Celebrating Laura Mulvey: Or, Film Studies with Poetic License



 Film Studies For Free brings you the ever happy tidings of the new issue of Senses of Cinema.

It’s a fascinating collection of work, and very wide-ranging: from part one of an interview with, and an article by, Jean-Louis Comolli, film theorist and Cahiers du cinéma editor in possibly its most political period (1966-1978) through Murray Pomerance on Hitchcock to a number of articles on the Oscar-laden French film The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011).

Links to all the great contents are given below.

Senses of Cinema, Issue 62 Contents


Feature Articles

Great Directors

Festival Reports

Book Reviews

Cteq Annotations

The Veridical Artist: Jean Epstein Studies

“With the notion of photogénie was born the idea of cinema art.”
[Jean Epstein, quoted in Ian Christie, “French Avant-Garde Film in the Twenties,” in Film as Film (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1979), 38

  Sequences from La Chute de la maison Usher/The Fall of the House of Usher (Jean Epstein, 1928)

Sequence from Le Tempestaire/The Storm Tamer (Jean Epstein, 1947) 

In the early twentieth century scientists recognized cinematic slow motion, along with its opposite, time-lapse photography, as providing major tools for observation and demonstration. Enabling through cinema the extension and compression of the flow of time respectively, these techniques revealed aspects of the world that human vision could not otherwise see, and yet they did not distort the world into an aesthetic image. Rather they opened up a new visual dimension. Epstein’s manipulation of time in cinema revealed a different rhythm to the universe, a ballet of matter. Thus, the intuition of Roderick Usher, the protagonist of Poe’s story, that matter itself may have a sentient and animate dimension was visualized in Epstein film’s La Chute de la maison Usher through the use of slow motion. The constant vibration of the material world, whether the flowing of fabric caught in the breeze or the cascade of dust falling from a suddenly struck bell does not simply provide a visual metaphor for the haunted house of Usher. Rather, they capture a universal vibration shared by the soul of things and the structures of the psyche, invoking the senses of both vision and sound (and even touch) placed before us on the screen. In his penultimate masterpiece from 1947, Le Tempestaire, Epstein not only used slow motion to display the currents of ocean surf as he had in his earlier silent films made in Brittany, but innovatively introduced the timbre and resonance of slowed down recorded sound, enfolding us as auditors not simply in defamiliarized sonority, but allowing us to dwell within an extended soundscape filled with the uncanny echoes of nature. [Tom Gunning, ‘Preface’, to Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations, edited by Sarah Keller and Jason N. Paul (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012)]
As Jean Epstein went on to say, the camera is the veridical artist. But the role of this veridical artist can be understood in two ways, as can the relation between its artistic power and its veridicality. On the one hand, the camera is the artist, because it produces a kind of writing, and more precisely because it has an impersonal power in it—the light—which writes. The sensory milieu, then, is one in which light and movement constitute a new writing. Yet, on the other hand, it is a veridical artist insofar as it does not write anything, insofar as all it yields is a document, pieces of information, just as machines yields them to men who work on machines and are instrumentalized by them, to men who must learn from them a new way of being but also domesticate them for their own use. [Jacques Rancière, ‘What Medium Can Mean’, Translated by Steven Corcoran, Parrhesia, 11, 2011: 35-43]

Epstein, at the beginning of his career, claimed that cinema has nothing to do with logic or any other kind of intellectual reasoning. He relegated films to the realm of the so-called emotional reflex, fundamentally irrational in its premises. At the same time, however, he elaborated his own notion of photogénie as an almost mystical increase in the meaning of a cinematic image. A photogenic image, according to him, is not simply one transformed by the camera lens, but it is also purified and abstracted. Thus, a photogenic image belongs to the world of the intellect as well as the world of physical phenomena:

This is why the cinema is psychic. It offers us a quintessence, a product twice distilled. My eye presents me with an idea of a form; the film stock also contains an idea of a form, an idea established independently of my awareness, an idea without awareness, a latent, secret but marvelous idea; and from the screen I get an idea, my eye’s idea extracted from the camera; in other words, so flexible is this algebra, an idea that is the square root of an idea.

