The Lingering of the Lost Self. Review: Deborah Lutz ‘Relics of Death in Victorian Literature and Culture’

Tiffany Watt SmithTiffany Watt Smith is a research fellow on the ‘Living with Feeling’ grant at the Centre for the History of the Emotions. She is the author of The Book of Human Emotions and On Flinching: Theatricality and Scientific Looking from Darwin to Shell-Shock



Deborah Lutz, Relics of Death in Victorian Literature and Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2015) 

For four generations, my family has lovingly tended a ghoulish heirloom – a severed horse’s hoof, set in silver and turned into an inkwell. It originally belonged to the favourite nag of my great-great grandfather, who drove a London ‘growler’ or horse-drawn cab in the 1880s. When I run my fingers over it, unexpected emotions rise up in me. Sometimes I think I can feel a faint echo of the love felt between the animal and its original owner. Or the exhaustion they must have experienced as each new passenger boarded the cab. Perhaps this is mere fanciful nostalgia on my part. Could a horse’s hoof really contain a residue, a patina, of its emotional past?

Silver inkwell made from the hoof of ‘Anstey’ the horse of Colonel Guy Hamilton, © National Army Museum.

Silver inkwell made from the hoof of ‘Anstey’ the horse of Colonel Guy Hamilton, © National Army Museum.

Many of us inhabit lives crammed with belongings, with stuff. Yet, for all our apparent attachment to things, it can be hard to find a language to talk about the feelings objects arouse. It’s spooky enough to talk of a glove or book or inkwell as somehow harbouring the emotions of its previous owners. Yet, encounter some object from the past, and it may well feel as if some of its previous lives still pulse within it. Deep in the archives, a letter exchanged by two eighteenth-century lovers is not only thrilling for its content, but for its smudges, its marginalia, its wine stains (or are they splashes of blood?) that seem to re-animate long dead emotions. In our libraries and archives, the emotional resonance of such pieces – be they strips of flayed skin or locks of hair, pressed flowers or collections of feathers – are hidden behind their categorization as ‘3-D objects’ or ‘ephemera’. But if today, talk of objects having emotions seems eccentric at best, this was not entirely the case for the Victorians, who as Deborah Lutz has explored in her rich and fascinating Relics of Death in Victorian Literature and Culture, were at home with the emotional pull the inanimate world has on us.

Lutz, a literary theorist, is of course not the first to explore the importance of the material world in Victorian culture. Like Elaine Freedgood, Hermione Lee and many others, Lutz’s contention is that literature is capable of both reflecting and shaping our interactions with the inanimate. Her focus, however, is more specifically on the dead human body-turned-thing. She asks how hair, teeth, bones, skin and even organs were absorbed into the era’s elaborate rituals of grief, and in turn, influenced changing conceptions of subjectivity at that time.

For Lutz, body part relics are particularly intriguing, since they offer a clear example of what it means to think with ‘things’ as opposed to ‘objects’. In his much-discussed article on ‘thing theory’, Bill Brown explains that ‘we begin to confront the thingness of objects when they stop working for us’, escaping the boundaries of their expected function and becoming hard to define. Lutz argues that body part relics inhabit this blurry in-between. They are both actual and metaphysical, secular yet with a ‘dash of magic’. What’s more, body part relics have meaning precisely because of their authenticity – yet, as Lutz intriguingly explores, their provenance is often in doubt. Most of all, body part relics are part of peculiar transformations, muddling the boundaries between life and death. As Brown ponders, ‘Why…does death have the capacity both to turn people into things and to bring inanimate objects to life?’.

Lutz’s answer to this question begins with the tale of Shelley’s heart. Miraculously surviving the poet’s cremation in Italy (so the story goes), the heart was snatched from the embers by his friend Trelawny, and carried back by Mary Shelley to England where it was wrapped in silk, and stored in a copy of Shelley’s Adonais, and finally buried with their son Percy Florence in 1889. Lutz, while raising questions about the reliability of this tale (among others: how could Shelley’s apparently larger-than-normal heart be stored between the pages of what is essentially a pamphlet?), approaches Shelley’s heart as a ‘secular relic’, recalling the older European tradition of storing the severed fingers or bones, or withered heads of saints in ornate reliquaries. If saints’ relics could levitate, weep and cure the ailments of those who touched them, so for the Romantics, the lost genius of the poet lingered on in their bodies as much as in their writing.

Moving forward through the century, Lutz finds many other intersections of body and book. In the Brontë household at Haworth, everyday items such as a sofa, a writing desk and clothes are mementos through which ‘absence comes to feel material’ (encountering the material culture of these writers’ lives is the subject of her enjoyable recent book The Brontë Cabinet). The third chapter discusses posthumous representations such as death masks and waxworks, pitting these deliberate memorials against the unintended bodily deposits of sweat and skin. For instance, in Great Expectations, the walls of lawyer Jaggers’s office are ‘greasy with shoulders’, and there is a dark wash along the staircase from years of ‘shuffling up and down’. As Lutz puts it, ‘such leavings…provide an ever-present reminder of how bodies are not just the container for ‘selves’ but they are also substances that leak and rot…’, always transforming, always testing the limits between subject and object. The fourth chapter more tenuously discusses shrines and tombs as spaces which have ‘witnessed the living of the loved one’, linking these animated spaces to those enchanted rooms familiar from the mid-nineteenth century fashion for Spiritualism. The final chapter, however, returns squarely to the business of things, addressing the ubiquitous Victorian practice of hair jewellery (for a discussion of contemporary ‘hair-work’ see Bharti Parmar’s post on this blog).

Locket and chain, c. 1810 by John Miers, England ©Victoria and Albert Museum,

Locket and chain, c. 1810 by John Miers, England ©Victoria and Albert Museum,

Hair-jewellery, already established by the 17th century, flourished in the 19th, with brooches, lockets, watch fobs, earrings and buttons all featuring intricate designs woven out of a dead loved-one’s hair. It was a laborious process: boiling, cleaning, straightening the individual strands with weights, and then the weaving itself. Many families sent packets of curls away to jewellers with instructions of the design to be completed – and in turn, rumours began to circulate that unscrupulous jewellers were substituting the real hair for another person’s (or even animals’) locks, whose strands were thicker, and longer, and so easier to work with.

In this growing suspicion about the provenance of hair jewellery for mourning, it is possible to see fractures in the idea – taken so much for granted earlier in the century – that to hold part of a loved-one’s body was to connect with that lost person. With the increasing medicalization of dying towards the end of the nineteenth century, the dead body became shrouded behind hospital screens, and the idea of plundering it for keepsakes perceived as unhygienic. The First World War is widely thought to have put an end to elaborate Victorian mourning rituals. As Joanna Bourke has explained, grieving became muted, with extended farewells not only impossible but also unpatriotic. Perhaps too, it was the spectre of anonymous graves, and fields in which blown-apart bodies mingled in the mud, that put an end the practice of retrieving body parts for use in mourning and memorial – and made any thoughts of a live and enduring connection between dead body and person seem, in the end, a kind of nostalgia.


