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Emotions and Affect in History
Graduate Program (& Advanced Certificate) Status
Course Description

This course is designed to introduce students to the relatively new but burgeoning field of the history of emotions and theory on affect to help train students to use these new concepts and methods in their research.  Emotions have long been an object of study for a number of disciplines like medicine, psychology and neurosciences, but anthropology, sociology, as well as history also have overlooked traditions of studying emotions.  The class starts with some of the earlier works of the 1930s and 1940s like the sociologist Norbert Elias or historian Lucien Febvre who tried to use emotions to make sense of and historicize German mass psychology under Nazism.  It does so in order to contextualize how this inquiry has long been in the making with historians preoccupied with understanding the motivations and inner lives of individuals, especially during times of upheaval and social change.  This class will explore all the hype behind what people refer to as the ‘emotional turn’ in historical studies in conjunction with the ‘affective turn’ concomitantly shaping anthropology and critical theory in new ways; therefore, this class will explore some of the most recent approaches to this topic and its popular application to our own time to explain our own Trump-era dystopia.  This class can therefore be seen as the extension of my class “Everyday Life History in Empire and Beyond,” as it explores some of the most pressing issues we explored there in much more detail.

Learning Outcomes

This seminar examines, compares, and contrasts literature in history and other fields to help students determine what facets of their work can be described as emotions and affect and how they can be studied historically.  Given that it is an inter-disciplinary class, it repeatedly asks the question which discipline, history, anthropology, or sociology are better equipped to capture the cultural and social meaning of human subjectivity, let alone its construction.  The class is focused on helping students answer the following questions: What are the differences between etiquette, institutionalized behavior and norms, and emotions?  How are emotions shaped by their material and cultural contexts?  How can we access and learn from the emotions of people in the past?  Why was a record, text, or image of an emotion produced, and by whom was it read or viewed?  What were its modes of circulation?  Whom does it privilege and whom does it exclude?  What are the social, cultural, political, and intellectual contexts of its production?  After surveying the methodological debates, the seminar devotes its meetings to mainly historical and anthropological work on emotions and affect. To what extent are scholars dependent on psychological and/or psychiatric theories for their judgements about human action? 


Class Attendance

Regular attendance is mandatory in all classes. A student who misses more than two units (two 100-minute sessions) without a verified reason beyond the student's control must submit an 8-10 page paper assigned by the professor, which as a rule covers the material in the class missed. The paper is due no later than 3 weeks after the missed class.


This is a 4 credit class, and students must attend both classes during the week.

Discussion Leading and Class Participation (30 pts): every student will be in charge of leading the discussions at least twice during the semester depending on class size.  This does not mean that the student simply gives a summary of the article or book chapter that everyone has already read. Rather, it means that the student should ask 5 questions about the article/book chapter(s) that will stimulate conversation in the classroom.  It is in this discussion of the questions that the presenter can offer her own opinion and answer to his/her questions, only after other students have attempted to answer them.  In this sense, the students will be evaluated on their ability to stimulate and sustain an intellectual conversation with her peers and professor.   Every student will be expected to come to every class and actively participate in the class discussions.

3 Response Papers (30 pts—10 pts each): 3three-to-four-page response papers on two to three readings of their choice taken from the different classes within each unit. The first response paper has to be submitted by (including) Week 4, the second by Week 8, and Week 12.  In the response paper, the student should not provide a mere summary of the readings’ contents but is expected to write an analytical paper that has a thesis and a point, compares and contrasts different approaches in an intelligible manner, and offers the student’s personal opinion regarding the works compared.  It is expected that the student also use the Chicago Manual of Style rules for citing authors in proper footnotes.  For your convenience, here is a quick on-line reference to writing proper footnotes based on the Chicago Manual of Style.

Final Historiographical Paper (12-15 pages, 40 pts): This final historiographical paper of no more than 12-15 pages should outline the methodology, theories, and approaches of authors (at least four) we have read this semester that the students felt were most useful for their own interests and fields.  Students can also choose texts that they were critical of but nevertheless feel strongly about.  The point of this paper is to demonstrate what students had at stake in the readings/what they have taken away from the class, thus, the instructor is interested in learning about the students' own perspectives on the literature she read this semester.

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