Experience history in action, how human emotions have changed over the centuries, and the impact it has had on Australia today. Read the latest news from the History of Emotions:

12 August 2014

From the Acting Director

Jane DavidsonAt the very end of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Edgar stands over the dead bodies of the king, Cordelia and Gloucester, his father, and states that the time demands the survivors “Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say”. Yet we have almost no chance to learn from speech what those feelings might be: in two more lines verbal silence descends on the scene – Exeunt, with a dead march. We must supply the feelings ourselves from a response to what has already been said and done, and in a context where words seem less appropriate than silence. It is not simply a matter of discriminating between authentic and imposed emotional expression; the play’s ending seems to suggest both the pressing need to speak feelings in words and the great difficulty of doing so.

The problems (and the interest) of putting feelings into words provided a strong thread of discussion at the fascinating 'Languages of Emotion: Translations and Transformations' Collaboratory at UWA, June 10-12. As one of many challenging speakers, the linguist Anna Wierzbicka, a distinguished guest, outlined her methodology in which “cognitive scenarios” written in “Basic Human” are relied on to provide a “universal perspective on emotions”. Historians naturally sympathised with how such a method forestalls the imposition of inappropriate terms and misleading cultural associations onto emotional case studies: as Anna showed, modern English “suffering” is not the same thing as Buddhist dukkha, though it is a common translation of the term. It was harder for many of us to forsake abstraction and metaphor altogether in our own use of language, and even harder to restrict understanding of emotions to concepts embedded in very simple scenarios intended to be communicable across widely differing cultures. As readers attentive to history, we are usually suspicious of universals and used to looking for meaning in the cultural specificity of what we find, including the features of language that distinguish one version of emotion or regime of feeling from another. Anna Wierzbicka respects that specificity too, but her method seeks to get obscuring language out of the way so as to reveal residual core states of emotional meaning.

Each approach – trusting and distrusting language to reveal emotion – has its problems.  King Lear signals that from the start: Goneril’s beautiful eloquence – “A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable” – is doubly false, for her love exists only in speech, but Cordelia’s desire to “Love, and be silent”, abandoning eloquence, also fails to communicate her real feelings. All the same, Lear would have been a much better listener if he had not wanted so much to be “pleased” by what he heard. The play also models for its audience how large a part our own emotions play in the historical conversation.

Andrew Lynch
Acting Director | Chief Investigator |
The University of Western Australia

Feeling Exclusion in Early Modern Europe

Relics of St Valerius, Weyarn, Germany. ©Paul Koudounaris, Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs  (London: Thames and Hudson) 2013.During his 1992 Redfern speech on the impact of European settlers on Australian Aboriginal communities, Prime Minister Paul Keating said, “We practiced the discrimination and exclusion”. How have European legacies of intolerance and histories of exile shaped our political present? How can a history of emotions illuminate the experiences of refugees past and present?

‘Feeling Exclusion’, convened by Giovanni Tarantino and Charles Zika at The University of Melbourne, set out to investigate the emotional strategies that contributed to or resisted the depositing of "othering" stereotypes in culture and daily life in various European contexts between the 16th and 18th Centuries when, as a result of political and religious upheaval, an unprecedented number of people were forced to flee from their native lands, to live in a state of internal exile and to devise strategies of dissimulation and secrecy. Religious refugees were variously received by their host communities: some were welcomed and helped, while others were met with hostility and contempt. The duration of their exile also varied from the temporary to the permanent. But as foreigners in an unfamiliar land, they all invariably experienced profound feelings of estrangement and disorientation, worked to set up new patterns and channels of communication and to deal with their sense of displacement and alienation.

A further aim of the symposium was to explore the relationship between the emotional experience of exclusion, persecution or exile and the emergence, articulation or justification of tolerant and intolerant attitudes or policies. In their quest to uncover emotions, seventeen scholars from Europe, Australia and North America considered ego-documents, sermons, parodies, trial proceedings, “hate literature”, memorials, depicted sounds and dancing, tolerationist and anti-slavery stances.

