history of emotions

Week in Review – 13 February

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This week my twitter feed has been full of historical valentines and love themed art objects, such as this ‘Lobster in Love’ valentine’s card from the Museum of London, and these digitised images from Arthur Freeling’s Flowers, Their Use and Beauty, Language and Sentiment (1857). Follow the hashtags #valentinesday #paintedlovers and #victorianvalentines to see more.

Other things that caught my eye this week:

Alun Whitley & Jennifer Evans’ call for chapters for their edited volume Framing the Face: New Perspectives on the History of Facial Hair. 

This blog post on wallpaper studies, complete with introductory bibliography.

Matt Lodder’s new article ‘Things of the sea’: iconographic continuities between tattooing and handicrafts in Georgian-era maritime culture‘.

The Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian Drawings from the Lanigan Collection exhibition.

Stephen Etheridge’s thoughtful post on whether you can be a ‘post-doctoral researcher’ without having an official post-doctoral position.

CFP for a special issue on Gothic Studies on the ‘Nautical Gothic’.

Mary Beard muses on why more women historians aren’t best-selling authors.

This talk and pop-up exhibition on  The Rise of the Literary Annual, Powerful Femininity, and Beautiful Books.

This conference on Chinese Wallpaper: Trade, Technique and Taste.

Frank Trentmann’s new book Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First.

The programme for LGBT History Month at the National Maritime Museum.

The National Archives’ creative workshop Out of the Archives: A zine workshop on 20th century women’s movements.


Week in Review – 6 February

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Friendship book of Anne Wagner (1795-1834), New York Public Library.

Another week in review, another favourite from the Public Domain Review. However, I couldn’t help but include the incredible Friendship Book of Anne Wagner (1795-1834), held at the New York Public Library. These ‘Memorials of Friendship’ feature a range of dedicatory passages as well as a number of intricate mixed-media collages, some of which were made by the young Felicia Dorothea Browne (later Hemans). Thanks to its use of collage and affective nature, I’m keen to research the album as part of my new research project on the relationship between assemblage and identity, 1750-1900.

Other things that caught my eye this week included:

The forthcoming Gender Stereotypes in the Long Nineteenth Century Symposium at the University of Stirling.

The On Top of the World world history podcasts.

Two exciting funding initiatives from the Hakluyt Society for the History of Travel, Exploration and Global Encounters.

The Collecting, Exhibiting and Preserving in Museums of Applied Arts in the
Nineteenth Century conference.

The programme for the Photo Archives V. The Paradigm of Objectivity workshop.

This call for articles on ‘Gender in Victorian Popular Fiction, Art, and Culture,’ in Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies. 

Nineteenth-Century Research Seminars

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Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 09.02.03.pngOn 26 May, I’ll be presenting new research on the commonplace books of Ellen Warter at the University of Edinburgh’s Nineteenth-Century Research Seminars. The title and abstract for the paper are below, and the programme for the series as a whole can be found here.

Object biographies: family histories and textual afterlives in the commonplace books of Ellen Warter

This paper will focus on two commonplace books made by Ellen Warter c.1885 (CRC, University of Edinburgh). Unlike many commonplace books, which tend to comprise transcriptions from a wide variety of texts by a range of different authors, over 300 pages of Warter’s texts refer to the history and literary productions of the Brontë family, including excerpts from the sisters’ writings, literary criticism relating to their publications, and information pertaining to their home in Haworth, North Yorkshire. Beyond her documentation of the Brontës, the practice of commonplacing was firmly intertwined with Warter’s own family history. Her father had edited the letters and commonplace books of his father-in-law, the Romantic poet Robert Southey, whilst her mother’s own commonplace book was published in 1861. For Warter then, commonplacing was not only an educative practice, but also an inherently familial one, with her compilation of ‘Brontëana’ consistent with the domestic material practices of her own literary family.

This paper will situate the books between other examples of ‘Brontëana’ and the ‘culture of commonplacing’ more broadly. Employing the framework of the object biography, the paper will consider Warter’s commonplace books as literary assemblage, tracing the constitutive elements of Warter’s commonplace books as they passed from one literary form into the next. At the same time, the paper will demonstrate how the books were inherently biographical objects, redolent with potent familial association, both of Warter’s own family, and that of the Brontës, and whose compilation created material and familial afterlives for its collected contents.

