Sharing Contagion: Sympathetic Curiosity and Social Emotion Regulation in Joanna Baillie’s De Monfort

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In her 1798 “Introductory Discourse,” Joanna Baillie argues that sympathetic curiosity is what makes us care about others in the world. In contemporary parlance, Baillie wants to use sympathetic curiosity for “emotion regulation,” a concept used in socio-cognitive psychology and neuroscience. In this essay, we analyze Baillie’s play De Monfort to critique models of emotion regulation by 1) positioning sympathetic curiosity as a tool for emotional education, 2) disentangling affect, emotion, and cognition, and 3) emphasizing the social in the management of emotion. Ultimately, we consider how the concept of emotion regulation informs conversations in affect studies.

Sharing Contagion: Sympathetic Curiosity and Social Emotion Regulation in Joanna Baillie’s De Monfort

1.        In her 1798 “Introductory Discourse,” Joanna Baillie argues that sympathetic curiosity is what makes people care about others in the world. Given this innate “propensity,” her goal is to harness it to teach audiences how to “handle” the passions. In contemporary parlance, Baillie wants to use sympathetic curiosity for “emotion regulation,” a concept used in socio-cognitive psychology and neuroscience. In this essay, we consider how conversations in affect studies could inform the concept of emotion regulation. In doing so, we move beyond a conversation about what affect is to a conversation about how it functions. As Seigworth and Gregg ask, “how does a body . . . come to shift its affections (its being-affected) into action (capacity to affect)?” (2). [1]  Before analyzing Bailie’s play De Montfort (1798) to critique models of emotion regulation, we provide context for the rationale of this project by 1) positioning sympathetic curiosity as a tool for emotional education, 2) disentangling affect, emotion, and cognition, and 3) exploring the social in the management of emotion. Ultimately, we model an ethical, interdisciplinary approach and champion its value for integrated conversations among the humanities and the sciences. The partnership we developed (as a literary historian and a cognitive psychologist) pursues what we call “ethical interdisciplinarity”—interdisciplinary partnerships that allow scholars to learn with one another rather than to learn about each other in isolation.

2.        We were initially inspired by the model of the cognitive humanities and Lisa Zunshine’s “cognitive cultural project,” which she describes as understanding “the evolving relationship between two immensely complex historically situated systems—the human mind and cultural artifacts” (“Introduction” 3). Thus far, this relationship has been mostly unidirectional with cognitive psychology applied to literary studies rather than literary studies inspiring work in the cognitive sciences. [2]  We imagine scholarly exchanges that are not simply “sciences saving the humanities,” but are instead bi- or multi- directional exchanges that challenge and push the work of all disciplines. Indeed, Zunshine advises “a student of cognitive cultural studies would thus do well to think of herself as a bricoleur who reaches out for the best mix of insights that cognitive theory as a whole has to offer without worrying about blurring lines between its various domains” (“Introduction” 3).

3.        More recently, our work has been informed by the research and methods used in the emerging field of cognitive literary science (CLSci). [3]  As defined by Burke and Troscianko, in this field work unfolds in a variety of ways such that, “literary scholars draw on some aspect of cognitive science to offer a new viewpoint on literature . . . literary scholars use literary materials or conceptual frameworks to contribute to cognitive-scientific debates . . . [or] cognitive scientists engage with literature and literary-critical methods to shed light on questions in their home discipline and/or those in literary studies” (4). We find much to value in this field, especially its diversity of approaches, although the resultant complication is that there is a lot of ground to cover in each new project. Burke and Troscianko note, “sceptics may say that this heterogeneity is the field’s fatal flaw, but it must also be its forte” (8).

4.        Both the cognitive humanities and CLSci fields, then, celebrate a diverse, messy interchange of ideas; we agree with this vision given that our path to affect studies has been different from others in the field. We approach conversations about “the general turn to affect,” with a freedom to explore seemingly disparate positions for important points of intersection (Leys 434) and have discovered important moments of convergence among them. We argue that exploring how Baillie’s theory of sympathetic curiosity is portrayed in the sibling relationship in De Monfort informs modern cognitive studies of social affective interactions, enriching an understanding of how people learn to regulate emotion together. This interdisciplinary approach has the potential to reimagine how scholars read Baillie and to shape future investigations of social emotion regulation (SER). [4] 

Sympathetic Curiosity: Master Instructor

5.        Baillie is considered one of the most important playwrights of the British Romantic era. She published her 1798 Plays on the Passions anonymously to great acclaim. Her intentions were to continue to publish both tragedies and comedies focused on the primary passions and their dangers if left unchecked. Baillie wanted her plays to be performed, and, initially, when her first book of the plays on the passions appeared, it seemed likely that they would go on to great commercial and theatrical success. [5]  Kucich argues that the end of the eighteenth century offered women dramatists the opportunity to write plays that would “reinvigorate not only theatrical life but the entire national literature” (25). He notes that the end of the eighteenth century gave women “an unprecedented prominence in drama” despite concerns about the place and influence of women on it and argues that women writers like Joanna Baillie, Jane West, and Mary Russell Mitford were attracted to historiography and the historical drama as a genre that could “infuse” “the dynamics of justice and mercy in the national politics of the present” (24, 23). [6]  Indeed, as Cox indicates in his review of Romantic drama, “From Baillie to Hemans, women are in fact central to the drama of the period,” noting that “Baillie . . . was the key tragedian of the day” (4). If only moderately successful at having her plays performed, Baillie was, even in her own time, considered to be a giant of the genre.

6.        Baillie believed dramatic literary works like De Monfort moved readers and allowed her audiences to see the evolution and effects of hatred on the body and the mind of its titular character while being free from the passion itself. This experience would offer them insight about the passions and how to avoid being overcome by them. As she wrote in the “Introductory Discourse,” “the characters of the drama must speak directly for themselves” (82). Baillie argued that in drama audiences look for “creatures like ourselves” who offer them “characteristick [sic] truth,” making them “intoxicated with it.” A good play “convinces” viewers “of the author’s great knowledge of the human heart” (“Introductory Discourse” 82). Baillie is particularly invested in drama, as she thinks it is the most direct form of literary engagement for an audience. But she is also careful to provide a framework within which drama has maximal impact. Characters should not be idealized and unrealistically heroic; they should speak for themselves, and drama should focus on the “heart” of human nature rather than be mired down in distractions of spectacle. Baillie anticipates what psychological research on the impact of narrative has identified as the importance of transportation (of an audience into the narrative) and the factors that heighten its impact. By transporting, the audience can be persuaded to change existing belief systems. [7] 

7.        Baillie’s “Introductory Discourse” is astute in its generic understanding and in its assessment of the aesthetic and pedagogical value of the theater. Baillie anchors this piece on the concept she calls “sympathetic curiosity,” using it to explore what she considers people’s desire to learn about themselves through others. She argues that everyone has a “propensity” to be curious about the spectacle of the passions and also to have innate sympathy when witnessing the suffering of others, suggesting, “from that strong sympathy which most creatures, but humans above all, feel for others of their kind, nothing has become so much an object of man’s curiosity as himself” (67). People are curious about many things, but at the foundation, their curiosity and empathy lie in observing and learning from others like themselves. They are intrigued about others’ quotidian dramas, and that curiosity opens them up to “self-knowledge”: “it is only from creatures like ourselves that we feel, and therefore only from creatures like ourselves that we receive instruction” (87).

