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How have intimate or collective sensitivities evolved over the centuries? Meeting with Alain Corbin and Hervé Mazurel, two historians specializing in sensitive life. A story that is not anecdotal because it is essential not to project ourselves into the past with our system of representation of the world.
It is sometimes said that our emotions would be exacerbated today and our sensitivities carried as a standard. Anglo-Saxon publishing houses employ “sensitivity readers” who hunt down racist or sexist prejudices in novels so as not to offend readers. But is our era particularly sensitive, and to what? How have emotions, private or collective, evolved over the centuries? Non-existent fifty years ago, the history of sensitive and affective life has developed to the point of becoming unavoidable. The historian Alain Corbin was one of the pioneers.
In Miasma and Daffodil (Flammarion, 1982), he studied how the perception of odors had undergone a revolution in the 19th century. Then he worked on the emotions caused by the sound of bells (the Bells of the Earth. Soundscape and sensitive culture in the countryside), the freshness of the grass or the breath of the wind… Others have taken over, such as Hervé Mazurel, for whom even neuroses and intimate impulses are tapped by history (the Unconscious or the Oblivion of