Episode 27: Tears

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat’ (Winston Churchill). For this episode let us join the colossus of cultural history, Professor James Daybell, and the pastor of past times, Dr Sam Willis, as they give voice to words that weep to bring you the unexpected history of tears. Our threnodic duo will stir up a requiem of lamentations as they take us on a journey from the Reformation and the rise of stoic Protestantism to the stiff upper lip of English colonial rule, from Darwin’s 1872 publication ‘The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals’ to the French neurologist Duchenne de Boulogne and his terrifying experiments published in ‘Le Mecanisme de la Physionomie Humaine’ (1862), from sixteenth-century childrearing practices to the memoirs of a Parisian exile living in Nice in 1942, and from Turner’s paintings to Albert Camus’ L’Etranger and his epicureanistic character Meursault.

James and Sam shake the water from their eyes to discover that this unexpected history is actually all about: symbolism, emotion, empire, science, life cycles, communication, gender, remembrance, experience, space, response, empathy, control, culture and quite a bit of mucus too!

Want to know if camels cry? Or dogs? Or how about Oliver Cromwell? Quite a blubber apparently! This episode does come with a warning – please do not attempt Darwin’s experiment to elicit a tearful response from his own very young child on any children you may encounter, it is now frowned upon.

‘There is pleasure in tears – an awful pleasure!’ (author unknown)


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