Emotions and the Biblical World


The last few decades have witnessed a growing interest in the study of emotions among scholars of antiquity, reflecting a more general interest among scholars of various disciplines in how different societies throughout the centuries have conceptualised and represented emotions. The Emotions and the Biblical World research group explores the role that emotions play in biblical writings, and in Early Judaism and Early Christianity more generally. This includes but is not limited to patterns of articulating emotions, their significance in worship and broadly understood religious experience, the role of emotions in strategies of persuasion, the vocabulary used to describe emotions and their manifestations, translating emotions discourse, as well as the social and cultural factors that influence their expression, suppression or repression, with a particular focus on the relationship between emotions and gender, and between emotions and the construction of otherness. The literary corpora that we consider are not limited to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, but include also other Early Jewish and Early Christian writings.


Dominika Kurek-Chomycz
Liverpool Hope University 

Françoise Mirguet
Arizona State University

Ronit Nikolsky
Groningen University

Member Area

Toulouse 2022 Call for Papers

For the 2022 EABS Conference in Toulouse, the “Emotions and the Biblical World” Research Unit will focus on emotion and the body. Emotions have been associated with bodies already in the most ancient texts and visual representations. In modern science, William James and Carl Lange have defined emotion as awareness to bodily responses designed to optimise human beings’ chances of survival. Social-constructivist scholars as well as historians of emotion understand that emotions are expressed as bodily practices. They see the culturally trained body itself as internalising historical and social knowledge (e.g., Monique Scheer, 2012). Cognitive scholars, too, have recognised the role of the body in cognition and the dynamic relationship between body, mind, and environment. Most recently, this interaction has been the object of 4E cognition approaches, which view emotions as embodied, embedded, extended, and enactive (e.g., Newen, de Bruin, Gallagher, 2018). Affect theorists have also centred bodies—and the space between bodies—as the site where emotions emerge and circulate (e.g., Brennan, 2014). 


These modern theories and debates provide scholars of the ancient world with a renewed impulsion to study how biblical and post-biblical documents present the relationship between emotions and bodies (if any distinction is posited). In the diverse and overlapping linguistic, social, and cultural contexts of the documents, how do bodies shape emotions, and how do emotions shape bodies? How do bodies react to other bodies’ emotions? How do bodies become repositories of cultural knowledge? How do bodies know? How do they communicate? How are bodies used to include and exclude? How do power structures impact bodies and their emotions, and how do human beings use their bodies and emotions to react and resist? 


We especially welcome paper proposals focusing on emotions in relation to the bodies considered to be disabled. As observed by Goodley et al. (2017), “Disability is necessarily affective: it has the potential to affect and be affected.” Disabled bodies have throughout the centuries often been associated with disgust, pity and fear (Hughes, 2009, 2012). What other emotions does disability evoke? What emotional responses are considered appropriate when confronted with disability? To what extent specific emotional reactions provide a clue that a particular feature of a body is regarded as disabling? How do visceral sensations, such as pain, affect the discursive thoughts a body has and the words it speaks? What kind of emotional labour (the assault on the self that occurs in response to demanding publics; Hochschild, 1983) is involved when a body does not conform to the norm accepted in a particular culture or society? 


We will also feature an open session, for which we invite submissions on a range of themes related to the goals of the unit.