Against against affect (again) : æffect in Kenneth Goldsmith's Seven American deaths and disasters

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2014-05

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Boruszak, Jeffrey Kyle

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Abstract

Recent scholarship on conceptual writing has turned to the role of affect in poetry. Critics such as Calvin Bedient claim that by using appropriated text and appealing to intellectual encounters with poetry based around a central “concept,” conceptual writing diminishes or even ignores affect. Bedient in particular is concerned with affect's relationship with political efficacy, a relationship I call “æffect.” I make the case that because of its use of appropriated material, we must examine the transformation from source text to poetic work when discussing affect in conceptual writing. Kenneth Goldsmith's Seven American Deaths and Disasters, which consists of transcriptions of audio recordings made during and immediately following major American tragedies, involves a specific kind of affective transformation: the cliché. I discuss what makes a cliché, especially in relation to affect, before turning to Sianne Ngai's Ugly Feelings and her concept of “stuplimity.” Stuplimity is an often ignored and not easily articulated affect that arises from boredom and repetition. Stuplimity is critical for Seven American Deaths and Disasters, especially for the “open feeling” that it produces in its wake. This uncanny feeling indicates a changing tide in conversations about conceptual writing. Rather than focus on the affect of æffect, we should instead turn to the effect.

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