In Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, and Performativity, Eve Kosofsky Sedgewick argues that “a particular intimacy exists between textures and emotions” (17). Borrowing British philosopher of language J. L. Austin’s term “performativity,” Sedgewick draws correlations among the word, the reader’s impression, and his or her relation of that word to a real experience, in essence, the basis of written communication and a fundamental, if not the fundamental building block of fictive writing. Freud and Foucalt are referred to for their attempt to place the human condition within the confines of language, both contributing thought to Sedgewick’s area of interest, human sexuality. Sedgewick relates “texture and affect,” to the phenomenology, or the real experience, of touching and feeling something in the real world, what every writer picking up a pen or approaching a keyboard wishes to impart to the reader (18).
One of the more interesting parts of Sedgewick’s opening to Touching Feeling, is her look at the performativity of prepositions. She stops to focus upon ‘beside,’ for example. How often do our eyes scan the page, building abstractions from an author’s phrasing, without pausing to contemplate the smallest components of language and their true meanings? Sedgewick stops at ‘beside’ to ponder its literal meaning. She claims the word possesses “an irreducibly spatial positionality,” while evoking metaphysical planes of immanence (8). In other words, words and phrases perform, a thought that writers and speakers benefit from contemplating if not keeping at the forefront of their analytical and creative minds.
Sedgewick. Eve Kosofsky. Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, and Performativity. Durham: Duke UP, 2003. Print.
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