Emotional history and literature

Plamper’s article complicates our understanding of ‘feeling’ even more as he attempts to find a working definition of emotion that can ultimately be used to discuss emotions throughout history.  While all the definitions and philosophies of emotion were a bit overwhelming, I found the article interesting in light of our studies.  At one point, the author asks, “Can emotional reactions to ‘real’ events that affect me directly be compared or even equated with emotional reactions to cultural products such as novels, films, or computer games?”  Aristotle, he says, considers these emotional reactions to “have a lesser force” (14).  But I think most literature enthusiasts would disagree — of course the emotional reactions are real and probably the same.  The question then becomes, is there a difference between how literature affects us and how it might have been different at the time and place it was written.  Of course, as Palmer points out, “emotional thinking during the Middle ages is not so well researched as that in antiquity, and furthermore had little influence on subsequent centuries” which makes the task of “Feeling Medieval” more difficult (17).

SN. Another point that stood out to me was that in the “court painting of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century North Indian Islam no indication of the face as the site of emotion,” it is all in “bodily movement, colour,” etc.  This immediately reminded me of the images we looked at in class and the contrast between Medieval paintings and contemporary depictions of courtly love, where the faces are the main sites of emotion.

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