On January 25, 2011

The Turn To Affect: A Critique

Ruth Leys, Henry Wiesenfeld Professor of Humanities, Johns Hopkins University, gave the lecture, THE TURN TO AFFECT: A CRITIQUE.

Presented by Expression/Performance/Behavior, the 2010-11 Franklin Humanities Institute Annual Seminar & the Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature.

Ruth Leys is Henry Wiesenfeld Professor of Humanities at Johns Hopkins University, with a joint appointment in the Department of History. Throughout her career she has been interested in different aspects of the history of the life sciences, especially the neurosciences, psychoanalysis, and psychiatry.

In this talk, Professor Leys argued that the recent turn to affect in the humanities and social sciences is marred by untenable assumptions about the absence of intention, signification and meaning in affect. She also suggested that, in denying the role of intention and meaning in affect, the new Deleuze-inspired affect theorists make common cause with today’s affective neurosciences, which likewise mistakenly tend to separate emotion or affect from cognition and meaning. In the course of her paper, Leys worked through some of the neuroscientific experiments that play a strategic role in recent writings on affect and reflected on the general theoretical, political and other implications of the recent turn to affect.