Ravenstein Seminar (Winter School 2018) – Literature, Affect and Emotion

Date: 24-26 January 2018
Venue: Jan 24 (RMa programme): University Library: Doelenzaal, Singel 425, Amsterdam; Jan 25 & 26: University Theater: room 3.01, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, Amsterdam
Organisation: Kristine Steenbergh (VU Amsterdam), Sven Vitse (Utrecht University),  Kristine Johanson (University of Amsterdam), Andries Hiskes (Haagse Hogeschool & Leiden University)
Speakers: Eugenie Brinkema (MIT), Isobel Armstrong (Birbeck College), Alexa Weik von Mossner (University of Klagenfurt), Frans Willem Korsten (Leiden University), Hans Demeyer (UCL), Erin Sullivan (University of Birmingham) et al.
Open to: PhD Candidates and RMa students; OSL members will have first access

THE SEMINAR IS FULLY BOOKED, please send an e-mail with your name, university and research school to osl-fgw@uva.nl. We will put you on our waiting list.

The strong affects and emotions that literature can evoke, express and negotiate have always fascinated writers, philosophers and literary scholars. In this winter school we will explore various approaches and topics relating to the current ‘turn to affect’ and emotions in literary and cultural studies. We will discuss the role of emotions in early modern literary culture, probe various theories of affect (Deleuzian/Spinozist, ideological critique, aesthetic and formalist approaches) and their employment in the study of literature, and explore links with film studies and ecocriticism (the topic of the previous Ravenstein Seminar). We will be joined by a number of inspiring scholars in the field who will share their expertise and present current research projects. The purpose of the winter school is to give the participants a broad orientation in this fascinating, manifold and topical field of research, to provide them with specific insights into current debates and research practices, and to give them the opportunity to explore possible topics for research activities of their own.

Please find the full programme and all abstracts below. Please note that time might be subject to small changes.

Conference programme

Thursday, January 25, 2017 – 10:00-16:30
Universiteitstheater, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, 3.01

10:00-10:15Opening and introduction
10:15-11:15Isobel Armstrong (Birbeck, University of London)
The Location of Affect
11:15-11:30Coffee break
11:30-12:30Eugenie Brinkema (MIT, Cambridge/MA)
Incremental Love
12:30-13:30Lunch break
13:30-14:15Frans Willem Korsten (Leiden University)
The analytical limits of affect, its unruly political implications and its practical force
14:15-14:30Coffee break
14:30-15:15Erin Sullivan (University of Birmingham)
Emotion and Affect in Pre-modernity (tbc)
15:15-15:45Roundtable on history of emotions vs. theory of affect with Erin Sullivan, Frans Willem Korsten, Kristine Johanson (University of Amsterdam), Kristine Steenbergh (Free University Amsterdam)
15:45-16:00Coffee break
16:00-16:45Emy Koopman (Amsterdam)
Literary Reflections on writing affect
18:00Conference Dinner (De Brakke Grond, Nes 43)

Friday, January 26, 2017 – 10:00-15:30

10:00-11:00Alexa Weik von Mossner (University of Klagenfurt) Speculative Emotions? The Affective Appeals of Eco(dys)topia
11:00-11:15 Coffee break
11:15-12:15Hans Demeyer (University College London)
Affects of the Housing Crisis
12:15-13:15 Lunch break
13:15-14:15Peer Review of participants research proposals (in groups)
14:15-15:00Andries Hiskes (Leiden University)
The Affective Affordances of Disability
15:00-15:30Wrapping up


Isobel Armstrong – ‘The Location of Affect’

This lecture takes up the marked turn to affect in our discipline by returning to some discussions in The Radical Aesthetic and reading these with another preoccupation, the way language, particularly poetic language, does not simply ‘express’ affect but makes affect structurally inherent in linguistic form. I consider a perlocutionary poetics derived from Austin and Cavell. A test case for this inherence is the caesura, a gap in the text that is nevertheless meaning-making and, I argue, affect-making. This theme is explored through Shelley, Browning, Yeats, and recent experimental women’s poetry.

