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Comtessa Swift Mash-Up

Putting Taylor Swift, a popular country music artist, and the renounced trobaritz together may not seem obvious. When considering the themes within the Comtessa’ de Dia’s lyric number 33, they are also extremely prevalent in country music today. At first, my plan was to perform a piece of the Comtessa’s lyric set in a contemporary context. I was going to write a musical where the themes explored in the Comtessa’s lyrics formed the plot. However, instead I decided to use clips of contempory performance to illustrate the action of the lyric for me. I initially considered clips from movies, recorded musical numbers, and music videos. After a while of searching through these clips I found the videos from country music videos to be, by far, the most illustrative and effective. I was struck by how perfectly the Comtessa’s text aligned with the extracts I chose. I wanted to create visual contrafactum, where I displaced the Comtessa’s performance for that of Taylor Swift’s, to achieve a contemporary but still valid show. Barthes asserts that “the distance separating reading from writing historical” but I wanted to negate this distance through this contrafactum, and I think it works quite effectively.
Thinking about both pieces of art under the lense of Judith Butler was also extremely interesting. Butler argues that “words, acts, gestures, and desire produce an internal core or substance”, both Swift and the Comtessa attempt to seduce the men that they desire through putting on aspects of themselves that they believe are desirable. For instance, Swift goes through a variety of stock characters in order to “get the guy”, and the Comtessa lists the aspects that she believes should bring her love. The Comtessa explains that she had tried “pity”, and Swift in You Belong With Me, takes on the role of the sympathetic friend. The trobaritz also asserts that her “courtliness” and “beauty” should inspire love in her desired. Taylor Swift in Love Story, accurately depicts the beautiful domna stereotype that waits for the lover. Butler explains that the “essence or identity that they otherwise purport to express are fabrications manufactured and sustained through corporeal signs and other discursive means”, these garbs of different types of women are all disguises of feminine performance. “A fantasy institutes and inscribed on the surface of bodies”, in order to create the emotion of love in the man they desire. The witty, courtly, princess who no man could not want is what both Comtessa and Swift both attempt to embody. It was suggested that by pairing the Swift videos and the troubadour text together, I elevated Taylor Swift’s art. Though, I think Swift deals with the same depth of ideas as the trobaritz but simplifies them to make them accessible for a wider audience. The Comtessa’s songs would have catered to the very elite of the aristocracy, but that is not the function of Swifts songs. Her music is intended for the wider public, so the ideas are not necessarily dumbed down but simply made more comprehensible. It was brought up, that the “interpretive communities” of contemporary society view images of domna-like medieval characters as childish subject-matter for young girls. In Comtessa’ De Dia’s court the opposite was true, with the domna or princess character being a accepted subject for elevated intelligent prose.
It was interesting to think of this project in the context of Barthes text where he asserts that the “text can be broken…it can be read without the guarantee of its father, the restitution of the inter-text paradoxically abolishing nay legacy.” Barthes, asserts that text is not stagnant and it can adapt and become relevant in contexts beyond that of its initial conception. That is what I have tried to do with the Swift/Comtessa pairing. Through my project I wanted to get across the universality of the text of the Comtessa’s ideas.

DLCL 121: Performing the Middle Ages (FRENCH 151)
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