The Other France: Troubadours and the Politics of Cultural Heritage

Seminar Quick Facts

Location: Narbonne, France 

Faculty Leader: Marisa Galvez, French and Italian (DLCL)

BOSP Special Programs Coordinator: Yosefa Gilon

Arrival date in Toulouse, France: August 8, 2019

Departure date from Toulouse, France: August 28, 2019

Ways Certification: This seminar course is certified for Creative Expression (CE).


Additional Program Requirements
Ground Rules - In order to optimize safety during the program, students will be required to agree to and sign Ground Rules that may restrict behavior throughout the program. These Ground Rules are in addition to the BOSP Participation and Assumption of Risk, Release of Claims, Indemnification and Hold Harmless Agreement that all students sign and agree to at the time of program application. Students’ parents/families will also need to sign these Ground Rules to confirm that they acknowledge the specific dangers of travel to the program location.

Activity Level
Light/Moderate: Activities may include city walking tours, easy/short hikes, museum and other site visits as well as an occasional physical activity such as snorkeling, hiking, or kayaking. For a full list of program activity levels refer to the Overview page.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Health Information for Travelers to France

US State Department Country Information

Visa Information
Consulate General of France

General Information: Visit the Overseas Seminars/Faculty-Initiated Programs Overview page

Application Deadline: October 28, 2018

General Description

During the brief period from 1100 to 1300, a tradition of poetry took hold in southern France that combined passion and restraint, desire and song, and that still remains part of our cultural heritage. Emerging in aristocratic courts, this poetry revolutionized the Western imagination. Many songs were dedicated to an inaccessible and unnamed lady, and were a celebration of erotic and sensual love. The poets-performers of these songs called themselves troubadours and their literary language was Occitan after the word for “yes” in the region, “oc,” as opposed to the “oïl” of northern France. Through interaction with Occitan scholars, musicians, and performers of troubadour song, we will read and interpret medieval texts as both literary artifacts and an ongoing vernacular tradition adapted for contemporary audiences. Students will visit sites important to the troubadours and gain historical knowledge of a common premodern culture of southern France and northern Spain -- Occitania. Finally, through our study of and experience with premodern and contemporary Occitan culture, we will reflect upon the politics of cultural heritage--the idea of a cultural identity that has historical roots in an international courtly culture, one that included courts in southern France, northern Italy and Spain, Sicily, and Latin crusader states in the East.

The seminar will be supported locally by the Troubadours Art Ensemble and its director Gérard Zuchetto. Through the arrangement of Zuchetto and his colleagues, students will have opportunities to visit various sites, towns, and institutions in Languedoc-Roussillon and Catalonia related to the troubadours and hold discussions with local musicians, curators, and scholars who contribute to troubadour/Occitan culture in different ways. Gérard is a native speaker of French, Occitan and Italian and will be leading many of the site visits and giving lectures.


The seminar will take place in Narbonne in southern France as well as sites related to art of the troubadours in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France and Catalonia, Spain. By visiting various towns in this region, and engaging with local musicians, artists, curators, scholars, and craftsmen, students will assess what troubadour culture and Occitania means today for those living in the region. How might a pan-European, Mediterranean culture, with historical ties to Arabic culture in Spain and North Africa have a certain purchase for people of this region who identify with an Occitan culture rather than a centralized French one, especially the newly immigrated? How might the promotion, and by extension study of troubadour culture assert local idioms against a centralized metropolitan culture or national identity? By seeing how medieval sites are maintained in provincial towns, students will also have the opportunity to consider such questions about cultural heritage from a unique perspective.

While terrorist attacks, and debates around refugees and immigration might seem to be unrelated to troubadours, this seminar addresses the presence of a variety of cultural heritages in France. Students will study an “Other France” that has its roots in pre-modern France, one more regional, with a different language, and with a closer affinity to a Mediterranean culture linked to regions of Spain, Northern Africa and Italy rather than a metropolitan Paris and national France. In studying this heritage of “Occitania” in the region and towns of southern France, students will also ask how this regional culture might be in tension or in a supportive relation to other “French” cultures, especially for those people who feel alienated from the recent call of secularized solidarity despite subscribing to French principles.

Living and Travel Conditions

Students in the seminar will be in shared rooms at a youth hostel in all locations. Class lectures/meetings and student rooms in Narbonne will be housed at Centre International de Séjour Narbonne. Students should expect that summer in southern France can be very hot and humid. Narbonne in particular is very windy and students are advised to dress accordingly (e.g. light windbreakers). Dietary selections may be limited so students with severe restrictions should carefully evaluate their ability to participate comfortably. Like many old European cities, Narbonne and the other cities of this seminar will not be uniformly accessible with limited elevators and ramps in museums and other historical sites. Medieval castles are usually situated at the top of a hill in the center of town that requires walking and climbing up steep hills. If you are uncomfortable traveling under such conditions, you should not apply to this seminar.


