Something in the world forces us to think…
It may be grasped in a range of
affective tones: wonder, love,
— Gilles Deleuze
A Philosophical Quartet
Two related polarities in modern thought provide the theoretical webbing of Mood and Trope: Nietzsche versus Kant and Deleuze versus Heidegger. My choices are neither imperative nor arbitrary. What turns out to have been the origins of this project was an interest in how various philosophers have discussed the emotions and passions. Other combinations would fruitfully serve to organize a discussion of affect. This philosophical quartet is especially apt because their differences and oppositions are a fertile terrain of controversies in modern thought and, even more, because each of the four ultimately centers the question of affect on literary and aesthetic experience. The literary critic and theorist is not bound to—or capable of!—philosophical systematicity.
In the final lines of The Trial Joseph K., never having learned the charges against him or discovered the process by which he was to be, or had been, judged, having gone with the two men who never answered his question “‘So you are meant for me?’” and been stripped of “his coat, his waistcoat, and finally his shirt” and then laid down against a boulder in a quarry and stabbed in the heart, his dying thought is “it was as if the shame of it must outlive him.”
Kafka died young, a month shy of his forty-first birthday in 1924. He had seen some of his stories published but none of his novels, including his three masterpieces, The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika, all of them still unfinished. He instructed Max Brod to destroy his unfinished manuscripts at his death. He did not want them to outlive him. The otherwise faithful friend and literary executor . . .
Something rang false back when President Biden announced that the final withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan would occur on September 11, 2021. Twenty years to the day since al-Qaeda hijacked UAL 175 and 93 and AA 11 and 77 and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon and into a field in Pennsylvania rather than, thanks to the action of passengers, the White House. What sort of commemoration did he have in mind? Not the defeat of the Taliban. Not the restoration of sovereignty to Afghanistan. What was the withdrawal to be a completion of? Not the so-called war on terrorism. Not a peace agreement among Afghans. . .
From the Archive.
The misconceptions in democratic messianism ultimately stem from the narrow understanding of the sources of freedom that has become the commonsense of American conservatism since Reaganism. Individual freedom is associated primarily—primally, so to speak—with participation in the free market. A core meaning of civic democracy, namely, government’s provision for the common good, was relentlessly attacked and, more importantly, redesignated and reimagined as an infringement on individual freedom. This understanding has planted itself in the structure of feeling—or, as Tocqueville would have said, the habits, ideas, and mores—of many Americans, and not just those who strongly support the Republican Party. . .