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Theory and Emotion

In 2008, Americans were captivated by a powerful call to embrace optimism: “hope.” A few months after President Obama’s election, many (on the Left) were describing a sense of disappointment that some critical theorists termed “political depression.”  This course examines how affects -- including “hope” and “depression” – are cultural formations.  We will use the tools of critical race theory, feminist theory, and queer theory to examine varied feelings including trauma, anger, love, anxiert, and hope, and we will ask how those affects are culturally constituted and sustained.  Over the course of the semester, we will explore questions including: What are the cultural politics of emotion? How does affect, as an analytic, help us think about publics, politics, histories, memory, and activism in new ways?  How might affect allow us to understand race, gender, and sexuality in new ways? How can we respond to exhaustion, rage, apathy, or disappointment – whether engendered by global politics, domestic politics, or academic politics – in ways that are generative, creative, and enabling? Readings include works by: Patricia J. Williams, Avery Gordon, Susan Brison, Kathleen Stewart, Saidiya Hartman, Audre Lorde, and Ann Cvetkovich.