Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life Of Shyness

Hardcover | February 21, 2017

byJoe Moran

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Shyness is a pervasive human trait: even most extroverts know what it is like to stand tongue-tied at the fringe of an unfamiliar group or flush with embarrassment at being the unwelcome center of attention. And yet the cultural history of shyness has remained largely unwritten—until now.
 
With incisiveness, passion, and humor, Joe Moran offers an eclectic and original exploration of what it means to be a “shrinking violet.” Along the way, he provides a collective biography of shyness through portraits of such shy individuals as Charles Darwin, Charles Schulz, Garrison Keillor, and Agatha Christie, among many others. In their stories often both heartbreaking and inspiring and through the myriad ways scientists and thinkers have tried to explain and “cure” shyness, Moran finds hope. To be shy, he decides, is not simply a burden; it is also a gift, a different way of seeing the world that can be both enriching and inspiring.

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From the Publisher

Shyness is a pervasive human trait: even most extroverts know what it is like to stand tongue-tied at the fringe of an unfamiliar group or flush with embarrassment at being the unwelcome center of attention. And yet the cultural history of shyness has remained largely unwritten—until now.   With incisiveness, passion, and humor, Joe Mo...

Joe Moran is professor of English and cultural history at Liverpool John Moores University. His previous books include On Roads: A Hidden History, which was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. He lives in Liverpool, UK.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:280 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.98 inPublished:February 21, 2017Publisher:Yale University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0300222823

ISBN - 13:9780300222821

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From the Author

Why write about shyness?   Well, it’s personal: I am shy. But I was also attracted to shyness as a subject that is quite nebulous and hard to define and evidence. I thought it might let me range over quite a wide canvas and bring together literature, art, biography, history, anthropology, psychology, and so on. There isn’t a vast scholarly literature on shyness in the same way as there is on, say, shame or embarrassment. People tend to talk about it in passing while they are talking about something else. So I enjoyed trying to bring all this disparate material together.   What exactly is shyness?   There is something very human about it – it’s not just about the instincts of fear or timidity we share with other animals. It’s about our tendency to overthink and construct weird, sometimes self-fulfilling meanings out of our lives. And it’s about our capacity to feel part of but also apart from other people, to be a social animal and yet finally alone – to have this gift for what Darwin called "self-attention."   Are there benefits to being shy?   I don’t romanticize being shy: it can be a burden. But it can often make us social in creative and circuitous ways. Shy people are sometimes good performers and speakers, for example. I suppose I think of shyness as just another piece in the jigsaw of human diversity. Without it, people like me might be happier, but the world might also be a little blander and less interesting.  

Editorial Reviews

"Joe Moran shines a light here on the phenomenon of shyness ... The author's lightness of touch belies some profound insights into human nature, from the strange science of blushing, to the inherent fragility of our social roles."—Laura Garmeson, Financial Times