Lisa Renea Langstraat

Feeling the power: Toward a feminist politics of affect for cultural studies approaches to composition

Lisa Renea Langstraat

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 1996; pp: 317
  • Advisor: Lauer, Janice
  • Source: DAI-A 60/03, p. 728, Sep 1999
  • Subjects: Language, Modern (0291); Education, Language And Literature (0279); Women’s Studies (0453)
  • ProQuest Document Number:
  • ISBN: 0-599-20292-0
  • UMI Number: AAT 9921093

Abstract:

    • This project chronicles the configuration of affect in contemporary composition studies in order to develop a “politics of affect” –an understanding of how affective identifications are channeled toward logics of domination or transformation– for cultural studies approaches to writing instruction. This effort is guided by four central premises: (1) affect is constituted in historically specific ways, and to naturalize it is to mystify its role in the perpetuation of oppressive power structures; (2) all pedagogical practices work to (re)educate students’ affective lives, an often implicit process which must be examined for its assumptions about subject formation and agency; (3) our mass-mediated culture actively constructs new affective identifications and emotional predispositions; and (4) affect is a subjugated knowledge in the academy because it has historically been associated with the devalued realms of the “feminine,” the private, and/or the irrational. Chapter One of this project critiques theories of affect in composition studies, arguing that a more fully articulated vocabulary and method for understanding affect is vital if cultural studies compositionists are to attend to the role of emotion in subject formation and agency. Chapter Two explores feminist revisions of Michel Foucault’s theories of subjectivity and power to clarify how affect operates within the “technologies of feeling”; which circumscribe classroom practices. Chapter Three examines the technologies of feeling informing representative expressivist and cultural studies approaches to composition; it argues that these approaches tend to privatize affective alliances, thereby underestimating the empowerment and agency which emotional investments engender. Chapter Four investigates cultural studies compositionists’ responses to the affective dimensions of postmodern experience. Describing the ways mass culture’s affective dimensions have been feminized and subjugated in many cultural studies discourses, this chapter critiques dominant theories of postmodern affect and forwards a pedagogy of “mattering maps” that fosters affective agency. Chapter Five describes this pedagogy in action, recounting its often unpredictable results and illustrating the complex and contradictory ways affective identifications both foster and curtail student writers’ agency and self-definition.