Osiris: History of Science and the Emotions

The 2016 edition of Osiris, the annual thematic journal of the History of Science Society, is now available. This year’s volume explores the “History of Science and the Emotions.” A number of articles may be of interest to AHP readers, including pieces on mother love and mental illness, panic disorder and psychopharmacological, and Emil Kraepelin’s work on affective disorders. The full titles, authors, and abstracts are provided below.



“An Introduction to History of Science and the Emotions,” by Otniel E. Dror, Bettina Hitzer, Anja Laukötter, Pilar León-Sanz. The abstract reads,

This essay introduces our call for an intertwined history-of-emotions/history-of-science perspective. We argue that the history of science can greatly extend the history of emotions by proffering science qua science as a new resource for the study of emotions. We present and read science, in its multiple diversities and locations, and in its variegated activities, products, theories, and emotions, as constitutive of the norms, experiences, expressions, and regimes of emotions. Reciprocally, we call for a new reading of science in terms of emotions as an analytical category. Assuming emotions are intelligible and culturally learned, we extend the notion of emotion to include a nonintentional and noncausal “emotional style,” which is inscribed into (and can reciprocally be generated by) technologies, disease entities, laboratory models, and scientific texts. Ultimately, we argue that emotional styles interrelate with broader emotional cultures and thus can contribute to and/or challenge grand historical narratives.

“Medieval Sciences of Emotions during the Eleventh to Thirteenth Centuries: An Intellectual History,” by Damien Boquet, Piroska Nagy. The abstract reads,

The standard narrative of the development of Western thinking about emotions is that the concept of emotions emerged alongside the secularization of European society and thought and was linked to the emergence of psychology as a discipline. This essay argues that a systematic psychology of affectivity emerged far earlier and can be found in Western Christian thought. In the context of the cultural renewal of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries, Christian anthropology—the conception of the human being—was totally reshaped. We would like to trace the steps of this development. The shift took place gradually from the end of the eleventh century onward, both in the monastic context and in the new scholastic milieu. In earlier medieval times, emotions were understood in terms of the dual moral perspective of vices and virtues, as defined by the parameters of the Fall and Salvation: affective life was largely reduced either to negative disturbances of the soul that a Christian should resist or to a positive love of God that one should cultivate. From the beginning of the twelfth century onward, Western thinking about affective life began to engage new questions. Emotions both positive and negative came to be regarded as important aspects of a more complex picture of human nature and attracted growing attention as such. Without departing from the Christian framework, which remained the basis of the growing, psychologically oriented literature, emotions came to be described in relation to the powers of the soul, and their sensory and bodily dimensions, as well as their cognitive, rational, and volitional functions, were increasingly considered in an integrated way. Our essay analyzes the medieval psychology of emotions from a fresh perspective.

“A Moving Soul: Emotions in Late Medieval Medicine,” by Naama Cohen-Hanegbi. The abstract reads,

Theories of the soul and its faculties, including emotions, are recognized to have evolved significantly from the twelfth to the fifteenth century. While these concepts were widely researched, they have been to a large extent isolated to their theoretical realm with little attention given to their practical application. This essay begins with a question asked by natural philosophers, theologians, and physicians throughout the thirteenth century: “Can the soul be moved by the body?” While the proposed answers to this question had substantial implications for understanding the nature of living creatures, I argue that they had very practical ramifications for formulating and treating emotions within medical practice.

“The Feeling Body and Its Diseases: How Cancer Went Psychosomatic in Twentieth-Century Germany,” by Bettina Hitzer, Pilar León-Sanz. The abstract reads,

This essay examines how psychosomatic medicine, as it emerged between 1920 and 1960, introduced new ideas about the emotional body and the emotional self. Focusing on cancer, a shift can be mapped over the course of the twentieth century. While cancer was regarded at the beginning of the century as the organic disease par excellence, traceable to malignant cells and thus not caused or influenced by emotions, in later decades it would come to be thoroughly investigated within the field of psychosomatic medicine. This essay illuminates why and how this shift occurred in Germany and how it was affected by the earlier turn toward a psychosomatic understanding of cancer in the United States.

“Mother Love and Mental Illness: An Emotional History,” by Anne Harrington. The abstract reads,

Most scholarship on the medicalization of emotions has focused on projects that locate emotions, one way or another, within individual brains and minds. The story of mother love and mental illness, in contrast, is a medicalization story that frames the problem of pathological emotions as a relational issue. Bad mother love was seen as both a pathology (for the mother) and a pathogen (for her vulnerable child). Moreover, different forms of pathological mother love—smothering love, ambivalent love, love that masked an actual desire to dominate and control—were supposed to have different effects on children, ranging from lack of fitness for military service to homosexuality to juvenile delinquency to outright psychosis, especially schizophrenia. Understanding why mother love came to be associated with mental illness—and, equally, what led to this viewpoint’s rapid decline into disrepute—requires us to go beyond simply invoking the trope of “mother blaming” and leaving things at that. This essay is a first effort at a richer narrative, one that blends perspectives from the history of emotions and the history of science and medicine.

