Structures of Unfeeling: Mysterious Skin

A 2011 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Queer Thinking event

Co-presented with the Dept of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney

Professor Lauren Berlant
19 February, 2011

Professor Lauren Berlant

Usually when we talk about emotions they appear to us in the mode of melodrama, with its inflated states of bodily performance. In contrast, Raymond Williams' model of the structure of feeling places the historical and the affective present not in performance but in affective residues that constitute what's shared among strangers beneath the surface of explicit life, saturating atmospheres of the unsaid, open secrets, inside knowledge, and shared enigmas.

Structures of Unfeeling: Mysterious Skin reads with Heim's and Araki's work to think about a cultural style of underperformed emotion that's post-melodramatic. It looks at contexts such as 20th century avant-gardes, trauma publics, punk/goth negativity, LGBT and working class sexual cultural styles, comic deadpan, and other modes in which affective activity appears as inexpressive form, providing a holding space of delayed response to the urgencies of the moment.


Professor Lauren Berlant is George L. Pullman Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago. She is the author of several books and essays that have had a galvanizing effect on the field of queer studies, including The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship (1997), The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (2008) and editor of Intimacy: A Special Issue, Critical Inquiry (Winter 1998).