Saturday, 11 April 2015

Gerben Wartena: Epic Emotions: High Emotional Involvement in Sedulius' Carmen Paschale

In the 5th century biblical epic Carmen Paschale (Easter Song), the poet Sedulius intersperses his narrative of the life of Christ with numerous exegetical and homiletic comments. This phenomenon is most prominent in the fifth and last book, describing Christ's passion, death, resurrection, and ascension. It has been observed before that the poet is highly emotionally involved with his subject (see, e.g., Roberts (2008), ‘Poetry and Hymnography (1): Christian Latin Poetry', in: The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies, ed. S.A. Harvey and D.G. Hunter, 635-636). By means of a combined discourse-linguistic and narratological analysis (see, e.g., De Jong (2014), Narratology and Classics) it is possible to show how the poet has shaped his text to convey his emotional involvement. The cumulation of certain linguistic and stylistic devices in such highly emotional passages creates the sense of a Peak in the text (Labov (1972), Language in the Inner City). It is remarkable that these Peaks often do not occur at the high points of the story itself, e.g., the moment of Christ's death, but rather within the exegetical comments. By means of an example (5.303-314 - an apostrophe to the people who ask for a guard at Christ's tomb) I will show how my approach may help to discover the aimed effects of such highly emotional passages, and to answer the question why they occur when they do. Finally, I will draw conclusions concerning the communicative goals of the text and its function within the community of its readers.

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