Ire and Peor In Chrétien's Chevalier de la Charrette. Lexical Network and Emotional System


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Late advances in neuroscience are piling up evidence supporting the idea that the understanding of emotion-related language is based on an embodied knowledge which makes it possible to recognize described events. Accordingly, investigations on emotion-related words in medieval arthurian novels should provide meaningful clues on the role of corresponding affective states in narrative descriptions and their expected appreciation among readers and audiences. The present study, which focuses on words ire and peor in Chevalier de la Charrette, is based on evidence supporting the idea that Chrétien de Troyes tends to cluster emotion words and locutions in consistent textual segments which describe emotionally-relevant circumstances and events. Evident co-occurrence makes it possible to identify and describe an emergent emotional system which underlies the thematic plan of the novel. In details, it will be shown that affective states defining the emotional system of medieval arthurian verse novels: 1) affect specific characters; 2) entail frequent reference to somatic correlates; 3) typically relate to descriptions of perceptual events; 4) underlay decision-making processes leading to purposeful intentional actions. Provided evidence supports the idea that the perspectivism of the medieval novel, which certainly affects character-specific perceptual point of view on narrated events, also applies to emotionally-relevant descriptions. Indeed, descriptions of emotional states differ on the basis of gender, age, rank and are consistent with the role the affected characters play in social context.

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Ire and Peor In Chrétien's Chevalier de la Charrette. Lexical Network and Emotional System

  1. 1. Anatole Pierre Fuksas Università di Cassino Ire and Peor in Chrétien’s Charrette Lexical Network and Emotional System La Sapienza, Università di Roma, 20. 11. 2013
  2. 2. Emotions, Decisions and Actions Human actions are understood as purposeful and intentional because they rely on an emotional appraisal of the environmental circumstances they respond to [1]. Indeed, actions can not be addressed as purposeful and intentional if their emotional fueling is lacking or unclear. Consequently, the intelligence of a text requires readers to recognize and properly process emotional correlates of a described sensory experience and/or the interceptive modulations [2] which necessarily underlay the planning of purposeful actions [3, 4, 5, 6]. 1) A. Damasio, Looking for Spinoza. Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, Orlando (FL), Harcourt, 2003. 2) A. D. Craig, “How do you feel? Interoception: the sense of the physiological condition of the body”, Nature Review Neuroscience 3 (2002), 655-666. 3) A. M. Glenberg, D. A. Havas, R. Becker and M. Rinck, “Grounding language in bodily states: The case for emotion”, The grounding of cognition: The role of perception and action in memory, language, and thinking, eds. R. Zwaan and D. Pecher (Cambridge 2005), 115-128. 4) A. M. Glenberg, B J. Webster, E. Mouilso, D. Havas and L. M. Lindeman, “Gender, Emotion, and the Embodiment of Language Comprehension”, Emotion Review 1 (2009), 151-161, 151. 5) A. Havas, A. M. Glenberg and M. Rinck, “Emotion simulation during language comprehension”, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 14 (2007), 436-441, 436. 6) A. P. Fuksas, “Embodied Abstraction and Emotional Resonance in Chrétien's Chevalier de la Charrette”, Cognitive Philology, 4 (2011), 1-14 ( 00).
  3. 3. The Emergent Network The research plan aims at identifying the lexical network which describes the emotional system of a novel. The emotion-word peor/poor, mostly referring to proper “fear”, will be assumed as the cornerstone of a semantic network emerging from co-occurrence. Various degrees of syntactic proximity, such as connections based on boolean operators or concurrence in same sentence/phrase, will be considered as an index of semantic proximity, being possible to use two or more words in the very same context. Relevance of cooccurrence will be ranked on the basis of encyclopedic competence (essentially dictionary). The system will progressively include all relavant words co-occurring with those that have been previously acquired. J. E. Ledoux, “ The Emotional Brain, Fear and the Amigdala”, Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology 23, 4-5 (2003), 727-738. J. E. Ledoux, The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life (New York 1998).