Funded PhD studentship on ‘Living With Feeling’ Project

The Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London invites applications from outstanding post-graduate students wishing to pursue doctoral research into aspects of the histories of emotions and health. The deadline for applications is 31 January 2017.

This studentship is offered as a core element of a Collaborative Humanities and Social Science research project funded by the Wellcome Trust. This interdisciplinary project is entitled ‘Living With Feeling: Emotional Health in History, Philosophy, and Experience’. Candidates can read more about the project at the ‘Living With Feeling’ website.

Telemedicine illustration

Applicants will normally have attained (or expect to attain by the end of the academic year 2016-17) a Masters qualification that will equip them to pursue doctoral research in this area. We particularly welcome applications from black and minority ethnic candidates, who are currently under-represented within QMUL at this level

The Centre for the History of the Emotions has a strong commitment to undertaking engaged research of a kind that connects with work in other disciplines and with many aspects of contemporary life, including the arts, education, healthcare, and public policy. We will especially welcome applications displaying a similar commitment.

Prior to completing an application, potential candidates should make email contact with Professor Thomas DixonDr Rhodri Hayward, or Dr Elena Carrera, to establish whether a suitable supervisory team will be available.

The studentship will include tuition fees, a budget for travel and research expenses, and a starting annual stipend of £22,278. The studentship will commence in September 2017 and run for three years.

In order to apply, candidates must complete a QMUL online postgraduate research application form, indicating their interest in the Wellcome Trust ‘Living With Feeling’ studentship, and including a CV, two references, academic transcript(s), a one-page personal statement and a 1,500-word proposal detailing the ways in which they plan to address the themes of the studentship.

Further Information about the ‘Living With Feeling’ Project

In the twenty-first century ‘emotional health’ is a key goal of public policy, championed by psychologists, the NHS, charities, and economists. Those lucky enough to enjoy good ‘emotional health’ are considered less likely to suffer from a range of mental and physical disorders, such as depression, addiction, anxiety, anorexia, irritable bowel syndrome, or heart disease.

But what is the perfect recipe for emotional health? Who decides which emotions we should feel, and when, in order to be healthy? Living with Feeling will explore how scientists, doctors, philosophers, and politicians – past and present – have engaged with human emotions such as anger, worry, sadness, love, fear, and ecstasy, treating them variously as causes or symptoms of illness or health, or even as aspects of medical treatment.

The project will connect the history and philosophy of medicine and emotions with contemporary science, medical practice, phenomenology, and public policy, exploring three overlapping meanings of ‘emotional health’:

  1. The emotional dimensions of the medical encounter between patients and doctors, including the experiences of those suffering from chronic conditions, and the roles of empathy and compassion within this relationship.
  1. The emotional factors influencing physical and mental health, focussing on emotions as contributory factors to both illness and wellness, engaging historically with recent findings in neuroscience, immunology, psychotherapy, and public health.
  1. Emotional flourishing, understood as a state of healthy balance in an individual’s emotions; including historically and politically contingent assumptions about meta-emotional capacities such as empathy, self-control, self-esteem, mindfulness, and resilience.

Normativity November: From Tears to Laughter. Normative Emotion and the Man of Feeling.


Helen Stark is a project manager on the ‘Living with Feeling’ grant in the Centre for the History of the Emotions, QMUL. She has a book chapter on the man of feeling forthcoming in the edited collection Jean-Jacques Rousseau and British Romanticism.


Avid readers of this blog might be familiar with Henry Mackenzie’s 1771 novel The Man of Feelingas Thomas Dixon wrote in September last year, while in the eighteenth century Robert Burns could describe it ‘as a book I prize next to the Bible’, by the Victorian period it was being published with an ‘index of weeping’, mocking its tear-sodden narrative.  So who was the man of feeling, and what provoked this change in his reception by British society?

Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling, ed. Henry Morley (London: Cassell and Co., 1886), pp. iv–v.

Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling, ed. Henry Morley (London: Cassell and Co., 1886), pp. iv–v.

The man of feeling is a character who emerges in literature of the mid-eighteenth century characterised by his sensibility: his sensitivity, heightened emotional state, charitable nature and proclivity for tears. As Walter Scott wrote in 1805:

It is no doubt true, that a man of sensibility will be deeply affected by what appears trifling to the rest of mankind; a scene of distress or of pleasure will make a deeper impression upon him than upon another; and it is precisely in this respect that he differs from the rest of mankind. [Walter Scott, ‘Godwin’s Fleetwood‘, The Miscellaneous Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott, 1835]

What marks the man of feeling, is his vulnerability to being marked. Scott explicitly identifies him as a different kind of man – one whose masculinity is implicitly not normal. Let’s see what this kind of behaviour looks like. On his way home from visiting London, Harley, Mackenzie’s titular protagonist, encounters a returning war veteran who turns out to have be Harley’s one-time neighbour, Edwards. Edwards relates his woeful life story to Harley and Harley responds with the characteristic (and later, much-mocked) tears: ‘The old man now paused a moment to take breath. He eyed Harley’s face; it was bathed with tears’. Edwards’ story includes an account of a gang turning up at his house and forcing his son to join the army (a practice called pressganging) and Harley’s response is, as we might expect, extreme: ‘At these words Harley started with a convulsive sort of motion, and grasping Edwards’s sword, drew it half out of the scabbard, with a look of the most frantic wildness.’ He reacts with an excessive, uncontrolled, unconscious physical response – seemingly he has overly empathised with Edwards’ tale. Later Harley and Edwards locate Edwards’ grandchildren whose parents are dead and visit the tomb of Edwards’ son, the children’s father:

“Here is it, grandfather,” said the boy. Edwards gazed upon it without uttering a word; the girl, who had only sighed before now, now wept outright: her brother sobbed, but he stifled his sobbing. […] The girl cried afresh; Harley kissed off her tears as they flowed, and wept between every kiss.

It is important to note that the two other male characters in this scene either withhold their emotion (Edwards) or manage to master it (his grandson). It is Harley and Edwards’ granddaughter who cry, implicitly casting Harley’s tears as feminine and out of kilter with the responses of other male characters.

In general, the man of feeling’s emotional responses isolate him from society. Consider for example, Goethe’s Werther, protagonist of The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774, rev 1787). Werther is in love with Lotte, who is engaged (and then married to) Albert. Returning from visiting the pastor together, Lotte ‘scolded me for my too passionate sympathies in everything and that it would be the end of me, that I should spare myself’. Lotte’s insight into Werther’s character warns of the problems the man of feeling faces; his sympathetic identification with others erodes the boundaries between them and she foreshadows his suicide with her warning ‘that it would be the end of me’. Her attempts to moderate his excess are fruitless: ‘She has reproached me for my excesses – oh, in such a lovable fashion! Excesses! That occasionally I may let a glass of wine become a bottle’ (p. 76). Werther wilfully misinterprets her comments; Lotte desires him to curtail more than his wine consumption and later begs him to:

be more moderate. Your intelligence, your knowledge, your talents, what manifold enjoyments they offer you! Be a man! Turn this sad attachment away from a woman who can do no more than feel sorry for you. 

