Crying for Ruling: Rhetoric of Tears and Celebration of Social Order in the Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-Century Burgundian State

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 3:10 PM
Chicago Ballroom C (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Laurent Smagghe, University of Ghent
In the 14th century, new models for the expression of pain in which tears played a substantial part, were developed in western art. In the next century, artists focused on tears, while religious movements such as the Devotio moderna promoted them. The ruler’s « habitus » came to be influenced by both the expressiveness of the Homeric hero, crying as vigorously as he fights, and the ideal of serene majesty.  To this may be added the models provided by epic and chivalric literature, particularly influential at the Burgundian court. Thus, rather than a sign of sadness, tears were part of rulership practice, coalescing around the prince’s body, so that an emotional community of pain could emerge, based on a cultural « suffering model », which confirmed and celebrated social order. This paper will focus on the nature and purposes of this practice.
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