Citation

Ugly Feelings: Affect, Canonicity, and American Literature 1800-1820

Abstract | Word Stems | Keywords | Association | Citation | Similar Titles



Abstract:

“If Ugly Feelings is a bestiary of affects,” Sianne Ngai wryly notes in her introduction, “it is one filled with rats and possums rather than lions, its categories of feeling generally being, well weaker and nastier.” This paper embraces Ngai’s call for renewed attention to neglected canonical species in order to interrogate the relationship between catharsis and canon formation. As Sandra Gustafson argues, the “disciplinary schism” between “early Americanists” and “U.S.-Americanists” has unwittingly created a scholarly void. Indeed, the space between the normative borders of these two critical camps – a blind spot spanning from 1800-1820 – remains ignored by most configurations of U.S. literary history. Critics have oft maintained that the rats and possums of this interregnum pale in comparison to the lions of the 1790s (Wieland, Charlotte Temple, or The Power of Sympathy) or the lionized texts of the post-1819 period (The Sketch-Book, The Pioneers, or Hobomok). Arguably, this disregard stems from over-privileging certain unknotted affects: in so much as texts from this period are taxonomized as incapable of producing the prestigious feelings of anger, fear, sympathy, melancholia or shame. By deploying Ngai’s notion of a “noncathartic aesthetic” as a means of questioning this misguided dismissal, I hope to demonstrate that our failure to fully engage this interstitial period results from a habitual reliance on a faulty (and unendingly catharsis seeking) historiography. Our operant methodolgies are too often driven by a residual historical map: historiographic concerns; our praxis is too often shaped by the assumption – often completely unacknowledged – that grand historical events (like the Revolution or the rise of nationalism) produce art that engenders (tonally, formally, aesthetically) grand esteemed feelings, and that such texts are the only ones worthy of study. To put it another way, I want to suggest that both “early Americanists” and “U.S. Americanists” regardless of their methodologies represent their close readings as orbiting expansive historical flashpoints; thus, texts which produce or foreground an emotional release tied to one of these flashpoints are affectively canonized. The interstitial period I am concerned with (although marked by the War of 1812) does not nearly occupy the same esteemed place in our historiography. Even historians traditionally imagine it as weaker and nastier, or, more politely, as murkier and less visibly stable or unstable. By thinking about the ramifications of taking seriously “art that produces and foregrounds a failure of emotional release,” I hope to demonstrate that the disregard of textual production in this period arises from our misapprehension of how such texts undertake political, aesthetic, and cultural work. In so doing, this paper will argue that by deploying a methodology which embraces what Ngai calls a “Bartlebyan” aesthetics our sense of literary history and our collective objects of study will shift dramatically. By exploring the tensions between cathartic affects and canon formation, I hope to argue that an over-dependence on grand affects has created a far too stable canon despite myriad shifts in methodologies across the last 50 years. Only by renewing our attention to the ugly period of American literature, and taking seriously its ugly feelings, can we fully understand the affectively transnational dimensions of the American canon and deeply engage the formation of American aesthetic traditions.
Convention
All Academic Convention makes running your annual conference simple and cost effective. It is your online solution for abstract management, peer review, and scheduling for your annual meeting or convention.
Submission - Custom fields, multiple submission types, tracks, audio visual, multiple upload formats, automatic conversion to pdf.Review - Peer Review, Bulk reviewer assignment, bulk emails, ranking, z-score statistics, and multiple worksheets!
Reports - Many standard and custom reports generated while you wait. Print programs with participant indexes, event grids, and more!Scheduling - Flexible and convenient grid scheduling within rooms and buildings. Conflict checking and advanced filtering.
Communication - Bulk email tools to help your administrators send reminders and responses. Use form letters, a message center, and much more!Management - Search tools, duplicate people management, editing tools, submission transfers, many tools to manage a variety of conference management headaches!
Click here for more information.

Association:
Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
URL:
http://www.theasa.net


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509101_index.html
Direct Link:
HTML Code:

MLA Citation:

Faherty, Duncan. "Ugly Feelings: Affect, Canonicity, and American Literature 1800-1820" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509101_index.html>

APA Citation:

Faherty, D. "Ugly Feelings: Affect, Canonicity, and American Literature 1800-1820" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509101_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: “If Ugly Feelings is a bestiary of affects,” Sianne Ngai wryly notes in her introduction, “it is one filled with rats and possums rather than lions, its categories of feeling generally being, well weaker and nastier.” This paper embraces Ngai’s call for renewed attention to neglected canonical species in order to interrogate the relationship between catharsis and canon formation. As Sandra Gustafson argues, the “disciplinary schism” between “early Americanists” and “U.S.-Americanists” has unwittingly created a scholarly void. Indeed, the space between the normative borders of these two critical camps – a blind spot spanning from 1800-1820 – remains ignored by most configurations of U.S. literary history. Critics have oft maintained that the rats and possums of this interregnum pale in comparison to the lions of the 1790s (Wieland, Charlotte Temple, or The Power of Sympathy) or the lionized texts of the post-1819 period (The Sketch-Book, The Pioneers, or Hobomok). Arguably, this disregard stems from over-privileging certain unknotted affects: in so much as texts from this period are taxonomized as incapable of producing the prestigious feelings of anger, fear, sympathy, melancholia or shame. By deploying Ngai’s notion of a “noncathartic aesthetic” as a means of questioning this misguided dismissal, I hope to demonstrate that our failure to fully engage this interstitial period results from a habitual reliance on a faulty (and unendingly catharsis seeking) historiography. Our operant methodolgies are too often driven by a residual historical map: historiographic concerns; our praxis is too often shaped by the assumption – often completely unacknowledged – that grand historical events (like the Revolution or the rise of nationalism) produce art that engenders (tonally, formally, aesthetically) grand esteemed feelings, and that such texts are the only ones worthy of study. To put it another way, I want to suggest that both “early Americanists” and “U.S. Americanists” regardless of their methodologies represent their close readings as orbiting expansive historical flashpoints; thus, texts which produce or foreground an emotional release tied to one of these flashpoints are affectively canonized. The interstitial period I am concerned with (although marked by the War of 1812) does not nearly occupy the same esteemed place in our historiography. Even historians traditionally imagine it as weaker and nastier, or, more politely, as murkier and less visibly stable or unstable. By thinking about the ramifications of taking seriously “art that produces and foregrounds a failure of emotional release,” I hope to demonstrate that the disregard of textual production in this period arises from our misapprehension of how such texts undertake political, aesthetic, and cultural work. In so doing, this paper will argue that by deploying a methodology which embraces what Ngai calls a “Bartlebyan” aesthetics our sense of literary history and our collective objects of study will shift dramatically. By exploring the tensions between cathartic affects and canon formation, I hope to argue that an over-dependence on grand affects has created a far too stable canon despite myriad shifts in methodologies across the last 50 years. Only by renewing our attention to the ugly period of American literature, and taking seriously its ugly feelings, can we fully understand the affectively transnational dimensions of the American canon and deeply engage the formation of American aesthetic traditions.


Similar Titles:
Shame in the Works of Toni Morrison: Rethinking the Intersections of Affect Theory and African American Literature

Centrality of Africana Studies to the Canonization and Library Collection of African-American Women’s Literature

American Digital Literatures and Cultures: Canons and Contexts in Networked and Programmable Media


 
All Academic, Inc. is your premier source for research and conference management. Visit our website, www.allacademic.com, to see how we can help you today.