Tears, Sighs and Laughter – Medieval Studies. Conference at the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, 6-7 March 2014

Cette très belle conférence,  nous ne l’avons pas annoncée à l’avance parce qu’elle était entièrement secrète : elle est offerte, en surprise, au Professeur Olle Ferm, à l’occasion de sa retraite.

The purpose of this international and interdisciplinary symposium is to shed light  on   various  interpretational  problems  concerning  affections and emotions as  expressed in medieval literature and art. The  theme of the symposium – Tears, Sighs and Laughter – thus connects with the vigorous research on emotions and affectivity in the humanities and the social sciences visible in the last decades. With  this letter we would like to invite you to participate in the symposium by giving a paper on this theme, based on your own research.
Of the three expressions mentioned in the theme, laughter seems to have attracted most attention. In studies on medieval laughter it has often been connected with humour   but  has  also  been  shown  to  function  on  many  levels and  be  a manifestation of a range of emotions besides joy and happiness: fear, superiority, relief or embarrassment to name but a few. Only more recently, corresponding studies begin to appear on other forms of emotional expression such as tears, which likewise represent various emotional states as for instance bliss and longing for the heavenly kingdom. Sighs and wailing, to  mention  other  examples, can express dejection, desire or longing. Research could also take the actual affection as  its starting point, as does a recent project in Sweden, which focuses on desire and its configurations. Desire, as all emotions, can take many forms and during the Middle Ages, depending on  its object – the world or God  – it should be checked or encouraged. »
Through this symposium we wish to obtain a wide perspective on various forms of emotional expression, their interpretation, function and meaning. Questions that could be addressed are for instance:
How are emotions  such as despair, desire, apathy, sorrow and joy expressed in medieval art and literature?
What kind of influence does medieval culture exert on emotional expressions?
How  are emotional expressions transferred from one cultural sphere to another? Can they be transferred?
Is there a difference in attitude as regards for example  laughter  and tears between different socio-cultural strata in the Middle  Ages? Does gender come into play here?
What place do emotional expressions have in medieval rituals?

Voici le programme :  TSL Program + abstracts