Emotions and Society in the Middle Ages

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 2:30 PM
Chicago Ballroom C (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Piroska Nagy, Université de Québec, Montréal
Damien Boquet, University of Provence Aix-Marseille I
This paper--written by Piroska Nagy and Damien Boquet together but presented by Nagy--proposes, on the basis of five years of research on medieval emotions, to show, from the different points of view adopted in our research, how far medieval emotions are themselves the expressions of social ties, embedded in and shaped by social forms, so that to reveal their meanings, we need to combine different levels of analysis and to consider--beyond mainstream social normative discourse--practices and representations of local or culture-based emotional communities. First we question the very notion of emotion, assigned in our days to the individual and involved in the shaping of what we call ‘interiority’; instead of authenticity, our research reveals the cultural constructions and shaping of emotion and their actualisation in affective links to others. Second, we turn to the social uses and functions of emotional expressions and norms, discovering what may be termed “a politics of emotions”: emotion turns out to be a core notion of government practices and strategies of power in the medieval civilisation of gesture and orality. Third, since emotions are tightly linked to the body, we reflect on this topic by considering how (in medieval terms) “movements of the soul” became incarnate in medieval society, an organic body in itself.
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