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:


17 March 2015

From the Director

For CHE, summer is the season of the Annual Report. In a couple of weeks the harvest will be in, in the shape of a comprehensive account to the ARC, our academic peers and the Australian public of all that the Centre did with taxpayers’ funding in 2015.

Like a harvest, our Annual Report means intense hard work for many people: gathering, designing, calculating, writing and checking. The process requires very high levels of industry and collegiality. The final product will demonstrate the same qualities. In research publication, national and international collaboration, education and outreach, performance events and public engagement, 2015 was a bumper year for our research community.

The summer of 2016 has been alive with new activity in CHE, as several items in this newsletter reveal. More still is listed on our events page. It has been a special pleasure to host visitors from the Early Modern Conversions project (McGill University, Canada) at several CHE nodes, and to join with them and the ARC Centre for Cognition and its Disorders in the ‘Moving Minds’ conference at Macquarie. Professor Miri Rubin of Queen Mary University of London has been a most welcome guest. Our international partnerships continue to grow. In early February I attended the 22nd Annual Conference of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, held in Scottsdale, Arizona (USA). At this event, hosted by Professor Robert Bjork, the Director, ACMRS and CHE jointly launched ‘Perspectives on Emotions History’, which will be published as a book series within Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies.

CHE’s partnership with the University of York (UK) has also been formally ratified. Dr Catriona Kennedy is currently in Australia as the first visiting fellow in this scheme and we are planning a major conference in York for mid-2017. Preparations are also underway for the conference ‘Emotions: Movement, Cultural Contact and Exchange, 1100-1800’, jointly organised by CHE and the Freie Universität Berlin, 30 June to 2 July this year. Within Australia, CHE is partnering with the Australasian Consortium for Humanities Research Centres to present ‘The Public Humanities’, a two-day conference in Adelaide on 11-12 November 2016, and with the Contemporary Emotions Research Network (University of Wollongong) for Contemporary and Historical Approaches to Emotion’ in Sydney on 5-6 December 2016. We look forward to extending and strengthening our research scope and methodology through these and many other ventures in 2016. It is an exciting prospect.

Andrew Lynch

Moving Minds

Passion of Christ, Sandro Botticelli, circa 1500.By Umberto Grassi (CHE Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Sydney [USyd])

The conference ‘Moving Minds: Converting Cognition and Emotion in History’ was sponsored by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University), the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Europe 1100–1800) and the McGill-based Early Modern Conversions project. The event, organised by Evelyn Tribble (University of Otago, NZ) and John Sutton (Macquarie University), took place at the Australian Hearing Hub at Macquarie University.

Scholars from a wide range of disciplines were invited to reflect on three crucial questions: What is the history of the mind? How do cognition and emotion relate, now and historically? How are their histories to be studied? It is almost impossible to summarise the variety of responses given in the sessions: psychology, scholastic theology, music, cross-cultural interactions, loneliness and trauma, textual analysis, poetry and drama are only a few examples of the diversity of topics addressed by participants.

Structured in short and provocative talks followed by collective debates, the successive panel discussions effectively enlivened discussion. The five keynote speakers, on the other hand, provided the audience with challenging theoretical insights. Monique Scheer (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen) firstly reconstructed the role played by the cognitive sciences in the history of emotions. She then attempted to move beyond the rigid partition between universalising understandings of cognitive processes and socially constructed behaviours, using the interpretative tools provided by ‘practice theory’ (as defined by Pierre Bourdieu) and the theory of ‘distributed cognition’. Collections of data on a large scale was the focus of Harvey Whitehouse’s talk (University of Oxford). He showed how computer processing might increase our understandings of emotional and epistemological changes in a long-term period and global perspective. Challenging a universalising approach to the Humanities and Social Sciences, Justin Smith (Université Paris Diderot – Paris VII) revealed the problems one has to face when extending the category of ‘philosophy’ and 'philosopher’ outside the western world. Finally, Gail Kern Paster (Folger Shakespeare Library, USA) and Paul Yachnin (McGill University) analysed Shakespeare plays – respectively Julius Caesar and King Lear – through the perspective of cognitive sciences, thus showing how theoretical reflections on mind and cognition might be used in the Humanities.

Although the relation between the epistemological paradigms of the Cognitive Sciences and the Humanities is not unproblematic, this conference has confirmed that looking beyond disciplinary boundaries is necessary for achieving new results in the ongoing process of emotions research.

