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Feeling, in Theory

Semester and Year SP 2016
Course Number IDSEM-UG1699
Section 001
Instructor Eve Meltzer
Days R
Time 9:30 AM - 12:15 PM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM



Over the past two decades, scholars from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives—literature, women’s studies, political science, and aesthetics, to name a few—have returned to the question of “affect,” also referred to as “feeling” or “emotion,” as well as “passion,” “pathos,” “mood,” or even “love.” This course aims to familiarize students with the field of “affect theory” by surveying some of the most important texts that ground it (such as Chaucer and Aristotle, Freud and Thompkins) as well as several that have emerged more recently (Massumi, Terrada, Ngai, among others). When we consider the stakes and claims of some of the more recent work on affect, it becomes clear that a central predicament is at hand: how are we to understand affective life  now , after so many “deaths”—that of the subject, the author, art, and so on—have been announced by theories of postmodernism? How do we reconcile the resurgence of theories of affect when the end of the feeling subject is also touted by these same theories? This question leads us to our second challenge: to tackle the relationship between feeling and theory. While art and music have long been associated with emotionalism and affective life, what about the feelings that theory gives us? Alternatively, what is the affective life of theory? How does it harness, repress, produce, or otherwise make use of affect? While this course has no prerequisites, it is particularly appropriate for students who have strong feelings—love or hate—for so-called “theory.”


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Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)