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Cultures courtoises en mouvement

Isabelle Arseneau
Francis Gingras

Discours et contre-discours de la courtoisie

The Court’s Emotions

Frank Brandsma

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We enjoy reading novels and watching movies, because somehow the words on the paper and the images on the screen touch us emotionally. Recent discoveries in neurology indicate that mirror neurons and the efficient way our brain deals with visual and sensory input play an important role in this process. In our brain, the same neurons deal with being touched, seeing that someone is touched and imagining being touched.1 This explains why we may smile when we read of the joyful reunion of two lovers, and why we may cry when we see a sympathetic character weep in a movie.2

This natural process is so fundamental in the setup of the human brain that it will have functioned in people from the Middle Ages and earlier times as well as for us today. This is corroborated by the way artists have always engaged the emotions of their audiences, in Greek tragedies, in epics like Beowulf, and in courtly romance.3 Aristotle’s concept of “katharsis” in the tragedy is connected to this issue; it also ex...


Universiteit Utrecht

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