The idea of culture and the history of emotions

Published: Mar 22, 2013
Rolf Petri

Recently, emotions have achieved a prominent place in historical research. The article tries to outline a reasonable itemisation of the three main streams in this field of study: the history of individual emotions, the study of the role that emotions have in historical processes, and the reflection about the influence of emotions on history writing. The second part addresses the methodological and theoretical status of the study of past emotions. The author criticises their definition as merely cultural phenomena, maintaining that the historian should contextualise historically the very paradigms of “culture” and “emotion”, “passion”, “sentiment”, “mood”, and the like. S/he should also better explore what emotions are, both by cross-disciplinary debate and theoretical reflection. Otherwise the history of emotions will restrict its critical potential and remain imprisoned within modernity’s canonical self-descriptions.


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Author Biography
Rolf Petri, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice & Ca' Foscari School of International Relations, Venice
Rolf Petri is full professor of contemporary history (19th and 20th centuries) at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. Born in 1957, in 1982 he gained the university degree from the Philipps-University of Marburg and in 1988 the doctoral degree of the European University Institute in Florence. He research interests embrace economic history as well as cultural history, the history of sentiments, and the theory of history. He was researcher and lecturer at the Deutsche Historische Institut (Rome), and the Universities of Bielefeld and Halle-Wittenberg. From 2006 to 2009 he coordinated the European Doctorate in the Social History of Europe and the Mediterranean "Building on the Past", and since 2010 coordinates the Mediterranean Doctoral School in History. In 2011 he was appointed director of the Ca' Foscari School of International Relations.
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