It is clear that Lotte considers Werther’s masculinity non-normative. His attachment to her demonstrates both an excess of inappropriate emotion and an inability to regulate his emotions and ultimately it unmans him. That she is policing his conduct demonstrates how William Reddy’s concept of an ‘emotional regime’ is manifested here. In The Navigation of Feeling (2001) Reddy argues that societies have a set of expectations about what constitutes normal emotional behaviour and how emotions should be expressed and that these are central to that society’s political regime. He defines it thus: ‘The set of normative emotions and the official rituals, practices, and emotives that express and inculcate them; a necessary underpinning of any stable political regime.’ There’s a conflict then between the kind of emotional response the man of feeling exhibits and the emotional regime of the society he is in.

Emotional regimes are not static and we see this change in what is considered normative emotion most clearly when we consider the reception of these novels. In The Great Cat Massacre (1984) Robert Darnton records the response of the Marquise de Polginac to reading Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Julie or the New Heloise:

I dare not tell you the effect it made on me. No, I was past weeping. A sharp pain convulsed me. My heart was crushed. […] My seizure became so strong that if I had not put the book away I would have been as ill as all those who attended the virtuous woman in her last moments.

Similarly, in 1771 the anonymous reviewer of The Man of Feeling in the Monthly Review claimed that ‘the Reader, who weeps not over some of the scenes it describes, has no sensibility of mind.’ There’s an implied criticism here of the reader who does not cry. Yet by the 1820s, Lady Louisa Stuart had found that the response to the novel had changed. Reading the novel with her friends: ‘Oh Dear! They laughed’. The man of feeling no longer elicited tears but instead laughter. Both his behaviour and the reader’s tearful response to it, represented a model of emotional response that was no longer recognised or understood in 1820s Britain. The decline in popularity of the man of feeling is normally attributed to the French Revolution and anxiety about the dangers of sensibility and associated revolutionary fervour spreading to Britain. But while this narrative accounts for a change from tears to fear, there doesn’t seem to be space in it for laughter.

This post is part of our ‘Normativity November’ series which explores the concept of the normal as we prepare for our exciting Being Human event ‘The Museum of the Normal’ tonight, 6pm-9pm.

Normativity November: Defining the Archaeological Normal

This is a guest post by Stacy Hackner. Stacy stacy_skele-copyis a PhD researcher in bioarchaeology at UCL, investigating the influence of activity on bone shape in ancient Sudan. She also works as a student engager for UCL Museums, focusing on bringing public engagement and interactive learning into unexpected spaces.


The history of archaeology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries can be read as the history of European men attempting to prove their perceived place in the world. At the time, western Europe had colonized much of the world, dividing up Africa, South America, and Oceania from which they could extract resources to further fund empires. Alongside this global spread was a sincere belief in the superiority of the rule of white men, which had grown from the Darwinian theory of evolution and the subsequent ideas of eugenics advanced by Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton: not only were white men the height of evolutionary and cultural progress, they were the epitome of thousands of years of cultural development which was superior to any other world culture. According to their belief, it was inevitable that Europeans should colonize the rest of the world. This was not only the normal way of life, but the only one that made sense.

In modern archaeology, we let the data speak for itself, trying not to impose our own ideas of normality and society onto ancient cultures. One hundred years ago, however, archaeology was used as a tool to prove European superiority and cultural manifest and without the benefit of radiocarbon dating (invented in the 1940s) to identify which culture developed at what time, Victorian and Edwardian archaeologists were free to stratify ancient cultures in a way that supported their framework that most European=most advanced. “European-ness” was defined through craniometry, or the measurement and appearance of skulls, and similar measurements of the limbs. Normality was defined as the average British measurement, and any deviation from this normal immediately identified that individual as part of a lesser race (a term which modern anthropologists find highly problematic, as so much of what was previously called “race” is culture).

In my research into sites in Egypt and Sudan, I’ve encountered two sites that typify this shoehorning of archaeology to fit a Victorian ideal of European superiority. The first is an ancient Egyptian site called Naqada, excavated by Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie in the 1890s. Petrie is considered the founder of modern, methodological archaeology because he invented typology – categorizing objects based on their similarity to each other. As an associate and friend of Galton and others in the eugenics circle, he applied the same principle to categorizing people (it’s likely that his excavations of human remains were requested by Galton to diversify his anthropometric collection). Naqada featured two main types of burials: one where the deceased were laid on their backs (supine) and one where the deceased were curled up on their side (flexed). Petrie called these “Egyptian” and “foreign” types, respectively. The grave goods (hand-made pottery, hairpins, fish-shaped slate palettes) found in the foreign tombs did not resemble any from his previous Egyptian excavations. The skeletons were so markedly different from the Egyptians – round, high skulls of the “Algerian” type, and tall and rugged – that he called them the “New Race”. Similarities, such as the burnt animal offerings found in the New Race tombs, present in Egyptian tombs as symbolic wall paintings, were obviously naïve imitations made by the immigrants. However, the progression of New Race pottery styles pointed to a lengthy stay in Egypt, which confused Petrie. Any protracted stay among the Egyptians must surely have led to trade: why then was there an absence of Egyptian trade goods? His conclusion was that the New Race were invading cannibals from a hot climate who had completely obliterated the local, peaceful Egyptian community between the Old and Middle Kingdoms.

Of course, with the advent of radiocarbon dating and a more discerning approach to cultural change, we now know that Petrie had it backwards. The New Race are actually a pre-Dynastic Egyptian culture (4800-3100 BC), who created permanent urban agricultural settlements after presumably thousands of years of being semi-nomadic alongside smaller agricultural centres. Petrie’s accusation of cannibalism is derived from remarks from Juvenal, a Roman poet writing centuries later. It also shows Petrie’s racism – of course these people from a “hot climate” erased the peaceful Egyptians, whose skulls bear more resemblance to Europeans. In actuality, Egyptian culture as we know it, with pyramids and chariots and mummification, developed from pre-Dynastic culture through very uninteresting centuries-long cultural change. Petrie’s own beliefs about the superiority of Europeans, typified by the Egyptians, allowed him to create a scientific-sounding argument that associated Africans with warlike-invasion halting cultural progression.

Henry Wellcome surveying the excavation. Courtesy Wellcome Collection.

Henry Wellcome surveying the excavation. Courtesy Wellcome Collection.

