Madness and the Eloquence of Nonsense

Emma Dillon

in The Sense of Sound

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199732951
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932061 | DOI:

Series: The New Cultural History of Music Series

Madness and the Eloquence of Nonsense

Show Summary Details


This chapter examines the sounds of madness, particularly with regard non-semantic, nonsensical sounds associated with the state of insanity. It takes as its starting point Adam de la Halle’s famous representation of madness in the Jeu de la feuillée, demonstrating how the verbal nonsense of the play’s madman is perceived as musical by his audience. It further demonstrates how the character’s nonsense had a revelatory function in the narrative events of the play. It then connects the madman’s sound to the sound of Adam’s own motets and others from the thirteenth-century corpus. Heard together, the madman’s verbal nonsense imbues the sound of the vernacular motet with revelatory possibilities.

Keywords: Foucault; Adam de la Halle; madness; Jeu de la feuillée; motet

Chapter.  15010 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.