Passionate Politics

Thetr 6060 :: FGSS 6040 :: ENG 6520

Spring 2012

Th 02:30PM - 04:25PM

Schwartz Center 124

Professor Sara Warner


Office Hours: Wednesdays 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. and by appointment


Phone: 254-2727


Course Overview ::


The “affective turn” is the latest in a series of “turns” to sweep the Humanities and social sciences. However, unlike the “linguistic turn” and the “cultural turn” that precede it, the affective turn promises to bring us closer to that dimension of culture that cannot be grasped through semiotic analysis or a constructivist perspective by privileging those forces that cannot be fully socially determined and may be less prone to discipline and regulation.  The affective turn signals a renewed interest in embodiment and sensorial experience coupled with a pressing need to contemplate the limits of rationality and the role emotions and feelings play in creating and sustaining social and political formations. This paradigm shift represents the desire to carve out some conceptual space for aspects of human motivation and behavior that are not tethered to consciousness, cognitive processes, and rationality, to validate physical and social dynamics that are inchoate and unpredictable, and to explore impulses and responses that social conventions shape but do not circumscribe. Indicative of a more far-reaching shift in critical thought toward non-representational theory, this critical turn challenges us to articulate the affective vagaries of ontology as lived in and through a range of cultural forms within systems of knowledge and power.


As the study of affectivity broadens, the more contested the concept becomes. Affect joins the ranks of other contemporary keywords vexed and invigorated by rival interpretations, such as identity, subjectivity, and performance. Spirited debates ensue about what affects are, what they do, and how they do it. Scholars disagree about what differentiates affect from emotion, sentiment, passion, and feeling. The genealogies and lineages of this emergent field are various and complex. Chief among these are philosophy, psychology, trauma studies, post-colonial and critical race studies, feminism, and LGBTQ studies.  Affect’s attractiveness stems, in large part, from its flexibility and its interdisciplinary emanations. Our goal here is not to fix the term but to track some of the productive and generative ways in which it is being deployed and to what ends.


The arts, and in particular the time-based performing arts - with their bodily entanglements and the sensate lures in their reception – are particularly relevant to affect studies, which highlights, among other things, our propensity to be moved in ways that do not align with or even serve our best interests. What, in exchange, might the study of affects contribute to our understanding of theater and performance? What can “thinking feeling” tell us about the efficacy of various rites and rituals of civic society? Which cultural forms pack the most affective power? Which emotions are likely to marshal and mobilize spectators into collectives and communities? These are some of the questions that will guide our exploration this semester.  We will focus our attention on the relationship between affect, performance and political engagement, examining the ways in which human passions have been understood to be both a source of and an obstacle to struggles for freedom and justice. Grounding our study in two figures, the stage actor and the social actor, we will explore the roles emotions play in political life. Our investigation will consider the potential of specific affects (e.g., anger, shame, terror, alienation, and compassion) to inspire us to act or refrain from acting at different historical moments and in different cultural contexts. We will attempt to gauge how, and to what extent, affects temper and intensify our desires, affiliations, investments, and identifications, how they help solidify certain beliefs and attenuate others, and how the need for reciprocity and a sense of belonging can generate attachments to normative ideals and social arrangements or, alternately, serve as the basis for utopian imaginings of alternative structures and the formation of counter-cultures and counter-publics.


Participants in the class will benefit from a series of events sponsored by TFD.  The first is a three-part lecture given by David Savran, a 2012 Messenger Lecture Fellow, on the topic of cultural branding (February 2, February 29, and March 30).  The second is an interdisciplinary conference, “Resoundingly Queer,” which will be convened at Cornell University from March 30 through April 1, 2012. This gathering of artists, activists, and academics (many of them actively working in the field of affect studies) will explore the utterances, echoes, moans, and groans that animate contemporary studies of sex, gender, and sexuality. The conference will include performances by gender-bending luminaries of the stage and screen, as well as plenary sessions featuring scholars and practitioners in conversation on panels, roundtables, and interviews. Underground filmmaker John Waters, Messenger Lecturer David Savran, and University Lecturer Jill Dolan will deliver keynote addresses. Carmelita Tropicana, Holly Hughes, Terry Galloway, DRED, Moe Angelos, Brian Herrera, Madeleine George, Joan Lipkin will conduct performances and staged readings while Robin Bernstein, Natasha Hurley, Eng-Beng Lim, José E. MuĖoz, Ann Pellegrini, Jordan Schildcrout Susan Stryker, and Shane Vogel will deliver papers and presentations. 


