Special Section on History of Emotion in Emotion Review

AHP readers may be interested in a special section on the history of emotion published in the most recent issue of Emotion Review. Section contributions are described below.

“History Looks Forward: Interdisciplinarity and Critical Emotion Research,” Rob Boddice. Abstract:

The history of emotions has become a thriving focus within the discipline of history, but it has in the process gained a critical purchase that makes it relevant for other disciplines concerned with emotion research. The history of emotions is entangled with the history of the body and brain, and with cultural and political history. It is interested in the how and why of emotion change; with the questions of power and authority behind cultural scripts of expression, conceptual usages, and emotional practices. This work has reached a level of maturity and sophistication in its theoretical and methodological orientation, and in its sheer quantity of empirical research, that it contributes to emotion knowledge within the broad framework of emotion research.

“A Collective Emotion in Medieval Italy: The Flagellant Movement of 1260,” by Piroska Nagy, Xavier Biron-Ouellet. Abstract.

The purpose of this article is to open a dialogue between research in social sciences concerning collective emotion and historical investigation concerning a religious and political movement of the Middle Ages. The main idea is to consider the Flagellant movement of 1260 as a collective emotion which, beyond the affects pertaining to it, is also a social practice that finds its efficiency in the spiritual meaning of its collective display, demonstrating the rationality of a seemingly irrational religious phenomenon.

“Emotional Pursuits and the American Revolution,” Nicole Eustace. Abstract:

A major paradox of modern happiness gained wide public exposure in 1776 when Thomas Jefferson substituted the phrase “the pursuit of happiness” in place of Locke’s formulation: “life, liberty, and property.” In substituting happiness for property, Jefferson obscured the central hypocrisy of the Revolution, that—as contemporaries complained—the “loudest yelps for liberty” were made by those practicing slavery. Jefferson elided the overlap between the pursuit of happiness and the protection of human property. And he blurred the connection between the assertion of slave power and the creation of a broad emotional hegemony in the service of multifaceted projects of political-economic mastery. Today, historians of emotion face an urgent need to explore the deep roots of this feeling in systems of unfreedom

“The Odor of Disgust: Contemplating the Dark Side of 20th-Century Cancer History,” Bettina Hitzer. Abstract:

This article explores how historians of emotions and historians of the senses can collaborate to write a history of emotional experience that takes seriously the corporeality of emotions. It investigates how smell, feelings of disgust, and the moral judgments associated with these feelings were interrelated in 20th-century German cancer history. It demonstrates that this complex decisively shaped the emotional experiences of cancer patients. Uncovering this dynamic is only possible by conjoining the history of emotions with a more expanded version of the history of the senses. The combination reveals that the “odor of disgust” was not an ahistorical constant, but was, both in its parts and as a whole, subject to considerable shifts.

“The Unavoidable Intentionality of Affect: The History of Emotions and the Neurosciences of the Present Day,” William M. Reddy. Abstract:

The “problem of emotions,” that is, that many of them are both meaningful and corporeal, has yet to be resolved. Western thinkers, from Augustine to Descartes to Zajonc, have handled this problem by employing various forms of mind–body dualism. Some psychologists and neuroscientists since the 1970s have avoided it by talking about cognitive and emotional “processing,” using a terminology borrowed from computer science that nullifies the meaningful or intentional character of both thought and emotion. Outside the Western-influenced contexts, emotion and thought are not seen as distinct kinds of things. Here a solution of sorts is proposed by thinking of emotional expression as a dynamic activity that declares and stirs emotions at the same time. As such, its dynamism may help historians to understand the dramatic changes and trends they investigate.

“Darwin and the Situation of Emotion Research,” Daniel M. Gross, Stephanie D. Preston. Abstract:

This article demonstrates how researchers from both the sciences and the humanities can learn from Charles Darwin’s mixed methodology. We identify two basic challenges that face emotion research in the sciences, namely a mismatch between experiment design and the complexity of life that we aim to explain, and problematic efforts to bridge the gap, including invalid inferences from constrained study designs, and equivocal use of terms like “sympathy” and “empathy” that poorly reflect such methodological constraints. We argue that Darwin’s mixed methodology is a model for addressing these challenges even in laboratory work on emotion, because it shows how close observation of emotional phenomena makes sense only within broader historical contexts. The article concludes with 5 practical research recommendations.

“Comment: Historians in the Emotion Laboratory,” Otniel E. Dror. Abstract:

In this comment, I indicate several challenges and opportunities—out of the many—for an integrated science–humanities approach to emotions, from the perspective of a historian of the modern sciences of emotions.

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.