What does it mean to feel something? What stimulates our desires, aspirations, and dreams? Did our ancestors feel in the same way as we do? In a wave of new research over the past decade, historians have tried to answer these questions, seeking to make sense of our feelings, passions, moods, emotions, and sentiments. For the first time, however, Rob Boddice brings together the latest findings to trace the complex history of feelings from antiquity to the present.
A History of Feelings is a compelling account of the unsaid—the gestural, affective, and experiential. Arguing that how we feel is the dynamic product of the existence of our minds and bodies in moments of time and space, Boddice uses a progressive approach that integrates biological, anthropological, and social and cultural factors, describing the transformation of emotional encounters and individual experiences across the globe. The work of one of the world’s leading scholars of the history of emotions, this epic exploration of our affective life will fascinate, enthrall, and move all of us interested in our own well-being—anyone with feeling.
About the Author
Rob Boddice is a Marie Skłodowska Curie Global Fellow based at Freie Universität Berlin and McGill University in Montreal. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the author of The History of Emotions, Pain: A Very Short Introduction, and The Science of Sympathy: Morality, Evolution and Victorian Civilization.
"To what extent are the things we feel—happiness, sadness, anger—the result of the world around us? How much would the emotions of someone from, say, the seventeenth century, be recognizable to us today four hundred years on? These are the kind of fascinating, if complex, questions posed by this original and ambitious book, which combines the latest research to explore centuries of feelings and how they related to wider society across centuries and continents."
— History Revealed
"Boddice has undertaken a task that he readily acknowledges may raise more than a few questions: to further understanding of how place and time affect the expression of human feelings. His 'episodic' approach leads readers through classical literature, rhetoric, and even the works of Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen to illustrate that the expression of feelings depends on words and audience, and that the history of how these have changed over time is evident and important. Perhaps the best illustration of this is Boddice’s examination of the Age of Reason, a time when 'Passions of the soul [were] framed outside the realm of reason,' leading to a bifurcation of thought and feeling that remains an important part of human expression today. With his witty examination of how words and language change over time and his lament that the twenty-first-century reliance on emoji and phrases such as 'all the feels' are wholly inadequate to fully express emotion, Boddice has written a book that will make readers ponder why the road from the past is littered with useful expressions for communicating how they feel. Recommended."
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