A Review of Sorts

I guess due to my inattentiveness, (which is due to my lack of shut eye recently) when I read the title of Trigg’s article it didn’t occur to me that this was exactly what it says it is: an introduction. Due to this, when I was reading, the thought kept occurring to me that this all sounded pretty familiar, with a few new concepts introduced. After a while it hit me that this is the first chapter to the journal several of our other scholarly articles have come from this semester. I’m going to continue to view that mishap as the product of delirium, not incompetence.

While the content of this article was not entirely new, there were some things I drew from it and enjoyed. First off, I liked how Trigg connected our fascination with emotion and feeling with Facebook. I’ve heard many joke about the concept that if something doesn’t receive any likes on social media, did it really happen or does it really matter? Though this concept obviously doesn’t hold any weight, it does say something about our emotions and how and why we portray them to others. This is what I feel a lot of the articles we have read this semester are trying to figure out: how emotion is portrayed through Medieval literature and whether we can trust this medium for insight on how people actually felt during this time. Trigg points out that because “we cannot accurately map, chart, or measure somatic or cognitive affect” in historically-oriented studies, we “must rely on textual and material traces and representations of feelings and passions” (7).

This leads to another thing I enjoyed about the article: the distinction between affect and emotion. Trigg explains that the term “emotion” is more commonly used in these historically-oriented studies because “affect” more deals with the “unconscious, pre-discursive bodily response in quite precise terms” and is more “aligned with phenomenological and social inquiry,” whereas emotions “suggests a complex and productively layered senses of inquiry into historical change, historical emotions, and the history of the term and concept of the ’emotions’ themselves” (5, 6, 8). I’m finished quoting, I swear.

The main thing I liked about Trigg’s article is that it focused on how studying the history of emotion can help us understand historical social constructions and the changes they went through and why, which is something I plan on talking about for my final paper in relation to Margery Kempe and the effect the envy she felt and caused others to feel had on her social community.

Envy and Competition

In hopes of not using up everything I plan to say tomorrow when presenting Rosenfeld’s article, I’m going to try and keep my comments on here brief. First of all, once I managed to unpack this article, (it is quite dense, or at least I found it to be) I really enjoyed it and thought Rosenfeld made some very interesting points. I wouldn’t necessarily say that she changed my mind about Kempe- I still think she is a somewhat insane- but she did cause me to look at the emotion envy in a different light. In the very beginning of the article, she states that envy has usually been seen as a negative emotion, which I completely agree with, and depending on the situation, still do. But after reading the article, I was able to see envy in a different light- a more productive light. Rosenfeld explains how envy encourages emulation, but how it also goes beyond that and can encourage someone to build on that emulation by improving it in the way they see fit, which in turn “can serve as a means to signify one’s own difference” (107). I’m going to cut myself off here- I look forward to discussing this article in class tomorrow!

A Story for Sinful Wretches

I’m not really sure what to think about The Book of Margery Kempe. From the introduction she seems to be a very interesting woman, having been labeled as many things as “mystic, eccentric, feminist, lunatic, saint, fanatic, heretic, and visionary” (635). And her story is quite incredible; it seems that someone that suffers so much ridicule and suffering would not continue to have faith in Christ. But I found the work to be incredibly monotonous and repetitive, and I think this was in part because it so closely resembled the story of Christ and the persecution he suffered, which I have heard many, many times. After committing sins upon sins and breaking her promises to Christ multiple times, Margery finally starts on her path of righteousness, starting a religious pilgrimage. She encounters many people that scorn her, arrest her, and mistreat her but stays true to her cause and begs forgiveness for their sins. All in all, while it exemplifies a story of a persecuted Christian that does not break under the pressures of those that ridicule her, it’s an age old story and I didn’t find it particularly unique.

Sir Orfeo and Pearl

I really liked the author’s spin on the classical myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in “Sir Orfeo,” mainly because it was a happy spin. The introduction talks about how the classical story features an Orpheus that loses Eurydice, his wife, to death and upon getting her back, loses her yet again through no fault but his own. In “Sir Orfeo,” Heurodis does not die (though how she is treated by the fairies is quite grotesque) and Orpheus stays faithful and wins her back. Also, his steward remains faithful to his lord and the kingdom is restored in the end. Reading a piece with a cheery ending was quite nice after all the sorrowful pieces we’ve been through. This piece touches on loss, but also restoration. I also thought the references to London throughout the piece were interesting; the intro explains how the editor scribe for this manuscript was believed to be based in London. Overall, I found this piece easy to read, interesting to read, and happy to read.