Religious Materiality and Emotion

Gentile Bellini, 1496, Procession in St. Mark's Square Tempera on canvas. Courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsBy CHE Associate Investigators Claire Walker (The University of Adelaide) and Julie Hotchin (The Australian National University)

The CHE ‘Religion and Emotion’ research cluster sponsored a
symposium on ‘Religious Materiality and Emotion’, hosted by the Adelaide node, from 16–18 February 2016.

The symposium examined the interplay between materiality and emotion in religious settings, focusing on questions about how material forms such as objects, spaces, the body and sensory perception stimulated, shaped and informed the emotional dimensions of religion. The event attracted considerable interest locally and internationally, and around 40 people were treated to lively and thought-provoking papers and discussion. CHE postgraduate travel bursaries enabled international and local students to present papers.

Miri Rubin (Queen Mary University London, UK) opened the symposium with a public lecture in which she traced an emotional arc of devotional practice centred on worship of the Virgin Mary through the Middle Ages. Click
here to watch a recording of Miri’s lecture.

Monique Scheer (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany) explored how emotions function as material practices through a study of how feeling is instrumental to prayer in contemporary Protestant churches in Germany. Her keynote lecture generated lively debate about the relationship between sensation and emotion, and how the body is authorised, or negated, as a medium for religious expression. Click
here to listen to Monique’s lecture.

Charles Zika (The University of Melbourne [UMelb]) delivered a wide-ranging keynote lecture on the role of the pilgrimage site of Mariazell in Austria in transmitting complex emotions. His analysis showed how changing ornamentation and display at the site aimed to generate emotional responses which shaped local, religious and political identities.

Six panels of speakers drawn from a range of disciplinary traditions – history, art history, philosophy, religious studies, literature and music – further investigated the ideas raised by the keynote presenters through a variety of objects. The diversity of material artefacts – reliquaries, liturgical objects, images, manuscripts and books, rosary beads and wax – illustrated how objects were used to cultivate emotions or acquired layers of affective meaning through their use and exchange. Several papers explored how the material properties of a thing contributed to eliciting a desired religious feeling and, in turn, how the likely use of the object to generate emotion influenced its material form.

The power of the body as a medium to communicate, express and transmit emotion was also investigated from multiple perspectives. A demonstration of historically informed performance gesture in music showed how a perceptive reading of textual cues can lead to new understandings of how gesture was used to signal and generate emotional shifts in performance. Discussions of embodiment and emotion also highlighted how attitudes towards physiological expressiveness convey reactions against materiality that can be crucial markers for defining religious expressions.

The concluding discussion raised questions about the nature of religious emotions, and the particular ways in which emotions produce religion. If religious emotion is directed towards a goal – bringing an individual closer to God – the study of how material forms, and the responses they produce, generate a felt experience of the sacred, offers fruitful scope for further research.

The symposium provided a forum for scholars of religion and emotion to meet, establish new networks and generate research ideas. The ‘Religion and Emotion’ research cluster intends to organise further, related events to build on the enthusiastic response to this symposium.

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Voyage to the Moon draws to a close

Sally Anne Russell and Emma Matthews in Voyage to the Moon. Photo by Jeff Busby.
After 12 performances in six state capital cities, Voyage to the Moon, a collaboration between CHE, Victorian Opera and Musica Viva, has concluded its run. The production has been acclaimed by audiences and critics alike: ‘A work of pure gold’ (Melbourne Age); ‘Baroque Heaven’ (Limelight magazine).

In this venture, the core team, consisting of Jane Davidson, CHE Deputy Director and Leader of the Performance Program, Joe Browning and Fred Kiernan, drew together emotions research and public outreach, with contributions from the production and performance teams and also Alan Maddox (Associate Investigator, USyd) and Graham Pushee (Director, Artists International). Together they researched the history of the emotions depicted in pasticcio operas and the creative processes involved in constructing them both historically and within Voyage to the Moon. With the help of a large team of assistants from each node, the researchers have also captured audience experience through surveys, voxpops, observations and the use of an iPad app to trace emotional experiences during the show. For more information on this collaboration, click

Photo: Sally-Anne Russell and Emma Matthews in Voyage to the Moon. Photo courtesy of Jeff Busby.

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Celebrating Shakespeare

Hamlet, starring Asta Nielsen, a 1920 German film of Hamlet, directed by Sven Gade and Heinz SchallBy Stephanie Tarbin (CHE Research Assistant, UWA)

To celebrate the life and works of William Shakespeare, on the 400th anniversary of his death, CHE is participating in an exciting series of events.

