Window to the Soul

One of the things I found most interesting in Plamper’s piece about emotion was the description of the location of emotions and the reference to the eye as the window to the soul. Plamper explains that in English and German the eyes are often thought of as descriptors for emotions.  When someone is happy, we may describe their eyes as “shining” as Plamper exemplifies.  However, in the Chinese language eyebrows are more commonly used to illustrate emotion.  The explanation of the importance of eyes in the English language made me recall our conversation about grey eyes in the Middle Ages. Grey eyes were considered the most beautiful eyes in the Middle Ages when Pearl was written. Pearl is depicted with grey eyes which were stunning.  Although the thought behind this notion is attributed to the goddess Athena’s grey eyes, I think it is very interesting to think that the Middle English Pearl references eyes multiple times. Rather than focusing on Pearl’s eyebrows like it may have if it had been written in Chinese, Middle English shares a commonality with modern English and German: a focus on the eyes.  Whether the author of Pearl intended the grey eyes of Pearl or the reference to an “eye’s delight” in stanza 16 and other references to the eyes as illustrations of emotion is unclear but it is interesting to consider these Middle English references as a possible precursors to our notion of eyes as the window to the soul.

One thought on “Window to the Soul

  1. I also enjoyed how the author touched on emotion conveyed in different cultures. It reminded me of the Evans piece that we read at the beginning of the semester in which groups of people are shown the same footage of disturbing images and the Asian people tended to try and hide their initial reactions and emotions. I would definitely agree that our culture focuses on eyes when conveying emotion. Whether through art, literature, or just talking with someone face to face. The eyes seem to be the number one indicator of how someone is genuinely feeling.

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