The second site in my research is Jebel Moya, located in Sudan, south of Khartoum, and excavated by Sir Henry Wellcome from 1911-1914. The site is a cemetery that appears to be of a nomadic group; dating to the Meroitic period (3rd century BC-4th century AD). The site lacks the pottery indicative of the predominant Meroitic culture, therefore the skulls were used to determine racial affiliation. Meroe was seen as part of the lineage of ancient Egypt – despite being Sudanese, the Meroitic people adopted pyramid-building and other cultural markers inspired by the now-defunct Egyptian civilization. Because many more female skeletons were discovered at this site than male, one early hypothesis was that Jebel Moya was a pagan and “predatory” group that absorbed women from southern Sudanese tribes either by marriage or slavery and that, as Petrie put it, it was “not a source from which anything sprang, whether culture or tribes or customs”. Yet, the skulls don’t show evidence of interbreeding, implying that they weren’t importing women, and later studies showed that many of the supposed female skeletons were actually those of young males. This is another instance of British anthropologists drawing conclusions about the ancient world using their framework of the British normal. If the Jebel Moyans weren’t associating themselves with the majority Egyptianized culture, they must be pagan (never mind that the Egyptians were pagan too!), polygamous, and lacking in any kind of transferrable culture; in addition, they must have come from the south – that is, Africa.

These sites were prominent excavations at the time, and the skeletons went on to be used in a number of arguments about race and relatedness. We now know – as the Victorian researchers reluctantly admitted – that ruggedness of the limbs is due to activity, and that a better way to examine relatedness is by examining teeth rather than skulls. However, the idea of Europeans as superior, following millennia of culture that sprung from the Egyptians and continued by the Greeks and Romans, was read into every archaeological discovery, bolstering the argument that European superiority was normal. Despite our focus on the scientific method and attempting to keep our beliefs out of our research, I wonder what future archaeologists will find problematic about current archaeology.

This post is part of our ‘Normativity November’ series which explores the concept of the normal as we prepare for our exciting Being Human events ‘Emotions and Cancer’ on 22 November and ‘The Museum of the Normal’ on 24 November.


Addison, F. 1949. Jebel Moya, Vol I: Text. London: Oxford University Press.

Baumgartel, E.J. 1970. Petrie’s Naqada Excavation: A Supplement. London: Bernard Quaritch.

Petrie, W.M.F. 1896. Naqada and Ballas. Warminster: Aris & Phillips.

How the alt-right emerged from men’s self-help

000d241f-800Like a lot of people, I’ve been scrambling to make sense of the Trump victory and what it says about public attitudes in the US and western culture generally. I’ve spent this week researching the alt-right movement and reading some of its literature. We don’t yet know to what extent the alt-right helped Trump to victory, and to what extent its beliefs appeal to the general population. But let me suggest some points about alt-right philosophy, and the way to engage with it at a grass-roots level.

Aspects of alt-right culture overlaps with men’s self-help, and with classical virtue ethics like Stoicism.

This may come as a surprise to those who think of the alt-right as gamer-nerds and illiterate meme-fanatics, but a lot of it appears to be driven by disaffected young college-educated men looking for a code to live by. Some of them are drawn to classical virtue ethics like Stoicism because it offers a way to feel strong in a chaotic world. Clearly, they misinterpret ancient philosophy. But their interest in it offers a way that educators can engage with them.

If I was Muslim I would be engaging with young men drawn to toxic variants of Islam, to try and steer them away from it, for their good and the good of my culture. I think that’s necessary with the alt-right too – we should engage with those young men who are genuinely looking for a path to self-improvement, to try and steer them away from the toxic aspects of alt-right culture, such as white supremacy and misogyny.

What is the alt-right?

Pepe the Frog - one of the alt-right's favourite memes, as found on anonymouse image-based websites like 4Chan.

Pepe the Frog – one of the alt-right’s favourite memes, as found on anonymous image-based websites like 4Chan.

The best intro I found was from the Breitbart news site, formerly edited by Steve Bannon, Trump’s new senior advisor, which styles itself as an alt-right platform. It features ‘an establishment conservative’s guide to the alt-right’, by Milo Yiannopoulos and Allum Bokhari. This article divides the movement into four groups.

Firstly, the ‘natural conservatives’ – those who, in social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s formulation, naturally feel disposed to an emotional politics of order, honour and harmony, as opposed to a leftist emotional politics of justice, fairness and equality. Secondly, the ‘meme gang’ – young men on the internet who spend hours joyfully constructing memes to support Trump and shock liberals. They don’t necessarily believe in Nazism…or anything, they just like to shock and get lulz. This group has been associated with trolling campaigns like gamergate or the harassment of the female Ghostbusters cast. Thirdly, the ‘1488-ers’ – straight-up Neo-Nazis, so-called because of the 14 words uttered by the founder of the American Nazi party – ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children‘ – and the two 8’s at the end represent the letters HH, Heil Hitler.

The manosphere

Finally, there are the ‘intellectuals’. Yanniopoulos and Bokhari write: ‘The so-called online “manosphere,” the nemeses of left-wing feminism, quickly became one of the alt-right’s most distinctive constituencies.’ I studied three particular writers in this ‘manosphere’, who connect the alt-right with male self-help: Mike Cernovich, author of ‘The Gorilla Mindset’ and ‘The MAGA Mindset’; Jack Donovan, author of ‘The Way of Men’; and Roosh V, pick-up artist and editor of a popular men’s website called Return of Kings. Cernovich has been called ‘the meme mastermind of the alt-right‘, Roosh now distances himself from the alt-right but actively supported the Trump campaign as a means to patriarchy, while Donovan speaks at white supremacist forums like American Renaissance.

All three offer a form of self-help for young men looking for a strong identity.

All three believe that masculine identity is in crisis in the west. They believe it’s been emasculated by feminism, threatenend by multiculturalism, enfeebled by corporate and consumer capitalism, and betrayed by older men who failed to provide strong role models. As a result, they say, western men have ended up miserable, weak, lonely, addicted and suicidal.

And who speaks for these wretched men? Every other interest group has their spokespeople and their movements. Feminism has its consciousness-raising circles, its heroines, its academic conferences. And men? The closest thing is a new and small field in academia called ‘masculine studies’ . But ‘masculine studies’ academics mainly wring their hands about traditional male identity and try to make men more like women.

Watch the documentary ‘The Mask You Live In’ (or the trailer, here), which is about the ‘male crisis’. It’s made by a woman, features more female experts than male, and focuses entirely on the problems with masculinity: men don’t show emotions, men binge drink and take dangerous risks, men play violent video games, men are drawn to casual sex, men are addicted to online porn, men humiliate women in ‘locker-room talk’, men are taught only to value sports and not other activities. And so on. Masculinity is apparently a disorder. And the solution to masculinity disorder is to become more like a woman, perhaps literally, like Grayson Perry, the transvestite artist and author of a new guide to What’s Wrong With Men.

Into this ethical vacuum step alt-right preachers of ‘neo-masculinity’, like radical Imams, if radical Imans were also pick-up artists.