Programme for Edinburgh’s Eighteenth-Century Research Seminar Series 2016

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The programme for the University of Edinburgh’s forthcoming Eighteenth-Century Research Seminar Series has just been published on the project’s website. For more details, see here.

All seminars will be held at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (time TBA). All welcome.

Monday 11th January 2016

Martha McGill, University of Edinburgh

‘Women and the Supernatural in Eighteenth-Century Scotland’

Dr Tim Stuart-Buttle, University of Cambridge

‘Hume, Locke…and Cicero? Debating the Moral Consequences of Religion’

    Monday 18th January 2016

Yuanyuan Liu, University of Edinburgh

‘Garden, City and Visuality: The Twenty-Four Views of Yangzhou in Yangzhou huafang lu (1797)

Carlos Portales, University of Edinburgh

‘Unity in Multiplicity towards the Eighteenth-Century: The Objective Formula of Beauty and its Transition to Subjectivity’

Monday 8th February 2016

Jessica Patterson, University of Manchester

‘The East India Company and Asian Despotism: Alexander Dow’s Civil Religion of India’

Dr Sundar Henny, University of Cambridge

‘(In)dependent Thinking: Isaak Iselin and the Scots’

Monday 22nd February 2016

Elisabeth Gernerd, University of Edinburgh

‘“Thrusts her arms into a muff”: The Sensory Position of Silk Muffs’

William Tullett, King’s College London

‘From Womb to Nose: Smell and the Performance of Gender in Eighteenth-Century England’

Monday 29th February 2016

Jonathan Singerton, University of Edinburgh

‘Thomas Jefferson and the Habsburg Monarchy: A Tale of Intrigue and Statecraft, 1783-1787’

Aurore Chéry, University of Lyon 3

‘Redefining the Image of the King of France after the Seven Years War’

Monday 21st March 2016

Kang-Po Chen, University of Edinburgh

‘The Archetypological Antithesis in William Blake’s America: A Prophecy (1793)’

Josh Dight, University of York

‘“Let sound morality, and genuine Christianity be goals from which you commence your political career”: Religion in the Courtroom and Trial of Thomas Muir’

Monday 11th April 2016

Heather Carroll, University of Edinburgh

‘“What a fat nasty B—”: Satirical Prints of Female Political Rivals’

Rosanne Waine, Bath Spa University

‘Eighteenth-Century Sartorial Culture: Politically Dressing the Body and Home’

Monday 25th April 2016

Alastair Noble, University of Edinburgh

‘“The Power of the Highlands”: Rivalries within the Whig Government and the Response to the ’45’

Dr Philip Loft, University College London

‘Making and Judging Law in a Composite State: Scottish Appeals to the House of Lords during the Eighteenth Century’

Monday 9th May 2016

Emily Knight, University of Oxford

‘The Death of a Child: Posthumous Portraits of Children in Eighteenth-Century Britain’

Sarah Burdett, University of York

‘“Weeping Mothers Shall Applaud”: Sarah Yates as Margaret of Anjou on the London Stage, 1797’

Monday 23rd May 2016

Dr Freya Gowrley, University of Edinburgh

‘“To preserve remembrance of having approached it”: Souvenirs at A la Ronde, Devon’

Dr Sally Holloway, Richmond, The American International University in London

‘Manufacturing Romance: The Economy of Courtship in Georgian England’


Week in Review – October 16

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A roundup of CFPs, conferences, articles, job listings and seminar series that have caught my eye in the last (few) week(s).

As always, the Bard Graduate Center’s Seminar Series for the Autumn/Winter term looks fantastic. See here for details. You can also catch up on the seminars on the Bard’s youtube channel. My recommendations include this recent lecture by Anne Higonnet on ‘A Digital Enlightenment: Experiments in the Teaching of 18th-Century Decorative Arts‘ (also embedded above).

Christine Guth’s chapter on ‘Layering: materiality, time, and touch in Japanese Lacquer‘ in Surface Tensions: Surface, Finish and the Meaning of Objects, is an interesting meditation on materiality.

This CFP for a special issue of European Journal of American Studies – ‘Re-Queering the Nation: America’s Queer Crisis‘.

The new issue of Design and Culture. Includes articles on ‘Circulation: A Theoretical Toolkit’ (Basile Zimmermann & Nicolas Nova) and ‘Exphrasis: Verbalizing Unexisting Objects in the World of Design’ (Jonathan Ventura & Gal Ventura).