The festivities began in February at the The New Fortune Theatre (The University of Western Australia [UWA]), with a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor directed by Rob Conkie (LaTrobe University) and performed by Melbourne’s ‘Nothing But Roaring’ theatre company. In association with the play, Bob White (Chief Investigator and Meanings Program Leader) convened a symposium featuring an international panel that included Alison Findlay (Lancaster University), Philippa Kelly (California Shakespeare Theater), Helen Ostovich (McMaster University), Peter Reynolds (University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne) and Elizabeth Schafer (Royal Holloway College, University of London). To complete the three-day program, ‘Nothing But Roaring’ delivered a dramatised reading of The Tragical History of Margaret of Anjou, a play developed by performance historian Elizabeth Schafer and dramaturg Philippa Kelly.

In February, the launch of CHE’s iTunes channel also featured Bob White speaking about his new book, Avant-Garde Hamlet (Fairleigh Dickinson, 2015). Regular Shakespeare podcasts will be published over the coming months.

In Melbourne, CHE hosted ‘The World of Conversion, and the Conversion of the World: Shakespeare and China’ on 14 March. This event featured presentations by Benjamin Schmidt (University of Washington) and Paul Yachnin (McGill University) that explore the treatment of religious conversion in The Taming of the Shrew and The Tempest.

In Adelaide, on 21 March, CHE joins the Flinders University School of Humanities and Flinders Institute for Research in the Humanities to present the 1920 German silent film Hamlet (directed by Svend Gade and Heinz Schall). With an improvised live score by Ashley Hribar (piano), Julian Ferraretto (violin) and Rachel Johnston (cello), the gala screening also features an introduction by professor of Film and Literature, Judith Buchanan (University of York).

In Brisbane, CHE’s Queensland node will present ‘Shakespeare’s Songs’ on 12 June, performed by the Baudinerie Players with a pre-concert lecture by Professor Tom Bishop (University of Auckland).
Tributes to Shakespeare cluster around the anniversary of his death on 23 April. On 20 April, Indira Ghose (Université de Fribourg) will present a public lecture on ‘Shakespeare and the Modern World’ at The University of Queensland (UQ). On 23 April, CHE at UQ will also host a public forum titled ‘Shakespeare on the Screen’, in collaboration with the UQ School of Communication and Arts and Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.

The Adelaide node plans a public lecture on ‘The Death of Shakespeare’ for 26 April. Presented by Emeritus Professor Ian Donaldson (UMelb), the evening will include a response by Professor Ian Gadd (Bath Spa University) and music by Adelaide Baroque. Professor Donaldson is Vice-Chair of the CHE Advisory Board. Also on the 26 April, CHE and the Institute of Advanced Studies at UWA will present ‘Shakespeare – 400 – Emotions’, where emotions in Shakespeare’s works and legacy will be explored through the work of UWA researchers Danijela Kambaskovic, Brid Philips, Susan Broomhall, Bob White and Brett Hirsch. This event will also celebrate the Bard with music from the Fine Knacks Ensemble.

Further events are planned for the second half of the year, in addition to many activities taking place within the Education and Outreach program. In all, there is a feast of tributes to Shakespeare in CHE’s 2016 calendar.

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New research cluster

By Amy Milka and Abaigéal Warfield

Image: The Art and Mystery of Printing Emblematically Displayed (1732). Copyright of the British MuseumThe ‘Emotions and Media’ research cluster was established to bring together researchers within the Centre for the History of Emotions and further afield, and has already attracted members from a number of institutions worldwide.

Many of us work with print and visual media in our research, and seek to analyse the ways in which media portrayed and shaped emotions in the past.
The cluster hopes to address a number of research questions relating to the research interests of its members: How did the media help to inform the emotional styles of certain periods, places and groups? How did stylistic and technological advances affect the representation of emotions in media over time? And, how can our research into emotions and the media in history help us to understand the role of today’s media in constructing emotions?
We hope that the cluster will be able to contribute to contemporary debate about the complex relationship between media and emotion. Our first major event will be a one-day workshop, to be held at The University of Adelaide on 16 September 2016. This will be an opportunity to address current theories in media psychology, and ways of writing about media and emotion in history. More information about this event will follow in due course.
If you would like to join the cluster and be added to our mailing list, please email
amy.milka@adelaide.edu.au or abaigeal.warfield@adelaide.edu.au.

