When theater and related forms of live performance explore the borderlands labeled animal and autism, they both reflect and affect their audiences’ understanding of what it means to be human. Affect, Animals, and Autists maps connections across performances that question the borders of the human whose neurodiverse experiences have been shaped by the diagnostic label of autism, and animal-human performance relationships that dispute and blur anthropocentric edges.
By analyzing specific structures of affect with the vocabulary of emotions, Marla Carlson builds upon the conception of affect articulated by psychologist Silvan Tomkins. The book treats a diverse selection of live performance and archival video and analyzes the ways in which they affect their audiences. The range of performances includes commercially successful productions such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, War Horse, and The Lion King as well as to the more avant-garde and experimental theater created by Robert Wilson and Christopher Knowles, Back to Back Theatre, Elevator Repair Service, Pig Iron Theatre, and performance artist Deke Weaver.
In Afterlives of Affect Matthew C. Watson considers the life and work of artist and Mayanist scholar Linda Schele (1942–98) as a point of departure for what he calls an excitable anthropology. As part of a small collective of scholars who devised the first compelling arguments that Maya hieroglyphs were a fully grammatical writing system, Schele popularized the decipherment of hieroglyphs by developing narratives of Maya politics and religion in popular books and public workshops. In this experimental, person-centered ethnography, Watson shows how Schele’s sense of joyous discovery and affective engagement with research led her to traverse and disrupt borders between religion, science, art, life, death, and history. While acknowledging critiques of Schele’s work and the idea of discovery more generally, Watson contends that affect and wonder should lie at the heart of any reflexive anthropology. With this singular examination of Schele and the community she built around herself and her work, Watson furthers debates on more-than-human worlds, spiritualism, modernity, science studies, affect theory, and the social conditions of knowledge production.
In Animate Literacies Nathan Snaza proposes a new theory of literature and literacy in which he outlines how literacy is both constitutive of the social and used as a means to define the human. Weaving new materialism with feminist, queer, and decolonial thought, Snaza theorizes literacy as a contact zone in which humans, nonhuman animals, and nonvital objects such as chairs and paper all become active participants. In readings of classic literature by Kate Chopin, Frederick Douglass, James Joyce, Toni Morrison, Mary Shelley, and others, Snaza emphasizes the key roles that affect and sensory experiences play in literacy. Snaza upends common conceptions of literacy and its relation to print media, showing instead how such understandings reinforce dehumanizations linked to dominant imperialist, heterosexist, and capitalist definitions of the human. The path toward disrupting such exclusionary, humanist frameworks, Snaza contends, lies in formulating alternative practices of literacy and literary study that escape disciplined knowledge production.
The Greek playwright Aristophanes (active 427–386 BCE) is often portrayed as the poet who brought stability, discipline, and sophistication to the rowdy theatrical genre of Old Comedy. In this groundbreaking book, situated within the affective turn in the humanities, Mario Telò explores a vital yet understudied question: how did this view of Aristophanes arise, and why did his popularity eventually eclipse that of his rivals?
Telò boldly traces Aristophanes’s rise, ironically, to the defeat of his play Clouds at the Great Dionysia of 423 BCE. Close readings of his revised Clouds and other works, such as Wasps, uncover references to the earlier Clouds, presented by Aristophanes as his failed attempt to heal the audience, who are reflected in the plays as a kind of dysfunctional father. In this proto-canonical narrative of failure, grounded in the distinctive feelings of different comic modes, Aristophanic comedy becomes cast as a prestigious object, a soft, protective cloak meant to shield viewers from the debilitating effects of competitors’ comedies and restore a sense of paternal responsibility and authority. Associations between afflicted fathers and healing sons, between audience and poet, are shown to be at the center of the discourse that has shaped Aristophanes’s canonical dominance ever since.
In recent years, emotions have become a major, vibrant topic of research not merely in the biological and psychological sciences but throughout a wide swath of the humanities and social sciences as well. Yet, surprisingly, there is still no consensus on their basic nature or workings.
