Source : Oxford University Press
Frank Biess, German Angst. Fear and Democracy in the Federal Republic of Germany, OUP, 2020
German Angst analyses the relationship between fear and democracy in postwar West Germany. While fear and anxiety have historically been associated with authoritarian regimes, Frank Biess demonstrates the ambivalent role of these emotions in a democratizing society: in West Germany, fear and anxiety both undermined democracy and stabilized it. By taking seriously postwar Germans’ uncertainties about the future, this study challenges dominant linear and teleological narratives of postwar West German ‘success’, highlighting the prospective function of memories of war, National Socialism, and the Holocaust. Postwar Germans projected fears and anxieties that they derived from memories of a catastrophic past into the future.
Based on case studies from the 1940s to the present, German Angst provides a new interpretive synthesis of the Federal Republic. It tells the history of the Federal Republic as a series of cyclical crises in which specific fears and anxieties emerged, served a variety of political functions, and then again abated. Drawing on recent interdisciplinary insights generated by the field of emotion studies, Biess’s study transcends the dichotomy of ‘reason’ and ’emotion’. Fear and anxiety were not exclusively irrational and dysfunctional, but served important roles in postwar democracy. These emotions sensitized postwar Germans to the dangers of an authoritarian transformation, and they also served as emotional engines of new social movements, including the environmental and peace movements. German Angst also provides an original analysis of the emotional basis of right-wing populism in Germany today, and it explores the possibilities of a democratic politics of emotion.
Mark Seymour, Emotional Arenas. Life, Love, and Death in 1870s Italy, OUP, 2020.
Based on the records of a murder trial that transfixed all of Italy in the late 1870s, this study makes use of a dramatic court case to develop a new paradigm for the history of emotions – the ’emotional arena’. Set in the decade following Italian unification, the context was one of notable cultural variety. An as-yet unexplored aspect of this was that the experience and expression of emotions were as variable as the regions making up the new nation. Through a close examination of the spaces in which daily lives, loves, and deaths unfolded – from marital homes to places of socializing and entertainment, to a Roman court room – Mark Seymour explores the way social ‘arenas’ are crucial to the historical development of emotional cultural rules.
The narrative is driven by the failed marriage of a decorated but allegedly impotent Risorgimento soldier, his wife’s scandalous affair with a virile circus artiste (who had a string of previous lovers), and the illicit new couple’s murder of the hapless husband. Hundreds of witnesses – from local professionals to servants and even circus clowns – interviewed across the length and breadth of the peninsula, left their personal views on marriage, sexuality, and infidelity. These provide an extraordinary series of peepholes into little-known areas of the new nation’s social fabric. A careful yet imaginative reading of the prosecution records, as well as contemporary newspaper coverage, allows reconstruction of the highly emotional experiences of all those touched by this extraordinary story. The result is a classic Italian micro-history with relevance for today’s emotionally volatile times.
Anna Toropova, Feeling Revolution. Cinema, Genre, and the Politics of Affect under Stalin, OUP, 2020.
Stalin-era cinema was designed to promote emotional and affective education. The filmmakers of the period were called to help forge the emotions and affects that befitted the New Soviet Person – ranging from happiness and victorious laughter, to hatred for enemies. Feeling Revolution shows how the Soviet film industry’s efforts to find an emotionally resonant language that could speak to a mass audience came to centre on the development of a distinctively ‘Soviet’ cinema. Its case studies of specific film genres, including production films, comedies, thrillers, and melodramas, explore how the genre rules established by Western and prerevolutionary Russian cinema were reoriented to new emotional settings.
‘Sovietising’ audience emotions did not prove to be an easy feat. The tensions, frustrations, and missteps of this process are outlined in Feeling Revolution, with reference to a wide variety of primary sources, including the artistic council discussions of the Mosfil’m and Lenfil’m studios and the Ministry of Cinematography. Bringing the limitations of the Stalinist ideological project to light, Anna Toropova reveals cinema’s capacity to contest the very emotional norms that it was entrusted with crafting.
Monique Scheer, Enthusiasm. Emotional Practices of Conviction in Modern Germany, OUP, 2020.
Enthusiasm seeks to contribute to a culturally and historically nuanced understanding of how emotions secure and ratify the truth of convictions. More than just pure affective intensity, enthusiasm is about something: a certainty, clarity, or truth. Neither as clearly negative as fanaticism nor as general as passion, enthusiasm specifically entails belief. For this reason, the book takes its starting point in religion, the social arena in which the concept was first debated and to which the term still gestures. Empirically based in modern German Protestantism, where religious emotion is intensely cultivated but also subject to vigorous scrutiny, it combines historical and ethnographic methods to show how enthusiasm has been negotiated and honed as a practice in Protestant denominations ranging from liberal to charismatic. The nexus of religion and emotion and how it relates to central concepts of modernity such as rationality, knowledge, interiority, and sincerity are key to understanding why moderns are so ambivalent about enthusiasm. Grounded in practice theory, Enthusiasm assumes that emotions are not an affective state we ‘have’ but mind-body activations we ‘do’, having learned to perform them in culturally specific ways. When understood as an emotional practice, enthusiasm has different styles, inflected by historical traditions, social milieus, and knowledge (even ideologies) about emotions and how they work. Enthusiasm also provides insight into how this feeling works in secular humanism as well as in politics, and why it is so contested as a practice in any context.
Yaara Benger Alaluf, The Emotional Economy of Holidaymaking. Health, Pleasure, and Class in Britain, 1870-1918, 0UP, 2021.
It is often taken for granted that holiday resorts sell intangible commodities such as freedom, enjoyment, pleasure, and relaxation. But how did the desire for a ‘happy holiday’ emerge, how was ‘the right to rest’ legitimized, and how are emotions produced by commercial enterprises? To answer these questions, The Emotional Economy of Holidaymaking explores the rise of popular holidaymaking in late-nineteenth-century Britain, which is generally considered to be the birthplace of mass tourism. Drawing on a wide range of texts, including medical literature, parliamentary debates, advertisements, travel guides, popular stories, and personal accounts, the book unravels the role emotions played in British spa and seaside holiday cultures.
Introducing the concept of an ’emotional economy’, Yaara Benger Alaluf traces the overlapping impact that psychological and economic thought had on moral ideals and performative practices of work and leisure. Through a vivid account of changing attitudes toward health, pleasure, social class, and gender in late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain, she explains why the democratization of holidaymaking went hand in hand with its emotionalization.
Combining the history of emotions with the sociology of commodification, the book offers an innovative approach to the study of the leisure and entertainment industries and a better understanding of how medicalized conceptions of emotions influenced people’s dispositions, desires, consumption habits, and civil rights. Looking ahead to the central place of tourism in twenty-first century societies and its relation to stress and burnout, The Emotional Economy of Holidaymaking calls on future research of past and present leisure cultures to take emotions seriously and to rethink notions of rationality, authenticity, and agency.