Research Stream


Andrew Lynch
The University of Western Australia

Katrina O'Loughlin
The University of Western Australia/ Brunel University

Stephanie Downes
The University of Melbourne

The Emotions in Medieval War Literature

This project examines how emotions involved in war are represented in writing of the medieval period. It also looks at how modern re-imaginings of the middle ages have treated war as an emotional subject.

in form of war

This project involves a study of the emotions/passions as represented in the medieval literature of war and peace, covering English, French and Latin materials from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries, with a further interest in modern medievalism’s reception and re-imagination of this material. The determinants of emotional life in medieval war and combat literature – whether in epic, history, romance, manual, treatise or moral reflection – are multiple and complex, since the emotions are an area of medieval thought where many discourses overlap, including the traditions of virtue, vice and sin, physiological, psychological and medical notions, and class- and gender-based ideologies. Classical and Christian authorities also provide a strong ethical context for medieval reading and representation of war, one which is sometimes forgotten in understandings of the ‘heroic’ or aristocratic masculine ethos. Lynch has discovered medieval war writing to be a trove of surprising emotional connections, for instance between melancholy and aggression, cowardice and ill will, or pity and ambition. Some specific findings emerging from his work so far include studies of: the relation between emotional disposition and military action in Arthurian literature; the intellectual and emotional structures of peace in a thirteenth-century history of Britain; emotional identity and community in twelfth-century French romance; and the significance of war in defining the medieval in modern histories written for children.


'Swords in Stones / Ladies in Lakes: revision and legendariness in Arthurian medievalism’, in Louise D’Arcens and Andrew Lynch, eds, International Medievalism and Popular Culture. New York: Cambria Press, 2014.

Stephanie Downes, Andrew Lynch and Katrina O’Loughlin, eds, Emotions and War: Medieval to Romantic Literature [Contracted, Palgrave Macmillan]

‘Action and emotion in the Arthurian world’, for Frank Brandsma, Carolyne Larrington and Corinne Saunders, eds, Arthurian Emotion: Voice, Mind, Body. [Contracted, Boydell and Brewer]