[NeMLA 2014] Critical Feelings: Redefining Cultural Agency in Affect Theory

full name / name of organization: 
Tyler Bradway
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Conference: Northeast Modern Language Association Convention (2014)
Date: April 3-6, 2014
Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Panel Title: "Critical Feelings: Redefining Cultural Agency in Affect Theory"

Panel Description:

While affect theory has expanded the analysis of affect and emotion within the humanities, a surprisingly small set of feelings has taken prominence within the field. Indeed, critics such as Heather Love, Sianne Ngai, and Sara Ahmed evince a strong bias toward negative affects. Within a consumer culture that praises positive feeling at every turn, these scholars argue, "ugly feelings" appear to afford critical agency for cultural resistance. One consequence of this thesis, however, is that positive affects such as pleasure, happiness, and peace appear suspiciously complicit with dominant ideologies. Recently, critics within queer studies have begun to challenge this logic. For example, Elizabeth Freeman, Jose Munoz, and Michael Snediker each identify the critical agency of pleasure, hope, and optimism for marginalized communities. Yet much work remains to be done within affect theory to challenge the binary between positive and negative feelings and to complicate their respective relationships to cultural power. To that end, this panel seeks papers that expand the palette of affects traditionally analyzed within affect studies. How might these understudied affects operate as "critical" in contemporary literature and culture? Why do certain affects signify as "critical" whereas others fall to the margins? How can affect theory redefine our conceptions of cultural critique and critical agency more broadly?

Papers are welcome to focus on a single affect, a genera of feelings, or the theoretical problem of affect as a whole. However, panelists are encouraged to ground their arguments within a specific a cultural and historical context.

Submit 250-500 word abstracts to tyler.bradway@gmail.com by September 30th, 2013.