TELOSscope: The Telos Press Blog

Deleuze, Affect Theory, and the Future of Realism

Hyeryung Hwang’s “Deleuze, Affect Theory, and the Future of Realism” appears in Telos 181 (Winter 2017). Read the full article at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue in our online store. Individual subscriptions to Telos are now available in both print and online formats.

In this essay, I critically address the current prominence of affect theory and its close affiliation with the aesthetic absolute of high modernism. In doing so, I demonstrate how affect theory, which has been significantly influenced by Gilles Deleuze, relays a restrictive recognition of the functions of consciousness, representation, and agency as rigid codification, despotic power, and authoritative unity. Certain issues arise when affect theory registers itself as a promising and effective political theory, and I address these issues by investigating Deleuze’s discussion of affect in his various texts on aesthetics and politics. The current idea of affect is based on a monolithic conception of representation and meaning that leads to a degree of self-contradiction in its promotion as a political theory; for affect’s potential can only be achieved on the basis of either a voluntary abandonment of the supposedly regulative category of agency, or of a partial salvation of the already dead subject only by reviving “the subject of sensation.” Examining how the current discussion of affect does not leave any possibility for us to rethink representation as a meaningful faculty to create more effective ways for the self to engage in the world, I conclude that the task of imagining a new realism can begin only after our reappropriation of representation as an affirmative procedure that makes one closer to the world again.

Comments are closed.