Violent Affect: Literature, Cinema, and Critique after Representation

Violent Affect: Literature, Cinema, and Critique after Representation

Violent Affect: Literature, Cinema, and Critique after Representation

Violent Affect: Literature, Cinema, and Critique after Representation


Violence: most of us would be happy if we never had to experience it, and many are driven by the belief that nonviolent spaces exist. InViolent Affect, however, Marco Abel starts from a different, potentially controversial assumption: namely that violence is all-pervasive by ontological necessity. In order to work through the implications of this provocation, Abel turns to literary and cinematic works such as those by Don DeLillo, Bret Easton Ellis, Mary Harron, Patricia Highsmith, the Coen Brothers, and Robert DeNiro, contending that we do not even know what violent images are, let alone how they work and what they do. Countering previous studies of violent images based on representational and, consequently, moralistic assumptions, which, Abel argues, inevitably reinforce the very violence they critique,Violent Affectinstead turns to the concept of "affect" as a means to explain how violent images work upon the world. Arguing for what he calls a "masocritical" approach to violence, Abel's analysis attends to the affects inherent to violent images with the goal of momentarily suspending judgment of them, thus allowing for new, unanswered critical questions about the issue of violence to emerge. Abel suggests that shifting from representational understandings of violence toward an account of its affective forces is a necessary step in developing more ethical tools to intervene in the world- for acting upon it for the betterment of the future.


The violence of sensation is opposed to the violence of the repre
sented (the sensational, the cliché). the former is inseparable from
its direct action on the nervous system, the levels through which
it passes, the domains it traverses: being itself a Figure, it must
have nothing of the nature of the represented object. [Violence] is
not what one believes it to be, and depends less and less on what is

—Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon

I can’t help but dream about a kind of criticism that would not try
to judge

—Michel Foucault, “The Masked Philosopher”

Any project that lays claim to the attribute of novelty, let alone “radical” novelty, deserves to be received with immediate suspicion. More often than not, such works turn out to be merely minor (albeit at times important) modifications of familiar arguments (how many more “radical” social constructivist arguments does one have to endure?). Despite my awareness of the danger inherent to what is at least in part a marketing trap—the seductive force of novelty, however superficial, has long functioned as the sales engine of capitalism—I nonetheless proceed by submitting that the following study has indeed something new to offer with regard to its chosen subject matter, images of violence . . .

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