Tous les articles par Piroska Nagy

Colloque International: Parfums et odeurs au Moyen Âge. Science, usages, symboles. Louvain-la-Neuve et Leuven, 15-17 mars 2012

PROGRAMME

JEUDI 15 MARS, LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE (SALLE OLEFFE)

14h00. Ouverture du colloque, allocutions
14h15. Introduction, par Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, Hans Cools, Baudouin Van den Abeele

Contrastes
14h30. Béatrice Caseau (Université de Paris IV – Sorbonne), Encens, parfums et espaces sacrés à Byzance
15h15. Jean-Pierre Leguay (Université de Rouen-Haute Normandie), Les mauvaises odeurs, un fléau urbain au Moyen Âge

16h00. Pause

De la vie à de la mort
16h30. Hans Cools (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), Un parfum de royauté: les odeurs des ducs de Bourgogne lors de leurs joyeuses entrées aux villes des Pays-Bas
17h15. Franck Collard (Université de Paris Ouest – Nanterre), Empoisonnement et odorat: théorie et pratique à la fin du Moyen Âge
18h00. Patrice Georges (Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives Paris, UMR 5199 – PACEA, A3P) et Rémi Corbineau (LAMM, UMR 6572 – CEREGE, UMR 6635), Plantes et aromates de la préparation des corps au Moyen Age

19h00. Réception

VENDREDI 16 MARS, LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE (SALLE OLEFFE)

Discours de la science
9h00. Mariacarla Gadebusch Bondio (Technische Universität München), Between nostrils and brain – controversies about the sense of smell
9h45. Danielle Jacquart (École Pratiques des Hautes Études Paris), Odeurs et odorat dans le Conciliator de Pietro d’Abano

10h30. Pause

Substances
11h00. Bruno Laurioux (Université de Versailles – Saint-Quentin-en Yvelines), Parfums d’Orient: la science des épices au Moyen Age
11h45. François Quiviger (Warburg Institute London), Entre mythologie et médecine: vapeurs et odeurs du vin de Nonnos de Panopolis à Marsile Ficin

12h30. Repas – buffet

Spéculations
14h00. Pietro Bassiano Rossi (Università degli Studi di Torino), Colore, sapore, odore: ‘esse sensibile’ o ‘esse intentionale’ ? Alcune risposte di maestri del secolo XIII
14h45. Alessandra Capozza (Università di Macerata), Autour d’Angela da Foligno: une étude sur le lexique olfactif dans le Memoriale

15h30. Pause

A vue de nez
16h00. Baudouin Van den Abeele (Université catholique de Louvain), Stratégies olfactives dans le monde animal et leur moralisation français
16h45. Michel Pastoureau (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris), Remarques sur la symbolique médiévale du nez
17h30. Anne Cobby (University of Cambridge), ‘Du fiens la flairor, des herbes l’odor’: parfums et puanteurs dans les fabliaux

19h30. Repas

SAMEDI 17 MARS, LEUVEN (COLLEGIUM VETERANORUM– SALLE ROMERO)

Fragrances obscures
9h45. Marina Montesano (Università degli Studi di Genova), The Smell of Magic
10h30. Martine Ostorero (Université de Lausanne), Les odeurs répugnantes des démons: une preuve de leur présence corporelle au sabbat?

11h15. Pause

Elévations
11h45. Martin Roch (Université de Genève), La théologie olfactive dans le traité Flores epytaphii sanctorum (v. 1100) de Thiofrid d’Echternach
12h30. Iolanda Ventura (Université d’Orléans), Parfums dans l’exégèse biblique pré-moderne

13h15. Repas

Divins parfums
14h30. Anita Macauda (Università degli Studi di Bologna), Voir l’odeur. La représentation parfumée de l’Assomption de la Vierge
15h15. Francesco Santi (Università degli Studi di Cassino), Odori e profumi nei commenti al Cantico dei cantici

16h00. Conclusions, par Agostino Paravicini Bagliani
16h30. Réception

Le plaisir au Moyen Âge à l’honneur à l’IMC à Leeds 2013

The IMC seeks to provide an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of all aspects of medieval studies. Papers and sessions on any topic or theme in the European Middle Ages are welcome. Each Congress has one particular special thematic strand on an area of interdisciplinary study in a wider context. However, this strand is not intended to be an exclusive and submissions from all spheres of medieval research, in any major European language, are welcome.

 

Pleasure is a universal human experience, but its components, evaluation, and meaning, and the contexts in which it is, or is not, a legitimate feeling and form of behaviour vary according to cultures and among individuals. Pleasure can be brought on by sensory stimulation, by aesthetic appreciation, by practising an activity, by sharing a common experience with others – or even all of these together (as in the case of the experience of sexual love). The crucial importance of pleasure in medieval living, as well as its multiple facets, constitute the reasons why the IMC has chosen ‘Pleasure’ as its special thematic focus for 2013.

 

Medieval Christianity had a specific cultural attitude towards pleasure, with a strong focus on the division of this world and the afterlife. Pleasure was often either spiritual or corporeal, although sometimes seen as both (as in the mystical/ecstatic experience). Earthly pleasures were first and foremost associated with sin and damnation, and even posed a threat to health, while spiritual pleasures contributed towards salvation and a more harmonious life. The attitude towards pleasure was ambiguous: with the threat of the devil on one side, and the enticement of heaven on the other, pleasure was linked to both joy and pain. Questions around pleasure were posed in philosophical and theological debates throughout the Middle Ages. Pleasure was nonetheless an experience commonly and eagerly sought for – in all its forms and by all social groups, in and outside Christendom. Aristocratic life is particularly represented as a culture of pleasure in both iconography and literature. The balance between celestial and terrestrial values was renegotiated in the late medieval period, so that pleasure became an aspiration for all.

