The role of the arts in the history of emotions: aesthetic experience and emotion as method

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What role do the arts play in the study of the history of emotions? This essay reflects on the position that aesthetic works and arts-oriented methodologies have occupied in the field’s development since the early 2000s. It begins by connecting artistic sources to anxieties about impressionism within cultural history, before looking at examples from literature that help illustrate the advantages works of art can bring to the study of emotion over time. Chief among these benefits is the power of artistic sources to create emotional worlds for their audiences – including, of course, historians. Ultimately, in arguing for a greater use of aesthetic works in our field, the essay makes the case for a more overtly emotional history of the emotions.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-131
Number of pages19
JournalEmotions: History, Culture, Society
Issue number1
Early online date19 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2018


  • historiography, methodology, emotion and aesthetics, literature, improvisation, interdisciplinarity