The alt-right antidote to the ‘decline of men’ is to celebrate male identity and look for a code of living that leads to male strength and pride.

Like me, some alt-righters in the manosphere are drawn to ideas from classical philosophy and modern therapy, which help people take control of their emotions. Roosh V, the pick-up artist and editor of Return of Kings, has frequently written on classical Stoicism as a ‘means to serenity’. He’s also written on ‘neo-masculinity’, a movement which looks to classical philosophy for an ethical foundation. Mike Cernovich’s Gorilla Mindset re-packages techniques for emotional self-management from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Stoicism, and mixes in some evolutionary psychology. And Jack Donovan has written on the need for a male virtue ethics, which emphasizes traditional values like courage, honour and self-discipline.

_77646868_3patrolHowever, there’s also an aspect of alt-right neo-masculinity that is less drawn to virtue ethics and more to a sort of primitive tribalism or gang-culture. In the Way of Men, Jack Donovan defines male identity in the context of the male gang – men seek identity through the approval of other men, and through finding their place in the gang hierarchy, as chimpanzees do. Men are judged, Donovan says, by the extent to which they are a ‘real man’ – i.e, would they be good in a fight, can they defend themselves and others, do they defend their or their group’s honour, or are they a cissy?

The principle mission of the male gang, Donovan writes, is to secure the perimeter, and defend Us against Them – the outsider tribe. It doesn’t entirely matter who They are – Muslims, Jews, Republicans, zombies. They are really a means to Us bonding as a gang. There’s some confusion about who exactly Us is. Are neo-Nazis us? Or gays like Donovan or Yanniopoulos? Or non-whites like Roosh? The alt-right smooths over these anxieties by focusing on Them: feminists and Muslims.

Where do women fit in to the male gang world? For Jack Donovan, who’s gay, they’re purely a means to an end – men need them to reproduce and keep the tribe / gang going. He’s inspired by chimpanzee culture, in which he notes rape and female battering is common. Women are breeders, that’s all. For Roosh, they’re playgrounds and trophies.

Fight Club - violent apocalypse as the means to male bonding

Fight Club – violent apocalypse as the means to male bonding

At the extreme, Donovan looks forward to the collapse of civilization and the flourishing of gang war, because then men can finally be men. Peace and prosperity make life boring, miserable and unheroic, he thinks. Bring on the apocalypse, as an exercise in male bonding. War is the game men play. Violence is the test, the means to ecstasy. War makes men. Peace makes half-men.

This ideology seems to me the white version of Jihadism – the sense of cultural grievance, the ‘elimination of the Gray Zone’ into Us versus Them, the desire for a global projection of heroic male strength, and the desire for a battlefield where one can play at war, not just in a video-game, but for real.

I can’t really engage young Muslim men, because I’m a kafir, an unbeliever, and I don’t really know the Koran. But I can engage with young men drawn to classical philosophy and self-help, because I was also drawn to this when I was a miserable and alienated young man. So how could one engage with this group? Here are some possible talking points:

  1. We are more than chimpanzees. There is more to male strength than just brute force. Jack Donovan says we all admire immoral strong men like Al Pacino’s Scarface, but that’s not true – some adolescent boys do, but most grow out of that. Humans have the capacity to reflect on what’s right and wrong and to agree on a code of ethics. That’s what makes a tribe strong. When a tribe throws out its ethical culture and descends to the level of animal brutality, as the Nazis did, it doesn’t last long.
  2. Women are, on average genetically, just as intelligent as men. They also, on average, score higher on empathy – a trait conspicuously lacking in the manosphere. Look at the cultures where women are encouraged to participate in public life, and the cultures where they’re not. Which cultures are stronger? Which are doing better? How strong and successful do you think Saudi Arabian culture is, or Afghan culture? At an ethical level, do you really want your daughter / sister not to have the same capacity to flourish as you or your son? There’s a weird paradox in the alt-right – on the one hand, they see themselves as the defenders of western civilization against Islam, on the other hand, they actually want to make western civilization more like Shariah cultures like Saudi Arabia (more patriarchal, less democratic and with less respect for the rule of law).
  3. All the classical philosophers that some alt-righters claim to revere put virtue before brute power. The Stoics, in particular, were cosmopolitans – they believed in a universal moral code that transcends race, gender or nationality. Some, like Plato and Musonius Rufus, argued for the equal education of men and women, two and a half millennia before it occurred. They did not believe ‘might is right’ – Thucydides criticizes precisely that attitude for leading to the undermining of Athenian influence during the Peleponnesian War. The Roman Empire flourished partly because it had an amazing army, but also because it offered a universalist culture – the Pax Romana – which other ethnicities and tribes could join. Likewise both Islam and Christianity expanded because they offered a universal society transcending race. A culture based on ethnicity, by contrast, or on the brutal power of a despot, is a weak culture, it won’t attract cohorts, it won’t last.
  4. Strong man cultures – in which a strong leader is revered and given all power – have typically not done well, they haven’t lasted. They may initially lead to a wave of conquests but they then rapidly collapse. Strong cultures that last are based not on personalities but institutions (what survives of Napoleon is the Napoleonic Code).
  5. Alt-righters in the manosphere are obsessed with honour and reputation, with being perceived as alpha men, not beta weaklings. But Stoicism believes male strength comes from virtue, not honour or reputation. If you’re incredibly prickly about your honour, you’re weak and insecure – you fly off the handle at any perceived diss. You’re no better than hysterical campus liberals scanning for ‘micro-aggressions’. Honour cultures – like, say, Pakistan, or Sicily in the past – have traditionally been weak, because the men are constantly killing each other or their wives and daughters for any perceived slight to their honour. Strong men are secure enough in their self-respect to ignore a diss – unless something genuinely threatens their person or their culture, in which case they act.
  6. If you’re obsessed with winning other men’s approval and appearing Alpha in their eyes, that’s not strength, that’s weakness. You’re enslaving yourself to their approval. Your whole life becomes an attempt to impress others – you pump iron to impress other men, you pull women to impress other men, you end up miserable and alone all because you spent your life trying to impress other men. Strong men don’t obsess over how Alpha they appear to other men.
  7. If you think western culture has become a ‘culture of grievances’, as Milo Yiannopoulos put it, that doesn’t mean masculinity has to give in to victimhood as well. Marcus Aurelius wrote, ‘the best revenge is not to be like that’.
  8. Trolling is a desperate bid for attention. Again, that’s not strong at all, that’s weak.
  9. European culture went from rag-tag gangs in the Dark Ages to a powerful civilization that spread across the world partly through the invention of chivalry – strong warriors were persuaded to obey a moral code, which protected the weak. Alt-righters mock chivalry, but that makes their culture weak – who wants to join a chimpanzee culture that only values force? The foundation of Judeo-Christianity is also love for the oppressed and the weak – again, alt-righters like Steve Bannon describe themselves as heroic defenders of Judeo-Christian civilization, but they’re really more Nietzschean in their contempt for the weak.
  10. If you really want to risk your life in a heroic adventure, join the army. Test yourself by fighting ISIS, not by harassing women on Twitter. That’s not being a man. Join the army. When you’re in it, you’ll find yourself fighting side by side with people of other ethnicities – 30% of the US military is non-white – and you might decide you can trust and bond with men whose skin is a different colour.

