How to do Things with Affect?
Workshop by Ernst van Alphen. In cooperation with the Faculty of Humanities
The ‘affective turn’ is gaining increasing prominence in academia; from its origins within cultural analysis in the last century, to countless publications and debates in fields from psychology to politics. The (over)application of affect has given rise to much criticism; in this workshop we critically assess the concept in its many uses, to better understand and use the concept.
In the last ten years affect has become an indispensable concept for cultural analysis. But this has also had its repercussions. Taking part in a roundtable discussion on the interaction between art and architecture in October 2012, American art historian Hal Foster made the following devastating remark: “When I hear the word affect I reach for my Taser. An unfair reflex, I know, but affect seems to me a prime medium of ideology today—an implanted emotionality that is worse—because more effective—than false consciousness” (Rose 208). His assessment draws attention not only to the so-called ‘affective turn’ that has taken place, but also more importantly to the overuse and exhaustion of the term that has emerged in its wake.
When concepts become fashionable, they usually lose their meaning, impact and operationality. And although they may be used as buzzwords to promote the right discourse, from a conceptual point of view they lose their power. Instead of accepting this depletion of the term, in this workshop we prefer to critically assess the concept of affect in its many uses and give it back its critical edge. To do that, we must return to the originators and disseminators of the concept and see what motivated them to propose it. We will also propose a model that enables us to understand what distinguishes various theories from each other, since they focus on different phases in the affective process or emphasize the other results or objects that affects trigger. The workshop will end with the book presentation of the Edited Volume How to do Things with Affect? Affective Triggers in Aesthetic Forms and Cultural Practices.
About the speakers
Ernst van Alphen is Professor of Literary Studies at Leiden University. He is particularly interested in issues that are central in modern and post-modern literature and in the relation between literature and the visual arts, often using the perspective of gender studies, especially in relation to masculinity. He has also been appointed as Queen Beatrix Professor of Dutch Studies, as well as Professor of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.
Maria Boletsi is Endowed Professor (bijzonder hoogleraar) at the University of Amsterdam, where she holds the Marilena Laskaridis Chair of Modern Greek Studies. She also works as assistant professor at the Film and Literary Studies department of Leiden University. Her work is situated in the fields of comparative literature, literary and cultural theory, conceptual history, Modern Greek literature and culture, English, Dutch, and postcolonial literature. Much of her work is concerned with the intersection of literature, art, and politics.
Eugenie Brinkema is Associate Professor of Contemporary Literature and Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and currently a fellow in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Her research in film and media studies focuses on violence, affect, sexuality, aesthetics, and ethics in texts ranging from the horror film to gonzo pornography, from structuralist film to the visual and temporal forms of terrorism. Recent work includes articles on irrumation and the interrogatory in violent pornography and the formal affectivity of no longer being loved in Blue is the Warmest Color. In 2014, she published The Forms of the Affects.
Tomáš Jirsa is a postdoctoral researcher in comparative literature and cultural theory at Palacký University, Olomouc, Czech Republic. His work traces the relations between modern literature and visual arts; affect studies, media theory, and contemporary music video. He is the author of two books in Czech, Physiognomy of Writing: In the Folds of Literary Ornament (2012) and Facing the Formless: Affective and Visual Figures in Modern Literature (2016); and most recently, How to Do Things with Affects: Affective Triggers in Aesthetic Forms and Cultural Practices (with Ernst van Alphen). He is Visiting Scholar at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis.
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