Sedgwick, Eve. Touching Feeling Introduction

Sedgwick, Eve. Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2003. Print.

To remember:

  • Famously, these are a cluster of sentences about which “it seems clear that to utter the sentence (in, of course, the appropriate circumstances) is not to describe my doing [a thing] … or to state that I am doing it: it is to do it” (3). Examples include “I promise,” “I bequeath … ,” “I christen … ,” “I apologize,” “I dare you,” “I sentence you ….” In the present book, departing from Austin’s usage, I refer to these exemplary instances as explicit performative utterances (4).
  • moralistic tautology (12)
  • Yet it is only the middle ranges of agency that offer space for, effectual creativity and change (13).
  • To perceive texture is never only to ask or know What is it like? nor even just How does it impinge on me? Textural perception always explores two other questions as well: How did it get that way? and what could I do with it?  … “affordances”  (13).
  • Even more immediately than other perceptual systems, it seems, the sense of touch makes nonsense out of any understanding of agency and passivity to touch is always already . to reach out, to fondle, to heft, to tap, or to enfold, and always also to understand other people or natural forces as having effectually done so before oneself, if only in the making of the textured object (14).
  • [Bora’s] essay makes a very useful distinction between two kinds, or senses, of texture, which he labels “texture” with one x and “texxture” with two x’s, Texxture is the kind of texture that is dense with offered information about how, substantively, historically, materially, it came into being (14).
  • If texture involves more than one sense, it is also true that the different properties, and radically divergent modern histories, of different perceptual systems are liable to torque and splay the history of texture as well. The sense of physical touch itself, at least so far, has been remarkably unsusceptible to being amplified by technology (15).
  • the increasingly divergent physical scales (and the highly differential rates of their change) that characterize the relation between touch and vision in the modern period result in understandings of texture that make it as apt to represent crises and fissures of meaning as metonymic continuities (16).
  • phenomenology and affect [as] what motivates performativity and performance, for example, and what individual and collective effects are mobilized in their execution? (17)
  • Affects have far greater freedom than drives (19).
  • ‘There is no strict analog in the affect system for the re­ warding effect of drive consummation. It is rather the case that affect arousal and reward are identical in the case of positive affects; what activates positive affects satisfies’ (Tomkins 58) (19).
  • Attending to psychology and materiality at the level of affect and texture is also to enter a conceptual realm that is not shaped by lack nor by commonsensical dualities of subject versus object or of means versus ends (21). 

To consume:

  • JL Austin on performative utterances
  • Gibson, The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems
  • Tomkins, Shame
  • Fouccault’s discussion of repressive hypothesis
  • Gasche, Of Minimal Things
  • Renu Bora, “Outing Texture”
  • the rest of Touching Feeling


  • can affects/drives have “freedom” [agency]?
  • touch is not amplified by technology, but amplified by aura? or no? which touch?
  • dwell further on “fissures of meaning”



4 thoughts on “Sedgwick, Eve. Touching Feeling Introduction

  1. Pingback: Manning, Erin. Touch as Technique | {kin}aesthetic composure

  2. Pingback: Massumi, Brian. The Autonomy of Affect, I | {kin}aesthetic composure

  3. Pingback: performing empathies [the empathics] | {kin}aesthetic composure

  4. Pingback: Cvetkovich, Ann. “Public Feelings” | {kin}aesthetic composure

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