Date of Submission

Spring 2020

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Adhaar Noor Desai

Abstract/Artist's Statement

There is a moment I like in Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s essay “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, you’re so paranoid, you probably think this essay is about you.” Sedgwick opens with an anecdote about a conversation with a friend, which results in the simple and elegant question of “What does knowledge do”? This project, jumping off of Sedgwick’s question, is an attempt to wonder about the possibilities of the most common form of knowledge creation in literary studies: the critical essay.

The project reads a variety of critical works from writers like June Jordan, Lauren Berlant, and Sedgwick, all of whom refute the standard academic essay as a means of literary and cultural criticism. Each chapter compares a literary form (novel, dialogue, poem) that overlaps with a more experimental mode of critical writing. What unites these readings—and the project as a whole—is affect, which the project reads formally, as a tool for close reading. Affect is useful because it can easily locate what *standard* literary criticism often entails: suspicion, distance, vigilance, a text drenched in a calm and cool demeanor. What are the limits of this affective style? Or: what does knowledge do? Each chapter examines a single affect: fear, grief, and care. The project wonders about loosening. About affective variety and writing about literature.

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Open Access

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