We are, all of us, trained to be – what Eve Sedgwick has called – paranoid readers, lingering on in a state of permanent alertness in order to anticipate the workings of regulatory regimes; seeking to see through the constructions of normative culture; sounding out the political and ideological effects of representation. Undeniably then, this paranoid approach to the text has characterised cultural studies at least since the pioneering publications of Michel Foucault, Judith Butler and their likes – and rightly so, as a critical attitude towards cultural texts is, of course, mandatory and indeed indispensable. However, does it have to be the only intelligible approach to cultural texts? In the face of an ongoing impoverishment of affective responses to culture, Sedgwick therefore aspires to reclaim a reading practice that addresses a completely different set of affects, namely those linked to the personal rather than the political and, therefore, to values such as resilience, mindfulness, recovery, healing, or uplift: reparative readings. Complementing rather than replacing the usual paranoid approaches, reparative reading practices are thus no less attached to the projects of growth and survival than paranoid reading practices; what is more, they may in fact balance out and smooth the straining effects of the latter. Focusing on works that represent affective responses to difficult feelings and emotions like anxiety, fear, loss or grief, this seminar investigates how textual and cultural analysis can benefit from the coexistence of paranoid and reparative readings, claiming that both are vital and indeed mutually reinforcing.
Mars-Jones, Adam. Monopolies of Loss. London: Faber and Faber, 1992. Print. [selected short stories]
Edson, Margaret. W;t. 1993. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999. Print.
Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. London: Jonathan Cape, 2006. Print.
---. Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama. Boston and New York: Mariner, 2012. Print.
Breakfast on Pluto. Dir. Neil Jordan. Perf. Cillian Murphy, Ruth Negga, Liam Neeson, Stephen Rea, and Brendan Gleeson. 2005. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2006. DVD. [or, alternatively: McCabe, Patrick. Breakfast on Pluto. London: Picador, 1998. Print. (or any other edition)]
CitizenFour. Dir. Laura Poitras. Perf. Edward Snowdon, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras. 2014. Good Movies/Indigo, 2015. DVD.