Archives de catégorie : Vient de paraître

De la contagion, Béatrice DELAURENTI, Thomas LE ROUX (dir.)

Épidémies, mouvements de foule, frénésie de la valse, possessions démoniaques, modes vestimentaires… De la diffusion du Covid-19 sur l’ensemble de la planète à la pollution généralisée des espaces naturels,
du mouvement MeToo aux rumeurs qui se propagent comme un feu de poudre sur les réseaux sociaux, des attaques de hackers aux bâillements qui se transmettent irrépressiblement d’un individu à un autre, la contagion, loin d’être uniquement un concept médical, est un processus omniprésent dans le monde d’aujourd’hui, aussi bien à l’échelle des nations qu’à celle des événements les plus infimes de notre vie
quotidienne.  Dépassant l’actualité à partir de cas précis allant de l’Antiquité à l’époque contemporaine (lutte contre la variole au XVIIIe siècle, assimilation de l’antisémitisme à une maladie contagieuse, propagation des innovations chez les enlumineurs et sculpteurs du Moyen Âge ou inquiétante contamination de la planète par la diffusion de particules radioactives…), des chercheurs venus de tous les horizons tracent les contours de ce phénomène multiforme – clé de compréhension des temps à venir.

Bien que cet ouvrage, paru chez le Vendémiaire, ne porte pas directement sur les émotions, il les touche tangentiellement de façons multiples. Oeuvre collective d’historiens du CRH de l’EHESS, elle est organisée comme un dictionnaire, en ordre alphabétique. La table des matières peut être consultée ici:

Un manuel universitaire consacré à l’histoire des émotions

Source : Macmillan

Katie Barclay, The History of Emotions. A Student Guide to Methods and Sources, Macmillan, 2020.

This student guide introduces the key concepts, theories and approaches to the history of emotions while teaching readers how to apply these ideas to historical source material. Covering the main emotions approaches and providing a range of global case studies and historical sources with which to apply learning, this textbook provides a ‘how to’ guide for those new to the field and for those learning how historians apply methods to source material. 
Written in clear and accessible language, each chapter is accompanied by further reading, while surveying many of the main areas of current research and providing ideas for personal research projects and further learning. This methodological guide is ideal for students taking modules on the History of Emotions, or for students on general Historical Skills modules. 

Actualités de l’histoire des émotions chez Cambridge University press

Source : Cambridge University Press

Andrew Mellas, Liturgy and the Emotions in Byzantium. Compunction and Hymnody, Cambridge, UP, 2020.

This book explores the liturgical experience of emotions in Byzantium through the hymns of Romanos the Melodist, Andrew of Crete and Kassia. It reimagines the performance of their hymns during Great Lent and Holy Week in Constantinople. In doing so, it understands compunction as a liturgical emotion, intertwined with paradisal nostalgia, a desire for repentance and a wellspring of tears. For the faithful, liturgical emotions were embodied experiences that were enacted through sacred song and mystagogy. The three hymnographers chosen for this study span a period of nearly four centuries and had an important connection to Constantinople, which forms the topographical and liturgical nexus of the study. Their work also covers three distinct genres of hymnography: kontakion, kanon and sticheron idiomelon. Through these lenses of period, place and genre this study examines the affective performativity hymns and the Byzantine experience of compunction.


Clare Monagle, Scholastic Affect. Maternity and the History of Emotions, Cambridge UP, 2020.

Scholastic theologians made the Virgin Mary increasingly perfect over the Middle Ages in Europe. Mary became stainless, offering an impossible but ideologically useful vision of womanhood. This work offers an implicit theory of the utility and feelings of women in a Christian salvationary economy. The Virgin was put to use as a shaming technology, one that silenced and effaced women’s affective lives. The shame still stands to this day, although in secularised mutated forms. This Element deploys the intellectual history of medieval thought to map the moves made in codifying Mary’s perfection. It then uses contemporary gender and affect theory to consider the implications of Mary’s perfection within modernity, mapping the emotional regimes of the medieval past upon the present.


Robert Phiddian, Satire and the Public Emotions, Cambridge UP, 2020.

The dream of political satire – to fearlessly speak truth to power – is not matched by its actual effects. This study explores the role of satirical communication in licensing public expression of harsh emotions defined in neuroscience as the CAD (contempt, anger, disgust) triad. The mobilisation of these emotions is a fundamental distinction between satirical and comic laughter. Phiddian pursues this argument particularly through an account of Jonathan Swift and his contemporaries. They played a crucial role in the early eighteenth century to make space in the public sphere for intemperate dissent, an essential condition of free political expression.

Dernières parutions dans la collection “History of Emotions” (Oxford University Press)

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.







Une nouvelle revue consacrée à l’histoire des émotions

source : archivi delle emozioni

Archivi delle emozioni. Ricerche sulle componenti emotive nella litteratura, nell’arte, nella cultura materiale

Scopo e ambito della rivista

Il titolo ‘Archivi delle emozioni’ vuole esprimere la dimensione storica della componente affettiva della vita umana, che in questa rivista si intende esaminare nelle sue espressioni artistiche, letterarie e culturali in senso lato, in tutte le epoche, dalla più remota antichità al presente.

