IMC 2020: Sessions

Session 310: Virtues and Vices: Social Norms, Emotions, and Their Uses in Medieval Texts

Monday 6 July 2020, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Stephen Spencer, Institute of Historical Research, University of London
Paper 310-aAtheism and the Emotions in the Long 12th Century
(Language: English)
Keagan Brewer, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, University of Sydney
Index terms: Lay Piety, Mentalities, Religious Life
Paper 310-bAnger and Its Role in the Chronicle of Fredegar
(Language: English)
Aviya Taitelbaum, Department of General History Bar Ilan University
Index terms: Historiography - Medieval, Social History
Paper 310-cFrom Rebellious Subjects to Lancastrian Kings: Emotional Borders in Shakespeare’s Henriad
(Language: English)
Debora de Benedetto e Silva, Independent Scholar São Paolo
Index terms: Geography and Settlement Studies, Performance Arts - Drama

Paper -a:
One way in which medievalists have tended to draw borders around the Middle Ages is by avoiding the term ‘atheism’. The word ‘atheism’ is first attested in English in the 16th century, and there is no medieval Latin or vernacular equivalent. Nobody in the Middle Ages called themselves an atheist. The dominant Latin terms infidelitas and incredulitas denote unbelief or disbelief, with strong negative connotations akin to modern English ‘infidel’. Dorothea Weltecke wisely cautions us to carefully consider each use of such terms. In this paper, I will argue that atheism, which I take to mean disbelief in God or the supernatural realm entirely, was a subcategory of infidelitas, and that there were in fact atheists in medieval Europe. I will therefore support Tim Whitmarsh’s argument that atheism can manifest at any time and place out of a perceived disconnection between religious dogma and lived experience. Of course, atheists were strongly disincentivised from expressing their views in the Middle Ages. I therefore observe two trends in the texts: 1. Atheists sometimes hid their viewpoints and revealed them only when pressed into outbursts of anger or frustration; and 2. Atheists were sometimes extremely confident and declared their views regardless of the potential for persecution. Churchmen interpreted both as evil. It is hoped that this paper will encourage historians to consider atheism as a new lens for the study of medieval history among other post-medieval conceptual lenses.

Paper -b:
The social norms of the late Merovingian period considered as suitable certain emotions – such as anger – when its expressions remained within the acceptable emotional boundaries and damaging when it deviated from them. In the 7th century Chronicle of Fredegar, expressions of anger, ire and indignation appear frequently, sometimes as a necessary and even advisable reaction, usually when used in the application of justice. In other instances, they are perceived as an unfavorable response, mostly when they are provoked by personal offence. This paper will set out to explain how the author of the chronicle judged the actions of his protagonists by examining their attendant emotional terminology.

Paper -c:
An exile overthrows Richard II. A gadabout is his royal successor. Kingship made Henry Bolingbroke doubt his own legitimacy and his men’s loyalty. Exploring the borders of two worlds (royalty and commoners’ reality) made Prince Hal an improbable ruler. Both undergo ‘rites of passage’ (Gennep and Turner) in which old statuses are to be replaced. Drama captures the obscure moment individuals face when moving towards a yet unknown condition. From Richard II to Henry V, two medieval kings emerge. This paper focuses on the navigation through the frontiers that escape the frame of history and become emotions in Renaissance drama.