History of Emotions & Senses—Syllabus

HIST 300, Fall 2022
Georgetown University
Instructor: Leigh Stephens 
Email: LVS7@georgetown.edu
Office hours: In person: Thursdays, 2–4. Zoom: By appt.
Class Meetings: Thursdays, 5:00–7:30 pm

Course Description

From ancient Greek philosophers to medieval political theorists and twentieth-century anthropologists and neuroscientists—understanding emotions has driven the work of scholars across fields for thousands of years. This course is designed to introduce students to a relatively new field—the history of emotions and senses—that has built on these traditions and offered new theories and methods for the study of emotions. Our class will introduce concepts like emotional communities, emotional regimes, affect, and emotive; explore the relationship between emotions, community, and political systems; analyze the role of emotions and senses in the context of race, identity, and consumerism; and examine the roles of the body and language in reconstructing emotions from the past.

We will begin our class with several weeks devoted to unpacking theories and methods for studying emotions in history, which we will return to over the course of the semester. We will then turn to secondary sources that deal with emotions or senses in a specific historical context. The course is broadly organized under four units: What are Emotions and Senses? Emotions, Society, and Power; Emotions and Senses in American History; and Touch, Bodies, and Affect. 

Our class is discussion based, and students will lead most of our discussions each week in pairs (I will lead the first few). Students will also submit four reaction papers OR a presentation on a digital resource, an annotated bibliography, and a final paper. For the final paper, students may choose to write a syllabus, a research proposal, or a historiographical paper. As an upper-level seminar, this course is designed to give students the opportunity to discuss new and complex ideas in depth, engage with the methods and sources in secondary works, and think creatively about how they might contribute to the field. 

Course Goals 

Engaged students who come to class regularly, who participate actively in discussions, and who complete all readings and written assignments will improve their ability to: 

  1. Understand major historiographical trends, theoretical frameworks, and interdisciplinary methodologies related to the study of the history of emotions and senses. 
  2. Examine the relationship between emotions, senses, the mind, and the body by engaging with theories from history, neuroscience, anthropology, archaeology, and cognitive psychology.
  3. Engage critically with secondary scholarship and the methods and analytical concepts of scholarly writing.
  4. Articulate complex ideas verbally and support them with evidence.
  5. Write clearly and thoughtfully with proper citations and evidence. 
  6. Contribute to the field of history by developing a historiographic paper, research proposal, or undergraduate syllabus.

Graded Assignments 

Participation: 25%

Leading class discussion: 20%

Reaction papers (4 at 5% each) OR Presentation of digital resource: 20%

Annotated bibliography: 10%

Final paper: 25%

Grading System

93–100 % = A
90–92 % = A-
87–89 % = B+
83–86 % = B
80–82 % = B-
77–79 % = C+
73–76 % = C
70–72 % = C-
67–69 % = D+
60–66 % = D
Below 60 % = F

Participation (25%)

Your participation grade accounts for the highest percentage of your final grade. To earn a strong class participation grade, you must: 1) attend class; 2) participate in class discussions in a genuine and constructive manner; 3) demonstrate your understanding and engagement with the course materials; and 4) listen to and engage with your classmates with respect and attention. See document “Guidelines for Participation” on Canvas for more detailed information. 

Leading class discussion (20%)

Students will lead most of our meetings, and each student will serve as instructor for at least one of our class discussions about the week’s readings. Students will lead classes in pairs. Students are required to meet with the instructor during office hours or by appointment before leading the class discussion.

You must circulate discussion questions & reading tips on the Friday before you lead class discussion (the week before). Please build on these materials (rather than just go through each question) to inspire a creative and interesting 45-minute discussion. Yes, you can assign activities. Yes, you can show additional materials. Yes, you can do anything you can think of to be sure your peers 1) understand the material; 2) have critically thought about the material on its own terms [which is the next step after understanding the material]; 3) have critically thought about the materials’ connections to other material we have covered; 4) have thought about how the questions, methods, or data used in the research we read offers ideas for your own research projects. You will need to organize our class time to cover these goals. 

Your grade is based on your command of the material, your ability to inspire a critical discussion of the readings on themes ranging from methodology and sources to argument and historiography, and the degree to which you draw out connections between your readings and themes, readings, and topics we have already discussed. You need to ask about others’ reactions to readings and share your own. You must interject when you think a peer misunderstands the author’s argument or intent. You should draw in students who do not participate. To reiterate, you serve as our instructor for the day. Your efforts benefit us all. This is a form of scholarship requiring significant preparation and planning.

