The Medieval Review 12.10.32

Lutter, Christina. Funktionsräume, Wahrnehmungsräume, Gefühlsräume: Mittelalterliche Lebensformen zwischen Kloster und Hof. Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für österreichische Geschichtsforschung, 59. Munich: Böhlau Verlag and Oldenbourg Verlag, 2011. Pp. 171. . . 39.80 EUR. ISBN: 978-3-70396-2.

Reviewed by:

Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski
University of Pittsburgh
rbk7580@aol.com

This collection of essays situates itself at the intersection of two relatively recent trends in medieval studies: a comparative approach to secular and religious cultures and the history of emotions. Not all the essays navigate this trajectory equally successfully. There is little coherence to this volume except that all the participants, almost all of them from Austria, gathered at the Benedictine abbey of Admont in September 2009. Nonetheless, there is much of value in this volume which consists of nine essays in German and English. The introduction by Christina Lutter, Stefanie Kollmann, and Maria Mair clearly lays out the possible pitfalls in the "history of emotions" approach. They rightly state that our access to medieval emotions is mediated through sources of different kinds with each medium (texts, music, images) translating sense perceptions into various "embodiments" (9). But emotions are not simply "codified" in these different media; rather, they exist in an interplay or reciprocal action (Wechselwirkung) with their representations. What we can analyze is the expression or representation of emotions, nothing more. "Space," as the editors make clear, is also a recent trend in medieval studies. The realization that space is not "natural" but culturally constructed has spawned a number of interesting studies in the last few years, such as Molly Robinson Kelly's The Hero's Place: Medieval Literary Traditions of Space and Belonging (Washington D. C., 2009) or Elisabeth Vavra's edited collection Virtuelle Räume. Raumwahrnehmung und Raumvorstellung im Mittelalter (Berlin, 2005). Space, as it is construed in this introduction, pertains mostly to the contrast between court and cloister. The problem with the volume under review is that most contributors do not succeed in bringing the two perspectives together, which makes me wonder whether the attempt to link emotions with the spatial aspects of court and cloister is not somewhat misguided.