 

Areas of discussion could include:

  • Diverging cultural attitudes toward pleasure
  • Pleasure in non-Christian contexts
  • Earthly pleasure versus spiritual pleasure
  • Visual and narrative representations of pleasure
  • Social and corporeal manifestations of pleasure
  • Pleasurable activities
  • Individual and collective experiences of pleasure
  • Prohibition and condemnation of pleasure
  • Chastity, celibacy, fasting, and abstinence
  • Love / sexuality / pleasures of the flesh – and their specific cultural expressions
  • Medical theories and approaches to pleasure
  • Mysticism, spirituality, and pleasure
  • Creating and/or experiencing pleasure
  • Entertainment and leisure
  • Humour and fun
  • Material culture and evidence of pleasure
  • Pleasure and luxury / cultural goods / worldliness

 

Proposals should be submitted online at: <www.leeds.ac.uk/ims/imc/imc2013_call.html>. The online proposal form will be available from 1 May 2012. Paper proposals must be submitted by 31 August 2012; session proposals must be submitted by 30 September 2012.

 

Pourquoi rire?

FOLIO ESSAIS 256 pages – 8,40 € POURQUOI RIRE ? [2011]. Ouvrage collectif d’Antoine de Baecque, de Thomas Benatouïl, de Patrice Blouin, d’Yves Cusset, d’Anne Dufourmantelle, d’Élie During, d’Arlette Farge, de Claude Gauvard, de Daniel Luzzati, de Dominique Noguez, de Julia Pecker, de Denis Podalydès, de Jean-Marie Schaeffer et d’Alain Vaillant. Édition publiée sous la direction de Jean Birnbaum, introduction de George Steiner. Première édition, 256 pages sous couv. ill., 108 x 178 mm. Collection Folio essais (No 555), Gallimard -ess. ISBN 9782070444373.
Parution : 20-10-2011.

Expérience subversive, le rire est une arme de libération massive contre les oppresseurs, un outil pour résister aux forces d’anéantissement, pour briser les fers de l’existence et saluer la reconquête d’une liberté. Il faut rire de tout, et d’abord du pouvoir, de la misère, de la mort, mais, précisait l’humoriste Pierre Desproges, pas avec n’importe qui, et surtout pas avec les ennemis de la liberté.

Pour être digne de ce nom, le rire doit dynamiter nos certitudes, ébranler notre identité au moment même où elle risque de se figer, interrompre le cours ordinaire des choses et introduire dans notre quotidien de la surprise, de l’ouverture, de la rencontre. Mieux : elle dessine les contours d’une communauté. Le rire vient saluer la reconquête d’une reconnaissance mutuelle, d’un partage possible, d’une transmission à venir. Bref, il émancipe.

« Ceux qui cherchent des causes métaphysiques au rire ne sont pas gais », prévenait Voltaire. Ce volume qui reprend les interventions des philosophes, psychanalystes, historiens ou acteurs, spécialistes de la littérature ou du cinéma, femmes et hommes de tribune ou de scène, penseurs ou praticiens du rire, réunis au Forum Le Monde-Le Mans (novembre 2010) entend bien le démentir.

Présentation: Une secousse subversive – Jean Birnbaum

Introduction: Le rire ou le sourire?  – Georges Steiner

1. Rire ou blaguer – Jean-Marie Schaeffer

2.  De quelques formes anciennes du comique philosophique – Thomas Bénatouïl

3. Pour un rire philosophe. Réflexions sur les rapports entre humour et philosophie – Yves Cusset

4. Rire et transgressions – Julia Peker

5. Le rire des historiens: encore un effort… Antoine de Baecque

6. Rire et dérision dans la résolution des conflits au Moyen Âge – Claude Gauvard

7. Rire pour mieux savoir au XVIIIe siècle – Arlette Farge

8. Le rire, le rêve – hors de l’impasse – Anne Dufourmantelle

9. Gaz hilarants: introduction au comique d’atmosphère – Elie During

10. L’humour contre le rire – Dominique Noguez

11. Humours périssable s- Paric Blouin

12. Le propre de l’artiste – Alain Vaillant

13. Rire et langage – Daniel Luzzatti

Envoi: Suis-je drôle? – Denis Podalydès

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amour et désamour du prince du haut Moyen âge à la Révolution française

Amour et désamour du prince
du haut Moyen Age à la Révolution française
Josiane Barbier, Monique Cottret, Lydwine Scordia
Éditeur : Kimé, Paris
Collection : Le Sens de l’histoire
Description : 161 pages; (22 x 15 cm)
EAN13 : 9782841745487

Résumé

Quatorze chercheurs (historiens, historiens du droit, des littéraires et des philosophes) se sont penchés sur l’émergence et le sens du thème de l’amour mentionné par les sources médiévales et modernes, en interrogeant plus largement la place des sentiments dans la relation entre le roi et ses sujets depuis les mérovingiens jusqu’à l’aube de la Révolution française.

Quatrième de couverture

Amour et désamour du Prince Du haut moyen âge à la révolution française La question de l’amour ou du désamour des sujets pour le prince et du prince pour ses sujets a-t-elle encore un sens dans nos démocraties ? Les sondages actuels mesurent la popularité ou l’impopularité des hommes politiques auprès des citoyens – des termes qui ne sont pas exactement synonymes d’amour et désamour. Il fut un temps où les sentiments entre le roi et les sujets occupaient une place dans l’histoire politique. Les onze chercheurs (historiens, historiens du droit, littéraire et philosophe) de cette première journée d’études, organisée par le Centre d’Histoire Sociale et Culturelle de l’Occident (Chisco) de l’université Paris Ouest-Nanterre-La Défense, ont cherché à définir et délimiter les concepts et les thématiques de l’amour et du désamour du prince du haut Moyen Âge à la Révolution française, dans l’espace franc puis français avec des incursions dans les anciens Pays-Bas bourguignons. Les articles sont regroupés en trois parties : « L’amour et la crainte » (Haut Moyen Âge), « L’amour comme norme » (Moyen Âge tardif) et « L’amour en plus » (Temps modernes).