Il titolo della rivista sottintende, al contempo, un’idea aperta, cioè in continuo aggiornamento e non statica, di ‘archivio’: da una parte, infatti, le emozioni si trovano ‘archiviate’ nelle espressioni artistiche e negli oggetti, come fossili del percorso umano, delle modalità cognitive dell’uomo, delle sue pratiche sociali. Ma dall’altra, le emozioni sono anche ri-vissute e ri-provate ogni volta che si entra in rapporto con i prodotti dell’arte e della cultura materiale e si comunica e si interagisce con essi. Questa rivista si interessa a tutti gli aspetti e a tutti i significati della interazione emotiva tra arte, letteratura, oggetti della cultura materiale e archeologica, e chi si è trovato o si trova coinvolto nelle loro atmosfere emotive, compresi gli stessi studiosi.

Si intende dunque da una parte ricostruire le emozioni e i loro contesti attraverso le analisi delle loro rappresentazioni artistiche, verbali e non verbali; ma ci si interroga anche sui meccanismi fisiologici delle reazioni emotive che sono sollecitate dall’arte, dalla letteratura, dal linguaggio, da ogni prodotto della cultura umana. Alla base delle nostre ricerche c’è dunque l’acquisizione, propria del XX sec., che l’ermeneutica non può più considerarsi scissa dalla vita e dalle scienze della vita, né la conoscenza, anche di noi stessi, essere considerata come scissa dal corpo e dai suoi modi di sentire.

Les émotions collectives. En quête d’un «objet» impossible – Raisons pratiques 29

Dirigé par Laurence Kaufmann et Louis Quéré, ce volume paraitra dans trois semaines.

La plupart des recherches en sciences sociales reconnaissent à présent que les émotions, loin d’être des impulsions irrationnelles ou des réactions instinctives indésirables, sont au contraire des médiations cognitives et des appuis pratiques dont aucune action ne saurait se passer. Formidablement heuristique, cette réhabilitation des émotions s’est vue toutefois reprocher son absence d’intérêt pour les sentiments diffus, les ambiances en sourdine et la résonance parfois indisciplinée des corps. Or, ce sont précisément ces échappées affectives que l’on retrouve de façon particulièrement vive dans les émotions collectives. Ces dernières, sans corps propre, semblent disparaître ou s’évaporer dès que l’on s’en approche de trop près. Comment alors saisir et iden-tifier avec certitude les émotions souvent « liquides » ou « gazeuses » qui sous-tendent et animent les conduites publiques ? Et comment les mettre en mots analytiques ?À ces problèmes épistémologiques et méthodologiques s’ajoute un problème ontologique : si l’émotion exige par définition un point d’ancrage corporel, et donc singulier, comment peut-elle devenir collective et impersonnelle ? Pendant longtemps, une des manières de résoudre cette question a consisté à associer les émotions collectives aux moments d’effervescence et de rassemblement qui leur confèrent une réalité tangible, aussi observable qu’incontestable. Mais il y a des modalités moins visibles de « partager » les émotions, y compris à distance, notamment par l’intermédiaire des médias ou des réseaux sociaux, qui infléchissent tout autant les comportements.C’est dire si les émotions collectives ravivent certaines questions fondamentales des sciences sociales, notamment celles concernant les liens entre l’expérience individuelle et l’appartenance collective, l’évé-nement éphémère et les sensibilités au long cours, la co-présence des corps et les liens à distance, l’imprévisibilité et l’intensité du ressenti

Table des matières

Du partage de l’intelligible au partage du sensible

Mikko Salmela, Les émotions peuvent-elles être collectives ?

Anita Konzelmann-Ziv, La sémantique de l’émotion partagée

Gérôme Truc, Tous concernés ? La dimension collective des émotions en situation d’attentats

Marika Moisseeff et Michael Houseman, L’orchestration rituelle du partage des émotions et ses ressorts interactionnels

Jean-Louis Genard, Une sociologie des émotions « modo aesthetico » ?

Politiques émotionnelles et émotions politiques

Laurence Kaufmann, Ces émotions auxquelles nous sommes attachés. Vers une phénoménologie politique de l’espace public

Piroska Nagy,  Mobilisation populaire et émotions collectives : le moment patarin à Milan  (1056-1075)

Christophe Traïni, Les émotions collectives dans les mouvements sociaux.  La mobilisation des soutiens et des adversaires de la protection animale

Eva Illouz, Foules, groupes, climats. Une typologie des émotions collectives

Ambiances affectives et espaces publics

Joan Stavo-Debauge, L’expression publique des embarras de la parole religieuse. De bavardages prosélytes en inhibition de la critique, l’invention d’une inédite « méthode de fixation des croyances »

Mathieu Berger, Locked together screaming. Une assemblée municipale américaine enfermée dans l’offense

Rob Boddice – Mark Smith, Emotion, Sense, Experience, Cambridge, 2020

Voici le dernier petit opus de Rob Boddice, co-écrit avec Mark Smith,
un historien des sens bien connu, où les deux auteurs lancent un véritable manifeste pour l’étude de l’expérience, qui doit inclure à la fois les émotions, les sens et les expériences cognitives, pour en finir avec les études compartimentées de ces trois domaines, autant de composantes de l’expérience humaine au quotidien.

