The History of Emotions.
The History of Emotions. By Rob Boddice. (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2018. Pp. ix, 248. $31.95.)
The history of emotions is a quickly growing field that has recently seen the first three scholarly monographs introducing the topic, and this means that we are currently witnessing this field establishing its purpose, scope, methods, and sources. While Boddice's contribution along these lines is substantial, and his knowledge of the emerging field is wide-ranging, he makes some "radical claims" (1) based upon his specialized work in the Victorian era.
Since, at this point, Boddice's claims about the historicity of emotions would not surprise readers of the book, I will instead focus on the claim that will most surprise, as it also has substantial consequences for what the book delivers: "Emotions are at the center of the history of the human being, considered as a bioculture entity that is characterized as a worlded body, in the worlds of other worlded bodies" (2). The radical nature of this claim resides particularly in the keyword "worlded", which is practically a neologism in the field of history writing. Nonetheless, it stems from recent versions of phenomenological philosophy, which emphasize--in contrast to traditional forms of Cartesian dualism or "brain in a vat" models of mind--the inseparability of brain-body-world. According to this model, a history of emotions that focuses primarily upon emotion words or concepts would be too abstract. Meanwhile, a focus on the natural world per se--excluding culture--would stymie any historian and especially the historian of emotion who considers their object of study a material entity.
When it comes to the history of emotions, according to Boddice, solving these problems now demands some engagement with the science of emotions. For if emotions are material and not merely superficial expressions or epiphenomena superimposed upon our universal human nature, scientific claims about their materiality are practically unavoidable. In fact, Boddice comes to a broader history of emotions from his specialized work on the sciences of pain and sympathy in the Victorian era. He nimbly brings this to bear in the volume by exemplifying the history of emotion in quick case studies, such as of the vaccination debate, and he identifies key Victorian precursors who worked at the formative moment when natural science was distinguishing itself from both social science and the humanities (Bain, Darwin, Lewes, Eliot, James).
The concept of "worlded bodies" also allows Boddice to teach his readers about the current disciplinary struggles around emotion--its definition, location, and objects--and to stake a claim for this form of history per se. Focusing the discussion is a critique of Daniel Lord Smail, whose "deep history," according to Boddice, succumbs ultimately to an ahistorical "basic emotions" model that eliminates precisely what historians can study. Among the better examples of this, in Boddice's estimation, are Otniel Dror and Lorraine Daston, whose work shows in various ways how the history of science and emotion are inseparable. Such cutting-edge discussions mean, finally, that Boddice's book is of interest to experts working in this emerging field, as well as to the novice looking for an introduction to this approach.
University of California, Irvine
Daniel M. Gross
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||GENERAL, COMPARATIVE, HISTORIOGRAPHICAL|
|Author:||Gross, Daniel M.|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2019|
|Previous Article:||The Vory: Russia's Super Mafia.|
|Next Article:||Boundaries of the International: Law and Empire.|