Reading Emotions

One of the joys of being a full time researcher is the space it frees up for reading… And yet still I find that it is necessary to make that space, to insist on it, as there’s never really as much time to read, or to read as much, as I want to. I’m about to head to the US for the 2013 Kalamazoo Congress on Medieval Studies (speaking of reading, you can find the doorstopper of a programme here) and I’m painfully aware that I haven’t read nearly as much as I’d have liked to since last year’s meeting. Especially that I’m still grappling with recent work in the history of emotions in general, let alone all the work being done in the interim by those in the field of medieval studies. Daily I find things I haven’t read and need to… and sometimes they come to me! My inbox is not infrequently filled with suggestions of things I might be interested in reading from thoughtful colleagues.

With the aim of reading more productively, at Melbourne we’ve put together an informal reading group of researchers, associates, postgraduates and investigators associated with CHE. We met for the second time in 2013 yesterday, on a brisk Autumn afternoon, in the Old Arts building to talk about two recent published pieces: a ‘conversation’ article published in the December 2012 issue of the American Historical Review, and an excellent article by Thomas Dixon in Emotion Review, “‘Emotion’: The History of a Keyword in Crisis”, which Sarah and I will be putting on the reading list for our postgraduate students later this year.

Another firm favourite proved to be Scheer’s piece, which I urge you to take a look at if you haven’t seen it already!

So, just to add to your lists-of-things-to-read, here’s the full program for 2013:

Reading Emotions


ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions

University of Melbourne Reading Group


March 26th, 3.30-5.30pm

Old Arts, Seminar Room 1 (210)

What is the History of Emotions?

Matt, Susan. ‘Current Emotion Research in History: Or, Doing History from the Inside Out,’ Emotion Review 3 (2011): 117-124.

Plamper, Jan. ‘The History of Emotions: An Interview with William Reddy, Barbara Rosenwein, and Peter Stearns,’ History and Theory 49 (May 2010): 237-65.

Scheer, Monique. ‘Are Emotions a Kind of Practice (and is that what makes them have a history)?’ History and Theory 51 (2012): 193-220.

April 30th, 3.30-5.30pm

Old Arts, Seminar Room 1 (210)

 Dixon, Thomas. ‘“Emotion”: The History of a Key Word in Crisis,’ Emotion Review 4.4 (2012): 338-344.

‘AHR Conversation: The Historical Study of Emotions,’ American Historical Review (December 2012): 1486-1531.

September 3rd, 3.30-5.30pm

Room TBC

 Bourke, Joanna. ‘Fear and Anxiety: Writing about Emotion in Modern History,’ History Workshop Journal 55 (2003): 111-133.

—. ‘The Emotions in War: Fear and the British and American Military, 1914-1945,’ Historical Research 74.182 (2001): 314-330.

 October 1st, 3.30-5.30pm

Room TBC

 ‘Forum: History of Emotions,’ German History 28.1 (2010): 67-80.

Frevert, Ute. Emotions in History: Lost and Found, The Natalie Zemon Davis Annual Lectures (Budapest: Central European Press, 2011). Extracts.

What is every one else reading in the History of Emotions?

Posted by Stephanie Downes

2 thoughts

  1. Thanks for the details of the reading group, Stephanie!

    I’ve prioritized some catch-up reading this week, and have similarly felt both inspired and overwhelmed by the growing amount of scholarship on emotions in history and literature.

    Two articles I’ve read are from the most recent edition of Exemplaria (issue 25.2, 2013): Steele Nowlin’s ‘The Legend of Good Women and the Affect of Invention’, and Paul Megna’s ‘Langland’s Wrath: Righteous Anger Management in The Vision of Piers Plowman’.

    Though they cover Middle English literary texts, I think emotions scholars working outside of the medieval period or literature will also find these articles interesting. What I like about both authors’ approaches is an analysis that treats how emotions are used *in* the texts as well as the emotions *of* authors/readers of those texts. Megna’s reading of Piers Plowman in the context of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt in England is particularly fascinating, and (despite the complexities of Piers Plowman manuscript scholarship) he makes some intriguing claims for why Langland altered the use of ‘wrath’ in later versions of his text that respond to the 1381 rising.

    Look forward to hearing what emotions reading tidbits others have to share…

  2. Hi Stephanie, have you left for Kalamazoo yet? Have a safe flight!

    Thanks for such a timely and helpful post. I was recently contacted by a colleague at Wits University in Johannesburg about readings that researchers at CHE have been finding most useful- I shall point her to this page.

    At UWA we have also recently begun a fortnightly reading group to include the researchers, associates, postdocs, postgrads and visitors blowing in to Perth. We have some interesting overlaps with your authors and some of the same readings. It would be great to hear how your discussions have gone on these.

    We began with the AHR Conversation on the History of Emotions that you have also looked at in Melbourne: (

    We moved onto a primary source with Hamlet’s speech in Act 3 sc. 1 (which begins with that obscure phrase.. ‘to be or not to be’), led by Bob White

    we followed this up with Joanna Bourke: ‘The emotions in war: fear and the British and American military, 1914-45’, Historical Research, 74.185, 2001 (314-330).
    and her ‘Fear and Anxiety’ article that you cite above.
    We had a last minute contextual qualifier from Richard Read in a piece by David Konstan on ‘Combat Trauma in Ancient Greece’. (This is not published as far as I am aware, but you can watch Konstan deliver this talk here: -I recommend skipping to minute 15 when the talk actually begins).

    Most recently we made the most of having Dr Erin Sullivan visiting us at UWA, from the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham in the UK. We looked at her recent review essay of history of emotions work:

    This provided us with 4 additional recent publications to consider:
    – Lynn Enterline (2012), Shakespeare’s Schoolroom: Rhetoric, Discipline, Emotion, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
    – Ute Frevert (2011), Emotions in History—Lost and Found, Budapest and New York: Central European University Press.
    – Susan J. Matt (2011), Homesickness: An American History, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
    – Richard Strier (2011), The Unrepentant Renaissance: From Petrarch to Shakespeare to Milton, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

    This attempt to consider a ‘field’ of history of emotions work brought out some disciplinary tensions (perhaps especially between literary studies and history) about frameworks, theoretical tools and evidence- and the place of psychoanalytic theory in history of emotions work.

    (I see that Erin is also visiting you at Melbourne on Friday 17 May, and will also be speaking in Sydney earlier in that week).

    On May 20 we will have the Renaissance/Baroque musicologist Tim Carter speaking to us in place of a reading group- although I’m hoping he might give us some music readings to look at in advance.

    Whilst I have only made two of the four sessions so far, establishing a shared reading programme for further discussion and debate has been really helpful. If there are any texts that have proved particularly useful- or interesting discussions to be written up- it would be great to hear more.

    – And thanks for your recommendations Rebecca; I’m looking forward to reading about wrath and righteousness, cunning and invention in a medieval literary context.

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