In prose sometimes somber, often high-spirited, and always accessible and moving, Touching Feeling interrogates—through virtuoso readings of works by Henry James, J. L. Austin, Judith Butler, the psychologist Silvan Tomkins and others—emotion in many forms. What links the work of teaching to the experience of illness? How can shame become an engine for queer politics, performance, and pleasure? Is sexuality more like an affect or a drive? Is paranoia the only realistic epistemology for modern intellectuals? Ultimately, Sedgwick's unfashionable commitment to the truth of happiness propels a book as open-hearted as it is intellectually daring.
Looking at a pleasurable variety of cultural forms and texts, the contributors consider the particular charms of girls and horses, from National Velvet to Marnie; discuss figures of the lesbian body from vampires to tribades to tomboys; uncover 'virtual' lesbians in the fiction of Jeanette Winterson; track desire in the music of legendary Blues singers; and investigate the ever-scrutinised and celebrated body of Elizabeth Taylor. The collection includes two important pieces of fiction by Mary Fallon and Nicole Brossard.
Sexy Bodies makes new connections between and amongst bodies, cruising the borders of the obscene, the pleasurable, the desirable and the hitherto unspoken rethinking sexuality anew as deeply and strangely sexy.
Ahmed draws on the intellectual history of happiness, from classical accounts of ethics as the good life, through seventeenth-century writings on affect and the passions, eighteenth-century debates on virtue and education, and nineteenth-century utilitarianism. She engages with feminist, antiracist, and queer critics who have shown how happiness is used to justify social oppression, and how challenging oppression causes unhappiness. Reading novels and films including Mrs. Dalloway, The Well of Loneliness, Bend It Like Beckham, and Children of Men, Ahmed considers the plight of the figures who challenge and are challenged by the attribution of happiness to particular objects or social ideals: the feminist killjoy, the unhappy queer, the angry black woman, and the melancholic migrant. Through her readings she raises critical questions about the moral order imposed by the injunction to be happy.