Emotion and Social Change: Toward a New Psychohistory

Emotion and Social Change: Toward a New Psychohistory

Emotion and Social Change: Toward a New Psychohistory

Emotion and Social Change: Toward a New Psychohistory

Excerpt

The historical study of emotion, though a relatively new field of inquiry, has already produced considerable debate within the discipline of history, while providing a vital temporal framework for sociological discussion of love, anger, grief, and other feelings. The subject, in other words, promises to add considerably to our grasp of the texture of the past and to contribute to the reviving interdisciplinary inquiry into what emotions are all about, now as well as before.

It is more than conceivable, indeed, that historical study of emotion will finally link concern with the psyche with a broader understanding of social change, a linkage promised, but not on the whole delivered, by psychohistory per se. A focus on emotional change, grasped through models of emotionality sufficiently flexible to take both change and variety into account, and aimed at group patterns more than individual biography, is beginning to yield some sense of periods, trends, and even causation in emotional behavior and perception. Further exploration, of the sort represented in and encouraged by essays in this collection, may allow still further connection between emotional repertoires and other aspects of the human experience.

This volume, featuring essays on various emotions and several time periods, seeks to introduce a wider readership to the findings and issues in emotions history. It presents some intrinsically interesting aspects of the West European and American past. Individual essays deal with distinctive early modern combinations of anger and sadness; with a New England transition from inculcation of shame to the quite different emotion of guilt; with the experience and expression of love in courtship; with work-based anger; with parental love as applied to adoptive as well as biological parents in recent American history; and with some recent changes in jealousy. The essays in combination show a variety of emotional ranges in the past and a series of significant shifts over time.

The collection also presents something of a second generation of research that benefits from some of the pioneering studies, particularly of romantic love, and also from some characteristic mistakes or distortions of earlier . . .

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