Uniform TitleMore than a feeling: affect, narrative, neoliberalism
NameSmith, Rachel (author), Dienst, Richard (chair), DeKoven, Marianne (internal member), McClure, John (internal member), Clough, Patricia (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectEnglish, Literatures in,
American literature--20th century--History and criticism,
Emotions in literature,
Expression in literature,
DescriptionThis project examines a range of affective states as they are constructed in works of American literature and visual media. Focusing on affects that are implicated in processes of change -- fear, grief, perseverance, curiosity, and love -- it argues for the relevance of these transitional feelings to a cultural critique of neoliberalism. Proponents of neoliberalism emphasize values of autonomy, freedom, and progress, which paradoxically have also provided the traditional basis for humanist projects of resistance. When works of literature address change, the emotions and other bodily responses that emerge are often shaded with suffering and hesitation, and do not translate directly into recognizable forms of agency. Yet these seemingly passive modes of being are anything but static; security and predictability dissolve in these difficult states of transition. This entails pain, but also potential -- sadness, but also possibility.
Literary works such as Don DeLillo's The Body Artist and Tony Kushner's Angels in America produce states of suffering that contradict the neoliberal assumption that appeals to change must call upon active expressions of individual agency. These works produce other corporeal sensations -- grief and perseverance -- that suggest modes of collective feeling at once strongly tied to transformative experiences and withdrawn from conventional forms of active production. Works of visual media from sources as diverse as television, contemporary cinema, and medical imaging produce other affects, among them fear and curiosity, which play pivotal roles in the neoliberal naturalization of progress. Yet some cultural constructions of curiosity, for example, also suggest that the desire for knowledge might produce new forms of social connection even within the very practices of neoliberal control.
As cultural critics contend with these states of feeling, the affects produced by critique itself are at stake. This project concludes with an exploration of contemporary experiments in critical form that envision critique as a practice of love, forging unexpected links and untimely encounters with the world of events. The dissertation thus pursues a loose narrative that traces one possible affective trajectory from crisis to continuity, from breaking habitual structures of experience to forming new modes of social engagement and thought.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 200-205).
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.