Nobler in the mind: the emergence of early modern anxiety

Johnson, Laurie (2009) Nobler in the mind: the emergence of early modern anxiety. AUMLA: Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association. pp. 141-156. ISSN 0001-2793

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Although there is no doubt that anxiety is everywhere in early modern literature, it seems something of a curiosity that the word itself is missing from the same body of writings until around Shakespeare's departure from London. It is not until around 1612 and beyond that the word 'anxiety' and a range of variant forms (including the obsolete 'anxietude' and 'anxiferous') begin to appear with greater frequency. Certainly, the word is not to be found in Shakespeare's own writings. This does not mean that anxiety is a state with which Shakespeare and his characters are unfamiliar, yet it does force us to look awry, so to speak, when seeking anxiety in the play texts. This article, that this perplexing fact about the late arrival of the word 'anxiety' during a time that is characterised, it seems from a more modern vantage point, by anxiety, is in fact a proof of what I call the early modern 'body-mind'. What is experienced as anxiety in such a discursive realm is thus known and described through a language of the body, wherein writers try to describe the idea that the mind can be troubled or even 'strangled' (which is indeed the origin of the root from which we get 'anxietas' in Latin) in a physical sense. The language of anxiety is already everywhere to be found in Early Modern texts and in Shakespeare in particular, as an expression of the physical torment to which the mind is prone, and that the emergence of the word 'anxiety' became a quite necessary historical adjunct to the existing discourse of anxiety.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Deposited in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Special Issue: Refereed Proceedings of the 2009 AULLA Conference: The Human and the Humanities in Literature, Language and Culture.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Arts - Department of Humanities and International Studies
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2010 07:12
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2014 05:25
Uncontrolled Keywords: Shakespeare; embodiment; anxiety; Hamlet; early modern
Fields of Research : 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2005 Literary Studies > 200503 British and Irish Literature
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220313 Philosophy of Language
20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200299 Cultural Studies not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture

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