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An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  483 ratings  ·  28 reviews
In this bold new work of cultural criticism, Ann Cvetkovich develops a queer approach to trauma. She argues for the importance of recognizing---and archiving---accounts of trauma that belong as much to the ordinary and everyday as to the domain of catastrophe. Cvetkovich contends that the field of trauma studies, limited by too strict a division between the public and the ...more
Paperback, 355 pages
Published March 14th 2003 by Duke University Press Books (first published 2003)
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Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, lez
An Archive of Feelings opens with gushing praise for Le Tigre/Kathleen Hanna and Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, which meant that I was wondering from page one if I could take seriously a work about trauma that is brazenly uncritical of sites of significant transmisogynistic trauma such as MichFest. Especially when it casts those sites as arenas where some rituals of healing for (a certain kind of) lesbian trauma survivor can occur. Cvetkovich describes a scene at trans woman exclusionary MichF ...more
Jan 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: to-read-2014
I wanted to read this on the strength of the article that later formed the chapter "in the archive of lesbian feelings", which deals explicitly with grassroots queer archives and the differences between grassroots and institutional archives. in this chapter, Cvetkovich claims that queer archives -- considered in the broadest sense as queer individuals' or communities' attachments to objects/artefacts -- are often formed of attachments to seemingly arbitrary or even homophobic things -- like old ...more
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing. I had read selected chapters from this before and was impressed, but reading the entire book just solidifies my initial reaction. Cvetkovich is a genius, and her ideas have influenced the way I work with trauma and will influence my future scholarship for sure.
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is really an excellent book, and very teach-able. It, or individual chapters from it could be used in courses on on Holocaust or trauma studies, affect theory, psychoanalytic reading of popular culture, as well as GLBTQ, transnational culture, social movement history, /or gender pop culture more generally. Cvetkovich accessibly presents complicated and nuanced readings of a variety of texts and connects these readings to the way they are part of public cultures of feeling that we all live ...more
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
In An Archive of Feeling (2003), Ann Cvetkovich explores trauma through an archive of lesbian artifacts and interviews with lesbians. She is particularly "interested in how these lesbian sites give rise to different ways of thinking about trauma and in particular to a sense of trauma as connected to the textures of everyday experience" (3-4). For Cvetkovich, trauma isn't a single one-time event (such as September 11), but rather part of lived experience. Additionally, part of her goal is to unde ...more
Sofia Sears
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
<3 the queer wannabe gender studies / lit scholar’s bible
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
an important look at trauma from a queer/lesbian perspective. it was very affirming to the ways in which trauma has positive effects within personal and cultural contexts, as well as the negative and the neutral. some of the oral history stuff was really fascinating, and told stories rarely heard even in queer contexts. i had not considered the feelings created by the trauma of AIDs with regards carers and particularly queer/lesbian carers, and the consequent effect on the community's trauma nar ...more
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
cvetkovich's text took a while to get started, but after sifting through the first few chapters, it really blew me away. while she begins with a rather repetitive framework, it also helps make the text accessible to those who may have less exposure. i loved several of the chapters in this book though, particularly cvetkovich's really singular analysis of butch-femme relationships in chapter 2, which argues for a necessary convergence of trauma and desire, debasing notions of active/passive binar ...more
Mar 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: academics, queer theory junkies, trauma survivors, le tigre fans
Shelves: non-fiction
I decided to check this book out, after reading about how an article by Cvetkovich helped to inspire Le Tigre to write the song "Keep On Living".

This book deals with the many intersections between the queer community and the current discussions in trauma theory. It especially delves into issues with "confessing" versus "witnessing", and how the queer community's experiences with coming out create a more positive model for trauma survivor's to tell their stories and heal, contrasted with past mo
Feb 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
In parts I think this book is fantastic, gorgeous, and amazingly done... then at times I get frustrated and think there are so many fissures and incomplete sentences.

