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Dixie Forum to discuss the history of emotion in the American way of life

For its next installment, Dixie State University’s weekly lecture series Dixie Forum: A Window on the World will examine the history of homesickness to offer a new way of understanding past societies and their priorities and values.

Dr. Susan J. Matt, the Presidential Distinguished Professor of History at Weber State University, will present “Homesickness, History, and American Emotional Life” at noon on Feb. 27 in the Dunford Auditorium, located in the Browning Resource Center on the Dixie State campus. Admission is free, and the public is encouraged to attend.

Matt’s presentation will delve into the history of emotions and point to how they are a product of history and culture as much as they are a product of biology. Her discussion will also highlight how 19th century Americans once died of homesickness, or nostalgia, as they termed it, and considered it a deadly disease. Today, however, the feeling is regarded as an emotion of childhood, one that should be conquered at summer camp or college. Probing this emotion’s history can reveal much about how Americans learned to leave home and mastered the habits of rugged individualism, essential to life in a capitalist economy.

As a researcher and professor, Matt focuses on social and cultural history, history of emotions, gilded age, progressive era and consumerism. She has written the books “Keeping Up with the Joneses: Envy in American Society, 1890-1930” and “Homesickness: An American History.” Her next book, co-authored with Luke Fernandez, is titled “Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stupid: American Feelings About Technology, from the Telegraph to Twitter” and is forthcoming from Harvard University Press. Additionally, her articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Journal of American History.

Matt earned her bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of Chicago, where she was student body president. She went on to receive her master’s and doctoral degrees from Cornell University.

Dixie Forum is a weekly lecture series designed to introduce the St. George and Dixie State communities to diverse ideas and personalities while widening their worldviews via a 50-minute presentation. Dixie Forum will continue March 6 with a presentation on NASA, technology and living on Mars by Bruce Bugbee and Lance Seefeld from Utah State University.

For more information about Dixie State University’s Dixie Forum series, contact DSU Forum Coordinator John Burns at 435-879-4712 or burns@dixie.edu or visit humanities.dixie.edu/the-dixie-forum.