|Conflict – Agreement – Affection. Concepts and Evaluations of Emotions in Ancient Rural Societies.|
|The history of emotions is closely connected to the analysis of its sources. Recent studies mostly screened this topic through literally narratives and focussed on bourgeois lifestyles. In contrast, concepts of emotions in rural societies, their implementation and their importance for coping with daily life strategies are still disregarded.
This paper focuses the handling of emotions of the non-bourgeois population in non-literally contexts in non-urban area. It covers the period from the late 18th to the early 19th century – an epoch in which important processes of transformation to a modern society took place.
Emotions are anchored in discourses and codes. Sources for the analysis are mainly records from justice, administration departments and rural dominions: testimonies, petitions and letters, in which harm, calumniations and rumours were negotiated.
“Bad” emotions were often shown in the context of conflictual communication structure as struggles about goods, money and honour. They deal with anger, fear for one’s existence, envy, abasement and melancholia (that could even lead to suicide) – caused by debts, forced sales, controversies on heritage, (verbal) injuries, disputs and property offences.
But there are also indications of “good” emotions – e.g. in almost poetical letters from a poor soldier sent to the court: His “dearest”, a maidservant, should be punished for having another illegitimate child. Therefore he applied – as did other grooms as well – for a cancellation of the penalty and agreed to accept it instead of her. These records mostly refer to adultery, illegitimate pregnancy and fornification.
This paper is result of a research project which deals with the changes and challenges in (pre)modern rural society (1763-1914). The data base on an amount of records concerning five manors in ancient Saxony.
Emotions are an indication of self-perception and identity. The paper asks for their significance in communication processes and their (material) value – strictly linked with the concepts of honour. It reflects the linguistic as well as non-verbal signs of emotions as a communicative code and considers in consequence the relations of emotions with bodies and / or language.