Emotion, Sense, Experience calls on historians of emotions and the senses to come together in serious and sustained dialogue. The Element outlines the deep if largely unacknowledged genealogy of historical writing insisting on a braided history of emotions and the senses; explains why recent historical treatments have sometimes profitably but nonetheless unhelpfully segregated the emotions from the senses; and makes a compelling case for the heuristic and interpretive dividends of bringing emotions and sensory history into conversation. Ultimately, we envisage a new way of understanding historical lived experience generally, as a mutable product of a situated world-brain-body dynamic. Such a project necessarily points us towards new interdisciplinary engagement and collaboration, especially with social neuroscience. Unpicking some commonly held assumptions about affective and sensory experience, we re-imagine the human being as both biocultural and historical, reclaiming the analysis of human experience from biology and psychology and seeking new collaborative efforts.


Sainte vergogne (vient de paraître)

D. Boquet, Sainte vergogne. Les privilèges de la honte dans l’hagiographie féminine au XIIIe siècle, Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2020.

Table des matières : ici





“Mon père disait que lorsque les temps changent – lui faisait allusion à la Première Guerre mondiale –, en plus du langage, changent les sensations, les sentiments, etc., et il avait raison…”

Goliarda Sapienza, Rendez-vous à Positano, traduction N. Castagné, Paris, Le Tripode, 2017, p. 205.


Peut-on imaginer meilleure façon d’éprouver la nouvelle « histoire des émotions », ses propositions et ses méthodes, qu’en questionnant une émotion aujourd’hui éteinte, une émotion historique au sens fort du terme, la vergogne ? Tel est le projet à l’origine de cette étude, qui se veut une contribution à une anthropologie historique de la honte au Moyen Âge, partant du constat que si la honte est à juste titre évoquée dès qu’il est question d’honneur, de réputation, de peine ou de pénitence, elle est rarement historicisée pour elle-même. Or, pour la raison même que les émotions ne sont pas des invariants d’une supposée nature humaine, leur histoire ne peut qu’être enracinée dans des contextes spécifiques – culturels, sociaux, discursifs –, lesquels n’en déterminent pas seulement les usages mais aussi les conceptions. Dès lors, l’objectif de cette étude est de montrer que l’altérité historique de la honte permet d’éclairer sous un nouveau jour la « condition émotionnelle » des saintes femmes au XIIIe siècle ainsi que les modalités de leurs relations avec les clercs.

Contact :


Barbara H. Rosenwein, Anger. The Conflicted History of an Emotion

Voici le dernier livre de Barbara Rosenwein, à peine sorti : un livre plus grand public, une histoire de la colère à travers temps et espaces. Un petit livre agréable à emporter avec soi dans son hamac ou à la plage… (ce que nous ferons).
Yale University Press, 2020
Format: Hardcover
Price: $26.00
Tracing the story of anger from the Buddha to Twitter, Rosenwein provides a much-needed account of our changing and contradictory understandings of this emotion

All of us think we know when we are angry, and we are sure we can recognize anger in others as well. But this is only superficially true. We see anger through lenses colored by what we know, experience, and learn.

Barbara H. Rosenwein traces our many conflicting ideas about and expressions of anger, taking the story from the Buddha to our own time, from anger’s complete rejection to its warm reception. Rosenwein explores how anger has been characterized by gender and race, why it has been tied to violence and how that is often a false connection, how it has figured among the seven deadly sins and yet is considered a virtue, and how its interpretation, once largely the preserve of philosophers and theologians, has been gradually handed over to scientists—with very mixed results. Rosenwein shows that the history of anger can help us grapple with it today.
Barbara H. Rosenwein is professor emerita at Loyola University Chicago. She is the author of numerous books, including Anger’s Past: The Social Uses of an Emotion in the Middle Ages and Generations of Feeling: A History of Emotions, 6001700.
et un avant-goût de la table des matières :

Sources for the History of Emotions: A Guide


Sources for the History of Emotions
A Guide

ISBN 9780367261450
Published July 2, 2020 by Routledge
252 Pages

Book Description

Offering insights on the wide range of sources that are available from across the globe and throughout history for the study of the history of emotions, this book provides students with a handbook for beginning their own research within the field.

Divided into three parts, Sources for the History of Emotions begins by giving key starting points into the ethical, methodological and theoretical issues in the field. Part II shows how emotions historians have proved imaginative in their discovering and use of varied materials, considering such sources as rituals, relics and religious rhetoric, prescriptive literature, medicine, science and psychology, and fiction, while Part III offers introductions to some of the big or emerging topics in the field, including embodied emotions, comparative emotions, and intersectionality and emotion. Written by key scholars of emotions history, the book shows readers the ways in which different sources can be used to extract information about the history of emotions, highlighting the kind of data available and how it can be used in a field for which there is no convenient archive of sources.

The focused discussion of sources offered in this book, which not only builds on existing research, but encourages further efforts, makes it ideal reading and a key resource for all students of emotions history.