This abstracting of an image allows Epstein to explore the subject of cinematic logic that will come to occupy a dominant place in his later film theorizing […]. In his books starting from 1946 (L’intelligence d’une machine), Epstein claims that cinema is not beyond logic but develops its own logic, whose laws are still obscure and mysterious. Epstein calls this logic ‘la pensée méchanique’ – mechanical thought. This thought is not human, but is produced by the cinematic machine itself. […] According to Epstein, cinema produces thinking because it generates forms of time and space. [Mikhail Iampolski, ‘The Logic of an Illusion Notes on the Genealogy of Intellectual Cinema’, in Allen, Richard, Malcolm Turvey (eds), Camera Obscura, Camera Lucida: Essays in Honor of Annette Michelson (Amsterdam University Press, 2004), pp. 44-45]

Filmmaker and theoretician Jean Epstein profoundly influenced film practice, criticism and reception in France during the 1920s and well beyond. His work not only forms the crux of the debates of his time, but also remains key to understanding later developments in film practice and theory. Epstein’s film criticism is among the most wide-ranging, provocative and poetic writing about cinema and his often breathtaking films offer insights into cinema and the experience of modernity.
      This collection – the first comprehensive study in English of Epstein’s far-reaching influence – arrives as several of the concerns most central to Epstein’s work are being reexamined, including theories of perception, realism, and the relationship between cinema and other arts. The volume also includes new translations from every major theoretical work Epstein published, presenting the widest possible historical and contextual range of Epstein’s work, from his beginnings as a biology student and literary critic to his late film projects and posthumously published writings. [Blurb for Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations, edited by Sarah Keller and Jason N. Paul (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012)]

Film Studies For Free today celebrates the publication of a wonderful, and hugely important, new book on a wonderful, and hugely important, old figure in film history: Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations edited by Sarah Keller and Jason N. Paul.

Epstein has been a very neglected figure in anglophone film scholarship. Unduly so, as Tom Gunning writes (in his preface to Keller and Paul’s collection),

To my mind Jean Epstein is not only the most original and the most poetic silent filmmaker in France, surpassing impressive figures like Abel Gance, Jacques Feyder, Marcel L’Herbier and even Louis Feuillade; I also consider him one of the finest film theorists of the silent era, worthy to be placed alongside the Soviet theorists (Eisenstein, Vertov and Kuleshov) and the equal of the extraordinary German-language cinema theorist, Béla Balázs. [Gunning, ‘Preface’; hyperlinks added by FSFF]

The book, available for purchase in print, has also been made openly accessible online thanks to its publisher Amsterdam University Press‘s laudable partnership with the online OAPEN library (Open Access Publishing in European Networks). The volume is part of the AUP series Film Theory in Media History, published in cooperation with the Permanent Seminar for the History of Film Theories (read FSFF’s post on the Permanent Seminar), and edited by Prof. Dr. Vinzenz Hediger (Frankfurt), Dr. Trond Lundemo (Stockholm), and Prof. Dr. Oliver Fahle (Bochum).

This series

explores the epistemological and theoretical foundations of the study of film through texts by classical authors as well as anthologies and monographs on key issues and developments in film theory. Adopting a historical perspective, but with a firm eye to the further development of the field, the series provides a platform for ground-breaking new research into film theory and media history and features high-profile editorial projects that offer resources for teaching and scholarship. Combining the book form with open access online publishing the series reaches the broadest possible audience of scholars, students, and other readers with a passion for film and theory.

FSFF is very excited by the prospect of subsequent open access publications in this series. Below, it has reproduced the table of remarkable contents of the AUP volume. As it always likes to add scholarly value in its entries, below the table of contents, there are direct links to further wonderful Open Access resources on Epstein.

Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations, edited by Sarah Keller and Jason N. Paul (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012)

Table of Contents

  • ‘Preface’ by Tom Gunning
  • ‘Introduction’ by Sarah Keller


  • ‘Epstein’s Photogénie as Corporeal Vision: Inner Sensation, Queer Embodiment, and Ethics’ by Christophe Wall-Romana
  • ‘Novelty and Poiesis in the Early Writings of Jean Epstein’ by Stuart Liebman
  • ‘The Cinema of the Kaleidoscope’ by Katie Kirtland
  • ‘Distance Is [Im]material: Epstein Versus Etna’ by Jennifer Wild
  • ‘“The Supremacy of the Mathematical Poem”: Jean Epstein’s Conceptions of Rhythm’ by Laurent Guido
  • ‘The “Microscope of Time”: Slow Motion in Jean Epstein’s Writings’ by Ludovic Cortade
  • ‘A Different Nature’ by Rachel Moore
  • ‘Cinema Seen from the Seas: Epstein and the Oceanic’ by James Schneider ‘A Temporal Perspective: Jean Epstein’s Writings on Technology and Subjectivity’ by Trond Lundemo
  • ‘Ultra-Modern: Jean Epstein, or Cinema “Serving the Forces of Transgression and Revolt”’ by Nicole Brenez
  • ‘Thoughts on Photogénie Plastique’ by Érik Bullot


  • ‘Introduction: Epstein’s Writings’
  • La Poésie d’aujourd’hui, un nouvel état d’intelligence (1921); Introduction / Sarah Keller; Cinema and Modern Literature
  • Bonjour Cinéma (1921) Introduction / Sarah Keller; Continuous Screenings
  • La Lyrosophie (1922) Introduction / Katie Kirtland Excerpts from La Lyrosophie
  • Le Cinématographe vu de l’Etna (1926) Introduction / Stuart Liebman; The Cinema Seen from Etna; On Certain Characteristics of Photogénie; Langue d’Or; The Photogenic Element; For a New Avant-Garde; Amour de Charlot; Amour de Sessue;
  • L’Intelligence d’une machine (1946) Introduction / Trond Lundemo Excerpts from L’Intelligence d’une machine; Le Cinéma du diable (1947) Introduction / Ludovic Cortade Indictment To a Second Reality, a Second Reason

Later Works

  • Introduction to Esprit de cinéma and Alcool et Cinéma / Christophe Wall-Romana
    Esprit de cinéma; The Logic of Images; Rapidity and Fatigue of the Homo spectatoris; Ciné-analysis, or Poetry in an Industrial Quantity; Dramaturgy in Space; Dramaturgy in Time; Visual Fabric; Pure Cinema and Sound Film; Seeing and Hearing Thought; The Counterpoint of Sound; The Close-up of Sound; The Delirium of a Machine

Late Articles

  • The Slow Motion of Sound; The Fluid World of the Screen; Alcool et cinéma; Logic of Fluidity; Logic of Variable Time
  • ‘Afterword: Reclaiming Jean Epstein’ by Richard Abel
    Filmography; Select Bibliography; Notes on Contributors; Index of Names; Index of Films and Major Writings by Jean Epstein; Index of Films

Further Open Access Epstein Studies

"Dangerous" Cinematic Women Studies

The above is a short video primer by Catherine Grant. It offers an audiovisual introduction to issues of gender, sexuality and movement in relation to Rita Hayworth‘s performance as Gilda in Charles Vidor‘s 1946 film.
The femme fatale is a product of the male imaginary, which emerges in literature and the visual arts under contingent socio-political conditions as a challenge to coherent and stable identities. […]
     The emergence of the femme fatale motif in literature, art and cinema generally coincides with periods of social or political instability and is not specific to a culture, society or era, but exhibits countless masks as she may manifest herself in diverse historical or geo-political contexts, and through a variety of artistic and literary forms. She embodies traces of a myriad of powerful, as well as menacing, historical, biblical and mythical female figures, such as Cleopatra, Salome, or the Sirens; yet this wicked and barren creature is always imbued with an alluring beauty and rapacious sexuality that is potentially deadly to man. The femme fatale figure is a recurrent patriarchal construct, a projection of all that exists beyond that which is normal, familiar, or safe. As Rebecca Stott observes, she is a multiple sign, or ‘the Other around whom the qualities of all Other collect in the male imagination’ (1992: 39). As such, her appearances are always symptomatic of a society in crisis.
[Eva Bru-Domínguez, ‘The Body as a Conflation of Discourses: The femme fatale in Mercè Rodoreda’s Mirall trencat‘ (1974)’, Journal of Catalan Studies 2009]
[I]s it possible that the tangled webs of violence, sexuality, pathology, and intrigue at the core of certain film noir offer moments of reversal and exception which challenge women’s role as eternal victim? How is an anti-feminist backlash or male anxiety around women’s power projected into these paranoid film scenarios? To what extent can such disruptions be contained through conventional “happy family” closure – or through the violent death of the (anti-)heroine whose glittering image lingers as the credits rolls? Working against the inescapable grain of the “repressive rule” of female victimhood, I choose here to seize on the exceptional figure of the “fatale femme.” While the exception may help define the rule, she also keeps alive the possibility, the inevitability, of transformation in gendered relations of power. [Julianne Pidduck, The “fatal femme” in contemporary Hollywood film noir: reframing gender, violence, and power, Masters Thesis, Concordia University, 1993: 6-7]