  4. 4. Fear, Rage and Trembling Chevalier de la Charrette vv. 2732-2739 Li chevaliers de la charrete De malvestié se blasme et rete Quant son oste voit qui l'esgarde; Et des autres se reprant garde Qui l'esgardoient tuit ansanble. D'ire trestoz li cors li tranble, Qu'il deüst, ce li est avis, Avoir molt grant pieç'a conquis Celui qui a lui se conbat. . vv. 3046-3054 Ce fesoit molt desconforter Les deus chevaliers qui estoient Avoec le tierz, que il cuidoient Que dui lÿon ou dui liepart Au chief del pont de l'autre part Fussent lïé a un perron. L'eve e li ponz et li lÿon Les metent an itel freor Qu'il tranblent andui de peor. Chrétien de Troyes, Le chevalier de la Charrette (Lancelot), eds. A. Foulet and K. Uitti (Paris 1989), p. 154 and 172.
  5. 5. The Protagonist, Mirror Characters and Somatic Markers Verb trambler doesn’t occur elsewhere throughout the novel. Hence, it just describes the mentioned pair of somatic responses to ire and peor. Ire causing Lancelot to tremble indicates an emotional state which directly targets the body of the protagonist prompting him to action. Peor freezing the young companions of the hero targets a pair of «mirror characters» whose emotional response to specific circumstances likely aims at enticing the audience to react accordingly. C. Larrington, “The psychology of emotion and study of the medieval period”, Early Medieval Europe 10 (2001), 251–256, 254. F. Brandsma, “Mirror characters”, in Courtly Arts and the Art of Courtliness, ed. K. Busby and C. Kleinhenz (Woodbridge 2006) 275-284. F. Brandsma, “Arthurian Emotions”, Actes du 22e Congrès de la Société Internationale Arthurienne (Rennes 2008),, 15 juillet, session 2 L2: Conte di Graal et émotions.
  6. 6. The Database Since verb trambler makes it possible to bridge peor and ire, we start describing all occurrences of these nouns. We will keep doing the same with all co-occurring emotion-words we find, until all relevant lexical entries will be collected indexed.
  7. 7. Tabling Emotions Co-occurring words are ranged in strings, eachline indicating the specific contexts in which they appear.
  8. 8. Graphing Emotions Graphic processing of the table visualizes the discussed part of the lexical network. Red lines indicate descriptions of emotional states which include somatic markers.
  9. 9. Tagging Emotions Chevalier de la Charrette vv. 3920-3941 @Lancelot tuit beneïssoient: Et ce pöez vos bien savoir Que lors i dut grant #joie avoir, Et si ot il sanz nule dote. @La_genz_estrange asanble tote, Que de @Lancelot font grant #joie, Et dïent tuit por ce qu'il l'oie: «Sire, voir, molt nos #esjoïsmes Tantost con nomer vos oïsmes, Que seür fumes a delivre C'or serions nos tuit delivre.» A cele #joie ot molt grant presse Que chascuns se painne et angresse Comant il puisse a lui tochier. Cil qui plus s'an puet aprochier An fu plus #liez que ne pot dire. Assez ot la et #joie et #ire, Que cil qui sont desprisoné Sont tuit a #joie abandoné; Mes @Meliaganz et @li_suen N'ont nule chose de lor buen, Einz sont #pansif et #mat et #morne. A twitter-like hashtag/mention tagging system (# and @) makes it possible to process the specific sub-system which emerge from the description of individual emotional responses to environmental circumstances. P. Bogdanov, M. Busch, J. Moehlis, A. K. Singh and B.K. Szymanski, “The Social Media Genome: Modeling Individual Topic-Specific Behavior in Social Media”, arXiv: 1307.0309 v1(2013) (
  10. 10. Undefined Emotions --Trop a certes m’an apelez, Fet ele, si le vos dirai, De rien nule n’an mantirai : Cist peignes, se j’onques soi rien, Fu la reïne, jel sai bien ; Et d’une chose me creez, Que li chevol que vos veez Si biax, si clers et si luisanz, Qui sont remés antre les danz, Que del chief la reïne furent : Onques en autre pré ne crurent.» Et li chevaliers dit : «Par foi, Assez sont reïnes et roi ; Mes de la quel volez vos dire?» Et cele dit : «Par ma foi, sire, De la fame le roi Artu.» Quant cil l’ot, n’a tant de vertu Que tot nel coveigne ploier ; Par force l’estut apoier Devant a l’arçon de la sele Et quant ce vit la dameisele, Si s’an mervoille et esbaïst Qu’ele cuida que il cheïst ; S’ele ot peor, ne l’en blasmez, Qu’ele cuida qu’il fust pasmez Descriptions of emotions do not necessarily imply that emotion words must always be used. Indeed, in some cases characters experience undefined affective states. The revelation of the damsel, who informs Lancelot that both the comb and the hair belong to queen Guenièvre, causes the knight to experience a state of overwhelming upheaval. The description only focuses on somatic correlates and ensuing actions: after bending on the saddle, Lancelot grabs the pommel so as to avoid falling off the horse. (vv. 1420-1444) Chrétien de Troyes, Le chevalier de la Charrette (Lancelot), cit., pp. 82-84
