Denise Riley is renowned as a feminist theorist and a poet and for her remarkable refiguring of familiar but intransigent problems of identity, expression, language, and politics. In Impersonal Passion, she turns to everyday complex emotional and philosophical problems of speaking and listening. Her provocative meditations suggest that while the emotional power of language is impersonal, this impersonality paradoxically constitutes the personal. In nine linked essays, Riley deftly unravels the rhetoric of life's absurdities and urgencies, its comforts and embarrassments, to insist on the forcible affect of language itself. She teases out the emotional complexities of such quotidian matters as what she ironically terms the right to be lonely in the face of the imperative to be social or the guilt associated with feeling as if you're lying when you aren't. Impersonal Passion reinvents questions from linguistics, the philosophy of language, and cultural theory in an illuminating new idiom: the compelling emotion of the language of the everyday.
Denise Riley is a professor in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of East Anglia. Her books include The Words of Selves: Identification, Solidarity, Irony; "Am I That Name?" Feminism and the Category of "Women" in History; and War in the Nursery: Theories of the Child and Mother, as well as many collections of poetry.
Acknowledgments vii Introduction 1 1. Malediction 9 2. "What I Want Back Is What I Was": Consolation's Retrospect 29 3. The Right to be Lonely 49 4. Why WHYs and why mes 59 5. Linguistic Inhibition as a Cause of Pregnancy 71 6. "Lying" When You Aren't 85 7. All Mouth and No Trousers: Linguistic Embarrassments 97 8. "But Then I Wouldn't Be Here" 105 9. Your Name Which Isn't Yours 115 Notes 129