Those are some of the talking points one could use. One should not go in with name-calling, one should recognize the emotional hurt beneath the toxic ideas. Epictetus wrote: ‘A guide, on finding a man who has lost his way, brings him back to the right path—he does not mock and jeer at him and then take himself off. You also must show the unlearned man the truth, and you will see that he will follow. But so long as you do not show it him, you should not mock, but rather feel your own incapacity.’

Normativity November: PSYCHIC DRIVING: Therapy, Mind Control, and Programming the Normal

img_2780David Saunders started his PhD in the Centre for the History of the Emotions in October 2016. His research is funded by the Wellcome Trust and intersects with our Living with Feeling grant.



You feel friendly towards people. You like to feel intimate with others. You can get along with people by being yourself.

These words would not be out of place in your average self-help book. These kind of messages are contained in the countless paperback volumes that line the shelves of train station bookshops or lay forgotten in airport lounges.

You feel neat and tidy. If you see paper on the floor, you pick it up.

Yet for Louis Weinstein, a once prominent businessman from Montréal, these apparently harmless words harboured something far more sinister.

You feel friendly towards people. You like to feel intimate with others. You can get along with people by being yourself.

In 1956, following a string of panic attacks, Weinstein was referred to the Allan Memorial Institute. Here, he encountered a “revolutionary” new type of therapy.

You feel neat and tidy. If you see paper on the floor, you pick it up.

Confined to his room with a tape recorder, Weinstein was made to listen to endless loops of these positive messages.

You feel friendly towards people. You like to feel intimate with others. You can get along with people by being yourself.

The loops continued without interruption for fifty-four days.

You feel neat and tidy. If you see paper on the floor, you pick it up.

On the fifty-fourth day, staff found Weinstein hiding under a blanket, hallucinating.

You feel friendly towards people. You like to feel intimate with others. You can get along with people by being yourself.

Speaking to the Washington Post in 1985, Weinstein’s son Harvey spoke of how his father returned home with severe memory loss and paranoia. He could barely communicate with his family. “He lost everything.”

You feel neat and tidy. If you see paper on the floor, you pick it up.

This therapeutic revolution was known as “psychic driving.”


Psychic driving was the brainchild of the Institute’s director, Donald Ewen Cameron. Cameron believed that talking therapies for psychiatric conditions were slow, ineffective, and costly, and thus experimented with dramatic and completely untested physical methods to treat depression and anxiety.

At the Allan Memorial Institute, the tape machine was to replace the psychiatrist. Using endless loops of taped positive messages, Cameron believed that he could destroy the abnormal memories, beliefs, and behaviours of his patients and reprogram them into sociable, courteous, well-adjusted members of society. These loops would continue for days, weeks, even months on end, overwhelming his patients’ senses. When patients resisted, headphones were taped to their heads; eventually, they were immobilised entirely using a cocktail of depressants and psychedelic substances.

How was this expensive programme of research being funded? As far as most patients and staff were aware, Cameron’s ambitious experiments were being paid for by a generous scientific organisation called the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology. But no such organisation existed: the Society was merely a front for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Since 1953, the CIA’s MK-ULTRA programme had been funding scientific research into brainwashing and mind control. In the hostile and competitive Cold War environment, Cameron’s research sounded extremely promising to intelligence agencies, offering a reliable method for wiping and reprogramming the minds of allies and enemies alike. As such, the CIA poured $75,000 into Cameron’s research, weaponizing his relentless quest to restore patients to “health”.

How does the history of “psychic driving” point to the unexpected and troubling ramifications of our search for “normality” and quick-fix therapy? What “normal” attributes and behaviours might we wish to promote in ourselves? What happens when these desires are taken to obsessive lengths, or exploited for unknown purposes? These are all questions that will be explored at The Museum of the Normal, in which visitors will be encouraged to record their own taped messages as part of an evolving sound installation created across the evening. The end product, which will be made available to all visitors after the event, will stand as a collaborative exploration of our assumptions, desires, and fears about what it means to be normal.

This post is part of our ‘Normativity November’ series which explores the concept of the normal as we prepare for our exciting Being Human events ‘Emotions and Cancer’ on 22 November and ‘The Museum of the Normal’ on 24 November.

Normativity November: The History of Being Normal


Sarah Chaney is a Project Manager in the Centre for the History of the Emotions at QMUL. She also runs the events and exhibitions programme at the Royal College of Nursing. Her book Psyche on the Skin: A History of Self-Harm is out in February 2017.


“Am I normal?” seems to be a defining question in modern Western culture, across every area of human life and experience, in health and illness. But has this always been the case? And who gets to say what’s normal anyway? Psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists have all been eager to have their say on this matter. Is normal a sign of health? Is it culturally relative? And when is a norm transferrable from one person to another?

These concerns are often charted back to Emile Durkheim, the influential nineteenth-century philosopher who established sociology as a science. In The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), Durkheim’s discussion of ‘the normal and the pathological’ revolved around its legal implications. Many criminologists of the era, such as the prominent Cesare Lombroso, regarded criminality as a hereditary pathological state. Yet Durkheim contradicted this view. Crime, he concluded, is a normal and inevitable part of society, and so it must perform a positive function. The abnormal, then, was a necessary counterpart to the normal, which facilitated change and social progress.

Not everyone held this positive view, of course. In medicine, pathology had long been something to be eliminated. But even here what the pathological was was tricky to define. Was it a distinct and definite thing – such as a germ or tumour – that could be removed from the otherwise normal body? Or was a medical pathology something that altered the fundamental make-up of an organism? The Hippocratic model of health and illness, focusing on the four humours, contended that disease was caused by an imbalance of these substances. This meant that pathology was a total state, and the outward symptoms of illness were the body’s efforts to bring back harmony: symptoms might be tolerated, or even encouraged, in order to cause this change.

Before the nineteenth century, however, the term “normal” was not usually associated with human behaviour. Normal was a mathematical term, referring to something standing at a right angle. It was the popularity of statistics in the Victorian era that encouraged the application of these mathematical standards to human life. In 1835, French statistician Adolph Quetelet proposed that human traits fell along a Gaussian curve, or normal distribution. The “normal” here was the average. Take hand span, for example: the largest number of people would have a hand span falling at the centre of the population.

This did not, of course, mean that there was any particular benefit in having an average hand span. Increasingly, however, these prescriptive judgments were made in the late nineteenth century. The centre of the curve became viewed as something desirable, not just something that happened to exist, and applied to increasing numbers of human traits and behaviours. This was helped by the standardisation of other areas of life. Compulsory education, for example, led to the identification of children who learnt more slowly than their classmates.