Table des matières :
J. Barbier, M. Cottret, L. Scordia, Introduction
R. Le Jan, Entre amour et haine du roi: quelques réflexions sur les émotions politiques à l’époque mérovingienne
Y. Sassier, Inspirer l’amour, inspirer la crainte? Sources bibliques et patristiques, oeuvres parénétiques (VIe-XIIe s.)
L. Scordia, Concepts et registres de l’amour du roi dans le De regimine principum de Gilles de Rome
J-L. Chastel, De l’amour du prince au culte de Saint Louis: Le sceau des consuls de Pézenas (1298 ou 1303?)
L. Smagghe, Plaisir de châtier, joie de pardonner: discours amoureux du prince aux villes rebelles du pays de Flandre à l’époque bourguignonne
J. Hubac, Fragments d’un discours amoureux: les Huguenots et le roi au premier XVIIe siècle
M. Cottret, Les derniers feux de l’amour: les journées d’octobre 1789 revisitées
P-Y. Glasser et A. Quennedey, De la haine du roi à la communauté des affections: les ressorts d’une politique républicaine selon Saint-Juste
F. Hildesheimer, Conclusion.

Cool, Calm and Collected The Dutch and their Emotions in Pre-Modern Times

Koninklijke Bibliotheek Den Haag
4 November 2011

Registration by way of an e-mail to: info@knhg.nl, or by telephone: +31 (0)70 3140363

The conference ‘Cool, Calm and Collected’ aims to enhance the burgeoning History of Emotions in the Netherlands. Speakers at the conference will present their current research, integrating the study of emotional standards in advice literature with the study of actual emotional practices in ego documents, chronicles and archival sources. The fields covered will range from politics, philosophy and the urban feud to religion, the stage and the visual arts. The conference will not only be of interest to specialists in the history of emotions but also to the greater historical community.

Although the history of emotions was already suggested as an interesting topic by Lucien Febvre and Johan Huizinga it has been taken up seriously as a subject of historical study only fairly recently. Initially, historians limited themselves largely to the study of documents that prescribed emotional ideals and standards. Researchers are now going beyond such texts. They are currently identifying transformations in emotional ‘communities’ and ‘styles’ on the basis of letters, autobiographies and memoirs, as well as a variety of narrative, archival and visual sources. Historians are also emphasising performativity, i.e. what emotions actually do. At the institutional level, in Europe two important research centres have been started: in London the Queen Mary Centre for the History of the Emotions (Thomas Dixon, director); in Berlin the ‘Forschungsbereich Geschichte der Gefühle’ (Ute Frevert, director). This conference seeks to establish a more solid footing for the history of emotions in the Netherlands and join in with these international trends.

The speakers at the conference will discuss the emotional styles of the Modern Devouts and the cult of pugnacity in Late Medieval feuds. Focusing on the seventeenth century, they will reconsider the performativity accorded to the emotions in painting, the theater, and pietist religious movements. For the eighteenth century, speakers will analyse the Dutch ‘cult of sensibility’, the contemporary appreciation and navigation of the sentiments. The day will be closed with a lecture by Dorothee Sturkenboom. She is a pioneer in the study of emotions in the Netherlands and will relate the emotional history of the Dutch to contemporary and more recent views on their ‘national character’.

The conference’s keynote lecturer, the well-known British historian Thomas Dixon, will discuss the latest developments in the field.

The organisers: Wessel Krul, Herman Roodenburg, and Catrien Santing.

The conference will take place in the National Library of the Netherlands (KB) in The Hague.

The conference fee is € 30,- (€ 25,- for members of the KNHG and € 15,- for students and PhD students) and includes lunch. The conference fee should be transferred to account number 6934391 (IBAN: NL25 INGB 0006 9343 91, BIC: INGBNL2A) of Koninklijk Nederlands Historisch Genootschap in The Hague.

Registration by way of an e-mail to: info@knhg.nl, or by telephone: +31 (0)70 3140363.

Programme

09.45 – 10.00 Welcome Catrien Santing (University of Groningen), chair
10.00 – 10.15 Introduction Herman Roodenburg (Meertens Institute – KNAW)
10.15 – 11.00 Keynote lecture Thomas Dixon (Queen Mary, University of London) History in British Tears: Some Reflections on the Anatomy of Modern Emotions

11.00 – 11.15 Coffee and tea

11.15 – 11.45 Mathilde van Dijk (University of Groningen) ‘Just some silly Beguine’: being pious and showing it in the Devotio Moderna
11.45 – 12.15 Matthijs Gerrits (Leiden University – Fryske Akademy) Anger and Feuding in the Late Medieval Northern Low Countries

12.15 – 13.30 Lunch

13.00 – 13.30 Annual Meeting Koninklijk Nederlands Historisch Genootschap

13.30 – 14.00 Kristine Steenbergh (VU University) Vondel and the Role of Emotions in the Public Sphere
14.00 – 14.30 Eric Jan Sluijter (University of Amsterdam) The Changing Representation of the Passions in History Paintings by Rembrandt and his Amsterdam Colleagues
14.30 – 15.00 Fred van Lieburg (VU University) The Use of Emotions by the Hotter Sort of Protestant

15.00 – 15.15 Coffee and tea

15.15 – 15.45 Wessel Krul (University of Groningen) Phlegmatic Excitement. The Dutch and the Discovery of the Emotions in the 18th Century
15.45 – 16.15 Edwina Hagen (VU University) The Passionate Politics of Rutger Jan and Catharina Schimmelpenninck: Dialogue between the Head and the Heart
16.15 – 16.45 Dorothée Sturkenboom (independent scholar) The Dutch Temperament: An Enigma to be Explained…

16.45 – 17.30 Reflections by Dixon, Roodenburg and Santing, followed by Plenary Discussion

17.30 – 18.00 Drinks

L’émotion historique en tournée de conférences cet automne

 

Plusieurs conférences sont consacrées à l’émotion historique cet automne.

Et pour commencer … mieux vaut tard que jamais! Il y a précisément un mois, s’est tenue à Istanbul la 2e conférence sur l’histoire des émotions dans la prémodernité, avec pour thème « Est et Ouest ». Vous pouvez lire un

Compte rendu de la conférence par Kristine Steenbergh

et visualiser le  Programme de la conférence ici.

EMMA était présente avec les communications de Patricia Prost et Piroska : résumés à venir

Par la suite, dans quelques jours s’ouvre une conférence à la Bibliothèque Royale à la Hague, en Hollande : Cool, Calm and Collected: Cultural History of Dutch Emotions

 

 

Ouverture de postes de recherche en histoire des émotions en Australie

ARC CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE FOR THE HISTORY OF THE EMOTIONS (EUROPE 1100-1800)

POST-DOCTORAL RESEARCHERS
The Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions in collaboration with The University of Western Australia, The University of Adelaide, The University of Melbourne, The University of Sydney and The University of Queensland, seeks to appoint nine exceptional postdoctoral researchers to contribute to research projects in the history of emotions in Europe, c. 1100-1800.

