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Elizabeth Wilson, PhD – A Silvan Tomkins Handbook: On Affect Theory and Psychoanalysis

March 24 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Elizabeth Wilson is working with Adam Frank (University of British Columbia) on an introduction to the writings of Silvan Tomkins. Tomkins is best known as the author of a compelling, multi-volume theory of affect (Affect Imagery Consciousness, 1962-1992). While this theory has been influential in both academic and clinical literatures, it is not as well read and understood as perhaps it could be. This talk will preview parts of the Frank and Wilson handbook, focusing on Tomkins’ relationship to Freud and on the relevance of psychoanalytic theory to Tomkins’ work. While Tomkins’ affect theory is usually said to be allied with Darwin’s Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals and critical of psychoanalysis, we argue that the influence of Freud on Tomkins (via the personology research of Henry Murray at Harvard in the 1930s) was important. The Frank and Wilson handbook, drawing on archival materials and research in the critical humanities, argues for a more expansive genealogical mapping of the traditions of Darwin, Freud, Murray and Tomkins and makes a case for what is valuable and innovative in Tomkins’ work for contemporary readers.

Elizabeth Wilson is Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. Her undergraduate and graduate training is in psychology and she has held positions at the Australian National University, the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales. She has also been a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton and at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. She is the author of Psychosomatic: Feminism and the Neurological Body (Duke University Press, 2004), Affect and Artificial Intelligence (University of Washington Press, 2010) and Gut Feminism (Duke University Press, 2015).

Learning objectives:

  1. To identify the key components of Silvan Tomkins’ affect theory
  2. To investigate the relationship between affect theory and psychoanalytic theory
  3. To reimagine the intellectual ties between Silvan Tomkins, Charles Darwin, Henry Murray and Sigmund Freud



March 24
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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Nancy Chase, PhD, LCSW


Emory Brain Health Center
12 Executive Park Dr. NE, Room 331
Atlanta, GA 30329 United States
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