Michael's Reviews > Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity

Touching Feeling by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
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's review
Jun 02, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: social-theory-comps

In Touching Feeling (2003), Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick moves away from a hermeneutics of suspicion or exposure toward an understanding of affect and pedagogy, drawing on the notion of beside instead of beneath or beyond (8). Some key ideas:

Drawing on Renu Bora, Sedgwick understands "texxture" (with two x's) as "the kind of texture that is dense with offered information about how, substantially, historically, materially, it came into being" (14).

She understands affect as different from drive because affect is less restricted in regards to time and aim, and can be attached to a multitude of things, "including other affects" (19). 

Sedgwick approaches shame not by arguing against it, but by understanding it as both "deconstituting and foundational" to identity (36). Shame shouldn't be understood as something to be excised from identity or the self, as therapeutic approaches have offered, but rather seen as something integral to identity (62-63). In fact, shame becomes "simply the first, and remains a permanent, structuring fact of identity" for queer people (and may be more useful in understanding camp and identity politics) (64).

In her chapter "Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You're So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You," Sedgwick argues that a hermeneutics of suspicion is limited because it doesn't quite answer "What does knowledge do," and what we can do with knowledge, it doesn't "unpack the local" (124), it is often tautological, proving the assumptions it began with (135). Instead, Sedgwick offers a reparative strategy, which "surrender[s:] the knowing, anxious paranoid determination that no horror, however apparently unthinkable, shall ever come to the reader as new" (146).

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