Short Assignment (20%)

Option 1: Reaction papers, 4 (5% each, 20% total) 500 words—Students who choose this option must submit four (4) reaction papers to the week’s readings, due before class begins on Thursday. The reaction papers should be no more than 500 words. One of the reaction papers must be submitted during the first four weeks of class, excluding the first-class meeting (Sept. 1, Sept. 8, or Sept. 15). The remaining three reaction papers may be submitted on any week except the week you are leading discussion, or on weeks when we do not meet. This leaves eleven classes to choose from, so make sure to plan ahead. 

Option 2: Presentation on Digital Resource (20% total) 15–20 minutes—Students who choose this option should choose a digital resource related to the history of emotions and share their analysis with the class in a short presentation. Types of digital resources include blogs, digital archives, research centers, online exhibits, academic journals, and any other resource designed to promote, assist, or educate the history of emotions. Students will be provided with a guide to analyzing digital resources and with a list of possible options, although students are free to choose something not included on the list. 

Annotated Bibliography (10%) 1500 words

Students will submit an annotated bibliography that will serve as the basis of their final paper. 

Final Paper (25%) 2500-3000 words

Students will have three options for the final paper, and we will work on these together during the second half of the course: 

Option 1: Syllabus for proposed class—Develop a syllabus for a course that you design on the history of emotions and/or senses. You may design an introductory course with lectures, a seminar similar to this one, or a course that focuses on a specific theory, geography, or chronology. For example, “Emotions in the Global Middle Ages” or “Emotions and Climate.” Your syllabus should include a course description, objectives, assignments, and a reading schedule. 

Option 2: Research proposal—Develop a research proposal for a project of your design relating to the study of the history of emotions and senses. You do not need to be able to actually carry out the research project (for example, you could identify archives outside of the United States) but you must identify primary sources either online or in an archive that would likely contain the type of information your project will investigate.

Option 3: Historiography paper or intellectual genealogy—For the first option, select a specific topic dealing with the history of emotions and write an historiographical essay analyzing how scholars have approached the topic methodologically and analytically. For the second option, select a book (it may be a book we have read in class) and write an intellectual genealogy of the book, analyzing what scholarship influenced the book and what subsequent scholarship has been influenced by the book. 

Class Policies

Attendance: You allowed one unexcused absence with no questions asked and no effect on your grade. Additional unexcused absences will impact your participation grade. You should contact your dean for any excused absences, who will inform me.

Late papers: You are allowed one grace day for late papers. You can use this on any assignment, but only once in the course session. If you need an extension, come talk to me.

Communication: I prefer that students call me by my first name, Leigh. If you are uncomfortable with that, you are welcome to call me Professor/ Prof. Stephens. 

Email: We all have different schedules. I will always try to answer emails that arrive Monday – Friday by the next day, or by the end of the day on Friday. If I have not answered your email within 24 hours (except the weekend) and it is urgent, please feel free to reach out again. 

Electronics: You are free to use laptops and phones during class as long as you are using it for class purposes. Otherwise, please don’t be a distraction. 

Food: Please don’t eat in class unless it is urgent, in which case please let me know. 

Community: I am committed to creating a classroom community built on mutual respect, open-mindedness, and clear communication, and I expect students to do the same. 

Honor Code: All students are required to familiarize themselves with the University Honor Code and abide by it fully. Any kind of plagiarism or other form of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated and will be reported to the Honor Council for due process. If you have any doubts about plagiarism, paraphrasing, and the need to credit, check out Plagiarism.org. Please remember that this includes any unreferenced use of Internet sources as well. Look here for what constitutes plagiarism. NB Wikipedia: Wikipedia (or any encyclopedia, which are considered tertiary sources) should not be used as a source for any assignment or written work for this class. You can use it to find other sources, but nothing else. (See further) Any uncited use of Wikipedia (or anything else) will result in an immediate zero and a trip to the honor council. Please make sure to cite everything!