Marisa Galvez is Associate Professor of French and Italian. She specializes in the literature of the Middle Ages in France and Western Europe, especially the poetry and narrative literature written in Occitan and Old French. Her areas of interest include the troubadours, vernacular poetics, the intersection of performance and literary cultures, and the critical history of medieval studies as a discipline. The idea for this seminar came from her research in southern France as part of her multi-year Performing Trobar project that seeks to cultivate, historicize, and compare the experience of troubadour lyrics in literary and performative modes. In exposing students and the Stanford community to the rich aural and verbal texture of the medieval world, Performing Trobar seeks to animate our engagement with medieval lyric both as a philological artifact and as a vernacular art that continues to be translated before various audiences around the world.

Prerequisites and Expectations

There are no prerequisites for this seminar, however, students who have taken medieval courses and have an interest in music, performance, and literary studies will be given priority. Additionally, preference will be given to students who are competent in French, Spanish, or Italian (speaking, reading, and writing).

The course fulfills the Creative Expression Way through the development of independent or collaborative final projects.

Students will be required to complete some preliminary readings and a before departure take-home exam before the seminar begins.

Application Process

Decisions will be based on application materials. There are no interviews. The seminar capacity is 14 students.

Grading Basis

Letter grade

Passport and Visa

Students are solely responsible for obtaining their passport and visa (if applicable). Every BOSP participant MUST have a signed passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the scheduled RETURN date from the overseas program. Students who do not have a valid passport must apply for a new or renewed passport immediately. For information on obtaining or renewing a U.S. passport please visit the State Department website.

To determine whether a visa is necessary for your program, visit the Consulate General of France website. You may also consult with the recommended visa service providers listed below.

VisaCentral by CIBT
VisaCentral by CIBT offers online Stanford rates, or contact the local office:

In person: 555 Montgomery St. Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94111
Walk-in hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
By phone: (877) 535-0688

VisaBy Casto for Stanford Travel Program
VisaBy Casto offers special rates for Stanford online, or through the local office:

Address: 2560 North First Street, Suite 150, San Jose, CA 95131
By phone: (408) 553-4735
By email:

Health and Safety

Students on international programs should be aware that attitudes toward medical conditions, disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and psychological conditions vary by culture and under the laws of the host countries. These differences impact the level of treatment and accommodation available abroad. Students should give serious consideration to their health and personal circumstances when accepting a place in a program and should consult with their clinician.

While the benefits of international travel can be enormous, it is often associated with certain health and safety risks. Thankfully, a number of interventions exist to mitigate these risks including vaccines, use of certain medications, and specific behavior changes. Health concerns vary by the particular destination, time of year, the health of the individual, type of accommodations, length of stay and specific activities. Participants should be up to date on all their regular immunizations, check the CDC website for vaccinations and immunizations. In addition, specific travel vaccines such as typhoid, yellow fever, or rabies vaccines may be indicated. Various types of medication may also be needed to prevent life-threatening malaria or altitude illness; or to treat traveler’s diarrhea. Finally, students should learn and utilize insect precautions, food and water precautions, and general safety precautions. These can prevent illnesses such as dengue fever, schistosomiasis, HIV; or accidents such as those involving motor vehicles. In spite of all the precautions, occasionally students do become ill or sustain an injury while traveling. Thankfully, most of these are minor. However, it is critical that students have a clear plan of care in case of an emergency on their trip. The travel clinic at the Vaden Health Center has produced an online travel health module that provides comprehensive strategies to help you stay safe and healthy while traveling.

Students must review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for complete information regarding the health concerns and vaccine recommendations specific to France. Students must also discuss with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic or a travel health specialist about the best ways to protect their health.

Students must review the U. S. State Department’s Country Information for complete information on safety and security in France.

As with any foreign travel, students are advised to be alert to their surroundings, and be particularly aware of any health and safety advisories for the area in which they will be visiting. Students should consult with their health care provider(s) to be prepared for potential illness. Additional issues of personal health and safety and precautions will be discussed in detail during the mandatory pre-seminar preparation and upon arriving in the country.

If you are uncomfortable traveling under such conditions, you should not apply to this seminar.

Program Modification and Cancelation

Stanford reserves the right to cancel or modify the Program before or during its operation for any reason, including natural disasters, emergencies, low enrollment, unavailability of facilities or personnel, or compliance with the University travel policy at