This CFP for the Word, Image, and Power in Africa and the African Diaspora Conference (New York, 1-2 April 2016).

Lilith: A Feminist History Journal is interested in publishing short historiographical and methodological pieces for its 2016 issue. See the CFP here.

The programme for the ‘Art History 40: Image and Memory – 40 Years of Art-Historical Writing‘ Conference.

The Artist and Empire: New Dynamics Conference – which ‘will consider art created under the conditions of the British Empire, its aftermath, and its future in museum and gallery displays’ looks fantastic.

This CFC for ‘Empires, Beliefs, Emotions: Cross-Cultural Affective Histories (1400-1900)’ a forthcoming special issue of the OA journal CROMOHS.

This symposium on American Material and Visual Culture of the “Long” Nineteenth Century, which welcomes submissions that engage with ‘the materiality of images and the visuality of objects while addressing their interrelationship’.

The CFP for our Eighteenth-Century Research Seminars Series, which will be held in the University of Edinburgh in 2016.

The programme for the “Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds” Mellon Research Initiative Symposium.

CFP for the Connected Histories, Mirrored Empires British and French Imperialism – 17th to 20th Centuries Conference

The conference on Reconsidering the Rococo (Lausanne, 5-6 Nov 15).

And finally Russell Jacoby’s article ‘The Object as a Subject‘ is a witty and thought provoking meditation on the current state of material culture studies.

Podcasts from Emotional Objects Conference

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For those of you who are interested in forms of emotional material culture, the podcasts from the Emotional Objects: Touching Emotions in History conference are now online. Listen to the podcasts, which include my paper ‘Life Shall Triumph over Death’: the souvenir as memorial and mourning device at A la Ronde‘, here.

Conference Report – Historical Perspectives on Loss, Grief and Pain

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Historical Perspectives on Loss, Grief and Pain

University of Edinburgh
School of History, Classics and Archaeology
Friday 23 May 2014, 9.00 – 5.00pm, Meadows Lecture Theatre,
Doorway 4, Old Medical School, Teviot Place, EH8 9AG

Today’s one-day workshop on Historical Perspectives on Loss, Grief and Pain constitutes one of a number of recent conferences, publications and projects which seek to interrogate historical manifestations of emotion. Like many such projects, a significant proportion of the papers presented as part of Historical Perspectives specifically dealt with the relation of that emotion to material culture. In the wake of last year’s provocative conference Emotional Objects: Touching Emotions in Europe, 1600-1900as well as the recent Ashgate edited collection on Women and the Material Culture of Death (eds. Maureen Daly Goggin & Beth Fowkes Tobin), this workshop similarly championed an approach to the ‘social life of things’ in which an object’s emotional qualities are treated as paramount. The conference aimed to broach the various departments encompassed by the University of Edinburgh’s school of History, Classics and Archaeology (HCA), bringing together scholars from a number of disciplines including history, history of art, English literature, classical art, and archaeology.

The first panel, which addressed themes of ‘Wartime Loss’, was chaired by Dr. Anna Groundwater of the University of Edinburgh’s History department and began with Dr. Thomas Dixon’s (QMUL) paper on “The Incontinence of Arthur Koestler: Warfare, Death and Tears in the Twentieth Century“. Dixon, who has worked extensively on the culture of tears as an intellectual, social and historical complex took his paper from a forthcoming project entitled ‘Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears’, which examines crying in Britain from the fifteenth century to the present day. In his paper, Dixon described the birth of the stereotypical British emotional response, the ‘stiff upper-lip’, locating this within the intellectual contexts of the post-war period. The celebration of this stoical response could be traced back to Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals of 1872, in which Darwin set out what Dixon called ‘a heirarchy of weepiness’, which emphasised the propensity for weeping shared by monkeys, infants, women and the insane. Significantly, it was Darwin’s dictum of ‘English men rarely cry’ that seems to epitomise the position adopted towards weeping through the following century, which witnessed the flourishing of stoical emotional response in the face of the two World Wars. As Dixon noted, indulging in crying became increasingly identified with the German enemy, with newspaper reports carrying stories of weeping German soldiers, and news of Hitler’s own propensity for displays of emotion, a position that contrasted starkly with the British tendency towards the ‘stiff upper-lip’. Women were also encouraged to adopt a markedly stoic approach to loss during this period, and figures like Edith Cavell – a nurse arrested and executed by the German army for her role in the escape of over 200 Allied soldiers – were championed for their emotional strength in the face of adversity. However, Dixon argued that perhaps tears weren’t repressed during this period, but simply relocated to more appropriate venues, such as the cinema. Citing a number of charming responses to a 1950’s Mass Observation survey, Dixon noted that around 40% of men and 50% of women admitted to crying in the cinema in the post-war years, and highlighted the prominent role of ‘weepy’ movies such as Mrs. Miniver (1942) in the popular imagination of this time.