Yet, deciding where the line between normal and abnormal lies has never been an easy task. Even psychiatrists, most often considered the guardians of what is and is not normal, struggled with the concept towards the end of the Victorian era. In the early 1890s, Walter Abraham Haigh, previously a patient at the Bethlem Royal Hospital, wrote to his doctors to discuss his ongoing symptoms. “As you are aware”, he wrote, “the ‘sane’ world has little idea of these ‘sense perversions’ many of which are classified under the name of insanity.”[1] Haigh’s use of inverted commas around the word “sane” cast doubt on the association of sanity with normality. Sanity, like the normal, became a relative term, related to “certain laws, rules and conventions which slowly grow around men as they advance in civilization”, according to Haigh’s former psychiatrist George Henry Savage. For some doctors in this era, sanity became something judged not against a normal curve, but against the past experiences and behaviour of an individual. Something that was pathological in one person might be perfectly compatible with normal in another.

But where does this leave us today? Exploring the history of the contested ways in which normal standards have changed or been measured across different times, places and cultures contradicts the view that normality is somehow a natural concept. In this ‘Normativity November’ series, Dave Saunders will explain how ‘psychic driving’ was developed in 1950s America to banish abnormal memories and encourage positive behaviours without the need for a psychiatrist. Helen Stark will discuss the how concepts of normal masculine behaviour changed in the late eighteenth century and Stacy Hackner will detail how skulls have been used to determine normality in relation to race.  As we look back on how people in past eras have been excluded from society on the basis of a set of expectations that may or may not be considered normal by today’s standards, we encourage you, the reader to reflect on which of today’s norms might be mocked or critiqued in a hundred years’ time. Maybe it’s normal to worry about being normal. But we can still be critical of the very concept.


[1] Read more about this in my article ‘‘No “Sane” Person Would Have Any Idea’: Patients’ Involvement in Late Nineteenth-century British Asylum Psychiatry’.

This post is the first in our ‘Normativity November’ series which explores the concept of the normal as we prepare for our exciting Being Human events ‘Emotions and Cancer’ on 22 November and ‘The Museum of the Normal’ on 24 November.

Music and Emotions Concert – Part 2

This is the second of two posts about the Music and Emotions Concert held at Barts Pathology Museum and supported by the QMUL Centre for Public Engagement. You can read the first post on this blog

So what did the results of our wellbeing umbrellas and questionnaires show? Unfortunately we had some problems with the wellbeing umbrellas and although forty one were completed, we only have ten paired sets (where the audience member filled out an umbrella at the beginning and the end and handed them in together). Of these ten pairs, seven showed an increase in wellbeing (calculated by adding up the total ratings before the concert, the total ratings afterwards, finding the difference between the two scores and dividing this by the score before the session and multiplying it by one hundred). For two participants, this was by as much as 50%. Figure 1 shows these ten participants’ wellbeing before (in blue) and after the concert (in orange).

Figure One

Figure One

If we consider this data by state rather than by individual, we see that on average, participants reported feeling 34% more inspired, 26% more active, 5% more enthusiastic, 28% more excited and 5% happier after the concert than before. Only alertness showed a decrease – of 14%. This would seem to suggest that the concert did in general have a positive impact on wellbeing and this is reinforced by responses to the questionnaire, where ‘happy’, ‘relaxed’, ‘peaceful’, ‘uplifted’ uniformly top the graph (figure 2).

The questionnaire discloses some unexpected results though too, shown in figure 2. Each coloured line represents a different emotion or emotional state. Those that are capitalised were given as options on the questionnaire. Lower case adjectives were supplied by respondents. I discounted anything with a response rate lower than 6 as it made the graph too complex. On the vertical axis are numbers of responses, on the horizontal axis the number corresponds to the piece played. The order was:

  • Claude Debussy Sonata for flute, viola and harp
  • Yann Tiersen On the wire (for solo viola)
  • S. Bach Sonata in G minor BWV 1020 for flute and harp


  • Ravi Shankar L’aube enchantée for flute and harp
  • Maurice Ravel Sonatine (transcribed from the original piano work) for flute, viola and harp
  • Astor Piazzolla Oblivion (improvised by the ensemble)


There are some notable peaks and troughs. We can see that levels of relaxation begin quite high, at 31. They then rapidly decrease in the Tiersen piece to 7 and almost entirely recover during the Bach to 26. The dip in relaxation (and peacefulness, from 25 to 6) is matched by an increase in feeling ‘tense’ (up from 14 to 25) and ‘energetic’ (also 25). This probably reflects the fact that Tiersen’s piece was dramatic and accompanied by foot stomping and expressive facial expressions from David. Tense also gets a high response in piece four and this I cannot explain. One respondee raised an interesting issue: they had ticked tense, excited, energetic, stressed and unhappy in response to piece 2 but commented that they were ‘recognising an emotional tone in the music – e.g. melancholy or anger or exuberance – without actually feeling the corresponding emotion myself.’ So how many audience members were ticking emotions they associated with the music rather than ones they were feeling?

We can also see a relatively high number of audience members reported feeling confused and tense during the first piece of the music and this might have been related to the questionnaire itself and to the format of the event. Some commented that they felt confused because they didn’t understand the form and stressed ‘because I was not sure if we were still on piece one as I didn’t know the music at all’. Another commented that ‘I was very aware of having to decide on what emotions I was feeling. This meant I was very focused on the music & not as distracted by the specimens as I thought I might be.’

At the beginning of part two, the audience were treated to a short talk about music and the history of the emotions from Dr Marie Louise Herzfeld Schild. Participants reflected on how that knowledge affected emotional response in their comments. For example: ‘Knowing that the Ravi Shankar piece was themed on death meant that I thought about the specimens in the museum & imagined them interacting with the music’ and ‘I felt much more relaxed and able to engage emotionally with the music once I knew something about it cultural + historical context, in the second half.’ That knowledge of the music had enriched the experience was a recurring theme: ‘Having an awareness of the music helped to appreciate the musical pieces as well the environment in which they were played’; ‘the talk made me feel more aware + […] this resulted in feeling more alert and engaged. Felt that ‘knowing more’ resulted in subconscious labels and slightly lazier responses but this left me enjoying music more. Maybe’. This final comment raises an interesting question about the extent to which the audience had to ‘work’ in part one compared to part two and its impact on their enjoyment. While most of the quotations I’ve given suggest knowledge enhanced experience, this respondee suggests they may have been ‘lazier’ in the second half and are equivocal about whether information about the music improved the experience or not.


