ENGL 569 B1: The Politics of Affect

E. Del Rio

In the last decade or so, disciplines in the Humanities have experienced what some have called an "affective turn." Affect-based analyses have problematized the Marxist terminology of ideology, but in no way has this focus on affect turned its back on issues of politics, power, and the broad span of collective practices and modes of living. This course will examine discourses of affect as a productive analytical tool in contemporary cultural, political and philosophical debates. Following Deleuze and Guattari, as well as Brian Massumi's elaborations of their work, and other theorists' perspectives such as Sara Ahmed's and Lauren Berlant's, we will study affect not simply as a synonym for emotion, but as a complex of vital potential that is socialized and is directly relational rather than individual. Our understanding of the politics of affect in this course will be informed by two lines of thought: a consideration of biopolitics in its weaving of political and life processes; and the importance of aesthetic strategies of seduction, gesture, and performance as potential reenactments of resistance. Our goal in the course will be to understand the political ramifications of affective processes and, jointly, the affective modulation that drives political action in both the modalities of power and resistance.


Giorgio Agamben, "Notes on Gesture," and "In Praise of Profanation"

Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of the Emotions

Paul Bains, "Subjectless Subjectivities"

Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism

Silvia Casini, "Engaging Hand to Hand with the Moving Image: Serra, Viola and Grandrieux's Radical Gestures"

Claire Colebrook, Death of the Posthuman: Essays on Extinction

Combes, Muriel. Gilbert Simondon and the Philosophy of the Transindividual.

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, "Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible" (in A Thousand Plateaus)

Elena Del Río, "Bare Life" (in The Grace of Destruction) and "Extinction" (in The Grace of Destruction)

Brad Evans, "Life Resistance: Towards a Different Concept of the Political"

Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth, eds. The Affect Theory Reader.

Brian Massumi, chapters from Politics of Affect, Parables for the Virtual and What Animals Teach Us about Politics

Film and Media:

Michael Haneke's Code Unknown

Philippe Grandrieux's La Vie Nouvelle

Carlos Reygadas' Battle in Heaven

Lars von Trier's Melancholia

Bill Viola's video works The Raft and I Do Not Know What It Is I Am Like