I really enjoyed these chapters, as it brought me back to our discussion in class about the importance of emotion in almost everything we do, and, though often overlooked in a typical English class, in what we write. Reading about the universality of some emotions, most notably joy, fear, and the more complex love, was a great benefit as we begin to delve into Medieval literature. Though the Middle English is daunting (for me at least), I think that we all will find it very productive to find the parts of the literature that transcend the difficult language into a realm of what appears to be universal understanding. Though I do not have much experience with Medieval literature, I think that it will be interesting to make inferring the emotion of the pieces a priority, especially since it doesn’t seem like it will often be overwhelmingly obvious, like it would be during the Romantic period.
I found Evans’ discussion about higher cognitive emotions the most interesting, especially his comment that they may be the “cement that binds human society together” (21), despite how emotion is often seen as a weakness, something that deters one from rationality. Does anyone have anything to add, perhaps from personal experience, to his argument about how emotion is not a weakness so much as a strength? Apart from the obvious survival factors that Evans addresses, I could add to his argument from a non-biological perspective. The morality that certain emotions give us, like guilt, shame, envy, etc., is what makes us uniquely human. They may give us flaws and play a part in mistakes we make, but these flaws give us a complex character and self that vastly surpasses any other animal. Emotion should be revered, good or bad, not just because it helps us evolve as a species and universally communicate, but because our experiences with it help us develop a strong understanding for who we are, who we aspire to be, and in turn how we perceive and establish relationships with others. I’m sure many have argued that this is one of the overarching ‘goals’ of a fulfilled life.
Overall, I’m glad I had the chance to read these chapters. This is not a topic I typically get to ponder in an English class, and I look forward to how this will play a part in our readings this semester.