While 23 people didn’t respond to the question ‘How did your surroundings impact your feelings about/response to the music?’ at the end of the first half, and 29 didn’t respond at the end of the second, in general the museum did impact on audience responses to the music. While for one person: ‘There is a big contrast between the surrounding exhibited paintings and sample[s] and the peaceful-sounding music’ for another ‘I thought the venue would be more evocative and emotional that [sic] it actually ended up being – If anything it felt surprisingly mundane against the beauty and ethereality of the music.’ For many, the museum was a calm and relaxing space which helped them focus. Others were more unnerved though: ‘Eerie and haunting – effective. Made Piece 2 more impactful.’ Some also responded to the cultural capital afforded by the venue, noting, for example, ‘No real influence – just made feel really cultured’. An idea of the specimens as sentient participants was also invoked: ‘I also felt there was a second layer of audience, with the specimens participating and watching the event.’

There are a handful of other responses I’d like to draw out – consider for example, the respondee who explicitly demonstrates the impact of culture on our experience of a piece of music. In response to piece 4 they wrote: ‘As an Indian, it was a strange experience. I’ve never heard […] performed like this. It was like listening to someone speaking in Hindi with an English accent.’ One member of the audience experienced the music synasthetically and as well as ticking emotional states, wrote down the colours they associated with the pieces – something I had not anticipated. I also hadn’t expected the musicians’ facial expressions to be so important but this was mentioned several times in the comments and in discussion in the interval in terms of shaping emotional response.

I’d like to end on one of the most poetic responses which encapsulates what the event was trying to achieve – which this person has articulated perfectly: ‘I am left with a profound sense of the history of human feeling. The specimens are caught in a moment of time, and so were our emotional responses to this evening’s music. A wonderful way to experience a beautiful performance.’ concert


History of Emotions Blog Round-Up: July-October 2016

After the summer lull, the start of term is always a busy time. In case you’ve missed any blog posts, here’s our second round-up of 2016 (the first was in July). These are listed in chronological order by month of publication.


Helen Stark, ‘Which Three Words Mean Emotional Health to You?’

Evelien Lemmens, ‘”What is Emotional Health?” workshop launches Living with Feeling project at Queen Mary’

Marie Louise Herzfeld Schild, ‘Painting Emotions in Music: Conjoining medical and aesthetic knowledge in 18th century German music aesthetics’


Sarah Chaney, ‘New Publications, January-June 2016’

Richard Ashcroft, ‘The Future of Emotions and Emotional Utopias: Notes at the Beginning of a Project’

Eva Yampolsky, ‘The pathology of suicide: between insanity and morality’

Chris Millard, ‘Lies, Damned Lies and Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy’

Eleanor Betts, review of Kate Summerscale’s The Wicked Boy

Disgust Week – curated by Richard Firth-Godbehere and Sarah Chaney

  1. Guenter B. Risse, ‘Gut Reactions: Fear and Disgust in Public Health History’
  2. Martha Nussbaum, Extract from Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame and the Law, ‘Disgust and the Jury: “Horrible and Inhuman” Homicides; Beldotti’s Disgust
  3. Benedict S. Robinson, ‘Disgust: The Very Word’
  4. Natalie Eschenbaum, ‘Attractive Aversion in the Study of Seventeenth-Century Poetry’
  5. Mark Bradley, ‘Diagnosing Deviance: aversion, obscenity and the senses in classical antiquity’
  6. Daniel Kelly, ‘The Deep, Modern, and Extremely Recent Histories of Disgust’
  7. Richard Firth-Godbehere, ‘The Two Dogmas of Disgust’


Melissa Dickson, ‘The Objects of Our Affection’

Richard Firth-Godbehere, ‘Taster Post: Cry Me A Driver: Why Computers Fail At Detecting Emotions’

Thomas Dixon, ‘What is anger? 2. Jean Briggs’

Brid Phillips, ‘“O well-painted passion!”: Colour and Emotions in Shakespeare’s Othello’

Dave Saunders, ‘Meet our PhD Students – David Saunders’

Evelien Lemmens, ‘Meet our PhD Students – Evelien Lemmens’

Edgar Gerrard Hughes – ‘Meet our PhD Students – Edgar Gerrard Hughes’

Helen Stark, ‘”What is Emotional Health?” workshop summary’

Sarah Chaney, ‘The Hopes and Fears of Being Human’


Helen Stark, ‘Carnival of Lost Emotions at Boundary Fun Palace’

Sarah Chaney, New Publications, July – September 2016′

Music and Emotions Concert – Part 1

This is the first of two posts about the Music and Emotions Concert held at Barts Pathology Museum and supported by the QMUL Centre for Public Engagement. Read the second on Thursday!

Late afternoon on a Monday in early October and my steps up the stone stairs to Barts Pathology Museum are accompanied by the ethereal sound of a harp, flute and violin. The music swells and pulses as I grow closer and I tiptoe through the doors to the sight and sound of the Harborough Collective rehearsing. The museum is softly lit, the musicians framed by a semi-circle of chairs, and the backdrop is very striking indeed: behind them are human-tissue specimens and watercolours showing various human pathologies. Awe-struck by the visual impact of the space, I also felt both excited and peaceful by the music…how would the audience feel in two hours time?



Lisa, David and Eleanor (the Harborough Collective) were rehearsing for the first collaborative event between the Centre for the History of the Emotions, the QMUL Director of Music (Paul Edlin) and Barts Pathology Museum. We wanted to investigate how listening to music might affect wellbeing and how prior knowledge of the music being played affects emotional responses. To do so, Paul and the Harborough Collective had designed a special programme of music and I had come armed with wellbeing umbrellas  (pictured) and questionnaires. We would ask the audience to complete a wellbeing umbrella at the beginning and end of the concert, enabling us to trace change in wellbeing across the event, and the audience would record their emotional responses to the music at the end of each half on the questionnaire.  The umbrellas were designed by UCL as part of their UCL Museum Wellbeing Measures Toolkit. I designed the questionnaire myself and it asked respondees to tick the emotions they felt during each piece of the performance (or add their own) and respond free-form to the question of whether the venue had impacted their experience of the music. In the first half, the audience would know nothing about the music being played; their responses would be shaped only by the performance, the space, and any prior knowledge they might have. In the second half, they’d be introduced to the concept of the history of the emotions and its relationship with music by researcher Dr Marie Herzfeld Schild. Dr Herzfeld Schild would also tell the audience about the music they had already heard and what they would hear in the second half.

UCL's positive wellbeing umbrella

UCL’s positive wellbeing umbrella

The back of the umbrella

The back of the umbrella

After setting up I was treated to a personal tour of some of the museum’s specimens by Steve Moore, who oversees the museum’s pathology collections. I’d recommend a visit to the foreign objects found in human bodies case which includes a rocket removed from a man’s anus while potentially still live, hair pins, a toothbrush and a stone. I also saw trepanned skulls and tumours. One audience member apologized to me because her wellbeing umbrellas might imply she left with feeling less well than when she arrived but she assured me that this just reflected the extremely high levels of enthusiasm, excitement, and alertness (measured by the umbrellas) that she felt when she explored the museum before the concert started, rather than the concert having had a negative impact!

So what did the other participants say? Find out in our next post…