8.        The curiosity to observe in intimate detail others’ experiences, whether they are painful or joyful, is tempered by the animation of sympathy. Though it is a spring of potential good, sympathetic curiosity is not inherently good or evil. Sympathetic curiosity, as Baillie argues, must be directed; it must be given proper management, care, and instruction. Permitting audiences to watch the evolution of the primary passions on stage while not being affected by them directly allows Baillie to harness their sympathetic curiosity so that they learn from, rather than merely enjoy, the spectacle of others’ suffering, perhaps in a way no other experience can provide: “In examining others we know ourselves. With limbs untorn, with head unsmitten, with senses unimpaired by despair, we know what we ourselves might have been on the rack, on the scaffold, and in the most afflicting circumstances of distress.” Ultimately, this knowledge of self through and by others allows people to “becom[e] more just, more merciful, more compassionate” (“Introductory Discourse” 74). Sympathetic curiosity makes them receptive to their own struggles and to the suffering of others.

9.        In constructing her ideas of sympathetic curiosity and highlighting it as a human “propensity” Baillie is clearly influenced by and connected to a complex and long-standing conversation about sympathy, in particular to the ideas of David Hume in his Treatise of Human Nature (1739–40) and Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). [8]  In particular their work may have been of interest given their goals to make scientific the study of sympathy (Broadie 151, Lobis 291–92). While there are differences in how Hume and Smith ultimately define the mechanism of sympathy, both connect its relevance to the positive workings of human social interactions and justice. Specifically, Frazer notes, “Hume most often uses the word sympathy to refer to a specific faculty of emotional communication” (41). For Hume this emotional communication operates as the spectator reads external signs and gestures on another’s body and face and then infers that these signs and gestures arise from the effect of an emotion (Frazer 41). In essence, according to Hume, the impression of a passion in another becomes an idea of the passion in the spectator that is ultimately “enlivened” so that the spectator feels some of the passion herself (Broadie 173, Frazer 41). In Hume we see the precursors to contemporary discussions of how people “read” emotion in others, a process that is now called Theory of Mind (ToM) or Mind Reading. Hume’s conception of sympathy as an emotional communicator provides a stepping-stone for Baillie’s use of sympathetic curiosity as an instructor.

10.        The intricate complexities of the functions of sympathy for Hume and Smith are beyond the scope of this essay, but we pause here to focus on two areas that intersect with Baillie’s concept of sympathy curiosity. First, for both Hume and Smith, sympathy operates differently when the spectator feels more connected to the actor. In Hume’s case he discusses the idea of resemblance, e.g., nationality, race, etc., (Broadie 173–74) while Smith focuses on the closeness of relationships (Frazer 100). The intensity of the passion felt by the spectator may increase or judgments of propriety may be biased. In both cases the take away is that sympathy is not uniformly applied to all people or situations. Similarly, we see Baillie contend with uneven activations of sympathetic curiosity as she argues that audiences are more compelled by imperfect characters that seem more like them than historical, perfect, and distant heroes. She argues that “the transactions of men become interesting to us only as we are made acquainted with men themselves” (“Introductory Discourse 76). Baillie argues that emotional lessons will be more memorable if they are conveyed using accounts of “men subject to like weaknesses and passions with ourselves” (“Introductory Discourse” 77). Overall then, attention to the similarity between spectator and actor matter in all these explanations of the process of sympathy.

11.        In addition to acknowledging that sympathy’s uneven activation could impact learning, Baillie also stresses that learning via sympathetic curiosity happens because the spectator is not in the throes on the passion itself. This fits with Hume’s and Smith’s ideas that sympathy can only evoke an echo of the emotion felt by the actor in the spectator. In describing Smith’s process of sympathy Frazer emphasizes that “it is essential to Smith’s theory that sympathy can never be perfect” because if the spectator sympathized perfectly, i.e., felt the emotion in exactly the same way, she would not have “the distance necessary for an appraisal of the actor’s reactions to his situation” (Frazer 101). Our reading of Hume also suggests that the intensity of an emotion for the spectator would be less than the emotion felt by the actor. This is because for Hume sympathy for the actor is conveyed as an idea in the spectator rather than as an impression. This difference matters because “an impression has greater liveliness, forcefulness, or vivacity” than an idea (Broadie 152). In other words, in all of these conceptions of the function of sympathy some distance between the felt emotion of the actor and the felt emotion of the spectator is unavoidable and necessary.

12.        Finally, for our purposes, situations are a key component in the social elements of the transmission of sympathy. As Smith argues, “sympathy, therefore, does not arise so much from the view of the passion, as from that of the situation which excites it” (16). The primacy of situation is an important aspect of Baillie’s experiment of recreating the evolution of a passion across time on stage: the activation of the spectator’s imagination allows her to “put” herself “in his case” (Smith 16). It is this act of imagining oneself “on the rack” that Baillie believes provides the capacity for emotional instruction.

13.        As previously stated, we are using the methods of the cognitive humanities and CLSci to demonstrate how Baillie’s experiment with Plays on the Passions can inform contemporary models of social emotion regulation. Baillie’s work seems particularly well-suited for such an examination because while Hume and Smith explore the ways that sympathy might impact behavior, Baillie’s explicit goal was to use sympathetic curiosity to educate the audience about how to modify their emotions. In addition, what makes Baillie’s examination of the passions compelling for an interdisciplinary investigation is that as a dramatist she was also immersed in scientific conversations of the day, especially those that examined the nature of emotion and its expression. While we do not with certainty know if Baillie knew the work of Charles Bell directly, we see his ideas about the expression of emotion as grounded in the body (as opposed to just the face) reflected in her detailed stage directions which paint clear pictures of shaking fists, collapsing bodies, and expanding/contracting chests. As Dwyer argues, Baillie’s series of plays were certainly influenced by the work of her uncles, Doctors John and William Hunter, and by the development of what Hume, Smith, Dugald Stewart, and others called “the science of man.” If her uncles and other eminent scientists of the day were focusing on anatomy and physiology, so was Baillie: “Writing in the wake of the scientific revolution and operating within a broad psychosocial framework, Baillie sought to stage the external anatomy of passion and imagine its unseen psychological depths” (Dwyer 32). Indeed, Baillie understood that “there is perhaps, no employment which the human mind will with so much avidity pursue, as the discovery of concealed passion, as the tracing [sic] the varieties of a perturbed soul” (“Introductory Discourse” 73).

14.        Baillie wanted more than simply to show or display a passion. She was invested in distilling primal passions, what she called “the most powerful passions,” to offer a classification of their development. In doing so, she allows others to observe and learn from their evolution, to understand how to avoid them in their own lives, and to recognize the moments of failure to control them as exhibited by the protagonists in the throes of them (“Introductory Discourse” 92). In other words, Baillie was invested in “the empirical investigations of the body as well as the mind and its passions” (Dwyer 32). As such, her plays allowed not only for the charting of the evolution of a passion, but also for recognition that self-knowledge is intricately informed by and happens in relation to others. We learn because we observe others, think about them, think about us, and think about us and them all at the same time. [9] 

15.        An interdisciplinary consideration of Baillie’s theory of sympathetic curiosity suggests a natural connection to modern psychological and neuroscientific conversations about emotion expression and regulation. Baillie’s desire to dissect the evolution of an emotion over its time course, to illustrate its impact on the body and mind, and to engage the audience’s attention to a character’s wrestling with an emotion all speak to the ongoing research of affect scientists. Baillie’s contention that “tracing the progress of passion points out to us those stages in the approach of the enemy, when he might have been combatted most successfully” (emphasis ours) suggests that by engaging the audience’s sympathetic curiosity, her Plays on the Passions work to inform viewers’ understanding of emotion regulation and models of how emotion regulation skills develop (“Introductory Discourse” 94). In particular, her attention to the interactions amongst key characters in her plays indicates her valuation of how these social relationships matter in the managing of emotions.