Table of Contents

Part I: Introducing the history of emotions

1. Introduction: a guide to sources for the history of emotions

Katie Barclay, Sharon Crozier-De Rosa and Peter N. Stearns

2. Theories and methods in the history of emotions

Thomas Dodman

3. The practice and ethics of the history of emotions

Katie Barclay

Part II: Sources for the history of emotions

4. Rituals, relics and religious rhetoric

Piroska Nagy, Xavier Biron-Oullet and Anne-Gaëlle Weber

5. Prescriptive literature

Peter N. Stearns

6. Medicine, science and psychology

Rob Boddice

7. Legal records

Alecia Simmonds

8. Institutional records: a comment

Catharine Coleborne and Peter N. Stearns

9. Narratives of the self

Marcelo J. Borges

10. Emotions in fiction

Louise D’Arcens

11. Performing emotions

Alan Maddox

12. Visual sources

Sarah Hand Meacham

13. The material world

Sarah Randles

Part III: Emerging themes in the history of emotions

14. Comparative emotions

Joseph Ben Prestel

15. Intersectional identities

Katie Barclay and Sharon Crozier-De Rosa

16. Emotions of protest

Sharon Crozier-De Rosa

17. Technology and feeling

Susan J. Matt and Luke Fernandez

18. Emotions and the body

Mark Neuendorf

19. Epilogue

Peter N. Stearns




Katie Barclay is Deputy-Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in the History of Emotions and Associate Professor in History at the University of Adelaide, Australia. She writes on the history of emotions, family and gender, and with Andrew Lynch and Giovanni Taratino edits Emotions: History, Culture, Society.

Sharon Crozier-De Rosa is Associate Professor in History at the University of Wollongong, Australia. She writes on the history of emotions, gender, militancy and transnationalism, and her books include Shame and the Anti-Feminist Backlash and Remembering Women’s Activism. She is Deputy Editor of Women’s History Review.

Peter N. Stearns is University Professor of History at George Mason University, USA. He has written widely on the history of emotions, with books including American Cool and Shame: A Brief History. He regularly teaches an undergraduate course on emotions history, and has collaborated with a number of students on research projects in the field.


‘This collection will doubtless become a core reference work, both for historians of the emotions, and scholars concerned with emotions more generally. It will be of huge value to students seeking to navigate this exciting field for research dissertations, as it places various source types in careful and critical scholarly context, without becoming esoteric in language or focus. The authors and editors have done a fine job. This book will be of immense practical use, and a stimulating intellectual resource, for all concerned with the emotions and their expression, in the discipline of history and beyond.’

Chris Millard, University of Sheffield, UK

The Gender of Emotions

The English edition of the review “Clio. Women, Gender, History”, issue 47 (2018),  devoted to “The gender of emotions” has just been published. It is available online via Cairn International.
Our introduction is in open access here :

Damien Boquet and Didier Lett, “Emotions and the concept of gender”

French version : here

Emotions and the concept of gender

Damien Boquet and Didier Lett

translated by Siân Reynolds

Emotions are often considered to be a strong marker for gender, playing a central role in the cultural and social demarcations between masculine and feminine. Starting with the ancient theory of temperaments, the hot and dry emotions – anger, rage, audacity and hate – were seen as masculine, while the cold and wet emotions – modesty, sweetness, fear, shyness, compassion, languor – were feminine. In the western world, it was also thought that emotions in general were more feminine, while reason was more masculine. Women, reputed to be irrational and closer to nature, would by the same token display greater sensitivity than men; would be readier to express their feelings (to the point of being overwhelmed by them); and would pass more quickly from one emotion to another, becoming insane or hysterical. Men, the repository of culture and reason, would exert greater self-control, and be better able to master the expression of their feelings, veering less often between them. In the way in which they have been, or are, judged, expected, and sometimes demanded, emotions – whether manly or womanly – have therefore been gendered.

Although influential in western culture over the long term, this reading of the emotions has become excessively polarized by historiography into two radical oppositions, presumed to structure society: man-masculine versus woman-feminine, and emotion versus reason. Yet these antitheses, especially when expressed in the extreme and rigid forms that we have witnessed in recent times, have not always existed: they date essentially from the eighteenth century. Before that, in western society, as is demonstrated in this issue of Clio by Jean-Noël Allard and Pascal Montlahuc’s article on Antiquity, and Emmanuel Bain’s article on biblical exegesis in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, sex difference was only one method, and often a marginal one, of classifying people. We therefore need to shake off a conception that has come to seem “natural” to us. In the consilia, the collections of studies of clinical cases dating from the end of the thirteenth century, when doctors speak of the symptoms and treatment of melancholy, for example, they pay little attention to the gender of the patient, since they were focusing more on the theory of bodily humours, or of the different parts of the body. [1] And the antinomy between reason and emotion is also relatively recent. [2] It depends on certain forceful and persistent presuppositions – the product of an evolutionist view of history, bolstered in the twentieth century by Norbert Elias’s theory of the process of civilization [3]   – as well as on an absolute antagonism (retrospectively attributed to Descartes) between affectivity and reason, to be found also in other social sciences (whether Durkheimian or Weberian sociology, Freudian psychoanalysis, etc.). Yet since Aristotle, and throughout an intellectual tradition running from the teachers of the medieval university to Spinoza and Rousseau, it has been abundantly clear that emotions, transcending all schools of thought, have engaged in a constant dialogue with reason, even if they can be unreasonable. In the way in which emotions were socially perceived, the point was not to suppress them, but to apply them in a measured way, adapted to circumstances, and to make proper use of them, according to the principles of virtue and justice. Anne Carol has shown in her study of the accounts of capital executions in nineteenth-century France, for example, that representatives of the public authorities, often marked by their Christian background, were not opposed to a display of emotion by the condemned person. [4] If the man or woman facing death trembled and wept, these were signs testifying to the due and proper process of the judicial ritual, serving to inspire horror for the crime and rightful fear of the punishment. But there was a risk that the scenario might get out of hand, if the condemned person did not express the expected emotions, or indulged in them to excess – collapsing and begging for mercy, or shouting words of hate. A watershed was reached in about the 1870s, no doubt because the Christian model was in decline in France. Displays of emotion by the offender facing capital punishment became progressively unacceptable. Losing its function of exemplarity and edification through emotion, the ritual itself was slowly becoming less coherent, preparing the way for the ending of public executions in France in 1939, and the eventual abolition of capital punishment there in 1981. [5]

