I'Ve Got A Bad, Bad Feeling: Epistemology And Affect In Literary Studies

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I'Ve Got A Bad, Bad Feeling: Epistemology And Affect In Literary Studies

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This dissertation intervenes on an ongoing conversation in literary studies about the connection between literary-critical epistemology—what constitutes knowledge in literary studies?—and literary-critical affect—what subjective emotional experiences do our interpretations produce? Starting from the work of critics like Rita Felski, Lisa Ruddick, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, all of whom take one particular epistemological assumption—the assumption that texts harbor ideological underpinnings that must be exposed—and connect it with a set of similar affective outcomes—paranoia, suspicion, etc.—I intervene on the critical conversation by moving beyond a focus on ideological critique. Literary criticism is broader and more varied than critique, and the many types of assumptions we find there about literary knowledge help shape the affective possibilities of the field. Using the work of Ann Radcliffe, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen, and Thomas Carlyle, I consider connections between objectivity and certainty, social critique and pleasure, intellectual rigor and nostalgia, and accumulated knowledge and neurosis. This dissertation proceeds from the assumption that literary texts meaningfully theorize about what literature is and how we should read and interpret it, and therefore brings major works by each of the above-cited authors to bear on a contemporary critical conversation. In taking on a broader range of epistemological assumptions and their counterparts in primary literature, I both include more of the kinds of work being done in literary studies today and push against the assumption that a simple modification of literary studies’ central methodological practices will necessarily solve problems of negative affect.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2020. Major: English. Advisor: Andrew Elfenbein. 1 computer file (PDF); 197 pages.

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Fairgrieve, Amy. (2020). I'Ve Got A Bad, Bad Feeling: Epistemology And Affect In Literary Studies. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/215152.

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