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Week 10 Tutor

Dr Joachim Häberlen


Do emotions have a history? And does how people feel affect history? These are the kinds of questions historians of emotions ask. As a field, the history of emotions has been tremendously booming in recent years, though theoretical debates have somewhat dominated the discussion. Not least, scholars – not only historians, but also sociologists, anthropologists, and literary scholars – have asked what life sciences, notably neuro-scientists, might have to offer to the humanities and social sciences, but also what kind of problems and dangers we might face employing knowledge created by neuro-scientists. This seminar will discuss some of these questions by turning to theoretical texts and putting them into their specific socio-cultural context

Core Reading
  • Scheer, Monique. "Are Emotions a Kind of Practice (and Is That What Makes Them Have a History)? A Bourdieuan Approach to Understanding Emotion." History and Theory 51 (2012): 193-220.
  • Reddy, William M. "Emotional Liberty: History and Politics in the Anthropology of Emotions." Cultural Anthropology 14 (1999): 256-288.
Seminar Questions
  1. How can we study emotions in the past?
  2. What are the opportunities and dangers involved in making use of neuro-scientific knowledge for studying emotions in the past?
  3. What role should the body play in attempts to understand past feelings?
  4. What are the politics of studying emotions in the past (and present)?
  5. Can you think of empirical examples for studying the history of emotions?
Further Reading
  • Eustace, Nicole, Eugenia Lean, Julie Livingston, Jan Plamper, William M. Reddy, and Barbara H. Rosenwein. "AHR Conversation: The Historical Study of Emotions." American Historical Review 117 (2012): 1487-1531.
  • Leys, Ruth. "The Turn to Affect: A Critique." Critical Inquiry (2011): 634-672.
    (see also the debate here:
  • ibid., Leys, Ruth, The Ascent of Affect: Geneology and Critique (Chicago, 2017) -- e-book ordered
  • Reddy, William M. "Emotional Liberty: History and Politics in the Anthropology of Emotions." Cultural Anthropology 14 (1999): 256-288.
  • Reddy, William M. The Navigation of Feeling. A Framework for the History of Emotions. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Rosenwein, Barbara. "Worrying about Emotions in History." American Historical Review 107 (2002): 821-845.
  • ———. Emotional Communities in the Early Middle Ages Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006.