Saturday, October 24, 2009

Questions about Minstrels, Troubadours, Jongleurs, and Trouveres? We've Got Answers!

Today I received the following e-mail, from a student who was no doubt looking for Professor Awesome, PhD (expert on everything), and not the lowly Nokes (expert on a tiny number of obscure things). Identifying details have been redacted:
My name is [Whoever] and I am a senior [in high school]. In our English class we are required to write a twelfth-year research paper. I have chosen the topic of comparing and contrasting the work and lifestyles of medieval minstrels, troubadors, jongleurs, and trouveres. Besides the usual paper/Internet sources of information, we are required to interview an expert for our papers.

Well, I'm generally an expert on medieval lit, but not a specialist on troubadours ... but I know there are lots of Wordhoarders out there who know more on this topic than you can imagine. So, I call on the collective Vahalla of medievalists to respond to this young woman's six questions:
  1. How did poems and styles of stories differ between medieval entertainers?
  2. Where would minstrels and troubadors perform their lyric poems?
  3. Were minstrels literate? Could they read and write music? Explain.
  4. How were troubadors trained? By their own families? Were they apprenticed to masters? Were they trained in guilds?
  5. What was the level of education of jongleurs? Were they often self-taught?
  6. What other important ideas about my topic can you tell me that I have failed to ask you for?


  1. I got a letter with the same exact preamble but different questions. Unfortunately those questions are in part about runic monuments, a topic I know very little about.

  2. I have a bibliography of 12th century subjects up at, and the 'Music' file ( has a number of things that might prove useful- though if this student is facing a tight deadline there might not be time to dig for answers to the questions posted. However, I would suggest that Frederick Goldin's _ Lyrics of the troubadours and trouveres_ is probably the best place to start.

    The caveat is that I put together the bibliography 8, 10 years ago- there's likely to be a lot more scholarship available. Perhaps a trip to a good university library would be in order.

  3. Anonymous4:52 PM

    tell me the answer then this is crap