Past and Present Emotion

Barbara Rosenwein explores the history of Western emotion by offering viewpoint of professionals in different areas of study. Each individual present a different explanation for how emotions were managed in the pre-modern and modern periods, one explanation building on or countering another. Most of the experts presented argue that emotions were untamed in the pre-modern world and that civilization comes with modernization from either: education, religion, psychology, social construct, social status, or female presence, each offering an argument for one influence or another.

In my opinion emotional expression is shaped by a combination of these influences as Rosenwein suggests in the last pages of the essay. She asserts that emotional configurations of home-life and outside influence shape emotional behavior, and I agree to certain extent. In addition to home life and outside influence, I also share Reddy’s perspective that emotions are managed by an individual’s personal feelings. The appropriate outward response to those feelings are defined by what society deems expectable and, therefore, are influenced by an individual’s culture, which is slightly altered overtime.

There is no one factor responsible for managing emotion, or a set point at which emotions became constrained because society constantly redefines what is acceptable based on present values, but this topic is open for interpretation. Thoughts?

Out with the Old…English

After reading through some of the lyrics I came across common themes. The first few lyrics were mostly about nature, song, women, and religion. The nature lyrics often drew metaphors to women through relation to bird songs and floral beauty. This is important in understanding how nature is always related to women, hence, mother nature, though I am not sure where this came about exactly. Others drew the connection between women and religion, more specifically the Virgin Mary. I believe there was some Catholic influence within some of the lyrics because Catholics pray to God through the Virgin Mary and the lyric “Now skrinketh rose and lily-flour” illustrates this. A lot of the early lyrics also reference spring, and in a religious context this represents rebirth and new beginnings, symbolic of resurrection.

Another thing I noticed, as I got closer to the fifteenth century the content was easier to read and comprehend. This reflects how the language was altered over time little by little. I find it interesting because while I was reading I didn’t know if had gotten better at reading OE or if the language was just more familiar/modern, then I realized the change in century as I continued reading and recognized the language shift.

Redefined Chastity and Knighthood

Yonec by Marie de France is an interesting lai because it offers an interesting perspective of marriage and knight hood. During this time female chastity is a highly emphasized custom and it was socially unacceptable for a maid to be unchaste or to take council with other men outside of the marriage. The maiden in this lai is kept locked away for the King’s personal satisfaction. This behavior may not have been the custom but it was accepted because wives were seen as the property of their husband. After marriage the husband can do whatever he pleases with little to no consequences while the wife is expected to stay chaste, honest, loyal, and obedience to her husband.

Marie de France presents a disloyal, unchaste wife in Yonec and sets her up as the victim by being locked away during her entire marriage. Although the wife has good reason for her disloyalty to her husband this is unacceptable behavior for a wife and deserves punishments according to the customs of this time. Rather than emphasize the wife’s villainy, the speaker instead labels the husband “evil” and “felon” for seeking revenge on the wife’s lover. The sister is also labeled deceitful and betraying as she reveals the details of the lovers to the husband. The speaker sets the adulterous lovers up as innocent victims while the husband and sisters are illustrated as evil villains, which is rarely seen during this time.

Another interesting point is how the knight is dishonest and deceitful but still upheld and honored by those in his kingdom as well as the wife. The characters in the play are illustrated in ways that contradict the customs of the time period and I find that interesting.

Language Evolution

I want to first comment on the German origin of the English language, more so apparent in Old English than any other version since derived. I never knew English had a German background or influence but that does explain why Old English sounds so foreign and is such a challenge to unravel. In the exercise it is evident as the language and characters become more familiar, that there is a shift in the origin. The most noticeable difference is the change in letters or symbols used the in Old and Middle English. Once these characters are omitted or replace by French or Modern English the language is more familiar to the Early or Modern English reader. The shift from Old English to Middle English is interesting as well because we see the meshing of two languages, German and French. The French being more familiar because with German influence discontinued the French influence increased and is now prevalent in the Modern English language today, though greatly evolved.

The history of the difference influences on the language is also interesting although I am not clear on how the church conflict and politics tie into or influence the Middle English language aside from the power shifts of nations. The events inspired stories, But how was the language affected?