“We have certainly learnt many of the lessons of those times”, said Charles Zika, “the need for co-existence, social inclusion and religious toleration. But we have also not totally abandoned some of the attitudes of centuries ago, the fear of those with world views different to our own, the mistrust of the displaced and refugees, a difficulty to empathize adequately with the stress of those experiencing exclusion”.

In addition to the symposium, a concert of choral works from the early modern period and on the topic of exclusion was performed by the ensemble e21, conducted by Stephen Grant, and a deeply touching lecture by the acclaimed novelist and human rights advocate Arnold Zable, ‘The Cry of the Excluded – A writer’s perspective’ was given at Latham Theatre.

A more detailed conference report by Giovanni Tarantino is available online on the
Histories of Emotions blog.

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Feelings in the Room: Theatre Audiences and their Emotions

Matthew GrenbyIn theatres across Australia and around the world, CHE Postdoctoral Research Fellow Penelope Woods is focused not merely on the action onstage, but on the affective response of audiences to the works performed, and the spaces in which the performance is placed.  

A live question in both theatre history and performance studies concerns the place of both reconstructed spaces and practice as a methodology for gaining new insights into the past.  The approach offers a horizon of new possibilities for better understanding the spatial and praxeological conditions that produced performance in history and the practice of emotional exchange in which it operated.

Penelope Woods began her work on the history of theatre audience emotions collaborating with Shakespeare's Globe and Queen Mary, University of London on a PhD project on spectatorship, reconstruction and audiences. Working within CHE’s Performance and Meanings Programs, Penelope’s research continues to expand understandings of both contemporary and 16th and 17th Century audiences by exploring its operation in particular performance spaces and conditions.

“The open-air nature of the playhouses for which Shakespeare wrote plays (up until 1608) informs both the nature of these plays and the ways in which they were responded to that modern performance conditions have desensitized us to,” Woods says. “When Prospero summons a magical storm, for instance, or Hamlet points to and describes the clouds, these moments interact with the real, live presence or possibility of storms and clouds in the open-air theatre in ways that are precluded by their performance in modern indoor theatres.” Other significant features that differentiate performance in these theatres from our theatres today include practices and aesthetics of voice, gesture, facial expression and direct address. Woods says, “The absence of lighting technologies and sound technologies meant that audience attention and affect was manipulated in quite different ways”.

The University of Western Australia is home to the
New Fortune Theatre, a 1964 reconstruction of the Fortune Theatre built by the Queen’s Men in London in 1600. Throughout her time at UWA, Penelope has worked to activate this theatre space.

In February 2013, off the back of a highly-acclaimed debut at Shakespeare’s Globe, Penelope helped bring
The Two Gents Production Company out to perform in this theatre. Their stripped-back two-man cross-cultural production provided useful material for contextualizing performance practice in this particular theatre space, as well as the practices of touring performance. Penelope will pursue this research into historical and current touring practices and cross-cultural audience engagement with the world “Globe to Globe” two year tour of Hamlet by Shakespeare’s Globe to every country in the world

In September of this year Penelope will attend the opening of the Polish Fortune Theatre in Gdansk, with Chief Investigator Bob White – further extending  an international network of reconstructed theatres and history of emotions research. She has also collaborated on the Performance Program’s concerted investigation this year of the place and significance of the
voice in histories of emotion, which will culminate in a Collaboratory in Sydney 29 September – 1 October.

For more on audience emotions and upcoming events involving Penelope’s work, explore
“Feelings in the Room: Theatre Audiences and their Emotions”
Keep in touch with her research @newaudiencesold.

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Coming to Terms: Languages of Emotion

Medieval folksContinuing conversations begun in 2012 at the first ‘Languages of Emotion’ collaboratory, this year’s ‘Translations and Transformations’ took place in Perth June 10-12, where we hoped to come to terms (as it were!) with historical variation and evolution of emotions concepts.

