How can one know if a woman is honourable? In medieval culture, female honour
rested most heavily on one thing: sexual continence, or chastity. But how could
one be absolutely sure if a given woman was chaste? Practising Shame
demonstrates how, in the literature of later medieval England, female honour is
a matter of emotional practice and performance – it requires learning how to
‘feel’ in a specific way. In order to safeguard their chastity, women were
encouraged to cultivate hypervigilance against the possibility of sexual shame
through a combination of inward reflection and outward comportment. Often termed
‘shamefastness’, this practice was believed to reinforce women’s chastity of
mind and body, and to communicate that chastity to others through a combination
of conventional gestures. At the same time, however, medieval anxiety concerning
the potentially misleading nature of appearances rendered these gestures suspect
– after all, if good conduct could be learned, then it could also be
counterfeited. Practising Shame uncovers the paradoxes and complications that
emerged out of the emotional practices linked to female honour, as well as some
of the unexpected ways in which those practices might be reappropriated by male
authors. Written at the intersection of literary studies, gender studies, and
the history of emotions, this book transforms our understanding of the ethical
construction of femininity in the past and provides a new framework for thinking
about honourable womanhood now and in the years to come.
), and a woman whose mature attitude to sex contrasts with those of the men (Ann, an ex-actress and Graham’s second wife). The main themes of the novel concern the relationship between reason and passion at a particular point in social history, advocating how the 1960s changed sexual manners but not feelings, and emphasising how difficult it can be to control primitive but unwanted emotions.
The action of the novel takes place in 1981 when Graham is 42 and Ann is 35. This is four years after they first met at a party in 1977, when Graham was
because his emotion is never particular, never in direct line of vision,
never focused’, and, in support of this, he quotes from ‘The
Triumph of Time’:
There lived a singer in France
By the tideless, dolorous, midland sea.
In a land of sand and ruin and gold
There shone one woman, and
The failure and success of a Swedish film diversity initiative
Mara Lee Gerdén
emotions can be articulated, and by whom –and materialised the figure of
what I term ‘the invulnerable body of colour’, i.e. the illusory but common
belief that a brown or black body is less sentient/sensitive than a white body.
Thereby, it enabled a reconceptualising of pain as a ‘racial emotion’, which
I consider as one of the major outcomes of the Fusion Programme. This
reconceptualisation in the context of the arts allows a further exploration of
how to avoid the commodification of ‘the pain of others’ (Sontag, 2003) and
instead the turning to a
and on another side by the possibility of violence, female shamefastness remains an unfinishable work-in-progress in medieval literature.
Practice and the history of emotions
Shamefastness is not an emotion, but is rather a disposition towards and susceptibility to shame: a state of vigilance that simultaneously guards one against shame and makes one more sensitive to it. Medieval literature reveals shamefastness to be a mandatory matter of practice for honourable women, something to be interiorized through reflection and
come forward and spray-paint their crimes on the screens.
CL : And yet, despite that there are also moments of great hope and affirmation in Genet’s plays. Perhaps, it’s to do with the colour and the scale?
UL : For all the difficult emotions felt by the actors in The Blacks Remixed , there was a real sense of solidarity and affection in the Theatre Royal during the run. There is a cathartic process at work in Genet. Despite all the anger and aggression, the play takes you somewhere else, somewhere more positive. That doesn’t mean that it stops you questioning
of the thoughts and teachings of the academic and philosopher G.E. Moore led
them to form lasting friendships, became the kernel of what would become
labelled ‘the Bloomsbury Group’. It was, as one academic described, ‘a nucleus
from which civilisation has spread outwards’.2 This rippling effect, though temporarily dammed by the keenly-felt constrictions of the war, would continue to
flow outwards through the twentieth century, inspiring, as is well known, much
analysis and interpretation along the way.
The emotions of Bloomsbury mirrored to a large
meant a hierarchy of form. Poetry as an emotional
pamphleteering. As a placebo. The difficulty for the lyric in conveying
‘emotional’ content is that it cannot be effective if the material is not
carefully controlled. The looser this control, the less we can accept the
genuineness of the emotions. Anti-war poetry in particular relies on the
credibility of the emotional distress in the face of war’s horror. Does
Leon Gellert say what we think he says in ‘If You Were Here’? Or is he
displacing, insofar as this poem is actually an extended metaphor for
the isolation and
disengagement that earned Huxley’s fiction its reputation for
‘cynicism’ has its roots in the formative effect of extreme
and tragic emotion on a sensitive nature. However, the glib critical
label of ‘cynicism’ – ‘scepticism’ is a
more accurate term – fails to perceive that there is a good deal
of often painful emotion in Huxley’s fiction; it is just not
integrated within its discursive economy. Henceforth
The terror, guilt and helplessness of this nightmare, from Joe’s
formative adult years, are the components of his social self –
understood as an identity in which the balance between self- and
communal interest is more than the product of simple pragmatism.
The terror is simultaneously fear for oneself, but also horror at the
(shared) sense of human frailty; and it is that sense of empathy – an
emotion that precedes rational thought – that engenders the feeling of
pathos, and the guilt and helplessness that go with it.
Of course, one can seek to supply a