Ruth Leys’s brilliant, much anticipated history, therefore, is a story of controversy and disagreement. The Ascent of Affect focuses on the post–World War II period, when interest in emotions as an object of study began to revive. Leys analyzes the ongoing debate over how to understand emotions, paying particular attention to the continual conflict between camps that argue for the intentionality or meaning of emotions but have trouble explaining their presence in non-human animals and those that argue for the universality of emotions but struggle when the question turns to meaning. Addressing the work of key figures from across the spectrum, considering the potentially misleading appeal of neuroscience for those working in the humanities, and bringing her story fully up to date by taking in the latest debates, Leys presents here the most thorough analysis available of how we have tried to think about how we feel.
Between 1996 and 2014, Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill Church multiplied from its base in Seattle into fifteen facilities spread across five states with 13,000 attendees. When it closed, the church was beset by scandal, with former attendees testifying to spiritual abuse, emotional manipulation, and financial exploitation. In Biblical Porn Jessica Johnson examines how Mars Hill's congregants became entangled in processes of religious conviction. Johnson shows how they were affectively recruited into sexualized and militarized dynamics of power through the mobilization of what she calls "biblical porn"—the affective labor of communicating, promoting, and embodying Driscoll's teaching on biblical masculinity, femininity, and sexuality, which simultaneously worked as a marketing strategy, social imaginary, and biopolitical instrument. Johnson theorizes religious conviction as a social process through which Mars Hill's congregants circulated and amplified feelings of hope, joy, shame, and paranoia as affective value that the church capitalized on to grow at all costs.
In this book, Steele Nowlin examines the process of poetic invention as it is conceptualized and expressed in the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer (1343–1400) and John Gower (ca. 1330–1408). Specifically, it examines how these two poets present invention as an affective force, a process characterized by emergence and potentiality, and one that has a corollary in affect—that is, a kind of force or sensation distinct from emotion, characterized as an “intensity” that precedes what is only later cognitively understood and expressed as feeling or emotion, and that is typically described in a critical vocabulary of movement, emergence, and becoming.
Chaucer, Gower, and the Affect of Invention thus formulates a definition of affect that differs from most work in the recent “turn to affect” in medieval studies, focusing not on the representation of emotion or desire, or efforts to engage medieval alterity, but on the movement and emergence that precede emotional experience. It likewise argues for a broader understanding of invention in late medieval literature beyond analyses of rhetorical poetics and authorial politics by recuperating the dynamism and sense of potential that characterize inventional activity. Finally, its close readings of Chaucer’s and Gower’s poetry provide new insights into how these poets represent invention in order to engage the pervasive social and cultural discourses their poetry addresses.
The philosophy of technology suggests that rather than technologies being simply useful tools, they also have an often relatively unnoticed or subconscious impact upon the way we live our lives - our interactions with the world, and the way we think. Seen in this way, all media technologies might affect our metaphysical sense of time, space and force through their relative ability to represent these concepts. In The Digital Image and Reality, digital visual technologies are examined through their radically different capacities for representation and simulation and the challenges that they pose to our understanding of the world. I analyse how digital images are well suited to graphical imagination and speculation about the nature of material reality. What is suggested throughout the book is that digital visual technologies offer a new sensual image of the world, subtly impacting not simply our subjective perception or consciousness of reality, but perhaps objective actuality itself.
In Diplomatic Material Jason Dittmer offers a counterintuitive reading of foreign policy by tracing the ways that complex interactions between people and things shape the decisions and actions of diplomats and policymakers. Bringing new materialism to bear on international relations, Dittmer focuses not on what the state does in the world but on how the world operates within the state through the circulation of humans and nonhuman objects. From examining how paper storage needs impacted the design of the British Foreign Office Building to discussing the 1953 NATO decision to adopt the .30 caliber bullet as the standard rifle ammunition, Dittmer highlights the contingency of human agency within international relations. In Dittmer's model, which eschews stasis, structural forces, and historical trends in favor of dynamism and becoming, the international community is less a coming-together of states than it is a convergence of media, things, people, and practices. In this way, Dittmer locates power in the unfolding of processes on the micro level, thereby reconceptualizing our understandings of diplomacy and international relations.
Feeling Faint is a book about human consciousness in its most basic sense: the awareness, at any given moment, that we live and feel. Such awareness, it argues, is distinct from the categories of selfhood to which it is often assimilated, and can only be uncovered at the margins of first-person experience. What would it mean to be conscious without being a first person—to be conscious in the absence of a self?
