Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226488561 Published November 2017
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The Ascent of Affect

Genealogy and Critique

Ruth Leys

The Ascent of Affect

Ruth Leys

416 pages | 6 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226488561 Published November 2017
Cloth $105.00 ISBN: 9780226488424 Published November 2017
E-book $10.00 to $35.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226488738 Published November 2017
In recent years, emotions have become a major, vibrant topic of research not merely in the biological and psychological sciences but throughout a wide swath of the humanities and social sciences as well. Yet, surprisingly, there is still no consensus on their basic nature or workings.
Ruth Leys’s brilliant, much anticipated history, therefore, is a story of controversy and disagreement. The Ascent of Affect focuses on the post–World War II period, when interest in emotions as an object of study began to revive. Leys analyzes the ongoing debate over how to understand emotions, paying particular attention to the continual conflict between camps that argue for the intentionality or meaning of emotions but have trouble explaining their presence in non-human animals and those that argue for the universality of emotions but struggle when the question turns to meaning. Addressing the work of key figures from across the spectrum, considering the potentially misleading appeal of neuroscience for those working in the humanities, and bringing her story fully up to date by taking in the latest debates, Leys presents here the most thorough analysis available of how we have tried to think about how we feel.
Introduction Setting the Stage

Chapter One Silvan S. Tomkins’s Affect Theory
Chapter Two Paul Ekman’s Neurocultural Theory of the Emotions
Chapter Three Richard S. Lazarus’s Appraisal Theory I: Emotions as Intentional States
Chapter Four Richard S. Lazarus’s Appraisal Theory II: The Battle Is Joined
Chapter Five A World without Pretense? Alan J. Fridlund’s Behavioral Ecology View
Chapter Six The Debate Continues: Paradigm Change or Status Quo?
Chapter Seven The Turn to Affect: A Critique
Epilogue Where We Are Now

Appendix 1 Animal Signaling, the Smile, and the Handicap Principle
Appendix 2 Damasio’s Somatic Marker Hypothesis (SMH)
Review Quotes
Jan Plamper, Goldsmiths, University of London
“There are books and there are earthquakes. The Ascent of Affect is an earthquake—it shakes the very foundations of a wide range of edifices of thought, from affect theory to Hardt and Negri’s Post-Marxism to trauma theory. All of these theoretical movements, Ruth Leys shows, are united in their elision of human intentionality. But anti-intentionalism is based on bad—indeed, wrong—science. Trenchant, razor-sharp, and always lucid, this book is bound to send shock waves through some of the most pressing intellectual debates of our time. A tour de force.”
Jill Morawski, Wesleyan University
“A masterfully told story, not simply of the history of one modern object, emotion, but of much larger shifts in human self-understanding in late modernity. The clarity of Leys’ writing makes the text accessible to the literature scholar who has modest scientific training and to the research psychologist who likely is unfamiliar with the turn to affect in the humanities and arts.”
Ute Frevert, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin
“Anyone wishing to know more about emotions has to read this amazingly smart and well-argued book. Ruth Leys, the eminent historian of science, has written a critical genealogy of the emotion sciences as they evolved after World War II. She engages with both theoretical and experimental approaches, and takes particular aim at affect studies that have, very successfully, promoted emotions as non-intentional, non-cognitive, and non-cultural. Leys challenges such views by confronting them with critical voices that have previously gone unheard or been neglected.”
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