[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-Emotions]: Kettler on Rosenwein and Cristiani, 'What Is the History of Emotions?'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Wed Aug 28 19:33:41 MDT 2019

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From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
Date: Wed, Aug 28, 2019 at 11:47 AM
Subject: H-Net Review [H-Emotions]: Kettler on Rosenwein and Cristiani,
'What Is the History of Emotions?'
To: <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>

Barbara H. Rosenwein, Riccardo Cristiani.  What Is the History of
Emotions?  What Is History? Series. Newark  Polity Press, 2018.  147
pp.  $20.75 (paper), ISBN 978-1-5095-0850-1; $62.25 (cloth), ISBN

Reviewed by Andrew J. Kettler (University of Toronto)
Published on H-Emotions (August, 2019)
Commissioned by Sara Hidalgo García

_What Is the History of Emotions?_ provides historiographical
narratives of the roots, current theories, and future goals for this
well-established field of historical study. As part of the What Is
History? series from Polity Press,_ _which offers introductions to
specific historical subfields, this edition provides lessons that can
easily be used by graduate students and early career scholars who
desire quick references to both the sturdy and wobbly columns that
uphold the architecture of the history of emotions.

The authors of this brief work, Barbara H. Rosenwein and Riccardo
Cristiani, provide a general summary of the field through analysis of
numerous dialogues between science and history, the early
historiography of the cultural history of emotions, the modern
importance of the body to the history of emotions, and
interdisciplinary goals for the current field. Nevertheless, despite
the authors' desire to present a holistic analysis of the field, they
generally offer something more akin to an extended literature review
for the medieval and early modern era of Cristiani's scholarship and
the arguments found within Rosenwein's recent monograph, _Generations
of Feeling: A History of Emotions, 600-1700 _(2016).

Rather than a separate and complete survey of the field, _What Is the
History of Emotions?_ provides a substantial focus on historiography
related to those projects, especially regarding the history of
emotions for the royal courts of the Middle Ages and within early
modern literature. As a result, the reader is often provided a
narrative of how Rosenwein's personal canon is essential, disruptive,
and paradigm-shifting for the history of emotions. To be sure,
Rosenwein is an important and leading scholar in the field, and her
recent _Generations of Feeling_ is an essential and novel critique of
the domineering theoretical ideal of _The_ _Civilizing Process_
(1939) by Norbert Elias and contemporary work that still follows
positivist historical patterning of the emotions.

However, this introductory edition may have needed to take an
additional step away from the temporal and historiographical focus of
_Generations of Feeling_ to better encompass the greater
chronological and cultural complexity of the broader history of
emotions and the critical theories of emotional behavior. Also
restricting because of the spatial confines of the work, which comes
in at a slight 163 pages, many aspects of the history of emotions are
glossed over in this edition, as with connections between the history
of the senses and the history of emotions, and the importance of
critical theory, ideas of hegemony, and the role of the Marxian
fetish for understanding how capital and power may incentivize
emotional apparatuses to appreciate or degrade objects only within
certain controlled boundaries.

Moving from these critiques, this short edition does well to explore
the roots of the historical field of emotions that emerged out of the
study of the human sciences. Chapter 1 defines these roots within
Greco-Roman and Christian philosophical traditions that essentially
understood the denial of emotions as protective of the body and the
body politic. Searching more modern and recent traditions that worked
to classify emotions through universal terminologies and behaviors,
the authors focus on the controversial studies of Paul Ekman, as
based on original understandings of evolutionarily ingrained,
universal, and emotional "habits" from Charles Darwin.

Following the study of emotions through Sigmund Freud and William
James, the book then engages lasting questions regarding whether
embodied emotions are consistently universal or particular within
specific cultures and whether emotions are felt, as affect, prior to
reasoning through the mind. As a critique of the cognitivism and
universal concepts of affective reasoning within understandings of
emotions from scholars like Silvan Tomkins, the postmodern field of
social constructionism later emerged to offer that emotions are
generally constructed through language and culture, while being
performed within specific cultural spaces and rituals.

These many historical and scientific theories of the production,
experience, and performance of emotions as either natural or nurtured
has occupied the history of emotions since the inception of the
field. Chapter 2 takes up early manifestations of the formal history
of emotions beginning with the foundational works of Johan Huizinga
and the later scholarship of the _Annales_ school, especially from
Lucien Febvre. Often, scholars of the history of emotions still focus
on the important analyses found in theories of the aforementioned
_Civilizing Process_, which set a standard chronology for the rise of
specific emotions related to court culture and the emergence of a
bourgeoisie sense of shame.