Rather than promoting images of women that emphasize their spirit and unknowable power, and rather than promoting images of women that rely on their bodies, finally, we need to illustrate the contexts that inform women’s experience. I want to suggest some of the reasons why we’ve grown accustomed to identifying film noir’s “femme fatale” without examining these contexts that inform her presence in film noir, by doing just that: examining the settings—social, psychological, political, physical, and geographical—that define her experience, which is, I want strongly to suggest, a far better thing to define than “woman” herself.
     This study seeks to modify the tone of feminist discussions about film noir’s women by reorienting our attention to the narrative, social contexts, and mise-en-scene that show the relationship between women’s powers and the limits placed on them by social rules. Both the view of the “femme fatale” as misogynist projection and the view of the “femme fatale” as opaque yet transgressive female force emphasize her status as object or symbol (as object of scorn or as the mysterious and opaque “other” that threatens to destroy the male subject). My aim is to adjust our focus on film noir and gender so that we illuminate these women’s narratives rather than mystifying women as objects or images.
[Julie Grossman, Rethinking the Femme Fatale in Film Noir: Ready for Her Close-Up (London: Palgrave/BFI, 2009): 5. Book info.]

Film Studies For Free wishes its reader a very happy International Women’s Day with a varied curatorial selection of online scholarly work touching on possibly the most studied ‘object’ in all of feminist film theory: the ‘dangerous’ woman, sometimes fatal, sometimes a fatality…

If you are a film goer you know her kind. She is attractive, alluring, enigmatic, enticing, teasing, siren-like. Totally tautological. You might come across her dancing in a cinematic cabaret or show, smoking in a private detective’s office, gracing a film noir alleyway, or haunting a difficult to decipher flashback. Or turning up like a beautiful but bad penny, provoking your scopophilia (and/or your epistemophilia), just about anywhere in almost every period of international film history.

Just what is it about these cinematic women? There certainly isn’t one answer to that question, but the studies linked to below might very well help you to begin to tackle it.

If there are any important online resources that FSFF has missed, please do list them in the comments thread.

Knowing that/knowing how? On audiovisual film studies, part 1: practice-led film research

Research in progress by Joanna Callaghan for the fourth long format film in the series ‘Ontological Narratives’ which will take Jacques Derrida‘s epistolary novel The Post Card as starting point.
    In this research film, the possibility of a deconstructive film is discussed with world leading experts on Derrida using a range of clips as counterpoints.
    Ontological Narratives is an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project led by Callaghan in collaboration with Martin McQuillan. [Also see ‘The Post Card – Adaptation‘; for more on this project see here and here]. See also Callaghan and McQuillan’s important film on the current convulsive state of UK Higher Education, “I melt the glass with my forehead“.

