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The Secret History of Emotion: From Aristotle's Rhetoric to Modern Brain Science Kindle Edition

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Length: 204 pages

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Editorial Reviews


The Secret History of Emotion is a masterful revisionist account of the role of passion in the Western tradition. Daniel Gross describes the radical transformation of a public rhetorical conception of emotion into an internalized psychological view that has become the generally accepted physiological theory of emotional states. The Secret History of Emotion presents an incisive narrative argument that will surely inspire more reevaluations of our contemporary genealogies of affects.”--Steven Mailloux, University of California, Irvine

(Steven Mailloux 2006-01-04)

“With The Secret History of Emotion, Daniel Gross has achieved what I thought impossible: he compresses into these pages a compelling history of emotion from Aristotle to today. His argument that there exists a great tradition of understanding the emotions as a psychosocial phenomenon is cogent, coherent, and interesting from beginning to end. This is a remarkable book.”--David Konstan, Brown University

(David Konstan 2006-01-04)

“Daniel Gross’s The Secret History of Emotion is a brilliant example of the newest new rhetoric. Gross takes on an uncritical, ahistorical, biologically justified theory of the emotions, and shows how partial and impoverished is such a representation. He offers an exhilaratingly critical intellectual history of the passions in a tightly argued engagement that reveals new possibilities for invention, for political engagement in the present and future. Pointing to the turn from seventeenth-century political rhetoric to eighteenth-century psychology, Gross’s argument launches a powerful critique of those who would naturalize the passions, offering instead a historically grounded, critical, theoretically astute, and above all social account of the emotions. His new rhetoric of the passions with admirable brevity demolishes banal received ideas that limit the imagination of social change.”--Page duBois, University of California, San Diego
(Page duBois 2006-01-04)

“Gross's deft and remarkable book should be required reading for neurobiologists and, of course, for humanists of every school. Gross reminds us that emotions are rarely private. Most feelings, rational or ‘irrational,’ and all expressions of feeling, are obviously and irreducibly social.”--Stephen Pender, Times Literary Supplement

(Stephen Pender Times Literary Supplement)

"If indeed Aristotle was correct to propose that rhetoric is the art of finding the available means of persuasion, Daniel M. Gross has done an excellent job of making such means available in his new study of emotion. . . . Gross is a splendid writer--insightful and moving. This text is accessible, even for those unfamiliar with affect theory, and, in fact, it may be the perfect place to start your reading if you are interested in the history of emotion and how affect theory might enrich your own work."
(David Rogers American Book Review)

From the Inside Flap

Princess Diana’s death was a tragedy that provoked mourning across the globe; the death of a homeless person, more often than not, is met with apathy. How can we account for this uneven distribution of emotion? Can it simply be explained by the prevailing scientific understanding? Uncovering a rich tradition beginning with Aristotle, The Secret History of Emotion offers a counterpoint to the way we generally understand emotions today.
Through a radical rereading of Aristotle, Seneca, Thomas Hobbes, Sarah Fielding, and Judith Butler, among others, Daniel M. Gross reveals a persistent intellectual current that considers emotions as psychosocial phenomena. In Gross’s historical analysis of emotion, Aristotle and Hobbes’s rhetoric show that our passions do not stem from some inherent, universal nature of men and women, but rather are conditioned by power relations and social hierarchies. He follows up with consideration of how political passions are distributed to some people but not to others using the Roman Stoics as a guide. Hume and contemporary theorists like Judith Butler, meanwhile, explain to us how psyches are shaped by power. To supplement his argument, Gross also provides a history and critique of the dominant modern view of emotions, expressed in Darwinism and neurobiology, in which they are considered organic, personal feelings independent of social circumstances.
The result is a convincing work that rescues the study of the passions from science and returns it to the humanities and the art of rhetoric.


