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Doing Emotions History

Susan J. Matt

Publication Year: 2013

How do emotions change over time? When is hate honorable? What happens when love is translated into different languages? Such questions are now being addressed by historians who trace how emotions have been expressed and understood in different cultures throughout history. Doing Emotions History explores the history of feelings such as love, joy, grief, nostalgia as well as a wide range of others, bringing together the latest and most innovative scholarship on the history of the emotions. Spanning the globe from Asia and Europe to North America, the book provides a crucial overview of this emerging discipline. An international group of scholars reviews the field's current status and variations, addresses many of its central debates, provides models and methods, and proposes an array of possibilities for future research. Emphasizing the field's intersections with anthropology, psychology, sociology, neuroscience, data-mining, and popular culture, this groundbreaking volume demonstrates the affecting potential of doing emotions history.

Published by: University of Illinois Press


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pp. C-ii

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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Susan J. Matt and Peter N. Stearns

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pp. 1-14

Why did early modern Europeans believe the world to be a vale of tears? In contrast, how and when did Americans come to be so cheerful? Why did homicidal husbands in the eighteenth century kill their wives out of anger, while husbands in the nineteenth were more likely to claim they murdered out of jealousy? How did Americans learn to manage their anger to increase productivity and ...

Part I: Basic Issues: Assessing Change

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Chapter 1. Modern Patterns in Emotions History

Peter N. Stearns

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pp. 17-40

After thirty to forty years of serious, informative work on emotions history, scholars have not clearly answered what would seem a vital and timely question: do emotions and emotional standards change when a society moves toward modernity? This essay seeks to explore the current status of the issue, to indicate promising lines for renewed attention, and to urge greater priority for ...

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Chapter 2. Recovering the Invisible Methods for the Historical Study of the Emotions

Susan J. Matt

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pp. 41-54

From the very beginning, those who have studied the history of the emotions have realized the difficulties they faced. In 1941, Lucien Febvre, the first scholar to call for such investigations, wrote that the undertaking would be fraught with challenges. He observed, “Any attempt to reconstitute the emotional life of a given period is a task that is at one and the same time extremely attractive...

Part II: Regional Analysis

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Chapter 3. The Skein of Chinese Emotions History

Norman Kutcher

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pp. 57-73

It would be impossible to begin a chapter on the history of emotions in China without at least making glancing reference to the stereotype of “the emotionless Chinese.” This shibboleth is of uncomfortably long lineage. It began, most likely, with the coming of nineteenth-century Protestant missionaries to China, men and women who, shocked at the seeming impassivity of the Chinese they ...

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Chapter 4: Emotions History in Eastern Europe

Mark D. Steinberg

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pp. 74-100

It would be unwise, even harmful, to approach a regional history of emotions looking for essential patterns of national or ethnic character. To be sure, many people have claimed defining emotional traits for their own culture. In the early 1900s, for example, it was common for Russians to speak of a “Russian soul” naturally inclined toward “brooding and melancholy.”1 More deleterious...

Part III: Probing Specific Emotions

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Chapter 5. Finding Joy in the History of Emotions

Darrin M. McMahon

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pp. 103-119

Are historians of emotions a negative lot? Do they give greater weight to angst and animosity, sadness and fear than they do to the positive human emotions? Indeed, might the field of the history of emotions as a whole suffer from something of a “negative bias,” a tendency to accord greater prominence to the role played by negative emotions in constituting the human past? Consider the titles...

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Chapter 6. Advertising for Love: Matrimonial Advertisements and Public Courtship

Pamela Epstein

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pp. 120-140

In June 1864, a man signing himself “Bertram” printed a remarkable matrimonial advertisement. At forty-three lines long and three hundred and seventy-two words (but only three sentences), it took up nearly a quarter of a column in the New York Times. Describing himself as a “young gentleman in all respects ...

Part IV. Emotions in Society

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Chapter 7. Religion and Emotions

John Corrigan

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pp. 143-162

The practice of emotions history in the field of religious studies has developed apace with the flowering of scholarly interest in everyday practice, embodiment, locality, and the constructed self over the past several decades. Most previous religious history from the earlier twentieth century,1 whether focused...

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Chapter 8. Emotion and Political Change

Nicole Eustace

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pp. 163-183

From Henry St. John, Lord Bolingbroke, to Jürgen Habermas, social theorists have long argued that political transformations rest on a foundation of reasoned public critiques. Habermas contended that widespread public debate about—and criticism of—official government policies first developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries through a process of rational disputation ...

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Chapter 9. Media, Messages, and Emotions

Brenton J. Malin

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pp. 184-204

Communication media inevitably raise questions about emotion. In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates worries about the emotional effects of writing—the new medium of his time. Talking with Phaedrus, a young man who brings a written speech to him, Socrates expresses concern for the “frenzied enthusiasm” he believes it is likely to produce in those who read it. Among the faults that Socrates...

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Susan J. Matt and Peter N. Stearns

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pp. 205-208

The momentum for research in the history of emotions is truly impressive, after the somewhat tentative launch of the field several decades back. Major centers in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany as well as periodic conferences in many other countries demonstrate the growing institutional interest in emotions history. Individual scholars and writers contribute...


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pp. 209-210


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pp. 211-218

E-ISBN-13: 9780252095320
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252038051

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2013