Such a phenomenon, subsequently obscured by the Enlightenment identification of consciousness and personal identity, is what we discover in scenes of swooning from the Renaissance: consciousness without self, consciousness reconceived as what Fredric Jameson calls "a registering apparatus for transformed states of being." Where the early modern period has often been seen in terms of the rise of self-aware subjectivity, Feeling Faint argues that swoons, faints, and trances allow us to conceive of Renaissance subjectivity in a different guise: as the capacity of the senses and passions to experience, regulate, and respond to their own activity without the intervention of first-person awareness.
In readings of Renaissance authors ranging from Montaigne to Shakespeare, Pertile shows how self-loss affords embodied consciousness an experience of itself in a moment of intimate vitality which precedes awareness of specific objects or thoughts—an experience with which we are all familiar, and yet which is tantalizingly difficult to pin down.
Many contemporary television series from Modern Family to How to Get Away with Murder open an episode or season with a conflict and then go back in time to show how that conflict came to be. In Figures of Time Toni Pape examines these narratives, showing how these leaps in time create aesthetic experiences of time that attune their audiences to the political doctrine of preemption—a logic that justifies preemptive action to nullify a perceived future threat. Examining questions of temporality in Life on Mars, the political ramifications of living under the auspices of a catastrophic future in FlashForward, and how Damages disrupts the logic of preemption, Pape shows how television helps shift political culture away from a model of rational deliberation and representation toward a politics of preemption and conformity. Exposing the mechanisms through which television supports a fear-based politics, Pape contends, will allow for the rechanneling of television's affective force into building a more productive and positive politics.
Denise Riley is renowned as a feminist theorist and a poet and for her remarkable refiguring of familiar but intransigent problems of identity, expression, language, and politics. In Impersonal Passion, she turns to everyday complex emotional and philosophical problems of speaking and listening. Her provocative meditations suggest that while the emotional power of language is impersonal, this impersonality paradoxically constitutes the personal.
In nine linked essays, Riley deftly unravels the rhetoric of life’s absurdities and urgencies, its comforts and embarrassments, to insist on the forcible affect of language itself. She teases out the emotional complexities of such quotidian matters as what she ironically terms the right to be lonely in the face of the imperative to be social or the guilt associated with feeling as if you’re lying when you aren’t. Impersonal Passion reinvents questions from linguistics, the philosophy of language, and cultural theory in an illuminating new idiom: the compelling emotion of the language of the everyday.
In Mood and Trope, John Brenkman introduces two provocative propositions to affect theory: that human emotion is intimately connected to persuasion and figurative language; and that literature, especially poetry, lends precision to studying affect because it resides there not in speaking about feelings, but in the way of speaking itself.
Engaging a quartet of modern philosophers—Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Deleuze—Brenkman explores how they all approach the question of affect primarily through literature and art. He draws on the differences and dialogues among them, arguing that the vocation of criticism is incapable of systematicity and instead must be attuned to the singularity and plurality of literary and artistic creations. In addition, he confronts these four philosophers and their essential concepts with a wide array of authors and artists, including Pinter and Poe, Baudelaire, Jorie Graham and Li-Young Lee, Shakespeare, Tino Sehgal, and Francis Bacon. Filled with surprising insights, Mood and Trope provides a rich archive for rethinking the nature of affect and its aesthetic and rhetorical stakes.
Why were theories of affect, intersubjectivity, and object relations bypassed in favor of a Lacanian linguistically oriented psychoanalysis in feminist film theory in the 1980s and 1990s? In Moral Spectatorship, Lisa Cartwright rethinks the politics of spectatorship in film studies. Returning to impasses reached in late-twentieth-century psychoanalytic film theory, she focuses attention on theories of affect and object relations seldom addressed during that period. Cartwright offers a new theory of spectatorship and the human subject that takes into account intersubjective and affective relationships and technologies facilitating human agency. Seeking to expand concepts of representation beyond the visual, she develops her theory through interpretations of two contexts in which adult caregivers help bring children to voice. She considers several social-problem melodramas about deaf and nonverbal girls and young women, including Johnny Belinda, The Miracle Worker, and Children of a Lesser God. Cartwright also analyzes the controversies surrounding facilitated communication, a technological practice in which caregivers help children with communication disorders achieve “voice” through writing facilitated by computers. This practice has inspired contempt among professionals and lay people who charge that the facilitator can manipulate the child’s speech.
