The field known as “History of the Emotions” has gained tremendous prominence in literary and cultural studies. But do emotions have a history? If so, what methods do we use for discovering and recounting that history? To what extent does history of the emotions borrow from other fields? These include all the fields that relate to what we call “emotions studies”: psychology, sociology, political theory, philosophy, and neuroscience. In this seminar we will explore some key methodologies and subject matters for history of the emotions. We’ll look at some philosophical reflections on emotion (including Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, as well as more recent moral philosophers); we’ll also look at political theorists, including Thomas Hobbes; we’ll explore psychoanalytic perspectives, historical research, and some of the work of neuroscientists; and we will take these ideas into explorations of art, literature, and music.
I encourage students to bring their interests to the seminar and to make their fields part of what we study. We’ll have some basic readings that we all do, but we will also follow lines of research that are important to you. The paths that your research takes will shape our course.