The Messiness of Affect, Emotion, and Cognition

16.        One of the challenges in cross-disciplinary conversations is terminology; how “emotion” and “affect” are defined or understood creates the potential for misunderstanding. As historian Dixon reminds us about the etymology of emotion, this word is vexed with overlaying theoretical debates that reflect an evolution from passions to affections to the more “sanitized” notion of emotion that is now in common parlance. [10]  We are entering this conversation using Mulligan and Scherer’s interdisciplinary conception of “a working definition of emotion.” As they argue, “There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of emotion in any of the disciplines that study this phenomenon. This fact leads to endless debates and hampers the cumulative progress of research. It also constitutes a major impediment to interdisciplinary dialogue and research collaboration” (345). [11]  The multiplicity of conceptions of affect and emotion is echoed in affect studies. As Seigworth and Gregg argue, “there can only ever be infinitely multiple iterations of affect and theories of affect” (3–4). Despite the differences across these conceptions of emotion and its appraisal, it is possible to identify points of contact across the competing models and to synthesize aspects considered in some of these research programs that are not under investigation in others. The strength in the diversity of research on emotion is that we can hold these different models up next to one another, distill their relevant features, and develop an operational definition of emotion that allows for continued and novel interrogation. Moreover, because we take an interdisciplinary approach, we are leveraging aspects of these models that converge with conversations in historical and literary criticism. Doing so allows us to bring to bear the combined thinking about the complex notion of emotion across diverse perspectives, historical periods, and approaches. To be clear then, the purpose of this essay is not to provide a new, overarching definition of emotion itself but to consider how we can use Baillie’s literary experiment to critique contemporary models of the process of regulating emotional experience. That is, we are focused on how emotions may be managed, not of what they are made.

17.        In this essay, we will reserve the word emotion for affect that has been appraised. What we mean by “appraised affect” (i.e., emotion) is the activation of affect that has become conscious which allows a person to focus on the portion of affect that she can “act upon” (i.e., regulate). [12]  In other words, in order to study the process of emotion regulation, we must necessarily focus on the portion of emotional experience that can be reflected upon and, perhaps, modified. This definition does not deny that residual (un-appraised) affect remains and influences thought and behavior; un-appraised affect still impacts people’s experience, even if they cannot name it. [13]  As affect theorists Seigworth and Gregg remind us, “In practice, then, affect and cognition are never fully separable—if for no other reason than that thought is itself a body, embodied” (2–3). So, the uncontrollable, unconscious function of emotion is a vital part of human survival and the human experience. Indeed, philosophers like Nussbaum have argued for the centrality of emotion and its purposeful contributions to human thought and behavior not just as a motivator, but as an essential aspect of how people experience the internal and external world. Nussbaum sees the impact of feeling on human behavior as an inevitable and necessary aspect of human experience—an aspect that should not be “contained” but valued for its contributions to concepts like justice and compassion. As she argues, “Emotions are not just the fuel that powers the psychological mechanism of a reasoning creature, they are parts, highly complex and messy parts, of this creature’s reasoning itself” (3).

18.        Debates about the relationship between affect and cognition harken to eighteenth century conversations about reason and the passions. Specifically, Hume famously argued that, “reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them” (462). As Broadie explains, Hume sees the relation between reason and the passions as one of “mutual dependence” such that “reason without passion does not know where to go and passion without reason does not know how to get there” (178–79). [14]  And in keeping with our notion of emotion as appraised affect, meaning capable of being acted upon, Nazar notes that, “Hume and Smith take moral judgment to be deliberative processes that mobilize both feeling and reason” (23). While the process of emotion regulation is distinct from the larger notion of moral judgment, what we pull from these early discussions is that reason (i.e., cognition) is necessary for feeling (i.e., affect) to be acted upon.

19.        Returning to more contemporary conversations in the realm of affective science, Tomkins’ early conception of affect conceives of a motivational system separate from but intimately tied to the driving of cognitive functioning (i.e., a feedback system): “Feedback and affect are two distinct mechanisms which may operate independent of each other in human beings” (37). [15]  This conception fits both with Hume and Smith’s notion of the relationship between reason and feeling and with Mulligan and Scherer’s contemporary interdisciplinary model that defines emotion as a product of a componential system that includes (among others) a cognitive component and a neurophysiological component (352). [16]  Ultimately, grounding affect and cognition as “separate” but interconnected systems aligns with current cognitive psychological and neuroscientific conceptions of cognition—a brain-based, embodied network comprised of a multitude of independent systems that work interactively and in parallel to influence one another and to generate human thought and behavior. Emotion can have its own un-appraised impact or be appraised and influenced by reason.

20.        Finally, because the play under analysis focuses on hatred, we must also acknowledge and consider the complexity of the relationship among anger, rage, and hatred. Romantic studies has historically focused on grief, terror, and horror (the sublime), especially as tied to the French Revolution and Gothic Studies, but Stauffer has revisited anger as a central and paradoxical emotion during the late eighteenth century and especially after the Terror. [17]  On the one hand, “anger was generally demonized as irrational, destructive rage—as an all but uncontrollable passion visited upon its victims”; on the other hand, anger was seen as related to “authenticity and justice” (Stauffer 4, 11). As Stauffer notes, rage, anger, hatred, and related concepts have murky distinctions in a post-Terror world.

21.        In the “Introductory Discourse,” Baillie distinguishes among these dark emotions, recognizing that hatred is a long-term and long-lasting “passion.” Like Baillie, emotion scientist Ekman also distinguishes between anger and hatred, noting that “Hate: is an enduring state marked by anger towards a person, but not the acts of that person. Unlike anger, fury, or rage, it does not subside. Rather, hate persists over time and is easily called forth by any stimulus” (366). [18]  As noted by Heylen et al., while anger is often conceived of as a “short-lasting emotion,” it can also be “late-blooming” with an “intensity [that] accumulates over a sizable amount of time—the episodes last[ing] longer and reach[ing] their peak relatively late” (175). [19]  Likewise, we situate hate as a long-term, slowly building passion that develops over time and is comprised of individual fits of anger.

22.        While Classical scholars argued that individuals expressing anger and fits of rage were “not a candidate for normal sympathetic response,” Baillie’s project nevertheless intends to engage audiences’ sympathetic curiosity while playing out the rise and fall of hatred in the character of De Monfort (Stauffer 21). Baillie recognizes the potential problems with creating sympathetic curiosity in her audience for someone who is under “a passion so baleful, so unamiable, . . . [and] reprehensible,” but she aspires to show the “pernicious and dangerous nature” of this passion upon the “good gifts” that De Monfort has (“Introductory Discourse” 108). In other words, her goal is to “consider that it is the passion and not the man which is held up to our execration” (“Introductory Discourse” 108). Her experiment with the passions allows her to do so by illustrating the development of hatred over time in a character who is not “decidedly wicked,” allowing audiences to perhaps identify with De Monfort’s demise (“Introductory Discourse” 108).

We Are Who We Use: Constructing Social Emotion Regulation

23.        At the heart of emotion regulation is a tension among physiological, mental, and social influences of emotion and the extent to which that emotion is enacted, decreased, increased, or maintained. In some settings, the expression of a particular emotion is socially acceptable and even evolutionarily beneficial. In others, the expression of that emotion is not sanctioned. The regulation of this unwanted expression is a culturally grounded skill set, learned over time, with decided individual differences. Emotion regulation requires a consideration of how that process is learned and how it could be enhanced.

24.        The foundational and prevailing model of emotion regulation, devised by Gross and his colleagues over the past three decades, is the “process model,” which delineates an arc of emotion and identifies regulation strategies that could effectively disrupt emotional processes at different stages (Gross, “Emotion Regulation” 6). In other words, there are multiple points in time during which emotional experiences can be avoided, modified, or heightened. And, there are different emotion regulation strategies (ERSs) that are more or less effective depending upon when they are used along the arc of the emotional experience. For example, if one is fearful about flying, the ERS “situation selection” could be used by simply avoiding air travel all together; one can “regulate” the emotion of fear by not being in the position to have a fearful experience in the first place. Alternatively, if one is already in the throes of an emotion, then other ERSs would be required. For example, one could decide to fly with a friend (ERS situation modification), listen to music (ERS attentional deployment), learn about how airplanes work (ERS reappraisal), or white-knuckle it (ERS expressive suppression). The upshot of the process model is that successful emotion regulation requires the ability to match the ERS with the temporal emotional circumstance.

