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Book summary – The Affect theory reader

The Affect Theory Reader, released 2010, is edited by Melissa Gregg and Gregory J.Seigworth. A collection of essays, the volume aims to contribute to the field of affect studies and theories.


I have to admit when I stumbled over this book and added it to my To Be Read list, I was very excited. As someone who is keen to explore where and how affect, productivity, self-awareness and spirituality intersect, this is just the type of book I would expect to explore these four elements and how they mesh. I called out to the book: ‘bring it on!’

Things began well. For instance, I loved this line about ‘in-between-ness’ from the opening paragraph…


Books of this type can usually be relied upon to include vivid essays, which promote deep thought or inspiration.

Perhaps time is a factor (The Affect Theory Reader was published seven years ago), but I found myself a little disappointed.


The reader’s articles’ neither leapt off the page nor did they go in the hoped for direction. (Bummer!) It goes beyond linguistics. Yay. The reader takes an interdisciplinary approach, which will have made it useful for many since its publication, but personally, I think a) it was a bit all over the place and b) at times, tedious.

I can’t decide if they could have done more, for example, included an article exploring affect and altruism, or less—to avoid the idea that affect is everything, all at the same time. Affect strikes me as the nexus where so much of who and what we are can become tangled, so, strangely enough, it’s probably more important that we elevate precision.

I suppose I expected to finish the book with a model or methodology with which to experiment, something to test (or test against) and ultimately, move forward. Such was not to be. An unfair expectation on my part perhaps, but there you go.


There were a few shining lights…

For example, Lauren Berlant’s essay, Cruel Optimism, is entertaining. Similarly, Anna Gibbs’ article, as she explored mimetic communication in After Affect. Her composition was engaging and made me want to read more, as one might expect for any book titling itself as ‘The’ book to read. Many of the articles focus on the body and seek in inject some humour into the topic. Melissa Gregg’s essay titled, On Friday Night Drives: Workplace Affects in the Age of the Cubicle is a good example, and made a few interesting comments about snarkiness to boot. Unfortunately, I began to lose interest as the essay progressed. A shame. 🙁


It seems my questions (as yet) go unanswered.


As it turns out, The Affect Theory Reader wasn’t for me. My ‘affect opus’ is out there somewhere, awaiting discovery. According to to the editors, ‘The …reader’ isn’t seeking to serve as an authoritative work—despite the title’s inference to the contrary—but rather, to ‘unfurl in unexpected ways’.

And so it did.

Chat soon,






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