Premodern Affect (MLA, Guaranteed Sponsored Session)
The recent “affective turn” derives from a Spinozist interpretation and complication of the dualist mind-body binary. The mind’s power to think is intimately entangled with and correlated to the body’s power to act. Affect refers to the body’s capacity to affect and be affected, to its sensitivity and connection to other bodies. Recent interpretations of affect link it to everyday modes of production, circulation, and consumption as well. For example, for Sara Ahmed affects, just like emotions, “stick” as they circulate between bodies and thus produce subjectivities that disrupt or reconfigure a status quo. Sianne Ngai, for whom affects are less formed and structured than emotions, underlines that this circulation of affects is symptomatic of social dynamics, of modes of personal and collective forms of vulnerability and agency.
If we turn to earlier periods, though, we notice that the turn to affect is nothing new. While the word “emotion” gained currency only in the 16th century (and took on its modern meaning only in the 19th), “affect” was a constant epistemological and linguistic presence in medieval thought and spirituality, whether we think of Augustine’s affective vocabulary and its classical heritage, Cistercian affectus, Aquinas’ passiones, or the more secular forms of affective scripts discernable in medieval poetry, drama, or chronicles. This panel is inspired by the question of how we can excavate lexicons of premodern affects while being attuned not only to their specific heuristic and stylistic uses but also to the ways in which they anticipate the questions and terminologies associated with the affective turn.
Sponsored by the MLA’s Medieval French Forum, this guaranteed session invites submissions which analyze the specificity of medieval affects while allowing for an intersectional reading and heuristic awareness of lexicons and theoretical frameworks of the contemporary “affective turn.”
Please submit an abstract of about 250 words accompanied by a short bio by March 15 to firstname.lastname@example.org.