Intelligence is a peculiar idea. Most human beings have some sense of the meaning of the word, yet they are all too often left with insipid definitions when they assign meaning to it. Some definers have been reduced to acknowledging that intelligence is what the intelligence tester is testing. Others have claimed that intelligence is merely the absence of lack-of-intelligence.
In his first book, Sublime Disorder: Physical Monstrosity in Diderot's Universe (1), Andrew Curran focused on the different means by which corporeal and moral monstrosity were figured and evoked in the celebrated Enlightenment thinker's work.
Electromagnetism, photographic reproduction, grand operas, phantasmagorias, automatons and socialist utopias: what do these have in common? According to John Tresch, they were all manifestations of a common ‘mechanical romanticism’ that permeated Paris between the fall of the first Napoleon in 1815 and the triumph of his nephew Napoleon III in 1851.
The history of emotions, a rocket taking off according to Jan Plamper, seems to be screaming ‘know thyself!’ at psychology in all its various forms, but most specifically at neuroscience. The development of a hard science of emotions has involved, with every step ‘forward’, the forgetting of the previous step.
In the latest of our occasional Reviews in History podcast series, Dr Jordan Landes talks to Professor Jan Plamper about his new work on the history of emotions, a subject which he has memorably described as a 'rocket taking off'.
Jan Plamper is Professor of History at Goldsmiths, University of London.