Linguist Anna Wierzbicka (ANU) threw down the gauntlet with her lively opening keynote, ‘
Exploring human emotions from non-Anglocentric and non-chronocentric perspective’. Wierzbicka, inventor of ‘Natural Semantic Metalanguage’, argued passionately that we should recognize and replace our English folk-psychological terms with cross-culturally intelligible descriptions based on universal ‘semantic primes’.  Our second keynote speaker, Naama Cohen-Hanegbi (Tel Aviv), plotted shifts in the vocabulary and taxonomies of emotion terms in medical works written in Italy and Spain between 1200 and 1500 to reveal key moments in the transmission of ideas between different fields of knowledge. Cohen-Hanegbi’s magisterial paper demonstrated that medical sources appropriated a wider range of ‘emotions’ terms in the later middle ages from religious discourse – but also, to some extent, secularised them. Our final keynote speaker, cognitive linguist, Javier E. Díaz-Vera (Castilla-La Mancha), led a postgraduate masterclass drawing on linguistic, visual and architectural data to build up a finer-grained picture of the Old English concept of ‘awe’ than would have been possible through textual sources alone.

CHE Chief Investigator Charles Zika (The University of Melbourne) nicely summarised the main themes arising over the three days in his concluding remarks. He expressed appreciation for the conference welcome, in Nyoongar language, by Alan Dench, head of UWA’s Graduate Research School, a researcher of Australian indigenous languages – Professor Dench’s attempt to articulate the emotions of another culture paralleled our own work of reconstructing the emotional lives of medieval and early modern Europeans. Professor Zika noted the mobility, fluidity, and miscibility of emotions concepts that had been highlighted in many papers. But if we ended on an aporetic note, with historical emotions resisting translation or transforming with viral elusiveness, the collaboratory had the salutary effect of clarifying what it is that we (CHE researchers) think we are doing when we study the ‘history of emotions’.  There was consensus, at least, that our work was enhanced but not necessarily exhausted by enquiry into the history of emotions words and concepts. And while we were made aware of the walls of what Wierzbicka has called the ‘prison’ of English, our strategies for escaping that prison seem to depend on the directions in which our quite diverse research projects are running. Though Philippa Maddern was unable to attend any of the conference which she had done so much to set up,  she would have been pleased that debate was heated, language was colourful, but that humours remained even-tempered.

“Languages of Emotion: Translations and Transformation" from Chief Investigator Yasmin Haskell on the CHE blog.

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Emotions and Environment in the Anthropocene

Sri Lankan dancersIn a partnership between CHE, the Association for the Study of Literature, Environment and Culture (ASELC-ANZ) and the Humanities Research Centre at ANU, Affective Habitus: New Environmental Histories of Botany, Zoology and Emotions brought together scientists, activists, ecocritics, artists, creative writers, historians and anthropologists to explore emotions and environement.

Held at ANU from June 19 to 21, this  interdisciplinary event was co-convened by incoming postdoctoral fellow, Tom Bristow, and Grace Moore of the Melbourne node, along with Charles Dawson, Linda Williams (RMIT) and Josh Wodak (CoFA, UNSW).  It was also preceded by a small workshop for ecological artists, ‘The Anthroposcene’, which ran for two days, engaging Australian and international arts practitioners on issues surrounding emotions and the environment.
Adopting collaboratory style, with carefully chosen respondents offering feedback to keynote papers, the event is part of the Shaping the Modern Program’s developing research interest in emotions and the environment.  Keynote lectures included presentations by Tim Collins, Tom Griffiths (Australian National University, Eileen Joy (Visiting Lecturer, University of California, Santa Barbara), Michael Marder (University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz), John Plotz (Brandeis University),  (The University of Sydney), Ariel Salleh (The University of Sydeny), Will Steffen (Australian National University), Wendy Wheeler (London Metropolitan University), Linda Williams (RMIT), and Gillen D’Arcy Wood (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).  With such a diverse and impressive line-up, the lectures were wide in their scope and took in concerns that included the sentience of plants, Darwin and emotions, ecology and depression, the Anthropocene, and water.  Many of these lectures will be made publicly available over the next few months on the CHE website.
Each afternoon brought an abundance of rich, short papers by scholars whose work spans a range of disciplines. Topics ranged from fog in Victorian London to ecological policy, animal cruelty to nature-writing, and the cultural value of seeds.
Delegates travelled from the US, Taiwan, Switzerland, Italy, and from across Australia and New Zealand. This fruitful collaboration demonstrates just how much emotion we pour into our interactions with and understanding of the environment.  With more than 160 participants, the event also signals the growing sense of urgency surrounding work in the environmental humanities.

