parables for the virtual

Massumi and Malbec 2: Guest Post by Corey Wakeling

Since Brian Massumi’s Parables for the Virtual is in effect a piece of Deleuzian theory and by nature indulges in micro-theses embedded in paragraphs, I feel it’s worth making a veritable castle gate out of the primary thesis put forward by ‘The Bleed’ to help us all start on the right foot with this week’s chapter. So here it is:

Rethink body, subjectivity, and social change in terms of movement, affect, force, and violence – before code, text, and signification.

As we know from Chapter One, this book’s primary task is to re-introduce theories of affect into the cultural theory landscape. By nature, as definitionally a term used to describe non-cerebral, non-rational, and emotional influence and intensity – intensity being Massumi’s privileged noun – affect was the victim of disregard under postmodern theory due to its seemingly impossible assimilability within methodologies of cultural analysis and deconstruction. As lit theory students, we know well one of our first-year edicts: the affective fallacy. Affect qualified is emotion, but Massumi nips this in the bud early on in Chapter One when he says that, “Intensity is qualifiable as an emotional state and that state is static…” This leads us to ‘The Bleed’, and an important distinction: affect, also known as intensity, bleeds over our receptivity to it. What would otherwise be approached as the language of subjectivity, or the language of human feeling, here is recovered as a site that must be investigated as a “resonating chamber”. Receiving affective energy, the body then responds to the stimulus by making sense of it, first bodily (and this has vicissitudes that I will later explain) and then in language. What we have in this chapter is the concerted attempt to construct an incorporeal materialism – a Massumian appellation for Deleuze’s transcendental materialism – that accounts for the real, material influence of virtuality on the actual, and the actual’s communication through virtuality. So, the task is to include sensation that is either too small or too amorphous or opaque as a part of our critical programmes, and in the process perhaps succeed in following Nietszche’s admonishment of being human-all-too-human and move towards ontological analysis that accounts for becomings via means that are not necessarily entirely explicable as purely sociological or psychological phenomena. Massumi explains that cultural theory as it stands is not all wrong, it’s just that we need to be articulating a language and a philosophy that better deals affect and intensity. READ MORE >

Author Spotlight / 13 Comments
February 9th, 2010 / 11:18 am

Massumi and Malbec: Intro and Chapter One

This is the first part of the discussion group for Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, and Sensation. I am very late doing this. I am sorry. I was having whiplash and making phone calls because I got in a car wreck on the freeway. Nobody was seriously hurt, and more importantly, it was not my fault. But it happened and I am too easily derailed. There is a very wonderful Chapter Two post waiting for us; it is by Corey Wakeling. So I just want to do this so we can get to that. I am liking Massumi. I drank Rioja instead of Malbec because I had some.

Are you reading Massumi? What is the affect–equated by him with effect and intensity–of reading Massumi? Not the emotion. What is the sensation? For reasons I shouldn’t like to understand, reading really good academic prose turns me on as I read it, literally, but I haven’t read much of anything like this since college, so getting into Parables for the Virtual lent a tender, nostalgic, aroused sensation. Like the children in Ch. 1 I equate arousal with pleasure.

Here are some things I would love to talk more about if you would like to talk more about them:

Intro pp. 12-13. False modesty, wrongthinkingness of critics who think it is not their job to create. At times Massumi is writing about how to write, which was a nice surprise.

Ch. 1 pp. 24-25. The way Massumi writes “form/content” blows my mind. I know we can’t totally divide form and content, but to conflate/equate them thus is, for me, hard to do. Please help.

28. “[Emotion] is intensity owned and recognized.” Crucial distinction/delineation.

[I’m relieved that Massumi compared his own prose to a black hole]

39. Kinds of aphasia and their inverses. How they could help us hear.

Author Spotlight / 7 Comments
January 29th, 2010 / 5:45 pm

Massumi and Malbec: A Virtual Reading Group

A few weeks ago, in the comments section of my post on affect, Roxane brought up the idea of having a reading group for Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation by Brian Massumi. She also said her teacher advised reading Massumi alongside wine; her suggestion was a complex red. Thus Massumi and Malbec.

My copy is now in hand, so I’m ready. But to give others a bit more time, let’s say we’ll discuss the intro and chapter one (“The Autonomy of Affect”) in roughly two weeks. So if you’d like to participate, order the book and read those sections by Saturday, January 16.

My other thought is that a different person might profitably lead the discussion for each chapter, on a chapter per week schedule. So if you would be interested in committing to lead a chapter discussion, either by posting about it if you are an HTMLGiant contributor or guest-posting under my auspices if you aren’t, please email me at my first and last name at gmail. There are nine chapters, so in case not enough people want to do this, please let me know if you’d be willing to host two chapter discussions. However you’d like to go about leading the discussion is totally up to you.

If you aren’t willing to lead a discussion (that’s cool!), but you plan to follow along/guzzle vino/discuss, do say so in the Comments so that I have a sense of whether this is something people really want to do after all.

Web Hype / 20 Comments
January 2nd, 2010 / 4:01 pm