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The Cyndi Lauper Affect

Bodies, Girlhood and Popular Culture

Kristina Gottschall, Susanne Gannon, Jo Lampert and Kelli McGraw

Using a collective biography method informed by a Deleuzian theoretical approach (Davies and Gannon 2009, 2012), this article analyses embodied memories of girlhood becomings through affective engagements with resonating images in media and popular culture. In this approach to analysis we move beyond the impasse in some feminist cultural studies where studies of popular culture have been understood through theories of representation and reception that retain a sense of discrete subjectivity and linear effects. In these approaches, analysis focuses respectively on decoding and deciphering images in terms of their normative and ideological baggage, and, particularly with moving images, on psychological readings. Understanding bodies and popular culture through Deleuzian notions of “becoming“ and “assemblage“ opens possibilities for feminist researchers to consider the ways in which bodies are not separate from images but are, rather, becomings that are known, felt, materialized and mobilized with/through images (Coleman 2008a, 2008b, 2008c, 2009, 2011; Ringrose and Coleman 2013). We tease out the implications of this new approach to media affects through three memories of girls' engagements with media images, reconceived as moments of embodied being within affective flows of popular culture that might momentarily extend upon ways of being and doing girlhood.

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Introduction

Affective States—Entanglements, Suspensions, Suspicions

Mateusz Laszczkowski and Madeleine Reeves

The aim of this special issue is to bring a critical discussion of affect into debate with the anthropology of the state as a way of working toward a more coherent, ethnographically grounded exploration of affect in political life. We consider how the state becomes a 'social subject' in daily life, attending both to the subjective experience of state power and to the affective intensities through which the state is reproduced in the everyday. We argue that the state should be understood not as a 'fiction' to be deconstructed, but as constituted and sustained relationally through the claims, avoidances, and appeals that are made toward it and the emotional registers that these invoke. This article situates these arguments theoretically and introduces the subsequent ethnographic essays.

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Carl Plantinga

The stories we tell each other, or present via mass media, are important components of the cultural ecology of a place and time. This article argues that 300 (2007), directed by Zach Snyder and based on a comic book series both written and illustrated by Frank Miller, evinces what can legitimately be called a “fascist aesthetic” that depends in large part on the moods and emotions the screen story both represents and elicits. While many other commentators have charged this film with incipient fascism, this article both deepens and expands on the claim by showing how the film’s elicitation of affect contributes to this aesthetic. The article argues that the affects represented and elicited in 300, when taken in conjunction with and in relation to the ideology they support, constitute what can be called “fascist affect.”

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Intimate Events

The Correctness of Affective Transactions in Northeast Brazil

Matan Shapiro

Drawing on ethnographic research in the Brazilian state of Maranhão, this article proposes the concept of the 'intimate event' as a heuristic device in the cross-cultural study of kinship and relatedness. This theoretical construct refers to the retrospective recognition of affective transactions as meaningfully intimate, that recognition being an event which in Maranhão compels ethical reflection. Intimacy can be imagined as an aesthetic of practice that indicates when something simply feels right, and which then frames the correctness of both moral conformity and transgression in affective terms.

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Carl Plantinga

Most films, most of the time, are affectively unified. What I call “synesthetic affects” are orchestrated in an attempt to provide a holistic affective experience congruent with the film's unfolding narrative and thematic concerns. Yet Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line elicits contradictory or incongruent affects, such incongruence neither being justified by genre conventions, “excess,” irony, nor stumbled upon through incompetence. The Thin Red Line elicits incongruent emotions for the purposes of generating an experience of rumination and wonder. The study of such incongruent emotions, still in its infancy, raises important methodological issues about the study of mixed emotions and the conventions for mixing affects in the cinema.

