Presentation Title

The Effects of the Unnatural: Viewing Le Roman de Silence Through Medieval Ocular Theory

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

School

School of Arts and Humanities

Discipline

History

Mentor

Susan Wade

Abstract

Medieval ocular theories connected the eye directly to the soul; sight was a sensory extension of the soul, allowing the soul to feel and experience the world through the eye. This paper connects these ocular theories to Le Roman de Silence, exploring how sight of the unnatural can alter characters’ motivations. Silence, born female, is raised a boy. This denial of nature moves those who view Silence’s beautiful but unnatural visage to act deceitfully, through the connection of the eye to the soul. The unnaturalness of Silence’s choice to deny her gender is laid out by the author through scenes that personify Nature. By examining these scenes along with encounters between Silence and other characters through the lens of medieval ocular theories, it is evident that the denial of Nature twists the achievements of Silence by negatively affecting the viewer.

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The Effects of the Unnatural: Viewing Le Roman de Silence Through Medieval Ocular Theory

Medieval ocular theories connected the eye directly to the soul; sight was a sensory extension of the soul, allowing the soul to feel and experience the world through the eye. This paper connects these ocular theories to Le Roman de Silence, exploring how sight of the unnatural can alter characters’ motivations. Silence, born female, is raised a boy. This denial of nature moves those who view Silence’s beautiful but unnatural visage to act deceitfully, through the connection of the eye to the soul. The unnaturalness of Silence’s choice to deny her gender is laid out by the author through scenes that personify Nature. By examining these scenes along with encounters between Silence and other characters through the lens of medieval ocular theories, it is evident that the denial of Nature twists the achievements of Silence by negatively affecting the viewer.