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Emotional Language in the words of Shakespeare’s Foreigners

Emotions and Social change book coverAs part of our nation-wide Education and Outreach Program, CHE works to bring the expertise of scholars researching the history of emotions into the classroom.  On June 12, twenty-seven English and Drama teachers from Brisbane and the south-east Queensland region attended 'Listening to Shakespeare’s Foreigners'. This Continuing Professional Development seminar helped teachers explore how Shakespeare makes his foreigners – Othello, Caliban, Shylock, even the Scottish Witches – not just look different, but sound different.

Co-hosted by the UQ Node of CHE and the UQ School of English, Media Studies and Art History, the workshop featured presentations by Jonathan Gil Harris, Professor of English at the newly-established Ashoka University in India, and UQ CHE Associate Investigator Jennifer Clement.

Presentations by Professor Harris and Dr Clement proposed that, while critics have often paid attention to the ways in which Shakespeare’s foreigners are described in the plays, and portrayed in theatrical productions, as visually different (skin colour, dress, body shape), Shakespeare also encodes foreignness in the language and speech of his characters.

After the formal presentations, during which the participants were invited to read out several passages from Julius Caesar, Othello, and Macbeth, teachers asked questions and shared practical advice about how to engage students with Shakespeare’s (sometimes difficult) language. The event leaders raised the question of how the expression of emotion by Shakespeare’s characters also identifies them as foreign.

Professor Harris and Dr Clement discussed the advantages of having students read the plays out aloud, suggesting teachers encourage several different theatrical interpretations of the same scene, and exchanged their experiences of teaching Shakespeare to a diverse student group.

A live-streamed video of the presentations and discussion and accompanying powerpoint slides can be accessed on our
Educational Resources page.
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Recent Publication: Conjunctions of Mind, Soul and Body from Plato to the Enlightenment

Scholarly Community at the Early University of ParisConjunctions of Mind, Soul and Body from Plato to the Enlightenment, edited by UWA-based Research Associate Danijela Kambaskovic, explores the relationships between physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual aspects of human life as represented in writings from the early Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

An interdisciplinary group of authors from around the world, including our late director Philippa Maddern, along with CHE Chief Investigators Andrew Lynch and Bob White, and Associate Investigators Daniel Derrin, Alicia Marchant, and Richard Read consider different places where mind, body and soul were thought to intersect.
In the foreword to the book, Andrew Lynch writes, “The covers of this book shelter a bold array of conceptual schemes, creative projects, scholarly methodologies and interpretative strategies, within many and diverse modern disciplinary areas: literature, history, philosophy, theology, theatre, rhetoric, music, fine arts, medicine and science.… The event of reading Conjunctions will be a different one for every reader. I think that it will be a work returned to on many occasions … raided for information, appreciated for subtle formulations of complex processes and, in its editor’s words, treated as a place of ‘enjoyment and enlightenment.’”

This exciting new publication will be available from Springer from September and is available for pre-order

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New Staff

Leanne Hunt joined the CHE Melbourne Node in July as Research Administrator. Leanne has worked at both Monash University in the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Business & Economics and more recently at The University of Melbourne in Academic Board (Academic Governance Unit) and Property & Campus Services (Senior Vice-Principal's Division). Leanne is also currently completing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology, part-time at Monash University.

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Call for Papers from The Max Planck Institute - Criminal Law and Emotions in European Legal Cultures (2015)

Legal institutions and jurists have often promoted an image of their role and activity as essentially “rational”. Yet emotions have always been integral to the law, particularly in the case of criminal law. Emotions were and are taken explicitly or implicitly into consideration in legal debates, in law-making, in the codified norms and in their application, especially in relation to paramount categories such as free will, individual responsibility and culpability, or the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of a crime. Emotions could directly or indirectly play a role in defining what conduct was legally relevant, worthy of legal protection or in need of legal proscription; in why and how it was necessary to punish, and what feelings punishment was meant to evoke.

