(Non-)Belief in Things: Affect Theory and a New Literary Materialism

  • Neil Vallelly
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Affect Theory and Literary Criticism book series (PSATLC)


This chapter argues that contemporary literary criticism suffers from a reflexive faith in things, conceived broadly as static objects that reflect wider political, social, and cultural practices. Literature is re-imagined here as an open-ended event that demands an immanent materialism in which distinctions between literary objects and human bodies no longer stand up. By reflecting on the ambiguous “thingness” of Shakespeare, Vallelly draws attention to the elusive nature of things in theatrical spaces, and explores how this enigmatic materiality can be applied to literary experience more generally. To do so, he draws on Roberto’s Bolaño’s 2666, affect theory, and new materialism to construct a new literary materialism, one in which literary meaning is located neither in the human nor in the non-human world, but in the affective correspondence between these worlds. To illustrate this point, the chapter concludes with a discussion of the relationship between characters and stones in Shakespearean drama.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil Vallelly
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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