Course Requirements ::


Š          10% Attendance and Participation

Š          10% Oral Presentation

Š          20% Syllabus Creation (ugrad or grad, for your dossier) due May 3

Š          60% Research Paper (25-30 pages, MLA or Chicago format) due May 17


Academic Integrity ::


Each student is expected to abide by the Cornell University Code of Academic Integrity.  Any work submitted by a student in this course for academic credit will be the students' own work.  Please refer to the Code of Academic Integrity and Acknowledging the Work of Others in the Policy Notebook for the Cornell Community, or online at:


Course Texts :: Available at the CU Bookstore


Š          Ahmed, Sarah.  The Cultural Politics of Emotion (NY: Routledge, 2004). ISBN: 0415972558 (CPE)

Š          Cvetkovich, Ann.  An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures (Duke UP, 2003). ISBN: 0822330881

Š          Churchill, Caryl. Far Away (London: Nick Hern Books, 2003). ISBN-10: 1854597442

Š          Dolan, Jill. Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theater (Ann Arbor: Univ Michigan Press, 2005). ISBN: 0472069071

Š          Five Lesbian Brothers. Four Plays (NY: TCG, 2000). ISBN: 1559361662

Š          Freeman, Elizabeth.  Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories  (Durham: Duke UP, 2010). ISBN: 0822348047

Š          Gregg, Melissa and Gregory J. Seigworth. The Affect Theory Reader (Durham: Duke UP, 2010). ISBN: 0822347768 (ATR)

Š          Hurley, Erin. Theatre and Feeling (NY: Palgrave, 2010). ISBN: 0230218466

Š          Kane, Sarah.  Complete Plays (London: Methuen Drama, 2001). ISBN: 0413742601

Š          MuĖoz, José E.  Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (NY: NYU Press, 2009). ISBN: 0814757286

Š          Ngai, Sianne. Ugly Feelings (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2007). ISBN: 0674024095 (UF)

Š          Parks, Suzan-Lori.  Venus (NY: TCG: 1990). ISBN: 1559361352

Š          Ridout, Nicholas.  Stage Fright, Animals and Other Theatrical Problems (Cambridge: Univ Cambridge Press, 2006).

Š          Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Duke UP, 2003). ISBN: 0822330156 (TF)

Š          Stewart, Kathleen.  Ordinary Affects (Durham: Duke UP, 2007). ISBN: 0822341077



Supplemental Readings ::

Š          on-line (login: thetr606            password: drama)


Course Outline ::


January 26 :: Course Overview

Š          Introductions, Terms, Taxonomies, and Trajectories


February 2 :: Tracing the Affective Turn

Š          Clare Hemmings, “Invoking Affect,” Cultural Studies 19.5 (2005): 548-567.

Š          Ruth Leys, “The Turn to Affect: A Critique,” Critical Inquiry 37.3 (Spring 2011): 434-472.

Š          William E. Connolly, “The Complexity of Intention,” Critical Inquiry 37.4 (Summer 2011): 791-798.

Š          Ruth Leys, “Affect and Intention: A Reply to William E. Connolly,” Critical Inquiry 37.4 (Summer 2011): 799-805.

Š          Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion (NY: Routledge, 2004), 1-19.

Š          Kristyn Gorton, “Theorizing Emotion and Affect: Feminist Engagements.” Feminist Theory 8.3 (2007): 333-358.


Š          Messenger Lecture #1: David Savran(Distinguished Professor and Vera Mowry Roberts Chair in American Theatre, CUNY Graduate Center), “Branding as Cultural Performance,” 4:30 A.D. White House


February 9 :: No Class


February 16 :: Emotion & Expression

Š          William James “What is an Emotion,” Mind 9.34 (Apr 1884): 188-205.

Š          Raymond Williams, “Structures of Feeling,” Marxism and Literature (Oxford UP, 1977), 128-36.

Š          Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1991), 1-32.

Š          Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2007), 1-37.

Š          Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger,” Women's Studies Quarterly Vol. 25 No. 1/2, Looking Back, Moving Forward: 25 Years of Women's Studies History (Spring/ Summer 1997): 278-285.


February 23 :: Affects & Intensities

Š          Deleuze and Guattari, "Percept, Affect, and Concept," What Is Philosophy? (NY: Columbia UP, 1996), 163-200.

Š          Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Duke UP, 2003), 1-25.

Š          Brian Massumi, “The Autonomy of Affect,” Cultural Critique 31 (Autumn, 1995), 83-109.

Š          Teresa Brennan, The Transmission of Affect (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2004), 1-23.

Š          Lawrence Grossberg, “Affect's Future: Rediscovering the Virtual in the Actual,” ATR, 309-338.