  11. 11. Emotion Words and Textual Variation Tranchent les fuz, ronpent les fers Si que an plusors leus se plaient; Par ire tex cos s'antrepaient Con s'il fussent fet a covant (vv. 1420-1444) After entering the kindgom of Gorre through the Passage des Pierres and participating in the insurrection of Logre’s captives, Lancelot fights against an arrogant knight who had reproached him about his ride on the infamous cart. The word ire describes the anger that causes Lancelot and is opponent to fight harder. The varia lectio presents different descriptions of the very same affective state. In manuscript E (fol. 16r, col. b) v. 2732 («De malvaiste se blame et rete») is immediately followed by v. 2737 («Ker il de deust avoir comquis»), hence reference to Lancelot's ire is absent. Manuscripts A (fol. 204v, col. a) describes the emotion that shakes Lancelot’s body as mautalent («de mautalent li cuers li tranble»), whose meanings widely overlap those of noun ire. Manuscript G (fol. 11v, col. a) agrees with such reading and also presents verbs fremir and ardre instead of trambler («de maltalent fremist et art»). Basically, the Princeton manuscript does not directly mention the body of the protagonist but implicitly portrays it as shivering and burning, describing the somatic response according to a widely lexicalized metaphor. Chrétien de Troyes, Le chevalier de la Charrette (Lancelot), cit., pp. 82-84
  12. 12. Emotion Words and Textual Variation 2 Calogrenant is retelling the story of his failed adventure. Before encountering the guardian des bêtes, he meets the bêtes themselves, whose nature changes according to different readings: H 280 Tors salvages ors et lieparz P 280 Tors sauvages et esparars V 280 Torz sauvages et espaarz F 280 Et tors savages et lupars G 280 Trois ors sauvages et .i. liepart A 280 Ors sauvages lions lupars S 280 Tors sauvaiges ours et lupars R 280 Et tors salvages et lupars Interestingly, AG do not mention bulls which scare the knight causing him to step back (v. 285), whereas Guiot (H) does not mention fear as the cause of such an awkward move. K. Meyer, Transcription synoptique des manuscrits et fragments du Chevalier au Lion par Chrétien de Troyes, Université d’Ottawa, Faculté des Arts, Laboratoire de français ancien (
  13. 13. What do We find? 1) emotional states described in medieval verse novels typically target specific characters in response to perceptual interaction with natural and/or social environment; 2) descriptions of affective states are typically supplemented by additional remarks stressing somatic correlates of emotions; 3) emotional states affecting characters are sometimes described only on the basis of somatic correlates they imply; 4) descriptions of affective states and ensuing actions are typically related and often connected by causal prepositions and conjunctions; 5) emotion words are occasionally included into counterfactual and semifactual descriptions of affective states; 6) a multilayered emotional perspectivism emerge from descriptions of affective states which reflect first or second-level theory of the mind; 7) co-occurrence of emotion words define an integrated lexical network which underlay the emotional layer of the novel; 8) some emotion words co-occur on a regular basis so as to define descriptive patterns referring to twofold (or manyfold) affective states; 9) in some cases emotional perspectivism stresses ambivalence, the very same circumstances triggering opposite affective reactions in different characters or groups; 10) subsets of emotional responses specifically pertain to specific classes of characters; 11) recurrent descriptions of specific emotions may define linear paths which underlay the main thematic drives of the novel; 12) medieval editors interfere with the emotional layer of the novel by adopting textual solutions which reflect their own understanding of the reason why characters act the way they do.