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Powerful emotions: new academic discipline launched at major conference

Posted on 28 June 2017

International experts in the field of human emotion will gather at the University of York today for the launch of a new journal - the first of its kind in a new academic discipline.

Jacobello del Fiore, Justice seated between the Archangels Michael and Gabriel (1421) Courtesy of Ministero dei beni e delle attivita culturali e del turismo - Museo Nazionale Gallerie dell'Accademia di Venezia

A two-day conference, being held at York’s Humanities Research Centre, will see the launch of the biennial international journal, Emotions: History, Culture, Society.

The study of emotions asks how human emotions are impacted by time, place, society and culture – and considers the capacity of emotions to shape society and alter our collective futures.

The journal is published by the Society for the History of Emotions headquartered at The University of Western Australia, and will feature work from 22 institutions around the globe.

Speakers attending the Powerful Emotions / Emotions and Power c.400-1850 conference will cover topics ranging from gut feeling to shock, passion, sympathy, love, lust and violence.

Emotions and power

Dr Helen Smith, Reader in York’s Department of English and Related Literature and co-organiser of the conference, said: “Interest in emotions research has grown exponentially over the past decade, and in our current political climate it seems especially timely to ask about the relationships between emotions and power.”

“How much of politics is to do with controlling or manipulating emotions? How emotional an experience is voting? How can we think critically about ideas like trust or hope, as well as about fear or anger? What kinds of power do emotions possess?”

Rapid rise

Andrew Lynch, journal co-editor and Director of the Australian Research Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, Europe 1100-1800, said: “Emotions research methodology is now applied to disciplines such as law, education, anthropology, politics, musicology and literature, and is helping us rethink the way the world works, both past and present.

“There are now at least five dedicated centres across the globe researching the impact of emotions on our personal and public lives and on the progress of history. It is heartening to see the rapid rise and maturation of emotions research, as well as the international collegiality of scholars working in the field.

“Now is the perfect time to publish a journal where our scholarly conversations can continue to advance emotions research and where like-minded scholars can come together to develop new methodologies, ideas and theoretically-informed case studies.”

Diverse subjects

The journal’s first edition includes peer-reviewed articles by leading scholars on subjects as diverse as:  the influence of an emotional public on 18th-century English law courts; the role of melancholy and mourning in post-war, post-colonial African societies; and the emotional responses of concertgoers at musical events across the centuries.

The interdisciplinary conference is jointly organised by the Centres for Medieval Studies, Renaissance and Early Modern Studies and Eighteenth Century Studies at the University of York and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

Further information:

  • For more information about the University of Western Australia’s Australian Research Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, Europe 1100-1800, visit:

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