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Violent Affect

Violent Affect: Literature, Cinema, and Critique after Representation

marco abel
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Violent Affect
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8032-0996-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. 1 The Violence of Sensation Miller’s Crossing, Affect, and Masocriticism
    (pp. 1-28)

    Violence. Most would be happy if they never had to experience it, and many are convinced of the existence of nonviolent spaces, whether they existed only in the past and elsewhere, are actually available in the here and now, or, perhaps, are only going to emerge in a yet to come time and space. And yet, notwithstanding the all-pervasive privileging of the nonviolent over the violent, violence surrounds us, has surrounded us, and it is hard to see how it will not surround us in the future. Violent images are the lifeblood of tv and abound in the history of...

  6. 2 Judgment Is Not an Exit Representation, Affect, and American Psycho
    (pp. 29-59)

    Mary Harron opens her generally well received film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s infamous 1991 novelAmerican Psychoas if she consciously wanted to heed Jean-Luc Godard’s well-known anti-representational adage “not blood, red,” with which he matter-of-factly responded to aCahiers du Cinémainterviewer who suggested that Godard’sPierrot Le Fouwas banned for children under eighteen because “there is a good deal of blood inPierrot” (Godard, “Let’s Talk about Pierrot” 217). Against a sterile backdrop of pure white, small red blotches slowly drip down the screen, one by one, without further (contextual) commentary or explanation except for the...

  7. 3 Are We All Arnoldians? A Conceptual Genealogy of Judgment
    (pp. 60-86)

    But perhaps the preceding chapter has moved too quickly. In claiming that the practice of contemporary criticism continually expresses its desire to judge, I might have given the impression that all of contemporary criticism merely consists of an extension of Matthew Arnold, that well-known figure of Victorianism whose critical project is, rightly or wrongly, often understood to be synonymous with exercising value judgments. Well-known reference books such as C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon’sA Handbook to Literaturedescribe Arnold’s project as “seeking to judge literature by high standards” (117), a sentiment seconded by theNorton Anthology’s introduction to Arnold...

  8. 4 Serializing Violence Patricia Highsmith’s “Empirical” Pedagogy of Violence
    (pp. 87-132)

    As I argued in chapter 2, considerable interest existed in 1999 and 2000 in the film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s widely loathed novelAmerican Psycho. Virtually simultaneous with the burgeoning anticipation in how feminist director Mary Harron would render what is generally considered one the most antifeminist American novels in recent memory, another novel and its upcoming film version crept into the limelight of public reviews and middlebrow magazine discussions. When on Christmas Day 1999 Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’sThe Talented Mr. Ripleyvied for the attention of an American movie audience stuffed with turkey and pumpkin...

  9. 5 Becoming-Violent, Becoming-DeNiro Rendering Violence Visible on Screen
    (pp. 133-181)

    A dark, run-down hallway with stone walls oozing a sense of filth and danger. A man in a black jacket, pointing at you a .38 Special in his right hand, a .44 Magnum in his left. The latter’s long barrel is so imposing that you almost can feel the cold, hard steel getting uncomfortably close to your head. Framed by these two firearms, clearly ready to shoot your brains out, is the assassin’s demented face. His eyes, two crazy half moons, anticipate imminent joy. His mouth, merely a crescentlike dark opening, is contorted in a grin. And then there is...

  10. 6 Don DeLillo’s "In the Ruins of the Future" Violence, Pedagogy, and the Rhetoric of Seeing 9/11
    (pp. 182-226)

    On the morning of September 12, 2001, I was scheduled to teach an American studies mass lecture course on “Violence in Twentieth-Century American Culture.” Like most people, I had spent the previous day glued to the television, trying to catch as great a variety of coverage of the events of 9/11 as possible. The next day, at 9 a.m., I approached my classroom with a considerable amount of trepidation. I knew from some colleagues that I would have the option to cancel class, allowing students to seek grief counseling or other means of finding emotional comfort and support. Yet, though...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 227-256)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-274)
  13. Index
    (pp. 275-292)