Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Isaac A Reed

Second Advisor

Amy Wilkins

Third Advisor

Peter Simonson


Understandings of culture have long had a cognitive bias in sociological theory. To amend this, I propose a general theory of cognitive-affective linkages that aids cultural sociology in particular, but is of relevance to many different areas of sociology. I identify several theoretical precedents, Hochschild’s theory of feeling rules and gender ideology as well as a few ideas from Freudian psychoanalysis, to reconstruct an intellectual path leading to a conception of discursive affects. The general theory of these culturally channeled affects transcends many traditional dichotomies in sociological theory, e.g. between language and the body, the individual and the social, and even between culture and the economic. Three empirical sites of discursive affects are then analyzed on a meta-theoretical level: 1) Values are shared evaluative cognitions or representations of good and evil with strong affective attachments. 2) Mood is a shared affective experience, not consciously identified as such, yet influencing cognitive-social perceptions. 3) Symbolic boundaries are collective fantasies of identity maintained by the cognitive and affective work of a group. Throughout the essay, features extracted from each of these exemplars are synthesized to produce a social ontology in which cognition and affect are inseparable social-historical powers constituting individual experience and the individual as we know it.