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Do Emotions Have a History? (Melbourne)

....The example of romantic love.

Do Emotions have a History image 2

Date:
Thursday 14th March 2013

Time:

5.15pm

Venue:
Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre A
University of Melbourne

Keynote Speaker:

Professor William M. Reddy,
Duke University, North Carolina

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In general, emotions are not subject to voluntary control; we do not get to pick which ones we will feel. Some emotions, like fear or anger, may trigger physiological changes. Others, like pride or nostalgia, do not. Are emotions hard-wired? Or are they subject to cultural or historical variation? Or perhaps, some are hard-wired, others shaped by culture?

For decades experts have been divided on the subject. The question of romantic love is a good entry point for appreciating the complexities social scientists face in trying to make sense of emotions. It seems that romantic love, of one kind or another, can be found in almost every part of the world. Is it universal, a product of neurotransmitters interacting with subcortical structures?

The record suggests, on the contrary, not only that romantic love has gone through some striking transformations over the centuries, but also that collective action can make a difference in how we feel.

Professor William M. Reddy joins us from Duke University in North Carolina.  His most recent book, The Making of Romantic Love: Longing and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia and Japan, 900-1200CE was published in 2012.