Rita Felski’s bombshell 2015 Limits of Critique represents a culminating point of discourse around what I would call an epistemologically affective ethics of reading. Felski rejects “suspicious reading” informed by socio-politico-economic analytical frameworks such as psychoanalysis and Marxism, instead calling for modes of reading based on love, at a remove from politics proper.
What if literature itself throws a wrench into Felski’s before-and-after story of critique?
I would like to consider a Latin American novel, also published in 2015, that revisits Marxist politics on a legendary scale in the story of Monika Ertl, member of Che Guevara’s Ejército Liberación Nacional and presumptive avenger of his death at the hands of US-trained Bolivian rangers. But Bolivian novelist Rodrigo Hasbún’s literary imagination moves away from grand politics and toward family dynamics, focusing on a recreation of the Ertl household’s emotional fault lines as the axis and motor of Monika’s story, and, by extension, of the story of twentieth century revolution writ large. Does Felski’s affective “postcritique” mean we have to close the door on our recent political past, and, by extension, foreclose our understanding of the present as political? Hasbún’s sparely titled Los afectos complicates Felski’s good/bad, either/or propositions about how we read and what we may know by modeling an affective reterritorialization of “Marxist” —or at least revolutionary— values/judgments/claims for the twenty-first century.