Bringing together research on textual representations of various forms of positive feeling in early modern Europe, this collection of essays highlights the diverse and nuanced cultural meanings of happiness and well-being in this period, which is often characterized as a melancholy age. Interdisciplinary methodological approaches—informed by emotion studies, affect theory, and the contemporary cognitive sciences—provide various frames for understanding how the period cultivated and theorized positive emotions, as well as how those emotions were deployed in political, social, and intellectual contexts. Pointing to the ways the binary between positive and negative might be inadequate to describe emotive structures and narratives, the essays promote analysis of new archives and offer surprising readings of some texts at the center of the Renaissance canon. In addition to an introduction that provides an overview of work in contemporary studies of positive emotions and historical accounts of good feeling in early modern Europe, the book includes three sections: 1) rewriting discourses of pleasure, 2) imagining happy communities, and 3) forms, attachment, and ambivalence. The essays focus on works by such writers as Burton, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Traherne, and Webster, as well as on other kinds of texts circulating in the period. While focused on English writings, essays on continental writers contribute to a wider context for understanding these emotions as European cultural constructions. Finally, the volume offers windows onto the complex histories of happiness, well-being, humor, and embodiment that inform the ways emotions are experienced and negotiated in the present day.

Silvia Granata

This chapter considers how aquarium texts were used to assert specific views of science, scientists, and their role in society. In order to situate the vogue within the broader context of mid-century discourses on nature, three themes, which often resurfaced in discussions of the tank, are analysed: the relation between the rhetoric of wonder and a specific idea of science, the fight against ‘old errors’ as a way of policing truth and claiming authority, and the view of science as a collective endeavour. Finally, the aquarists’ perception of the tank’s value as a scientific tool is investigated, tracing the shift from the initial glowing expectations to the recognition that such hopes had to be severely downsized

in The Victorian aquarium
Scott, Small, and the Edinburgh Edition
Willy Maley and Alasdair Thanisch

This chapter builds on the ‘lives and legacies’ strand of John Derricke scholarship by examining the Scottish contexts and reception of The Image of Irelande, specifically through Sir Walter Scott’s inclusion of Derricke as part of his editing of Lord Somers’s tracts (1809–15) and the historical contexts for both Scott’s work and the 1883 edition (with Scott’s notes) by Edinburgh University librarian John Small. The richness of Derricke’s Scottish afterlife has yet to be fully explored, from the copy owned by William Drummond through the Advocate’s Library copy consulted by Scott, to Small’s landmark edition. How far did Scott’s and Small’s interventions influence Scottish opinion on Ireland? They certainly serve to remind readers that Derricke’s perspective is archipelagic rather than merely English. Given the extent to which Scott and Small shaped the modern reception of The Image of Irelande, it could be argued that it has come down to us as a distinctly Scottish image. The purpose of this chapter is to track some of the ways in which The Image of Irelande offers, through Ulster and Edinburgh, an image of Scotland.

in John Derricke’s The Image of Irelande: with a Discoverie of Woodkarne
Abstract only
Procedures of conscience and confession
Elwin Hofman

This chapter attends to how the changing forms and procedures of criminal trials affected the self. Rather than focus on grand trials and punishments, the chapter highlights the pre-trial investigations and procedures, attending to how people gave accounts of themselves. The forms of accusations, interrogations and confessions increasingly encouraged an individualized and introspective self, with a true nature that could only be changed with great difficulty. The impact of the legal reforms before, during and after the French Revolution is discussed. The chapter explores how interrogation techniques and records became increasingly personal, for instance with the trend to record speech in the first person and the increasing stress on remorse. The chapter emphasizes the agency of those involved in the changing procedures, discussing the different power mechanisms in criminal procedures and the possibilities for resisting them.

