Christina Hanzen | Project | Vita | Publications 


The societal value of emotion and its expression. Large-scale sculpture as a medium in the Classical and Hellenistic period

Classical Archaeology
Supervision: Prof. Dr. Anja Klöckner

The presence of emotion in social discourse is culturally determined and is subject to a constant state of change. The handling of emotions also numbers as one of those values and norms which are negotiated by society.  Their medialisation moves within the sphere of tension between life-worlds and social discourses. Thus, the assumption of a particular potency of effect of the representations of emotions in an – especially in the Classical Period – emotionally reduced public sphere, will have been made and the effect consciously striven for.

The focus of the doctoral project is on the meaning and significance of emotion in Greek society. Ever since the 8th century B.C. emotions have found their way into witnesses of culture. The object of the project is to examine how the representations of emotions have developed and emerged and from which antecedents they evolved. The context in which representations of emotion appear are also significant. Which figures show emotions and which do not? Are there certain contexts in which the representations appear more frequently? Are they consciously applied and if so, to which end? It is certain that these representations placed in public areas attracted more attention than those unmoved, unemotional depictions corresponding to the Greek ideal of emotionlessness will have done. In psychological research, it has long been established that emotions serve to strengthen the anchoring of message and meaning in the observer.

The investigation will concentrate on three-dimensional sculptures these being indeed the defining medium of societal representation. An aspect of this category of material which has up until now been little taken into account, is its “long life”. Messages which were to be conveyed with the help of works displayed in public places, must be conceived with a large public and longevity in mind. If emotional expression was being worked with within this context, then there must have been reasons for doing so within a society in which emotionlessness and a lack of sentiment in public were regarded as an ideal.

The study will focus on the Classical and Hellenic Periods of Greek art and in particular on the transition between these epochs. The effects of irreversible transformations in the political world can be expressed and identified in all forms of art and also had a significant influence on our object of examination, the large-scale sculpture.

A further aim of this work is to test the application of theories from the field of the “History of Emotions” to the period in question and its sculptures. On the one hand, the question as to the universal understanding of emotion as a transporter of meaning and message will be explored.  The findings of emotion psychology, especially those surrounding the school of Paul Ekman have a significant role to play here. In addition, in order to fulfil aim of this study to be able to locate the role of emotion in ancient Greek society more finely, social-political concepts will be considered. Barbara Rosenwein’s theory of “emotional communities” and William Reddy’s theory of “emotional regimes” may be applied here.