Medieval Studies Colloquium to Honor Switten

Posted: April 10, 2007

On Friday, April 20, and Saturday, April 21, the Department of Medieval Studies will host "Music and Texts: The Middle Ages and Beyond," a colloquium in honor of Professor Margaret "Marlou" Switten, Class of 1926 Professor of French and a member of the medieval studies program faculty. Sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Faculty, "Music and Texts" will bring together renowned medievalists and musicologists to mark Switten's retirement after 44 years at Mount Holyoke and celebrate her distinguished contributions as a scholar of the music and literature of the French Middle Ages.

The two-day event will explore topics ranging from "teaching troubadours" to "performance in the design of medieval song." Scheduled presenters at the colloquium include: Charles M. Atkinson, professor of music and area head of musicology at Ohio State University; Michel Zink, professor of the literatures of medieval France at the Collège de France; Susan Boynton, professor of historical musicology at Columbia University; Jacqueline Cerquiglini-Toulet, professor of medieval French literature at the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne ; and Leo Treitler, Distinguished Professor of Music Emeritus at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Two of Switten's former students, Christie McDonald '64, Smith Professor of French Language and Literature at Harvard University, and Elizabeth Wilson Poe '72, professor of French at Tulane University, also will be presenting. Poe, who still regards Switten as her primary mentor, remembers how she looked forward to Switten's classes. "It was because of her that I pursued a Ph.D. in French and specialized in the troubadours.… I am humbled to have been invited to participate in the colloquium honoring Marlou's long and productive career."

A highlight of the colloquium will be the Friday evening concert showcasing music that Switten has studied. The performance, which is being organized by Robert Eisenstein, director of the Five College Early Music Program, is scheduled for 8 pm in McCulloch Auditorium in Pratt Hall. The program includes Aquitainian versus, troubadour songs, songs from northern France by the trouvères, and selections from the thirteeenth-century Spanish Cantigas de Santa Maria, which recount miracles performed on behalf of poor sinners by the Virgin Mary. Soprano Ann Monoyios and bass-baritone Peter Becker will be accompanied by Eisenstein on medieval fiddle, Mary Springfels on fiddle and citole, and Mark Rimple on lute.

Switten, who was educated at Barnard College and Bryn Mawr, is widely known for her work on twelfth-century troubadours. She is author of Music and Poetry in the Middle Ages: A Guide to Research on French and Occitan Song, 1100-1400 (1995); a contributor to The Troubadours: An Introduction (1999); and coeditor of Songs of the Troubadours and Trouvères: An Anthology of Poems and Melodies with Accompanying CD (1998). With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Switten and Eisenstein created Teaching Medieval Lyric with Modern Technology, a multimedia CD-ROM of songs with manuscript illustrations for use in secondary school and college classrooms. She also was the project director for The Medieval Lyric: Anthologies and CDs for Teaching, which is used by teachers and scholars worldwide.

"Marlou is a legend: both within the scholarly community, where her work brings together poetry, literature, and music that ranges over many centuries, many individuals, and many lands; and within the Mount Holyoke community, where she has pushed generations of students and colleagues to excel. She has served with passion and true distinction," said Donal O'Shea, dean of faculty and vice president for academic affairs.

The lecture sessions and concert are free and open to the public.

Related Links:

Medieval Studies - Full Program Schedule

Margaret L. Switten - Faculty Profile