De-naturalizing emotions through gender

In seeking to move away from these a priori ideas about the nature of emotion and its gendered constructions, this issue of Clio sets out to revisit the articulation between emotion and the difference between the sexes by historicizing these concepts; by contextualizing and identifying the relevant actors socially; by taking into account the whole gamut of emotions; by questioning both the masculine and the feminine at the same time; by scrutinizing the documentary context that produces emotions and renders them visible; and lastly by observing what gender does to emotions and what emotions do to gender. In these two fields of study, there is a new willingness to deny their “natural” character, an associated refusal to accept universal categories, and a similar openness to the social sciences.

Despite Lucien Febvre’s much-quoted pioneering article, or Marcel Mauss’s work on “the techniques of the body”, [6]  sociologists, anthropologists and historians have long regarded emotions as lying outside their remit, leaving them to psychologists, or these days to neuro-scientists. [7] Only in the 1990s did studies of emotions begin to be developed in the humanities and social sciences as a whole, but since then they have become widespread (some people have spoken of an “emotional turn” or an “affective turn”), as can be seen by looking at the way the field has been institutionalized in many countries. [8]  In historical studies, the study of emotions has made it possible to revisit something previously seen as the domain of historical anthropology, namely men’s and women’s bodies, in order to demonstrate their central role in social life, to the extent that emotions are seen as revealing an internal state through a bodily manifestation. [9]  Does history, as an academic discipline and a method of posing questions, have a specific role to play in this re-evaluation of the social uses of emotions? As was the case in the early days of gender studies, the history of emotions today is able to benefit from a dialogue with the humanities and social sciences, if only to dislodge the prejudice long current among historians (of both sexes) concerning the irrationality and spontaneity of emotions. But it would be naive to think that historians have a unified approach to this new field of research. Unlike gender, which was from the start conceptualized as a heuristic tool, emotion is above all a territory where the very landscape needs to be invented. While nobody would now deny that emotions have a cultural character, there is a considerable range of approaches concerning the depth and extent of the constructed component. Are emotions intangible facts of human nature, or are they attached to a psychology or biology that governs their existence and to some extent their expression? If the latter, the historian would need, as a preliminary step, to find some basis in a “scientific” theory of emotions (derived from cognitive psychology, psychoanalysis or the neurosciences). In that case, historical analysis would remain dependent on other disciplines. There is another way to approach it, the one we have chosen in this dossier, opting for the historicity of the emotional phenomenon, and therefore not starting from any pre-existing category, but basing the analysis on the affective anthropologies of the particular cultures and social groups under observation. [10]   The very word “emotion”, used to delimit the territory of inquiry, is the product of an empirical consensus, and also of the internationalization of research, as was once the case for the notion of “mentality”, which had the advantage of being easy to translate into the languages in use in the academic community. In the western sphere, but also in many other cultures, it makes sense to question the feelings, the affects, the whole complex of joys and sorrows, disgust and attraction. All the same, there is such diversity of conception and usage that it would be risky to attach the historical exercise to any theory of emotion taken from the present day. Emotions exist, are of value, and operate according to how they exist, have value and operate for the relevant agents in their socio-cultural environment, whether temporal or spatial.

