A world of wonders: aesthetic emotions in old english poetry
Minaya Gómez, Francisco Javier
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This PhD thesis analyses 94 different lexical items that belong to the domain of aesthetic emotions. They are distributed along 1034 fragments from diverse Old English poems. This analysis is aimed at exploring the usage of lexical aesthetic emotion markers in Anglo-Saxon vernacular poetry. More specific goals of this study include understanding how the Anglo- Saxons related to and understood the aesthetic emotions of the experience of beauty, aesthetic pleasure, wonder, the experience of ugliness and disgust as triggered and rendered by the poetic genre and what differences exist between emotion families. Combining methods from different disciplines like cognitive science, emotion research, corpus-based lexical semantics and computational linguistics, this thesis aims at discovering the implicit associations and exact semantic value of these aesthetic emotion terms, to undercover implicit figurative expressions in these terms and in their application, to come up with a list of the expected responses on the part of an audience, to determine if there was a social or religious intentionality behind the usage of these terms as mass control tools and, finally, to establish what role these terms play in the larger Anglo-Saxon poetic formulaic style. My analysis has highlighted a marked predominance of those lexemes that refer to beauty over those for ugliness or wonder. It has also shown that, in the poetic genre, these aesthetic emotion markers were, indeed, intentionally used drawing on the moral ideas that were frequently implicit through figurative language in these terms with the purpose of moralising audiences as well as entertaining them. This allows to predict very specific responses depending on the nature of the emotion that was being either described or that a given passage aimed at triggering on its audience. In essence, this study demonstrates that these expressions were fundamental constituents of the Anglo-Saxon formulaic style, particularly terms denoting beauty, aesthetic pleasure and wonder. The relative frequency of attestation of aesthetic emotion terminology in the complete corpus (more than one per cent, overall) further proves that poetry was certainly the domain of beauty, ugliness and wonder.