Patterns of Vernacular Affectivity in Late Medieval and Protestant England | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh

Patterns of Vernacular Affectivity in Late Medieval and Protestant England

March 30, 2013 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Barbara Rosenwein

If the purpose of "Speaking in Tongues" is to bridge the divide between medieval and early modern studies, then one issue that must be faced is whether there was a great change in emotions or affectivity from one period to the other. Certainly the prevailing thesis, hanging on the coattails of Norbert Elias's Civilizing Process, is that there was a great change--and it can be summed up as the transition from medieval emotionality to modern restraint.

In this paper, I take issue with that thesis by looking specifically at one form of emotionality, "affective piety." I argue that affective piety, as exemplified by Margery Kempe, continued to some degree, at least among some groups, even in the Protestant world. My focus is on the testimonials of the members of a mid-17th century "gathered church""-that is, a Puritan church-near London. Both Margery and the Puritans wrote in the vernacular, though of course that vernacular changed over time. Thus my exploration is indeed about "speaking in tongues. " I shall conclude with the thought that there are more continuities between medieval and early modern religious emotions than most historians have admitted.

This event is part of a yearlong series, “Speaking in Tongues,” organized by the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh and supported by a collaborative research grant from the University of Pittsburgh’s Humanities Center.

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