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Fear and anxiety: writing about emotion in modern history

Bourke, Joanna (2003) Fear and anxiety: writing about emotion in modern history. History Workshop Journal 55 (1), pp. 111-133. ISSN 1363-3554.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hwj/55.1.111

Abstract

This article examines and appraises some approaches to the analysis of emotional experience in history -‘emotionology’, social constructivism, narrativization, and psycho-historical methods. Using the example of one emotion – fear – it suggests that insufficient attention has been paid to physiology and how emotions mediate between the individual and the social. By examining the distinction frequently made between ‘fear’ and ‘anxiety’, we can see how emotions are fundamentally concerned with power relations. A new history of the emotions can be characterized as ‘aesthesiology’. The classical Greek terms ‘aesthesis’ refers to the senses and sense perception, but also to feelings and emotions. Aesthesis is a sensual reaction to external stimuli, as well as an emotional involvement with the world. In this sense, aesthesiology is knowledge of the discipline of feelings, or the knowledge of the history of bodily and emotional reactions to the world. As opposed to anaesthesiology, or the rendering unable to feel, aesthesiology is the emotional reaction of the self to stimuli in lived experience. The article uses evidence from British and American history to illustrate the changing experience of fear in the course of the twentieth century.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy > History, Classics and Archaeology
Depositing User: Sandra Plummer
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2007 12:06
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:16
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/610

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