Mixed Feelings: Feminism, Mass Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism

Mixed Feelings: Feminism, Mass Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism

Mixed Feelings: Feminism, Mass Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism

Mixed Feelings: Feminism, Mass Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism

Excerpt

This book is the product of my own mixed feelings about a feminist politics of affect. The claim that the personal is political has been used to authorize the expression of feeling as the inspiration for or first step toward a social movement. The process of consciousness raising central to the feminist movement two decades ago was a response to the sense that an absence of outlets for the expression of rage and sadness not only prevented political action but constituted a form of oppression. Feminist cultural studies within the academy have been influenced by this strategy in its emphasis on personal narrative and individual voice, seeking to enable the articulation of female experience. Implicit in a feminist politics of affect is the assumption that the association of femininity with affect has led to the simultaneous devalorization of both.

There is a difference, however, between claiming that affect has a historical and political significance and claiming that affective expression is transgressive. The absence of a mass feminist movement suggests that the links between personal and social transformation are by no means guaranteed. At least as important as the potentially liberating effects of affective expression are the ways in which, within middle-class American culture in particular, a discourse about affect serves to contain resistance, especially from women. Rather than leading to social change, the expression of feeling can become an end in itself or an individualist solution to systemic problems. This containment strategy is particularly evident in the discourse of . . .

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