Along with her inquiry into the aesthetics of unprestigious negative affects such as irritation, envy, and disgust, Ngai examines a racialized affect called "animatedness," and a paradoxical synthesis of shock and boredom called "stuplimity." She explores the politically equivocal work of these affective concepts in the cultural contexts where they seem most at stake, from academic feminist debates to the Harlem Renaissance, from late-twentieth-century American poetry to Hollywood film and network television. Through readings of Herman Melville, Nella Larsen, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Hitchcock, Gertrude Stein, Ralph Ellison, John Yau, and Bruce Andrews, among others, Ngai shows how art turns to ugly feelings as a site for interrogating its own suspended agency in the affirmative culture of a market society, where art is tolerated as essentially unthreatening.
Ngai mobilizes the aesthetics of ugly feelings to investigate not only ideological and representational dilemmas in literaturewith a particular focus on those inflected by gender and racebut also blind spots in contemporary literary and cultural criticism. Her work maps a major intersection of literary studies, media and cultural studies, feminist studies, and aesthetic theory.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
- 1. Tone
- 2. Animatedness
- 3. Envy
- 4. Irritation
- 5. Anxiety
- 6. Stuplimity
- 7. Paranoia
- Afterword: On Disgust
What People are Saying About This
Ugly Feelings tries to be many things in every chapter: a rhetorical reading of a set of 'marginal' avant-garde or popular texts, a deconstructive critique of 'blind spots and antimonies' in the way contemporary theory has approached a given problematic, and an articulation of a 'cultural predicament,' all through an exemplification of an affective quality that most commentators usually shy away from because of its 'minor' tone and 'negative' force. This is a most ambitious agenda--and one that Ngai succeeds admirably in carrying out. The analyses are beautifully crafted, complex without being convoluted, each judiciously drawing upon an appropriate subset of an impressive range of theoretical resources and cultural references. Although the book presents itself primarily as a contribution to literary and media studies, its impact will extend much further. In addition to developing highly original readings of its chosen texts, it reexamines pivotal political-cultural issues, concerned in particular with representations of gender and race, through a new revitalizing affective lens. In the uniqueness of the approach, familiar debates take on new life. The sustained engagement with affect and emotion, coupled with deconstructive technique, gives the book a certain unity across the differences in subject matter and the cultural-theoretical issues tackled by each chapter.
Brian Massumi, author of Parables for the Virtual