Ten Points to Begin
Is there any remaining doubt that we are now fully within the Episteme of
the Affect? Must one even begin an argument anymore by refuting Fredric
Jameson’s infamous description of the “waning of affect” in postmodernity?
One need not linger in the humanities but might consider newly resurgent
neuroscientific work on the emotions; one need not even concern oneself
only with scholarship but note the untamed mobility of affects such as terror
and disgust, anxiety and hope, in political and popular debates of the early
twenty- first century. Indeed, the importance of affectivity has been so well
documented in the disciplines of psychiatry, psychoanalysis, literary theory,
critical theory, feminist and race studies, philosophy, and studies in represen-
tation, including film and new media, that several scholars have started asking
broad questions about why it is that so many have turned to affect in the first
place. Thus, the newest turn in the theoretical humanities would seem to be
a meta- turn that turns toward the turning toward affect itself.1
While an intellectual history of the turn to affect would take this book too far
afield, I am comfortable joining those who speculate that the contemporary
critical investment in affectivity across the humanities has to do with a post-
structuralist response to perceived omissions in structuralism—or, indeed,
may be part of a post- poststructuralist or anti- poststructuralist response to
perceived omissions in poststructuralism. The turn to affect, thus, is part of a
larger reawakening of interest in problematics of embodiment and ma teriality
in the wake of twentieth- century Western theory that, for many, was all semi-
otics and no sense, all structure and no stuff.2 Given that work on shame, guilt,
compassion, and love has been crucial to the “turn to ethics”; scholarship on
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