MODERNITY: A PROBLEMATIC CATEGORY IN THE HISTORY OF EMOTIONS

Authors


ABSTRACT

Emotions in History: Lost and Found by Ute Frevert is a lively introduction to some of the issues that historians must address when writing about emotions. Emotions in History notes some of the uses emotions have had in both public and private life, and it charts the changing fate of several emotions—particularly acedia, honor, and compassion—that have been either “lost” or “found” over time. Nevertheless, it suffers from a notion of modernity that obscures rather than clarifies. Making “modernity” the cause of changes in emotional ideas, comportment, and feeling, it cuts today's society off from its earlier roots and fails to see the continuities not only in emotions themselves but also in the mechanisms by which emotions have changed over time. Frevert's assumption that only the modern world has been interested in emotions is belied by eloquent learned writings on the topic in the medieval period (though not using the term “emotions”). Further, modernity is not alone in having effective mechanisms by which ideal standards of emotions and their expression are transmitted to a larger public.

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