Feminine, masculine: the fluid nature of emotions

What can gender contribute to the historical study of emotions? In the first place, it makes it possible to revisit fields of research and events previously considered to be well known. Thus we can ask how Christian thinkers, over time, have evaluated the two first emotions of Adam and Eve, following on original sin: concupiscence and shame. The “vertical reorientation of affectivity” [11]   to be witnessed in the early Middle Ages seems to be identical for both sexes, with the axis flesh-spirit (vice-virtue) taking precedence over the male-female distinction. So Augustine of Hippo in The City of God (early fifth century), explains that the first man and the first woman both felt the same degree of shame: shame on account of their nakedness and shame from realizing the sin they had committed. [12]  But later representations of this scene show an evolution. The celebrated fresco by Masaccio representing Adam and Eve (The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden), painted in the early fifteenth century in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, gives a clearly gendered form of shame to each sex: Adam, without masking his naked body, is hiding his face, while Eve conceals her breasts and private parts with her hands, allowing her face to be seen twisted with the pain of remorse. The man is shown with moral shame, the woman with bodily modesty, in a differentiation of types of shame, thus establishing a de facto hierarchy between the sexes. Does this evolution reveal changes in the history of emotions, or a modification peculiar to the history of gender in the late Middle Ages, an era which seems readier than previous ones to assume sexual difference? [13]   Taking this into account makes us aware of the need to consider the interplay of reconfigurations between gender and emotion over the long term. That is why this issue of Clio questions the norms and representations of stereotypes across a series of different periods, and seeks to identify change and evolution. In Antiquity and most of the Middle Ages, for example, friendship, which was not only a question of alliances but of affection, was a social connection seen as manly and proper to men. Then progressively it becomes more neutral and open to both sexes from about the thirteenth century, notably in Christian literature, before returning to “masculine territory” during the Renaissance, only to explore once more the delights of mixed-sex friendship at the time of the Enlightenment. [14]

The supposed inability of women to control their emotions did not always relegate them to an inferior role, and could sometimes confer on them a specific form of authority, as is proved throughout history by the role played by female mystics, who attain the same status as “men of God”, thanks precisely to their excess of emotion. [15]Such women had/have visions, go into spasms, weep, fast, or seek rapturously to have ever-closer union with God, go into ecstasy, levitate, and experience a loving fusion with God. In their accounts, they describe these extreme experiences with delight, sensuality and enjoyment. The fusion with God gave them ascendancy over men and institutions: one example is Juliana of Cornillon who in mid-thirteenth century successfully established a Feast of the Eucharist which soon spread throughout Christendom. But are we right to attribute a “sexual identity” to this affective feminine spirituality, when it developed within male clerical milieus? The vitae of these women were written down by men who were often their confessors. As for the writings of the mystics themselves, which are few in number, they appear much less emotional and psychosomatic: while the hagiographers insist on the intensity of physical suffering, women mystics say more about their union with the divine lover. [16]  The idea that the body was the privileged site of female piety was no doubt exaggerated by the hagiographical male-authored sources, and corresponds to a slow evolution starting essentially in the thirteenth century, in which the feminine aspect of spirituality gradually became a matter for women. [17]   Consequently, as Barbara H. Rosenwein reminds us in this issue, a propos the confessional narratives in Puritan milieux in the seventeenth century, we need to establish a distinction between forms of female spirituality and the gendered expectations of society, paying attention to the gap between religious experience and the way it has been recounted. This can be observed elsewhere in the articles we have included here, in both Western and Eastern societies, in the poems and correspondence expressing love between a man and a woman. Love is indeed often a domain in which gendered differences are most visible. As Monica Balda-Tillier points out, in medieval Arabic literature, it is only women who declare that they would not wish to survive the death of their beloved, and the expression of their last emotion is codified in rules more strict than those imposed on men. Sylvain Piron shows that in their exchange of letters, Abelard and Heloise offer quite distinct philosophies of love. Abelard presents himself as the victim of the blind forces of love, and seeks in the beloved gentleness, rest and consolation, while Heloise associates her amor to the dilectio based on the virtues embodied by her lover.

Over the course of history, man appears to be a creature of emotions too, which must be accounted a good thing, since it means men can weep or show embarrassment in a virile way. For example, in the late fourth century, St Ambrose, bishop of Milan, made of modesty (verecundia) a major virtue of churchmen, while at the same time urging his clerics to be manly in their way of walking and singing. “The voice, too, should not be languid, nor feeble, nor womanish in its tone […] It should preserve a certain manly quality, rhythm, and vigour.” [18]  Tears may well tend to be more closely associated with women and the female sex, but it is clear from a multiplicity of sources, across the centuries, that men, from Achilles to Obama, have wept just as much as women, and that they have wept in a manly fashion. [19]  Emotions – and the bodily signs revealing them – have played a key role in history in the construction of gendered stereotypes, while at the same time being a privileged instrument in reconfigurations and fluidities between the sexes.

“Emotional communities” and “gender regimes”

Setting out to identify the principal factors of change in the history of the emotions, in the modern, and particularly in the contemporary period, William Reddy has proposed the concepts of the “emotional regime”, “emotional suffering” and the “emotional refuge”, the first term referring to the dominant norms of a given society, the second to the manner in which groups or individuals are obliged to adopt imposed emotional codes, and the third to the release from suffering that allows people to escape from over-rigid norms. [20]  He explains consequently that the France of Louis XIV was subjected to a code of aristocratic honour which imposed strict control over the public expression of emotion. In reaction, during the eighteenth century, a culture of sentiment was progressively developed in places of emotional refuge: salons or private correspondence. Sentimentalism then soon spread through literate circles, bringing with it a new vision of society which the Revolution attempted to apply. Thus the emotional culture of a minority, originally an “emotional refuge” for the educated elite, had in course of a few decades become a new “emotional regime” in post-revolutionary France. [21] 

Although the schema suggested by Reddy allows us to historicize emotions, he proposed a top-down model, in terms both of state domination and of resistance or accommodation to it on the part of the individual, putting forward a reading of society as a whole at the macro-historical level; it seems to us that this is a more operative view for modern societies, where the State is very present. In order to decipher what was going on in societies over the longue durée, we prefer the idea of “emotional communities” suggested by Barbara H. Rosenwein, defined as “groups in which people adhere to the same norms of emotional expression and value – or devalue – the same or related emotions.” [22] 

