The Enigma of Emotion

Darwin College Lecture Series
Dr Tiffany Watt Smith, Queen Mary, University of London
LMH, Lady Mitchell Hall
Friday, February 14, 2020 - 17:30 to 18:30

How did people once die of nostalgia? Why did Victorians invent boredom? And why did a self-help author in the 16th century encourage his readers to practice feeling sad?

The stories we tell ourselves about our emotions are shaped not just by our personal circumstances, but by pervasive and often invisible cultural and political forces.

This lecture will explore the field of the history of emotions, and how the values and ideas associated with emotions have changed – and continue to do so – intimately shaping the way we feel.

Dr Tiffany Watt Smith is the author of three books about the history emotions, Schadenfreude (2018), The Book of Human Emotions (2015) which tells the stories of 154 emotions from around the world, and On Flinching (2013). Her books have so far been translated into 10 languages. Educated at the universities of Cambridge and London, she is now based at Queen Mary University of London where she is a Reader in Cultural History and a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for the History of Emotions. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, the BBC News Magazine and The New Scientist among others. In 2014, she was named a BBC New Generation Thinker. In her previous career, she was a theatre director. Her TED talk ’The History of Human Emotions’ has been viewed by more than 3 million people.

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