Eliza Zingesser

Eliza Zingesser

Research Interests
Medieval French and Occitan Literature and Culture

A.B. summa cum laude, Smith College (2005)
Ph.D. Princeton University (2012)

Professor Zingesser is a specialist of medieval French and Occitan literature, with a particular focus on animal studies, cultural and linguistic contact, and gender and sexuality. Her first book, Stolen Song: How the Troubadours Became French (Cornell University Press, 2020), documents for the first time the act of cultural appropriation that created a founding moment for French literary history: the rescripting and domestication of troubadour song, a prestige corpus in the European sphere, as French, and the simultaneous creation of an alternative point of origin for French literary history—a body of faux-archaic Occitanizing song. She is currently on leave at Columbia’s Institute for Ideas and the Imagination in Paris, where she is working on her second book, Lovebirds: Avian Erotic Entanglements in Medieval French and Occitan LiteratureLovebirds is about the myriad ways in which birds mediate the experience of erotic love in medieval literature. Each chapter turns to a different confluence of birds and human subjects and to what those confluences enabled with respect to the erotic experience. The book argues that human-avian entanglements made possible: a type of language that foregrounds the corporeal and sensorial over the semantic (chapter 1), erotic drives and emotions such as desire and pleasure (chapter 2), erotic self-conception and the pivoting of love objects (chapter 3), and memory of the love object (chapter 4). Like the quills that mediate our knowledge of all medieval human subjects—and their self-expression on the parchment page—, the presence of birds (imagined or otherwise) was frequently integral to the conception and functioning of medieval eroticism.

Zingesser has received grants and awards from the Medieval Academy of America, the Fulbright Foundation, the Institut Français d’Amérique, the Josephine de Kármán Fellowship Trust, and the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She was awarded the Society for French Studies’ Malcolm Bowie Prize for “the best article published in the preceding year by an early-career researcher” for her article, “Pidgin Poetics: Bird Talk in Medieval France and Occitania.” 

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

“Chrétien the Jay: Avian Rhetoric in Philomena.” Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric 38.2 (2020): 156-179

“The Poets of the North: Economies of Literature and Love.” In Musical Culture in the World of Adam de la Halle, ed. Jennifer Saltzstein. Leiden: Brill (2019), 51-76

“Francophone Troubadours: Assimilating Occitan Lyric in Medieval France.” In Medieval Francophone Literary Culture Outside France, ed. Dirk Schoenaers and Nicola Morato. Turnhout: Brepols (2019), 371-387

“Pidgin Poetics: Bird Talk in Medieval France and Occitania.” New Medieval Literatures 17 (2017): 62-80. (Winner of the Malcolm Bowie Prize from the Society for French Studies)

“Remembering to Forget Richard de Fournival’s Bestiaire d’amour in Italy: The Case of Pierpont Morgan MS 459.” French Studies 69.4 (2015): 439-448

“The Vernacular Panther: Encyclopedism, Citation, and French Authority in Nicole de Margival’s Dit de la panthère.” Modern Philology 109.3 (2012): 301-311

“The Genesis of Poetry: Machaut’s Prologue, Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy and Chartrian Neoplatonism.” Viator 42.2 (2011): 143-156

“The Value of Verse: Storytelling as Accounting in Froissart’s Dit du florin.” Modern Language Notes 125.4 (2010): 861-872

“Rabelais et Ésope en images.” Études Rabelaisiennes 50 (2010): 23-42

Last updated August 2021