November 17, 2022

Eliza Zingesser

Lovebirds: Avian Erotic Entanglements in Medieval French and Occitan Literature
Reid Hall | 4, rue de Chevreuse, 75006 Paris
Free and open to the public
The central claim of this talk is that birds, rather than being mere “symbols” of love (as they are often read), performed actual work with respect to the erotic experience.

My talk will investigate four ways in which medieval eroticism was made possible by birds. I argue that avian entanglements created: a type of language that foregrounds the corporeal and sensorial over the semantic (1), erotic drives and affects such as desire and pleasure (2), erotic self-conception and the pivoting of love objects (3), and memory of the love object (4). The legacy of birds’ interpenetration with the erotic endures to this day: a pair of lovebirds might coo with affection over each other, perhaps referring to each other, if they are Italian, as passerotto (“little sparrow”) or, if they are French, as ma poule or ma cocotte (“my hen”) or mon poussin (“my little chick”). If she decides to get married, a female lover might, if she is British, have a hen partybefore being legally wed (perhaps in a ceremony involving the release of doves) to her alluring lover (this last term originally referred to the lure used to train birds of prey).

Read more about Eliza Zingesser.

This lecture series is generously supported by:



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