For more than two decades, film theory has been dominated by a model of identification tacitly based on the idea of feeling what the other feels or of imagining oneself to be the other. Building on the theories of affect and identification developed by André Green, Melanie Klein, Donald W. Winnicott, and Silvan Tomkins, Cartwright develops a model of spectatorship that takes into account and provides a way of critically analyzing the dynamics of a different kind of identification, one that is empathetic and highly intersubjective.
The Open Invitation explores the relationship between prefigurative politics and activist video. Schiwy analyzes activist videos from the 2006 uprising in Oaxaca, the Zapatista’s Other Campaign, as well as collaborative and community video from the Yucatán. Schiwy argues that transnational activist videos and community videos in indigenous languages reveal collaborations and that their political impact cannot be grasped through the concept of the public sphere. Instead, she places these videos in dialogue with recent efforts to understand the political with communality, a mode of governance articulated in indigenous struggles for autonomy, and with cinematic politics of affect.
How gaming intersects with systems like history, bodies, and code
Why do we so compulsively play video games? Might it have something to do with how gaming affects our emotions? In Playing with Feelings, scholar Aubrey Anable applies affect theory to game studies, arguing that video games let us “rehearse” feelings, states, and emotions that give new tones and textures to our everyday lives and interactions with digital devices. Rather than thinking about video games as an escape from reality, Anable demonstrates how video games—their narratives, aesthetics, and histories—have been intimately tied to our emotional landscape since the emergence of digital computers.
Looking at a wide variety of video games—including mobile games, indie games, art games, and games that have been traditionally neglected by academia—Anable expands our understanding of the ways in which these games and game studies can participate in feminist and queer interventions in digital media culture. She gives a new account of the touchscreen and intimacy with our mobile devices, asking what it means to touch and be touched by a game. She also examines how games played casually throughout the day create meaningful interludes that give us new ways of relating to work in our lives. And Anable reflects on how games allow us to feel differently about what it means to fail.
Playing with Feelings offers provocative arguments for why video games should be seen as the most significant art form of the twenty-first century and gives the humanities passionate, incisive, and daring arguments for why games matter.
Experimental poetry responded to historical change in the decades after World War II, with an attitude of such casual and reckless originality that its insights have often been overlooked. However, as Benjamin Lee argues, to ignore the scenes of self and the historical occasions captured by experimental poets during the 1950s and 1960s is to overlook a rich and instructive resource for our own complicated transition into the twenty-first century.
Frank O’Hara and fellow experimental poets like Amiri Baraka, Diane di Prima, and Allen Ginsberg offer us a set of perceptive responses to Cold War culture, lyric meditations on consequential changes in U.S. social life and politics, including the decline of the Old Left, the rise of white-collar workers, and the emergence of vernacular practices like hipsterism and camp. At the same time, they offer us opportunities to anatomize our own desire for historical significance and belonging, a desire we may well see reflected and reconfigured in the work of these poets.
Poetry Matters explores poetry written by women from the United States and Canada, which documents the social and political turmoil of the early twenty-first century and places this poetry in dialogue with recent currents of feminist theory including new materialism, affect theory, posthumanism, and feminist engagements with neoliberalism and capitalism. Central to this project is the conviction that a poetics that explores the political dimensions of affect; demonstrates an understanding of subjectivity as posthuman and transcorporeal; critically reflects on the impact of capitalism on queer, racialized, and female bodies; and develops an ethical vocabulary for reimagining the nation state and critically engaging with issues of democracy and citizenship is now more urgent than ever before.
Milne focuses on poetry published after 2001 by writers who mostly began writing after the feminist writing movements of the 1980s, but who have inherited and built upon their political and aesthetic legacies. The poets discussed in this book—including Jennifer Scappettone, Margaret Christakos, Larissa Lai, Rita Wong, Nikki Reimer, Rachel Zolf, Yedda Morrison, Marcella Durand, Evelyn Reilly, Juliana Spahr, Claudia Rankine, Dionne Brand, Jena Osman, and Jen Benka—bring a sense of political agency to poetry. These voices seek new vocabularies and dissenting critical and aesthetic frameworks for thinking across issues of gender, materiality, capitalism, the toxic convergences of nationalism and racism, and the decline of democratic institutions. This is poetry that matters—both in its political urgency and in its attentiveness to the world as “matter”—as a material entity under siege. It could not be more timely or more relevant.