Isobel Armstrong is Emeritus Professor of English (Geoffrey Tillotson Chair) at Birkbeck, University of London, Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of English Studies, a Fellow of the British Academy and Hon Foreign Scholar of the American Academy. Her Victorian Glassworlds. Glass Culture and the Imagination 1830-1880 (2008) won the Modern Language Association’s James Russell Lowell Prize. Her interests encompass critical and aesthetic theory and feminist writing (see The Radical Aesthetic, 2000, and the Oxford Anthology of Nineteenth-Century Women’s Poetry, 1993) and nineteenth-century literature.  Het study Novel Politics. Democratic Imaginations in Nineteenth-Century Fiction was published by Oxford University Press in 2016.

Eugenie Brinkema – ‘Incremental Love’

Michael Haneke’s film Amour (2012) is set in a single restricted location, the Parisian apartment in which a dying, suffering woman is being cared for by her husband. The film plots an obsessive formal language of spatial increments, organizing itself around minor but crucial distances across the geography of the home. Against and within this ordered relation of objects and space, extraordinary pain and terrible violence ultimately arrive. In this talk, I explore this interrelation to suggest that figures of entrance, distance, and spatial increments articulate a formalized ethics of care that is commuted over the course of the film to the paradoxical figure of an ethics of violence. Love—which absorbs within its affective extremity philosophical figures of completion, unity, fulfillment—is thereby radically altered. When read through the notion of discrete increment, an alternate tradition of the amative is opened up, one in which love names a brutal measurability of the world.

Eugenie Brinkema is Associate Professor of Contemporary Literature and Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her articles on film, violence, affect, and sexuality have appeared in the journals Angelaki, Camera Obscura, Criticism, differences, Discourse, The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, qui parle, and World Picture. Her first book, The Forms of the Affects, was published with Duke University Press in 2014. Recent work includes a co-edited special issue of the Journal of Visual Culture on the design and componentry of horror, and an article on irrumation and the interrogatory in violent pornography in Polygraph. Her current book manuscript, Algebras of Sensation, explores the relationship of radical formalism to the affects of horror and love.

Hans Demeyer – ‘Affects of the Housing Crisis’

‘Everyone wants to go home. We don’t survive as nomads’ (David Nolens, Silence and Milk for Everyone). From the perspective of the housing crisis, my talk will focus on the relation between affect, space and economy. Making use of affect theories of Ahmed, Berlant, Lordon and Konings, it will concentrate on the issue of belonging in a context of permanent movement and displacement through raising rents and/or forced evictions, and on (melancholic) attachments to the promised redemptive qualities of debt and money. An analysis of the novel Moving Kings (2017) by Joshua Cohen will serve to illuminate different affective and economic investments in housing as both a home (a lived space) and as real estate (an instrument for profit making).

Andries Hiskes – ‘The Affective Affordances of Disability’

Through a comparative reading of two artworks, Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and Berlinde de Bruyckere’s ‘Into One-Another III To P.P.P.’, this lecture explores how reading for form matters in the way we read for and get affected by disability. Concurrently, it is explores how affect, conceived as a visceral force that moves through and impresses on bodies, is generated through the way in which disabled bodies are represented in art. Rather than reading disability as a ‘lack’, this lecture proposes that disabilities also have ‘affordances’; the potentiality and particularity of disability in how it evokes, and simultaneously can alter, affective responses.

Andries Hiskes is a literary theorist and scholar. He is employed as a lecturer and researcher at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, where he teaches courses in close-reading and qualitative research methodologies. He is a PhD candidate at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society, where he works on the intersection between disability studies and affect theory. His research examines literature and art in which affective responses are evoked and/or shared by deviant and disabled bodies, focusing on how the artwork is constructed to elicit such responses. Concurrently, through the added emphasis on emotional and affective responses provoked by disabled bodies, his research explores how art may manipulate such responses.

Frans-Willem Korsten – ‘The analytical limits of affect, its unruly political implications and its practical force’

In this lecture, I will reflect on what provoked the interest again in affect, over the last three or four decades, and consider what has now clearly proven to be the analytical limits of the notion. Or to put this differently, after its refreshing entrance in the field of the humanities and the sciences alike, the use of this notion has become slightly repetitive; it appears to lack a potential for refreshing itself. Then I will move towards the unruliness of the notion in a political context. Those who have rushed to promote the notion, such as Sara Ahmed and Lauren Berlant, appear to have a blind spot for affect’s potential to be used by reactionary or totalitarian forces. Finally, I will consider what is the strongest potential of affect in the current scholarly situation, which is not theoretical, but practical in nature.

