Carolyne Larrington
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Words, taxonomies and translations
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This chapter focuses on the basic material of literary creation: words. It traces the most important and productive emotion words in Old English and describes the expansion of the semantic field in Middle English, with borrowings from Old Norse and French. If there is a distinctively Middle English emotional repertoire, there are also sub-repertoires: Northern English has its own subset of emotion words, drawing particularly on Old Norse borrowings. Alliterative poetry, typical of Northern literary production, creates associative networks of word clusters with the same initial sound that have distinct emotional valences. The chapter then builds on Rosenwein’s lists of words in circulation in particular emotional communities to ask how far such catalogues can map the systems in operation within specific vernacular genres, and how to capture the dynamics of change in emotion discourse. Rosenwein’s methodology for dealing with words in vernacular texts is considered and critiqued. Taxonomies such as the seven deadly sins, deployed by Gower and Langland, in personification allegory, show vernacular analysis of emotion-related dispositions and behaviours. They enable us to reconstruct the emotional associations that invite audiences to consider how everyday, socially embedded behaviour adheres to or transgresses their own and their community’s emotion norms. Translated texts, mainly chivalric romances, translated from varieties of French, reconfigured the ways in which medieval readers understood literary conventions and available emotion behaviours and practices, introducing new kinds of sensibility and new contexts for feelings.

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