Minerva Research Focus Emotions and Illness

"Histories of an Intricate Relation"


(concluded, duration 2015-2020)

Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, […] when we think of this and infinitely more, as we are so frequently forced to think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love, battle, and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.
(Virginia Woolf, On Being Ill, 1926)

Ever since Virginia Woolf decried contemporaneous writers’ silence towards illness in her 1926 essay “On Being Ill,” many authors have explored the significance of illness for human existence. However, the history of the relation between feelings and illness in the 20th century – both as experiences of the self and as scientific concepts – remains largely unexplored. The Minerva research group aims to close this gap by studying, first, the emotional history of the 20th century’s most visible disease – cancer – and second, the scientific and cultural history of psychosomatic medicine, a field that sparked many scientific, social, and political debates on the relation between emotions, mind, and body during the 20th century.

Projects in the Minerva Research Focus


  • Hitzer, B. (2020), Krebs Fühlen. Eine Emotionsgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.
  • Hitzer, B. & Dror, Otniel & Laukötter, Anja & León-Sanz, Pilar (Hg.) (2016), History of Science and the Emotions (Themenheft / Osiris, 31).
  • Hitzer, B. (2013), Körpersorge(n). Gesundheitspolitik mit Gefühl. In C. Jarzebowski/A. Kwaschik (Hg.), Performing Emotions. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf das Verhältnis von Politik und Emotion in der Frühen Neuzeit und in der Moderne, Göttingen: V&R unipress, S. 43-68.
  • Hitzer, B. & Gammerl, B. (2013), Wohin mit den Gefühlen? Vergangenheit und Zukunft des Emotional Turn in den Geschichtswissenschaften, in: Berliner Debatte Initial 24, 3, S. 31-40.
  • Hitzer, B. (2011), Die Therapeutisierung der Gefühle. Eine Geschichte aus dem 20. Jahrhundert, in: Der Mensch. Zeitschrift für Salutogenese und anthropologische Medizin 42/43, H. 1+2, S. 17-20.
  • Hitzer, B. (2011), Gefühle heilen. In U. Frevert et al., Gefühlswissen. Eine lexikalische Spurensuche in der Moderne, Frankfurt : Campus, S. 121-151.

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