Thursday, August 24, 2017
The current decade in medieval studies, both literary and historical, has brought what has been characterized as the “affective turn.” It problematizes our understanding of past emotions and feelings in the light of new research into biological and psychological universals, while remaining aware that, within what Barbara Rosenwein has characterized as “emotional communities”, emotion and behavior is historically contingent. What then can various kinds of texts and artifacts produced across medieval European society tell us about kinship and its conceptualizations, and what kinds of theoretical frameworks might be valid in reconstructing the implications of kin relationships in the pre-Christian, or imagined pre-Christian societies of a millennium ago? What can we know about how relatives behaved toward one another and how they felt about each other, or were expected to behave and feel according to the prevailing social norms? Where do literary scholars, historians, archaeologists, and philologists intervene in such large debates as biological essentialism versus social constructionism- what do we understand as “natural” within the family and what is produced by social conditioning? To open up, rather than to answer such questions, I discuss four texts that unsettle profoundly our ideas about what is “natural” within the family and how we expect mothers to behave toward and feel about their children.
(2013). “Revisiting the Poetic Edda”. Paul Acker, Carolyne Larrington (eds.). Routledge.
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