Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Davis, Bernes, Affect

I like these posts by Jordan Davis and Jasper Bernes on the status of affect in poetry.

This formula of Jordan's is especially useful: "Affect, feeling, whatever term you like to name the category of feelings-that-come-through-when-you-read: these obtain to words, ideas, representations of social relationships (especially power dynamics)."

I would say that emotions obtain to words, ideas, representations of social positions (i.e., the subjects of power dynamics) while concepts obtain to words, realities, representations of material relations (i.e., the objects of knowledge states). In a poem we arrange words so as to present emotions ("affects" or whatever you call "feelings that come through when you read") and these therefore provide the basis of new capacities to represent social positions, new involvements with power. The poem does not represent these positions (is not "about" them) but presents their basis (the emotions that obtain to them) in words.

As we "absorbe [poems] into our responses to the world" (Jordan), we become better able to fight boredom, i.e., "the enemy" (Jasper).

Finally, I really like Jordan's suggestion, if that is what it is, to do one thing at a time.

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