Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Séquence de Sainte Eulalie (Sequence, or Song, of St. Eulalia)

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About the scene and clip:
The performer reads aloud the short, poetic account of the martyrdom of St. Eulalia; she uses a large illustrated book to enhance her storytelling, and also provides the text in Old French.

About the work:
The short liturgical song, La Séquence (Chanson) de Saint Eulalie, composed in the 9th century, is one of the earliest monuments of French literature. It tells of the martyrdom of the young maiden Eulalia, a 3rd-century Spanish saint, who firmly chose death over betrayal of her faith in Christ. This brief text consists of 29 lines, composed in assonanced pairs of lines, with a final closing line. This song is probably a liturgical “trope”—a poetic amplification of the final “a” of the Alleluia sung at the Mass on December 10, the feast of Saint Eulalia.

About the genre:
Stories about the saintly wisdom, heroism, or miracles of remarkable men and women exist in many religious traditions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Such stories are termed “hagiography.” In medieval Europe, the saint’s life or legend was an extremely popular type of work. A great many stories (and plays) about male and female Christian saints exist in Latin and in all the vernacular languages. These works may focus on the saint’s dramatic death by martyrdom, or recount the remarkable miracles performed by the saint, or may relate the entire life of the holy man or woman. Among the most important collections of saints’ lives and legends is The Golden Legend by Jacobus of Voragine. Chaucer’s “Prioress’s Tale” in The Canterbury Tales is a tale of martyrdom. Miracle and pious tales about the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, constitute a special, and highly important, category of saintly legends.

About the edition/translation:
English translation by Jennifer Jordan and Timmie (E.B.) Vitz. Original text: One edition of this often-edited text is Chrestomathie de la littérature en ancien français, 4th ed., ed. Albert Henry, Berne, Francke, 1967, pp. 2-3.

About the performer/ensemble:
Jennifer Jordan, who majored in Medieval and Renaissance Studies at New York University, graduated in 2005, and now works and also does graduate study at New York University (2006). She is a member of the Advisory Board of the website, and created this performance out of pleasure and interest.

About the production:
This performance was created for a book party for Performing Medieval Narrative at the Maison Française of New York University in October 2005. The event was also sponsored by “Storytelling in Performance,” a workshop funded by the Humanities Council of New York University and co-directed by Profs. Timmie Vitz, Nancy Regalado, and Martha Hodes. Videography was by NYU-TV.