25.        Bonnano and Burton argue that some people are better at negotiating this process than others. This “regulatory flexibility” requires the ability to read a room to determine whether emotion expression is warranted (sensitivity to context); the ability to access a range of different regulation strategies (repertoire); and the ability to monitor whether a regulation strategy has been effective (responsiveness to feedback). Still, their model underappreciates the social nature and motivation of emotion regulation. Currently, affective scientists are working to consider how emotion regulation may be impacted by social processes. For example, Schmader and Berry Mendes suggest that emotion regulation may be influenced by our consideration of whether “a certain emotional experience would interfere with one’s social and personal goals” (116). [20] 

26.        Considering the role of the “social” in the modification (i.e., regulation) of emotion is not a new endeavor in moral philosophy. Specifically, in Smith’s conception of sympathy there is a component of interpersonal feedback. As Broadie notes, “the spectator qua moral agent has the ability to affect a change in the person whom he observes by revealing to the person his reaction to him” (211). In other words, the spectator’s approval of the actor (specifically the actor’s emotional display) matters and is capable of regulating the emotional experience of the actor “probably towards conformity with the feelings of the spectator” (Broadie 212). Even the intrapersonal feedback required in Smith’s conception of sympathy has some social aspect to it. That is, an actor must judge “the propriety or merit” of her own emotional acts by taking on the role of an impartial spectator (Broadie 213–14). The impartial spectator is a third person perspective that an individual adopts to determine the “appropriateness” of her behavior in a given situation. The impartial spectator is called upon to avoid the bias that would result in trying to judge one’s own actions. As Welsh notes, “As he [Smith] contemplates the total picture, the figure of the impartial spectator emerges as a means to keep before us the comparisons that need to be made in order to judge ourselves and our actions rightly” (171). So, even when judging their own actions, people are simulating the judgments others would make of them. As Welsh clarifies, “On the whole, friends and the ‘spectator’ whom they begin to embody exert a moderating influence on our passions and rapid responses” (172). The centrality of “approval” in Smith’s conception of sympathy highlights the social nature of behavior modification. It makes sense, then, that contemporary models of emotion regulation would come to consider the role of social pressures and relationships as well.

27.        Indeed, while most cognitive neuroscientific work has considered intrapersonal features of emotion regulation (focus on self), newer research examines interpersonal emotion regulation, or the role others play in the expression and management of emotions. [21]  Zaki and Williams emphasize that interpersonal regulation “may be the rule, not the exception,” suggesting that “individuals often attempt to regulate others’ emotions through empathic, supportive, and prosocial behaviors” (803). Specifically, intrinsic interpersonal regulation occurs when people try to regulate themselves through social contact; extrinsic interpersonal regulation occurs when people try to regulate the emotions of others. A response-dependent process requires that another person respond with supportive feedback; a response-independent process regulates emotion regardless of the feedback received. These distinctions highlight the influence others can have on one’s own regulation. While the use of intrinsic interpersonal regulation and of response-dependent processes makes people vulnerable (i.e., the results of their emotion regulation efforts are “in the hands” of others), there are potentially valuable rewards to their selection.

28.        Given these insights, we could modify Bonnano and Burton’s regulatory flexibility by incorporating social considerations, influenced by long-standing discussions of the social nature of sympathy and feeling. In fact, they anticipated the need for such modifications, arguing that social feedback would reflect cultural values and result in social costs or benefits (603). In thinking about responsiveness to feedback, the success of a regulation strategy might be driven by how those one values or fears have responded. Likewise, context sensitivity and repertoire could be increased by recruiting the resources and aid of others. However, the enhancement of regulatory flexibility through social interactions may also depend upon individual or relational differences (i.e., the intensity and length of a relationship). [22] 

29.        In perhaps the strongest contemporary argument for the primacy of interpersonal affect dynamics, Butler argues that interactions with others invariably involve the modulation of emotions, utilizing the concept of contagion and “coconstruction of emotional meaning” to highlight the inextricable link between one’s emotional experiences and those of others (337). [23]  The social baseline model takes this social regulation of emotion as the default in humans and other animals (Coan 618). Coan argues that self-regulating emotion creates significant cognitive load, inherently limiting people’s ability to negotiate successfully their own emotions. In effect, the social regulation of emotion is cognitively “easier,” which suggests “why individuals tend to invest less effort in self-regulation in the presence of relational partners” (619). This aligns with affect theorists Seigworth and Gregg, who argue, “At once intimate and interpersonal, affect accumulates across both relatedness and interruptions in relatedness,” and that affect “travers[es] the ebb and flow of intensities that pass between ‘bodies,’” noting that these bodies “reciprocate or co-participate in the passages of affect” (2). Combining historical conceptions of the social in the operation of sympathy, the debates of affect theorists about force relations, and recent integration of the social in psychological processes of emotion regulation, it seems safe to assume the supremacy of the social when managing and performing affect-emotion.

30.        Finally, recent psychological research empirically echoes the moral philosophical idea that not only may social regulation be the default in managing emotion, but that people are aware of the importance of negotiating these exchanges. Cheung, Gardner, and Anderson found that people strategically consider which friends or partners would be most effective at helping them regulate specific emotional experiences. Moreover, their research shows that individuals who have more diversified emotional relationships (i.e., having a friend you go to when you are sad, another for when you are mad, etc.) are healthier. The number of different kinds of “emotionships” is more important for effective SER than the sheer quantity of emotionships. These findings extend the earlier work of Coan, who argued that, “prior experience with a close relational partner may provide a form of ‘regulatory capital’ in the face of emotional stressor[s]” (616). The importance of diversification in emotionships echoes the concept of a diverse repertoire in Bonnano and Burton’s model of regulatory flexibility and suggests a place to synthesize models of emotion regulation focused on individual cognitive processes with the role of interpersonal affect dynamics.

31.        Because the empirical work examining interpersonal affect dynamics is constrained to artificial lab environments, and the application to a rich, complex, real-world engagement of SER is limited, using an interdisciplinary lens provides the ability to consider SER in situ. Zaki and Williams agree, arguing that questions of emotion regulation “may require drawing from domains far afield from typical experimental psychology but will also undoubtedly enrich our understanding of interpersonal regulation in unanticipated ways” (808). Enter a consideration of the dynamics of SER in De Monfort, grounded in Baillie’s concept of sympathetic curiosity, which itself was influenced by the socio-scientific conversations of her day. In the following, we use an interdisciplinary lens for a literary analysis highlighting exchanges between the siblings in De Monfort to inform notions of SER.

32.        Baillie’s foundational concept of sympathetic curiosity functions entirely within a social context. Though everyone is imparted with this primary “propensity,” it is only when engaging with others that people see it at work. This “best instructor” is exercised through people’s interactions with those around them, because of the need to “read” what others are feeling, consider how they feel about that, and imagine how they might feel themselves in that situation. In the following section, we highlight aspects of the relationship between De Monfort and Jane in De Monfort that speak to how we envision future investigations into SER models. Specifically, we explore moments that highlight both the functioning and dysfunctioning of SER with an eye towards identifying those areas that are not currently modeled within constrained empirical investigations. We see Baillie’s program of work as particularly well-suited to highlight these areas of SER given the precise and systematic, one-emotion-at-a-time approach she uses, which is in line with both the method taken in eighteenth-century medical investigations and with twenty-first-century methodologies for exploring the neurocircuitry of emotion (LeDoux 376).