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How to Survive the Postfeminist Impasse

Grace Helbig’s Affective Aesthetics

Catherine McDermott

An emerging genre across literature, screen, and digital media is beginning to articulate profound dissatisfaction with postfeminist social norms and scripts. In this article, I explore how American comedian Grace Helbig exploits and reworks classic postfeminist self-improvement genres through her parodying of the YouTube how-to video. Using Helbig’s video as an illustrative case study, my analysis demonstrates that affect theory has the capacity to make a vital contribution to current postfeminist debates. Recent research finds postfeminist analysis lacks the facility to fully comprehend the complexity of contemporary femininities, suggesting that postfeminist media studies as a genre of scholarship has reached a critical impasse. Drawing on Lauren Berlant’s (2008, 2011, 2015) work, I examine how Helbig affectively deflates popular postfeminist fantasies of fun-loving confident girlhood. More widely, I argue that affective approaches offer feminist scholars a dynamic framework to make sense of the continuing impact and legacies of postfeminist media culture.

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Kathrin Fahlenbrach and Barbara Flueckiger

Although some research has been done about narrative functions of title sequences in television series, this article focuses on their affective implications for viewers. Concentrating on immersive styles in trailer sequences of quality series, the article discusses diverse strategies of their affective priming, asking: How do immersive openers prime the viewers' affective appraisal of the show to follow? And how do they prepare them for the leading “feeling tone” (Plantinga 2009: 166) and mood of a series' world? Using the popular openers of the series Dexter, Six Feet Under, and True Blood, the article analyzes in three in-depth analyses successful immersive strategies for affective priming. They argue that these immersive title sequences use embodied metaphors, and symbols of collective imagery to create ambivalent affective cues that even tend to create mixed feelings in the viewers.

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Alienation and Affectivity

Beauvoir, Sartre and Levinas on the Ageing Body

Kathleen Lennon and Anthony Wilde

In this article, we explore Beauvoir’s account of what she claims is an alienated relation to our ageing bodies. This body can inhibit an active engagement with the world, which marks our humanity. Her claims rest on the binary between the body-for-itself and the body-in-itself. She shares this binary with Sartre, but a perceptive phenomenology of the affective body can also be found, which works against this binary and allows her thought to be brought into conversation with Levinas. For Levinas, the susceptibility of the body is constitutive of our subjectivity, rather than a source of alienation. If we develop Beauvoir’s thought in the direction of his, an ontological structure is suggested, distinct from Sartre – a structure which makes room for her pervasive attention to affectivity.

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Objet A(ffect) and Che(www) Vuoi

The Fleshy Horror of the Unknowable Other in Spring and Honeymoon

Dewey Musante

Leigh Janiak’s Honeymoon (2014) and Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Spring (2015) initially seem like two horror films birthed in the spirit of classical psychoanalytic film criticism. They deal with a monstrous female, a fearful, castrated male, and the “otherness” of sexual relationships. Through a close analysis of each film, however, I suggest in the following that both films “think” through problems of the gendered other, sexual politics, and cinematic affect outside the bounds of contemporary psychoanalytic or affect theory. By suggesting and analyzing two neologisms that blend the insights of psychoanalytic and affective film theory—objet a(ffect) and che(www) vuoi—I argue that both films not only complicate typical readings of horror films “about” gender and sex, but that each film performs its own type of philosophical thought about gender and “otherness” through its very form and content.

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Toward a Model of Distributed Affectivity for Cinematic Ethics

Ethical Experience, Trauma, and History

Philip Martin

Many contemporary applications of theories of affect to cinematic ethical experience focus on its consequences for empathy and moral allegiance. Such approaches have made advances in bridging phenomenological and cognitivist approaches to film-philosophy, but miss the importance of complex affects that problematize empathy and moral judgment. For example, the rendering of trauma in Aimless Bullet (Hyun-mok Yu, 1961) involves aesthetic shifts that reframe its depiction of postwar experience and build a complex emotional picture of sociopolitical conditions that affect individual and community life. In this article, I argue that to understand the ethical significance of complex cinematic emotion we can develop an account of how affective-aesthetic affordances establish distributed spaces for dynamic affective engagement. To do this, I draw upon theories of scaffolded mind, classical Indian rasa aesthetics, and phenomenological aesthetics. This hybrid account will allow us to articulate the ways that film can help us comprehend the ethical significance of complex affective situations.