This concept, which makes it possible to observe men and women on various scales, has been used by several contributors to this issue, since the list of emotional communities and situations could be extended indefinitely: from Church and State to the conjugal couple, by way of monasteries, fellowships, guilds, businesses, clubs, sports, the family, etc. In that sense, “emotional communities” fit very well with the notion of “gender regime” which we have elsewhere defined as “a particular and unique configuration of relations between the sexes in a given historical, documentary and relational context”, [23]   since this concept also allows us to observe in dynamic form, sex distinctions within social relations and in close contact with the sources, thus departing both from an identity approach to gender and from the macro-historical study of societies. This approach will enable us, in this issue of Clio, better to perceive the “multitude and diversity of styles of affective communication existing within a given society”. [24] 

It is therefore essential to consider carefully the differentiated expressions of emotions according to social status: emotions in peasant, worker, bourgeois or aristocratic society, at the same time keeping our distance from the system suggested by Elias, which posited a hierarchy of emotions and a top-down model of their diffusion, with emotions trickling down to the lower reaches of society. In Athens and Rome, as Jean-Noël Allard and Pascal Montlahuc show here, an individual’s social status mattered at least as much as his or her sex, when it came to determining the social legitimacy of expressing a given emotion.

The value of a sociological approach, stressing situations rather than states of mind, identifying the expression of emotion in the process of interaction, allows us to underscore the plasticity and fluidity of the way emotions are distributed between the sexes. The pioneering work of Arlie Russell Hochschild has opened the way towards a “sociology of the emotions” [25]   which is always concerned to demonstrate (and to criticize) the persistence of gender stereotypes in the world of work. Not only are social relations marked by a “competition of sentiments” as between men and women [26] (authority is masculine, mediation feminine), in contemporary commercial societies, where the manipulation of emotion itself is a major economic issue, [27] but women are also assigned a sexed identity in their professional lives, based on their supposedly “innate” qualities. That is why it represents a risk for the historian to embark on a linear grand narrative of the civilizing process, seen in the tradition of Weber and Elias as a movement towards rationalization in western consciousness and society. Rather than this teleological grand narrative, we have preferred the complexities of several time-frames and changes of scale. In the Sudanese press of the 1950s, as Elena Vezzadini explains in this issue, a new emotional regime emerged, aiming to break with the past and create a “modern woman”, who would be capable, like a man, of controlling her emotions. A given emotion to which a feminine value is conventionally attached may, in a specific context, shape virility: men’s grief can display all the stereotypes of women’s grief without any loss of virility, as Didier Lett shows in his analysis of a thirteenth-century miracle narrative portraying the reactions of a man and a woman, in their role as father and mother, on the death of their three-year-old son. Even if certain emotions are expected from one or the other, the expression of parental grief to be found in this kind of source, which gives much space to pathos, ending in this case in an emotional cataclysm, tends to homogenize the reactions of parents, of either sex.

In many contexts, women may become more masculine and men more feminine by the attribution of an emotion not habitually assigned them: a man who does not demonstrate aggressivity during a fight may be seen as feminized, whereas a fearless woman is masculinized, as can be seen in the case of the famous Merovingian queens Fredegunda and Brunhilda, depicted by Gregory of Tours as furies, whereas they were merely displaying princely anger in order to govern. The tears of Francis of Assisi have never been an obstacle to the construction of his authority, on the contrary they helped to cement it in early thirteenth-century society, which was marked by a feminization of religious feelings. [28]   However, these “transgressions” are not given any a priori value. The man who is “unmanned” by emotion may well suffer by being down-graded or even become a pariah to his gender and sex community.

Lastly, men and women, in most cases, share the same emotional communities, but without occupying the same position within them. The study of emotions during “major events” (wars, revolutions, etc.) has confirmed that reconfigurations of gender do not disturb the way both men and women may cling to the same emotional codes and age-old assumptions. Clémentine Vidal-Naquet’s article on the expression of feelings in letters exchanged between spouses during the First World War, and Sophie Wahnich’s discussion of revolutionary emotions, both show that exceptional situations may shake the emotional order of the sexes, without necessarily destroying its foundations. The soldier at the front describes his tears to his beloved, whereas she restrains her own: but the tears he refers to are not of fear in battle but tears of joy or melancholy, arising when he thinks of life outside the war zone, of the child soon to be born, or the absent wife. But even if the emotional order of the sexes is not seriously challenged, extraordinary events may lead to a better knowledge of the others, and an awareness of his/her subjectivity. Similarly, during the early years of the French Revolution, the fatherland (patrie) became an emotional community in which emotions no longer seemed to have a sex. Yet women citizens remained above all wives and mothers who, within the shared love of the homeland, had to praise fathers and husbands, helping to construct the masculine image of the revolutionary hero. Women, even during the most profound historical upheavals, have shown themselves to be the most fervent gatekeepers of gendered emotions: even Théroigne de Méricourt found it hard to imagine that men could be capable of gentleness.

Certain emotions can appear to be shared, while still varying by sex. In traditional societies until well into the twentieth century, both men and women might be equally exposed to shame, but women’s shame is above all attached to the preservation of their sexual innocence, whereas men’s shame relates to the defence of their social prerogatives. Here, it is the social object of the emotion that is sexed or gendered, rather than the emotion itself. [29] And yet the persistent attribution of emotions to one or other sex may lead to the emergence of a gender identity of an emotion: the very term pudeur, (modesty) which appears in France in mid-sixteenth century, [30]  gradually comes to absorb the whole field of social constraints imposed on women, relating to the covering of their bodies, the basis of social honour in Christian culture, as Emmanuel Bain explains. When in 1791, the French National Assembly defined in a decree the notion of “attentat à la pudeur”, this was assumed unquestioningly to refer to “outrages against the modesty of women”. From the moral diversity of honourable forms of shame in ancient and medieval societies, a legal category emerges which is specifically attached to women. The public authorities would from then on assume responsibility for protecting women’s honour: by taking the place of male domination, they turned woman’s gendered body into an object in law. [31] 


There is still only a fairly limited body of literature using the concept of gender to explore the recent history of emotions, and existing research is no doubt rather too exclusively concerned with the construction of stereotypes, thus paying scant attention to the porosity of gender frontiers and the fluidity of exchanges. The history of emotions has, in recent years, provided unity to a subject essential for understanding the organization of societies, but which has hitherto been dispersed across several historiographical fields (the history of the body, of sensibility, of the family, of thought systems, etc.) and often considered of secondary interest. By naming that subject “emotion” or “the emotions”, whereas the meanings we give these terms do not appear before the nineteenth century, that approach has opted to problematize the present, with which one may disagree, but which immediately obliges the historian to question his or her own concepts, and then re-configure them, through contact with the sources and cultural and social environments of the past. This critical approach is no doubt an advantage, but it can also become a weakness, precisely because there is a risk of being trapped into seeing emotions as “natural”. Today, even if historians of the emotions do stress their fundamentally cultural and socially constructed aspect, most writers nevertheless still see them as based in some kind of universality, forgetting the tautology represented by this presupposition, which remains the basis of contemporary views of emotion. The answer is not to give up on the attempt, but on the contrary to make strenuous efforts to denaturalize emotions while never losing sight of the overall unity of the subject. Faced with this challenge, gender, an excellent critical tool of analysis, which is well used to unpicking the cultural and social processes that have affected the naturalization of sexed identities, can be a valuable ally in the work of historicizing emotion. In return, the replacing in context of emotional concepts and practices can question the logics of gender, revealing their complexity and malleability, confirming frontiers over the long term in some cases, but elsewhere pointing out discontinuities and variations from one milieu to another. By questioning gender about its frontiers, the history of emotions is working towards its own scientific legitimacy.


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  • — 2016. Una storia diversa delle emozioni. Rivista storica italiana 128(2): 481-520.
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  • Bray, Alan. 2003. The Friend. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.
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[1] Cohen-Hanegbi 2008.

[2] Solomon 1993; Dixon 2003.

[3] In Elias’s analysis, the control of instincts, the capacity to tame one’s desire and to repress feelings, emotions and bodily signs of the same, were the result of a very slow process, hastened in particular by the extension of the practices of the French court (essentially Louis XIV’s Versailles) before eventually trickling down to the rest of society. See Elias 2012 [1973-1975]. For a critical evaluation of this theory, see Rosenwein 2002.

[4] Carol 2017.

[5] Ibid.: 235.

[6] Febvre 1941 and Mauss 2004 [1936].

[7] Mandressi 2011.

[8] In Germany, the Max Planck Institute for Human Development has a research programme on the history of emotions:; In the UK, there is the Queen Mary Centre for the History of Emotions:; in France there is the EMMA programme “Emotions au MoyenÂge” directed by Piroska Nagy and Damien Boquet:; in Australia, the Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, specializing in research on Europe 1100-1800:

[9] Rosenwein 2006; Boquet & Nagy 2011 and 2015.

[10] Boquet & Nagy 2016.

[11] Boquet & Nagy 2015: 66.

[12] Wu 2007.

[13] Baschet 2007 and Lett 2013: 213.

[14] Bray 2003; Daumas 2011.

[15] Fraeters & de Gier 2014; Bynum 1994 [1987]; Hollywood 2001; Coakley 2006; Newman 1995.

[16] Boquet & Nagy 2015: 287-297.

[17] Hollywood 2001; Boquet 2014.

[18] St Ambrose On the Duties of the Clergy, chapter 19.

[19] Monsacré 1984; Vincent-Buffault 1986; Nagy 2000; Rey 2015 and 2017.

[20] Reddy 2001: 129.

[21] Ibid.: 141-333 and Plamper 2012: 307-309.

[22] Rosenwein 2006: 2.

[23] Lett 2012: 565-566.

[24] Nagy & Boquet (eds) 2009: 39.

[25] Hochschild 2017 [1983].

[26] Bernard 2017.

[27] Illouz 2006.

[28] Dalarun 2009.

[29] Pitt-Rivers 1977; Frevert 2017.

[30] Brancher 2015.

[31] Labrusse-Riou 1992.