The ‘Fleury Playbook’ (Orléans BM 201 pp. 176–243) has been at the centre of discussions about medieval drama for almost two centuries. Made in the second half of the twelfth century, and containing a collection of ten plays, this book is unique in its size and nature. An earlier manuscript from St Martial (Paris BnF lat. 1139) includes three much shorter ‘plays’ among devotional songs and liturgical tropes; even the slightly later Carmina Burana manuscript cannot really be usefully compared with the Fleury book, since it includes only two plays, in the context of an enormous collection of songs. Among the contents of the playbook there is much variety: some of these dramatic compositions stem from a liturgical background, and incorporate a good number of liturgical chants. Others, based on saint’s legends, are entirely new.
The manuscript provokes many questions: who made it? Who used it? What is its institutional background (St-Benoit-sur-Loire at Fleury or not)? Who performed these plays?
In this workshop I shall consider the manuscript from palaeographical points of view (decorated capitals, text hand, musical notation) and in terms of its content. Besides looking at the diverse ways in which music is used as a basis for expression in these ten plays, I shall focus on one – the Ordo Rachelis – as an example of contemporary social critique. Everyone is welcome to bring their own ideas and questions!
Co-sponsored by the Collaborative Humanities Initiative
LUDUS, a working group devoted to the active, performed, creative, and re-creative study of pre-modern culture.
Art & Archeology
Department of Music
About the Artist:
Susan Rankin is a professor of medieval music at the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Emmanuel College. Her research interests lie in two directions: on the one hand, the manuscript transmission and forms of writing of music in the early middle ages and, on the other hand, ritual expressed in music throughout the middle ages. Her most recent publication is Writing Sound in Carolingian Europe: The Invention of Musical Notation (Cambridge University Press, 2018). Rankin is currently finishing a second “Carolingian” book, considering the manuscripts in which musical repertories were recorded between 750 and 900.
For the fellowship at Radcliffe, her work switches back to ritual, returning to her earliest research passion: medieval drama and those ways in which music can act as a dynamic force to articulate dramatic situations. Rankin will work with Margot Fassler toward a book in which dramatic modes of action in and alongside the medieval liturgy—from dramatic liturgy of the 9th century to sequences composed in the 15th—will be examined. This work will be organized institutionally rather than by genre and will explore specific examples within the particular circumstances that shaped and refined their natures, such as dramatic ceremonies celebrated in women’s houses.
Rankin was awarded the Dent Medal in 1995, and she is a fellow of the Academia Europaea and the British Academy, a corresponding fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, and a corresponding member of the American Musicological Society. She earned a PhD from the University of Cambridge.