affect, pedagogy and structures of feeling

I’ve been thinking a lot about affect and pedagogy lately. What I mean, is where and how do emotions play a part in teaching, reading, writing, in being a student and scholar? Last semester I was turned down for an administrative position I thought I wanted, I was “emotional� to say the least. I was angry because of what I saw as political moves, which denied me the position.

More recently, I struggled with the projector I was going to use to show a presentation in my 246 class. As I grew more flustered and frustrated, my students visibly became distressed, offering to help, looking down at their keyboards, leaving the room.

Hardt and Negri assert that in today’s emerging economy, there are three varieties of immaterial labor: first, “an industrial production that has been informationalized,� second, “analytical and symbolic tasks,� and third, the emotional work involved in “the production and manipulation of affect� (293).

Political economy is personal, and the economy is affectual. This holds true for the classroom and academic space, too. Raymond Williams defines “structures of feeling� in terms of the hegemonic and counterhegemonic "meanings and values as they are actively lived and felt [...] Not feeling against thought, but thought as felt and feeling as thought" (130, 132). Structures of feeling locate affect both in relation to and in tension with the ideological. (yeah, it’s complicated). And while emotions are articulated through our ideas, they cen never be completely reduced to those ideas. Ideas and emotions are influenced by ideologies and hegemonic discourse, structures of feelings are more than just a reflection of our thoughts. (I told you it was complex). Usually, at least in my case, my emotions are in excess of the thoughts they attempt to express. Feelings carry a significance, and stand as "knowing" that which has yet to be articulated. Perhaps most importantly in Williams’ “structures of feelings� is the notion that emotions can be understood in the context of but also different from, the dominant ideologies they affect.