The conference will be held in English. Accommodation and travel expenses for those presenting will be covered by the MPIB. If you are interested in participating in this conference, please send a proposal of no more than 300 words and a short CV by 1 October 2014 to cfp-emotions@mpib-berlin.mpg.de.  For more information, visit the
Max Planck Institute website.

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Selected Forthcoming Events

CMEMS/ PMRG Public Lecture at The University of Western Australia

I've Got You under My Skin: The Green Man, Trans-Species Bodies, and Queer Worldmaking
Date: Thursday 14 August 2014
Time: 6.30pm
Venue: Arts Lecture Room 5, (G 61), Faculty of Arts
Presenter: Carolyn Dinshaw (New York University)

Free Public Lecture The University of Melbourne

Milton and Hope: The Structure of a Feeling in the English Revolution
Date: Thursday August 14, 2014
Time: 6:30 to 7:30 pm
Venue: McMahon Ball Theatre, Old Arts Building
Presenter: Nigel Smith (Princeton University)

Public Lecture at The University of Adelaide

“At Newburn Foord, Where Brave Scots Past the Tine”; Emotions, Literature, and the Battle of Newburn
Date: Friday 15 August 2014
Time: 1.00pm - 2.00pm
Venue: Room 210, Napier Building
Presenter: Gordon Raeburn (The University of Melbourne

Free Public Lecture at The University of Sydney
Paradise Lost, Regained, Refracted: Saint Brendan's Isle and the Temporalities and Optics of Desire
Date: Monday 18 August 2014
Time: 3pm-5pm
Location: Rogers Room, Woolley Building
Presenter: Carolyn Dinshaw (New York University)
Contact: craig.lyons@sydney.edu.au

Free Public Lecture at The University of Sydney
I've Got You Under My Skin: The Green Man, Trans-Species Bodies, and Queer Worldmaking
Date: Tuesday 19 August 2014
Time: When: 1pm-2:30pm,
Venue: Woolley Common Room, Woolley Building
Presenter: Carolyn Dinshaw (New York University)
Contact: craig.lyons@sydney.edu.au

Exhibition at The University of Queensland Art Museum
Five Centuries of Melancholia
Date: 30 August to 30 November 2014

A Professional Development Seminar at The University of Queensland
(Run in conjunction with the Five Centuries of Melancholia Exhibit)

The Melancholic Imagination
Date: Saturday 30 August 2014
Time: 10.00am - 3.30pm
Venue: The University of Queensland Art Museum

A Public Lecture at The University of Adelaide
Wearing Your Heart on Your Face: Reading Lovesickness and the Suicidal Impulse in Chaucer
Date: Friday 5 September 2014
Time: 1.00pm - 2.00pm
Venue: Room 204, Napier Building
Presenter: Rebecca F. McNamara (The University of Sydney

A Public Lecture at The University of Adelaide
Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories and the Politics of Fear in the Early Modern Iberian World
Date: Friday 19 September 2014
Time: 1.00pm - 2.00pm
Venue: Room 210, Napier Building
Presenter: Francois Soyer (The University of Adelaide)

Zest Festival
The Colour of Ritual, the Spice of Life
Date: 20-21 September 2014
Venue: Kalbarri, WA

Performance Collaboratory at The University of Sydney
The Voice and Histories of Emotion: 1500-1800
Dates: 29th September to 1st October
Venue: Department of Performance Studies (The University of Sydney)
Keynotes: Will West (Northwestern University) and Richard Wistreich (Royal College of Music

Symposium at The University of Sydney
Ethics of Empathy
Date: Wednesday 22 October 2014
Venue: Dixson Room, State Library of NSW, Sydney
Convenor: Juanita Ruys (The University of Sydney)
Registration: Please register your attendance for catering purposes with Craig Lyons at craig.lyons@sydney.edu.au
Entry is free. All welcome.

Symposium at The University of Western Australia
Little Eyases: Early Modern Plays and Boy Players: 1525 – 1642
Date: 13-14 November 2014
Venue: The University of Western Australia
Convenor: Peter Reynolds (Newcastle University, UK)
Proposals to: peter.reynolds@ncl.ac.uk
Deadline for responses is 29 August 2014

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