We can therefore turn this [film theory/film practice divide] debate into an explicitly philosophical issue, by not presupposing that knowing that and knowing how simply overlap; they are two different types of knowledge whose relationship needs to be thought through. It is the theorization of the link/overlap between the two types of knowledge that seems to be missing. [Warren Buckland, Film-Philosophy Discussion List, January 31, 2012]

[The debate about film theory and practice] has a history which, in the UK at least, goes back to the 1970s, when the art colleges taught experimental film making, and the then polytechnics and a few new universities began to include film-making in their undergraduate film courses. Film theory as such was still taking shape, and video was in its earliest stages.  In an atmosphere charged with radical intellectual fervour, the theoretical input led to much experimentation in colleges of creative practice—the watchword of the time was deconstruction. The paradigm for the infusion of theory into practice could be found in the work, for example, of Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen, who established themselves on screen and on page, together and separately, as leading denizens of both. Some of the people emerging from this habitus made the break and went on to successful careers in the mainstream, but independent film-making informed by theoretical critique remained in the margins. [Michael Chanan, ‘Revisiting the Theory/Practice Debate’, Putney Debater, February 15, 2012 (hyperlinks added)]

Audiovisual works, it may be argued – films, videos or some other form – are already discursively articulated, they not only incorporate language (as dialogue, voice-over, intertitle, and so on) but are quasi-linguistic in their very form. The analogy between language and cinema, for example, has been explored with particular rigour in structuralist film theory, not least in the work of Christian Metz. It might be argued that if audiovisual forms are inherently discursive, then an intellectual argument can equally well be presented in the form of a film or video as in a more conventional written form. [Victor Burgin, ‘Thoughts on ‘research’ degrees in visual arts departments’, Journal of Media Practice, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2006] (hyperlink added)]

The misgivings about the legitimacy of practice-based research degrees in the creative and performing arts arise mainly because people have trouble taking research seriously which is designed, articulated and documented with both discursive and artistic means. The difficulty lurks in the presumed impossibility of arriving at a more or less objective assessment of the quality of the research – as if a specialised art forum did not already exist alongside the academic one, and as if academic or scientific objectivity itself were an unproblematic notion. In a certain sense, a discussion is repeating itself here that has already taken place (and still continues) with respect to the emancipation of the social sciences: the prerogative of the old guard that thinks it holds the standard of quality against the rights of the newcomers who, by introducing their own field of research, actually alter the current understanding of what scholarship and objectivity are. [Henk Borgdorff, ‘The debate on research in the arts’, The Sensuous Knowledge Project, 2006]

And so begins a mini-series of posts here at Film Studies For Free on the practical possibilities for, and the critical debates about, audiovisual film studies research and ‘publication’.

Below, in this first instalment, FSFF links to freely-accessible, online resources relating to the notion of film practice as a form of film/video theorising, in other words, as a reflexive and/or affective meditation on the ontological qualities of film or video (a ‘felt framing‘, in Julian Klein‘s great phrase to describe artistic research). It’s certainly a good excuse to showcase some of the burgeoning, open access work (and open access publications, or free publishers’ samples) in the very healthy field of Moving Image Practice as Research (aka ‘Research by Practice’ or ‘Practice-Led research).

Some studies of Practice-Led Research

Two Open Access journals for AV/media practice work:

Two free publishers journal samples:


Great Video Lectures by Friedberg, Dupin, Rodowick, Chateau, Nowell-Smith, Stewart, Grieveson, Furstenau, Zryd, and White

Image from Grbavica: Land of My Dreams/Esma’s Secret: Grbavica (Jasmila Žbanić , 2006), an example of ‘global women’s cinema’ as explored by Patricia White in a 2008 lecture and in a forthcoming book (you can see a clip from this film about 36 minutes into White’s talk, and the film’s website is here)

Thanks to the website of the Permanent Seminar on the Histories of Film Theory, which Film Studies For Free featured yesterday, FSFF heard about another highly worthwhile online resource (although one that appears not to be being updated, currently): the website of Advanced Research Team for the History and Epistemology of Moving Image Study (ARTHEMIS).

ARTHEMIS is dedicated to the study of the evolution of film studies as a discipline. Based at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Concordia University and initiated by Martin Lefebvre, it gathers scholars from Canada, the United States and Europe. The group organizes, among other things, monthly seminars related to the different axes of research. [Some] are available on this site. We invite you to listen to the conferences and submit your comments. In addition, you will find on this site an evolving bibliography and book reviews.

