the ‘multimodality’ of the Machaut sources, this paper provides a case study as to how multimodal techniques can be applied to individual works. Multimodality, a term prevalent in analysis of contemporary artefacts (whether or not they are considered as ‘art’), has not hitherto been applied to medieval manuscripts. However, in the light of the ever-increasing digitisation of medieval works, including new ‘digital bindings’ of works on web portals and elsewhere, the time seems ripe to pursue this investigation further. The paper will therefore present a small detail of what is to be developed into a larger picture, and, it is to be hoped, a new point of departure both for medieval studies in general and Machaut studies in particular. The technique is indeed fitting for this most ‘multimodal’ figure of the Middle Ages.