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The French Revolution, the end of World War II, the death of Princess Diana - all events in history characterised by towering emotion.
But are the same emotions felt by people across the globe and across the centuries? How do emotions change over time? To what extent do emotions influence social, political and economic development?
How does our heritage from the medieval and early modern period underpin modern Australian emotional culture - our music, art, literature and theatre?
These big questions have led to the largest ever research grant to the humanities in Australia for a seven-year international collaboration to investigate the history of emotions.
The Australian Research Council's Centre for Excellence in the History of Emotions is headquartered at UWA - a $24.5 million coup for the School of Humanities. With collaborating institutions and industry partners contributing more than $6 million, the total is more than $31 million.
This compares with the ARC's previous biggest humanities grant of $7 million to the Queensland University of Technology for research into creative industry a few years ago. Six years ago, the ARC awarded UWA $1.6 million to host the Network for Early European Research (NEER) over five years.
It was the multi-disciplinary collaborations formed through NEER that helped to develop UWA's bid for this huge cross-disciplinary Centre. It will create many new roles over seven years, and cement Australia's place at the top of research in medieval and early modern studies.
The Centre for the History of Emotions will focus on European emotional ideas and experiences from 1100 to 1800. Australians still engage closely with pre-modern emotions, especially through creative arts: the music of Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart, the theatre of Shakespeare, the literature and mythology associated with King Arthur.
This is where researchers can start to examine continuities and discontinuities between modern and pre-modern emotions and emotional responses.
"Emotions are fundamental to individual and social well-being, and understanding their history, origins and changes over time and how they vary between individuals and mass emotions has a lot to tell us about who we are today and how we react to social, political, environmental and other modern day challenges," said Winthrop Professor Susan Broomhall, deputy director of the new Centre, which will start work at the beginning of next year.
The Centre's director, Winthrop Professor Philippa Maddern, is in Europe, negotiating with partners and collaborators, one of which is the Globe Theatre in London.
"Our research activities will be designed with practical knowledge transfer in mind, working with creative arts industries and we hope that the Globe will become another of our partners," Professor Broomhall said.
Other industry partners are the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), ABC TV and WA Opera.
The Centre's research will be conducted and presented through three major performance/ exhibition events: a Shakespearean drama production at Australia's only replica Jacobean theatre, UWA's New Fortune; a Baroque opera in 2015 (partnered by WA Opera); and a major exhibition of Australia's relevant pre-modern art holdings in 2016-17 (partnered by the NGV). Part of UWA's contribution to the Centre will be the refurbishment of the New Fortune Theatre.
"The Centre will have practitioners-in-residence and vice-versa," said Professor Broomhall. "Our researchers will go out into industry and work with them."
Allied with the practical approach, the Centre will pioneer new methods of interdisciplinary research called collaboratories: innovative communication events at which, unlike usual symposia, research will be produced - not just reported - through intensive exchanges of disciplinary approaches, theories, methods and findings.
Four main research programs will form the framework of the Centre's work.
Meanings, a program to determine how emotions have been identified, described and expressed through intellectual, literary and social practices in Europe 1100 to 1800, will be led by UWA's Professor Bob White, an internationally renowned scholar of Shakespeare and early modern English literature and drama.
Change will be led by Professor David Lemmings from the University of Adelaide. The program will investigate the drivers of emotional changes in society and the power of collective emotions to produce major cultural, social, political and economic change.
UWA's Professor Jane Davidson, an outstanding creative practitioner and musicologist, will lead the Performance program, to interrogate how emotions were performed and expressed in pre-modern times. Her group will use reflective performances to enhance the understanding of how pre-modern performers and artists constructed and expressed emotion.
The fourth and final program leader is Professor Stephanie Trigg from the University of Melbourne, whose program, Shaping the Modern, will explore Europe's legacy for emotional understandings and practices in Australia today.
Professor Yasmin Haskell, UWA's Cassamarca Foundation Chair in Latin Humanism, is one of four free-floating chief investigators, the others based at the universities of Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland.
International investigators are joining the Centre from Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, and London and Newcastle in the UK.
Professor Haskell said the Centre's research would include addressing mental health problems, bringing in practitioners and researchers from the disciplines of psychology (including UWA's Professor Colin MacLeod, Director of the new Elizabeth Rutherford Memorial Centre for the Advancement of Research into Emotion), psychiatry and population health.
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