The ARTHEMIS project also investigates the study of film and moving images by looking at three of its most important ‘possibility conditions’: Conceptual conditions; Institutional conditions; Material Conditions.

There are plenty of items worth exploring at ARTHEMIS. But FSFF was most struck by the series of online lectures from 2008/9 that are archived at the site. Here’s the list of links to these – some truly wonderful items. FSFF particularly liked Patricia White’s lecture on “Globalizing Women’s Cinema”

On ‘Affect’ and ‘Emotion’ in Film and Media Studies

Image from Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992), a film explored by Tim Groves in ‘Cinema/Affect/Writing’

Emotion is a phenomenon that, according to [Sergei] Eisenstein, “is completely identical with the primary phenomenon of cinema. [In cinema] movement is created out of two motionless cells. Here, a movement of the soul, i.e. emotion (from the Latin root motio = movement), is created out of the performance of a series of incidents.” ([Towards a Theory of Montage] 145, emphasis in original). Properly structured as a series of uncompleted incidents, montage calls on us to finish the actions mentally, and for Eisenstein this internal movement of filling in the gaps is emotion, a movement of the soul. [Greg M. Smith, Moving Explosions: Metaphors of Emotion in Sergei Eisenstein’s Writings’, Quarterly Review of Film and Video 21.4 (October-November 2004) 303-315 citing Eisenstein, Towards a Theory of Montage. Trans. Michael Glenny. Ed. Michael Glenny and Richard Taylor. London: BFI Publishing, 1991; hyperlinks added]

[H]ow to write about specific, personal affective experiences of the cinema? […]

It is difficult for me to articulate, but I was affected [in Unforgiven] by the conjunction of lighting, costuming, and the melancholy, homicidal figure of [Clint] Eastwood in the final shootout in Greely’s. The mise en scène of this confrontation repeats that of the night of Will’s beating at the hands of Sheriff Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman). The lack of contrast in lighting and the orange and brown colours of both the characters’ costumes and saloon setting cause the characters to merge into their surroundings. It is literally difficult to see what is happening. While William Munny and the Eastwood persona are constructed as unforgiven in this scene, somewhere in the gloom I found a metaphor for the ambivalence of their forgiveness across the entire film. As a result, I declined to judge this “notoriously vicious and intemperate” figure, as he is labelled in [the film]. Instead I forgave him. I saw his thinning hair and the wounds engraved on his face, and reached out to tend to them. Forgiveness was the punctum which I found in Unforgiven and which is already there in the text, if ambiguously. […]

But I cannot write your cinema/sadness . . . [Tim Groves, ‘Cinema/Affect/Writing’, Senses of Cinema, February 2003 hyperlinks added]

Film Structure and the Emotion System is concerned with this emotion system’s structure, rather than with particular emotions themselves. This is not a book about sadness or joy; instead it deals with the foundational structures that make such emotions possible. Culturally nuanced work on particular emotions certainly needs to be done, but we should make sure that we first understand the basic principles of how the emotion system is constructed. [Greg M. Smith, ‘An Invitation to Feel’, Film Structure and the Emotion System (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) hyperlinks added]

The elicitation of affect in the audience stands firmly at the core of the film-going experience, figuring into the poetics, aesthetics, rhetoric, and ideology of film viewing. If our goal is to understand how mainstream viewers experience films, if we want to explore the cultural role of movies, if we wish to expand our conception of the poetics of the cinema, then we cannot ignore the place of emotion elicitation and affective experience within film viewing. [Carl Plantinga, ‘Disgusted at the Movies’, Film Studies, Volume 8, Summer 2006 hyperlinks added]

