Polly Gannon, Independent Scholar & Melis Umut, Stony Brook University

Cult C: Affect Theory

Melis Umut (Stony Brook University) Mary (Polly) Gannon (NYI Academic Director of Critical Cultural Studies)
“Affect studies” is the name given to a heterogeneous body of recent work ranging from historicized studies of the cultural politics of emotions to a new materialist focus on sensation, intensities, and becomings. This seminar will survey this body of work by tracing a set of critical genealogies – queer/feminist, new materialist, Deleuzian, and social constructivist. In the process, we will examine the hope and excitement that has coalesced around affect studies’ promise both bypass pernicious dichotomies rooted in an old Cartesian mind/body dualism, and to provide an alternative to the method of ideology critique that has long dominated cultural criticism. Hence, although our focus is on theoretical genealogies, we will also inquire into methods: how do different thinkers propose to study something as notoriously slippery and subjective as affect and/or emotion? Is affect studies best understood as a supplement to existing modes of critique or as an independent form of inquiry? What are the potentials and the limits of this emergent body of thought?