Š          On February 29, Messenger Lecture #2: David Savran(Distinguished Professor and Vera Mowry Roberts Chair in American Theatre, CUNY Graduate Center), “The Kindness of Strangers?: Branding American Theatre in Postwar Europe,” 4:30 A.D. 258 Goldwin Smith


March 1 :: The Pulses & Tremors of Everyday Life

Š          Kathleen Stewart, Ordinary Affects (Durham: Duke UP, 2007).

Š          José MuĖoz, “Feeling Brown, Feeling Down: Latina Affect, the Performativity of Race, and the Depressive Position,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 31.3 (2006): 675-688.

Š          Phil Harper, “The Evidence of Felt Intuition: Minority Experience, Everyday Life, and Critical Speculative Knowledge.” GLQ 6.4 (2000): 641-57.

Š          Shane Vogel, "By the Light of What Comes After: Eventologies of the Ordinary," Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 19.2 (2009): 247-260.

Š          Ann Cvetkovich, An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures (Duke UP, 2003), 1-48.


March 8 :: Utopias & Other Queer Ideas

Š          Jill Dolan, Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theater (Ann Arbor: Univ Michigan Press, 2005).

Š          José E. MuĖoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (NY: NYU Press, 2009).


March 15 :: Residual Feelings

Š          Elizabeth Freeman, Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories  (Durham: Duke UP, 2010).

Š          Heather Love, Feeling Backwards: Loss and the Politics of Queer History (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2007), 1-30.

Š          Rebecca Schneider, Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment (NY: Routledge, 2011), 1-31.


March 22 :: Spring Break


March 29 :: Affective Labor

Š          The Five Lesbian Brothers, The Secretaries

Š          Arlie Hochschild, “Exploring the Managed Heart,” The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1983) 3-23.

Š          Michael Hardt, “Affective Labor,” boundary 2 (Summer 1999): 89-100.

Š          Nicholas Ridout, Stage Fright, Animals and Other Theatrical Problems (Cambridge: Univ Cambridge Press, 2006), 1-69.

Š          Sara Warner, “Rage Slaves: The Commodification Of Affect In The Five Lesbian Brothers’ The Secretaries.” The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism XIII (Spring 2008): 21-45.


Š          Resoundingly Queer Conference March 29-April 1


April 5 :: Apathy, Alienation, and Ennui

Š          Sarah Kane, Blasted

Š          Sarah Kane, Crave

Š          Aleks, Sierz, “Cool Britannia? ‘In-Yer-Face’ Writing in the British Theatre Today,” New Theatre Quarterly 14.56 (1998): 324-333.

Š          Elaine Aston, “Feeling the Loss of Feminism: Sarah Kane's Blasted and an Experiential Genealogy of Contemporary Women's Playwriting,” Theatre Journal 62.4 (December 2010): 575-591.

Š          Antonin Artaud, “The Theatre and Cruelty,” trans. James O. Morgan, TDR 2.3 (May 1958): 75-77.


April 12 :: For the Love of Venus, or Shame and Shamelessness

Š          Suzan-Lori Parks, Venus (NY: TCG: 1990).

Š          Elspeth Probyn, “Writing Shame,” ATR, 71-92.

Š          Arlene Stein, Shameless: Sexual Dissidence in American Culture (NY: NYU Press, 2006), 1-16; 103-110.

Š          Eve Sedgwick, TF, 93-122.

Š          Michael Warner, “The Ethics of Sexual Shame” (from The Trouble with Normal)


April 19 :: Fear, Trembling & Terror

Š          Caryl Churchill, Far Away

Š          Elin Diamond, Caryl Churchill: Feeling Global,” A Companion to Modern British and Irish Drama, 1880-2005, ed. Mary Lockhurst (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006), 476-487.

Š          Sara Ahmed, CPE, 62-81.

Š          Brian Massumi, “The Future Birth of the Affective Fact: The Political Ontology of Threat,” ATR, 52-70.

Š          Jasbir Puar, “Queer Times, Queer Assemblages,” Social Text 23 3-4 (2005): 121-139.


April 26 :: National Affects with Guest Erin Hurley (McGill)

Š          Erin Hurley, Theatre and Feeling (NY: Palgrave, 2010).

Š          Erin Hurley, National Performance: Representing Quebec from Expo 67 to Céline Dion (Toronto: U Toronto Press, 2011), excerpts.

Š          Erin Hurley and Sara Warner, “Affect, Performane, Politics,” Intro to a forthcoming Special Issue of JDTC.


May 3 :: Feeling Better?

Š          Lisa Kron, Well (NY: TCG, 2010).

Š          Sara Ahmed, CPE, 168-203

Š          Lauren Berlant, “Cruel Optimism,” ATR, 93-117

Š          Kate Bornstein, It Gets Better

Š          Syllabus Assignment Due


May 17 :: Final Papers Due by 4:00 pm 2nd Floor Reception Schwartz