Languishing for provenance: Zelo tui langueo and the search for women's polyphony in England

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Abstract

The history of polyphonic singing in medieval England has mainly been portrayed as the preserve of trained male performers: monks and clerks singing polyphony as part of acts of worship and private devotions, or for recreation. Women's participation in such practices has gone unmentioned, been glossed over, or denied. The central purpose of the present article is to look at ways in which treatments of the subject have responded to the existence of the motet Zelo tui langueo, whose role in the story of motet performance in England dominated certain discussions in the 1980s and 1990s on account of its possible association with nuns. The microhistory of Zelo tui langueo, explored within the context of its four manuscript sources-two of which offer iconographical representations of a performance of the motet-offers the opportunity to measure ideologies of modern scholarship against those of 14th-century copyists, illuminators and musicians in ways that may reveal a path towards understanding the place of music within women's devotional practice in medieval England.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-326
Number of pages12
JournalEarly Music
Volume39
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011

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