In their work, [Torben] Grodal, [Greg M.] Smith, and [Carl] Plantinga all rely on a “downstream flow” of perception, cognition, emotional processing in narrative film. It is a uni-directional flow; the viewers see, they comprehend, they experience emotion. However, underlying all of their work are Silvan Tomkins’s foundational studies of affect from the 1960s. Tomkins’s analyses make possible a more complicated multi-directional understanding of affect […]. Tomkins explored affect as located in the voice, skin, autonomic nervous system, hand, body, and most extensively, the face. Rather than perceive affect and emotion as developing outward from the inner organs as Henri Bergson, William James, or Carl Lange had suggested, Tomkins and his colleagues Carrol Izard and Paul Ekman focused mostly on the face as “an organ for the maximal transmission of information, to the self and to others” and concluded that “the information it transmits is largely concerned with affects.” This is the point on which narrative film studies has focused. [Randall Halle, ‘Toward a Phenomenology of Emotion in Film: Michael Brynntrup and The Face of Gay Shame’, MLN, Vol. 124, No. 3, April 2009 (German Issue), pp. 683-707; hyperlinks added]

AFFECT/AFFECTION. Neither word denotes a personal feeling (sentiment in Deleuze and Guattari). L’affect (Spinoza’s affectus) is an ability to affect and be affected. It is a prepersonal intensity corresponding to the passage from one experiential state of the body to another and implying an augmentation or diminution in that body’s capacity to act. L’affection (Spinoza’s affection) is each such state considered as an encounter between the affected body and a second, affecting, body …  [Brian Massumi, ‘Introduction’ to Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus, xvi, cited by Eric Shouse, ‘Feeling, Emotion, Affect’, M/C Journal, 8.6, 2005]

Films and music videos, like other media works, are machines for generating affect, and for capitalising upon, or extracting value from, this affect. As such, they are not ideological superstructures, as an older sort of Marxist criticism would have it. Rather, they lie at the very heart of social production, circulation and distribution. They generate subjectivity and they play a crucial role in the valorisation of capital. Just as the old Hollywood continuity editing system was an integral part of the Fordist mode of production, so the editing methods and formal devices of digital video and film belong directly to the computing-and-information-technology infrastructure of contemporary neoliberal finance. […]
     What does it mean to describe such processes in terms of affect? Here I follow Brian Massumi ([Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Durham: Duke University Press] 2002, 23-45) in differentiating between affect and emotion. For Massumi, affect is primary, non-conscious, asubjective or presubjective, asignifying, unqualified and intensive; while emotion is derivative, conscious, qualified and meaningful, a ‘content’ that can be attributed to an already-constituted subject. Emotion is affect captured by a subject, or tamed and reduced to the extent that it becomes commensurate with that subject. Subjects are overwhelmed and traversed by affect, but they have or possess their own emotions. [
Steven Shaviro, ‘Post-Cinematic Affect: On Grace Jones, Boarding Gate and Southland Tales’, Film-Philosophy, 14.1, 2010]

There is not one ‘affect’, nor even one economy, ecosystem or ecology of affect(s); just as there is not one reading of one text. Post-cinematic effects, yes; Shaviro makes an important observation. But affects? I’m not so sure why or how they would be different from everything that postmodern theorists have long been saying about postmodernity. The ultimate question, to me, is whether approaching the world in terms of affect offers anything specific for cultural theory and the understanding of culture and politics. [Paul Bowman, ‘Post-Cinematic Effects’, In Media Res Theme Week on Steven Shaviro’s Post-Cinematic Affect (August 29 – Sept. 2, 2011)]

It is almost too easy to speak of affect—as if, by using this term, one had cleansed all the embarrassment and messiness from the experience. To use “affect” in the sense defined by Deleuze and Guattari, that is, as non-conscious and non-linguistic experience of intensity, appears not to be useful if one wants to explore the overlap of rationality and emotionality, as well as insist on the textual and self-reflexive—that is, self-augmenting and self-attenuating—character of emotionality. [Katrin Pahl, ‘Emotionality: A Brief Introduction‘, Modern Language Notes, Volume 124, Number 3, April 2009 (German Issue)]

Today, Film Studies For Free makes one of its regular, little, curatorial contributions to a particular Film Studies theoretical debate. This time, it’s the turn of an exploration of some much-fought-over keywords pertaining to film and media theories of feelings and related bodily and psychological experiences and behaviours – most notably, the terms ‘Affect’ and ‘Emotion’.

