SOC 234
How Emotions Work Spring 2020
Division II

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What could be more personal and unique than one’s own emotions? Over the last century, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, and social psychologists have challenged this taken for granted view of emotion, revealing just how much context, institutional structures, and history shape feeling. Emotion does not just emerge from an individual’s brain and body; it is also a product of intersubjective dynamics outside the individual. In this deeply interdisciplinary course, students explore how societies shape emotion. Beginning with psychological research on the brain/body connection, we build a capacious model for how social context, norms, and institutions interact with individual psychology to produce both conscious and unconscious forms of feeling. As the course progresses, we zoom further out from the individual level and unpack emotional dynamics at the national, cross-cultural, and civilizational levels. Along the way, we take a deeper look at specific emotions, including love, shame, sympathy, sadness, and happiness. The course concludes by focusing on a pressing social problem–the seemingly global crisis of mental illness on college and university campuses. What is causing this crisis? What can we do to address this issue right here in our community?
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 20
Expected: 15
Class#: 3108
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: participation, reflective essay (3-5 pages), emotion map activity, open space meeting, policy memo (1-2 pages), final paper (8-10 pages)
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Anthropology and Sociology majors
Distributions: Division II

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