Anti-Semetic Christianity: Ignorance or Propoganda?

The Siege of Jerusalem details the Roman conquest over the Jews in a manner that  portrays the Jews as evil lesser beings and as sympathetic warriors. However, the in general terms, the poem revels in the slaughter of the Jews as rightful vengeance for the crucifixion of Jesus. However, the means in which the author portrays Jews seems almost intentionally ignorant, occasionally referring to them with typical Eastern stereotypes, like employing war elephants in battle. Though these depictions are certainly incorrect, the author utilizes these stereotypes to make Biblical allusions, like when Christian forces were beset by war elephants in the book of Maccabaeus. However, this is further complicated when considering that the book of Maccabaeus featured the Jews as the heroic forces beset by terrorizing forces with war elephants that yet emerge victorious. Though the comparison is complex, the author intends to demonstrate that the Jews, while previously upheld in God’s favor, have fallen from grace and now occupy the role of violent savage threatening the Christian way of life. In this way, the author further condemns Judaism, instead of my previous impression of glorifying it.

Emotional Communities: Functional or Otherwise

In the introduction to Rosenwein’s novel Emotional Communities in the Early Middle Ages, she investigates the nature of the social and personal expectations for expressions of emotions in the Middle Ages. In this investigation, she discovers that previous conceptions about the how individuals expressed emotion in the Middle Ages have led to misunderstanding in the scholars that later studied it. In particular, she cites Johan Huizinga’s approach, which stated that the “Middle Ages was the childhood of man” (Rosenwein 5). Huizinga believed that emotions ran rampart in the Middle Ages, with little regard to restraint and temperance. However, Rosenwein soon finds this to be untrue, as Huizinga’s approach attempts to discern meaning in the expressed emotions of the citizens of the middle age through the context of contemporary society. Without understanding the vastly different and complex social systems that made up the Middle Ages, it is easy to misinterpret the behaviors of some social classes as unreasonably restrained, and others as unreasonably expressive. However, the reality of the these differences lies in a multitude of different “emotional communities,” defined by features like socio-economic status, religious involvement, and the nature of the subject that inspires the emotion. Though the breadth of information required to correctly discern the motives behind expressed emotion in the Middle Ages is expansive, it is necessary in order to correctly interpret the motives and reasons for the expression.

Near Death Feeling

When reading Julian of Norwich’s text “A Revelation of Love,” I was mildly surprised at the lack of feeling in her depiction of what transpired on her sick bed. Instead of employing flowery language and adjective laden descriptions, she seems to be merely listing out the events that occurred. Indeed, the text opens with a simple list of the sixteen visions that she witnessed. This list does not serve to elicit feeling from the reader, but rather informs them of the details to come in a manner that is formal and businesslike. Following this introduction, Julian repeatedly uses phrases like “I saw,” and “I beheld,” which makes the text feel less like a narrative, and more like a formal description. Coupled with the knowledge that Julian spent her later days as an anchoress, I was surprised at the lack of fervor and feeling present in her depiction. I wonder if this is due to societal expectations for her writing quality, though that is merely a guess.

Feeling in Sir Orfeo

The text Sir Orfeo contains several typical elements of courtly poetry, like an emphasis on the importance of beauty for women, and chivalry for men. This is made apparent when after being tricked out of his wife, Sir Orfeo undertakes a quest to satisfy his mourning. This quest lacked the direction that is present in other tales from this era, like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, but is instead born out of passionate mourning at the loss of his wife, exemplified when Sir Orfeo says, “For now ichave° mi quen y-lore,° I have / lost  The fairest levedi° that ever was bore, lady Never eft y nil no woman/ Into wildernes ichil te° I will go And live ther evermore” (Orfeo 209). During his journeys in the wilderness, Sir Orfeo’s status was reduced nearly of that to an animal, further complicating any attempts to regain his old glory. However, Sir Orfeo employs a righteous form of deceit to deduce the heart of his steward. Sir Orfeo is portrayed as valiant and just, and therefore I was surprised to witness him lowering his own standards to examine one that he would later consider friend. I suppose a reader during the time of publication would have been able to justify this, but it struck me as strange.

Emotional History

Similarly to Josh, this text reminded me of the first text we read for this class in its attempt to provide context for emotion throughout history. I was especially interested by the information discussing the evolution of emotion due to the invention of bureaucracy. It was previously unbeknownst to me that there were scholarly interpretations of the Medieval Period depicting mankind as a more naturally violent and childish race. Though this notion was eventually debunked, it still made for a very curious read.

Equally curious was the revelation that it was through this childlike and violent behavior that politics were enacted. Contextually, that seems strange to a 21st century American reader, though I imagine our political system would appear just as alien and strange if citizens from that time could witness it.


Overzealous Chivalry in “Yonec”

In Marie de France’s lai “Yonec,” a distressed maiden is locked in a tower in the woods by her jealous husband, awaiting her heroic rescue executed by a knight in shining armor. Though the arrival of her knight is timely and subtle, their passion as lovers quickly begets tragedy when the jealous husband gleans the happenings. Though this lai employs many elements of typical courtly love, like the beauty of chastity and unrequited love, and the triumph of valor over evil, I was sometimes perplexed by the role of religion in the text. It is obviously appropriate for the maiden in this story to prioritize religion, and Muldumarec’s agreement is also expected, though his defense of his religion and the lengths he goes to demonstrate it seem perhaps unwarranted. When, “She told him she would make him her lover/ If he believed in God above” it seems likely that a simple assertion of his faith, accompanied by a demonstration of his acceptance of her chastity would have been a sufficient response (Marie de France 5). Instead, Muldumarec devises an elaborate plan to receive communion as substantial proof. When reading this section for the first time, I honestly expected a revelation that Muldumarec was incapable of being truly faithful, perhaps in part due to his magical powers. However, I was quickly disproven when his goals were successfully realized. My resulting interpretation does contain some confusion about the necessity of his actions in proving his faith, though it is possible it is simply a difference of cultural norms that have lost their relevance.

Emotional Reactions

Similarly to my peers, I found the article by Evans to be an interesting read. I was familiar with the idea that many emotions are culturally shared, like fear and disgust, but the revelation of cultural specific emotions certainly came as a surprise. Initially, I found it difficult to accept “feeling like a pig,” as a genuine emotion, instead of simply an elaborate coping mechanism for the mentioned financial difficulties that often accompany the phenomena. However, this is likely due to my own indoctrinated Western ideas on what can be accepted as genuine emotion. The article successfully convinced me that Western emotions arise from needs in society, similarly to the Gururumba people’s peculiar response to financial stresses. Additionally, the information regarding higher cognitive emotions was also new to me, which came as a surprise given that much of my education has been in liberal arts, which is often associated with expressed emotion. I agree with the class assertion that analyzing emotion indeed has a place in the English classroom, and is currently underrepresented.