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Woven emotions

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Abstract

Following Forceville (2005, 2011), in this paper I show that the same conceptual models underlie the expression of Old English emotions in both the language and the visual modes. Kövecses (2000, 2005) and Stefanowitsch (2004, 2006) have shown that verbal expressions and idioms used to describe emotions can be traced back to a limited number of conceptual metaphors. In the light of these findings, I will analyze here the pictorial representations of emotions in the Bayeux Tapestry, an 11th century embroidered cloth that narrates and depicts the events that led up to the Norman Conquest of England and the invasion itself. The tapestry, which has been described as an example of early narrative art (McCloud, 1993, pp. 12–14), shows hundreds of human figures in an astounding range of poses and circumstances. My analysis of the set of pictorial signals used in the Anglo-Norman Bayeux Tapestry to represent emotion types such as ‘anger’, ‘grief’ and ‘fear’ shows that (1) Anglo-Norman artists used a well-organized set of visual stimuli to convey emotion-related meanings in a patterned way, that (2) the same idealised conceptual models are shared by verbal and visual modalities, and that (3) whereas verbal expressions of emotions regularly draw on non-embodied, behavioural concepts, visual representations show a clear preference for embodied container concepts.

References

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