Professor Ann Cvetkovich headed to Cornell next year for Cornell Society for the Humanities Fellowship
Posted: January 29, 2014
The English Department congratulates Professor Ann Cvetkovich, who has been awarded a Cornell Society for the Humanities Fellowship for 2014-2015. The focal theme for this year is “Sensation.” The fellowship seeks out “interdisciplinary research projects that reflect on philosophical, aesthetic, political, ecological, religious, psychoanalytical, and cultural understandings of sensation as a concept and experience that lies at the heart of the humanities and the arts.”
Professor Cvetkovich kindly answered some questions for us about her fascinating upcoming work at Cornell:
What will your work at Cornell consist of? How will you engage with this year's theme of sensation?
I’m going to be starting a new project called “the sovereignty of the senses” that builds from my Depression: A Public Feeling book by trying to formulate notions of sovereignty, as well as democracy and freedom, in sensory and affective terms -- as an embodied practice rather than an abstract concept. To put it more simply, I’m interested in how it feels to be free (and, by extension, happy or joyful).
And it’s quite special to be going back to Cornell, where I did my Ph.D. work on Victorian sensationalism and began the work on the politics of affect that remains crucial to my scholarship. It’s exciting to see the category of “sensation” validated by the affective turn in cultural studies.
This fellowship specifically seeks out scholars working on interdisciplinary research. In what way is your work interdisciplinary, and what do you see as the benefit of interdisciplinary work?
I’ve always been an interdisciplinary scholar by virtue of specializing in gender and sexuality studies, as well as critical theory. I also consider my life’s work to be an inquiry into feeling and the senses, guided by a feminist desire to disrupt the mind-body split that has often characterized intellectual work and divided the disciplines. I want literary and cultural scholars to be taken as seriously as scientists, doctors, and psychologists, who are often considered the experts on matters of feeling, emotion, sensation, and psychic well-being.
In what ways, if any, will you be collaborating with other scholars in your work at Cornell?
Cornell’s Society for Humanities is a think tank for work in the humanities, much like our own Humanities Institute here at UT, although Cornell brings in external fellows. Having time free of teaching and administration is crucial for our research method, which consists of reading, talking, and thinking, ideally in collaboration with others. I’m also partial to the concept of the “feel tank,” in which we share not only thoughts but feelings as a foundation for new ideas.
In your time as a Cornell Society for the Humanities Fellow, you will be teaching a seminar related to your research, in which you are encouraged to “explore topics [you] would not normally teach and, in general, to experiment freely with both the content and the method of [your] course.” Do you know yet what subject matter you will be focusing on in this seminar and what – perhaps alternative or experimental – instructional methodologies you would like to employ in the classroom?
I will be teaching a new course called “Archiving Sensation,” which will address the theme of “sensation” through questions of method, focusing in particular on the interdisciplinary challenges of documenting and archiving sensation. Areas of focus will include: theory and practice of the archive from both queer studies and postcolonial studies; intersections of queer theory and affect theory that explore non-normative experiences of sensation, attachment, and intimacy; questions of genre and media, with particular emphasis on the limits and possibilities of “writing” sensation as opposed to representing it in other media, especially experimental and new media practices such as performance and art installation that are more explicitly embodied and/or material.
My experimental methods will include the use of radical archives (including Cornell’s Human Sexuality Collection) as creative inspiration. I will also focus on writing practice and approach scholarly writing as a form of creative non-fiction. I should add, though, that I am fortunate to have a lot of flexibility in my teaching at UT, so this course builds on work I have already done here (including my courses on Feminism and Creative Non-Fiction and on Queer Affect/Queer Archives), and I hope in turn I will be able to bring aspects of the Cornell course back to UT!
More information about the Cornell Society for the Humanities Fellowship can be found here.
And to learn more about Dr. Cvetkovich’s work, see her website!