Publication details [#8588]

Palmer, James M. 2002. Narratives of healing: Emotion, medicine, metaphor, and late-medieval poetry and prose. West Lafayette, Ind.. 207 pp.


As Barbara Broken has noted, very little attention has been given to the history of emotions other than love. Posing the question "What is an emotion?" in a book of the same title, Calhoun and Solomon attempt to present a history of emotion by providing selections from writers over the centuries. The modern and early modern eras are clearly well represented; the Middle Ages, ignored. The editorial skip from Aristotle to Descartes wrongfully implies that little was written on the topic in medieval times, and that emotions were not taken very seriously by medical, philosophical, ecclesiastical, and secular authorities and authors during the time period. By placing John Gower's 'Confessio Amantis', Chaucer's 'Merchant's Tale' and 'Troilus and Criseyde', and Diego de San Pedro's 'Cárcel de Amor' in their specific medical and affective contexts, this dissertation addresses the importance of emotion to medieval authors. If what I do can be claimed to fit under one defining rubric, that rubric is this: an exploration of the medical (materialist) understanding of the emotions and the importance of emotions (and emotion metaphors) for one's bodily and spiritual health. To this end, the Introduction presents an overview of various aspects of medieval affective theory, largely from a medical perspective. I explain the emotions as part of the nonnaturals, thereby offering a medical explanation of emotion, including the influence of the humors on affect; the metaphors for conceptualizing emotion; the relationship between emotions and the vices and virtues; the importance of imagination for affect, and affect for memory; and cures for emotional maladies. These particular aspects of medicine and emotion are addressed in the rest of the dissertation. (James Palmer)