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Rothenberg: The Flower of Paradise - Marian Devotion and Secular Song in Medieval and Renaissance Music

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There is a striking similarity between Marian devotional songs and secular love songs of the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Two disparate genres—one sacred, the other secular; one Latin, the other vernacular—both praise an idealized, impossibly virtuous woman. Each does so through highly stylized derivations of traditional medieval song forms — Marian prayer derived from earlier Gregorian chant, and love songs and lyrics from medieval courtly song. Yet despite their obvious similarities, the two musical and poetic traditions have rarely been studied together. Author David Rothenberg takes on this task with remarkable success, producing a useful and broad introduction to Marian music and liturgy, and then coupling that with an incisive comparative analysis of this devotional form with the words and music of secular love songs of the period.

The Flower of Paradise examines the interplay of Marian devotional and secular poetics within polyphonic music from c. 1200 to c. 1500. Through case studies of works that demonstrate a specific symbolic resonance between Marian devotional and secular song, the book illustrates the distinctive ethos of this period in European culture. Rothenberg makes use of an impressive command of liturgical and religious studies, literature and poetry, and art history to craft a study with wide application across disciplinary boundaries.

With its broad scope and unique, incisive analysis, this book is suited for scholars, students, and general readers alike. Undergraduate and graduate students of musicology, Medieval and Renaissance studies, comparative literature, art history, Western reglious history, and music history—especially that of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and sacred music—will find this book a useful and informative resource on the period. The Flower of Paradise is also of interest to those with a particular dedication to any of its diverse subject areas. For individuals involved in religious organizations or those who frequent Medieval or Renaissance cultural sites and museums, this book will deepen their knowledge and open up new ways of thinking about the history and development of secular and sacred music and the Marian tradition.


1. Introduction: Devotion to the Virgin and Earthly Love
- Sacred and Secular Realms
- Symbolic Harmony in Medieval and Renaissance Polyphony
- Liturgical and Devotional Framework
- Foundations and Case Studies
2. The Assumption Story in Two Thirteenth-Century Motet Families
- The Narrative of First and Second Assumption Vespers
- The Flower, Christ, and Mary in a French Motet on Flos filius eius
- Mary's Ascent to Heaven in a Bilingual Regnat Motet
3. Springtime and Renewal over the In seculum Tenor
- Spring, Eastertide, and Mary
- Springtime Dance, a Pastourelle Motet, and the In seculum Hockets- 
- Intertextuality in an In seculum Motet Family
- Into the Fourteenth Century
4. Guillaume Dufay's Vergene bella, the Cantilena Motet, and the Italian Lyric
- Cantilena, Chanson, and Cantilena Motet
- Theologizing Love in Italian Lyric
- The Canzone and Vulgar Eloquence
5. Walter Frye's Ave