Skip to main content

Uncomfortable Situations

Emotion between Science and the Humanities

What is a hostile environment? How exactly can feelings be mixed? What on earth might it mean when someone writes that he was “happily situated” as a slave? The answers, of course, depend upon whom you ask.

Science and the humanities typically offer two different paradigms for thinking about emotion—the first rooted in brain and biology, the second in a social world. With rhetoric as a field guide, Uncomfortable Situations establishes common ground between these two paradigms, focusing on a theory of situated emotion. Daniel M. Gross anchors the argument in Charles Darwin, whose work on emotion has been misunderstood across the disciplines as it has been shoehorned into the perceived science-humanities divide. Then Gross turns to sentimental literature as the single best domain for studying emotional situations. There’s lost composure (Sterne), bearing up (Equiano), environmental hostility (Radcliffe), and feeling mixed (Austen). Rounding out the book, an epilogue written with ecological neuroscientist Stephanie Preston provides a different kind of cross-disciplinary collaboration. Uncomfortable Situations is a conciliatory work across science and the humanities—a groundbreaking model for future studies.

208 pages | 16 halftones, 1 line drawing | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature

Philosophy: Philosophy of Mind

Philosophy of Science

Rhetoric and Communication


“Gross is the go-to figure if one wants a thinker who refuses to compromise with reductionistic accounts (of the ‘Basic Emotions’ or ‘consilience’ varieties), but does not, for all that, refuse dialog. In Uncomfortable Situations he demonstrates convincingly that we can save the richness of texts without ruling out the potential of experimental methods.”

William M. Reddy, author of The Making of Romantic Love

“Gross’s Uncomfortable Situations is a superlative achievement of interdisciplinary scholarship. Uncompromising in its commitment to the literary and rhetorical humanities, Gross takes on board the latest research on the neuroscience of emotion and situated cognition and puts the two into productive, sometimes uncomfortable dialogue. The result is non-reductionist cognitive literary study of the highest order. It should be read by everyone with an interest in the history of the emotions, in eighteenth-century sentimental and Gothic literature, and in the ecological humanities.”

Jonathan Kramnick, author of Actions and Objects from Hobbes to Richardson

Table of Contents

Introduction Uncomfortable Situations

Chapter 1 Defending the Humanities with Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals

Chapter 2 Bearing Up in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African

Chapter 3 Hostile Environments in Ann Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest

Chapter 4 Mixed Feelings in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility

Epilogue Irreconcilable Differences?
(With Stephanie Preston)


Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press