Following Elias and scholars of the _Annales_, many researchers took
up the history of emotions during the 1980s. Leaders in this cause
were former spouses Peter Stearns and Carol Stearns, who articulated
the history of emotions through a new understanding of
"emotionology," which relates to the changing standards of how
emotions were understood and should be expressed according to social
rules in a given space or time. Building a historiography through
leading scholars rather than intellectual movements, Rosenwein and
Cristiani next explore the importance of the work of William Reddy
related to the idea of "emotional regimes," or temporal and cultural
spaces where emotions are experienced, often within estimated
confines based on linguistic, religious, or material shifts within
historical fields of power.

Following a summary of the work of Rosenwein on "emotional
communities," or the social groups that define systems of feeling in
historical and cultural settings, the second chapter continues to
show the importance of performance to the study of emotions, as found
in the works of Gerd Althoff. The historiographical second chapter
ends with a reading of the Declaration of Independence through four
dominant current methods (emotionology, emotional regimes, emotional
communities, and performatives) to show how scholars use diverse
methodologies to engage the same historical text. Although
interesting, this reading of "happiness" is aimed at introducing
ideas to graduate students rather than encompassing the
historiography on the emotions of the Declaration of Independence, as
the authors regretfully leave out Jay Fliegelman's _Declaring
Independence: Jefferson, Natural Language, and the Culture of
Performance_ (1993), which frequently applied some of these methods
in an earlier and important academic treatment.

_What Is the History of Emotions?_ continues into the central
readings of the work, within a longer chapter on how the history of
emotions is currently engaged with the history of the body. This
section is a separate evaluation of how historians of emotion engage
either a closed body or a porous body within their readings of
historical texts and events. This interpretation of the integration
of the body into the history of emotions looks first at the
scientific, medical, and sexual bodies analyzed by scholars like
Michel Foucault. The chapter then continues through these embodied
ideals with an extended appraisal on the importance of the social
construction of gender to the study of emotions. Analyzing the social
construction of love, sexuality, romance, and family, this section
then looks centrally at the scholarship of Caroline Bynum. Turning
from what emotions were allowed or experienced in a given field of
power, the chapter then follows with a reading of the practice turn,
or the focus on how the practice of emotions merge thinking, feeling,
and the body, as found in the history of emotions through summaries
of the work of Monique Scheer.

Moving from the closed body of these numerous studies, the chapter
next looks at scholars who have taken up the cause of affect theory
to analyze emotions as historical aspects of the porous body that
exists with objects and within situated cultural and geographical
spaces. Specifically following Henri Lefebvre, this analysis turns to
search recent scholars of materiality who have often provided agency
to material objects within the social world. This section could use
more analysis on the idea of the fetish, desire, affect, and
libidinal economies in studies from Jean-François Lyotard, Herbert
Marcuse, and Brian Massumi. Still, this introductory reading is a
stimulating analysis for applying object-oriented philosophy to the
history of emotions.

The fourth and final chapter looks at future goals for the field.
Judging the ivory tower as much too regressive, the authors provide
two narratives for the future of the history of emotions: to critique
periodization and to expand interdisciplinary studies of emotion. The
edition notes that the history of emotions can offer a review of
periodization through assembling narratives of change over time that
are more temporally complex through the use of controversial
discourses on nature, nurture, and agency. As well, the expansion of
the history of emotions to different and novel academic fields can
take down false disciplinary boundaries that have often confined
historians as unessential for understanding the science and
experience of emotions.

Moving beyond the academy, the fourth chapter then argues that the
history of emotions can become important in the public sphere where
films, video games, and other multimedia offer emotional categories
and expressions that can often ring as falsely universal when placed
against historical narratives. This critical analysis is engaging,
especially regarding the study of children's books, cultural
education through emotional behaviors in films, and the faces used to
display emotion in the video game _Bioshock_ (2007). The conclusion
continues the model of deconstruction explored in chapter 4 regarding
periodization and disciplinary rigor to offer a final critique of
previous work on the history of emotions. That assessment concludes
that the history of emotions should continue to remove binary
categories as implicitly false standards created through the
often-domineering Western linguistic tradition.

_What Is the History of Emotions?_ includes dialectical and
historiographical remnants from _Generations of Feeling_. However,
the shorter work still can enliven debates on the roots of the
history of emotions, the importance of embodiment to modern studies
of emotion, and the future of the field. This edition can
consequently be recommended for graduate students and early career
academics looking for a short and clear primer. However, for more
engaged scholars, other briefings on the field, like the _History of
Emotions: An Introduction_ (2015) from Jan Plamper, may continue to
prove more enlightening and productive for the creation of new and
interesting historiographical dialogues.________

Citation: Andrew J. Kettler. Review of Rosenwein, Barbara H.;
Cristiani, Riccardo, _What Is the History of Emotions?_. H-Emotions,
H-Net Reviews. August, 2019.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=54041

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States

Best regards,

Andrew Stewart

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