SPELL-30

Andreas Langlotz and Agnieszka Soltysik Monnet (eds.). Emotion, Affect, Sentiment: The Language and Aesthetics of Feeling. SPELL 30, 2014

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(available online one year after publication)

Bringing together experts from linguistics, medieval and modern literary studies, this volume offers a transhistorical look at the language and cultural work of emotion in a variety of written, oral and visual texts. Contributors engage with the recent so-called affective turn, but also examine the language and use of emotion from a variety of perspectives, touching on issues such as Romantic and Modernist aesthetics, the history of emotions, melodrama and the Gothic, emotional rhetoric, reception aesthetics, rudeness, swearing and attitudes to varieties of English.

Table of Contents

Introduction, 11

Nancy Armstrong (Durham, North Carolina)
When Sympathy Fails: The Affective Turn in Contemporary Fiction, 27

Stephanie Trigg (Melbourne, Australia)
Delicious, Tender Chaucer: Coleridge, Emotion and Affect, 51

Jonathan Culpeper (Lancaster, UK) et al.
Impoliteness and Emotions in a Cross-Cultural Perspective, 67

Daniel McCann (Oxford)
Feeling Dredeful: Fear and Therapy in The Scale of Perfection, 89

Elizabeth Kukorelly (Geneva)
The Affectionate Author: Family Love as Rhetorical Device in Eighteenth-Century Conduct Books for Young Women, 109

Enit Karafili Steiner (Lausanne)
Exuberant Energies: Affect in Vathek, Zofloya and The Giaour, 125

Sangam MacDuff (Geneva)
Joyce’s Transcendental Aesthetics of Epiphany, 143

Francesca de Lucia (Jinhua, China)
Awe, Terror and Mathematics in Don DeLillo’s Ratner’s Star, 163

Patricia Ronan (Lausanne)
Talk About Flipping Health Food: Swearing and Religious Oaths in Irish and British English, 177

Sarah Chevalier (Zurich)
Attitudes of Students in Switzerland Towards Varieties of English, 197

Miriam A. Locher (Basel) and Regula Koenig (Bern)
“All I could do was hand her another tissue” – Handling Emotions as a Challenge in Reflective Texts by Medical Students, 215

Agnieszka Soltysik Monnet (Lausanne)
Political Emotions: Civil Religion and Melodrama in Spielberg’s Lincoln, 237

Notes on Contributors, 257

Index of Names, 263

When Sympathy Fails: The Affective Turn in Contemporary Fiction

Nancy Armstrong

This essay considers how and to what effect contemporary novels – as demonstrated by Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go – are altering the generic form that traditionally elicits a sympathetic response. I focus on protagonists with inhuman features that make it all but impossible for us to imagine ourselves positioned as they are on the frontier where autobiography converges with biology, i.e., the organism’s endeavor to keep on living. Rather than attribute this change to another, ostensibly “real” event – say, the Holocaust or 9/11 – I turn to nineteenth-century fiction and social theory and identify a new form of affect that emerged alongside the biological redefinition of human life.


Delicious, Tender Chaucer: Coleridge, Emotion and Affect

Stephanie Trigg

New studies in the history of emotion are transforming, enriching and extending current humanities scholarship. Emotional responses to literary texts have the potential to constitute an important archive for the history of feeling. The literary reception of medieval texts, especially that of Chaucer, has been mined for its potential to track changes in style and taste within textual communities over time. Using William Reddy’s concept of the emotive utterance, this essay tests a key moment in Chaucer reception: Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s discourse about the affective experience of reading Chaucer. Such analysis of the critical archive can help us understand not just the history of Chaucer reception, but also the history of feeling about medieval literature, and the literature of the past.


Impoliteness and Emotions in a Cross-Cultural Perspective

Jonathan Culpeper, Gila Schauer, Leyla Marti, Meilian Mei and Minna Nevala

This study investigates the emotions one experiences when one participates in impolite discourses. Specifically, it addresses the question of whether different cultures experience different emotions in the light of discourses deemed impolite. We begin by discussing the nature of impoliteness, pointing out that key concepts such as face and sociality rights seem to be closely connected to particular emotions. We discuss the role of cognition in the mediation of emotion, arguing that it is essential in the explanation of impoliteness, and indeed cultural variation. We analyse 500 reports of impoliteness events generated by undergraduates based in England, Finland, Germany, Turkey and China. We extract emotion labels from our data and classify them into emotion groups. Our results suggest that there is less cultural variation at higher level emotion categories, but more at lower level. For example, our Chinese and Turkish data suggests that our informants contrast with the other datasets in experiencing sadness to a greater degree.


