Shame and guilt are quintessential human emotions. They are reflective emotions and also what we might call social feelings; they affect individuals as well as collective cultures. Shame and guilt are similar in that they both reveal a failure of the self in regard to common norms. However, shame concerns the self and a person’s self-identity, whereas guilt is linked to specific actions towards others.
SHAME ON YOU explores shame and guilt in a Western and Scandinavian context focusing on a wide range of authors: from 19th century writers such as Carlo Collodi and Henrik Ibsen through modernist writers such as Frans Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes and Marguerite Duras to contemporary writers such as Elizabeth Gilbert, Charlotte Roche and Yahya Hassan.
The individual chapters focus on the cultural alteration of shame and guilt – an alteration that is indicated for example by pointing out the contrast between the repression of sexuality that has historically been prevalent and the demand for enjoyment today. This development also implies a change in the position of the subject. Hence, the focus on shame reveals a change in the subject’s relation to him- or herself. The book has a mainly literary perspective, but the first three chapters open with theoretical and historical assessments of shame and guilt.
Gorm Larsen: Ph.D., Associate Professor at the Department of Communication, Aalborg University, Copenhagen; head of the research group Communication Dynamics.
René Rasmussen: Ph.D. and psychoanalyst, Associate Professor Emeritus in Danish literature at the Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics, University of Copenhagen.