Students with Disabilities: I recognize that the decision to disclose a disability is a very personal one. I encourage students with disabilities to contact me by the end of the second week, partly so we make all arrangements right from the outset, and partly so you know how glad I am that you are here. You should also contact the Academic Resource Center (arc@georgetown.edu) for further information. ARC is the campus office responsible for reviewing documentation provided by students with disabilities and for determining reasonable accommodations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and University policies. I will do everything in my power to accommodate whatever needs you may have and as advised by ARC.

Gender Inclusiveness: I respect your right to be called whatever you want to be called, because I understand that for all of us, social recognition of our sense of self is key to our own integrity and flourishing. I expect everyone in the class to do the same. In particular, if you would like to be called by a specific set of pronouns or name that might not be obvious from your official school records, please let me know in any way that makes you comfortable. See Georgetown’s Trans, Non-Binary, and Gender Non-Conforming Resource Guide: https://lgbtq.georgetown.edu/resources/transatgu/

Sexual Misconduct and Harassment: I am committed to supporting survivors of sexual misconduct, harassment, or assault. University policy requires me to report any disclosures of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator, but you will still have control over what happens next; please come talk to me if there are any issues of this sort. More information about reporting options and resources can be found on the Sexual Misconduct Website. If you would like to find out how recent changes to Title IX regulations are impacting Georgetown’s policies and procedures, see this video briefing.

Pregnancy and Parenting Accommodations: I am committed to creating an inclusive environment for pregnant and parenting students. Students may request adjustments based on general pregnancy needs or accommodations based on a pregnancy-related complication. Specific adjustments will be handled on a case by case basis and will depend on medical needs and academic requirements. Students seeking a pregnancy adjustment or accommodation should follow the process laid out on the Title IX website.

Support Services: Georgetown recognizes that COVID-19 has a significant impact on everyone in the Georgetown community.  Georgetown offers a variety of support services for students that can be accessed online and has put together this newsletter  which aims to provide you with information about well-being resources and virtual meetings that can connect you with mental health professionals on and off campus during this time. Below are some resources available to you:

Academic Resource Center
202-687-8354 | arc@georgetown.edu
Counseling and Psychiatric Services
Institutional Diversity, Equity & Affirmative Action (IDEAA)
(202) 687-4798


*All readings should be completed before class

Unit I: What are Emotions and Senses?
Week 1

Aug. 25
Topic: Introduction
Discussion Leaders: Leigh Stephens
Readings: Canvas 

Madeline Ostrander, “The Era of Climate Change Has Created a New Emotion,” The Atlantic, July 23, 2022.  

Week 2

Sept. 1

146 pages
Topic: Historiography and Key Concepts  
Discussion Leaders: Leigh Stephens
Readings:  Canvas 

Barbara Rosenwein, “Problems and Methods in the History of Emotions,” Passions in Context: International Journal for the History and Theory of Emotions 1 (2010), 1-32. (33 pages)  

William M. Reddy, “Historical Research on the Self and Emotions,” Emotion Review 1, 4 (2009), 302-15. (14 pages)  

Stephanie Trigg, “Introduction: Emotional Histories—Beyond the Personalization of the Past and the Abstraction of Affect Theory,” Exemplaria 26,1 (2014): 3-15. (12 pages) 

Barbara Rosenwein, “Worrying about Emotions in History,” American Historical Review 107, 3 (2002), 821-45. (26 pages) 

Jan Plamper, “The History of Emotions: an Interview with William Reddy, Barbara Rosenwein, and Peter Stearns,” History and Theory 49 (2010), 237-65. (30 pages) 

Susan J. Matt, “Current Emotion Research in History: or, Doing History from the Inside Out,” Emotion Review 3, 1 (2011), 17-24. (8 pages)  
Week 3

Sept. 8

123 pages
Topic: Theories and Methods for the History of Emotions
Discussion Leaders: Leigh Stephens
Readings: Canvas 

Benno Gammerl, “Emotional Styles—concepts and challenges,” Rethinking History 16, 2 (2012), 161-75. (16 pages)  

Ruth Leys, “The Turn to Affect: A Critique,” Critical Inquiry 37, 3 (2011), 434-472 (39 pages)  

Monique Sheer, ‘Are Emotions a Kind of Practice (and is That What Makes Them Have a History)? A Bourdieuian Approach to Understanding Emotion’, History and Theory 51, 2 (2012), 193–220. (29 pages)  