in Trials of the self
Andrew Taylor

During the 1950s successive Conservative governments found themselves confronted by a complex policy problem: how to combine full employment with low inflation. Within this, union wage demands and the growth of industrial, especially unofficial, action loomed large. Central to government strategy was exploiting the traditional consultative relationship with the unions and the TUC to endorse and promote wage moderation and curb unofficial strikes. This was, however, opposed by rank-and-file union members and their leaders, and the result was an increase in internal conflict in the unions that undermined the State’s relationship with the unions. As efforts to enmesh the unions in a tighter relationship failed, increasing numbers of Conservatives were attracted to the radical reform of trade union and industrial relations law.

in What about the workers?
Faction, emotion, and the Essex circle
Bradley J. Irish

Bradley J. Irish focuses on the affective ties that constitute communities and build subjects, and in his focus on courtly factionalism in the Essex circle, he flips the script on previous critical evaluations of these famously unhappy political rivalries. Focusing instead on the sociological effects of solidarity, a positive emotional experience, in ‘Solidarity as ritual in the late Elizabethan court: faction, emotion, and the Essex circle’, Irish argues that participation in social groups and their everyday rituals of court life operated to solidify solidarity and with it, factionalism, in the late Elizabethan court, revealing how a ‘positive’ emotion can have extreme and deleterious historical consequences.

in Positive emotions in early modern literature and culture
Andrew Taylor

This chapter explores the difficulty of separating the working class from the trade unions; the party therefore accepted (albeit reluctantly) the unions’ existence whilst criticising the unions’ supposed vulnerability to control by politically motivated groups who usurped the unions’ for their own political purposes. An important figure in the development of Conservatism’s strategy was Disraeli, whose government passed legislation for the unions’ development. Many Conservatives feared industrialisation would, via the growth of democracy, culminate in socialism and saw unions as part of this trend. The response was to accord the unions a degree of legal privilege that was intended to be a settlement of the union question. Industrial conflict, however, re-emerged during the 1890s and in the years before 1914 there was an upsurge in industrial unrest that suggested a transformation of politics. This was reflected in what many Conservatives saw as granting excessive legal privileges to unions that now displayed a far higher degree of industrial and political activism, reflected in the formation of the Labour Party. The party, however, failed to develop a coherent response to the rise of the organised working class.

in What about the workers?
Practising sentimentalism and romanticism in criminal court
Elwin Hofman

Two famous emotional styles swept through Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: the culture of sensibility or sentimentalism, and the culture of romanticism. This chapter connects the history of the self to the history of emotions. Up to around 1770, few traces of the cult of sensibility could be found and in trial records, only women were occasionally reported as weeping. This changed in the 1770s and early 1780s, when men were also said to have wept. Only in the 1780s and 1790s, however, when male tears were already disappearing again, explicit references to the central concept of sympathy made their way into the trial records. In the immediate aftermath of the revolution, in the late 1790s, there was a short-lived return of male sentiment, followed by the virtual disappearance of all male tears and sympathy around 1800. In the romantic period, feelings became more private and more profound. The chapter shows that feelings, which are often expected to change only slowly, could in fact go through rapid changes.

in Trials of the self
Timothy Hampton

Timothy Hampton’s work on ‘The theology of cheer, Erasmus to Shakespeare’ traces the dual nature of cheer as it is used in humanist writings as both a physiological designation of the face and an emotive. He argues that the bodily nature of cheer links practices of the Church and religious belonging to secular practices of sociability and hospitality, and he traces how these circulations of cheer in theological writings become the representational matter of drama. In plays like Richard III, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet, Shakespeare plays upon cheer and its lack to flirt with the destruction of community that is at the heart of tragedy.

in Positive emotions in early modern literature and culture
Cassie M. Miura

Cassie M. Miura’s ‘Therapeutic laughter in Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy’ considers the unexpected role of positive emotions in Burton’s encyclopedic discourse on melancholy. For Burton, she argues that laughter serves not only as a means to purge melancholy humors from the body but also to attain tranquility of mind, an affective state that many ancient philosophers posited as the end of philosophy. Although the Anatomy fails in many respects as a conventional medical treatise, Burton never abandons the melancholy reader, whom he ultimately diverts away from a futile quest for absolute knowledge toward lesser but happier therapeutic goals such as recreation and mirth.

in Positive emotions in early modern literature and culture