Matters of the Heart: History, Medicine, and Emotion

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Overview

The heart is the most symbolic organ of the human body. Across cultures it is seen as the site of emotions, as well as the origin of life. We feel emotions in the heart, from the heart-stopping sensation of romantic love to the crushing sensation of despair.

And yet since the nineteenth century the heart has been redefined in medical terms as a pump, an organ responsible for the circulation of the blood. Emotions have been removed from the heart as an active site of influence and towards the brain. It is the brain that is the organ most commonly associated with emotion in the modern West.

So why, then, do the emotional meanings of the heart linger? Why do many transplantation patients believe that the heart, for instance, can transmit memories and emotions and why do we still refer to emotions as "heartfelt?"

We cannot answer these questions without reference to the history of the heart as both physical organ and emotional symbol. Matters of the Heart traces the ways emotions have been understood between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries as both physical entities and spiritual experiences. With reference to historical interpretations of such key concepts as gender, emotion, subjectivity and the self, it also addresses the shifting relationship from heart to brain as competing centers of emotion in the West.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Alberti does, however, tell a fascinating story. Her account of the wider medical changes would be useful and accessible undergraduate reading, while her analysis of the mind-body relationship should be required reading for anyone working on minds, emotions, or bodies. Alberti rightly notes that historians have perpetuated the twentieth-century scientific boundaries between mind and body, meaning 'that the history of neuroscience need not be connected with the history of cardiology'. Alberti's thought-provoking study makes not only a compelling case for scholarly reintegration of the mind and body but also highlights the research riches that it provides." —Journal of British Studies
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199606047
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2012
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Fay Bound Alberti is a writer and cultural historian who specialises in the study of medicine, emotions and gender. She has lectured at several UK universities, and has published on many aspects of early modern medicine and culture in major journals, including the Lancet, History Workshop Journal and Isis. She has also contributed to media debates on the history of medicine, including BBC Radio 4's "In our Time with Melvyn Bragg," and "The Eureka Years with Adam Hart-Davis." Previous publications include Medicine, Emotion and Disease (Palgrave, 2006). Fay is currently Senior Research Fellow in History at Queen Mary University of London, and Honorary Research Associate at the Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL. She is also Policy Advisor for the Arcadia Fund, a charitable trust that protects endangered treasures of nature and culture.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Heart of the Matter: Emotion, Modernity and the Self
1. Humours to Hormones: Emotion and the Heart in History
2. Hunter's Heart: Pathological Anatomy and the Science of Disease
3. From Morbid Anatomy to New Technologies: Constructing the Heart of Disease
4. Angina Pectoris and the Arnold Family
5. 'Heart Latham' and Nineteenth-Century Medical Practice.
6. The Heart of Harriet Martineau: Symptoms, Subjectivity and Self-Fashioning
7. Emotions and the Brain: Rethinking the Mind/Body Relationship
Conclusion: The Matter of the Heart.

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