In my second term module ‘Public and Private Emotions’ run by Dr Antonella Liuzzo Scorpo, we use a range of source material to study medieval perceptions and expressions of emotion: a field of inquiry which has recently received significant scholarly attention. We address themes such as love, friendship, hatred, fear and examine whether, and to what extent, concepts of private and public can be applied to a pre-modern era.
As 21st-century historians, we must be able to engage with a range of different audiences through various means of media; so, for our first assessment, we were asked to produce a creative source analysis that could engage a modern-day audience in the discussion of a key theme from the module. This task aimed to enhance our ability to interpret, analyse and present primary source material and provided a refreshing change from our usual essay-based assessments!
I chose to use Facebook as a platform to present a modern interpretation of Guibert de Nogent’s twelfth-century autobiography, Monodies. I think that the selectivity of Facebook networks calls into question the definition of concepts such as ‘public’ and ‘private’, and demonstrates the comparable nature of exclusive twenty-first-century virtual ‘friendship’ networks and the self-regulated twelfth-century Christian communities which are prevalent topic of discussion in Monodies. Similarly, the format of Facebook allows for a mix of both introspection and interaction, which Guibert demonstrates in his autobiography by simultaneously engaging with personal memories and interacting with contemporary twelfth-century theological debates.
I chose fear as the filter through which to discuss ideas of identity and otherness, and the divisions between mind and body in Guibert’s emotional autobiography. My analysis of Monodies aimed to highlight Guibert’s retrospective engagement with fear as an internal feeling, an emotional response and a socio-religious construction. I studied Monodies for my undergraduate dissertation, and I thought I was quite familiar with Guibert’s personal anecdotes; yet, examining this autobiography in light of a more nuanced historical discipline such as the study of emotions has radically developed my understanding of Monodies while simultaneously giving cause to question everything I thought I already knew!
Guibert de Nogent. Monodies, Joseph McAlhany and Jay Rubenstein (trans.)(New York, 2011).
Fleming, John V. ‘Medieval European Autobiography’. In, Maria DiBattista and Emily O. Wittman (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Autobiography (Cambridge, 2015), 35-48.
Kane, Bronach. ‘Social Representations of Memory and Gender in Medieval England’. Integrative Psychological and Behavioural Science 46 (2012), 544-558.
Rosenwein, Barbara H. Emotional Communities in the Early Middle Ages (New York, 2007).
Rosenwein, Barbara H. ‘Worrying about Emotions in History’, American Historical Review 107 (2002), 821-845.
Scott, A. & Kosso. Fear and Its Interpretations in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Turnhout, 2002).