Affect theory in the throat of laughter. Feminist killjoys, humorless capitalists, and contagious hysterics

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Abstract

Is Laughter an affect? And what would it mean for feminist theory to conceive of it as such? This article pursues laughter as an affect that bridges the gap between feminist comedy studies and feminist affect theory. Laughter has widely missed the mark of feminist theory’s sourcing of collective activist potential and intellectual invigoration in the exploration of affect. Likewise, affect has not been a central concern for humor scholars. But what about those feminist laughing affects that do not assume their own affirmative value or knowable effects? They provoke disproportionate, off-cue, and unstable instances of laughter wherein nervous excess consumes the laughing subject and threatens to transform into something else entirely. The feminist killjoy, the laughing hysteric, and the humorless capitalist all choke on their laughs, though each in different ways. Their unrealized laughter, this article argues, opens the floodgates for its transmutation into a new collective body politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-144
Number of pages35
JournalFeminist Media Histories
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Affect
  • Comedy
  • Feminist theory
  • Hysteria
  • Laughter

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