Select Page

History of the Emotions Spring School: ‘Emotions and/as Politics, Economy, Community and Self’

This spring school is organised by GEMS, UGent Doctoral School AHL and the Huizinga Institute. It stimulates contacts and exchange between Dutch and Flemish junior scholars in the field of cultural history. The course will mainly focus on the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period, but students working on Antiquity or the Modern Period can attend as well.

This course is about the History of the Emotions, a flourishing research field that connects different disciplines wthin the humanities. At least five of these disciplines will be represented in this course: cultural history, economic history, political history, literary studies and art history. The aim of the course is not to provide an introduction in the field but to deepen the participants’ knowledge of four topical angles through which emotions in history can be studied.

The history of the emotions has long been on the investigation of emotional norms, regimes, and communities, with the pioneering work of scholars such as Barbara Rosenwein and William Reddy. Ten years ago, Monique Scheer introduced the idea of ‘doing emotions’, paying more attention to the performative aspect of emotional language, as well as cognitive processes and the idea of embodied knowledge. Other scholars focused explicitly on the role of emotions in processes of knowledge acquisition, and on emotions as a form of knowledge. More recently, special attention has also been paid to the interrelationship of economy and affect (Leemans & Goldgar) and to affective experience in relationship with interculturality and processes of social bonding and embeddedness, i.e. the closeness of interpersonal relationships (Verberckmoes). The political management of emotions as it was studied by William Reddy and Ute Frevert has become a topic of interest for scholars who are interested in powerful emotions in historical emotional regimes or he opposite of that (as studied by scholars like Xine Yaoh): a history of feeling nothing or unfeeling (Pahl). Also the role of literary fiction gets to the fore in recent studies, like in regard to fictional characters as emotional selves (Brandsma & Larrington).

This course takes te aforementioned four recent lines of research and the concepts associated with them as a starting point: economy, politics, community and self. Four specialists will reflect from their scholarly background (cultural history, economic history, political history, literary studies, art history) on how they define and apply the above-mentioned concepts in their own research. An accompanying reading list gives rise to further reflection and discussion with the participants. This will offer students a steppingstone to think these concepts through in relation to their own work. Through short pitches the attending PhD students will reflect on the possibilities and difficulties of working with the same concepts in their own research projects. More informal talks about the history of the emotions will be possible during two thematic walks through Ghent, combined with a visit of one of the city’s heritage institutions. Doing so, the participants will also become acquainted with ongoing research at Ghent University about the history of the emotions, which will be linked to urban history for this occasion.

Tentative programme
Session I: Walk through Ghent: Medieval literature & emotions. Guide: Youri Desplenter (Ghent University)

Session II: Politics of Emotions. Lecturer: Kerstin Maria Pahl (Berlin)

Session III: Politics of Emotions. Lecturer: Kerstin Maria Pahl (Berlin)

Session IV: Affective Economy (I). Lecturer: Inger Leemans (VU Amsterdam)

Session V: Affective Economy (II). Lecturer: Inger Leemans (VU Amsterdam)

Session VI: Walk through Ghent: Emotions and Iconoclasm in 1560). Guide: Kornee van der Haven (Ghent University)

Session VII: Emotional Communities and Embeddedness. Lecturer: Johan Verberckmoes (KU Leuven)

Session VIII: Literary Fiction and the Emotional Self. Lecturer: Frank Brandsma (Utrecht University)

Session IX: Emotional Selves & Embeddedness. Lecturer: Johan Verberckmoes (KU Leuven) & Frank Brandsma (Utrecht University)

Registration is free of charge for members of the Huizinga Institute- and the Doctoral School of Arts, Humanities and Law of Ghent University. Tuition and lodging in Ghent is covered by the Huizinga Institute.

PhD candidates from Dutch universities may apply via the form below. PhD candidates from Flemish universities may send an email to to register.

Doctoralschoolsprofiel Small

Flanders Horizontaal Naakt Art

Register (6/10 spaces left)

Bookings are closed for this course.