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288 Shorter Book Reviews and a tendency to include long poems whenever possible-but it will notchange anyone's thinking about poetry, nor does it sum up the age. Bert Almon Department of English University of Alberta Carol Zisowitz Steams and Peter N. Stearns. Anger: The Struggle for Emotional Control in America's History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.vii+ 295 pp. In this bold, controversial and sophisticated essay, Carol and Peter Steams grapple with the implications of human anger over the long sweep of American history. Their central concern is not with types of anger or angry behaviors,but with "emotionology"-their neologism, defined as the shifting standardsby which Americans have evaluated and attempted to control anger. They dealwith angercontrol in marriage, in childbearing, in schools and at the workplace.Their study, as much synthesis as monograph, is based on their readings of advice manuals, middlebrow fiction, a broad range of historiography, and a sensibleand eclectic understanding of personality theory. That they also express strong, argument-inducing opinions is to my mind the greatest strength of the book. The narrative construction of the book, formed around modernization theory, dividesAmerican emotionology into periods, albeit overlapping ones. Partofthe subtletyof their study grows from their awareness that the development ofanger control moved, in their words, through "shifts in balance, not total reversals" (13). As in most arguments from modernization in American historiography,the least convincing part of this book deals with the so-called pre-modem mentality. Before approximately the tum of the eighteenth century, the Steamses assert, shamingand honor, not conscience and guilt, characterized the emotional livesof Americans. Obedience to authority rather than internalized restraint limited anger. The Stearnses believe that whatJohann Huizinga wrote of Europeansinthe late Middle Ages, that they exhibited "a general facility of emotions," applied equallyto colonial Americans when it came to anger (28). No great fuss wasmade of the breakdown of anger control, no systemic attempt to control anger was urged. Only after about 1800 did the word ''tantrum'' about angry childrenenter the American vocabulary, serving as the sign of the onset of a more general cultural desire for limits on the expression of anger. Discussionof the "pre-modern" era is the thinnest part of the Steamses' book. They adduce almost no primary evidence to sustain their assertions. The recent work of Lawrence Stone, among others, tends to undermine the rather facile notion of a comfortable rowdiness among our more distant ancestors, suggesting insteadthe long-term presence of guilt as well as of shame. Indeed, it couldwell ShorterBook Reviews 289 bethatanger control was intrinsic to face-to-face verbal instructions given within early American rural communities, and that such non-literary advice concerning self-controlhad had a very long Judea-Christian history. After around 1830, cheap, high-speed printing and the growth of all forms of consumerismled to an outpouring of advice literature; it was the Victorian authors of such work who indeed codified standards of anger control. With both more pnmary sources, including fiction, and more secondary literature available to them,the Stearnses move onto firmer ground at this point in their essay. I find theirreading of the Victorian emotional synthesis to be the most brilliant analysis yetmade of this much-discussed topic.· Forthe Victorians, because the work world was so chaotic and threatening, the Steamses argue, the comforts of a peaceful home became the paramount emotionalneed . Anger would lead to disaster; bad character would ruin marriage. Angermeant the loss of self-control "and for the Victorians reason and control wereequated" (42). A bad marriage was not the result of social stress or a breakdownin communications, but followed from the bad character of the erring spouse.The angry partner was "spoiled" or "capricious" due to his or her faulty upbringing. In this way, both the aggrieved spouse and the marital advisor, the Steamsesconclude with insight, "could think about and acknowledge anger but ascribeit to other people. The dangerous emotion did not have to be incorporated mtothe self" (45). In addition, as children were presumed innocent, the bad spousewould also be the bad parent who ruined his naturally innocent offspring. No one before the Stearnses has, I believe, so well understood the meaning of projection and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 288-292
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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