Massumi, Brian. The Autonomy of Affect, I

Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2002. 23-28. Print.

To remember:

  • the primacy of the affective is marked by a gap between content and effect (24)
  • content[:] its indexing to conventional meanings in an inter-subjective context … determinate qualities (24)
  • effect[:] the strength or duration of image … its intensity (24)
  • Intensity is embodied in purely autonomic functions … associated with expectation, which depends on consciously positioning oneself in a narrative of continuity … heartbeat and breathing … a conscious-autonomic mix … intensity is beside that loop (25)
  • Language … would seem to function differentially in relation to [intensity] … matter-of-factness dampens … qualifications of emotional content enhanced images’ effects … resonated with the level of intensity, rather than interfered with it … emotional qualification breaks narrative continuity for a moment to register a state … skin is faster than word (25)
  • the relationship between levels of intensity and qualification is not one of conformity or correspondence but rather of resonation or interference, amplification or dampening (25) [emphasis added]
  • Intensity is qualifiable as an emotional state, and that state is static – temporal and narrative noise. It is a state of suspense, potentially disruption … not passivity .. not activity [though both non directed and moving] … It resonates to the exact degree that it is in excess of any narrative or functional line (26)
  • expression event (27)
  • For structure is the place where nothing ever happens, that explanatory heaven in which all eventual permutations are pre-figured in a self-consistent set of invariable generative rules (27)
  • there is no cultural-theoretical vocabulary specific to affect. Our entire vocabulary has derived from theories of signification that are still wedded to structure … too easy for psychological categories to slip back in, undoing considerable deconstructive work (27)
  • affect is intensity, [not emotion] … different logic … different orders (27)
  • an emotion is subjective content … personal … qualified intensity … conventional, consensual point of insertion of intensity into semantically and semiotically formed progressions, into narrativizable action-reaction circuits, into function and meaning … intensity owned and recognized (28)
  • affect is unqualified. as such, it is not ownable or recognizable and is thus resistant to critique (28)
  • [Spinoza’s Ethics as] formidable philosophical precursor: on the irreducibly bodily and autonomic nature of affect; on affect as a suspension of action-reaction circuits and linear temporality in a sink of what might be called “passion”; on the equation between affect and effect; and on the form/content of conventional discourse as constituting a separate stratum running counter to the full register of affect and its affirmation, its positive development, its expression as and for itself (28).


  • thinking about emotional phrasing as punctum … also, what qualifies as ’emotional phrasing’? (25)
  • does this, then, also answer to the technology amplifying touch in sedgwick, maybe?
  • thinking about ‘excess’ as non-normativity, ways in which the non-normative resonates, etc. (26)
  • return to language–image-event–body-event for mulling over not-yets (26)

To consume:

  • Spinoza’s Ethics

One thought on “Massumi, Brian. The Autonomy of Affect, I

  1. Pingback: performing empathies [the empathics] | {kin}aesthetic composure

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