Reading Social Contagion in De Monfort

33.        Inherent in sympathetic curiosity is an interaction among self and others to assess what another person feels and then adjust one’s own reactions in light of that assessment. Below, we have two goals: 1) to provide converging evidence from a literary text to socio-cognitive models of emotion regulation (a kind of interdisciplinary “replication”); and 2) to demonstrate areas of SER not yet recognized in empirical studies. De Monfort is Baillie’s tragedy about the “passion” of hatred and was the final play in her 1798 collection. De Monfort traces the protagonist’s attempts to escape his hatred of his childhood nemesis Rezenvelt. As the tragedy progresses, others, especially his sister, Jane, try to help him come to terms with his hatred and redirect it, in the end to little avail. When De Monfort erroneously hears that Jane and Rezenvelt are secretly lovers, he vows revenge by following Rezenvelt on his ride through the forest, murdering him in a fit of rage.

34.        As we’ve noted, interpersonal regulation happens primarily through our closest social ties; for De Monfort, this is with his sister Jane. From the first scene, host Jerome and manservant Manuel reference the love Jane has for her brother. Manuel notes that it is his loyalty to her that keeps him by De Monfort’s side: “She would have griev’ed if I had left my Lord” (1.1.59). The reader also learn that De Monfort left without telling Jane, and that Manuel is concerned that “it would afflict her much” (1.1.63). Here we have evidence that the siblings’ relationship is one of support and regulation, the one benefiting from the other. [24] 

35.        Jane and De Monfort’s interdependency is further highlighted when Jane arrives in town in search of her brother. She visits the Frebergs first, confirming that De Monfort is in town. After some pleasantries, Count Freberg tells Jane he finds De Monfort “well, but joyless” (2.1.59). Jane resists that characterization by suggesting that this is just her brother’s temperament, noting that usually his mind “opens not, but with the thrilling touch / Of some strong-string o’the sudden press’d” (2.1.60–62). Yet, she acknowledges that he is “a man in grief,” though no one seems aware of the cause (2.1.66). This exchange demonstrates that SER can be accomplished outside of oneself, without one’s knowledge, as others close to us do the work of presenting our affect in socially acceptable terms. In other words, regulation occurs with little to no cognitive and emotional costs for the person described. While current models of SER describe how a person pulls the resources of another to engage in self-regulation, they are limited to regulation occurring in the physical presence of others. In contrast, we highlight what we see as a kind of de-facto social emotion regulation that has not yet been considered. Attention to Baillie’s systematic engagement with emotion over time (rather than constrained within a moment of the emotion in empirical studies) suggests that emotion regulation is not as encapsulated as current models have suggested.

36.        Jane recognizes that De Monfort’s emotional state is dependent on what Zaki and Williams have called intrinsic interpersonal regulation. So, even though whatever De Monfort has done thus far to try and regulate himself has not worked, Jane is concerned that her presence would make things even worse, and thus she initially declines Count Freberg’s invitation to stay for the ball:

JANE. Here he will find all that can woo the heart
To joy and sweet forgetfulness of pain;
The sight of me would wake his feeling mind . . . (2.1.84–86)
Jane signals two things about De Monfort’s emotional prospects. First, she thinks he can find the necessary interpersonal regulation to “woo his heart” from whatever “grief” he might have. Second, she also indicates that her presence would “wake” him to things he might do well to put aside. In both cases, Jane recognizes the intimate realities of De Monfort’s “feeling mind,” addressing the fact that others are key to his own regulation and noting she has particular effects on it. Here we see the extent of Jane’s insight into De Monfort’s emotion regulation strategies and her own role in them. In other words, she is a key emotionship for how her brother engages with others in the world, and she knows it.

37.        The most vivid example of the emotional impact both siblings have on each other happens during the Frebergs’ masked ball, and the reader learns the extent to which De Monfort values Jane above all people in his life. Literary critics like Hoeveler and Kim have noted the powerful erotic and mythic qualities of the siblings’ relationship. [25]  For De Monfort, in fact, this is the only relationship that provides him with any desire or willingness to reveal his feelings of hatred. Equally significant, this appears to be the one relationship that inspires feelings other than despair, anger, sullenness, or hatred. This highlights De Monfort’s limited emotionships, a limitation that Cheung et al. associate with lower well-being as illustrated by De Monfort’s growing anxiety and depression.

38.        When Jane first appears at the ball, she disguises herself, leaving De Monfort unaware that he is speaking to his sister. They begin a conversation about siblings and the fact that the person she seeks is “heedless of [her] pain,” having “forsaken” her (2.1.210). As the conversation continues and De Monfort talks about his sister to someone he thinks is a stranger, he regulates himself out of hatred for Rezenvelt and into his passionate feelings for Jane. Even the mere idea of Jane pulls him out of his internal struggle. When the disguised Jane notes that perhaps “All sisters are not to the soul entwin’d / With equal band,” suggesting that his sister has not “Weep’d for thee, cheer’d thee, shar’d thy weal and woe / As I have done for him” (2.1.222–23), De Monfort immediately protests. Though gloomy up to this point, he becomes loquacious when speaking about his sister:

DE MON. (Eagerly.)
By heaven! The sum of all thy kindly deeds
Were but as chaff pois’d against the massy gold,
Compar’d to that which I do owe her love (2.1.225–27)
He continues, exclaiming:
DE MON. —But she of whom I speak
Is the dear sister of my earliest love;
In noble virtuous worth to none a second (2.1.229–31)
We see for the first time in the play, the longest exchange De Monfort has with anyone aside from his soliloquies about his angst and rage, and it is about Jane.

39.        For De Monfort, Jane functions as a central vehicle for self-regulation, and though this exchange is structured around the idea of Jane rather than an actual conversation with Jane, it pries open a different possibility for De Monfort’s emotional terrain. Up to this point De Monfort has either talked about his hatred for Rezenvelt or his feelings of anguish at having to be around him, and for most of the rest of the play the stage directions describing De Monfort’s physical actions echo words like “agitation,” “angrily,” “impatiently” “distractedly,” “contemptuously,” and “disordered” (313, 315, 317, 318, 326, 328). Yet, the idea of Jane coaxes feelings like “eagerly” or “affectionately” out of De Monfort (327, 334). The shift in De Monfort’s affect demonstrates that the memories of one’s social emotion relationships may have the power to motivate our regulation efforts when context requires what seems like intrapersonal regulation. In other words, even when doing regulation work on their own, people may actually be invoking the social relationships they have with others to accomplish this work. [26]  Therefore, along with suggesting that SER models incorporate actions taken on one’s behalf (de-facto social emotion regulation), we also argue that the activation of memories of others may enhance one’s intrapersonal regulation repertoire and motivations, what we consider an “imaginary social emotion regulation.” [27] 

40.        Jane is confident that she can regulate her brother’s emotions regardless of what they are. In pleading with De Monfort to share the source of his distress, Jane assures him that she will help him successfully wrestle with his feelings. When De Monfort exclaims that his hatred “will not pass away: ‘twill haunt me still,” Jane states that she will “haunt thee too” and that she will “wrestle darkling with the fiend” and “o’ercome it” (2.2.52–56). Jane explicitly offers to take on the emotion regulation work for her brother convinced of her ability to do so. De Monfort, fearful and ashamed of disappointing his sister, is motivated to control his expression of hatred. [28]  We know that this is an established dynamic, as Jane acknowledges to Freburg that she has been De Monfort’s constant companion since early childhood and the death of their parents. After De Monfort reveals his hatred for Rezenvelt, Jane bemoans the fact that she was not present earlier to help him. She says she came to him immediately when she discovered his duress, telling him, “I heard a secret whisper, and resolv’d / Upon the instant to return to thee” (2.2.143–44). She also blames herself for not being able to allay her brother’s feelings sooner, exclaiming, “These absent months, have brought us all this woe. / Had I remained with thee it had not been” (2.2.148–49). We see that Jane thinks that if she had not left him alone, De Monfort would not have dueled with Rezenvelt nor have the kind of saturated hatred that now seems permanent.

