I am at the European Social Science History Conference in Lisbon this week. You may wonder what a scholar of English literature/cultural historian is doing at a social science history conference, but there is an extensive culture network within the ESSHC. In that network Willemijn Ruberg of the University of Limerick organised 5 panels on the history of the emotions. The papers and the discussions afterwards are very stimulating, also because panelists keep referring back to the opening theoretical session in which various constructivist, psychological and neurological perspectives came together (and sometimes conflicted).
Another great thing about this conference is that each session has a “discussant.” I had never come across such a thing before — I was one for the first time in my life this morning. It’s a very useful concept: the discussant has read the session’s papers in advance, and after the final paper, she picks out common topics, ideas and arguments in the papers, and asks questions about these issues to provide a starting point for the discussion. After throwing these questions at the panelists, the discussant hands over the management of the discussion to the chair. This works really well, because the discussant is often able to capture the essence of the papers, and to oversee the bigger picture, and this helps to lift the discussion to a higher level.
If you are interested in my paper on masculinity and anger in early modern English revenge drama, there is a PDF version on the conference website. I’ll be presenting it tomorrow morning, at the ungodly hour of 8.30 am.