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IMC 2015: Sessions

Session 801: Nothing More than Feelings?: Anglo-Saxons on Emotions

Tuesday 7 July 2015, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Alice D. Jorgensen, School of English, Trinity College Dublin
Paper 801-aThe Materiality of Emotion in the Old English Genesis A
(Language: English)
Katherine Norcross, Department of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Index terms: Language and Literature - Old English, Mentalities
Paper 801-b'The Work of Giants': Nationalism and Nostalgia in the Old English Ruin
(Language: English)
Courtney Barajas, Department of English, University of Texas, Austin
Index terms: Daily Life, Language and Literature - Old English, Mentalities
Paper 801-cParental Feeling in the Exeter Book Riddles and Elsewhere in Old English Literature
(Language: English)
Harriet Soper, Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic, University of Cambridge
Index terms: Daily Life, Language and Literature - Old English, Mentalities

Paper -a:
This paper explores the relationship between affect and materiality in the Old English Genesis A. Narratives such as the Fall of the Angels and Cain's murder of Abel provide origin stories for emotions including sadness, fear, and anger, and describe the onset of these emotions in material terms linked to space, movement, and intense bodily expression. In this way these tales assert the fundamental physicality of emotion for the individual and the environment, nuancing our understanding of how Anglo-Saxons conceived of emotion and its effects in the world and in history.

Paper -b:
This paper will read the Old English poem The Ruin as representative of an attempt to craft a unified Anglo-Saxon identity through the construction of an idealized past which, I will argue, did not and could not exist. Indeed, it is the very impossibility of this idealized past which allows the poet to evoke such a strong sense of nostalgia in his audiences, both modern and medieval. This paper will also argue that, a nostalgic elegy and an attempt at national identity, The Ruin tells us more about the Anglo-Saxon worldview than many of its contemporaries, and as such deserves a place of privilege within the medieval canon.

Paper -c:
The notion of Anglo-Saxon parental sentiment is a loaded one after early commentators made claims of emotional indifference to offspring, predicated on assumed high infant mortality rates and large numbers of children per family. Following the recent efforts of archaeologists and historians to negotiate the evidence on which these claims were founded, this paper aims to advance the discussion by involving linguistic study complemented by close reading of key texts. The prevalence of the collocation agen bearn in Old English for example, including one particularly resonant usage in Riddle 9 ('cuckoo'), signals a sensitivity to blood ties which historical accounts of fosterage practices have often overlooked. The unique experience of biological parenthood emerges as central.