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Emotional Middle Ages: A Cultural History

A Discipline of History (with MEMS) seminar at The University of Western Australia.

Lorenzetti The Crucifixion Banner

Image: The Crucifixion (c.1320, detail) by Pietro Lorenzetti. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/2002.436

Date:   Wednesday 29 October 2014
Time:   11am
Venue: The University of Western Australia, Arts Seminar Room 1.33

Abstract: In this talk I would like to present the ideas of our new book co-authored with Damien Boquet, tentatively entitled The Emotional Middle Ages: A Cultural History of Emotions in the Medieval West, which will be published in French in 2015. Firstly I will argue that emotion as it is accessible to the medievalist historian is a cultural event or process, quite different of what psychologists say about emotion. In this book, which embraces the millennium of the western Middle Ages, our concern is to combine the intellectual history of emotions with the social history of emotions. Interested, on one hand, in historical theories of emotions which were always inserted in an anthropology, a vision of man as made up of body and soul, we try to analyze, on the other hand, the ways emotions were used or practiced in social communication and games.
Secondly I would like to argue that our emotional Middle Ages – which is only one vision about how emotions act during the period – is a Christian (cultural) history. Christian anthropology was built on the centrality of emotions, especially love and suffering: out of His great love, God came down and suffered in order to save humankind. The core of western Christianity was then built around God incarnate, expressing his emotions and offering himself as a model of life. This paradigm, deployed step by step all along the medieval period, determined the dominant features of the evidence on medieval emotions available for us.

Piroska Nagy is a professor of medieval history at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM).  From 2014 to 2017 she is also an International Partner Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.  Professor Nagy has previously taught at the Université Paris I, the Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, Université de Rouen and the Central European University. She is author of Le don des larmes au Moyen Age. Un instrument spirituel en quête d’institution, Ve-XIIIe siècle (Paris: Albin Michel, 2000) and co-author, with Damien Boquet, of Sensible Moyen Age. Une histoire culturelle des émotions et de la vie affective dans l'Occident médiéval, (Paris: Seuil, forthcoming in 2015).  With Damien Boquet in 2006, Nagy launched the first French research project on the history of emotions, EMMA, EMotions in the Middle Ages: and coedited with D. Boquet Émotions médiévales (2007); Le sujet des émotions au Moyen Âge (2009); Politiques des émotions au Moyen Âge (2010); La chair des émotions au Moyen Âge (2011).

Her current research centres on the relation between collective religious emotions in the medieval West and historical change.

For further information please contact:
Pam Bond:  pam.bond@uwa.edu.au