In this pioneering study, historian Andreana Prichard presents an intimate history of a single mission organization, the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA), told through the rich personal stories of a group of female African lay evangelists. Founded by British Anglican missionaries in the 1860s, the UMCA worked among refugees from the Indian Ocean slave trade on Zanzibar and among disparate communities on the adjacent Tanzanian mainland. Prichard illustrates how the mission’s unique theology and the demographics of its adherents produced cohorts of African Christian women who, in the face of linguistic and cultural dissimilarity, used the daily performance of a certain set of “civilized” Christian values and affective relationships to evangelize to new inquirers. The UMCA’s “sisters in spirit” ultimately forged a united spiritual community that spanned discontiguous mission stations across Tanzania and Zanzibar, incorporated diverse ethnolinguistic communities, and transcended generations. Focusing on the emotional and personal dimensions of their lives and on the relationships of affective spirituality that grew up among them, Prichard tells stories that are vital to our understanding of Tanzanian history, the history of religion and Christian missions in Africa, the development of cultural nationalisms, and the intellectual histories of African women.
Drawing from almost a decade of ethnographic research in largely Brazilian and Puerto Rican neighborhoods in Newark, New Jersey, Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas, in Street Therapists,examines how affect, emotion, and sentiment serve as waypoints for the navigation of interracial relationships among US-born Latinos, Latin American migrants, blacks, and white ethnics. Tackling a rarely studied dynamic approach to affect, Ramos-Zayas offers a thorough—and sometimes paradoxical—new articulation of race, space, and neoliberalism in US urban communities.
After looking at the historical, political, and economic contexts in which an intensified connection between affect and race has emerged in Newark, New Jersey, Street Therapists engages in detailed examinations of various community sites—including high schools, workplaces, beauty salons, and funeral homes, among others—and secondary sites in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and San Juan to uncover the ways US-born Latinos and Latin American migrants interpret and analyze everyday racial encounters through a language of psychology and emotions. As Ramos-Zayas notes, this emotive approach to race resurrects Latin American and Caribbean ideologies of “racial democracy” in an urban US context—and often leads to new psychological stereotypes and forms of social exclusion. Extensively researched and thoughtfully argued, Street Therapists theorizes the conflictive connection between race, affect, and urban neoliberalism.
By the early 1960s, theorists like Lévi-Strauss, Lacan, Foucault, and Barthes had created a world ruled by signifying structures and pictured through the grids of language, information, and systems. Artists soon followed, turning to language and its related forms to devise a new, conceptual approach to art making. Examining the ways in which artists shared the structuralist devotion to systems of many sorts, Systems We Have Loved shows that even as structuralism encouraged the advent of conceptual art, it also raised intractable problems that artists were forced to confront.
Considering such notable art figures as Mary Kelly, Robert Morris, Robert Smithson, and Rosalind Krauss, Eve Meltzer argues that during this period the visual arts depicted and tested the far-reaching claims about subjectivity espoused by theorists. She offers a new way of framing two of the twentieth century’s most transformative movements—one artistic, one expansively theoretical—and she reveals their shared dream—or nightmare—of the world as a system of signs. By endorsing this view, Meltzer proposes, these artists drew attention to the fictions and limitations of this dream, even as they risked getting caught in the very systems they had adopted. The first book to describe art’s embrace of the world as an information system, Systems We Have Loved breathes new life into the study of conceptual art.
Affect, or the process by which emotions come to be embodied, is a burgeoning area of interest in both the humanities and the sciences. For Timing of Affect, Marie-Luise Angerer, Bernd Bösel, and Michaela Ott have assembled leading scholars to explore the temporal aspects of affect through the perspectives of philosophy, music, film, media, and art, as well as technology and neurology. The contributions address possibilities for affect as a capacity of the body; as an anthropological inscription and a primary, ontological conjunctive and disjunctive processes; as an interruption of chains of stimulus and response; and as an arena within cultural history for political, media, and psychopharmacological interventions. Showing how these and other temporal aspects of affect are articulated both throughout history and in contemporary society, the editors then explore the implications for the current knowledge structures surrounding affect today.
