Two thirteenth-century vernacular motets copied side by side in the Montpellier Codex tell a story of sin and repentance. In one a shepherd rapes a maiden, while in the other a penitent begs the Virgin Mary to forgive a great sin. The music of these two motets is nearly identical: one is a contrafactum of the other, and represents a conscious narrative continuation of the first. This article offers a close reading of this unusual pair of motets, interpreting their texts and polyphonic musical settings in the context of other motets, the pastourelle song genre, their liturgical tenor, the technique of contrafacture, the chanson pieuse, and the intertextual refrain repertory. The two motets constitute a medieval exploration of the boundary between seduction and rape, and the spiritual consequences of its transgression. Having placed the story told by the motets in the context of medieval attitudes toward rape in both legal and pedagogical spheres, I close by reflecting on the ethics of listening to artistic representations of violence for both medieval and modern audiences.
Rape and Repentance in Two Medieval Motets
JENNIFER SALTZSTEIN is Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of Oklahoma. She is the author of The Refrain and the Rise of the Vernacular in Medieval French Music and Poetry (D. S. Brewer, 2013) and editor of Musical Culture in the World of Adam de la Halle (Brill, forthcoming). She was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 2016 and is currently writing a book on music and the environment in the thirteenth century.
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Jennifer Saltzstein; Rape and Repentance in Two Medieval Motets. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 December 2017; 70 (3): 583–616. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2017.70.3.583
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