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 . . .
The poetics of hockey has suffered a terrible blow. Doc Emrick retired at the end of last season after forty-seven years as the most expressive and eloquent of sports announcers. He called an NHL broadcast on TV as though he were still on radio, delivering a nonstop monologue of every pass, every shot, and every collision as ten players on skates sped full tilt and swung a five-foot stick as they swirled back and forth on a walled-in ice rink, a rectangle with rounded corners measuring a mere 200-by-85 feet. Players play with such intensity that they rotate to the bench every forty-five seconds or so. Doc Emerick spoke each one’s name and every action in real time. Anyone else would be breathless, but he could keep it up, his voice steady or modulating or eruptive as fit the action, through every minute of play.
From the Archive.
The American res publica has come to look more and more like race publics. Neoconservatives and neoliberals berate black leaders, usually singling out Al Sharpton or the Afro-centrists, for pushing politics based on racial identity. They object to traditional liberals and radicals for “injecting race” into political debate, for defending “race-based” social programs, for organizing constituencies and movements “by race.”
The political public sphere and the electorate have indeed been contoured according to “race” and racial identity. But the constituency whose beliefs and fears have been most significantly molded to their racial identity in the 1980s are whites.