Affect, Irony, Idiom


      Post-secular spirituality features:


1) posthuman ethics; 2) posthuman subjects; 3) totalistic re-positioning


I’ll read anything — almost.

einstein7Once a month it’s my habit to browse stacks of journals out of my field. Looking for promising titles, I’ll glance at the first page or so to get the drift, then tag the piece to the “read later“ pile or the trash.

A few weeks ago I was in the midst of leafing through a pile of new pieces, and came on a clear candidate for trash. The title was a disaster: “The Coming Crisis in Affectivity Discourse.”

Jargon, surely. As you might guess, that’s the theme of this post.

But beyond jargon, the title is still a disaster. Why?

The title was deaf to the fact that Affect Theory (or Affectivity Discourse) – in either case, ill-named — has barely shed its diapers. It was born with much hullabaloo a mere 4 or 5 years ago with promises to sidestep the lingo of subjectivity and objectivity, of action and passion. But the trend has hardly gained life enough to undergo anything as momentous as a crisis. Not fully there, it can’t fall apart.

“The Coming Crisis” escaped the trash only because, by chance, I caught the name hanging precariously to the title.

einstein5The author is a young Assistant Professor who teaches literature at a sister University just down the road. I alerted a friend, my young student assistant, suspecting her interest might be piqued. She’s generally more open than I am to new fads — “Theory” — in literary journals. Sure enough, she took the bait.

A quick Google revealed that “The Coming Crisis” was assigned reading in a Grad Seminar at the neighboring University. She began sleuthing, and just a few days ago we met over coffee at The Great Lost Bear to catch up on her finds.

It turns out that the Assistant Professor – he’ll remain anonymous — is running his Seminar this Spring. The syllabus announced the theme: “Recent Trends in Affectivity Theory: Nomadic Ethics and Risky Technophilia.”

His vanguard piece, “The Coming Crisis in Affectivity Discourse” was just one of half a dozen assignments that, scanning the headings, were equally dim.


I learned that she had taken the E-Line, angled over to the Hutchins Humanities Building, slipped down the hallway to the English Department, and pilfered what she could of assorted handouts.

To her surprise – and mine — a quiz for the next class meeting lay amidst the litter. She swept that up too, and between sips of cappuccino, we perused the upcoming hurdles set for these aspiring PhD’s.

Why exactly the quiz had been left out in plain sight was puzzling. But it offered entry into dark alleys of current research. Could we find our way, the blind leading the blind, through the arcana strewn our way?

It would be tedious to report our stumbling and baffled fumbling. Excuse me if I’m letting you down.

You can sense what it was like — and why I’m at a loss for words — from the quiz questions themselves.



 February 1, 2016: QUIZ:

Seminar: “Recent Trends in Affectivity Theory: Nomadic Ethics and Risky Technophilia.”

Number your answers (one, two, etc.)  just to the left of the options. Please sign at the bottom, and leave at the front desk when finished.


Rank in order of importance for abstract discourse

einstein31) affective understanding

2) alterity

3) amor fati




Which best characterizes post-anthropocentrism?

1) becoming imperceptible

2) bio-power

3) capitalistic rhizome

Ethical Immanence highlights



1) figurations

2) image-work

3) material embodiments


Materialist projects fail due to

1) misplaced registers

2) the neo-liberal machine

3) network societies

Nomadic ethics embraces

1) non-unitary subjects

2) oceanic feelings

3) ontological limits

Post-secular spirituality features



1) posthuman ethics

2) posthuman subjects

3) totalistic re-positioning



Rank in order of desirability

1) redemptions from the past

2) rhetorics of high technology

3) romanticized nomadic subjectivity

Post-post-secular society is marked by

1) self-styled death

bird-kiwi-300x2792) technophilia.

3) topology of affects







Rank in order of undesirability


1) trans-positioning zoë

2) transits and transposing

3) traumas transposed




After thrashing through this quiz, and glancing at other materials assigned in the Grad Seminar, our cautious conclusion:


The Crisis in Affectivity Theory is Distressingly Real



Ps. I can’t help adding these two recent real-life titles (2015) to the towers of babble: The Politics of Precarity, and  Affective Critical Regionality.

—Ed Mooney, Zeteo Contributor

See his Excursions with Thoreau: Philosophy, Poetry, Religion, Bloomsbury, 2015, and Lost Intimacy in American Thought: Recovering Personal Philosophy From Thoreau to Cavell, Continuum, 2009 – See more at:

Credits: Thanks to the intrepid author of a short six page published article in which each of the technical terms found above actually appeared at least once without irony, apology, or explication. Transposing the terms into titles and a quiz is my own device.  Thanks to Google images.


  1. Ed Mooney

    A new piece of cute jargon: “Toxic Borders and Bondages: Intersecting Ecology with Capitalism, Racism, Heteropatriarchy and (Dis)possession.”


  2. Ed Mooney

    And yet another piece of jargon: students at Oberlin complain (and the jargon clearly comes from their professors and their professors’ reading lists) — complain that “this institution functions on the premises of imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy.” The malicious wonders of “Cissexist heteropatriarchy” will be explained soon.


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