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Title: Finding joy in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde
Author: Kaempfer, Lucie
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 4116
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis aims at finding joy in a poem long celebrated for its vivid representation and exaltation of sorrow. Yet joy forms the climactic centre of the poem. This sensual and amorous joy has often been dismissed by critics as ironic, immoral or vain in light of the poem's Christian ending. Positive affect has therefore never been taken seriously as a crucial and shaping force in the poem. This thesis rectifies that and argues for the centrality of joy in the poem's construction of language, themes, and characters. This project also makes space for joy in the field of emotion studies, where positive affect is also glaringly absent. In medieval studies, this can be explained by the uncertainty about whether joy, in medieval culture, is a physical emotion, an affective state, a philosophical value, or a spiritual destination. The study of joy in literature therefore has to take this uncertainty into account and be ready to recalibrate the definition of what an emotion is. In this thesis, I argue that to study joy in past literature, one needs to bring the study of emotion beyond the body and focus primarily on language and the literary medium itself. In the first chapter of this thesis, I study the lexis of joy-related words in Middle English and its use in Chaucer's corpus. This theoretical framework helps shape the contour of joy in the poem by delineating the different registers or fields of discourse to which the emotion belongs in Chaucer's writing. The second chapter of this thesis shows that characters, as well as the narratorial voice, are created through these modes of discourses and their attitude towards joy. In the third chapter, the body is explored in order to understand its use and importance in the writing of emotions in the poem. What surfaces is that Chaucer writes the body both materially and physiologically as well as metaphorically and socially. The body of joy is primarily the latter. Finally, the study of joy in Troilus and Criseyde ends with a close analysis of its grammar - verbal, temporal, spatial, poetic, figurative. This grammar can be idiosyncratic at times but also belong to broader cultural and theoretical discourses. Crucially, it constructs a joy which is exterior to the body by turning it into a place. Studying joy offers a new approach to the poem and opens a new area in the history of emotion; an area for the study of positive affectivity as distinct from embodied sorrow. Eventually, joy exceeds the very definition of emotion. My study redefines what a literary emotion is and, more specifically, how we determine and detect emotionality in Middle English writing. The poem's writing of joy is fragmented. Joy is expressed as disembodied and yet it is amorous and earthly; it is an emotion and yet it is exterior and objective. I argue that the poet exposes an earthly joy which goes beyond the humoural body and which is (a) good in itself - eventually joy is written as a value, but a felt value.
Supervisor: Barr, Helen Sponsor: Berrow Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literature, Medieval