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19. Phenomenology and Affect: Modernist Sulking

Sara Crangle

Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780470658734.2013.00020.x


In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), Charles Darwin locates the origins of human sulking in our primate ancestors. In experiments, Darwin encouraged sulking in chimpanzees by offering them something appealing, like an orange, and then taking it away. Darwin (2009) describes the expression that followed: “A firmly closed mouth, in addition to a lowered and frowning brow, gives determination to the expression, and may make it obstinate and sullen” (209). We frown from the first few days of life, Darwin points out, and never learn to control this expression as we do weeping, for instance. Frowning Darwin considers a product of our evolutionary need to look into the distance, scanning the horizon for danger; we also frown when contemplating a difficult or obscure line of thought. A mouth resolutely shut indicates attentiveness, decisiveness, and may precede physical exertion, but pouting, or what Darwin delightfully calls “making a snout,” is a behavior he restricts to European children and adults of all other races (212–213). Frowning falls within Darwin's survivalist remit; sulking proper he demarcates as childish and “primitive.” While Darwin's suggestion that non-European adults sulk was popular in the nineteenth century—witness “[t]he silent sullen peoples” of Kipling's “The White Man's Burden” (1897–1899)—the conviction remains that sulking is an emotional ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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