Poets and singers in a number of medieval vernacular languages reached non-native audiences and inspired speakers of other languages to compose in theirs, and many imagined their compositions enjoying a universality similar to that of cosmopolitan languages like Latin and Arabic. An interesting rationalization of these aspirations can be discerned in a short verse narrative of a well-known episode in the youth of Alexander the Great, conqueror of India, together with his tutor, the philosopher Aristotle. Not only does it involve Greeks and Indians singing French songs and cosplaying French lovers, but the philosopher is induced to pretend to be a horse and then justifies his behavior as "natural," with far-reaching implications that this talk will explore.
Sarah Kay is Professor Emerita in the Department of French Literature, Thought and Culture at New York University and Life Fellow at Girton College, University of Cambridge. In Spring 2023, she is Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the Columbia Society of Senior Scholars.
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