From Kirkus Reviews
From Vikings to valentines, crimes to dinner invitations, Miller (Law/University of Michigan) here explores the mercurial history of the emotions, attitudes, values, and behaviors associated with honor--its defense, loss, survival, and display- -drawing on evidence from the Greek epics and Icelandic sagas to contemporary horror movies. Miller (a self-described ``social constructionist'') traces the sources of such uncomfortable emotions as shame and humiliation to ancient and subtle codes of honor that still survive today. Contemporary exchanges, however banal, he says, involve the same issues of prestige, self-esteem, reciprocity, and violence as did those in primitive societies, although modern manifestations are often internalized and psychological. Miller finds reciprocity to be a central concept in humiliation, involving not only the appropriate responses to gifts and hospitality, however unwanted, but also--on the dark side--retribution, paying back, maintaining face, and shaming. The author offers useful and precise distinctions between shame and humiliation, as well as between the various strategies used to avoid them--assuming the mantle of humility or indifference, for instance, or embracing and enduring humiliation like Dostoyevsky's Underground Man. Miller's larger purpose seems to be to dispute the universality of emotional expression: Some emotions, he claims, produce ``predictable somatic displays'' that can lead to a belief in a universal vocabulary of emotional expression--but, in fact, these expressions should be interpreted according to the different periods and cultures in which they arise. Translating emotions over time and across cultures is Miller's major methodological challenge--and he meets it with ranging and learned references, a wry and unpretentious style, and a genuine respect for the power of those ancient, forgotten sources on which modern social exchange depends. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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"In an illuminating and darkly intelligent study, Miller has revealed humiliation as the closet dominatrix she is, an emotion whose power to discipline us makes the world go round. . . . Miller makes his pages blaze and roar by throwing another handful of hollow complacencies upon the fire. . . . The five essays making up this book are about the persistence of the norm of reciprocity in our daily lives, about the possibility of tracking emotions across time and culture, and about the ways in which shame and envy and especially humiliation sustain 'cultures of honor' to this day."—Speculum
"Translating emotions over time and across cultures is Miller's major methodological challenge—and he meets it with ranging and learned references, a wry and unpretentious style, and a genuine respect for the power of those ancient, forgotten sources on which modern social exchange depends."—Kirkus Reviews
"Miller deploys the resources of a host of disparate disciplines in order to reveal the remarkable richness of certain emotional experiences—emotions that help shape the words and actions of human beings when they perform the immensely complex work ofmaintaining the social worlds that they construct, and which help construct them. In doing so, he has written a unique and valuable book."—Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities