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Deborah Cohen: Shame's History

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Published on Oct 19, 2013

Shame burns at the center of our human condition. Central to Western culture's origin myth of Adam and Eve, it also functions as a powerful deterrent to socially unacceptable behavior. Yet what causes us shame is specific to culture and era, according to Northwestern University historian Deborah Cohen. Her recent book Family Secrets probes two centuries of private British records to arrive at the startling conclusion that the transformation of social mores since Victorian times has fundamentally altered what shames us. She takes us behind closed doors to journey through the surprising history of this most potent emotion.

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