The Cultures of Spectacular Disgust in Early Modern England

Join Dr. Bradley J. Irish for a colloquium on disgust, hosted over Zoom on Wednesday, October 26, 4:00-6:00 Eastern time. Register below or at Eventbrite (

About this event:

The North American Chapter on the History of Emotion will be holding its first colloquium on October 26th: “The Cultures of Spectacular Disgust in Early Modern England” with Dr. Bradley J. Irish. 

Modern experimental research on the emotion of disgust suggests that humans tend to have an attentional bias toward revolting objects: disgusting things captivate our attention, even as they make us want to turn away. Dr. Irish’s talk argues that we can see this dynamic particularly at work in Elizabethan England, through the era’s numerous social practices that similarly transform objects of ostensible disgust into objects of visual fixation. Collectively, these comprise what may be called the early modern culture of spectacular disgust: a nexus of related cultural fields in which disgusting content, usually in the form of traumas and violations inflicted on the human body, is fashioned into a site of social attention. Tending to Elizabethan spectacular disgust gives crucial insight into the workings of early modern revulsion, but also suggests points of contact between the Renaissance world and our own.

Bradley J. Irish is an Associate Professor of English at Arizona State University, where he studies emotion in early modern literature and culture. He is the author of Emotion in the Tudor Court: Literature, History, and Early Modern Feeling (Northwestern UP, 2018), and the co-editor of Positive Emotions in Early Modern Literature and Culture (Manchester UP, 2021) and The Routledge Companion to Literature and Emotion (Routledge, 2022). This talk comes from his forthcoming book, Shakespeare and Disgust: The History and Science of Early Modern Revulsion (The Arden Shakespeare, 2023).

The North American Chapter on the History of Emotion is dedicated to promoting the work of scholars of emotion in North America and abroad. We organize and promote exciting work in the field, including a biennial conference, colloquia, newsletters, and more! You can find our website here, or follow us on Twitter @NACHEmotion

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