Speaking of Feeling in Melbourne… medieval to early modern

From Geoffrey Chaucer and Edmund Spenser, The Canterbury Tales and The Faerie Queene: with other poems of Chaucer and Spenser. (1889); image http://prettybooks.livejournal.com/74585.html.
From Geoffrey Chaucer and Edmund Spenser,
The Canterbury Tales and The Faerie Queene:
with other poems of Chaucer and Spenser
(1889); image http://prettybooks.livejournal.com/74585.html.

Much discussion of emotion – literary, historical, visual and political – at the University of Melbourne this wintry July.

First, with the Emotions in Middle English Literature Study Day, on July 9. Papers by James Simpson, Stephen Knight, Stephanie Trigg, and Sarah McNamer. From moments of recognition in Sir Orfeo [see James’s wonderful rececnt article on recognition and reading in New Literary History 44 (2013): 25-44] to Sarah McNamer on models of emotional expression in non-religious poetry in the later Middle Ages, discussion ranged from genre and gender to “speaking faces”  (facial expressions of emotion in Troilus and Crisseyde) and emotional places (court; forest; otherworld).

Looking back over my notes, there’s a wealth of material still to think about, but I think it’s telling that the last word I’ve written down, after, “sincerity,” is: “complexity”. It’s underlined, several times.

The richness and variety of the Middle English Study day was followed, at the end of the week, by a two-day conference on ‘Genre, Affect, and Authority in Early Modern Europe 1517-1688,’ co-convened by Justin Clemens and Anna Cordner in the School of Culture and Communication. They had gathered an impressively international and interdisciplinary mix: schoolboy beatings in Astrophil and Stella and “stepdame Study’s blows” (Ross Knecht); a brilliant plenary by James Simpson on the semantic history of liberty/ies; Stephen Knight’s Rhizomatic Robin Hood; and another compelling plenary by philospher Oliver Feltham on the political ‘action-zone’  in seventeenth-century England. Unrelated, but equally memorable: spectacle in sixteenth-century Venetian phallus-haired satyr portraits, satyrs being commonly associated with lust. The original “testa di cazi”? You can still download the program with the full list of speakers and subjects, here.

At the end of this week, another Study Day, on Sense, Sentiment and Compassion, “The  Conceptual Architecture of Emotion,” featuring papers by CHE-sponsored visitors, Peter de Bolla, Katherine Ibbett and Eric Mechoulan; Justin Clemens will reply.

“Stepdame Study” continues her instruction!

Posted by Stephanie Downes

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