Feeling Dredeful: Fear and Therapy in
The Scale of Perfection

Daniel McCann

Fear, as understood by medieval medicine, is a dangerous and potentially lethal passion of the soul that ought to be avoided. Yet while both academic medical texts and vernacular regimens of health stress the dangers of fear, medieval theology holds a very different opinion. As popular devotional materials and complex theological treatises make clear, fear is uniquely suited to promote the ultimate health of the soul – its salus and union with God. This paper will explore how medieval theology reconfigures fear as a passion of the soul that edifies and promotes health. Focusing upon the connection between emotion, medicine and religious literature in late-medieval England, the paper will explore drede – or fear – and its therapeutic uses in Walter Hilton’s The Scale of Perfection. This text is remarkable not simply for its widespread dissemination, but also for its sophisticated comments regarding drede’s utility. It identifies drede as a means of altering the soul in specific and highly desirable ways, as an initial means of returning the soul to God by promoting the key virtue of kenosis or mekenesse within the very construction of the soul itself.


The Affectionate Author: Family Love as Rhetorical Device in Eighteenth-Century Conduct Books for Young Women

Elizabeth Kukorelly

Eighteenth-century conduct manuals for young women did all they could to obtain their readers’ compliance with the conduct rules they laid down; one way in which they did this was to deploy familial affection as a rhetorical device. Although at first glance this may seem to be an expression of companionate family love, a closer look shows how affection is systematically exchanged for obedience, and thus serves to maintain hierarchical power difference. Nevertheless, the use of an affectionate rhetoric can be read as evidence of limited emancipation for young women, since rather than commanded to obey, they are enjoined to comply with, the conduct rules laid down in the texts. The love of parents for their children was considered to be entirely natural, and natural parental love was seen to obtain in return, not filial love, but respect and gratitude. Eighteenth-century conduct books transform affection into advice through the work of writing; girls are expected to transform gratitude into good conduct through the work of reading. The respective labours of writing and reading make the raw materials of affection and gratitude into exchangeable commodities: books on the print market, and young women on the marriage market. In this essay, I look at how a group of epistolary familial conduct books, each of which is posited as being written from an affectionate family member to a daughter or a niece, uses love in order to obtain good conduct.


Exuberant Energies: Affect in Vathek, Zofloya and
The Giaour

Enit Karafili Steiner

This essay discusses affectivity in three Romantic texts: William Beckford’s Vathek (1787), Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya; or, The Moor: A Romance of the Fifteenth Century (1806) and Lord Byron’s The Giaour, a Fragment of a Turkish Tale (1813). These texts have in common a symbiosis of Gothic tenor and Oriental features and it is by virtue of this conflation that I discuss them together. The essay considers the ways in which this synergy bears on the representations of the emotions, whereby the emphasis lies on the emotions’ political and aesthetic significance at the turn of the eighteenth century. I argue that the affect dynamics of the protagonists of these works embodies a vehement defiance of inherited institutions, in particular the family and the domestic fiction that promoted its social centrality. More importantly, because this defiance expresses itself through an exuberance of visceral and less sociable emotions, one can read the conjunction of the Gothic and Oriental as an aesthetic enclave which resists the social integration and disciplining propagated in the domestic realism that dominated British eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury literature.


Joyce’s Transcendental Aesthetics of Epiphany

Sangam MacDuff

The modern literary epiphany is usually regarded as a subjective, secular experience, but I argue that Daedalus’s theory of epiphany in Stephen Hero constitutes an aesthetics of transcendence. Epiphanies traditionally present divine apparitions, and Daedalus’s definition of epiphany as a “sudden spiritual manifestation” strongly suggests a transcendental event. In contrast to traditional theophanies, though, his theory draws on the poetics of Wordsworth and Shelley, who reimagine the epiphany as a rapturous, but immanent, experience of the sublime. In doing so, they internalise the epiphany, but from an Idealist perspective, the Romantic revelation remains a transcendental moment in which the Godlike infinitude of nature and/or the mind is shown forth. Indeed, Wordsworth’s epiphanies have all the hallmarks of the Kantian sublime, so that Kant’s “Analytic of the Sublime” can be used to understand a Romantic aesthetics of transcendence. If Daedalus’s theory is essentially Romantic, it follows that Kant’s aesthetics also illuminate Stephen Hero, but I argue that they do so in a different way to Wordsworth, by opening up the possibility of a new transcendence, not in the wonder of the starry heavens or the moral law within, but in the sublimity of language itself.


Awe, Terror and Mathematics in Don DeLillo’s
Ratner’s Star

Francesca de Lucia


This article explores the role played by emotions, particularly those related to awe and fear, in Don DeLillo’s Ratner’s Star (1976), a novel focusing on scientific research whose protagonist, Billy Twillig, is a teenage mathematical genius. Following Billy’s adventures in a research centre peopled by grotesque characters, Ratner’s Star bears the influence both of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books and of E. T. Bell’s popular history of mathematics Men of Mathematics. My essay deals first of all with how DeLillo represents the process of creative release brought forth by scientific discovery, rendering it in terms of intuition and almost mystical ineffability. Subsequently, both positive and negative emotions associated with mathematics are analyzed using critical tools drawn from the fields of psychology and philosophy. These suggest that awe is an intrinsically ambivalent emotion, something which emerges in DeLillo’s descriptions of attitudes towards mathematics. It can also be useful to consider DeLillo’s representation of mathematical research within conceptions of the sublime based on Kant and Burke. The article concludes with an analysis of the climactic final scene of the novel, which contrasts apocalyptic views of the “death of science” with a less rigid, and ultimately redemptive perspective which is open to error, correction and change.


