Sunday, September 9, 2012

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick--Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (2001)

Building on the work of Foucault, J.L. Austin, and Silvan Tomkins, Sedgwick covers a broad range of topics in this collection of essays, though they all loosely center around the notion of affect and how it is informed by scholarship on queer theory and performativity.  Noting that much of queer theory has used Austin’s work on performativity to discuss gender, Sedgwick proposes “a new class of periperformative utterances who complex efficacy depends on their tangency to, as well as their difference from, the explicit performances” (5).  What’s useful to my work is some of this affect discussion: for example, when Sedgwick says, “Attending to psychology and materiality at the level of affect and texture is also to enter a conceptual realm that is not shaped by lack nor by commonsensical dualities of subject versus object or of means versus ends” (21), how does this relate to the concept of intersubjective space?  Further, some of her discussion of shame may be relevant, such as her quote from Michael Franz Basch:  “The shame-humiliation response, when it appears, represents the failure or absence of the smile of contact, a reaction to the loss of feedback from others, indicating social isolation and signaling the need for that condition” (36). She goes on to say herself that shame makes a “double movement…toward painful individuation, toward uncontrollable relationality” (37).  I think this may relate to intersubjective space, too, and how ugliness functions there.
Her discussion of the periperformative and how it relates specifically to marriage is also useful to me, as I think the marriage economy is going to be at least part of my work.  Pages 71-71 in particular she discusses the interpellative nature of weddings—not only for those getting married, but for the witnesses as well, and the compulsory heterosexuality which these ceremonies work to enforce.  In addition to my idea that ugliness marks those who should not be reproducing, who should not be rewarded with marriage, it’s interesting to consider what effect their proximity to the marriage economy in general—are they an Eris-like threat to order?

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