Theses Doctoral

The Allure of Affect: Rigor, Style, and Unintelligibility in Kristeva and Irigaray

Kluchin, Abigail Suzanne

In this dissertation, I develop a theory of interpretation that attends to the often neglected affective dimensions of reading through a careful investigation of the writings of Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva. For much of the history of Western thought, a privileging of systematic and linear discourse as a crucial signifier of philosophical rigor has gone hand in hand with a certain disdain for the body and the emotions. The texts that I examine attempt to disrupt and discredit the equation of philosophy and systematicity. They refuse both in content and in style the steady march of analytic logic in favor of writing that is more intuitive, more experimental, and eminently more risky. I contend that even psychoanalytic and deconstructive interpretive approaches, which privilege the marginal, the de-centered, and the inaccessible, have not fully engaged with the question of affect in philosophical writing. The overarching question this dissertation seeks to examine is this: how can we find a way to take seriously the affective responses that philosophical texts provoke, and to incorporate their content, strength, and effect into the arsenal of strategies for reading and interpretation without relegating such reactions to the damning category of the "merely subjective"? I take as my primary focus texts that foreground and even force an affective response, and I read such works as possessed of their own distinctive rigor. I maintain that one of the ways that affect is made evident to the reader is through what I term a "rigorous unintelligibility." I argue that attention to the protocols of such rigorously unintelligible texts produces a way to read that neither accentuates the individual reader at the expense of the text, nor banishes the reader's visceral affective reactions to the realm of the subjective and inadmissible. Throughout, I refine the always slippery category of affect. In particular, affect is not simply interior; rather, it emerges and communicates itself through the ongoing interaction with the world. Affect is in rooms, in texts, in averted glances, in speeches, in dreams, in crying jags and in lecture notes, in philosophy and in poetry, in theories and in bodies. It has a deeply un-Cartesian lack of respect for or knowledge of the membrane of the skin, the boundary between the self and the world.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Proudfoot, Wayne L.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 1, 2014