Emotions make history: fairy tales and broad horizons for CHE doctoral student

Love me love me not:bronwn redden

Bronwyn Reddan, a postgraduate candidate in SHAPS (the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies) at the University of Melbourne, is writing her thesis on love in early modern French fairy tales. Her research examines how these fairy tales problematise love and challenge the cultural stereotype of love as the ultimate happy ending. By examining a corpus of fairy tales which present a range of perspectives on love, her thesis aims to illustrate an ambiguity in early modern attitudes to love and enrich the history of this complex emotion.

How did you become involved with  The Centre for the History of Emotions?

I first found out about CHE when I was completing my honours studies in history at the University of Melbourne. One of the elective subjects offered was a course on the History of Emotions and it was the best subject I studied during my honours year. This subject was not run by CHE staff but my tutor told us about CHE and I subsequently attended a CHE collaboratory where my honours supervisor gave a paper. My honours thesis was about magical objects in seventeenth-century French fairy tales and when I decided to apply for a PhD, CHE was a natural fit as I had decided to broaden my project from magical objects to love.

How has working within a research research centre impacted your graduate experience?

Being involved with CHE has had an enormous positive impact on my graduate experience. The main benefit of being involved with a research centre is that I am now part of a research community as well as having individual faculty supervision. This means that I am invited to CHE events where I get to meet researchers from a range of different disciplines and attend presentations by leading history of emotions scholars. As well as attending CHE events, I also been given the opportunity to present my work and obtain feedback from a range of different scholars as well as my supervisor.

Another benefit is that I am involved in methodological discussions shaping history of emotions scholarship. It is an amazing opportunity to see first-hand how this cutting edge field of research is developing and it has been extremely helpful in the formulation of the methodological approach of my own research.

Did you know about “the history of emotions” before embarking on a PhD at Melbourne? How has working with this particular lens on history and literature shaped your work and thinking?

I did know about the history of emotions before I started by PhD at Melbourne and the presence of the centre was one of the reasons I decided to do my PhD in Melbourne rather than apply to international programs. Using history of emotions methodology in my research has broadened my perspective on the sources I examine and challenges me to think about exactly what information about the past we can uncover in literary sources. Thinking about the social nature of emotion and its role as a cultural framework shaping our experience of both the past and the present has allowed me to examine the fairy tales I work with as historical sources providing evidence about changes in ideas about love in the seventeenth century.

Bronwyn is currently in Berlin attending a summer school on the history of concepts at the Max Planck Research School for Moral Economies of Modern Societies. She will be presenting a methodological paper about the relationship between emotion and language as well as participating in discussions with an international group of scholars about new approaches in the field of conceptual history, including the conceptualisation of emotions across different languages and cultures.
After the summer school has finished, she will go to Paris for two weeks to conduct research at the Bibliothèque nationale de France before heading to London, Ontario where she will be presenting a paper at the annual conference of the Society for Interdisciplinary French Studies (SE17). This trip has been funded by CHE, the French History Research Higher Degree Scholarship from the University of Melbourne and the Max Planck Research School for Moral Economies of Modern Societies.

Find out more about Bronwyn’s research on The problem of love in early modern contes de fées.

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