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Gestures and Looks in Medieval Narrative
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Book description

In medieval society, gestures and speaking looks played an even more important part in public and private exchanges than they do today. Gestures meant more than words, for example, in ceremonies of homage and fealty. In this, the first study of its kind in English, John Burrow examines the role of non-verbal communication in a wide range of narrative texts, including Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, the anonymous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Malory's Morte D'arthur, the romances of Chrétien de Troyes, the Prose Lancelot, Boccaccio's Il Filostrato, and Dante's Commedia. Burrow argues that since non-verbal signs are in general less subject to change than words, many of the behaviours recorded in these texts, such as pointing and amorous gazing, are familiar in themselves; yet many prove easy to misread, either because they are no longer common, like bowing, or because their use has changed, like winking.


‘… this fascinating book … the author’s intellectual flexibility and lightness of touch make this book a pleasure to read …’

Source: The Times Literary Supplement

'… a fascinating study of non-verbal communication elements in both well-known and lesser-known medieval texts. It is the first general study of its kind in English … I found the writing to be quite readable, so that a non-scholar with an interest in either the texts or the topic would find the style accessible. I can easily see providing excerpts or even a whole chapter of this book to students in an undergraduate literature class, or the whole book to students in a graduate medieval literature course … Burrow supplies useful, contextual information about the passages he includes as examples, as well as relevant historical and social background for each of the elements of non-verbal communication he explores in the texts … medievalists will find Burrow's interpretations sound, viable, and highly relevant. I found Burrow's interpretations of scenes that I have read, studied, and taught for years enlightening … accessible writing style …a valuable addition to medieval studies which points the way to further research in this much needed area of analysis.'

Source: Cercles

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