At the end of a truly horrific Tuesday, it seems right about time to talk about love. Of course, this might not actually be an upper of a conversation, but we’ll see where it goes!
So as I mentioned in my post a couple of days ago, one of the questions I’m currently working through in relation to my project is what types of affective conditions and/or structures I’m going to zero in on. I suggested in particular that while I’ve been focusing rather exclusively on love in my recent writing, I’m not sure whether this is a productive move, or whether I’m finding myself overly influenced by several great pieces, including this one and this one, which have recently come out critiquing the rhetoric of do-what-you-love (DWYL).
Though this is going to sound like I want to have things both ways, my current impression is that love both is and isn’t central to (or at the ‘heart’…ugh, forgive me, it’s been a long day…) of my project. One way I’m currently thinking about it is in the distinction I discussed in my LTP Affect field between formalist approaches to affect (like Berlant’s), and studies which focus on the production and circulation of specific affective conditions (like happiness). I wonder if my intention to blend both of these approaches might allow me to posit love as a structure of attachment which (as Berlant says about optimism) “might feel any number of ways” (13). As an example, for some being told to do what they love produces anxiety, anger, or apathy, while others find the same rhetoric empowering and affirming.
The issue with that logic, though, is that while Berlant convincingly argues that contemporary optimism is primarily an attachment to the capitalist myth of the ‘good life’, I don’t think there’s a singular object of attachment I could identify when discussing love. Obviously the good life myth is a huge part of it, not only in the economic sense, but also in, for example, the related heteronormative emphasis on marriage and monogamy. So I suppose part of what I would need to work through is whether there is anywhere love gets us that (cruel) optimism doesn’t.
The latter question might also relate to the great question my co-supervisor Nat raised a couple of weeks ago about temporality. While cruel optimism is decidedly future-oriented (and has to be, in order to disavow the persistent failure of the ‘good life’ to materialize), love can have a more dynamic temporality. We can attach ourselves through love to an idea of the future, but love can also be a force of backwardness and withdrawal (as Feeling Backward suggested). So perhaps what love gives us as a force for critique and resistance that optimism, even re-imagined, might not is a more dynamic temporal situation that challenges the “impasse” (Berlant 4) of the present by looking elsewhere but forward.
I’ll continue thinking this through in a more grounded way (through a case study) shortly. But feel free, as always, to offer questions and comments!