Carolyne Larrington
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Embodiment and action
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Emotion is at times foregrounded by psychonarration and manifested in utterances; more frequently its presence is indicated by somatic indices: by embodied responses and deliberate gestures. This chapter defines ‘affect’, somatic sensations that function at a preconscious level, and continues by exploring how medieval emotion is written on bodies, thus revealing interior emotional states. The cardiocentric model, in which emotion is understood as focused on the heart, is outlined; affect theory is utilised to unpack how medieval writers understood physical manifestations of emotion as central to contemporary theoretical formulations of the role of will in emotion, as both preconscious and yet bound up in complex cognitive interactive processes. Characters faint, change colour or fall silent, behaviours which register different kinds of feeling as in play. Turning pale, for example, can express fear or anger: precisely which emotion is at stake is crucial for the status of the chivalric male figure; trembling can be equally ambiguous. Certain behaviours – laughing, weeping – fall between the involuntary and deliberate: women can weep on cue, it is suggested, and laughter rarely expresses happiness, but rather triumph. Bodies can also express emotion through deliberate behaviour in the form of gesture: kissing, kneeling, leading by the hand and smiling all indicate different kinds of emotion that is both felt and publicly performed. The strategic deployment of emotive indicia could trump the ‘natural’ movements of the humours and the spirits within the body, an understanding that problematises the connections between affect, will and motivation.

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