Thinking Feeling: Critical Theory, Culture, Feeling

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Dr Doug Haynes, University of Sussex, UK
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Thinking Feeling: Critical Theory, Culture, Feeling

18th -19th May 2012
University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

Speakers will include: Timothy Bewes (Brown University), Ben Highmore (University of Sussex) and Alex Düttmann (Goldsmiths College, University of London); others tbc.

'Happiness is obsolete: uneconomic.' (Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia)

As the recent British riots indicate, there is no escaping the fact that economics provokes, amongst other things, strong feelings. Whether we like it or not, a neoliberal language of economics now pervades and colours our inner 'private' emotional lives; the government's emerging plans to compile a 'happiness index' is another example of how a rhetoric or discourse of 'feeling' can be co-opted by capital. More than ever, then, it is important we do not simply accept 'feeling' as a spontaneous or natural phenomenon, but instead subject it to genuinely critical scrutiny. Are some feelings static, essential and ahistorical, or can we trace their genealogies? Are feelings entirely subjective and individual or are they actually objective and social? If they are social, whose feelings are they?

By placing contemporary cultural and literary theory, especially as it deals with 'affect,' alongside the tradition of Critical Theory, this conference asks what might be at stake politically, aesthetically and even experientially in the recent turn towards a discourse of feeling. With its roots in Hegel, Marx, and Freud, Critical Theory has always been concerned with the role of feeling, in all its senses. Meanwhile, literary theorists and practitioners as diverse as Georges Bataille, Raymond Williams and Eve Sedgwick have also focused on relations between culture, society and felt experience.

The conference will therefore set out to utilize these approaches for a critique of modern and contemporary culture. Contributors are encouraged to engage notions of feeling as they relate to particular cultural practices, objects or texts, and are also invited to use recent work on the emotions to re-think aspects of the Marxist theoretical tradition. We welcome proposals from all relevant fields, including philosophy, literary studies, visual culture, music theory, art history, sociology, political economy, psychology, etc.

Possible topics may include but are not limited to the following:

The intersection of emotion and economics in contemporary life, literature, film or art; the genealogy of feeling; feeling and revolutionary potential; the political economy of feeling; rhetoric and feeling; culture and "modern" moods (guilt, cynicism, ecstasy, indifference, anxiety, melancholia, depression, shame, boredom, paranoia, rage, paralysis, joy, (un)happiness et al.); the commodification of emotion.

Abstracts of 200-250 words should be sent to Dr Doug Haynes, University of Sussex: (please mark the subject heading as 'Thinking Feeling').

Closing date: 31 December 2011 Supported by the Centre for Modernist Studies, the Centre for Social and Political Thought and the Centre for Literature and Philosophy.