The Centre addresses big questions: to what extent are emotions universal? How, and to what extent, are they culturallyconditioned and subject to historical change? What are the causes andconsequences of major episodes of mass emotional experiences? How areemotions created and conveyed through the arts? How does Australia’s emotional heritage influence today’s social and cultural patterns?

The Centre draws on advanced research expertise at five nodes in Australia (the universities of Western Australia, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland), plus research partnerships in the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. Our approach is strongly interdisciplinary, with researchers spanning the fields of social and cultural history, literature, art history, museology, Latin studies, history of medicine and science, musicology and performance practice.

These prestigious research positions (with additional $16K pa research support) offer an exciting opportunity for innovative and enthusiastic scholars with demonstrated track records in medieval and/or early modern studies and a capacity to engage in interdisciplinary research.
Benefits include 17% superannuation and generous leave provisions. Some relocation allowance for successful applicants will be considered. These and other benefits will be specified in the offer of employment.

The University of Western Australia

· Research Associate (Interpretations and Expressions of Emotion) (Ref: 3449)
For position information go to: https://www.his.admin.uwa.edu.au/jobvacs/external/academic/ads.htm
CLOSING DATE: 29 APRIL 2011

The University of Adelaide
· Research Fellowship in Medieval or Early Modern Europe, (Position number 16567),
· Research Fellowship in the Emotional History of Law, Government and Society in Britain, 1700-1830, (Position number 16568),
For position information go to: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/jobs/current/

CLOSING DATE: 21 APRIL 2011

The University of Melbourne
· Research Fellowship in Emotions and Sacred Sites
· Research Fellowship in Texts describing Emotions
For position information and to apply online go to: http://www.hr.unimelb.edu.au/careers
CLOSING DATE: TBA

The University of Queensland
· Research Fellowships: Reason and the Passions in English Literature, 1500-1800 (2 positions)
For position information go to: http://www.seek.com.au/JobSearch?AdvertiserID=852832

CLOSING DATE: 21 APRIL 2011

The University of Sydney
· Postdoctoral Research Associate in Emotions related to Suicidal Impulse (Ref 160/0111)
· Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Emotional Responses to Public Death (Ref 161/0111)
For position information and to apply online go to: http://usyd.nga.net.au/cp/index.cfm
CLOSING DATE: 1 MAY 2011

Piroska Nagy – Damien Boquet : Historical Emotions, Historians’ Emotions

This article was first published in French, « Émotions historiques, émotions historiennes », in Écrire l’histoire, 2 (2008), p. 15-26. We are grateful to Greg Robinson for his English translation and to John Drendel for his valuable suggestions.

Emotions and feelings are guests who were invited late to the banquet of history. Even today, when they seem to have earned a legitimate place at the table, there are those who would prefer to feed them only a few crumbs. We should note that there is a dialectic that exists between history of the emotions and other more traditional areas of the historical field that matches the opposition of cooked and raw, or hard and soft. In spite of the appeals of Lucien Febvre, as well as a few others, in spite of the pioneering studies which were as brilliant as they were without successors, we are not far removed from a time when professional historians considered emotion only in the realm of the anecdotal or as the foundation of irrational human actions, a sort of secondary causality which one had to try to flesh out by reference to more serious and tangible motivations. While cultural historians, as good disciples of Foucault, privilege discourse among representations, the history of emotions appears rather like a history of mentalités, of “relooked” sensibilities which are at the same time blurry and rather marginal, and in any case as a minor kind of field. Yet now we are present at the moment of its emancipation, historiographically speaking. While all around us the search for authentic emotion persists in a desert of solitude ever more severe, people speak more and more of emotion in both society and in the social sciences, as if the very difficulty of finding affection in daily life not only makes the need to think about it in the present more imperious, but also reveals the need to interrogate the past. Amid such conditions, though they only explain the phenomenon in part, what is it that grounds the current interest in the past experience of emotions within the historical discipline, and on what is its legitimacy based? Conversely, why does it remain so dubious for so many people? To these epistemological questions must be added others concerning the practice of history. Indeed, there is no escape from a slew of questions regarding our own emotional investment in regard to the historical object: Why emotions, and why me? What are we really seeking in emotions, what can we find, and how do we express what we have found? What emotions, in turn, does the material excite within us, and how do we handle them in such a way as to share them with our readers? In sum, to what extent does emotional material, once put under a microscope, modify the practice of our profession—or does it instead reflect a recent shift in conditions? Each of these questions deserves, and has already inspired, numerous pages of discussion. Between the Scylla of an overly cold history, done in the name of rationality and scholarly objectivity, and the Charybdis of a manipulative emotiveness that substitutes for clear argument, the passage seems quite narrow. Nevertheless, we will try to thread it in four steps.[1]

Resistance to historical emotions

A continuing trend, set in motion with the founding of the Annales school and then by the growth of the New History, validates the efforts of historians to extend their researches to other forms of reality than strict historical fact. These so-called mentalités—now supplanted by cultural history and the history of representations—earned a place beside that of canonical realist forms of history. However, the history of emotions, whose birth dates back to a similar period,[2] still seems to lie on the periphery of professional research. Almost ten years ago, Alain Corbin underlined the “trepidation of academic history” in regard to this field,[3] even as the demand for it remained—and still remains today—strong. Why is there such scholarly resistance?

The first reason reflects the very volatility of emotional material, a volatility which renders it particularly resistant to any historical treatment. Even today, many people consider emotion to be that which is most separate from fact, or worse yet—the height of embarrassment—as constituting a sort of nuisance or disturbance that alters facts. Generally speaking, emotional reality, in spite of the fact that it fairly pulses in the texts of yore, seems like a tricky thing to analyze with the classic historian’s tools, all of which were developed for use in working with facts. Polymorphous and many-sided, these emotions often resist the kind of fundamental harmony sought for in scientific language, and even defy logic itself. What is more, the profession of history, which turned itself into a science between the 19th and 20th centuries, prides itself on having elaborated scientific methods—criticism of sources, different scholarly tests for dating documents, procedures of inquiry and interpretation—whose proper application, however individually applied in each case, assures the quality and reliability of the historian’s conclusions. The (re)constitution of historical truth—a truth which the actors of the past, embroiled in their own stormy life histories, could not see themselves—takes place by means of an ensemble of methods, carefully applied. As a result, historians too long treated emotions as so many rhetorical flourishes, which one had in the end to strip away in order to examine the essential bare bones of texts.