“Affected Doctors: Dead Bodies and Affective and Professional Cultures in Early Modern European Anatomy,” by Rafael Mandressi. The abstract reads,

From the end of the thirteenth century, when the practice of human anatomical dissections emerged in Europe, the dead body became part of the cultural economy of knowledge. This had epistemic, technical, and social consequences, in which the affective dimension played a crucial role. The type of manipulations the corpse underwent brought into play affective phenomena of unusual intensity. To a great extent, anatomy owed its repertoire of gestures, spaces, and instruments to the need to control these affects, and this repertoire contributed to the discourse that shaped the professional identity of anatomists. Rather than being simply knowledge trapped in a web of preexisting sensibilities, anatomy was, in early modern Europe, a locus where affective cultures were produced and negotiated among several professional and social groups.

“Pain as Practice in Paolo Mantegazza’s Science of Emotions,” by Dolores Martín Moruno. The abstract reads,

Paolo Mantegazza’s science of emotions represents the dominant style of thinking that was fostered by the late nineteenth-century Italian scientific community, a positivist school that believed that the dissemination of Darwin’s evolutionary ideas would promote social progress in that country. Within this collective thought, Mantegazza was committed not only to studying the physiological experience of pain by means of vivisection but also to completing an anthropological study that examined the differences between the expressions of suffering in primitive and civilized cultures. Thus, the meaning of pain appears throughout Mantegazza’s research as a result of applying an ensemble of scientific practices integral to observation, experimentation, and the scientific self, which enabled its main physiological and psychological manifestations to be reproduced in the laboratory. Among these practices, photography allowed Mantegazza to mobilize pain as an emotion whose performativity shaped national identities, such as those that embodied the recently created Italian state.

“Tempering Madness: Emil Kraepelin’s Research on Affective Disorders,” Eric J. Engstrom. The abstract reads,

This essay examines some of the research practices and strategies that the German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin (1856–1926) deployed in his efforts to account for the significance of emotions in psychiatric illnesses. After briefly surveying Kraepelin’s understanding of emotions and providing some historical context for his work in the late nineteenth century, it examines three different approaches that he took to studying emotions. First, it discusses his work in experimental psychology and his use of so-called artificial insanity to study affective disorders. It then turns to his clinical research, exploring his particular interest in the course and outcome of psychiatric disorders and then showing how those concerns related to his nosological delineation of manic depressive illness. Finally, it considers briefly how he attempted to expand his “clinical gaze,” turning it outward onto larger, nonhospitalized populations in an attempt to study subclinical forms of affect or temperaments. The article argues that the inadequacies and limitations of his own experimental and clinical research practices contributed to his evolving understanding of affective disorders. In particular, they led him to expand and differentiate his understanding of manic-depressive illness so as to take greater account of premorbid symptoms or temperaments.

“How Films Entered the Classroom: The Sciences and the Emotional Education of Youth through Health Education Films in the United States and Germany, 1910–30,” by Anja Laukötter. The abstract reads,

This essay focuses on health education films in Germany and the United States in the first decades of the twentieth century, illustrating how these films developed their potential as a teaching tool capable of shaping the emotions and changing the behavior of audiences. The essay argues that the films’ educational goals were inspired by certain contemporary ideas on the relation between perception, cognition, and emotions. In concentrating on youth as a target audience, it traces the way in which the sciences of psychology and pedagogy discovered the significance of emotions to this specific age group’s learning process. The essay discusses the deployment of both general and specially created films in the classroom as a new educational practice, arguing that these films can be read as a negotiation of the modern human subject and its emotions.

“The Intimate Geographies of Panic Disorder: Parsing Anxiety through Psychopharmacological Dissection,” by Felicity Callard. The abstract reads,

The category of panic disorder was significantly indebted to early psychopharmacological experiments (in the late 1950s and early 1960s) by the psychiatrist Donald Klein, in collaboration with Max Fink. Klein’s technique of “psychopharmacological dissection” underpinned his transformation of clinical accounts of anxiety and was central in effecting the shift from agoraphobic anxiety (with its spatial imaginary of city squares and streets) to panic. This technique disaggregated the previously unitary affect of anxiety—as advanced in psychoanalytic accounts—into two physiological and phenomenological kinds. “Psychopharmacological dissection” depended on particular modes of clinical observation to assess drug action and to interpret patient behavior. The “intimate geographies” out of which panic disorder emerged comprised both the socio-spatial dynamics of observation on the psychiatric ward and Klein’s use of John Bowlby’s model of separation anxiety—as it played out between the dyad of infant and mother—to interpret his adult patients’ affectively disordered behavior. This essay, in offering a historical geography of mid-twentieth-century anxiety and panic, emphasizes the importance of socio-spatial setting in understanding how clinical and scientific experimentation opens up new ways in which affects can be expressed, shaped, observed, and understood.

“Cold War “Super-Pleasure”: Insatiability, Self-Stimulation, and the Postwar Brain,” by Otniel E. Dror. The abstract reads,

In this contribution, I study the post–World War II discovery of a new “supramaximal” “super-pleasure” in the brain. I argue that the excessiveness of the newly discovered supramaximal super-pleasure challenged existing models of organisms, of the self, and of nature and society, and that it prescribed a rethinking and a repositioning of pleasure. I reconstruct the laboratory enactments and models that constituted this new pleasure as “supramaximal,” instant, and insatiable, suggest several postwar contexts that situate the new pleasure, and examine expert and vernacular reactions to the new super-pleasure. I also introduce and reflect on an approach that “sides with” emotion, and I present the notion of a “missed” emotion. I conclude with a brief consideration of “repetitions”—for science and for pleasure.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.