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Introduction from A History of Emotions, 1200–1800

Introduction from A History of Emotions, 1200–1800

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Published by: Pickering and Chatto on Jul 31, 2012
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– 1 –
 Jonas Liliequist
Te history o emotions is an expanding eld o research, as the number o conerences, journals and even research centres o excellence attests. No longertreated as immutable constants o human nature, emotions have now become part o cultural history. Its practitioners are interested in emotional repertoiresand styles, conventional orms o expressions, historical categorizations and con-ceptualizations, cultural and gendered meanings and the communicative usesand efects o emotions, analysed within a broad spectrum o cultural and socialgenres ranging rom music and art to religion and politics. Te present volume, which ocuses on the medieval, renaissance and early modern periods, reectsthis breadth. Te modern term ‘emotion’ is used here as a catch-all term or what were conceptualized as passions, afects and sentiments by contemporaries in thestudied historical contexts. Te aim has been not to write a coherent history o continuity and change, but rather to bring together a variety o sub-topics ana-lysed rom diferent disciplinary perspectives and research traditions.
Teoretical Considerations
Change is nonetheless the very issue addressed in the opening essay by medi-eval historian Barbara H. Rosenwein, a pioneer and leading theorist in the eld.Rosenwein brings a resh perspective to current, dominant narratives o the his-tory o emotions (including her own) and how they account or change. Sheconsiders the hypothesis that the appearance o new theories o emotions may have constituted turning points in the history o emotions, using thirteenth-cen-tury theologian Tomas Aquinas and his treatise on emotions as a test case. Sheconcludes that, at least in this case, the theory ratied current norms and did notannounce a moment o change. She then suggests how new, more satisyingly comprehensive narratives o the history o emotions might be constructed. Crit-ical and thought-provoking, Rosenwein’s approach raises the wider question o the possibility o writing a more general history o emotions taking into accountboth variety and change, while avoiding resort to a new Grand Narrative basedon studies o a selective segment o the population in the West.
 A History o Emotions, 1200–1800 
Te narrow scope o a strictly Western perspective is conronted by WalterAndrews, American literary scholar o Near Eastern languages and civilization,in the second essay. Starting rom the idea o ‘love’ as a central organizing andmeaning-producing concept in Ottoman urkish society, his aim is to demon-strate how an emotional vocabulary made up o not only words, but also images,music, and symbols as well as decoration, landscaping, ceremonies, and ritualsis compiled over time, providing a basis or understanding and expressing theemotional content o a wide range o social relationships, rom sexuality to reli-gion, patronage to riendship and amily lie. Andrews’s analytical ramework not only breaks new ground or the history o emotions in Ottoman studiesbut also raises the urther question o how to apply a comparative perspectivethat could account not only or diferences and similarities but or the historicalows o cultural exchange and interaction as well. Te history o emotions hashitherto been dominated by a Western, European perspective. A
(touse the term recently suggested by cultural historian Natalie Zemon Davis) o the history o emotions to include a broader geographical scope and new voicesrom other social classes and parts o the world will prove a most challenging task in any attempt to construct a new general narrative.
Emotional Repertoires
In this section, we return to the European scene and issues o emotional reper-toires treated in three studies ranging rom the High Middle Ages to the early nineteenth century. Repertoires represented by emotion words and rhetoricaland perormative expressions o emotions are important tools or the historicalanalysis o emotions, particularly in periods when ew attempts were made tosystematize theories o emotions. Using monastic texts rom the twelh century,Austrian historian Christina Lutter demonstrates in ascinating detail how rep-resentations o emotions in exemplary miracle stories played an important rolein the spiritual lives o readers who incorporated the norms o the texts that they read. Tis instructive, afective pedagogy also provides a key to understanding how emotions were conceptualized in terms o internal and external sensation.Afective learning was, however, not restricted to religious texts. Te overallimpression o emotional representation in this era is one o diversity, complexity and even contradiction when diferent repertoires overlap. Emotional reper-toires seem to have been open to a certain degree. An interesting question oruture inquiry is i this open quality allowed individuals to draw on diferentrepertoires depending on the socio-cultural context.Moving to seventeenth-century England and the Elizabethan and Stuartconversion narratives analysed by Italian historian Paola Baseotto, we nd that what acted as the uniying actor in an otherwise heterogeneous group o sects
labelled by contemporaries as ‘Puritans’ was not undamental doctrinal mattersbut a shared emotional repertoire or emotionology which is the concept appliedby Baseotto. Tis is Baseotto’s main point and distinctive ocus with respect torecent the historiographical trend which highlights diferences in theologicalemphases and religious practices. Central to this emotionology was an empha-sis on interiority and a progressive intensication o emotional states as signso spiritual awakening. Te author shows how this emotionology was careully staged in ritualized practices described in guidebooks and autobiographies, while at the same time being derided by its critics as ‘the disease o Enthusiasme’.Tere is an obvious parallel between classiying Puritan emotionalism asa disease and characterizing an excessive passion or knowledge as a ‘mania’, as was done a little over 100 years later just across the Channel. In the nal essay o this section, Anne Vila, American proessor o French literature, studies the passions and pathologies attributed to French
 gens de lettres
. Coeval with
the well-known image o the highly socialized gure o the
 was the imageo the impassioned knowledge-seeker in the grips o intellectual labour whoseinwardness and absorption made him not only unt or social lie but also sus-ceptible to all kinds o illness, according to contemporary medical theories o sensibility. Focusing on this less-known and oen overlooked side o the cul-ture o sensibility, Vila shows how these images and counter-images served asthe basis o ambivalence and a general biurcation within eighteenth-century French intellectual identity.
Art and Music
Te written text is but one source available to the historian o emotions andnot always the best one. Compared to words, music and art have usually been perceived as having a capacity or a much more immediate and authentic expres-sion o emotions. Art and music is the theme o the third section, starting withAmerican art historian Pamela W. Whedon’s analysis o musical images in the paintings o the French artist Antoine Watteau (1684–1721). Whedon com- pares the technique o Watteaus crayon and brush with the timbre and tonecolour o music in its ability to touch and arouse the senses. Her main inter-est, however, is how Watteau mixes French and Italian expressions o emotion,using their perceived high and low styles, renement and zeal, politesse andsprezzatura; Watteau creates a new artistic and emotional style that employsboth French and Italian traditions while at the same time repealing them andinstilling them with modern resonance.Swedish musicologist Johanna Ethnersson Pontara asks how emotions werearoused and represented in early modern operas through musical efects. Chal-lenging the view that the primary task o arousing wonder and delight distanced

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