41.        In these exchanges it is also important to note that De Monfort is aware of the critical role Jane plays in his emotional interactions with the world. He hesitates to admit the cause of the change in his affect because he is aware of the danger of losing his sister’s admiration and guidance. De Monfort fears Jane’s reaction to his confession and indicates that when he reveals the truth, “thou wilt despise me” (2.2.78). In other words, De Monfort understands better than Jane that he is not the person she is convinced he is; in this case, De Monfort knows the limitations of his emotionship with Jane and tries not to disillusion her. Though Jane has promised to listen to and support him, when he reveals his hatred, the reader finds that he was correct and that she is startled at the vehemence of it. She cannot understand how her brother hates a man who mercifully did not kill him when they dueled and:

JANE. . . . gave thee that life he might have ta’en?
That life which thou so rashly did expose
To aim at his! (2.2.137–39)
Although Jane understands her influence over her brother, she is mistaken about her image of him and about her ability to shift his feelings of hatred. More important, this moment illustrates that De Monfort is more aware of the nature of their emotionship than is Jane. When he finally expresses the depth of his hatred, she rejects his feelings and who he is at that moment, “De Monfort, this is fiend-like, frightful, terrible!” and wonders “could in thy breast such horrid tempest wake / Who are thyself his fellow?” (2.2.94, 97–98). [29] 

42.        Baillie’s careful dissection of an intense sibling relationship allows us to see the limitations and multi-dimensionality of SER at work. The insights we derive from this analysis suggest that models of SER should take into consideration the work people do to avoid disrupting the relationships they depend upon. In other words, just as regulatory flexibility models of emotion break intrapersonal regulation into context sensitivity, repertoire, and feedback, SER models could also be broken down into these components. In addition to examining how people engage in the act of regulation with others, we should also consider the meta-knowledge they have about who is most appropriate to help them regulate certain kinds of emotions and how to read the feedback they are getting from others during this work. We might also consider the type of relationships that are more or less effective to incorporate into people’s regulation strategies.

43.        Again, looking at the intensity of SER highlights these issues. When De Monfort finally confesses his hatred to Jane, we see Jane’s direct attempts to regulate his emotional state. He asks his sister, “What shall I do?” (2.2.196). Importantly, Baillie provides the reader with the stage direction that De Monfort asks this “affectionately,” suggesting that he will do his best to listen to her and that she will offer him strategies he cannot think of himself. Jane implores him to “Repel the hideous foe. / Be great; be valiant” (2.2.200). The force of Jane’s command is highlighted as she responds to his hesitation, exclaiming, “Thou cans’t, thou may’st, thou wilt. / We shall not part till I have turn’d thy soul” (2.2.205–06).

44.        At this moment, Jane has stepped in to deliberately control De Monfort’s emotional regulation attempts, a strong vision of the possibilities of SER. Here, then, we note that, at least initially, De Monfort is willing to be guided by Jane. She is convinced about her ability to affect change in her brother as she says:

JANE. Come to my closet; free from all intrusion,
I’ll school thee there; and thou again shalt be
My willing pupil, and my gen’rous friend; (2.2.210–13)
All agency for emotion regulation is now laid upon Jane’s shoulders as De Monfort relents, saying “Do as thou wilt; / I will not grieve thee more” (2.2.216).

45.        Although De Monfort does not think himself capable of shifting his feelings, at Jane’s convincing he does calm himself enough to try to engage the strategies she provides. At the beginning of Act III, the reader sees De Monfort reading books Jane provides for his education and distraction. She at first seems pleased, stating that in reading the Bible, De Monfort’s “willing mind has been right well employ’d” and hopes that in this meditation, his “heart warm[s] at the fair display / Of peace and concord and forgiving love” (3.1.2–3). However, while De Monfort’s anger has been ameliorated, he explains to her that it is a hard struggle, grounded in childhood, and that he still harbors hatred toward Rezenvelt. He notes that “nature herself doth lift her voice aloud, / And cries, it is impossible!” to really do what Jane asks and have him “love thine enemy” (3.1.26–27, 15). [30] 

46.        That De Monfort is able to name and reflect upon the emotion with which he is struggling is a small emotion regulation success (he is capable of assessing feedback here). However, according to Baillie’s theory about the evolution of hatred, it may be “too late” for Jane’s attempts at emotion regulation to “cure” her brother. [31]  Indeed, Baillie notes that hatred “aided by circumstances of little importance, grows at last into such antipathy and personal disgust as makes him who entertains it, feel, in the presence of him who is the object of it, a degree of torment and restlessness which is insufferable” (“Introductory Discourse” 108). Jane encourages De Monfort to keep trying, asking, “And canst thou do no more for love of heaven?” (3.1.30). Again, we see that De Monfort’s attempts at emotion regulation are being guided almost solely through his relationship with Jane as he responds that “But this, my Jane, I’ll do for love of thee” (3.1.33). He offers to apologize to Rezenvelt but anticipates that the event will cause him (De Monfort) great pain. He asks Jane, “Will it suffice thee? More than this I cannot” (3.1.52). Jane accepts this offer, perhaps seeing it as the beginning of more to come, saying, “I hop’d a better change, and still will hope” (3.1.55). Jane’s attempts at regulating De Monfort have gotten him to a point not reached earlier in the play, but because this was not emotional work of his own, De Monfort seems ill prepared to succeed. [32] 

47.        When De Monfort agrees to reconcile with Rezenvelt, the reader sees him prepared to use the strategies Jane provides. However, because they are not his own, he does not succeed. While awaiting Rezenvelt, De Monfort expresses unease, perhaps sensing his future failure: “This morning is oppressive, warm, and heavy: / There hangs a foggy closeness in the air;” (3.1.118–19). Despite these misgivings, De Monfort and Rezenvelt’s exchange starts off well enough. De Monfort tells Rezenvelt that in his “wayward moods” he has “too oft forgot the due regard / Your rank and talents claim” (3.1.171–73). De Monfort offers Rezenvelt his hand “with dignity” and says, “I will not offer you an hand of concord,” but he will “declare” that his “spared life” is owed to Rezenvelt’s “forbearance” (3.1.187, 190–92). This incomplete yet honest and effortful apology seems to satisfy Jane, who we are told, “smiles with great approbation” (345). But when Rezenvelt demands an embrace, something more than Jane has schooled De Monfort to give, things take a turn for the worst. A handshake was in the script practiced by the siblings; an embrace would require greater emotion regulation progress than Jane has been able to achieve.

48.        Illustrated in these moments is the notion that although emotions can be regulated by others, the regulated individual may not benefit beyond the initial intervention. [33]  In other words, his or her own regulatory flexibility has not been expanded but only temporarily supported. So although the social baseline theory would argue that SER is the default method for dealing with emotions, it is insufficient for developing additional emotion regulation skills that could be called upon in future exchanges. We noted that the thought of one’s social emotionships would animate self-regulation, and that certainly rings true in this sibling dynamic. But here we also see that Baillie identifies a clarification for this model. Although SER motivates the use of strategies one is already able to perform, it is insufficient to lead to the development of new regulation strategies that would permanently expand one’s own repertoire; at best, they are only temporarily borrowed. Our analysis of Baillie’s play suggests this limitation could be especially problematic with an intractable passion like hatred.

