The Work Of The Heart Martha Mmhave Blauvelt Analysis

1444 Words 6 Pages
Martha Tomhave Blauvelt, in her book The Work of the Heart: Young Women and Emotion, 1780-1830, proclaims that “we need more useful conceptual tools to understand history as men and women actually experienced it.”i Indeed, Blauvelt 's book is an attempt to forge these tools through a meticulous examination of the diaries of young women in America at the turn of the nineteenth century in the hopes of understanding how these women constructed and expressed their emotions. She employs the work of two sociologists as the theoretical apparatuses of the book: first, Arlie Russell Hochschild 's idea of emotion as work, something which requires an active effort to adhere to the rules dictating how one is supposed to feel in a given situation.ii Second, …show more content…
Instead, we must listen to historian Kaspar von Greyerz in his acknowledgement of Gabriel Jancke 's reconceptualization of ego-documents: “to see them not so much as a witness to the rise of Western individualism and the increasing autonomy of the self, but rather as texts documenting, strengthening and constructing social relationships.”xv To call these texts “ego-documents” is, then, an inappropriate term, for they tell us far more about others than they do about the writer. Indeed, this idea of these types of texts seems far more coherent with the excellent work in Blauvelt 's book. Blauvelt shows us how young women used diaries to prepare themselves for interactions with others; all attempts at understanding the self are ultimately for this purpose. The self is a fluid construct, ever changing based on the context of each emotional performance. It is also contradictory: individuals perform different roles in different situations, based on the expected emotional rules, which were often overlapping and conflicting.xvi The task of the historian is not, then, to attempt to understand the “self” of our historical subjects – for that is an impossible task – but rather to examine how and why these subjects acted upon their own understandings of themselves. History “as men and women actually experienced it” is, then, exactly that: experiences, not feelings. We mine diaries and journals to bridge the gap between backstage and front stage performances; the construction self is a dialectic process that internalizes contradiction as it develops – we must reveal those contradictions in all their nuances. If “all history is ... emotion history,” as Andrew Burstein claims, and all emotion is

Related Documents