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IMC 2006: Sessions

Session 1011: Somatic Gestures

Wednesday 12 July 2006, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Karl Shoemaker, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Paper 1011-aA Squirmy Feeling: Blushing and Embarrassment in Old English Literature
(Language: English)
Jonathan Wilcox, Department of English, University of Iowa
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English
Paper 1011-bEmotional Intelligence: The Medieval Experience
(Language: English)
Omolara Dolapo Olatubosun, Department of Foreign Languages, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Nigeria
Index terms: Archaeology - Artefacts, Architecture - Secular, Language and Literature - French or Occitan, Language and Literature - Other
Paper 1011-cEmotion and Gesture in Malory's Elaine of Astolat: Shrieking, Complaining, and Moaning to Ladies
(Language: English)
Sue Ellen Holbrook, Department of English, Southern Connecticut State University
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Women’s Studies

Abstract paper -a: Embarrassment is most visibly coded on the body in blushing, a somatic gesture over which the will has no power. In this paper, I will continue my exploration of Old English embarrassment by focusing on the gesture of blushing. Blushing is frequent in the psalms and I will examine Old English psalter glosses and manuscript illustrations, where blushing is a marker of shame and of anger, then examine the famous blush in Apollonius of Tyre. I will conclude that the study of gesture in a past culture can cast surprising insight on nuance and tone in an apparently familiar literature.

Abstract paper -b:Emotional intelligence encompasses a set of interrelated skills and processes. Since face is the primary canvas used to express distinct emotions non-verbally, the ability to read facial expressions is particularly vital, and thus a crucial component of emotional intelligence. This paper therefore details how facial expressions served social functions in the Middle Ages, particularly within the French communities. Our data revolved around the medieval French sculptures and paintings. We also account for some basic expressions that were developed, maintained, and preserved through such means. Our overall objective is to showcase with vivid examples that emotional intelligence is not a new concept.

Abstract Paper -c: In keeping with the conference theme, I consider Elaine of Astolat in Malory's Morte D'Arthur, the only lover Malory shows us dying for love. Pointing out that shrieks are rare vocalizations in Malory, I demonstrate the parallel between Elaine's shrieks and swoons and Lancelot's as somatic expressions of pain in its various colorations, from shock and fright to pity. Elaine's complaints include her formal letter of complaint, which Malory has read in, I argue, a court of love scene he has invented. Although this legal-like bull is a request for reparation from Lancelot, Elaine also makes her 'moan' to 'all ladies' in an ambiguous passage I resolve by pointing to related complaints in women's voices, such as those in the Assembly of Ladies and Christine de Pizan's Book of the Duke of True Lovers, to show that the effect of love paramours on women is the concern of women. Moreover, I argue that the facial expression of smiling as Elaine lay dead in the barge that brought her to Arthur's court is evidence that we should hear the emotion of serenity in the letter as Elaine exonerates Lancelot yet obliges him to offer her mass-penny. This funerary offering is a social gesture of deep cultural meaning, first enacted for Elaine and then repeated for Gawain and for Guenevere as a means of keeping the silence of death at bay and giving order in an Arthurian world filling with hate and inestimable grief in which Elaine's story affords not only what some call pathos but also an interlude of hopefulness.