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The History of Emotions: A Very Short Introduction [#735]
The History of Emotions: A Very Short Introduction [#735]
  • Sheds new light on emotions in the present by tracing their ancestries in the past
  • Explains key concepts in conversation with other disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, political thought, gender studies, and affect theory
  • Covers philosophical theories of passions and emotions from Ancient Greece and China to the present
  • Original historical perspectives on a range of key feelings, including sorrow, terror, happiness, rage, revenge, friendship, and love
Emotions are complex mental states that resist reduction. They are visceral reactions but also beliefs about the world. They are spontaneous outbursts but also culturally learned performances. They are intimate and private and yet gain their substance and significance only from interpersonal and social frameworks. And just as our emotions in any given moment display this complex structure, so their history is plural rather than singular. The history of emotions is where the history of ideas meets the history of the body, and where the history of subjectivity meets social and cultural history.
In this Very Short Introduction, Thomas Dixon traces the historical ancestries of feelings ranging from sorrow, melancholy, rage, and terror to cheerfulness, enthusiasm, sympathy, and love. The picture that emerges is a complex one, showing how the states we group together today as "the emotions" are the product of long and varied historical changes in language, culture, beliefs, and ways of life. The grief-stricken rage of Achilles in the Iliad, the happiness inscribed in America's Declaration of Independence, the love of humanity that fired crusades and revolutions through the ages, and the righteous rage of modern protest movements all look different when seen through this lens.
With examples from ancient, medieval, and modern cultures, including forgotten feelings and the creation of modern emotional regimes, this Very Short Introduction sheds new light on our emotions in the present, by looking at what historians can tell us about their past. Dixon explains the key ideas of historians of emotions as they have developed in conversation with psychology and psychiatry, with attention paid especially to ideas about basic emotions, psychological construction, and affect theory.

List of illustrations
1: The pulse of the past
2: A map of woe
3: From passions to emojis
4: Terror and the pursuit of happiness
5: All the rages
6: Looking for love
References and further reading

About the author: 

Thomas Dixon, Queen Mary University of London
Thomas Dixon is Professor of History and Director of the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London. His research and teaching explore the intellectual and cultural histories of passions, emotions, love, altruism, tears, and weeping, especially in Britain. His books include From Passions to Emotions: The Creation of a Secular Psychological Category (2003), The Invention of Altruism: Making Moral Meanings in Victorian Britain (2008), and Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears (2015). His broadcast work has included histories of friendship and of solitude for BBC Radio 4, and an award-winning podcast series, “The Sound of Anger”, made as part of a Wellcome Trust research project on emotional health.

Product details

ISBN : 9780198818298

Thomas Dixon
176 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
May 2023
Very Short Introductions
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The History of Emotions: A Very Short Introduction [#735]

The History of Emotions: A Very Short Introduction [#735]

The History of Emotions: A Very Short Introduction [#735]