Collective Emotion

In her introduction, Trigg’s emphasizes “collective” rather than individual or personalized emotion.  This reminded me of Rosenwein’s “emotional communities,” but felt broader, or more encompassing, I guess.  Trigg argues that “emotions and passions can be governed or manipulated” either “individually or collectively” and that there were/are “social, cultural, and political frameworks” in which people “experienced, performed, and narrated their emotions.”  We must rely on the representation of these emotions especially, of course, in texts.  She also ditches the “affect theory” in favor of History of emotion, which emphasizes social construction-ism.

I thought her arguments made sense, especially in light of the exemplum we have been reading.  These texts, though about individuals, would have been read in a sermon (or to a family in the case of CA61), so very much in a collective setting.  What I find so interesting, and what we have been exploring all semester, is how these texts evoked feelings in the reader or listener, that may be different from those experienced (or represented) by the characters within the text.  In the “Jealous Wife” and “Incestuous Daughter,” for example, listeners may have felt repulsed by the characters actions at first because murder, suicide, and incest are behaviors that are culturally not approved of.  By the end, however, the poems may have been comforting to readers because God’s mercy saves even the worst sinners at the last moment.  The readings from Tuesday, however, might have be unsettling to readers who perhaps, like “sinner” and the “squire,” had not yet sought God’s mercy.  The purpose of the four is the same though and through their emotional evocation they confirm a religious belief.

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