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  • Cited by 4
  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: September 2009

Chapter 1 - Ethics, ethology, terminology: Iliadic anger and the cross-cultural study of emotion


To study the emotional language of another culture is to enter into the most significant questions raised by the study of emotion, since it raises the fundamental issues of the universality or cultural specificity of the emotions and of the contribution made by linguistic labels and categories to the construction of emotions as cultural phenomena. It is thus the responsibility of the classicist who would study the emotional terminology of the Greeks or the Romans also to become familiar with current research on the nature of emotion in other disciplines and to situate the study of ancient terminology in a wider context in which full account is taken of aspects of emotion other than the sense and reference of particular linguistic markers. It has to be said that this is a responsibility that, more often than not, is shirked by the cultural determinists who currently dominate both classical studies and the humanities in general. Their approach assumes that all significant features of a culture are products of conditions specific to that culture; and since this holds both of the culture under investigation and of the investigator's own, it requires the investigator somehow to seek access to phenomena wholly specific to a society that is alien to his/her own experience.