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The Historical Study of Emotions: Concepts, Challenges, Case Studies

Presenter: Giovanni Tarantino (The University of Western Australia)
Date: Tuesday 8 August 2017
Time: 10am‒12noon
Venue: Humanities Graduate Centre, School of Literature, Language and Media, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Enquiries: luigi.robuschi@wits.ac.za
Facilitator: Luigi Robuschi
Danai Mupotsa, Siphiwe Dube and Polo Moji

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Abstract: In Pictures and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Painting (Routledge, 2001) James Elkins complains that professional scholars generally claim to approach the texts or paintings they are studying armed with a protective shell (consisting of all the readings that have preceded and prepared them for their first encounter with the text or painting) that makes them invulnerable to any emotional weakening, any possible tear, any manifestation of sentimental involvement, which are suited only to the uneducated or illiterate. Learning seems to kill emotion. And yet, Elkins concludes, history itself is an addiction and as such cannot be entirely unemotional. This lecture will discuss the ways in which a variety of scholars have approached theorising and writing about emotions. Early modern affective practices underlying the perpetuation and gradual internalisation of ethnic and racial stereotypes and prejudices will also be briefly considered.

Giovanni Tarantino, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a former Postdoctoral Fellow at the Melbourne node of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE), is the National Research Development Officer of CHE, based at The University of Western Australia. He is an intellectual historian by training whose research interests include: the understanding and representation of diversity in the early modern age; connected cross-cultural histories; and early modern discourses of tolerance and accommodation. He is the coordinator of the international seminar series 'Entangled Histories of Emotions in the Mediterranean World' and the co-convenor of the eponymous CHE Research Cluster.

This event is hosted by the Governing Intimacies Project, School of Literature, Language and Media, University of Witwatersrand Johannesburg, and co-sponsored by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, Europe 1100‒1800.