Civil Humans v. Animals

This extremely graphic and brutal representation of the Jews, reminds me of the presentation of the Jew in the previous text we read, The Prioress’ Tale. In these stories the Jews commit brutal acts of violence and are both times punished for their actions. In this particular text, the suffering of the Jew is graphically described in a way that makes them seem fiendish, reflecting the violent acts they commit. The poem justifies the stereotype of the Jew during this time as violent and destructive. On the other hand we see glimpses of human qualities here and there in the Jews but each time we are reminded of their inhumanity. By offering this teetering between human-animal representations the author offers a civil balance that forces the reader to consider the human qualities of them. At the same time the prologue plays a huge role throughout the poem as it sets the readers attitude towards the Jew as negative. With this attitude the reader side with the Christians who are also fallen as they go against the Christian doctrine to justify a wrong. It is interesting to see this dual view of both groups, highlighting their imperfection while pushing limits of their savagery, Christian and Jew.

Twisted Fate

In the introduction of The Testement of Cresseid, the longstanding question was posed of whether the author believe that Cresseid’s fate is well deserved or is he sympathetic to her plight. In my interpretation of the text, Henryson is sympathetic to Cresseid’s plight.  The poem seems to be written for the purpose of giving Cresseid the opportunity to redeem herself, and one must have pity to give such a chance. It is argued that The Testament was written as a warning to the medieval audience of how quickly fate can change, but Cressied is still doomed in a sense to live a lowly life, as a beggar. The only good that comes from this speculated ending is Cresseid’s redemption and her final encounter with Troilus. This ultimately gives medieval readers, who were familiar with Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, a peace of mind from knowing Cresseid’s fate. By keeping the odds against Cresseid, the poem is more easily accepted as a final fate rather than offering a happy ending that is too far removed from the orignal text. Though the poem relays an important message, it is my belief that the text ultimately gives Cresseid a chance at redeption spanning from the author’s own sympathy of her.

Understanding Affect

Trigg offers alternative ways to define emotion and affect in her essay. The one that stuck out most to me is “affect” as the modern day definition of “emotion.” I find it appealing because I never thought of affect as an emotion and never really understood the actually definition, but when compared to passion, emotion, feelings etc. I come to understand it as another way to describe feeling.

When Trigg defines affect as the modern word for emotion. I was surprised because I though it was an older word dealing with feeling because of the time period that we are studying as well as encountering the Affective Theory section of the course. She compares this to the older version of emotion that she defines as the passions, which was more familiar to me because I have done my own studies on the passions in literature.

After reading the essay I understand affect to be an feeling similar to emotion but at the same time Trigg offer different ways of defining affect that makes the actual meaning unclear, which supports her assertion that when studied within a certain context the meaning is up for interpretation. But overall, this study of feeling, passion, emotion, and affect help us to understand people and event of different time periods as the meanings change but the contexts to which they apply remain constant over time.

For the Love of Family

I’m curious about the back-story of the incestuous daughter: how she got to be incestuous and evil and how long the affair took place. Although the text is more of an example than an actual drama, I would like to know the context behind the daughter’s behavior. Did the father start his daughter with this behavior or did the fiends make the daughter approach her father?

Today we’d view the familial relationship of the daughter and her parents and look at things from a psychological view rather than a religious view. Instead of viewing the daughter’s sins, a psychological view would assess her childhood to pin point the origin of her flaw and unruly behavior. Based on the context she did not value family, which is illustrated in the murder of her parents and children, psychologically a situation from the past would be the source of the daughter’s behavior or attitude towards family. Comparatively, it can be argued that the fiends control over her is just that powerful to turn the daughter against her loved ones and children.

A curious moment is the poem is the daughter’s contrition. What was the cause of the heartbreak? Did finally see her misdeed from a human perspective or was it the bishops hesitance to properly address her confession unbearable? Although the poem offers a lesson its incompleteness leaves me guessing.

Competitive Envy

In her article, Envy and Exemplarity in the Book of Margery Kempe, Rosenfeld focuses on Kempe’s competitive nature in the secular community and the religious community. According to Rosenfeld, Kempe’s competitiveness is outlined in her behavior as she aims to have better material possession than her neighbors and in the religious community as she challenges religious leaders and compare herself to religious women. To further illustrate Kempe’s competitive nature, Rosenfeld reveals how the text is presented in a way that uplifts Kempe’s role as a saint even as this role is meant to be destroyed by others, their slander and scorn ultimately proving her to be the righteous, singular individual she aims to be. Though this may not be the purpose of Kempe’s structure, Rosenfeld’s presentation of it certainly holds up.

