Jessica Rosenfeld F'12

Jessica  Rosenfeld
Associate Professor
English
Washington University in St. Louis

Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships 2012
Assistant Professor
English
Washington University in St. Louis
Envying thy Neighbor: Pleasure, Identity, and Gender in Late Medieval Literature

This project examines the emotion of envy, especially in its medieval form, as one of the “seven deadly sins.” Envy posed difficulties for Christian writers who assumed that all earthly desire is oriented toward a pleasurable object. Envy—understood as a largely painful experience—demanded a different idea of human desire and action. Treatises on confession and literary works manifest the ways that medieval authors wrestled with the moral dilemmas posed by envy, offering a theory of desire that focuses on one’s relationship with others, rather than with pleasure per se. Medieval treatments of envy illuminate the Christian reception of classical ethics and offer useful ethical frameworks for modern treatments of emotion and desire.