Civility and Sentiment: Courts and Cities in the Formation of Early Modern Emotions

Friday 15 February 2019, 2pm – 4pm

A Lecture by Brian Cowan (McGill)

Civility and sentiment are often thought to be incompatible styles of emotional experience, and they were indeed products of very different cultural traditions, but it is more helpful to understand them as parallel processes of emotion formation rather than as cultures inexorably opposed to one another. The emergence of a culture of politeness offers perhaps the best means of reassessing the relationship between civility and sentiment in the early modern age. The ideals of politeness emerged as a challenge to the predominant models of courtly civility that predominated elite culture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and they were better suited for the increasingly complex forms of sociability that emerged in the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Politeness provided an emotional code fit for an emergent bourgeois public sphere. A new emotional history of politeness illuminates both the correspondences and the ruptures between the culture of civility described by Elias and the new forms of sociability that comprised Habermas’s public sphere.


Friday 15 February 2019, 2pm – 4pm

Pavillon Hubert-Aquin, salle A-6290,
1255 rue Saint-Denis, Montréal

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