call for papers
Literature and Affect
Annual conference of the Australasian Association of Literature held in conjunction with the Centre for the History of the Emotions
University of Melbourne
2-4 July 2014
Confirmed keynote speaker: Heather Love (University of Pennsylvania)
What is “the affective turn” and where did it come from?
The relationship between literature and affect has long been a fraught one. On the one hand, the discipline of literary criticism derives from early eighteenth-century aesthetic philosophy that can be understood, as Jody Greene suggests, as “an attempt to theorize pleasure”. On the other, after Kant, criticism is predicated upon the separation of feeling from judgment. Apotheosizing this separation, W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley coined “The Affective Fallacy” (1949) to name the shame of an emotional entanglement with the literary text. In such ways, as Steven Connor contends, the aesthetic has been “constituted as a conceptual mechanism for separating pleasure and value from each other”. And if pleasure is such a contested topic, what about pain, what about the ugly feelings? (to use Sianne Ngai’s coinage). And where is the body in all of this?
More recently, the so-called “affective turn” has turned to what James Chandler has called “the world of feeling”. It returns literary criticism to New Criticism’s scandalous scene of the affective fallacy in order to re-evaluate the languages of feeling. A shaping force in illuminating the value of the affective has been queer theory, in its vital exploration of the transformative potential both of forward-looking utopian desires and backwards feelings such as shame. The affective turn has also been powered by the recognition that emotion and history are not opposed, and that emotion itself has a history. (A dramatic statement of the inseparability of history and affect comes from the Marxist cultural historian, Fredric Jameson, no less, who claims that “History is what hurts”.) Perhaps paradoxically, new intensities of interest in literary form (e.g. as objectified and “unfelt” emotion) and in the cognitive dimensions of feeling also energise this turn.
We invite papers that engage with any aspect of literature and affect; explore the significance for literature of the affective turn that has informed the humanities more broadly; analyse the relationship between affect and the literary aesthetic; engage affect and emotion to explore (or indeed contest) the singularity of literature. We also invite papers that consider literature and affect historically, and that consider affect, literature and the problem of evaluation (aka judgment).
Possible topics might include:
Literary hedonisms and literary pleasure
Practices of reading
Cultures of taste
Memory and affective histories
Affect and temporality
Literature and public emotions
Theories of affect and emotion
Fandom, celebrity, scandal
Cognitive literary criticism, psychoanalysis and the neurosciences
Pain and trauma
Sensation and corporeality
Sexuality and eroticism
Literary and aesthetic judgment
Aesthetic-affective moods, modes and tones (e.g. sentiment, melodrama, camp)
Non-human, impersonal and animal affect
Actors and performance
Emotions and new media (e.g. memes, avatars, social networking)
Please submit a title and 500 word abstract by Friday 28 February 2014 via the submission form.
Clara Tuite, Sarah Balkin, Sarah Comyn, Corey Wakeling