One Step Closer to “Feeling Medieval”

Evans’ first chapter crowns emotion as the “the universal language,” as the chapter is fittingly titled. Although not all languages have a word to describe a particular emotion, individuals across cultures and language barriers are likely able to feel that particular emotion. The example Evans shares describes a Japanese word, amae, which means, “comfort in another person’s complete acceptance” (2). Although the English language does not have a word that is equivalent to amae, all humans are capable of feeling this emotion. Evans further exemplifies the universality of emotion by sharing the categories of emotions on a spectrum including “basic” emotions that are naturally possessed by all humans, “culturally specific” emotions that are learned by some cultures, and “higher cognitive emotions,” which lie somewhere between basic and culturally specific emotions on a spectrum of emotions.

After reading Gastle’s historical context piece, I tried to find a connection between Evans’s emotional spectrum and medieval history and literature. The point that came to mind was the question asked during class on Tuesday, what it means to “feel medieval.” Considering this question with regard to the two articles, I imagine that Middle English literature may possess and elicit from the reader portrayals of basic emotions, such as joy, surprise, anger and fear, but also different culturally specific emotions, like the “being a wild pig” emotion of the Gururumba people of New Guinea and variations of the higher cognitive emotions (13). Gastle’s piece shares some of the political and religious problems of the medieval period, which are depicted in various pieces of literature. I look forward to using my newfound knowledge of the emotional spectrum and medieval history to attempt to better understand how “feeling medieval” actually feels.

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