Too Literal?

February 21, 2012

The common denominator of the theoretical interpretations of ‘affect’ as outlined in An Inventory of Shimmers is that of the interlinked, simultaneous and multi-faced aspects of affect – the ‘extrusion of a momentary […] state of relation’ (Gregg and Seigworth, 2010).  As such, the notion of affect is perhaps comparable to a never-ending and three-dimensional crossword, where words are constructed (like memory) by order of association, progressing in a domino-like manner.

These ‘ever-modulating force-relations’ between ‘bodies’, as described by Gregg and Seigworth, culminates in the unanimous conclusion that affect renders the capacity of the body never to be defined by the body alone.  Again, using the written word as a point of reference, the meaning as well as the sound of any given letter changes when juxtaposed with another. Equally, the value prescribed to one word is altered when combined.  In the Swedish expression ‘skit-god‘ (English: shit-good), the negative word is paradoxically used to emphasise good flavour.  Nonetheless, within the English alphabet of 26 characters there are two letters that in their own right has the capacity to constitute a word.  Notably, while the word ‘a’ is never used on it’s own but rather used to define another, the letter and word ‘I’ is descriptive of the singular entity of one body.

Although we may not require two letters to construct the singular ‘I’, affect is exclaimed to arise ‘in the midst of in-between-ness’ (Gregg and Seigworth, 2010).  The interstitial spaces – whether in the built and natural environment or in language – create a sense of order; a logic that enables us to absorb and digest its content.  It is the role of these blank spaces and voids to provide a framework that structure words, sentences, books and in turn gives rise to meaning.

Based on a reflection on Spinoza’s concept of ‘not yet’ and affect as a promise to ‘increase capacities to act’, the author goes on to stress the impact of, not of what something is, but rather how it affects and is affected.  By way of example, when entering the library, a civic monastery to the written word, the echo within the large sound sensitive collection hall prompts to silence.  As such, the ‘not yet’ of affect prescribes an impetus for a body ‘to shift its affections (its-being-affected) into action (capacity to affect)’ (Gregg and Seigworth, 2010).

Is the notion of affect applicable to a body of words? Considering affect as pre-consciousness, as Eric Shouse argues in the article Feeling, Emotion, Affect (2005), perhaps the written word and language is a useful metaphor when attempting to understand affect rather than affect by definition.  In light of affect as the interchange of ‘forces or intensities’ (Gregg and Seigworth, 2010), what are the implications of affect on the human body in the continuous decentralisation of the written word?  How does affect come into play if the library is no longer a place but an ethereal mass of data?  Throughout the lecture series I endeavour to reflect on the affect of, on and within the institution of the library.

– Mimmi Frendin

One Response to “Too Literal?”

  1. michaelglyon Says:

    Always wondered what a 3d crossword would look like… great diagram.


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