Product Details

  • File Size: 1791 KB
  • Print Length: 204 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 15, 2008)
  • Publication Date: November 15, 2008
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001T4YWB4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,103,582 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David E. Beard on September 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
As printed in Rhetoric Society Quarterly, the following review represents a reading of the text for its actual argument, assessing the validity of the claims advanced in the text both historically and in terms of contemporary theory. Whatever the merits of other customer reviews, I think it important to address the book as written, rather than as redescribed. This is an excellent book.
. . .

Daniel Gross's Secret History of Emotion represents all that work in rhetoric
can be. It embraces rhetoric as the bridging interdiscipline connecting
research into social phenomena, aesthetic and literary culture, epistemology,
and politics. Gross interprets the rhetorical tradition broadly: he reads
10Hobbes as thoroughly as Hume; Seneca as thoroughly as Sarah Fielding.
As such, this text exemplifies the interdisciplinary power of rhetoric.
Gross focuses his interdisciplinary lens on ``emotion,'' and the ``secret
history'' here is a secret in plain sight. All the while that the dominant under-
standing of emotion has been constructed from a psychophysiological
15perspective, there have been a series of texts that offer an alternative under-
standing of emotion: the rhetorical tradition. Broadly, Gross demonstrates
the rich history of rhetorical discussions of emotion as social phenomenon
until the Modern period. At the Cartesian turn, more or less, emotion is
converted into a ``hardwired'' (8) feature of the brain.
20Having articulated this alternative tradition, Gross uses the rhetorical
perspective to reread ``the emotional complex of modernity'' (8).
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Christine M. Skolnik on September 12, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
*The Secret History of Emotion* by Daniel M. Gross is a remarkably intelligent and thoroughly researched book that impressed not only this reader but editors and peer reviewers employed by the University of Chicago. Though no one would characterize the work as uncontroversial, Gross's thesis is brilliantly supported by extensive primary historical research as well as contemporary rhetorical and critical theory. Gross is provoked by the assumption of "universal emotion," and a narrow slice of neuroscientific research that elides the social contexts of emotional response. His work is profoundly empirical not only in the fact that it accords with the observations of paradigmatic early empiricists Francis Bacon and John Locke, and the working assumptions of contemporary psychology/psychiatry, but primarily because it is such a careful, responsible, and thoroughly professional study of the subject matter.

Though Gross does not broadly engage brain science (beyond the work that provokes his thesis), much evidence can be found in the neuroscientific literature to corroborate his claim that the emotions are modulated by rhetorical forces. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for affective disorders such as depression, OCD, and other anxiety disorders clearly shows that persuasive "talk therapy" changes the minds and the brains of research subjects. The fact that Gross does not cite this work is not a limitation of his work, however. His focus is on broader rhetorical contexts and effects.

A previous review refers to Gross's "feel good . . . rationalism." Gross is not a rationalist, nor does his work iterate "feel-good" sentiments.
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13 of 25 people found the following review helpful By James D. Williams on September 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
Cast in the the form of "historical revisionism," this work purports to provide a "psychosocial" investigation of emotion from Aristotle to modern times. As is fairly common among texts that take a revisionist stance, THE SECRET HISTORY OF EMOTIONS displays the logical fallacy of alleged certainty based on readings/intepretations of various works, such as Aristotle's Techne Rhetorike, that are difficult if not impossible to support. Dismissing work in the neurosciences that has shown the biological basis of emotions, Gross argues that emotions are linked to socio-cultural phenomena and thus are not part of our evolutionary heritage and human nature. Indeed, he denies the existence of human nature. The fact that humans, regardless of time and place, cry when sad, laugh when happy, seek revenge against those who wrong them, and love their children seems to have escaped the author's notice. I would submit that the anti-scientism that this work displays is dangerous, for it communicates the idea that feel-good, unverifiable rationalism offers a more accurate understanding of the world than empiricism. And one need only read Pinker's Blank Slate to see the problems inherent in a denial of human nature.
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