Ute Frevert, “Introduction: The Historical Economy of Emotions,” in Emotions in History: Lost and Found, ed. Ute Frevert (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2011). (14 pages) 

Daniel Wickberg, “What is the History of Sensibilities? On Cultural Histories, Old and New,” American Historical Review 112, 3 (2007), 661-684. (26 pages) 
Unit II: Emotions, Society, and Power
Week 4

Sept. 15 

209 pages
Topic: Emotional Communities
Discussion Leaders: Students
Readings: Bookstore; Canvas 

Barbara Rosenwein, Emotional Communities in the Early Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006). (203 pages) 

Sarah Tarlow, “Death and Commemoration,” Industrial Archaeology Review 27, 1 (2005), 163–69. (6 pages) 
Week 5

Sept. 22

140 pages
Topic: Emotives and Revolutions, Part I
Discussion Leaders: Students
Readings: Library e-book; Active Reading Guide posted to Canvas 

William Reddy, The Navigation of Feeling: a Framework for the History of Emotions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). Part 2, selections: 122-130, 173-240, 257-315, 324-333. (140 pages)
Week 6

Sept. 29

120 pages
Topic: Emotions and Revolutions, Part II 
Discussion Leaders: Students
Readings: Library e-book 

Nicole Eustace, Passion is the Gale: Emotion, Power, and the Coming of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008). Selections: Chapters 2, 3, and 5. (120 pages)
Unit III: Emotions and Senses in American History
Week 7

Oct. 6

149 pages
Topic: Senses and the Construction of Race
Discussion Leaders: Students
Readings: Library e-book

Mark Smith, How Race is Made: Slavery, Segregation and the Senses (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006). (149 pages)
Week 8

Oct. 13

115 pages
Topic: Food, Culture, and the Construction of an “American” Identity
Discussion Leaders: Students
Readings: Library e-book

Camille Bégin, Taste of the Nation: The New Deal Search for America’s Food (Urbana Champagne: University of Illinois Press, 2016). Selections: Introduction, chapters 2-3, conclusion AND either chapter 4 or chapter 5. (115 pages)
Week 9

Oct. 20

111 pages 
Topic: Envy, Capitalism, and Consumerism
Discussion Leaders: Students
Readings: Library e-book

Susan Matt, Keeping Up with the Joneses: Envy in American Consumer Society, 1890-1930 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003). Selections: Introduction, chapters 2, 3, and 5. (111 pages)
Unit IV: Touch, Bodies, and Affect
Week 10

Oct. 27

100 pages
Topic: Touch and the Body 
Discussion Leaders: Students
Readings: Canvas 

Constance Classen, ed., The Book of Touch, e-Book edition (Routledge: 2020). Selections: Part 1 (Contact) OR Part 7 (Uncommon Touch), AND: Part 8 (Tactile Therapies) OR Part 9 (Technology and Touch) (approx. 100 pages)

In class activity: Blind Touch Experiment  
Week 11

Nov. 3

Annotated bibliography due
Week 12

Nov. 10

43 pages
Topic: Affect and African History
Discussion Leaders: Students
Readings: Canvas 

Kathryn M. de Luna, “Affect and Society in Precolonial Africa,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies 46:1 (2013), 123-150. (27 pages)

Kathryn M. de Luna, “Affect in Ancient Africa : Historical Linguistics and the Challenge of ‘Emotion Talk,” in Encoding Emotions in African Languages, edited by Gian Cludio Batic (Lincom Europa, 2011), 1-16. (16 pages).

Visit to Lauinger Library Special Collections exhibit “Henrique Sodré: Selected Photographs,” archived and curated by João Sodré, Ph.D. candidate.
Week 13

Nov. 17

97 pages
Topic: Affect, Gender, and Healthcare 
Discussion Leaders: Students
Readings: Library e-book

Nicole Charles, Suspicion: Vaccines, Hesitancy, and the Affective Politics of Protection in Barbados (Duke University Press: 2022). Selections: Introduction, chapters 1-3, conclusion. (97 pages)
Week 14

Nov. 23
Week 15

Dec. 1 
Topic: Conclusion: What do we know about Emotions and Senses? 
Readings: None; Peer review final paper drafts in class 

Featured image: Joseph Ducreux, Le Silence (left), Portrait de l’artiste sous les traits d’un moqueur (middle), La Surprise (right). Wikimedia commons.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: