The Persistence of Sentiment: Display and Feeling in Popular Music of the 1970s

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Since passions were seen as originating externally and overpowering the person, women became their immediate victims. Strong and active men, in contrast, could withstand and control passions far more easily. Kant, writing several decades later, seemed to share this view. Passions, as such, were introduced as a male prerogative and defined as long-term and imbued with reason.

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Women instead were given to affect defined as short-term and without reason. The lack of a consistent view was mainly due to the fact that the world of emotions appeared extremely diverse and complicated. Apart from affect and passion, it consisted of appetites, desires, drives, sentiments, sensations, humours, and moods. Making sense of all those, and specifying their connection to gender, was more than even Kant could manage. Still, he tried his best. With regard to the concurrent tide of sensibility, he distinguished, as many others did, between the right and the wrong kind.

They condemned men who gave themselves over to reading sentimental novels and weeping over broken flowers and captured butterflies. Women and men alike identified with the heroes and heroines and were moved to tears by their unhappy fate. Fig 5.


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Being human meant supplementing sense with sensibility, to invoke Jane Austen. Even if they were called upon to apply reason and prudence before making decisions and taking action, they would be ill-advised to discard emotion altogether. Those who did were considered as deficient as those who let emotion overpower them.

This has to go along with the ambition to get a clear idea about what is at stake in those feelings. Somebody who lacks this capability and openness is called numb and insensitive.


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  • The family became an intimate and quasi-sacred space, and was imagined as a heaven of sincere affection and authentic feeling. Here, religious rituals were performed by men and women alike. Even if women were particularly taken to tears and constantly conjured up emotions, their husbands readily joined in. As much as private Christian religion developed into a highly emotionalised social practice, both genders participated in its rituals of praying, singing and reading.

    Patriotic politics were lost on them, and the fatherland left emasculate, subservient to foreign domination and internal despotism. The political movements of the s and s had mobilised hundreds of thousands of middle-class men to join clubs and associations, sign petitions and raise money, participate in demonstrations and march on the streets advocating liberal democracy and the nation-state. Conservative-minded citizens also got organised, and so did socialist workers campaigning for social rights. Even before , men had not been as obsessed with family life and soft masculinity as Welcker and others claimed.

    The wars of the early nineteenth century had triggered emotions that had nothing to do with domesticity and marital intimacy. In the place of paternal love, they elicited love for the fatherland, and hatred towards the enemy. Propagandists on all sides appealed to patriotic sentiments and xenophobic feelings. Both were fought with a passion that left no man untouched. The struggle for a liberal constitution, male suffrage and responsible government pitted party against party, faction against faction. Emotions surged up that had never been encountered in former times.

    Instead of being obedient subjects and paying reverence to prince and king, citizens now self-confidently engaged in tough negotiations with the monarchy. They threatened to withdraw their trust and loyalty, and they referred to a new kind of love: for fatherland and nation rather than for the monarch himself.

    It also took place horizontally, among citizens who held different views on the form those rights should take and how evenly or unevenly they were to be distributed. Political quarrels bore a high level of heat and noise, violent conflicts and passionate dispute. Men were insulted and physically attacked because others disagreed with their opinions, and in some cases, political opponents were assassinated.

    Should they decide to take their chances, they would inevitably be crushed by the more passionate men while they risked losing their lovely femininity and charm. They were good at tolerating and enduring, whereas men went with their heads against the wall. On the one hand, it violated the rules of emotional restraint to which educated middle classes were well-advised to adhere.

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    Women, as Schiller saw it, had behaved in a particularly outrageous way. Passionate election campaigns or disputes in parliament, men argued, would harm femininity and put the fatherland in danger. Healthy and well respected women would never want to participate in those flaming struggles, but would leave them to their husbands, fathers and brothers.

    Still, this did not rule out women becoming educated and publicly involved. They could, in the right circumstances, develop a performing virtuosity, interpreting pieces of music in a sensible manner.

    But they would never be capable of creating those pieces. Conversely, women seemed too dependent on their frail body and susceptible to their emotions to accomplish anything impressive in the arts and sciences. Imaginative creativity was thus reserved for men, as they could cultivate and combine talents, intellect and discipline free of any physical and emotional constraints.

    More than a hundred German university professors, teachers and authors were interviewed and asked if they considered women to be capable of attending university and successfully starting a career in the professions or academe. If at all, most men could not imagine women as scientists or in any higher and independent position. At best, women were thought eligible for jobs in which they assisted men rather than pursuing their own research or professional work.

    Women were also thought to be at their element with charities or when working in the customer services sector. Most people men and women alike agreed that women were ideally suited to family life. Rather than vesting their protagonists with one dominant feeling, the modern social novel as it was invented in France and Britain less so in Germany presented a full panoply of different and alternating emotions.

    As much as the narrator immunised himself against those and privileged a cold diagnostic view on his heroes and heroines, the latter usually stumbled from one to the other, always in search of true, strong and deep feeling. As a general rule, novelists could not help but be close observers of contemporary mores and habits. At the same time, though, they took their distance.

    As to their readers, very little is actually known about how they received the message and what it meant to their own sense of belonging and being in the world. Suffice it to say that literature, both highbrow and popular, was seen as a crucial medium of educating emotions. Along with theatre and opera, it was thought to move its audience and evoke emovere appropriate feelings. Since the early modern period, plays, even more than poems and literary texts, had sought to impress men and women with affections that apparently travelled faster in the company of theatre-goers than in the more isolated act of reading.

    Even men and women of the lower classes, whose literary canon had formerly been monopolised by the bible and religious calendars, increasingly took to reading. While women preferred romantic novels, men favoured history books, science and war stories.

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    What this meant for the education of feelings and its gendered practices has hardly been discussed, let alone analysed in any detail. Women still give preference to what nowadays is called human interest stories while men rather turn to newspapers, professional journals, or historical biographies. Some of these advisory manuals target men or women exclusively, but the majority figures as unisex literature and is relevant to both.

    The type of guidebook which is explicitly gendered and addresses either male or female concerns is harder to find on bookshelves today. On closer inspection, though, it still exists. Von Tag zu Tag From Day to Day , for example, a book for girls in puberty, now available in its 33rd edition, was first published in From the first page to the last it spoke a highly gendered language of emotions.

    Since male and female spheres were no longer as wide apart as in former generations, men and women were supposed to meet on an equal footing. Fig 6. Three editions of Von Tag zu Tag. That message had been a regular feature in the great number of advice manuals published since the late eighteenth century. Even if they increasingly differentiated their target group according to age, religion, and class, they all conveyed a picture of the female sex as highly emotional but softly-spoken.

    The role model was and remained the woman who always appeared well-tempered, cheerful, and positively engaged. Such characteristics obviously did not come naturally but had to be nourished by way of constant self-inspection and scrutiny. Self-control was writ large, especially among the middle classes. Time and again, women were warned not to lash out against maids and servants and in any event to keep their emotional balance. An appendix told boys how to apply that knowledge at home, and contained instructions for experiments— in , the construction of a steam engine; in radio supplies and loudspeakers.

    Emotional education worked silently, by eliciting excitement and wonder, provoking curiosity, assuring juvenile readers that everything was feasible and achievable if they had wits, discipline, and willpower. The world was there to be conquered, and the universe to be explored and exploited.

    Life was a hard struggle, and boys prepared for that struggle from early on. They were taught to love the fatherland and be ready to sacrifice their lives in its defence. What should appeal to him instead was the comradeship of his peers with its typical blend of support, repression and control.

    Youth groups, be they religious, political, paramilitary or independent, became a crucial factor of male socialisation. They cultivated emotional codes valuing warm and trusting relationships among their members while marking strict boundaries towards those outside that did not belong. Homoerotic feelings, more or less concealed, were part and parcel of all-male groups.

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    At the same time, though, self-hardening and an intolerance of unmanly conduct were taken to heart. Speaking to SS officers in occupied Poland, he defended the extermination of Jews as a political necessity that had to be performed in a personally detached and machine-like fashion. And to have seen this through, and—apart from exceptional cases of human weakness—to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned.

    They harboured equally strong but negative feelings towards those they considered enemies and traitors. Those latter emotions, however, as Himmler made crystal-clear, had to be overcome so that they would neither get in the way of personal decency nor obstruct political logic and necessity.

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    Neither hatred nor compassion was appropriate in completing the monstrous task. Even professional killers had to learn how to become hard and unemotional, to block out empathy, lust or rage and to perform their job as matter-of-factly as possible. At the same time, though, that wider public was also undergoing a complex process of emotional reeducation.

    Love, pride, devotion, and trust were continuously appealed to and put on stage.