April 6, 2012: First Fridays Speaker Series: "And Pity Grace Obtain: Affect in Chaucer's and Gower's Love"; Prof. Matthew Irvin, Sewanee: The University of the South
Please join us for our final First Friday Speakers Series event of the semester with Prof. Matthew Irvin, Chair of Medieval Studies and Assistant Professor of English at Sewanee: The University of the South.
Date: Friday, April 6, 2012
Time: 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Location: Hamilton Smith Hall, room 101
And Pity Grace Obtain: Affect in Chaucer's and Gower's Love
In the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth wrote that poetry is "the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions recollected in tranquility." For the English writers of the late 14th century, such tranquility might exist (perhaps as the result of a contemplative life), but even in that rare state, the remembrances of emotions past affect the writer and the reader, so that they might “with old woes new wail.” This paper will examine how Chaucer and Gower engage with the affect of pity in its erotic context. Pity (misericordia) is complicated by the fact that it is not simply a part of erotics but also a political virtue; it that valence, it must be rational as well as affective, and it can even belong to God, who cannot be affected. I argue that Gower and Chaucer construct affective, erotic poetry within a fragile dialectic of ratio and passio, in which the hierarchical and transcendent epistemologies of Cicero and Boethius are opposed by the immanent syncretism of Ovidian poetry. Focusing primarily on the ends of Gower’s Confessio Amantis and Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, I will suggest that the grace of tranquility is impossible to merit, but pity suggests a potential moment of Christian poetic synthesis. In contrast to Dante’s own synthetic project, which itself is dependent upon pity, Gower and Chaucer harbor more substantial doubts about obtaining such poetic union. This, I hope to suggest, might depend upon the growth of nominalism in scholastic theology.
You can learn more about Prof. Irvin and his research interests on the Sewanee faculty website: Matthew W. Irvin/English Department
This event is free and open to the public. Presented with the support of the Edmund G. Miller Fund. For more information, please contact the UNH English Department: (603) 862-1313.