George Mason University

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Mason to host conference on history of emotions

May 14, 2018   /   by John Hollis

George Mason University will host the History of Emotions Conference when scholars from around the world convene at the Johnson Center on the Fairfax Campus June 1-2.

The conference will feature roughly 60 scholars who will examine major issues in the field of the history of emotions in periodization, relevant theory and interdisciplinarity, comparative approaches, teaching and public outreach.

The goal is to create a virtual organization working on the history of emotions in North America, as well as encourage greater global collaboration on the subject, said Mason’s Peter Stearns, the University Professor and provost emeritus serving as one of the conference organizers along with Weber State University’s Susan Matt.

“The hope is to encourage greater collaboration so that more people know about what’s going on in the field,” Stearns said. “It’s a reasonably significant goal, and I think it’s achievable.”

Emotions often define individuals, communities and entire nations, so understanding them and how they evolve over time is critical, he said.

Some of the many confirmed speakers looking to do just that include Duke University’s William Reddy, University of Quebec at Montreal’s Piroska Nagy and New York University’s David Konstan.

There have been previous gatherings in Britain, Germany, Australia and elsewhere, but this is believed to be the first in North America. Previous conferences have tended to be disproportionately Western focused, Stearns said. This year’s symposium, which is being supported by the Australian-based Society for the History of Emotions, will include several sessions on Asia.

Presenters during the conference will cover various regions, time periods and topics, including interdisciplinary conversations covering literature, philosophy, architecture, international relations and other topics. Those in the audience will be encouraged to take part in the discussions, with additional informal exchanges to follow.