Carolyne Larrington
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Fifteenth-century feelings
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This chapter draws together two major developments in the depiction of literary emotions by the beginning of the fifteenth century, bringing into focus two contested achievements of Middle English literature: its discovery of fiction and the emergence of interiority in literary writing. It argues that towards the end of the medieval period the ways in which authors addressed literary emotion had undergone substantial change. They responded to the increasing interest in other humans as thinking, feeling subjects, offering enhanced access to interiority: not just emotions, but also thoughts, memories and motivations. The long-form romance (in both poetry and prose) and the advent of printing create space for the expanded exploration of emotion through longer dialogues, more direct psychonarration and detailed somatic affective display. These works would reach wider audiences and communicate the genre’s primary emotional scripts to an expanded range of social ranks; romance’s close association with historical or pseudohistorical texts worked to legitimate the production of these popular works. The fifteenth century also sees the emergence of ‘autofiction’; fictive selves are written into poems by Thomas Hoccleve and in the very different Book of Margery Kempe, creating feeling subjects whose emotionality authorises the creation of texts and opens up for the audience new possibilities for their own emotional self-fashioning across diverse social and devotional settings.

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