The French Revolution, the end of World War II, the death of Princess Diana - all events in history characterised by towering emotion. 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?
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.
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.
Industry partners will include the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), ABC TV and WA Opera. Academics from the Universities of Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Queensland will also be involved and international investigators are joining the Centre from Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, and London and Newcastle in the UK.
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