Wounded Feelings: Litigating Emotions in Quebec, 1870–1950
Wounded Feelings is the first legal history of emotions in Canada. Through detailed histories of how people litigated emotional injuries like dishonour, humiliation, grief, and betrayal before the Quebec civil courts from 1870 to 1950, Eric H. Reiter explores the confrontation between people’s lived experience of emotion and the legal categories and terminology of lawyers, judges, and courts. Drawing on archival case files, newspapers, and contemporary legal writings, he examines how individuals narrated their claims of injured feelings and how the courts assessed those claims using legal rules, social norms, and the judges’ own feelings to validate certain emotional injuries and reject others.
The cases reveal both contemporary views of emotion as well as the family, gender, class, linguistic, and racial dynamics that shaped those understandings and their adjudication. Examples include a family’s grief over their infant son’s death due to a physician’s prescription error, a wealthy woman’s mortification at being harassed by a conductor aboard a train, and a Black man's indignation at being denied seats at a Montreal cinema. The book also traces an important legal change in how moral injury was conceptualized in Quebec civil law over the period as it came to be linked to the developing idea of personality rights. By 1950 the subjective richness of stories of wounded feelings was increasingly put into the language of violated rights, a development with implications for both social understandings of emotion and how individuals presented their emotional injuries in court.
- Series: Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History
- World Rights
- Page Count: 504 pages
- Illustrations: 17
- Dimensions: 5.9in x 1.3in x 9.0in
"Wounded Feelings is an excellent study of how Quebec individuals, lawyers, and judges dealt with legal claims touching broadly on issues in the realm of the emotions. Building on this growing interest in the history of emotions, Wounded Feelings provides fascinating discussion on cases that reveal much about day-to-day life, functional and dysfunctional families, and the social and power dynamics of class, status, age, race, and gender across an eighty-year period of Quebec history."
Bettina Bradbury, Department of History, York University
"The ground-breaking thesis of Wounded Feelings is supported by outstanding research and an abundance of sources."
Michel Morin, Faculty of Law, University of Montreal
Author InformationEric H. Reiter is an associate professor in the Department of History at Concordia University and a member of the Quebec Bar.
Table of contents
1. Feelings and the Law in Nineteenth-Century Quebec
2. Shame, Mortification, Disgrace, Dishonour
3. Family Dishonour
4. Bodily Intrusion
6. Grief and Mourning
7. Indignation, Anger, Fear
8. Conclusion: From Wounded Feelings to Violated Rights
PrizesCHA Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History Prize - Winner in 2020
Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Scholarly Research - Winner in 2020
Subjects and Courses