Tag Archives: affect theory

dread is a luxury emotion

and i am privileged af to feel it, but i don’t know that i’ve felt its sharp edge since before the accident.

yes, with the pandemic came a certain generalized existential anxiety that the whole world shared in, and certainly the rise of crypto-fascism coupled with accelerating climate breakdown has been an ever-present fear these past few years, but dully – as if all the bad news were like gusts of wind against the globe of a hurricane lamp protecting a candle, an assault that is constant but outside, that does not touch the self.

or that the self does not allow to touch it.

perhaps i am slowly adjusting. “adaptation” is in vogue these days, especially in circles concerned with the havoc of climate disaster; maybe my ontology has morphed itself into a new resilient form. i can’t even attribute this to being in my thirties, as I’ve been here for a while now. it would be nice if anxiety were a phase, something that all 20-somethings go through and come out the other side of, more stable.

it’s most likely the medication, though.

Criticism in a field which is not one

Last week, a classmate namedropped Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick in class discussion and I had a bit of a fangirl moment. I’m not going to lie – Sedgwick’s article on paranoid vs reparative reading was a big influence on one of my term papers last year and continued to influence me while developing my major research paper for my masters, as it forced me to rethink how we approach texts. Texts and contexts, really; the “paranoid position” that Sedgwick articulates (building on terminology/theory from Melanie Klein to name it as a “position”) is one with which I am pretty intimately familiar both as an academic and in my own life.

However I think the label is slightly misleading: paranoia to me suggests fear and anxiety, and while I agree that those affects may be underlying factors contributing ultimately to the subject’s orientation towards the world around them, the “paranoid position” most often surfaces as critique. It is important to clarify that by critique I do not mean critical thinking in general, but a judgmental practice of approaching a text solely via its perceived faults. This negative approach, taught to most students in the humanities as the way to approach theoretical or literary readings, is very noticeably present in quite a few of the digital humanities texts we’ve been reading over the past while. I’m finding it useful to draw a few connections between praxis in affect theory and in digital humanities, so please bear with me throughout this post: it is not proposing any One True Way of thinking, but rather exists as an attempt to locate possibilities.

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