The emergent political arena of the late eighteenth century, and the literary one that preceded it, were claimed to be based upon a functional dichotomy between a private sphere of emotive ties and associations, and a “public sphere” of rational criticism (Habermas, 1962). This categorical distinction, however, scantily registered the emergence of a corollary affective economy in this period, which redefined social, political, and physical spaces according to their emotional content, or lack thereof. This article focuses on the rise of emotional language, its spatial configurations, and its dissemination during the late German Enlightenment in three thematic contexts: the “popular Enlightenment” (Volksaufklärung) and its emphasis on the enhancement of literacy among the lower classes to achieve emotional refinement; the visual representation of domestic emotional scenarios in the context of the Franco-German cultural exchange surrounding the French Revolution; and the emergence of “homeland” (Heimat) as an increasingly ubiquitous emotion-bound metaphor in the nationalization of space toward the century's end. These contexts reveal major shifts in the cultural dynamics of space and emotion in this period: first, the reaffirmation of emotion as a culturally viable interpretive mode, set against earlier concerted attempts to suppress or control it; second, the osmosis between private and public that enabled emotional protocols to transgress supposedly natural boundaries of class, status, and gender across society, and establish new contacts between exclusive and excluded communities; and last, the article shows how the spatial imaginary that emerged in the second half of the eighteenth century—despite its reliance on older dispositions regarding space in German culture—deployed emotional vocabularies for engendering new forms of sociability, which went on to became central determinants of Germanness in the early nineteenth century.

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