A second reason, which underscores the salience of the first, even as it covers perhaps more territory, is the old belief that emotion is par excellence a-historical, and a universal property of men. It was the American medievalist Barbara Rosenwein, a figure well known in France, who, according to the philosopher Robert Solomon, called the attention of historians to what she described as the “hydraulic conception” that our culture had—and still has in popular opinion—of emotions. Feelings get described as if they were a sort of liquid under pressure, which each person was supposed to contain inside, with the aid of reason.[4] This conception is nourished by the opposition between reason and emotion, a familiar idea in Western thought dating back to Descartes.[5] It represents as well the base of modernist visions of history, from the Renaissance until at least the 20th century, which confuses historical evolution with the progress of reason, a vision that that has fed Norbert Elias’s description of the civilizing process of custom.[6] The approach of Johan Huizinga is different, as he sees in the Renaissance instead a period of nostalgic replaying of the raw passions of the high Middle Ages.[7] Still, these two paradigms connect in supposing that Western civilization has moved from a childlike state of nature and emotion to a state of reason and culture—in sum toward adulthood and modernity. This approach, which handily matches the conception of feelings in the psychoanalytic theory of Freud, can be found more or less explicitly stated in the work of numerous great thinkers who inspired the development of the social science during the 20th century, including Emile Durkheim and Max Weber to mention only two. The consequence of this opposition of pure reason and emotion has been a distrust of all feelings, menacing yet obscure.

A Change in the Landscape

Yet, over the last fifty years, a profound change has taken place in the landscape of the science of emotions, although many historians have not yet taken it into account. The main pressure has come from outside social sciences: starting in the mid-20th century, neuroscientists were the first to demonstrate the indissociable character—in the decision-making process for example—of rational and affective factors. Little by little it became clear that, in the great economic or political decisions as in the most intimate choices in daily life, feeling motivates reason more than opposing it. Reason is thus a sensitive power. These last twenty years, several high-quality works of popular science[8] has taken up the task of convincing the public at large of the reality that even in the core of the brain, reason and emotion are joined. In parallel fashion, the most diverse studies in cognitive psychology have come to similar conclusions,[9] such that philosophers, well in advance of historians, have grown interested in this newly remodeled reality.[10] But it is only very recently that a very few historians have tried to draw any conclusions from these changes in the framework of their historical thought.[11]

As a matter of fact, even if historians of Antiquity and of Middle Ages have always had certain reservations about Elias’s theory of the civilizing process, in the wake of this paradigm change, his theory seems dead even under its own terms, in the same manner as outdated progressive and ethnocentric visions of history. It is not by chance that it was the anthropologists and ethnologists who studied non-western societies that were the first to grow interested in feeling as social reality, even as they strove to consider it in other terms.[12] They discovered in language, imagination and social customs the absence of a gap between reason and emotion, between soul and body—and in the same way, additional proof of the specifically western and ethnocentric nature of out classic representation of feelings, and more largely, of the entire subject. This fact explains why cultural constructivism and cognitivism have become epistemological reference potions for studying feeling and its social importance.[13] Without necessarily bringing in neurological science, which remains difficult to handle in our culture and field, the conjunction of cognitivist and constructivist theory presents a new scientific platform which allows us to get past the stale dualistic conceptions we have grown up with, despite their profound roots in our everyday language as well as our scholarly practices. However, if language and words are easily to analyze, it is much more difficult to question classic scientific methods and tool because this challenges the very foundations of our methodology.

In sum, it is no doubt because of this inherent difficulty connected with practicing or even considering the history of emotions, that this new field is so vulnerable to being dismissed as a fad of the postmodern era: first sexuality, then the body, and now emotions…! The accusation is even easier to make because emotion is exalted in our times: advertisements work on our feelings to sell the latest brand of yogurt, and politicians and the media for mobilizing public opinion. One need only go to the “psych” section of the bookstore to note the powerful impact of sentiment in our society. Questions if intimacy, individual identity and the place of feeling have great currency.  As Marc Bloch said long ago, all history is contemporary history: our interest as historians in emotions is certainly fed by the discussions of it in the society in which we live. Conversely, the study of emotion in past epochs can certainly help us to look into the reality of the senses today, and the discourses which surround them.

The Elusive Trail of Emotion

The primary difficulty of studying the history of emotions, and one which certainly contributed to its marginality, resides in the very definition of the subject. This, medieval emotion poses a problem even as one defines it: the exact term that we use, “emotion,” was unknown to medieval people, who themselves spoke of “passions” and “sentiments.” These terms are not self-evidently equivalent. If we do have a morally neutral term whose modern emergence had been brilliantly analyzed by Thomas Dixon, in the medieval world the word “passions” had rather a negative connotation as compared to “the passion of the Christ” while virtuous emotion was considered in the realm of affectus.

Another problem with emotion, in the sense that the word is used in French, is that it changes very rapidly, by definition, as psychologists still remind us. As a result, studies tend more often to stuffy lasting emotional states, which are more readily analyzable.  If we recognize the multi-sidedness of an emotion-event, a sudden fear or a spate of rage, a fleeting embarrassment or a hidden shock, what can the historian say about it beyond giving a physical and occasionally psychic description? How can emotion be grasped in its momentary nature by the sources? Difficult to define by their very nature, affective realities conceal themselves behind words or signifiers which are just as difficult to circumscribe within the sources. What is the meaning of a given word from some bygone age that has a completely different meaning now? Once again, a medieval example: compunction, compunctio in Latin, is the religious emotion par excellence in the medieval West, at the root of (and the heart of) the gift of tears—something that our era only can grasp with great difficulty.  Furthermore, what is the meaning of the gesture of blushing or going pale, in an image over 500 years old? Can a word or action reflect necessarily the same emotional meaning in such widely different contexts?

