Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life Of Shyness by Joe Moran

Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life Of Shyness

byJoe Moran

Hardcover | February 21, 2017

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A deeply perceptive and beautifully written cultural history of shyness, from one of our most astute observers of the everyday

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.

About The Author

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.
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Details & Specs

Title:Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life Of ShynessFormat:HardcoverDimensions:280 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 1 inPublished:February 21, 2017Publisher:Yale University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0300222823

ISBN - 13:9780300222821

Customer Reviews of Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life Of Shyness


Extra Content

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's excellent Shrinking Violets is an invitation to enter the strange and wonderful world of shyness, an emotion experienced by everyone from Charles Darwin to Japanese teenagers. Whether you're boldly outgoing or reticent and self-effacing, you'll find something to inspire, inform, or surprise in this thoughtful, beautifully written, and vividly detailed cultural history.” — Susan Cain, best-selling author of Quiet and co-founder of Quiet Revolution “This remarkable compendium of shyness, vivid and insightful, provides both a history of diffidence and a compelling account of its cultural and psychological complexity. Whether discussing embarrassment, stammering, stage fright, or reticence, Moran considers the impact of shyness on creativity and its myriad contributions to fiction, art, and music. Beautifully written, appealingly candid, and thoroughly engaging, Shrinking Violets deserves a very wide readership.”—Christopher Lane, author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness “Joe Moran has an eye for exploring realms of human existence that usually go unnoticed. Shrinking Violets is an intriguing, poignant, and passionate story about shyness in humans and animals. I was captivated from start to finish.”—Joanna Bourke, author of What it Means to be Human “This is a probing, surprising, and continually alert book about a feeling that is well-known—even when it doesn't want to be—yet almost never discussed. Moran, with beautifully shaped prose, ruminates on cultural attitudes to, and representations of, shyness. He is generous about his own shyness, and forensically alert to what being shy more generally means and what it doesn't. Shyness is just there, he concludes: loaded with potential interpretations but not defined by them. Examining a huge amount of cultural material—from sociological reports to popular music, from Virginia Woolf to Desert Island Discs--Moran is the razor-edge analyst of reticence, a virtuoso reader of those who hope to evade the eye.”—Francis O'Gorman, author of Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History  "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