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This seminar seeks to bring together scholars in the fields and subfields that have been touched by a growing interest in the emotional or affective experience, whether understood as embodied or incorporeal, emotional or impersonal, quantifiable or escaping measurement. This inter/multidisciplinary seminar on affect will incorporate a wide range of approaches and topics across disciplines and periods. We aim to provide a forum for a discussion of affect in the arts, sciences, history, psychology, philosophy, ecology, queer/feminist studies and social theory, among others, as well as a means to historicize how affect and emotion have served in religious, social, and political contexts in different periods and locales, from Antiquity to contemporary life. We feel that fostering interdisciplinary exchange on the question of affect is vital for understanding the many valences of affect studies’ vocabulary and concerns.

Professor Patricia Dailey

Professor Thomas Dodman

Professor Lauren Mancia

Alec Joyner

All seminars will meet over Zoom for the 2020-2021 academic year. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change. 

Meeting Schedule

02/22/2021 Online Meeting
5:00 PM
Collective Emotions
Piroska Nagy, Université du Québec à Montréal (Canada)


The history of emotions, which emerged as an autonomous field of historical study between the 1980s and the millennium, surprisingly has somewhat forgotten to think about – more than to study – collective emotions in the past twenty years. This fact obliges historians both to understand the manifold reasons for this oblivion and to rectify it. While some reasons for this oversight are linked to the scientific context or to a discomfort with the concept, which will be discussed in the first part of this lecture, others are linked to the difficulties of delineating what collective emotions are or represent in historical sources and how to study them. After having presented these problems, I shall propose a few avenues, illustrated by medieval examples.

03/12/2021 Online Meeting
11:00 AM
On Emotion and Oral History
Philip Napoli, Brooklyn College, CUNY

Liz Strong, Columbia University


How do oral historians grapple with and interpret emotional encounters in their work? Strong will present her research, for a forthcoming article in the Oral History Review, on how to adapt to the emotional and psychological distress oral historians may feel as a result of their work. With few tools available in oral history literature, Strong documented the experiences and advice of colleagues in order to compile recommendations for the field. Napoli, who has been collecting oral histories from (and with) US military veterans for over 20 years, will attempt to come to grips with the wide range of emotional content he has encountered in that setting. First, he will discuss encountering emotional content in the interview moment itself, and how this presents intersubjective complexities (What do we do if an interviewee cries? How do we behave in the face of stories of trauma presented in an interview?). Then, he will discuss the process of interpreting and using the collected material (What tools can we use in order to first make sense of the emotional content collected in the field, and how do we contextualize and historicize what we learn?). In conversation with Strong and Napoli, the seminar participants will discuss how the methods of encountering and interpreting emotion used by oral historians inform, problematize, and contrast with the methods that other historians of emotion or affect theorists might use.