Feeling Rules and Emotion Labor: A Poststructural-Discursive Approach to English Language Teachers’ Emotions

  • Sarah BeneschEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


Responding to increased attention to emotions in English language teaching, this chapter proposes a poststructural-discursive approach that considers the social context and power relations. After discussion of the assumptions of a poststructural-discursive approach, two conceptual tools are introduced: feeling rules and emotion labor. These tools highlight institutional regulation of emotions and teachers’ compliance with or resistance to that regulation.

Feeling rules and emotion labor are illustrated using data gathered from interviews with English language teachers at a US university about the university’s attendance policy, instructors’ own policies, and their reactions to students’ lateness and absence. The data revealed that the attendance policy’s implicit and contradictory feeling rules of vigilance and flexibility generated emotion labor in the teachers, who were tasked with implementing the policy. As to teachers’ responses to lateness and absence, these revealed three emotion-labor discourses: a discourse of teachers’ embodied performance, a discourse of students’ embodied performance, and a discourse of teachers’ emotional in-filling when students were absent. The chapter concludes with implications for pedagogy and English language teacher education to highlight teachers’ emotions and emotion labor from a poststructural-discursive perspective.


Teachers’ emotions Emotion labor Power Poststructural-discursive approach Attendance 


  1. Ahmed S (2004) The cultural politics of emotion. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Appleby R (2013) Desire in translation: white masculinity and TESOL. TESOL Q 47:122–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benesch S (2012) Considering emotions in critical English language teaching: theories and praxis. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Benesch S (2017) Emotions and English language teaching: exploring teachers’ emotion labor. Routledge, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benesch S (2018) Emotions as agency: feeling rules emotion labor, and English language teachers’ decision-making. System.
  6. Darvin R, Norton B (2015) Identity and a model of investment in applied linguistics. Annu Rev Appl Linguist 35:36–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dewaele J-M et al (2016) Do girls have all the fun? Anxiety and enjoyment in the foreign language classroom. Theory Pract Second Lang Acquis 2:41–63Google Scholar
  8. Dörneyei Z, Kubanyiova M (2014) Motivating learners, motivating teachers: building visions in the language classroom. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  9. Gabrys-Barker D, Bielska J (eds) (2012) The affective dimension in second language acquisition. Multilingual Matters, BristolGoogle Scholar
  10. Gkonou C, Miller ER (2017) Caring and emotional labour: language teachers’ engagement with anxious learners in private language school classrooms. Lang Teach Res. (Early Online)
  11. Harding J, Pribram ED (Eds) (2009) Emotions: A Cultural Studies Reader. London: RoutledgeGoogle Scholar
  12. Hochschild AR (1979) Emotion work, feeling rules, and social structure. Am J Sociol 85:551–575CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hochschild AR (1983) The managed heart: commercialization of human feeling. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  14. Johnson KE, Golombek PR (2002) Inquiry into experience: teachers’ personal and professional growth. In: Johnson KE, Golombek PR (eds) Teachers’ narrative inquiry as professional development. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp 1–11Google Scholar
  15. Krashen SD (1982) Principles and practice in second language acquisition. Pergamon, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  16. Loh CE, Liew WM (2016) Voices from the ground: the emotional labour of English teachers’ work. Teach Teach Educ 55:267–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mahmoodzadeh M, Gkonou C (2015) A complex dynamic systems perspective on foreign language anxiety. Konin Lang Stud J 3:89–108Google Scholar
  18. Miller ER, Gkonou C (2018) Language teacher agency, emotion labor and emotional rewards in tertiary-level English language programs. System.
  19. Motha S, Lin A (2013) “Non-coercive rearrangement”: theorizing desire in TESOL. TESOL Q 48:331–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Norton B (2000) Identity and language learning: gender, ethnicity and educational change. Pearson Educational, HarlowGoogle Scholar
  21. Parr H, Fyfe N (2012) Missing geographies. Prog Hum Geogr 37:615–638CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Pavlenko A (2012) Affective processing in bilingual speakers: disembodied cognition? Int J Psychol 47:405–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Prior MT (2015) Emotion and discourse in L2 narrative research. Multilingual Matters, BristolCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Şimşek E, Dörnyei Z (2017) Anxiety and L2 self-images: the ‘anxious self’. In: Gkonou C, Daubney M, Dewaele J-M (eds) New insights into language anxiety: theory, research and educational implications. Multilingual Matters, Bristol, pp 51–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Takahashi K (2013) Language learning, gender and desire: Japanese women on the move. Multilingual Matters, BristolCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Tracy SJ, Trethewey A (2005) Fracturing the real self ↔ fake self dichotomy: moving toward “crystallized” organizational discourses and identities. Commun Theory 15:168–195Google Scholar
  27. Verity DP (2000) Side effects: the strategic developments of professional satisfaction. In: Lantolf JP (ed) Sociocultural theory and second language learning. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 179–197Google Scholar
  28. Warriner DS (2013) ‘It’s better life here than there’: elasticity and ambivalence in narratives of personal experience. Int Multiling Res J 7:15–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Waterhouse M (2012) ‘We don’t believe media anymore’: mapping critical literacies in an adult immigrant language classroom. Discourse Stud Cult Polit Educ 33:129–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Zembylas M (2005) Teaching with emotion: a postmodern enactment. Information Age Publishing, GreenwichGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Staten IslandThe City University of New YorkStaten IslandUSA

Personalised recommendations