A pioneer in queer theory and literary studies, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick brings together for the first time in Touching Feeling her most powerful explorations of emotion and expression. In essays that show how her groundbreaking work in queer theory has developed into a deep interest in affect, Sedgwick offers what she calls "tools and techniques for nondualistic thought," in the process touching and transforming such theoretical discourses as psychoanalysis, speech-act theory, Western Buddhism, and the Foucauldian "hermeneutics of suspicion."
In prose sometimes somber, often high-spirited, and always accessible and moving, Touching Feeling interrogates—through virtuoso readings of works by Henry James, J. L. Austin, Judith Butler, the psychologist Silvan Tomkins and others—emotion in many forms. What links the work of teaching to the experience of illness? How can shame become an engine for queer politics, performance, and pleasure? Is sexuality more like an affect or a drive? Is paranoia the only realistic epistemology for modern intellectuals? Ultimately, Sedgwick's unfashionable commitment to the truth of happiness propels a book as open-hearted as it is intellectually daring.
In Unsettling India, Purnima Mankekar offers a new understanding of the affective and temporal dimensions of how India and “Indianness,” as objects of knowledge production and mediation, circulate through transnational public cultures. Based on over a decade of ethnographic fieldwork in New Delhi and the San Francisco Bay Area, Mankekar tracks the sense of unsettlement experienced by her informants in both places, disrupting binary conceptions of homeland and diaspora, and the national and transnational. She examines Bollywood films, Hindi TV shows, advertisements, and such commodities as Indian groceries as interconnected nodes in the circulation of transnational public cultures that continually reconfigure affective connections to India and what it means to be Indian, both within the country and outside. Drawing on media and cultural studies, feminist anthropology, and Asian/Asian American studies, this book deploys unsettlement as an analytic to trace modes of belonging and not-belonging.
Wide-ranging essays and experimental prose forcefully demonstrate how digital media and computational technologies have redefined what it is to be human
Over the past decade, digital media has expanded exponentially, becoming an essential part of daily life. The stimulating essays and experimental compositions in The User Unconscious delve into the ways digital media and computational technologies fundamentally affect our sense of self and the world we live in, from both human and other-than-human perspectives.
Critical theorist Patricia Ticineto Clough’s provocative essays center around the motif of the “user unconscious” to advance the challenging thesis that that we are both human and other-than-human: we now live, think, and dream within multiple layers of computational networks that are constantly present, radically transforming subjectivity, sociality, and unconscious processes.
Drawing together rising strains of philosophy, critical theory, and media studies, as well as the political, social, and economic transformations that are shaping the twenty-first-century world, The User Unconscious points toward emergent crises and potentialities in both human subjectivity and sociality. Moving from affect to data, Clough forces us to see that digital media and computational technologies are not merely controlling us—they have already altered what it means to be human.
Victorian Dogs, Victorian Men: Affect and Animals in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture by Keridiana W. Chez is the first monograph located at the intersection of animal and affect studies to examine how gender is produced via the regulation of interspecies relationships. Looking specifically at the development of the human-dog relationship, Chez argues that the bourgeoisie fostered connections with canine companions in order to mediate and regulate gender dynamics in the family. As Chez shows, the aim of these new practices was not to use animals as surrogates to fill emotional vacancies but rather to incorporate them as “emotional prostheses.”
Chez traces the evolution of the human-dog relationship as it developed parallel to an increasingly imperialist national discourse. The dog began as the affective mediator of the family, then addressed the emotional needs of its individual members, and finally evolved into both “man’s best friend” and worst enemy. By the last decades of the nineteenth century, the porous human-animal boundary served to produce the “humane” man: a liberal subject enabled to engage in aggressive imperial projects. Reading the work of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Margaret Marshall Saunders, Bram Stoker, and Jack London, Victorian Dogs, Victorian Men charts the mobilization of affect through transatlantic narratives, demonstrating the deep interconnections between animals, affect, and gender.