Frans-Willem Korsten holds the endowed chair ‘Literature and Society’ at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication, is associate professor at the Film and Literary Studies department at LUCAS: the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society, and at the Willem the Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, specifically the Piet Zwart Institute. He published Lessen in Literatuur (Lessons in Literature, 3rd edition 2009), Vondel belicht (2006), All inclusive (2007), Sovereignty as Inviolability (2009) and is co-editor of Joost van den Vondel: Dutch Playwright in the Golden Age (2012). His most recent book is entitled A Dutch Republican Baroque – Theatricality, Dramatization, Moment and Event (2017). He edited several special issues of volumes and journals and published widely on the period of the Baroque and issues of capitalism, law and justice. He was chair of the section Letters of the Dutch Council of Culture and was member of advisory committees in the Netherlands and Norway. Together with Yasco Horsman (Leiden University) and a number of PhD-students he is currently working on the role of literature and art at the limits of the law.

Erin Sullivan – ‘Emotion and Affect in Pre-Modernity’

This talk will offer an introduction to ideas about emotions – or the passions, as they were most commonly known – in the late medieval and early modern period. Looking at a number of literary, philosophical, medical, and religious sources, it will explore the unique positioning of the passions at the meeting point of the mind, body, and soul. It will also reflect in a wider way on the relationship between the history of the emotions and affect studies as highly related, but often separately practised, disciplines, as well as what this means for the understanding and study of impassioned experience in pre-modern times.

Dr Erin Sullivan is a Senior Lecturer and Fellow at the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, where she researches the relations between emotion, culture, and identity – both in the past and today. Her publications include Beyond Melancholy: Sadness and Selfhood in Renaissance England, The Renaissance of Emotion: Understanding Affect in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (co-edited with Richard Meek), and several essays on emotion and early modern culture for Cultural History, Studies in Philology, Shakespeare Bulletin, and a number of edited collections.

Alexa Weik von Mossner – ‘Speculative Emotions? The Affective Appeals of Eco(dys)topia’

How do we feel about the speculative futures presented to us in eco(dys)topian literature and film? Are our emotions for characters and their future fates dependent on our own environments and contextual knowledge? And what are the personal and social implications of such emotional engagement? These are some of the questions that Alexa Weik von Mossner will address in her investigation of our embodied experience of speculative future environments. Her lecture will consider both dystopian modes of environmental storytelling that try to affect their audiences’ risk perceptions, and utopian narratives that aim to cue positive emotions such as hope and desire through the depiction of a better and more sustainable way of being. In doing so, she will pay particular attention to the thesis, forwarded by neuroscientists such as Antonio Damasio and Vittorio Gallese, that our minds are both embodied (in a physical body) and embedded (in a physical environment), not only when we interact with the real world but also in our engagement with imaginary worlds. Considering a wide range of American cultural texts, Weik von Mossner will explore what ecotopian scenarios, and readers’ emotional responses to them, can contribute to political imaginations of ecological citizenship and environmental sustainability.

Alexa Weik von Mossner is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Klagenfurt. After working for several years in the German film and television industry, she earned her PhD in Literature at the University of California, San Diego in 2008 and her Habilitation at the University of Klagenfurt in 2016. She has published widely on cosmopolitanism and various ecocritical issues in American literature and film. Her current research explores the theoretical intersections of cognitive science, affective narratology and ecocriticism. She is the author of Cosmopolitan Minds: Literature, Emotion and the Transnational Imagination (U of Texas P, 2014) and Affective Ecologies: Empathy, Emotion, and Environmental Narrative (Ohio State UP, 2017), the editor of Moving Environments: Affect, Emotion, Ecology and Film (Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2014), and the co-editor of The Anticipation of Catastrophe: Environmental Risk in North American Literature and Culture (with Sylvia Mayer, Winter 2014).