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Ben Gook

The Cold War’s end infused electronic music in Berlin after 1989 with an ecstatic intensity. Enthused communities came together to live out that energy and experiment in conditions informed by past suffering and hope for the future. This techno-scene became an ‘intimate public’ (Berlant) within an emergent ‘structure of feeling’ (Williams). Techno parties held out a promise of freedom while Germany’s re-unification quickly broke into disputes and mutual suspicion. Tracing the historical movement during the first years of re-unified Germany, this article adds to accounts of ecstasy by considering it in conjunction with melancholy, arguing for an ambivalent description of ecstatic experience – and of emotional life more broadly.

Charles Zika

This article aligns with recent attempts to challenge the notion that pilgrimage shrines were unified centres of sacred power. It aims to demonstrate that pilgrimages offered varied and changing benefits through their various cultic objects, and that these benefits were transformed as meanings attributed to objects changed over time in response to changing historical pressures and needs. It explores the different emotional benefits cultic objects generated – whether consolation, gratitude, joy, fidelity, self-abasement or resilience – within a broader economy of emotional exchange, promotion and control. The history of three significant objects in the Mariazell basilica – the Statue of Mercy, the Marian Column and the Treasury Image – demonstrates how physical and cultural framing, associated religious rituals, and broader political patronage and association, promoted different emotional responses around these objects. Under pressure of the Hapsburgs’ close association with the shrine from the seventeenth century, changes in the promotion of objects like the Marian Column and the Treasury Image, as well as more structured and choreographed pilgrimage practices, reflected the transformation of Mariazell into a site for the expression of collective and proto-national emotions, in addition to the individual emotional benefits that continued to be critical for the shrine’s ongoing popularity and survival.

Alice Poma and Tommaso Gravante

In 2006, in the city of Oaxaca in Mexico, the protests of the local section of the teachers’ union (Section XXII-CNTE) turned in a few days to a popular insurrection, which was characterised by the strong participation of women, a group historically excluded and marginalised in Mexican and Oaxaca social and political life. This article analyses the process of empowerment of a group of women who participated in the insurgency and then decided to self-organise as a collective: Mujer Nueva (New Woman). The aim of this article is to contribute to a better understanding of empowerment as a dynamic process and a biographical consequence of protest and activism by analysing the role of different emotions in it.

David Lemmings

This article discusses emotions and power in the administration and representation of criminal justice in early modern England. In the early seventeenth century, professional lawyers insisted that only they were competent to understand the ‘artificial reason’ of the common law; and lay opinion was associated with unreliable emotional engagement with the protagonists in trials. ‘Popular jurisprudence’ received renewed impetus from the post-Reformation emphasis on conscience and divine providence, however, and this kind of common sense interpretation often featured in popular accounts of law proceedings. Moreover, the ‘low law’ administered at grass roots level by JPs was less professionalised because most magistrates were not lawyers. The development of popular and emotional jurisprudence is demonstrated in the eighteenth century by analysis of judges’ charges, popular novels, and the reportage of ‘true crime’. Ultimately, and despite further ‘lawyerisation’ of trials, this article argues that the rise of the novel and increased press reporting of criminal justice generated more vicarious engagement with the administration of justice. And this was emotional engagement: eighteenth-century popular jurisprudence represented justice as variously awesome, theatrical and unreasonably oppressive.

Stephanie Trigg

This essay takes as its starting point a reflection of a character in A. S. Byatt’s Still Life: ‘George Eliot, Stephanie thought, was a good hater’. This comment refers to Eliot’s satirical analysis of middle-class sensibilities and emotional affectations in The Mill on the Floss. This essay explores the emotional resonances of this phrase that links these two very different novels, written in different centuries and structured around very different thematic concerns. Nevertheless, this connection between them, and the way a small modern community of readers responded to this connection on social media, helps us theorise the distinctive contribution literary studies can make to the history of emotions. Literary texts, and perhaps especially the novel, offer complex multiple perspectives on the performance of emotions in social contexts. In such texts, passionate emotional extremes and everyday emotions are treated with equal seriousness and subtlety, while the diachronic histories of literary reception and response offer rich narratives and material for the study of emotional history.

Amy Milka

This article considers the performance of gentility by criminals and impostors during the eighteenth century, arguing that a genteel appearance and behaviour not only facilitated crime, but allowed the accused criminal to access sympathy in the courtroom arena. Gentility comprised a set of polite mannerisms, gestures and appearances, but also required the performance of particular emotions. The performance of ‘genteel’ emotions could bring together a socially disparate group united by a shared valuation of sympathies, feelings and values. Those who claimed gentility in the eighteenth century expressed a concern for personal and public honour, a fear of shame and the desire to be viewed as someone possessing particularly refined emotional capacities such as sensibility and sympathy. Moreover, a successful claim to gentility could secure preferential treatment even for an impostor of a doubtful background and dubious character.

Jane W. Davidson, Frederic Kiernan and Sandra Garrido

This essay addresses the challenges of reaching a historically informed understanding of the emotional experience of seventeenth-century musical performance by applying a recent theoretical account of the psychological emotion mechanisms that underpin music perception. A short work by Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643) is taken as a case study, to investigate the ways that structural elements of the music engage emotion mechanisms. Since modern-day listeners also draw on emotion mechanisms, a modern-day exploration of behavioural responses to the historical work – albeit performed and perceived through different personal experiences and perhaps with different emphases according to the many different social-cultural factors influencing modern perception – enables the identification of which mechanisms are activated in modern perceivers. While the authors acknowledge that emotional responses to music are highly susceptible to a whole range of complex and dynamic socio-cultural experiences and different historical contexts, the research undertaken nonetheless enables the development of some parameters on which to build a modern-day performance that emphasises the mechanisms most likely to arouse affect.

Katie Barclay

This introduction to the special issue on ‘Emotions and Change’ introduces the main theories of the role of emotion in processes of social and political change, as well as how emotion is theorised to change over time. It introduces the articles within this issue as part of this literature, highlighting how they contribute and extend the field, notably in their discussion of ambivalence and stasis as part of movement.