The Middle Ages, and Poetry as Narrative


Some say that poetry tells no stories. Or at least that it is not as poetry that it tells them. How to account, then, for the feeling that the words of a poem structure themselves in the shape of a latent or possible narrative ? As medievalists, we cannot conceive of poetry in opposition to narrative, or even as distinct from it. In this regard we follow the traces of medieval writers who, when faced with the idea of poetry, when they attempted an ars poetica, did so through the optic of narrative.


What are the narrative possibilities and capacities of lyric forms? In what ways do narrative poems that claim to be based upon other poems develop, cite, or allude to these foundational lyric texts, and ground their own poetic nature in them? What can the relationships of lyric to narrative tell us about the very ways in which we, as human beings, understand our relationship to time ?


On Friday April 11, 2008 we will consider these and other questions, interrogating the fluid boundary between lyric and narrative.