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

*Please note: this course is still subject to change. Please contact for more information.*

About the course

The history of emotions has arguably emerged as the most interesting mediating discipline in what is now conventionally called the “emotional turn” or “affective turn”. As various disciplines—from experimental psychology to law, sociology, literary, and visual studies—engage in work on emotions, history asks how and why feelings were constituted as objects of inquiry in a given discipline. The history of emotions lends, in other words, temporal depth to the study of emotion. What is more, history as currently practiced is fundamentally wide-ranging and eclectic in its theoretical preferences. It is thus ideally suited to facilitate interdisciplinary conversation.

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: a history of feeling nothing (Pahl).  Also the role of literary fiction gets to the fore in recent studies, like in regard to fictional characters as emotional selves (Bradsma & Larrington).  This course takes those 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 and slightly longer paper presentations 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 emotions will be possible during two walks through Ghent, combined with a visit of one of the city’s museums and another heritage institution. Doing so, the participants will also become acquainted with ongoing research at Ghent University about the history of emotions, which will be linked to urban history for this occasion.

Session I: Walk through Ghent: medieval literature & emotions (28 March 2021 – 14:00-17:00)
Guide: Youri Desplenter (Ghent University)

Session II: Politics of Emotions (29 March 2022 – 10:00-12:00)
Lecturer: Kerstin Maria Pahl (Berlin)

 Session III: Politics of Emotions (29 March 2022 – 14:00-17:00)
Lecturer: Kerstin Maria Pahl (Berlin)

Session IV: Affective Economy (30 March 2022 – 10:00-12:00)
Lecturer: Inger Leemans (VU Amsterdam)

Session V: Affective Economy (30 March 2022 – 14:00-17:00)
Lecturer: Inger Leemans (VU Amsterdam)

Session VI: Walk through Ghent: Emotions and Iconoclasm in 1566 (31 March 2021 – 10:00-12:00)
Guide: Kornee van der Haven (Ghent University)

Session VII: Emotional Communities and Embeddedness (31 March 2022 – 14:00-16:00)
Lecturer: Johan Verberckmoes (KU Leuven)

Session VIII: Literary Fiction and the Emotional Self (1 April 2022 – 10:00-12:00)
Lecturer: Frank Brandsma (Utrecht University) 

Session IX: Emotional Selves & Embeddedness (1 April 2021 – 14:00-17:00)
Lecturer: Johan Verberckmoes (KU Leuven) & Frank Brandsma (Utrecht University)


More information on registration will follow soon. 

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