Still from Mrs. Miniver (1942), featuring Teresa Wright with Greer Garson

Nevertheless, public displays of emotion were still frowned upon, with crying sometimes equated with the state of incontinence – viewed as another shameful, involuntary leaking of bodily fluid. Dixon argued that this equivalency colluded with the attitude of the ‘stiff upper-lip’ to suggest that there was something deeply embarrassing, or even disgusting, with crying in public. This point of view was adopted by the writer Arthur Koestler, who like Darwin, categorised tears with examples which reflected his not only his contempt for weeping, but his latent misogyny.

The second paper of the panel, “Loss and Grief in Wartime Britain: ‘Unruly Emotions’ in the People’s War, 1939-1945“, was presented by Dr. Lucy Noakes of the University of Brighton’s History department. Like Dixon’s paper, Noakes focused on the appropriateness and legitimacy of tears during the war period, here examining civilian responses to wartime loss. In her evocative paper, Noakes recounted the story of a funeral of children and teachers from a school bombed during the Second World War, in reaction to which there was an intensive collective outpouring of emotion. Contemporary media outlets reported both mothers trying to jump into the graves to be with their children, as well as their subsequent sedation by on-hand medical staff. Whilst such heartbreak was widely experienced in wartime Britain, Noakes noted that it was rarely reported, as a stoical response to the tragedies of war was seen as central to the success of the war effort. Noakes also identified the legislation brought in to regulate funerals around this time – limiting ostentation, discouraging the use of horse-drawn carriages and encouraging the hearse to take the most direct route to the venue – as central examples of this adoption of outward stoicism in the support of the war. Most provocatively however, Noakes highlighted the issues with locating emotions historically, asking do we as historians have access to authentic emotions, and which sources – mass observance versus contemporary theorists – are more useful in writing its history?

The final paper of this panel, “Staging the Grieving Process: An analysis of Pina Bausch’s 1980: Ein Stück von Pina Bausch” was presented by Lucy Weir of the University of Glasgow’s History of Art department. Unlike the contexts discussed by the previous papers, 1980 constitutes the celebration of unrestrained emotional expression, and was the first piece choreographed by Bausch following the death of her husband. Weir argued that through certain proscenium devices, such as Bausch’s signature use of organic materials, the audience of 1980 was confronted with a shared emotional experience which reflected Bausch’s personal grief as well as the the idea of loss as performed by the dancers, a heightened emotional state in which the viewer also participates. Weir suggested that through the sensorial experience encouraged by Bausch’s use of natural elements such as freshly cut grass, carnations and compacted peat, the fourth wall between performance and audience was broken, facilitating complicit emotional exchange and the creation of a shared commemorative space.


Still from 1980

Calling 1980 a “memorial dance of death”, Weir also focused on the gestural indicators of emotion as performed as part of the piece, including the ritualised daubing of the dancer’s eyes, which she related to physical manifestations of schizophrenia.

The second panel of the day dealt with themes of ‘Familial Loss’, and included contributions from academics working in archaeology, history and English literature. Maureen Carroll’s (University of Sheffield) paper, “Responses to child death in the Roman Empire“, which discussed the material responses to the death of infants and young children within the Roman Empire. Citing the example of Pliny, who criticised the ‘parade’ of grief exhibited by a mourning father, as typical of the idea that the Romans did not mourn their children, Carroll noted that the material record tells a very different story, and examined objects such as sarcophagi, coins, and even the contents of excavated tombs, as supporting evidence. For example, the fact that parents commissioned expensive tombstones for their children suggests a certain amount care towards the deceased, whilst the contents of a number of burial sites indicates that infants had defined and important identities, even at such a young age. As such, Carroll’s paper constituted an important refutation of Plutarch’s claim that Roman law forbade citizens to mourn their infants, as established through consultation with a wide variety of material cultural sources.

