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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

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.

Abstract only
Cora Fox, Bradley J. Irish, and Cassie M. Miura

The volume editors provide a rationale for focusing on positive emotions during the European Renaissance, accounting for not only dominant historicist scholarship on Galenic humoral theory, Stoicism, and larger questions of early modern embodiment but also newer methodological directions in affect theory, psychology, and the affective sciences as they may be applied to early modern literature and culture. The editors argue that understanding the interrelationship between positive and negative emotions and how such distinctions are constructed and historically situated offers a new vantage point from which to interrogate conceptions of what constitutes pleasure and who is afforded well-being and happiness in the past as well as in the present day.

in Positive emotions in early modern literature and culture