The historian must also confront the question of the evidence of the senses which he may or may not be able to touch, for the bulk of documents available come form elites, more clerical than secular, which are increasingly less numerous the further back one goes into the Middle Ages. What sense comes out of the emotions described when we remember that literacy in the Middle Ages represented above all a social ideal that clerics projected in their writings? The phrase “mute masses” of history is particularly apt in this case. We certainly can relate to what the American couple Peter and Carole Stearns, who in the 1980s were the first to attempt a history of the emotions, referred to as “emotionology,” that is, ‘The attitude or standards that a society, or a definable group within a society, maintains toward basic emotions and their appropriate expression [and] ways that institutions reflect and encourage these attitudes in human conduct.’[14] Furthermore, we might argue, in tune with contemporary sociologists, that reality is not only perceived but actually lived by people within the terms that they use to conceptualize and describe it. However in the Middle Ages, the clerical elite, in describing emotion, sought as well to propose a model of society which would prescribe to everyone the proper manner in which to live emotion, as opposed to other condemned ways. As has been demonstrated in the studies collected by Barbara Rosenwein on anger, an emotion may be considered honorable among elites, who make proper use of it, at the same time that it is forbidden to the common people, of even welcomed among laymen but forbidden to clerics.[15] This does not mean, for example, that a medieval peasant never got angry–only that the sources will speak less often about it, and when they do it will be to condemn a passion so dangerous in political terms.

Obviously, in such circumstances, what we might call the “real-life experience of people” seems hardly available to the historian. The diary was not a genre that existed at the time; correspondence was rarely couched in very personal terms. All we might compare to them, perhaps, are spiritual poetry, prayers and meditations. Thus, what the texts reveal most often is the fundamentally foreign nature of the medieval subject compared to the present day. The medieval subject carried within him- or herself the otherness represented by the figure of the divine, which could fill it with meaning, but at the same time, this special intimacy was directed towards Heaven.[16] In any case, in a society where the identity of individuals was tied up so intimately with their social status and function, the sources let us perceive only very tiny differences between emotional norms and actual practices—the two reflect each other in medieval evidence. In this way, the question, often put to medievalists, whether they have access to what the sources reveal beyond the norms, leads to an impasse.

Emotional Contagion

Emotion, when shared among people, is highly contagious, as everyone knows. In the Middle Ages, it frequently happened that a preacher brought his listeners to tears, or a saint in tears brought on sobs from his admirers, or that joy spread among all those who were present at a miracle, or then head the news of it. Various authors, such as Aelred of Rievaulx in the 12th century, referred to the ancient figure of the hypotypose in order to involve their potential recipients of information in the scenes related, and thus to inspire the very emotions they described in them.[17] Artists in the late Middle Ages sought the same effect in representing the donor among the figures depicted in the cycle of the passion.[18] This type of device raises a whole series of historical questions concerning on the one hand his emotional investment in his sources, followed by that of the reader, and on the other hand the means by which to guide or accompany it.

In back of all this, the historian must inevitably face the question of his own personal interest in the phenomenon of emotion, even before it comes to a discussion from a historical angle, and of the existential benefit he receives form such a commitment. As for all forms of history, or even writing, the history of emotion says a lot about the people who write it.

(Piroska Nagy) For me, the origin of my interest in medieval tears[19]—apart from the inspiration of Jacques Le Goff, who was then running a seminar on laughter, and than the phrase of Roland Barthes, pondering in Fragments d’un discourse amoureux, “Who will write the history of tears?”—comes out of a question by a young woman student about the limits of human freedom in the medieval period. To what extent, in Western Christian society, where social ties were forged largely within the Church, could there have been any freedom of feeling, an inner life similar to ours? Since the Church sought above all to Christianize emotion—God is love—faith was necessarily an emotional act, internal, even before it was connected with any social action. Did the Gospels, which declared that tears could lead to blessedness, leave any room for freedom of individual feeling, to cry otherwise? Naturally, when posed in such a fashion, the question was naïve and rather ahistorical; nevertheless, my multiyear voyage on the sea of shed past tears has brought me some answers. They were of course elsewhere than where I expected to find them. Above all, I have become aware of the culturally defined character of the emotion expressed in my sources. What is more, I cannot count the streams of tears it has taken me to do it, though they have permitted me to test myself the emotional benefit of tears. The answer to my original question resided in the gradual emotional Christianization of the medieval West. By my interest in the intimacy of tears, I was able to understand several different models, each belonging to a given milieu, and each radically different from our own; the mystic intimacy with God, friendship between men, courtly love… My work on historical emotion has also led me to enlarge the study to surrounding emotions, including those of my own. It has broadened, little by little, my own emotional culture, my capacity for emotional communication and even perhaps (I hope!) my emotional intelligence in life. Finally, I could not avoid being confronted by the limits of rational discourse and approaches to matters of the senses whose meaning cannot be readily categorized, since historians of feelings, like human beings in daily life, must meet without fail the question of the transmission and sharing of emotions, even as he/she must try to conceptualize them.

(Damien Boquet). At the start of the 1990s was the triumph of studies on gender and emotional identities. Having started two decades previously in a context of political affirmation of feminist and Gay/lesbian movements, the phenomenon took on a new vigor, urgent and dramatic, with the AIDS pandemic. How could we do medieval history in a time of AIDS? It seemed to me absurd and unthinkable not to take off from this question, first because the scandal of the disease had managed to strip bare the great poverty of emotional models and discourses of love that society had already legitimated. The seminar of Paulette L’Hermite-Leclercq at University of Paris-IV Sorbonne had taught me that gender history could not survive its 15 minutes of fame unless it was a history of human genders, of masculine and feminine mixed, where the paradigm of masculine domination, however undeniable, could not cover everything. That is why I began working on masculine friendship among monks from the angle of intellectual history—the same intellectual history that Alain Boureau was then emancipating from dull history of ideas—which turned the concept, once placed into a proper textual and contextual frame, revealing of representations, but also of behavior. The genealogical search into the medieval Christian notion of emotion that I was then leading, confirmed my belief in the inadequacy of modern transpositions coming out of “Gay studies”, as well as the originality of monastic anthropology which supported such a specific emotional sociability, a homo-emotionalism unique to the 12th century[20]. The question of origins was fundamentally contemporary, personal and intimate as well (and how else?) but the answers themselves were not reducible to the specific sources studied. The broader questions that actuated the inquiry in the first place retain their currency. Contemporary societies, thrown out of sorts by a social use of emotion of which they can master neither the codes nor the operation, swing back and forth between privation and bulimia; art best they witness an awkward projection of the sphere of the intimate, the only one in which we have at least some reference points in terms of feeling. By exploring periods of the past in which emotion had not yet contracted and in which it enjoyed full social effectiveness, the historian sheds indispensable light on a subject, which would otherwise be missed within the social sciences.

