Registering responses…

Yesterday I had the chance to share some of my very recent research with final year undergraduate students. They are studying my ‘Exchanging Voices’ module, and we were looking at the issue of how register affects audience / reader responses. Alongside examples of texts by Apollinaire (‘Avant le cinéma’) and Molière (excerpt from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme), I was able to show them the change in register between Baudelaire’s ‘La Mort des amants’ and the parodied version of the sonnet by Valade and Verlaine (as ‘La Mort des cochons’). What’s more, because I now have song scores and recordings of the Villiers setting of ‘La Mort des amants’ (thanks to my AHRC-funded research leave January-September this year), I was also able to let them listen to the recordings of Mary Bevan and Sholto Kynoch performing both the ‘straight’ (high register, elegant) version and the parodied (low register, vulgar) version. The students’ responses were telling – they were absorbed and drawn in by the intense, sensual elegance of the Baudelaire/Villiers song setting, and perplexed, almost repulsed by the Valade/Verlaine/Villiers parodied version. It certainly helped convey the point I was making in my lecture about how register affects (vocal) exchanges and (audience) responses.  I’m looking forward to hearing what colleagues and experts in the fields of nineteenth-century poetry and music have to say about this material when my Parsian Intersections: Baudelaire’s Legacy to Composers  book comes out next year…

One response to “Registering responses…

  1. Peter Ainsworth

    Having tried in my own modest way to teach communicate and share some of the delights of French poetry to undergraduates in the French Dept at Sheffield until 2009, it is a great pleasure to see Helen Abbott challenging the current cohort with an approach that combines sensitivity to diction with foregrounding of linguistic register; also to see French poetry modules return to the curriculum after my retirement and the very sad loss of Pascal Mercier.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s