Affects, Feelings, and Emotions in Italian Studies
Roundtable on present and future directions of Affect Studies and History of Emotions, including contributions of affective science approaches to pedagogy, interpretation, redefinitions of periodization, genres, and canons. Organizer: Giovanna Faleschini Lerner (Franklin & Marshall College). Respondent: Stefania Porcelli (CUNY). This is a non-guaranteed session.
In a 2005 article, “Feeling, Emotion, Affect,” Eric Shouse argued for a clear distinction between three terms that are routinely used interchangeably: “Feelings are personal and biographical, emotions are social, and affects are prepersonal” (M/C Journal 8.6 (2005), web: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0512/03-shouse.php). The publication of The Affect Theory Reader in 2010 further helped refine the distinction between emotions—as feelings of which the subject is aware and can claim as her own—and affects, as reactions that involve bodily states and that escapes the confines of the subject. Brian Massumi defines the term “affect” in his influential introduction to the English translation of Gilles Deleuze’s and Félix Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus:
AFFECT/AFFECTION. Neither word denotes a personal feeling (sentiment in Deleuze and Guattari). L'affect (Spinoza'saffectus) is an ability to affect and be affected. It is a prepersonal intensity corresponding to the passage from one experiential state of the body to another and implying an augmentation or diminution in that body's capacity to act.L'affection (Spinoza's affectio) is each such state considered as an encounter between the affected body and a second, affecting, body (with body taken in its broadest possible sense to include "mental" or ideal bodies). (xvi)
In Massumi’s controversial formulation, affect and affection emphasize the subject’s embodiment and relationality, both to other human and non-human subjects, the environment, and power. Though affect theory has focused mostly on twenty-first and twentieth century cultural forms, Amanda Bailey and Mario DiGangi have argued compellingly that contemporary understandings of affects are illuminated and expanded by engaging in dialogue with the history of emotions and feelings, which has a much broader scope.
We invite scholars who employ the tools of affect theory or affect science, or have a research interest in emotions and feelings, to engage in an intellectual dialogue on the state of the scholarship within the field of Italian Studies. We are particularly interested in contributions that engage with—but are not limited to—the following questions: How can the focus on the affective landscape of a work contribute to its interpretation? How can the emphasis on affect change the way we think about classroom dynamics and our pedagogical approaches to teaching literature, film, and language? How do these critical approaches help us think differently about periodization, genres, or canon?