Talk About Flipping Health Food – Swearing and Religious Oaths in Irish and British English

Patricia Ronan

This paper focuses on emotional expressions in Irish English in comparison with British English. More specifically, it examines the use of two categories of high-frequency expressives: religious oaths and expletives related to bodily functions. The data on which the investigation is based stems from the two relevant components of the International Corpus of English, ICE Ireland and ICE Great Britain and reveals strong differences in frequency and in the contexts of the use of both religious expressions and particularly of expletives of bodily function. It is argued that in the Irish data expressives like God, Christ and Jesus play a stronger role than in the British data because the cultural importance of religion is still stronger in Ireland than in England. Expletives based on bodily functions, especially f-based swearwords, are highly frequent in Irish English without having an obvious counterpart in British English. The higher frequency in Irish English is also paralleled by a larger pragmatic spread. The reason for the higher frequency in Irish English is explained as a marker of social bonding in Irish culture as compared with British culture.


Attitudes of Students in Switzerland Towards Varieties of English

Sarah Chevalier

This paper explores attitudes of students in Switzerland towards different varieties of English. These students, just like native speakers of English, are increasingly exposed to different national and regional varieties through the media and travel. It is therefore postulated that they will also be affected by the phenomenon that Mugglestone has observed among native speakers, namely the “rise of the regional” (273). Accordingly, one hypothesis investigated is that Swiss students will not overwhelmingly consider British English as the most desirable variety to speak despite the fact that it is traditionally the national variety of English taught in schools. Instead, they will have different preferences, influenced by where they have spent time abroad and thus by emotional attachments formed towards a particular national variety. Further, it is hypothesised that when students only consider the English spoken in Britain they will no longer generally favour non-regional Received Pronunciation, the traditional prestige accent in Swiss schools. Rather, for some students the class associations of this variety will create negative affective dispositions. Results support these hypotheses and reveal two further tendencies. The first is that American English and British English are equally popular while the second is that among British varieties students favour a regional variety which traditionally has not been associated with overt prestige, namely the English spoken in London.


All I could do was hand her another tissue” – Handling Emotions as a Challenge in Reflective Texts by Medical Students

Miriam A. Locher and Regula Koenig

In some medical teaching institutions, students have to partake in compulsory training in communication skills. They are required to demonstrate good listening skills, to repeat, mirror and summarize information, structure an interview and use open and closed questions. They are also informed that they will be confronted with their own and their patients’ emotions during a consultation and they are asked to develop methods of signaling empathy. This essay reports on data collected from medical students at a British university who wrote a reflective text in which they explore their communicative behavior in connection with a memorable encounter with a patient. While they are prompted to think about how they felt during their encounter and hence the mention of emotions is frequent in the texts, our thematic content analysis reveals that some of the students choose the topic of handling emotions during a patient encounter as particularly noteworthy. We observe that students are affected by the positive and negative emotional stance of the patients and draw on an impressive scope of emotion words. When creating an emotional stance in their text, students draw on verbal cues and they use language to describe vocal, body, physiological and facial cues. They also enact emotions in constructed dialogue.


Political Emotions: Civil Religion and Melodrama in Spielberg’s Lincoln

Agnieszka Soltysik Monnet

This essay focuses on how Spielberg’s film engages with and contributes to the myth of Lincoln as a super-natural figure, a saint more than a hero or great statesman, while anchoring his moral authority in the sentimental rhetoric of the domestic sphere. It is this use of the melodramatic mode, linking the familial space with the national through the trope of the victim-hero, that is the essay’s main concern. With Tony Kushner, author of Angels in America, as scriptwriter, it is perhaps not surprising that melodrama is the operative mode in the film. One of the issues that emerges from this analysis is how the film updates melodrama for a contemporary audience in order to minimize what could be perceived as manipulative sentimental devices, observing for most of the film an aesthetic of relative sobriety and realism. In the last hour, and especially the final minutes of the film, melodramatic conventions are deployed in full force and infused with hagiographic iconography to produce a series of emotionally charged moments that create a perfect union of American Civil Religion and classical melodrama. The cornerstone of both cultural paradigms, as deployed in this film, is death: Lincoln’s at the hands of an assassin, and the Civil War soldiers’, poignantly depicted at key moments of the film. Finally, the essay shows how film melodrama as a genre weaves together the private and the public, the domestic with the national, the familial with the military, and links pathos to politics in a carefully choreographed narrative of sentimentalized mythopoesis.

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