CHE on iTunes

The History of Emotions podcast cover image
  • In February 2016, CHE started publishing a weekly podcast on iTunes.
  • Podcasts will capture a range of sound files including lectures and interviews. One podcast a month will be dedicated to Shakespeare-related events as part of our contribution towards the Shakespeare 400 celebration. Followers on our soundcloud platform will be able to access the podcasts there as well.
  • During April you will hear and see more of CHE’s research being featured on social media. Follow our research showcase hashtag #ThinkCHE to keep up to date with our latest findings. This will coincide with the release of our 2015 Annual Report. Watch out for snippets from the report during the month of April.
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Staff news

Robin Macdonald joined the Centre in January 2016 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Shaping the Modern program. Based at UWA, she is working under the direction of Jacqueline Van Gent on the Emotions in Colonial Encounters project. Robin completed her PhD in History at the University of York (UK). Her CHE work examines the multifaceted role of laughter in colonial encounters in eastern North America during the seventeenth century. By examining a wide variety of French- and English-language sources, she is investigating the ways in which laughter could be both an expression of feeling and a tool for change in colonial contexts. Robin is also interested in the lexical strategies employed by early modern authors to express and prompt humour.

Sushma Griffin joins CHE at UQ to provide administrative support and assist with event planning. She is a doctoral candidate in the School of Communication and Arts at UQ, where she convened the 2015 WIP (Work-in-Progress) conference. Her research interests are art historiography and theories of the nineteenth-century photographic image, specifically of Indo-Muslim architecture.

Paul Megna has been appointed as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UWA. He will be working with Andrew Lynch, on a research project entitled ‘Rhetorics of Emotion in Anglo-Irish Drama and Anti-theatrical Polemic, 1300–1800’. Paul received his PhD in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in June 2015. His dissertation, ‘Emotional Ethics in Middle English Literature’, argues that Middle English literary texts not only recognise emotion’s role in ethical decision-making (often much more clearly than their post-Enlightenment descendants), but also teach their audience to balance emotion and volition in their everyday attempts to live ethically. Paul will take up his position in June 2016.

Call for papers

Image: Brock Brown, Feelings of Black Saturday, 2009, acrylic on paper, 29.6 x 41.8 cm, The Cunningham Dax Collection, 2015.0091Symposium: Children's Voices in Contemporary Australia
Date: 9 September 2016
Time: 9am-5pm
Venue: The Kenneth Myer Auditorium and The Dax Centre, 30 Royal Parade, The University of Melbourne
Contact: Dr Melissa Raine (
Penelope Lee (
Call for Papers deadline: 15 April 2016

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SPOTLIGHT ON: Afterlives of Hellenistic Ethics

Image: Frontispiece to 1563 edition of Lucretius’s De rerum natura, edited by Denis Lambin and printed in Paris. This copy was owned by Michel de Montaigne, and bears his hand-written annotations. Courtesy of the University of Cambridge Digital Library.What accounts for the enduring influence of Hellenistic life-philosophies – Stoicism, Epicureanism, Scepticism, Neoplatonism and other such movements? What is living or dead in ancient ethical philosophy today?

On 8 April 2016, the UQ node of the Centre for the History of Emotions will host a one-day cross-disciplinary symposium 'Afterlives of Hellenistic Ethics', exploring the long-term impact of Hellenistic ethical philosophy from antiquity to the present day. Chief Investigator Peter Holbrook (UQ) and Dr Patrick Gray (Durham University), a CHE Early Career International Visitor, are convening the symposium.

The UQ node is also delighted to welcome Professor Ada Palmer of the University of Chicago as a guest speaker at this symposium. Topics under discussion will include the reception of Lucretian and Epicurean ethical and scientific ideas in the Renaissance, early modern Stoicism and the critique of Senecan ethics by Erasmus and Montaigne. More information, including a full symposium program, will be available shortly.

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Selected forthcoming events

Image: The Letter, Pietro Longhi (Pietro Falca) (Italian, Venice 1701–1785 Venice), 1746. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Frederick C. Hewitt Fund, 1912.
Perth, 17 March 2016
Philippe Ariès and the Consequences: History of Childhood, Family Relations, and Personal Emotions: Where do we stand today?
A seminar at The University of Western Australia by Professor Albrecht Classen (The University of Arizona).

Adelaide, 21 March 2016

Silent Shakespeare
The Gala screening of a famous silent Hamlet, with an improvised live score by Ashley Hribar (piano), Julian Ferraretto (violin) and Rachel Johnston (cello) at Capri Cinema, Adelaide.

Sydney, 30 March to 1 April 2016

Connecting with Others: Empathy, Sympathy, and the Imagination Conference
A three day conference at The University of Sydney.

Melbourne, 28 April 2016

The Emotional Life of Objects: Exhibition Workshop
A workshop and collaboration with The University of Melbourne at the George Paton Gallery.

International events:
London (UK), 8 July 2016

Medieval Emotions & Contemporary Methodologies: a research workshop
This workshop is a collaboration between the School of Arts at Birkbeck, University of London and CHE.

A full list of forthcoming events and further details about individual events can be found on our

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