49.        At the end of the failed apology, Baillie’s stage directions indicate that Jane and De Monfort “look expressively to one another, without speaking” (347). This silent look is the last time both siblings are in contact with each other until after De Monfort has murdered Rezenvelt. When they are reunited, De Monfort makes one last attempt to regulate on behalf of his sister saying:

DE MON. I thought to sink in abject wretchedness:
But for thy sake I’ll rouse my manhood up,
And meet it bravely; no unseemly weakness, (5.2.76–78)
The last time Jane sees De Monfort alive he “endeavors to suppress his feelings” (378). Ultimately, without his sister, De Monfort is unable to face his end “proudly,” and he dies from madness. Rezenvelt’s murder and De Monfort’s breakdown and death at the end of the play occur in Jane’s absence, indicating that De Monfort has become chronically dependent upon her for regulation, and that perhaps her constraining influence has exacerbated his hatred. [34] 

The Art of the Bricoleur: Elemental and Compositional Strokes

50.        Overall, while we see key aspects of current SER models in the sibling exchanges highlighted in our analysis, we emphasize aspects of these interactions that are not yet incorporated fully into those models. First, we note that with intense relationships, SER work can be carried out through de-facto social emotion regulation on the part of one person for another. Similarly, imagining the relationships one has with others can motivate the emotion regulation strategies one selects. However, we also suggest that when SER work is conducted on behalf of another person, this limits the opportunities for learning and development. As we see with De Monfort, by relinquishing responsibility for his emotion regulation work to Jane, he is unable to develop and expand his regulatory flexibility. His ability to engage in context sensitivity has not grown, his repertoire of strategies has not expanded, and he has not become more responsive to feedback from those around him. Although Coan argues that SER is the default because it is cognitively easier, there are costs to outsourcing emotion regulation work. Current models of SER should consider these costs and explore the limiting effect they may have on the development of regulatory flexibility.

51.        We also propose these costs exist along a continuum depending upon the intensity and nature of the emotionship. In other words, with the kind of intense sibling relationship we see between De Monfort and Jane, the effort of conducting SER is one-sided, with less concern about damaging or weakening the relationship. In contrast, if a relationship is not as established, SER work may require more cognitive control in both parties, thus allowing some opportunities for the development of new emotion regulation strategies and skills. For example, De Monfort is able to stop reading the room because the duration, constancy, and strength of their relationship allow Jane to do that work for him without endangering it.

52.        More broadly, we offer this integrated analysis of Baillie’s play and the interactions of contemporary socio-cognitive models as an example of how an interdisciplinary approach to affect studies can develop productive conversations across disciplines. We are compelled by the arguments that conversations mired in a consideration of what affect is keep us from advancing our understanding of how affect works. [35]  Presenting the language and ideas of emotion regulation as a way to think about the “yet-ness” of affect could open up new areas of exploration in affect studies that move beyond either/or conversations about cognition versus the body that have been the focus of moral philosophers like Hume and Smith and contemporary scholars like Nussbaum and Solomon (Seigworth and Gregg 3). In fact, interpreting the early work of Tomkins alongside those of contemporary affect scientists such as Fridland and Russell, Bonnano and Burton, and Zaki and Williams emphasizes the problem with a potential “new-wave dualism” seen in the framing of affect as “body” and cognition as “mind.” We see our interdisciplinary exploration and integration as fitting with Leys’ call for taking a more ethical and nuanced approach to the incorporation of experimental findings in the building of affect theories. [36] 

53.        We believe our approach, perhaps more demanding and painstakingly slower, is one that invites and requires scholars not only to read the works published in each of their fields, but also to talk to and learn from each other as they try to understand and negotiate points of similarity and difference. Our approach also avoids the danger of consciously or unconsciously creating “paradoxes where there [are] none” (Leys 467). Thus, literary scholars and cognitive psychologists (for example) can work together to create an understanding of human cognition, affect, emotion, and literature that would not be built in isolation. Invoking Zunshine’s metaphor of the bricoleur, we argue that this messy merging and blurring will invite new “bloom-spaces” that encompass both established disciplinary strongholds and yet to be imagined new ones (Seigworth and Gregg 9). As Zunshine has called literary theorists into a conversation with the cognitive scientists, we ask cognitive scientists to engage with fellow humanists so that the exchange becomes bi- or multi- directional, generating more enriching conversations about the nature of human behaviors and cultures.

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Notes

[1] Similarly, affect scientist Kuppens argues, “The study of affect dynamics aims to describe the principles and regularities behind these changes, uncover the processes driving them, and understand the implications they bear for psychological functioning” (298). BACK

[2] For notable exceptions of psychologists who bring literary analyses into scientific conversations, see Crozier, who applies literary analyses to inform psychological models of blushing; and Oatley, who explores the power of fictional construction on emotion and now also writes fiction. BACK

[3] For a comprehensive history and extensive methodological examples of CLSci, see Burke and Troscianko. BACK

[4] We want to distinguish between the disciplines of affective science and social emotion regulation (SER). The latter is an area of research that falls under the broader umbrella of cognitive neuroscience and utilizes behavioral and physiological methodologies; the former has more explicit ties with literary conversations and history. Currently there seems to be a disconnect between these areas of research, although new fields such as cognitive literary science and the cognitive humanities are working to bring them more explicitly into conversation together. In the first part of this essay, we rely more heavily on affective science; later in the essay when describing models of emotion regulation, we rely on SER. BACK

[5] For more on spectacle, reception, and cognition in Baillie’s plays, see Burroughs, especially chapters 2 and 4; Donkin; Whalen 665–81; and Richardson’s chapter in Crochunis 130–45. BACK

[6] For more on Baillie, drama and gender see Kucich’s chapter in Crochunis 108–29; chapter 5 of Puriton; and Mellor 559–67. BACK

[7] For more information on the psychological concept of transportation and its impact on an audience, see Green 701–21; and Gerrig 165–66. See also the classical notion of "transport" in chapter 1 of Stauffer. BACK

[8] One suggestion that her work may have been influenced by Hume is their similar construction of sympathy as a propensity. Hume argued “No quality of human nature is more remarkable, both in itself and in its consequences, than that propensity we have to sympathize with others, and to receive by communication their inclinations and sentiments, however different from, or even contrary to our own,” while Baillie argued, “how sensible are we of this strong propensity within us, when we behold any person under the pressure of great and uncommon calamity” (Hume 367; “Introdoctory Discourse,” Baillie 72). For more on the history of sympathy in the seventeenth century and its connections to Smith and Hume in the eighteenth century, see Lobis. BACK

[9] For more on audiences’ experiences of acting and the stage, see Larlham 432–54. BACK

[10] Mary Favret notes, “affect is often bundled with a cluster of related terms: feeling, mood, sense or sensation, emotion, and—acknowledging an intellectual debt to eighteenth century moral philosophy—passion” (1159). BACK

[11] There are two large camps in psychological debates about the nature of emotion: one that identifies emotions as “basic” or “natural kinds,” following Ekman, and one that aligns with Barrett’s Conceptual Act Theory. In the former, seven to eight unique, basic emotions are identified (i.e., anger, sadness, joy, etc.), while in the latter, there are no “distinct” emotions but a categorization based on associations between physical changes and conceptual knowledge. However, the move towards Barrett’s theory has gained ascendancy; neuroscientists like LeDoux have clarified that his views align more with cognitive than with basic emotions perspective and studies by Touroutoglou et al. and Kragel & LaBar argue that the neural circuitry for emotion supports the Conceptual Act Theory. BACK

[12] Three cognitive psychological principles frame our understanding of the connections among affect, emotion, and cognition that include the following: 1) affect and cognition are separable but interweaved systems; 2) affect is flexible and “residual”; and 3) affect can have an unconscious impact on cognition. First, for the idea of “separable,” consider the functioning of the human perceptual process; there are systems for processing both local features (i.e., the eyes, nose, and mouth of a face) and global features of an object (i.e., the eyes are above the nose which is above the mouth). These are “separable” physiological systems in that one can be disrupted and the other will still function. However, they must function together to “see” a “whole” face. Second, we think of the flexibility of affect using connectionist models of memory wherein working memory (currently conscious) is the activated part of long-term memory (unconscious, yet accessible). Activation is the neural process generated when attention is given to a particular memory and that fades as attention shifts or wanes. Decades-old lyrics to a song tucked up in memory can be activated by the first few notes of its music. In this way, affect is “there” and “not there” all the time—some part active and inactive. Third, we think of affect’s impact on cognition by thinking about the theory of constructive perception. In this theory, top-down factors (physiological states like hunger and emotional states like fear) act upon perception simultaneously with (or prior to) the processing of bottom-up factors in a physical scene (like the lines, angles, shapes, and shadows of objects). So, research shows that in moments of strong affect, people perceive fingerprint “matches” that are not there (Dror et al.); that when in a bad mood, young adults tend to look at negative objects while older adults tend to look at positive objects (Isaacowitz et al.); and that emotional and affective valences influence perceptual processing of vocal and visual stimuli at neuronal levels (see Hensel et al. and Vogel et al.). From a constructive perception approach, affect impacts our cognitive processing without our conscious knowledge. Given this framework, we do not see a dissonance between Tomkins’ early conceptions of the relation between affect and cognition and Leys’ important critique of the “general turn to affect” which has separated the body from the mind, i.e. affect from cognition. We agree that this separation is counterproductive to understanding the impact of affect on human thought and behavior. For more about these aspects of cognition, see Sternberg’s highly readable, introductory textbook, Cognitive Psychology. BACK

[13] In her review essay, Favret also discusses the “affective residue” that poets struggle with as “unknowable” but there (1164). BACK

[14] Because he thought his argument might be “somewhat extraordinary,” Hume continues, “Since a passion can never, in any sense, be called unreasonable, but when founded on a false supposition, or when it chuses means insufficient for the designed end, it is impossible, that reason and passion can ever oppose each other, or dispute for the government of the will and actions” (464). BACK

[15] The inherent intertwining of affect and cognition despite their separateness is emphasized by Tomkins, who stresses that “reason without affect would be impotent, affect without reason would be blind. The combination of affect and reason guarantees man’s higher degree of freedom” (37). For a more recent description of how affect (as a separate system) motivates action via a series of interconnected feedback loops, see Carver 301-307. BACK

[16] There is a long-standing line of philosophical work that has pushed against the notion of emotion (affect) and reason (cognition) as separate systems. For example, Solomon has argued that, “the passions are not to be separated from reason; they are to be welded together into a single unit” (15). In his “new Romanticism” perspective, Solomon claims, “Emotions are said to distort our reality; I argue that they are responsible for it. Emotions are said to divide us from our interests and lead us astray; I argue that emotions create our interests and our purposes” (15). In his work, Solomon rejects the pathologizing of emotions. Our own understanding of the purpose of emotion fits with his conception—we do not consider emotion “bad” or “hurtful” to human cognition. In fact, recent psychological investigations have re-emphasized that “negative” emotions are just as important to human thought and behavior as “positive” emotions. What we take from the work of Hume, Tomkins, and Barrett is the notion that emotion provides the underlying motivation for all we do. Without emotion, there is no driving force for human behavior. But this does not require a “melded” system unless “melded” refers to the kind of integrated, parallel processing system we see in most contemporary scientific conceptions of the relation between cognition and emotion. BACK

[17] For more about the Gothic and masculine and feminine emotion, see Williams, especially parts one and two. For more on masculinity and the Gothic, see Hendershot. For the emotion of pain and the Gothic, see Bruhm, especially chapters 2 and 3. For terror and the Gothic, see Bloom, especially chapter 1. For the connections between the French Revolution and fear, see Wright. For connections between terror, terrorism, the Gothic, and the Reign of Terror, see Crawford. BACK

[18] We note the uncanny connection between Ekman and Baillie’s definition of hatred and anger and their effects on people. Again, this convergence across the centuries convinces us of the importance to have interdisciplinary conversations. BACK

[19] Recent psychological and neuroscientific studies of anger have identified the neural signatures of anger, the feedback loop in angry rumination that prolongs the emotion, and the fact that anger can sometimes be purposefully selected by an individual, despite its negative affect, in order to accomplish behavioral goals. See Fabiansson et al. 2974–81; and Tamir et al. 324–28. BACK

[20] In evaluation of the achievement of one’s social goals, we can think of the desires of others as a kind of emotional constraint, a constraint that if ill-fitting could result in “a power strategy designed to break through the constraints which enforced it” (Tomkins 73). BACK

[21] Ironically, this is a moment where affect scientists are now catching up to what literary scholars of affect have emphasized for some time, given their grounding in the works of philosophers like Hume and Smith. As Favret notes, Romantic scholars like Pinch have thought about passion for some time as “a feeling operating between and among individuals, not emanating from some private interiorized zone but from forms of social and textual circulation” (1162). For more on the contagious role of emotion in the period, see Pinch. BACK

[22] For example, Flores and Berenbaum have found that the social regulation of emotion is influenced by the desire someone has for emotional closeness. The desire for emotional closeness might correlate with our familiarity with others, our perceived similarity with others, and the personal experiences we have had reaching out to others. BACK

[23] For more on classic and contemporary conversations about contagion, see Pinch or Massumi. BACK

[24] For a psychological consideration of this dynamic, see Butler; for the literary-historical perspective of the dynamic, see Pinch. BACK

[25] While critics like Hoeveler and Kim highlight either the incestuous erotics or the biblical echoes of De Monfort and Jane’s relationship, we have used the dynamic they describe to emphasize the intimate and highly influential nature of their relationship. BACK

[26] Remember our previous discussion of Smith’s impartial spectator here as an earlier consideration of the role others play in our modification of emotional displays, even when we must invoke them in our imagination. BACK

[27] Fridlund and Russell argue the same, noting, “we often imagine that others are present when they are not” and that the imaginary audience can trigger facial expressions of emotion (312). BACK

[28] Emotion regulation motivated by shame and fear are described in both Tomkins and Crozier. BACK

[29] In Jane’s reaction to De Monfort’s revelation of hatred, we perhaps see an example of Stauffer’s analysis of anger as unsympathetic and frightening. BACK

[30] The powerlessness De Monfort expresses here aligns with Tomkins’ ideas about affective control. He argues, “affective responses seem to the individual to be aroused easily by factors over which he has little control, with difficulty by factors which he can control and to endure for periods of time which he controls only with great difficulty if at all” (62). BACK

[31] Baillie’s sense that it is “too late” in the development of hatred foreshadows the description of “late-blooming” anger-come-hatred episodes, when the anger is at its most intense in the second half of the arc (Heylen et al. 175). BACK

[32] Heylen et al. found that “late-blooming” anger activates emotion regulation strategies such as catastrophizing and rumination, strategies not associated with regulation success. This research suggests that De Monfort would be “stuck” with these strategies if not for his sister’s invention. BACK

[33] This inability to benefit from others may be due to “a residual form of the affect which is at once heightened, distorted, and chronic and which is severely punitive” (Tomkins 69). BACK

[34] Kim warns about “the danger of being unveiled” (722). She notes that in De Monfort’s case it was others’ “curiosity” and “reckless seizing and laying bare of the passion [that] proves fatal” and that “the revelation divests De Monfort of his ennobling shroud of mysterious suffering and forces him to deal openly with a passion he cannot manage” (721). This identifies a dangerous limitation, one not yet incorporated into SER models. BACK

[35] As Mesquita et al. argue, “By focusing on cultural construction of emotion, we shift the focus toward how people from different cultures ‘do’ emotions and away from which emotions they ‘have’” (31). BACK

[36] Favret and Zunshine emphasize the tension between wanting to use scientific studies and also fearing this incursion in literary studies. BACK