I guess my main issues would be (1) the use of trauma as an analytic category without a clear context for how she is talking about power... namely, who has more access to trauma? and correspondingly (2) do we try to then describe the shape of oppression through the lens of trauma-- doesn't this pathologize race, gender, sexual, clas
Ai Miller
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly engrossing, quick read--although it's ~300 pages, I finished it in less than a day. Highlights for me included the chapter on butch-femme touch and trauma, and the oral histories of lesbian AIDS activists. Cvetkovich does an incredible broad sweep of a number of lesbian public cultures and readings of things that are really valuable for establishing a framework of how trauma studies might interact with other fields to be truly interdisciplinary. For a book with a somewhat imposing ...more
Nov 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, lgbtqia
I'm frustrated with the effusive praise Cvetkovich repeatedly gives Michfest - she even devotes an entire section to the "controversies" of Michfest without once mentioning that it excludes trans women, which I wouldn't have thought would even be possible - and I'm also a bit uncomfortable with the way she talks about Brandon Teena in the epilogue. So, on the whole, not the most trans-friendly book, but I'm still giving it four stars because it was a really good, really cathartic read. A lot of ...more
Jan 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
ok, at first reading I was excited about this book but wished it was less academic language. now I'm working on this project that is about queer archives and yiddish archives and this book is SO HELPFUL and relevant so yay I'm so glad this book exists! ...more
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: grassroots archivists, counterprotestors
Recommended to Kate by: Melanie
Shelves: ischool
"To deny sickness and death is to deny the reality of the present."

"Every life is worthy of preservation."
Jan 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book has some categorical problems. HOWEVER, it is really excellent (and innovative) with regard to its treatment of trauma and archives. Both very personally and academically impactful.
Jun 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
love all the parts about the Lesbian Herstory Archives
Feb 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
transphobic in content, underachieving in theoretical ambition.
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
The frame story as I understand it is interpreting trauma as generating an enormous range of affects as well as archives that capture, represent, run on, and themselves continually (re)produce affects. Cvetkovich aims to reshape at least two definitons. 1) Trauma is not only clinical, or defined by its global or national scale, but also part of everyday experience. 2) Moving away from thinking about archives as strictly institutional or a matter of "general logic" (bye, Derrida) and towards a de ...more
Cvetkovich seeks to explore trauma, and in doing so, she approaches a new mode of archive, arguing that, “…trauma challenges common understandings of what constitutes an archive…[it] puts pressure on conventional forms of documentation, representation, and commemoration, giving rise to new genres of expression” (7). Trauma, through affect, produces public culture or ways of life/lived experiences that are “frequently inadequate to the task of documentation” (9); thus, an archive of feelings, “…i ...more
Shannon Hanna
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a book I did not read from front to back. I preferred skipping around and focusing on a few different chapters. I used this book as a part of my research for my senior thesis on Queer Archiving. Now that I am done with the thesis I would definitely go back to this book and read it again.
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtq
This is a book with far broader appeal than any short summary could convey. When I was investigating trauma theory in connection with my graduate thesis on trauma in the 19th Century, I discovered Cvetkovich wrote a book on this topic. I had a hard time finding a library copy and it was too expensive to buy, so I bought this instead. I knew nothing about this author or this text.

I felt an instant affinity for this book. Cvetkovich's thesis is that gay and particularly lesbian culture commemorat
Justin Abraham
A critique of Judith Herman's idea that S/M expresses past traumas. Encourages greater intention to sexual experimentation as a way through trauma.
Lesbian public culture approaching trauma in performance art, memoirs, punk bands instead of medicalized narratives.
Discusses Berlant's "intimate public sphere" in which citizens of the U.S. count as citizens because they have suffered from a trauma of the state.
Isabel J
I really appreciate Cvetkovich's exploration of the ways trauma is differently experienced.

I'm no expert in the field, but I have been disappointed by other critics who insist on systematic, axiomatically reductive accounts of trauma and mourning.

Props, dude.
I might be the only person on earth who thinks that this book fell way to short of what could have been a really productive mark. Interesting, just not as meaty as it should be. Maybe a better point of departure than a destination.
emi k
May 10, 2008 is currently reading it
Recommends it for: Page Mcbeeeeeeeee
i'm in LOVE with this book so far.

Jun 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: scholars, lesbians, queers
what i learned from this book: feelings are political, and important to collective memory.
Feb 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
just starting to read this book, and it is powerful. ann cvetkovich is a smarty-pants and i am ready to learn!
rated it it was amazing
Sep 24, 2019
rated it it was amazing
Jul 20, 2008
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Ann Cvetkovich is Ellen C. Garwood Centennial Professor of English and Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. She is the author of Depression: A Public Feeling, An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures, and Mixed Feelings: Feminism, Mass Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism; a coeditor of Political Emotions; and a former editor of ...more

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