Literary Emotions Methodologies II

Sandro_Botticelli_057Some Thoughts on a Study Day at the CHE (University of Melbourne)

See also a longer Summary of the day here.

The purpose of the Study Day in Literary Emotions Methodologies (which took place 11 October at the University of Melbourne) was to focus specifically on the theoretical and methodological questions that are particularly relevant to the intersection between Literary Studies and the History of Emotion.  The first roundtable of the day looked specifically at methodologies from other disciplines of emotion studies that can be readily applied to Literary Studies.  Works by William Reddy, Barbara Rosenwein, and Herni Bergson were plumbed for their application to literary studies and close readings.  The second roundtable of the day explored the deployment of methodologies in literary studies and offered papers that do the work of emotion interpretation in literary texts.

Through our various discussions, both formal and informal, the participants agreed on a few major tenets of literary studies and emotion methodologies:

  • That literature is particularly good at representing the aspect of emotions that are concerned with movement, change, ambiguity, multiplicity, process, complexity, instability, and creativity.  That literary emotions rarely describe what a single emotion “looks” like or “feels” like, but rather is interested in the processes and results of feeling.  That literature is interested in “becoming” rather than “being.”
  • That it is useful to think about literary emotion in terms of its communities: emotional, textual, imagined, etc., and that these communities might be utilized to explore notions of genre, reader, audience, and/or book materiality.
  • Linguistics can be effectively used to read and describe the nuances of emotional dynamics in texts.

We also are in the process of developing a bibliography specifically for emotion and literary studies (available on the summary page), and we encourage you to use it and contribute to it by contacting for any additional entries.

Peter Holbrook and Aleksondra Hultquist will be organizing a second Literary Emotions Methodologies Study Day which will, hopefully take place in 2014 at the University of Queensland.  If you are interested in participating, please do keep your eye on the schedule of events.

Posted by Aleksondra Hultquist

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