November 22, 2004
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.-The mayor and the director of cultural services of Narbonne, France has invited Fredric L. Cheyette, professor of history at Amherst College, to give a public lecture on Ermengard of Narbonne and the world of the troubadours on Sunday, Nov. 21, in the Salle des Synodes, in what was once the medieval archiepiscopal palace and is now the city hall.
Cheyette is the author of Ermengard of Narbonne and the World of the Troubadours (2001), which received the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society, an Honorable Mention (History) from the Association of American Publishers Awards Program, the David Pinkney Prize from the Society for French Historical Studies and the Eugene M. Kayden Book Award from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Cheyette's book tells the story of Viscountess Ermengard, who ruled the major medieval port of Narbonne and much of present-day Languedoc in the 12th century. The medieval warrior princess cuts an obscure figure today. Yet "it was among the poets and songsmiths of her own lands that Ermengard was best known, among the troubadours," Cheyette writes, asking what role the love poetry of the troubadours might have played in this aristocratic world of war and diplomacy. "The earliest passions she may have learned were the passions for power and for the friendship and loyalty needed to sustain that power."
In the world of the troubadours, beautiful women were powerful lords, maintaining the equilibrium of a stateless society through loyalty and family ties, but also preserving their realms by playing pragmatic political games. Ermengard's cosmopolitan world came to an end when the established church launched the Albigensian Crusade to destroy the heretics.
Cheyette, who has taught at Amherst since 1963, received an A.B. from Princeton University and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University.