ENGL719F - Seminar in Renaissance Literature: Early Modern Political Feeling

Affect theory, according to Lauren Berlant, is the newest phase of ideology theory.  But how does the study of the disorganized processes of longing, memory, and fantasy help us understand what constituted the political in early modern culture?  In exploring this question, we will be guided by the current concerns of political philosophy characterized by an interest in the counter-histories of communities and citizenship, rather than the traditional foci of civic republicanism and/or individual rights.  As we examine how various early modern writers conceptualized affective experience as both a political problem and a political resource, we will pay particular attention to the theater as a cultural institution with deep insight into public feelings.  We will trace the intersection of the political and the affective in the writings of Machiavelli, Bodin, Hobbes, Locke, Kant, and Hume, as well as in the work of contemporary theorists such as Adorno, Bennett, Berlant, Cvetkovich, Deleuze, and Massumi.  Finally, we will consider how dramatists such as Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Webster recast the stakes of early modern political thought by imagining affectivity, or being moved, as foundational to new modes of commonality.