Emotion and the Arts

By Mette Hjort; Sue Laver | Go to book overview

7
Emotion in Music

ROM HARRÉ


I. Emotion as It Is Currently Understood

Though the word "emotion" is a late entrant into the English language, nevertheless it is already multivocal in its uses, not least among psychologists. Broadly speaking, there are two main ways of using the word, and so two main fields of studies of the emotional life of people and animals. Particularly in the United States, in both lay and professional discourse, "emotion" is taken to be a bodily condition, either a feeling (for example an abdominal tension), or -- for some biologically oriented psychologists -- a physiological state (for example a rise in the state of excitation of some part of the nervous system) ( Izard 1977). However, this way of locating emotion sidelines most of what is important in the emotionality of human beings and animals, namely, the expressive function of the displays and feelings we label with such phrases as "being angry," "feeling elated," "raging at someone," "envious of someone's success," and so on. From this point of view, an emotion display is an expression of a complex judgment, and, at the same time, is often the performance of a social act ( Stearns and Stearns 1988). Both the biological and the discursive points of view allow that emotions can be both inherited and learned, though the biologically oriented students of emotion tend to pay little attention to the huge cultural variations in the repertoires and occasioned uses of emotion displays

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