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This seminar seeks to bring together scholars in the fields and subfields that have been touched by a growing interest in the emotional or affective experience, whether understood as embodied or incorporeal, emotional or impersonal, quantifiable or escaping measurement. This inter/multidisciplinary seminar on affect will incorporate a wide range of approaches and topics across disciplines and periods. We aim to provide a forum for a discussion of affect in the arts, sciences, history, psychology, philosophy, ecology, queer/feminist studies and social theory, among others, as well as a means to historicize how affect and emotion have served in religious, social, and political contexts in different periods and locales, from Antiquity to contemporary life. We feel that fostering interdisciplinary exchange on the question of affect is vital for understanding the many valences of affect studies’ vocabulary and concerns.

Professor Patricia Dailey

Professor Thomas Dodman

Professor Lauren Mancia

Alec Joyner

Meeting Schedule

09/24/2021 Online Meeting
12:00 PM
Refusing the Structure of Feeling
Lilian Mengesha, Tufts University


How do affects move in the wake of multiple and intersecting social-cultural violence? This talk will consider two contemporary Indigenous artists (Lara Kramer and Rebecca Belmore) to explore the trajectory of difficult affects as a decolonial response to settler colonial violence.

03/04/2022 Online Meeting
12:30 PM
Longing to Believe: Affect, Cognition, Cogency
Donovan Schaefer, University of Pennsylvania


Affect is often framed as the binary opposite of cognition, both in popular understandings and in dominant strands of affect theory itself. This talk proposes a new approach, what I call “cogency theory,” in which affect and cognition are fully interwoven at every level. Elaborating on Eve Sedgwick’s notion of paranoid reading, this framework dispenses with the thinking/feeling binary entirely and helps us reappraise a range of potent political structures, including conspiracy theory.

04/04/2022 Faculty House, Columbia University
5:00 PM
Disaffected: the politics of unfeeling
Xine Yao, University College London (England, UK)

Jack Halberstam, Columbia University

Notes: Co-sponsored by the 19th-Century Americanist Colloquium and Columbia University's Department of English & Comp Literature
04/22/2022 Faculty House, Columbia University
12:00 PM
Emblematic Affect, Hysterical Laughter, and Early Cinema
Maggie Hennefeld, University of Minnesota


From 1903 to 1915, it was common practice to conclude a short film with moving images of the lead performers posing and making funny faces at the camera. Now known as "the emblematic shot," it was not a far cry from twenty-first century viral selfie videos. In this presentation, I will explore a form of emblematic visibility that wears its joyful affect on its sleeve (sometimes quite literally, as trick decapitation was a popular sight gag in early cinema). Against the affective turn toward opacity, unfeeling, humorlessness, and killjoy refusal, I ask: what's a hysterically laughing head to the politics of communal sensation? We will look at various archival examples and see where they fit.