Normal “Heretic”

Kempe’s spiritual journey seemed to be a troublesome one as she struggles with being a committed saint. One thing I question is the reference to Kempe as a creature. Was that how she referred to herself or had the scribe chosen that terminology to describe her.

Unlike Julian of Norwich, Kempe lead a troublesome life as she internally struggle to live righteously, all the while going back and forth between sinner and saint until she made a vow. Even then she gave in to temptation. Weather Julian experience this constant struggle is not revealed but according to her text she made a vow and kept to it.

Kempe represents the everyday person who may desire to live righteously but gives in to temptation as quickly as it comes. She outwardly reflects the internal battle many of us have to do the right thing or do what makes us happy for the time. In this, Kempe ‘s behavior is more realistic to me than Julian. Not to say Julian’s is not believable, just that it takes a great deal of will power that the average person does not posses.

Kempe’s peace in the midst of chaos and slander is remarkable and proves her to be changed in her ways. She was previously reckless in her comments to her loved ones but becomes calm, patient, and wise in her response to her enemies.

Visions of Passion

Julian of Norwich was extremely invested in her commitment to Christ as illustrated in her writings. It amazes me at the degree to which she recall the visions in the first chapter, but I wonder what the significance of the sixteen revelation. Why was that number so important in the first vision. In chapter two she specifically asks to incur the pain of God in hopes to be worthy of his affections if I interpreted the reading correctly. Her seclusion express the passion she has for Christ and the intensity of which she wishes to focus on that relationship. I’m unsure if she is afflicted at the point of asking for these pains or if she is sane. I find It interesting to read the details of her relationship with Christ and those visions.

Religious Symbolism

Dream of the Rood and Miracles of the Virgin are highly symbolic texts. The most noticeable symbol in Dream of the Rood is the cross or the tree, which is also symbolic of God and his suffering. Rather than highlighting the pain and suffering of the Lord The Dream of the Rood is more focused on the rood’s journey and response to the crucifixion. The cross sets a sorrowful tone in the tale as it evoke pity and in the end praise from the reader.

Symbolism in Miracles of the Virgin is the white lily flowers that are found in the throat of the male figures. I’m not sure of the significance of the flower, but I know it has a connection to the Virgin Mary and her purity. The last male figure is healed by the Virgin’s breast milk. There is some significance with the throat and the Virgin but Im not exactly sure what that is. Like The Dream of the Rood this poem focuses a religious figure other than God and her role in his life.

The Dreamer

The dreamer in Pearl is mesmerized by the ornamentation of the otherworldly place. His excitement distracts him from mourning the loss of his daughter. On the one hand this is good because he is momentarily relieved from his sorrow. On the other hand, one must question his values as material things make him forget such an important relationship. The dreamer’s distracted amazement at ornamentation raises question to weather he values material things over emotional connection, and further weather he misses Pearl because of her role as his daughter or her position as his most valuable jewel. Her name answers this question in a sense because a pearl is a precious, valuable jewel; from this we learn Pearl’s worth to her father, the dreamer. Though Peal was young when she died the dreamer never mentions any memorable moments, he simply describes her value and purity. To further address the dreamer’s values, when he finally sees Pearl in her maiden state, rather than being relieved by her happiness and well being he seems jealous that she rests peacefully in paradise while he laments her absence on earth, further emphasizing this misplacement of his values and highlighting his flaw. It difficult understanding the dreamer’s feeling toward his daughter at different moments in the text because he does not react as one would expect under these circumstances.

Young Chaucer

It is interesting how intricately woven together each story is to another. In the beginning of The Book of the Duchess, Chaucer presents different dreams inside of a larger story but strings them together in a way that flows smoothly. Although I am not exactly sure of the point of the shifts, it is nicely done for a young Chaucer.

I also want to note that as the stories shift, there is a contrast between chaos as beauty presented. The first time I noticed this was on page 14 as the narrator describes a beautiful nature scenery and songbirds, which is then interrupted by a deer hunt with knights on horse back and hunting dogs running through the woods, that he soon joins. After tiring of the deer hunt the narrator again illustrates a nature scene of perfect greenery with all types of deer, squirrels, and other beasts of the countryside, just before presenting a more melancholic scene of the knight in black lamenting the loss of his lady. In these few pages the narrator takes us on a small emotional journey. Where beauty is juxtapose to chaos and loss. The beauty in some way offering the reader a kind of relief from the sense of loss constantly presented throughout the dreams and the narrator’s own insomnia.

It’s interesting to see young Chaucer at work in comparison to The Canterbury Tales. I hesitate to say that this story is more fun in the way that it is presented. But then if I read The Canterbury Tales now I may have a newfound appreciation for it.