For my project, I attempted to visualize how Gui d’Ussel’s and Maria de Ventadorn’s partimen might be perceived by a modern audience. The narrative is simple: Maria de Ventadorn (as she is represented by the feminine lyrical subject) asks Gui d’Ussel if a lady should treat her lover as an equal and if she should do for him what he does for her “according to the laws that lovers hold.” Maria de Ventadorn’s question sparks a dialogue in which she and her interlocutor try to specify the ideal relationship between lady and lover – between domna and drutz. However, this discussion of the ideal relationship cannot be dissociated from the context of enunciation, that is, from Maria de Ventadorn’s and Gui d’Ussel’s own relationship to one another. I tried to highlight the interdependency of these two levels of dialogue in my project by using different colors to designate the context and the content of enunciation. Thus, I hope to show that Maria de Ventadorn’s vision of the ideal relationship serves to confirm the superior position she assumes, not only as the “dompna” but also as the initiator of conversation; while Gui d’Ussel’s vision challenges the inferior position he is relegated to as “Gui” and as the (involuntary) addressee. This may be how we picture the poem today, but how might a medieval audience have visualized its scenes? Of course it is impossible to recreate the context of reception, but medieval images and iconography do at least hint at possible interpretations of fin’amor and courtly love relationships. While my photographic interpretation foregrounds the emotion the poem conveys to modern readers, medieval imagery is highly conventionalized and stereotypical. However, the medieval images highlight a crucial aspect: the very hierarchy which the partimen challenges and negotiates is founded on a series of conventions and “lieux communs” which form the very basis for understanding the poem. Interestingly, the juxtaposition of my modern photographs with the medieval iconography emphasizes the conventional character of the signs and gestures that make up our “modern” lovers’ discourse. In this sense, I hope that the presence of both medieval and modern images can help enrich and enhance our experience of the poem.
“Gui d’Ussel be.m pesa de vos” in Images
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