Banned Emotions: How Metaphors Can Shape What People Feel

ISBN : 9780190698904

Laura Otis
208 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
May 2019
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Who benefits and who loses when emotions are described in particular ways? How do metaphors such as "hold on" and "let go" affect people's emotional experiences? Banned Emotions, written by neuroscientist-turned-literary scholar Laura Otis, draws on the latest research in neuroscience and psychology to challenge popular attempts to suppress certain emotions. This interdisciplinary book breaks taboos by exploring emotions in which people are said to "indulge": self-pity, prolonged crying, chronic anger, grudge-bearing, bitterness, and spite. By focusing on metaphors for these emotions in classic novels, self-help books, and popular films, Banned Emotions exposes their cultural and religious roots. Examining works by Dante, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Forster, and Woolf in parallel with Bridesmaids, Fatal Attraction, and Who Moved My Cheese?, Banned Emotions traces pervasive patterns in the ways emotions are represented that can make people so ashamed of their feelings, they may stifle emotions they need to work through. The book argues that emotion regulation is a political as well as a biological issue, affecting not only which emotions can be expressed, but who can express them, when, and how.


Chapter One: Introduction: Discouraging Metaphors
Chapter Two: The Bodily and Cultural Roots of Emotion Metaphors
Chapter Three: Wallowing in Self-Pity
Chapter Four: The Sound and Smell of Suffering
Chapter Five: Making Suffering Visible
Chapter Six: Detached and Circling: Metaphors for the Emotions of Women Scorned
Chapter Seven: Conclusion: Metaphors Matter in Emotion Regulation

About the author: 

Laura Otis is a Professor of English at Emory University. With an MA in Neuroscience, a PhD in Comparative Literature, and an MFA in Fiction, she compares the creative thinking of scientists and literary writers. Otis, a MacArthur Fellow, is the author of Organic Memory, Membranes, Networking, Muller's Lab, and Rethinking Thought.

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