Albrecht Diem's "Disimpassioned Monks and Flying Nuns. Emotion Management in Early Medieval Rules" examines twenty-five early medieval Latin monastic rules, each of which features its own distinctive emotional vocabulary (22). By focusing on some key terms in these vocabularies Diem shows that each rule produces a different management of emotions which is deployed for the good of the community. The rules tell religious which emotions they are supposed to feel in order to become and remain happy members of their communities. Caesarius of Arles' rule focuses on the word "feliciter," denoting the happiness that derives from indefinite enclosure; Saint Benedict stresses humility, obedience, and fear, while the Regula cuiusdam ad virgines stresses love as an imperative. Diem insists that the rules did not aim to "restrict, suppress or condemn emotions" (38) but rather wanted to regulate them so that they would provide the glue that held these religious communities together. The question he leaves open at the end, "how gendered the models of emotion management were," that is, whether nuns and monks were supposed to have different kinds of emotions (39) is indeed an important one and may lead to fruitful future investigations. Barbara Schedl in "Hof--Stadt--Kloster. Zu Funktions--und Gefühlsräumen mittelalterlicher Frauenklöster in Wien" tries to place what is really a very traditional and thorough study of three religious Viennese institutions for women into the "space and emotions" framework of the volume, with much of the article devoted to space and a single speculative paragraph at the end giving a brief nod to the issue of emotions. The case studies are the Augustinian "Chorfrauen," the poor Clares, and the Premonstratensians. For each group Schedl examines the houses' architecture and sponsors in order to show how the court, the Habsburg family, and the inhabitants of the city of Vienna were involved in the lives of these different religious orders. Her analysis of architectural features as they relate to devotional practices, supplemented by maps and illustrations of devotional objects, succeeds in clarifying the myriad interactions between the nuns' enclosed world and the outside world of court and city. Meta Niederkorn-Bruck's article "Musik in der Liturgie des Klosters (rezipieren und reproduzieren)" is less successful. Its goal appears to be to study the notion of affectus in liturgical music, at least for the first part in which the author examines different theories about the reception and function of sacred music from the Church Fathers to the Reformation. Subsequently this long piece drifts away from the topic, offering sections on angels as liturgists and "Nachdenken über die Musik." At one point the article returns to the topic of the volume by discussing the interaction between sacred and secular music but then the author adds parts on the instrumentation of the music of the mass and other topics, ranging from the early middle ages to the eighteenth century. There is much of interest in this piece but its lack of focus and organization make it a difficult read. The copious Latin quotes remain untranslated and there is no conclusion. What could have been an impressive display of erudition (clearly Niederkorn-Bruck is an expert in the field of medieval music) suffers from a lack of authorial and editorial control. Eva Cescutti tackles a controversial subject in "Lieben auf lateinisch--Emotion oder rhetorische Kodierung? Zu den Epistolae Duorum Amantium 24 und 25." Most medievalists will be familiar with the debate on whether these love letters can be attributed to Abelard and Heloise. Cescutti believes that these efforts at attribution are counterproductive and that it is more useful to consider the characters of 'vir' and 'mulier' as rhetorical "constructions of presence" in the tradition of the ars amandi crossed with the ars dictaminis (84). Cescutti observes an interesting gender reversal in this correspondence where the woman is associated with the soul and the man with the flesh. Placing the letters into the contexts of Ciceronian friendship, the Song of Songs, and Jeromian and Augustinian models of correspondence, Cescutti reveals a subtle play with gender roles--offered and accepted or rejected--on the part of the two correspondents; they work their way through a repertory that is both emotional and rhetorical, thus doing away with the necessity of making a choice between authenticity or convention. Karl Brunner as well examines ideas of written correspondence in "Quaedam effigies praesentiae. Wahrnehmungsräume in Briefen, vornehmlich an Frauen." He offers an overview of the modalities of different types of correspondence (e.g., the didactic dialogue) and then focuses on some specific cases, such as Jerome and Augustine's letters to women or the exchange of letters between Benedict and Scholastica. His nuanced conclusion makes the points that a female audience can stand for a lay audience that includes both men and women and that "respect for the intellectual autonomy" (107) of female letter writers is a hallmark of many of the correspondences under discussion. Though this essay really deals with neither of the two focal points of the volume it is still of value for anyone who wants to understand gender relations in medieval correspondences. [2] Johann Tomaschek offers a brief interlude focused on the Admont Codex 42 which features four different versions of a psalm and a mysterious illustration showing a "square" that contains a message with a spiritual/monastic bent. Christina Lutter in "Affektives Lernen im höfischen und monastischen Gebrauch von exempla" explores the techniques that are meant to induce people to learn from exemplary stories. Were there differences in this type of "affective learning" between a courtly and a monastic audience? Drawing on examples from the Speculum virginum and the St. Trudpeter Hohelied Lutter concludes that the affective techniques--such as dialogues, invitations to a mise en scène, or the use of a series of "emotion words"--unite the courtly and monastic communities in a common enterprise of learning. This piece presents a subtle and persuasive argument that truly brings together the issue of emotions and the court/cloister juxtaposition that lies at the heart of this volume. Frank Brandsma takes a different approach in his "The Transfer of 'Religious' Emotions by Means of Mirror Characters (St. Brendaan, Hartmann's Gregorius, and The Book of Margery Kempe)". He begins his analysis with remarks about mirror neurons and their role in "the transfer of emotions" (147). Brandsma shows that in a range of genres we can find so-called "mirror characters" whose function it is to tell the audience what they are supposed to feel when reading or listening to a given text. Thus in St. Brendaan the saint himself is the mirror character whose trajectory from unbelief to belief the audience is meant to follow. In Gregorius two different scenarios are presented by the mirror characters of the fisherman and the ambassadors, each again, but in different ways, offering the transition from unbelief to belief. Finally, in the Book of Margery Kempe, the people Margery meets in her travels and who express various degrees of skepticism, exasperation, and dislike toward Margery function as a stand-in for the audience who may harbor the same doubts regarding Margery's holiness as do the characters in the book (and modern audiences as well, undoubtedly). While I find Brandsma's readings persuasive I wonder whether this change from unbelief to belief can be termed an "emotion" with whose transfer the mirror characters are charged. To what extent is belief linked to emotions? This is a question Brandsma could have treated in more depth. In "Liebe/Trauer zwischen Hof and Kloster im mittelhochdeutschen Prosalancelot. Der Fall Dolorose Garde" Matthias Meyer presents the thesis that the Prosalancelot seeks an equilibrium between different "models and value systems" (156): one, centered on love and represented by virginal young women who function as triggers and interpreters of adventures; and the other, centered on the grail, and marked by a Christian system of signs in which hermits function as interpreters of a world dominated by demons. At the center of Meyer's analysis is the episode of the Dolorose Garde which explores the connection between love and mourning. In a complex and detailed analysis Meyer shows that this strange place finally leads to the annulment of the contrasts the text had tried so hard to establish: "between court and cloister, between love, politics, chivalry, the grail, and friendship" (165). He sees the Dolorose Garde as a peculiar non-place (Nichtort) that exists beyond court and cloister in a utopian otherworld.

This volume shows both the pitfalls and the pay-off of bringing together a group of rather heterogeneous essays. The pitfall is that a lack of coherence can be irritating for the reader who seeks enlightenment on a specific topic. The pay-off is that by leafing through a volume like this one can come upon skillful analyses and unexpected conclusions that lead readers into new territories and motivate them to make new connections between ideas that may at first seem unrelated.

--------

Notes:

1. See for example Werner Rösener and Carola Fey, eds., Fürstenhof und Sakralliteratur im Spätmittelalter (Göttingen, 2008). There are many recent studies on the history of emotions, such as the two volumes edited by Piroska Nagy and Damien Boquet: Le sujet des émotions au moyen âge (Paris, 2008) and Politiques des émotions au Moyen Age (Florence, 2010); C. Stephen Jaeger and Ingrid Kasten's edited volume Codierungen von Emotionen im Mittelalter/Emotions and Sensibilities in the Middle Ages (Berlin, New York, 2003); Kasten's edited volume Machtvolle Gefühle (Berlin, 2010); and of course the foundational studies by Barbara H. Rosenwein.

2. A more extensive study on the topic of gendered roles in medieval and early modern correspondences is Katherine Kong's Lettering the Self in Medieval and Early Modern France. Gallica (Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2010)