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Loneliness and Emotions

An online seminar hosted by The University of Western Australia


Image: Camille Corot, Reverie, ca. 1860–65, The Met

Date: Tuesday 26 October 2021
Time: 10:00am AWST / 12:30pm ACDT/ 12:00pm AEST / 1:00pm AEDT
Venue: Online via Zoom. Please email emotions@uwa.edu.au for connection details. 
Enquiries: emotions@uwa.edu.au


Katie Barclay (The University of Adelaide)


Dawn LaValle Norman (Australian Catholic University)

'Solitude and Sociality in Augustine and Boethius’ Night-time Dialogues'

Boethius sets his First Commentary on Porphyry’s Isagoge as a dialogue that took place during a bout of bad winter weather at his country house. Lying on their little beds (lectula), Boethius’ interlocutor takes the opportunity of their joint wakefulness to ask Boethius to speak on a topic that he had often promised but never gotten to yet: explaining Porphyry’s Isagoge. The setting contains echoes of Aulus Gellius’ Attic Nights, as has been recognized by Brandt, the 1906 editor of the text. However, there is another echo to be found in the opening of Augustine’s De Ordine, where a strange night-time sound causes Augustine’s students to start a conversation about rhythm, while lying on their beds in the dark. While Augustine’s Soliloquies and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy present internal dialogues of solitary characters, I will explore how Boethius’ First Commentary follows Augustine’s alternative tradition of night-time intellectual activity. Instead of solitude and candlelight providing intellectual focus, it uses the darkness of night as an opportunity for intellectual sociality.

Dawn LaValle Norman is a Research Fellow at ACU’s Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry and the Deputy Node Leader of ACU’s Node of the Centre for the History of Emotions, for which she curated the ‘Emotions of Isolation’ resource. Her work centres on the history of the philosophical dialogue, with ancillary interests in gender and ancient medicine. She is soon to begin a DECRA (2022–2024) on the topic ‘The Female Voice in Ancient Philosophical Dialogues’.

Claire Walker (The University of Adelaide)

'Disengagement from all Creaturs’: Exploring Loneliness in Early Modern English Cloisters'

Writing of her mystical encounters with Christ, English Carmelite nun Delphina of St Joseph Smith spoke of the ‘Need to eschew unnecessary distractions, worldly discourse and entertainment and retire with Jesus in interior desert of our souls’. Smith points to the spiritual benefits of ‘loneliness’ (or ‘solitude’, in the seventeenth century) for members of religious communities, but alludes to the obstacles that lay in the path to achieving it. I will talk about the contradictory experiences of solitude in cloisters and how nuns navigated them

Claire Walker lectures in early modern European History at The University of Adelaide and is the acting director of the Adelaide Node of CHE. She researches emotions in British religious houses, exiled in the Spanish Netherland, France and Portugal, and is particularly interested in the ways the material culture of monasticism articulated the emotional duress of separation from country and kin. She recently guest edited with Julie Hotchin the Journal of Religious History Special Issue: Religious Devotion, Gender and the Body in Europe, 1100–1800, and has written several articles and chapters on materiality, ritual and the suffering of religious exile.


Each speaker will give a short presentation (no more than 10 minutes), and this will be followed by group discussion.