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Collective Emotions, History Writing and Change: The Case of the Pataria (Milan, Eleventh Century)

In: Emotions: History, Culture, Society
Author: Piroska Nagy1
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  • 1 UQAMMontréal
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Abstract

What are collective emotions and how should we deal with accounts of them in historical narratives? Addressing these questions through a case study of the movement of the Pataria in Milan (1057−1075), this essay reflects on some mechanisms used to assign collective emotions by authors of medieval narratives. It argues that while individual and collective emotions are not distinct in the Latin vocabulary of eleventh-century texts, the authors still had a clear idea of what we call collective emotions, which they closely linked to political mobilisation and upheaval. Although the assignation of emotions to public actors formed part of a rhetoric of denigration, the essay argues that one cannot understand public emotions in these texts solely as a rhetorical effect within what Ranajit Guha calls ‘the prose of counter-insurgency’.

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