The second paper of the panel was given by the University of St. Andrew’s Anindya Raychauduri, and was entitled “‘my other mother’: Narratives of the 1947 Indian/Pakistani partition, Separated Families and Mourning as Agency“. Raychauduri’s paper examined narratives of familial separation and loss as a result of the new geographical boundaries established by partition. Specifically, Raychauduri examined instances of women who remarried and moved between the countries, changing religion and often losing contact with the families they left behind. Of particular interest was what Raychauduri described as the appropriation of such trauma by the nation state, in which women became deified symbols of nationalised loss.

The final paper of the panel was given by Gian Marco Vidor, of the Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin. Entitled “The departure of an angel. Writing abut the loss of a child in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Italy‘, the paper examined what Vidor termed ‘In Memoriam’ publications, a collection of texts comprised of short biographies, obituaries and funerary information that were typically produced for upper-class men in late nineteenth Italy. Described by Vidor as ‘written monuments’ to the deceased, the Memoriam publications featured common hagiographic narratives recapitulated to describe the life of the lost child. According to Vidor, this subscription to a standard, highly sentimentalised model of death, perhaps reflects an attempt to make those deaths more palatable to the communities of which the deceased had been a part.

The third panel of the day addressed the relationship between loss and material culture, and examined a range of objects and ideas including Roman sarcophagi, butter dishes and the complex relationships between hoarders and their possessions. The first paper, given by Glenys Davies (University of Edinburgh), asked “How important was the expression of loss in the iconography of Roman sarcophagi?“, and subjected an array of sculptural objects to an in-depth visual and iconographical analysis in order to answer that same question. Davies highlighted the significance of a number of myths, such as the Rape of Persephone or the Death of Patroclus, to the designs of such sarcophagi. At this stage of the proceedings, I was struck by just how comfortable all the classicists who spoke were in using forms of material culture as historical evidence. Whilst I realise that this reliance on objects often arises due to a gap in the textual record, it was still impressive to see scholars so wholeheartedly embracing material culture as a way of locating and reconstructing historical perspectives on grief and loss.

The second paper of the panel was given by Jo Croft of Liverpool John Moores University, whose paper, entitled “‘The Dilapidation of the Box was Poignant’ (Denton Welch): Narratives of Accumulation and Loss (or what Hoarders can tell us about Feelings“, discussed contemporary conceptions of hoarders against the narratives constructed around emotional objects created by the British writer and painter, Denton Welch. Pinpointing a tragic event in Welch’s life, his cycling accident, as a turning point in his relationship with objects, Croft suggested that much of the artist’s work after this period was ‘a sensual retracting of his youth’, in which material culture figured prominently. Croft reads Welch’s letters describing the loss of the family silver, which was melted and destroyed, as synecdochic of the loss of his mother, noting how objects become the agents of his feelings in such narratives.

The final paper of this session, and unfortunately the last I was able to attend, was Megan Roberts’ (Bowdoin College) “Laclos’s Objects of Affection: Love, Loss and Material Culture in Revolutionary France“. Laclos, the author of the infamous Dangerous Liaisons, had been imprisoned during the French Revolution thanks to his aristocratic connections. Roberts’ paper reflected on this period of imprisonment, particularly focusing on how Laclos used objects in order to maintain affective ties with his wife and members of his family. Embracing the prototypical role of the man of feeling, Laclos embraced the objects sent to him by his children and wife as a way to combat his acute loneliness and isolation. In a particularly evocative example, Roberts cited Laclos’s loquacious response to receiving a pot of butter from his family, which prompted lengthy epistolary descriptions of how the butter helped Laclos to imagine he was eating with his family once more.

Ultimately, Roberts’ paper suggested that in times of desperation, people invest great potency in everyday objects or rituals, a sentiment that echoed many of the papers included within the workshop. Perhaps the most pressing issues raised by the collection of papers were the question of where do we locate historical emotion, and what sources should we use to access it; public versus private expressions of grief; the construction of pain as performative; and the importance of interdisciplinarity in historical practice.

Unfortunately I missed the final session of the day, however podcasts of the event will be available on the University of Edinburgh HCA website soon.