Anyone who finds, in our joint writing, beyond the intellectual convergence in the subjects of our respective studies and in our methods of inquiry, a determination to practice the historian’s craft differently, to nourish emotionally a history of feelings rather than to fight to exclude them, is quite right. How then can the back-and-forth between past and present help us to sum up the past for contemporary readers? Familiarity creates sensitivity: by reading ancient authors, we grasp their culture and their psychology. Not only do we understand them, but we also feel them better. To transmit emotions which spread and circulate around all the manifestations of life in society, which define the contours of lasting emotional states as well as social status, which delimit what is acceptable and that which is condemned in relations between human beings,  we must carefully master the context of each historical configuration. At the same time, we must make use of an intuitive reading of sources, where we use our empathy, something particularly useful for understanding hat which exists beyond words, the existential significance of an event, an action, or a connection. The sensitive reader can flush out the emotional content of ancient documents, even when it is implicit, as Sylvain Piron suggests it in his reading of the Epistolae duarium amantium or Letters of two lovers, probably the original correspondence between Eloise and Abelard at the very time of their romantic passion.[21] Piron draws forth, from the interstices of assembled words, across tenderness and coldness, hidden reproaches and silences, the stages of the liaison. In fact, in our daily life, we often deduce meanings from a speaker’s tone of voice, from their gestures rather than the agency of the words by themselves. We are well aware that a person may say one thing and yet, by the gestures and tone of voice accompanying it, alter the meaning, or even reverse it completely. None of this language of the body has come down to us: using linguistic or figurative signifiers, we are reduced to guessing the meta-linguistic meaning, and to reconstructing it meticulously from the tiniest signs. For the emotion evoked by the text is not always felt, the same way that an emotion that is not explicitly formulated can offer mute testimony to a mood… Henceforth, it is hardly possible to reduce the emotions present in the sources to a study of vocabulary, even though it is a fruitful and indispensable stage of the inquiry. Just as the markers of emotion do not automatically designate the emotion that is actually felt, the part played by performance, ritualization, or emotional manipulation cannot be exaggerated. This is why we can’t agree with Gerd Althoff that expressed emotions, especially in relations of power among the aristocracy, are all ritual, performative, without any feeling in them.[22]

Conversely, when we make an intuitive reading, the use of empathy can naturally carry with it its own dangers, as well as its own benefits. The methodological issue here is a dual one: how can we say with scholarly assurance that we suspect an emotion is at play in the course of a source when the source does not say or show this explicitly? How, then, do we use in our historical discourse this emotional communication (that is, the emotional echo of the source within us and the capacity to transmit this emotion to the reader)—while the evocative power of emotions is known by everyone, even if the “serious” historian pretends to forbid it to himself? The protocols of approaches to work must take off from a narrow analysis of vocabulary, but in order to better grasp the meta-language of the work, they must also include the study of the narrative process itself, the “screenplay” and the actors, according to the proposition of Robert Kaster, under the inspiration of cognitive science.[23] It is only by this kind of broad-based approach that a historian can even hope to restore the emotional system that is present beyond the resistances and silences.

Questions remain concerning the expression of emotion in a historical work itself, in its social distribution. Certainly it is in part a question of rhetoric and style. The goal of historical discourse is to convince and, since Thucydides, historians have used the art of emotion to do it. As Carlo Ginzburg recalls, Aristotle himself made the exciting of passions among the audience a distinct element of the art of rhetoric.[24] There is no question of replacing comprehension with an attempt to make people feel the same things the author does or his heroes did, in the name of an illusory catharsis, as Ramsay MacMullen would have it[25], but rather of using emotion transposed alongside explanation within the same historical discourse. This approach can be justified by the exchange of feelings, one that can be considered as analogous to the benefits accruing from transference in the psychoanalytic process: emotion helps, by the participation of feelings that it stirs, sharpen the process of comprehension. Thus the approach we are proposing here simply integrates into the historical approach itself, and into the writing of history, the achievements of cognitive science, which underscore the anthropological findings: emotion thinks and reason feels. We might verify the possibility of such a history by reading the recent work by Sophie Wahnich devoted to the coming of the French Republic in 1792, La longue Patience du peuple[26], which starts with a powerful address to the reader. Wahnich takes up precisely the political emotions of the revolutionary people as a “specific mode of judgment” and not as a succession of revolutionary warm-up exercises. She elaborates the conviction, taken from the work of Georges Lefebvre, that the collective sharing of emotion presupposes and reveals a community of interpretation. The strength of the book lies in the choice, which can’t be reduced to the personality of its author, to let the “voice” of the people be heard, in the same way that in a baroque opera the affeti “are not simply ornaments, but give meaning to the positions of the different characters”:

“Yes, dear reader, I am coming to it; the point is to recount the voice of the people, to try to reconstitute it, to show how it arises and how it gets hidden or surges forth to be replaced by the text of a libretto where the law must be made to speak.”

Five hundred pages and a few acts later, Wahnich sets down both her pen and baton by agreeing with Georges Duby that a passionate history is also a true one.

