A Short History of Crying is a stand-up tragedy by Sanja Mitrovic
You know, this is very personal for me. It’s not just political. It’s not just public.
(Hillary Clinton, crying at a New Hampshire election campaign event, 7 January 2008)
A Short History of Crying is an investigation into the phenomenology of tears that touches upon the themes of memory, emigration and death. Throughout history crying has been connected to cultural conceptions of gender, age and class, and perceived as a shared non-verbal language in which we communicate complex and often contradictory emotions. In Western cultures crying is generally considered an intimate and private act. Showing emotions in public has anti-social character, signifying one’s weakness or lack of restraint. It is only relatively recently, with the emergence of reality television and the confessional culture, that the private suffering becomes a public spectacle. Today, sharing emotions with millions of others is not only allowed but is also encouraged as therapy and lucrative mass entertainment.
In her new work, A Short History of Crying, Sanja Mitrovic questions the social and cultural mechanisms related to public display of emotions. Contrasting personal statements with iconic scenes of crying in contemporary culture, as well as presenting the material from a research trip through the Balkans and the Netherlands, this ‘stand-up tragedy’ examines how emotions are manifested in different situations, and why we express them publicly.