"The wrongs that I have done thee stir / Afresh within": Motion and Emotion in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale by Piers Brown
What is the relationship between motion and emotion in early modern thought? In the early-nineteenth century, emotion replaced an older discourse of passions and affections, but this change is prefigured by a long-standing connection between feeling and motion. Most obviously – and predominantly in Shakespeare's plays, as in most other writers – the verb 'to move' and the process of 'moving' is used in a rhetorical sense of experiencing or inducing emotion. This Latinate term, which was rarely used in the modern sense of abstract movement, existed alongside a more expansive, and more concrete Anglo-Saxon vocabulary of affective change registered on the surface of the body, particularly swaying, shaking and stirring. Here, I am interested in two problems: first, how the idea of emotion as motion which originates in philosophy and rhetorical theory is related to vernacular andpopular understandings of emotion. Second, how the discourse of 'stirring' registers the fragile and obscure origins of feeling, which depends not on Galenic humoral theory, but on Aristotelian natural philosophy. This approach reveals the connection between the problematic moment early in Shakespeare's play when Leontes first becomes agitated, and the emotional final scene, the statue of Hermione moves for the first time, and those watching her – both characters and audience – are themselves moved.
February 27, 2013
2:30 p.m., 130 Colson Hall