The ‘Affective Turn‘ is a rich, if at times rather complex or befuddling, vein of film studies thinking, with an array of approaches ranging from the historical-political (e.g. von Moltke’s article), to the cognitivist (for example, see Carl Plantinga and Greg M. Smith) through the psychoanalytic (for example, see Groves’ essay) and the (post-)Deleuzo-Guattarian (for a good, clear introduction, read Anna Powell’s article).

As always, in the below list of links to openly accessible online studies, the ever pluralist FSFF doesn’t come down on any one theoretical side. But this collection does go out especially to all those who have been curious about, or confused and dumbfounded by, the undoubted buzzword quality, particularly, of ‘affect’ in Film and Media Studies in the last ten to fifteen years.

        [Contents: Anu Koivunen, Preface: The Affective Turn?; Sara Ahmed, Communities that feel: Intensity, Difference and Attachment; Ana Paula Baltazar, Architecture as Interface: Forming and Informing Spaces and Subjects; Jennifer Lyon Bell, Character and Cognition in Modern Pornography; Rosemary Betterton, Spaces of Memory: Photographic Practices of Home and Exile; Joanna Bouldin, The Body, Animation and The Real: Race, Reality and the Rotoscope in Betty Boop; Hannu Eerikäinen, Love Your Prosthesis Like Yourself: ‘Sex’, Text and the Body in Cyber Discourse; Taru Elfving, The Girl in Space-time Encounters with and within Eija-liisa Ahtila’s Video Installations; Amy Herzog, Affectivity, Becoming, and the Cinematic Event: Gilles Deleuze and the Futures of Feminist Film Theory; Katarina Jungar and Elina Oinas, Inventing “African Solutions”, HIV Prevention and Medical Media; Sanna Karkulehto, Effects and Affects of Queer as Folk; Martta Kaukonen, ”I Must Reveal a Shocking Secret” Transvestites in American Talk Shows; Jane Kilby, Tracking Shock: Some Thoughts on TV, Trauma, Testimony; Emmy Kurjenpuu, Women’s Magazines Meet Feminist Philosophy; Minna Lahti, “I Thought I Would Become a Millionaire” – Desire and Disillusionment in Silicon Valley, California; Mari-Elina Laukkanen, Ladies for Sale. The Finnish Press as a Profiteer; Ilmari Leppihalme, Do Muscles Have a Gender? A Female Subject Building her Body in the Film Pumping Iron II: The Women; Justine Lloyd and Lesley Johnson, The Three Faces of Eve:the Post-war Housewife, Melodrama and Home; Tapio Mäkelä, Re-reading Digitality through Scientific Discourses of Cybernetics: Fantasies of Disembodied Users and Embodied Computers; Norie Neumark, E/motional Machines: Esprit de Corps; Kaarina Nikunen, Dangerous Emotions? Finnish Television Fans and Sensibilities of Fandom; Sanna Ojajärvi, Visual Acts – Choreography of Touches, Glances and Movements between Hosts and Assistants on Television; Susanna Paasonen, Best Wives are Artefacts? Popular Cybernetics and Robot Women in the 1970s; Megan D. Pincus, Must They Be Famous Vaginas? The Effect and Affect of Celebrity on The Vagina Monologues and V-Day 2001; Liina Puustinen, Gender for Sale, Advertising Design as Technologies of Gender; Leena-Maija Rossi, Why Do I Love and Hate the Sugarfolks in Syruptown? Studying the Visual Production of Heteronormativity in Television Commercials; Christine Ross, Depression and Video Art at the Turn of the Millennium: The Work Of Diana Thater; Janne Rovio, The Vintage Van Damme Look; Moira Sullivan, Lesbographic Pornography; Rebecca Sullivan, Biotechnological Embodiment: Gender and Scientific Anxiety in Horror Films; Heidi Tikka, Missing the Point – Situated User Experience and the Materiality of Interaction; Julia Turnock, A Cataclysm of Carnage, Nausea, and Death: Saving Private Ryan and Bodily Engagement; Pasi Väliaho, An Audiovisual Brain: Towards a Digital Image of Thought in Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma; Hans Wessels, The Positioning of Lou Reed from a Profeminist Perspective; Jennifer Willet, Imagining the Self]