I also enjoyed Pearl, mainly because of how it is set up. Reading about the use of symbolism in the introduction through numbers and words helped me notice the patterns used throughout the poem. I appreciated how the author linked the stanzas together by using the same word (pearl, ornament, etc.), representing a string of pearls. I appreciated a story about the relationship between a self-absorbed father and his innocent yet wise daughter who has passed away, mainly because most of the pieces we have read so far have been about the romantic relationship between a man and a woman.

The Book of The Duchess

Wow, so this reading took me awhile. Though I didn’t hate it, I can’t say it was my favorite. However, I feel like there was a decent amount of things that went over my head so I’m hoping tomorrow’s discussion will help me better appreciate the text. The main thing I felt I missed out on was all of the references. Even though there were footnotes to explain each one, I still felt like I didn’t know enough about the background/story of them to really understand the significance. A group of references that I did enjoy were in stanzas 1085-87; “She was as good, and nothing lyke, / Though hir stories be autentyke; / Algate she was as true as she.” The footnote explains that the knight compares his lady to great, renowned women, but then goes beyond that and claims she is greater than even them. Another line I found to be quite humorous was “And never to false yow but I mete,” which essentially means “I will never be false to you, unless I’m dreaming” (1234). I’m not sure how I would react if someone that I cared about said the same of me.

Another place I experienced a bit of confusion was after the knight confesses his love for his lady. It seems as if he says she rejected him and he went into a state of deep sorrow, but then he claims she accepts his love and they live happily ever after (until her tragic death). Yet again, something I’m looking forward to clearing up during class tomorrow.

All in all, I did enjoy the piece. Because of it’s length and the constant going back and forth between translations and footnotes, it got a bit monotonous for me, especially when the knight is telling the speaker for what seems like the 5th time that “thou nost what thou menest; / I have lost more than thou wenest” (1137-38).

From Hydraulic to Not

What I enjoyed most about Rosenwein’s article was her explanation of the evolution of how emotions were viewed by psychologists. She begins explaining the “hydraulic” model of emotions, where emotions are seen as “great liquids within each person , heaving and frothing, eager to be let out” (834). This model helps explain when someone “sees red” or blacks out when they get especially angry, why sometimes we can’t suppress our tears, even in public, or our laughter. In the 60’s and 70’s, this model was replaced by two non-hydraulic models. One was a cognitive view model that explained that “emotions are part of a process of perception and appraisal, not forces striving for release” (836). Another is a model of social constructionism, saying that “emotions and their display are constructed by the society in which they operate (837). What I noticed about all of these models, like the two before me have mentioned, is that they all touched on the first article we read about emotions in our world. It was hard for me to choose which one I though the most logical, so I decided to sort of take pieces of all of them. However, Rosenwein comments that the hydraulic model is no longer “tenable” (836).

I liked this article because it held firm my belief that emotions, especially the most basic (anger, love, hate, etc.) are universal, but also are conformed based on the society and culture in which they are present. I also liked the tidbit (Ethan mentioned this) in which she explains that not only are certain emotions or at least how they are expressed are unique to a culture, but to “emotional communities” within that culture as well. We all belong to many different groups of people and our expressions and behaviors rely on our setting.

Emotions on a Spectrum

What I think I appreciated most from Evans’ articles on emotion in our society was his ability to put emotions on a spectrum instead of having to put them into categories or see them in black and white. He talks about “basic” emotions versus “culturally specific emotions” versus “higher cognitive emotions” and explains that they need not be placed in different categories, but simply seen as different points on a spectrum that exists based on how innate the emotion is. I appreciated this because something that bothers me a lot about how some people reason is how they figure that if something isn’t “A” it has to be “B,” and vice versa. I think this stems on our desire for things to exist and be explained simply. I also appreciated all the scientific logic he used to back up his claims, which not only made it more credible but also made it easier to understand. He links emotions to natural selection and somehow makes it easy to understand. His mention and discussion of Aristotle’s “golden mean” spoke to me because it reflects my constant battle between acting on the middle ground between my gut feeling and reason. Though I didn’t find Gastle’s piece of the historical events that affected/found their way into Middle English literature, whether blatantly or not, quite as intellectually stimulating as I did Evans’ pieces, I did appreciate learning about some of the historic events that took place during the era we’re focusing on.