Regarding Feelings and Forms

By Rachel Alpha Johnston Hurst

Eugenie Brinkema. The Forms of the Affects. Duke University Press, 2014. 347 pp.

Elspeth H. Brown and Thy Phu, eds. Feeling Photography. Duke University Press, 2014. 397 pp.

As a psychoanalytic cultural theorist, thinking about these books together ensnares me in my familiar oscillating trap: between the visceral imagery of Freud and the hygienic schemas of Lacan. Reading Freud is to vicariously feel his theories of psyche; I am seduced by this provocation of idiosyncratic feeling.
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Realism After Postmodernism

By Sean Homer

Fredric Jameson. The Antinomies of Realism. Verso, 2013. 313 pp.

In his 1977 “Afterword” to the volume Aesthetics and Politics, Jameson observed that it was not only political history that was condemned to repeat the past but also literary history that experienced a certain “return of the repressed”:

Nowhere has this return of the repressed been more dramatic than in the aesthetic conflict between “Realism” and “Modernism”, whose navigation and renegotiation is still unavoidable for us today, even though we may feel that each position is in some sense right and yet neither is any longer wholly acceptable.
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A Materialist Theory of Affect

By Emilie Dionne

Adrian Johnston and Catherine Malabou. Self and Emotional Life: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience. Columbia University Press, 2013. 304 pp.

In Self and Emotional Life, Adrian Johnston and Catherine Malabou diagnose an incapacity for Continental thinkers to embrace an “authentically materialist theory of subjectivity” (ix) such as it is emerging in the neurosciences.
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Intersectionality Matters

By Melissa Haynes

Mel Y. Chen. Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect. Duke University Press, 2012. 312 pp.

The title of Mel Y. Chen’s Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect immediately announces to readers that this is not a book that can be easily disciplined. “Animacies,” for readers who are unfamiliar with the term, might sound like a portmanteau of “animal” and “intimacies.” The rest of the title evokes a compendium of areas of inquiry, namely biopolitics, critical race theory, new materialism, queer studies, and affect theory.
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“Another, Less Traveled Pathway in Aesthetic Theory”: Attending to Other Aesthetic Categories

By Paul Ardoin

Sianne Ngai. Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting. Harvard University Press, 2012. 333 pp.

Sianne Ngai’s 2005 Ugly Feelings offered a major contribution to a rapidly-growing body of work in the still-young field of Affect Studies. Her first book focused on often-neglected negative emotions such as envy, anxiety, paranoia, and “stuplimity,” a term she coined to describe “a strange amalgamation of shock and boredom” (2).
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An Archive for Affect Theory

By Russ Leo

Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth, eds. The Affect Theory Reader. Duke University Press, 2010. 416 pp.

“There is no single, generalizable theory of affect: not yet, and (thankfully) there never will be” (3): Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth insist on this point, and The Affect Theory Reader demonstrates its critical import in contemporary debates concerning that most slippery term, “affect.” Seigworth and Gregg, under the artfully provocative heading “An Inventory of Shimmers,” attend in brief to a wide variety of theories of affect—from phenomenology, psychoanalysis, psychology, and post-Cartesian philosophies (read: Spinozism) to Marxism, feminism, science and technology studies, queer studies, and various histories of emotion.
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The Politics and Erotics of Time

By Amber Jamilla Musser

Elizabeth Freeman. Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories. Duke University Press, 2010. 256 pp.

What does it mean to take pleasure in or to have fantasies about “rubbing up against the past” (xii)? Elizabeth Freeman’s Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories weaves together affect studies, critical historiography and politics to nuance our understanding of queer time.
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Can Melancholia Speak? On Maps for the Modern Subject

By Ricky Varghese

Jonathan Flatley. Affective Mapping: Melancholia and the Politics of Modernism. Harvard University Press, 2008. 272 pp.

How might we articulate a potential relationship between political subjectivity and aesthetic practice? In his compelling and incisive study, Affective Mapping: Melancholia and the Politics of Modernism, Jonathan Flatley sets out to describe precisely that tenuous and delicate interaction between politics and aesthetics, and between subjectivity and praxis.
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