Both classical texts and our own productions are thus meeting points between author and reader, but also between ages; there is where emotion comes in. It is useful here to distinguish among the levels of its manifestation. The first level is that of the study of words, contexts, scenarios and the narrative processes which relate and perform emotion. At a second, higher level, we reap the emotional advantage inspired by readings of the ancient author, according to his own designs— and just like his erstwhile recipient. In the third stage, the intended emotion must be separated from that which the historian reader of the source himself feels. Finally, at the highest level, the historian must transpose the emotion into his own discourse—thereby building a bridge between the source and the contemporary reader, that secondary beneficiary—but only on condition that he likewise demonstrates lucidity in his approach, associating means of rhetoric and of analysis to make the emotions felt. Without such lucidity, it is to easy to be (over)taken by emotion alone, whether it be ours or ancient emotion, and then the historian runs the same risk of  failure as a psychotherapist who falls in love with his patient.

To speak of emotions as a historian today requires an intelligence that is sensitive to sources and that can come to terms with the implications of the very exercise of our scholarly practice. It is difficult and risky to give up our ancient certitudes, yet such is the condition that must be met in order for us to do a modern history of feeling. At the same time, we must be attentive to the danger of manipulation of historical memory that is done in the name of legitimizing the use of emotion in history.[27] In a world devoted to the cult of immediate emotion, and which tends to deny social links and the role of mediation, it is all the more important to remember, when we try to consider society, the multiplicity of mediations and the involvement of feelings in each historical operation as in each act of communication.


[1] These ideas arose in the framework of the research project EMMA, EMotions au Moyen Age, financed by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche in France (2006-2008).  Part of the questions considered here are dealt with in D. Boquet – P. Nagy, ‘Pour une histoire des émotions: l’historien face aux questions contemporaines’, in D. Boquet – P. Nagy (eds), Le Sujet des émotions au Moyen Âge (Paris: Beauchesne, 2009), pp. 15-51.

[2] L. Febvre, ‘La sensibilité dans l’histoire: les courants collectifs de pensée et d’action’, in La Sensibilité dans l’homme et dans la nature, 10e Semaine Internationale de Synthèse, 7-12 Juin 1938 (Paris: PUF, 1943), pp. 77-100 (discussion pp. 101-6). Another version: ‘La sensibilité et l’histoire: comment reconstituer la vie affective d’autrefois ?’, Annales d’histoire sociale 3 (1941), pp. 221-38.

[3] A. Corbin, Historien du sensible. Entretiens avec Gilles Heuré (Paris: La Découverte, 2000), p. 182.

[4] B. H. Rosenwein, ‘Worrying about Emotions in History’, American Historical Review 107 (2002), pp. 821-45; R. C. Solomon, The Passions. Emotions and the Meaning of Life (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993).

[5] T. Dixon, From Passions to Emotions, The Creation of a Secular Psychological Category (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

[6] N. Elias, The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and psychogenetic investigations (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000) (original edition 1939).

[7] J. Huizinga, The Autumn of the Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996) (original edition 1919).

[8] A. Damasio, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (New York: Penguin Books, 2005, c1994); J. LeDoux, The Emotional Brain: the mysterious underpinnings of emotional life (New York: Simon & Schuster, c1996).

[9] See now A. Piolat et R. Bannour, ‘Émotions et affects: contribution de la psychologie cognitive’, in Le Sujet des émotions médiévales, pp. 53-84.

[10] Among many others, see Solomon, The Passions. Emotions and the Meaning of Life; R. de Sousa, The Rationality of Emotions (Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press, 1987); J. Elster, Alchemies of the Mind: Rationality and the Emotions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

[11] D. L. Smail, On Deep History and the Brain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008).

[12] M.Z. Rosaldo, Knowledge and Passion: Ilongot Notions of Self and Social Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980); R. Harré (ed.), The Social Construction of Emotions (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986).

[13] Cf. The Social Construction of Emotions.

[14] P. N. Stearns and C. Z. Stearns, ‘Emotionology. Clarifying the History of Emotions and Emotional Standards’, American Historical Review, 90 (1985), p. 813.

[15] B. H. Rosenwein (ed.), Anger’s Past. The Social Uses of an Emotion in the Middle Ages (Ithaca-London: Cornell University Press, 1998).

[16] P. Nagy, ‘Individualité et larmes monastiques: une expérience de soi ou de Dieu ?’ in G. Melville – M. Schürer eds., Das Eigene und das Ganze. Zum Individuellen im mittelalterlichen Religiosentum (Vita regularis. Ordnungen und Deutungen religiosen Lebens im Mittelalter, Bd. 16), (Münster: Lit Verlag, 2003), pp. 107-30.

[17] Voir A. Boureau, ‘La mise en scène du divin’, in Id., L’Événement sans fin (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1993), pp. 43-4.

[18] B. d’Hainaut-Zveny, ‘L’ivresse sobre: Pratiques de « rejeu » empathiques des images médiévales’, in Le Sujet des émotions médiévales, pp. 393-414.

[19] P. Nagy, Le don des larmes au Moyen Âge. Un instrument spirituel en quête d’institution (Ve-XIIIe siècles (Paris: Albin Michel, 2000).

[20] D. Boquet, L’Ordre de l’affect au Moyen Âge. Autour de l’anthropologie affective d’Aelred de Rievaulx (Caen: Publications du CRAHM, 2005).

[21] Lettres des deux amants, attribuées à Héloïse et Abélard, Traduction et présentation par S. Piron, (Paris: Gallimard, 2005).

[22] See for instance G. Althoff, ‘Du rire et des larmes. Pourquoi les émotions intéressent-elles les médiévistes ?’, Écrire l’histoire, 1/2 (2008) : Les Émotions, pp. 27-39; and beyond: G. Althoff, Die Macht der Rituale. Symbolik und Herrschaft im Mittelalter (Darmstadt: Primus Verlag, 2003), and G. Althoff (ed.), Formen und Funktionen öffentlicher Kommunikation im Mittelalter (Stuttgart: Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 2001).

[23] R. Kaster, Emotion, Restraint, and Community in Ancient Rome (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

[24] C. Ginzburg, History, Rhetoric, and Proof, « The Menahem Stern Jerusalem Lectures » (Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 1999), chapter 1.

[25] R. MacMullen, Feelings in History, Ancient and Modern (Claremont, Calif.: Regina Books, 2003).

[26] S Wahnich, La longue patience du people. 1792: Naissance de la République (Paris: Payot, 2008).

[27] Voir C. Prochasson, L’Empire des émotions. Les historiens dans la mêlée (Paris: Demopolis, 2008).