Violent Affect

ChapLcr i is bascd on Lhc auLhor’s criLical cssay
“1udgmcnL Is NoL an FxiL: Toward an AffccLivc
CriLicism oí Violcncc wiLh Amerìcan Psycho,” which
appcarcd in Ange|akì 6.j (ioo:): :j¬–=i. A Taylor 8
Francis publicaLion, hLLp://www.Landí
ChapLcr 6 is bascd on Lhc auLhor’s criLical cssay “Don
DcIillo’s ‘In Lhc Ruins oí Lhc FuLurc’: IiLcraLurc,
Imagcs, and Lhc RhcLoric oí Seeìng o/::,” which ap-
pcarcd in rVt/ ::8.= (iooj): :ij6–=o.
© ioo¬ by Lhc Board oí RcgcnLs oí Lhc UnivcrsiLy oí
All righLs rcscrvcd
ManuíacLurcd in Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs oí Amcrica
Iibrary oí Congrcss CaLaloging-in-PublicaLion DaLa
Abcl, Marco.
ViolcnL affccL : liLcraLurc, cincma, and criLiquc aíLcr
rcprcscnLaLion / Marco Abcl.
p. cm.
Includcs bibliographical rcícrcnccs (p. ) and indcx.
issN-:j: n¬8-o-8oji-:::8-6 (alk. cloLh)
issN-:o: o-8oji-:::8-x (alk. cloLh)
:. Amcrican ficLion—ioLh ccnLury—HisLory and
criLicism. i. Violcncc in liLcraLurc. j. Violcncc in
moLion picLurcs. I.TiLlc.
rsj¬i.v=8t6j ioo¬
8:j'.=onj==—dcii ioo6:oji8n
ScL in Chaparral Pro by Bob RciLz.
Dcsigncd by Ashlcy 1ohnsLon.

For Magda and Richard Abcl
In mcmory oí Magda Iohr (:non–ioo6)
Prcíacc ix
AcknowlcdgmcnLs xvii
. Te Violence of Sensation
Mì||er’s Crossìng, AffccL, and MasocriLicism :
. Judgment Is Not an Exit
RcprcscnLaLion, AffccL, and Amerìcan Psycho in
. Are We All Arnoldians?
A ConccpLual Ccncalogy oí 1udgmcnL 6o
. Serializing Violence
PaLricia HighsmiLh’s “Fmpirical” Pcdagogy
oí Violcncc 8¬
. Becoming-Violent, Becoming-DeNiro
Rcndcring Violcncc Visiblc on Scrccn :jj
. Don DeLillo’s “In the Ruins of the Future”
Violcncc, Pcdagogy, and Lhc RhcLoric oí
Sccing n/:: :8i
NoLcs ii¬
Bibliography i=¬
Indcx i¬=
Te vìo|ence oj sensatìon ìs opposed to the vìo|ence oj the repre-
sented (the sensatìona|. the c|ìche). Te jormer ìs ìnseparab|e jrom
ìts dìrect actìon on the nervous system. the |eve|s through whìch
ìt passes. the domaìns ìt traverses. beìng ìtse|j a Fìgure. ìt must
have nothìng oj the nature oj the represented obìect. lvìo|ence| ìs
not what one be|ìeves ìt to be. and depends |ess and |ess on what ìs
—Cillcs Dclcuzc, Francìs Pacon
! can’t he|p but dream about a kìnd oj crìtìcìsm that wou|d not try
to ìudge.
—Michcl FoucaulL, “Tc Maskcd Philosophcr”
Any projccL LhaL lays claim Lo Lhc aLLribuLc oí novclLy, lcL alonc
“radical” novclLy, dcscrvcs Lo bc rcccivcd wiLh immcdiaLc sus-
picion. Morc oíLcn Lhan noL, such works Lurn ouL Lo bc mcrcly
minor (albciL aL Limcs imporLanL) modificaLions oí íamiliar argu-
mcnLs (how many morc “radical” social consLrucLivisL argumcnLs
docs onc havc Lo cndurc`). DcspiLc my awarcncss oí Lhc dangcr
inhcrcnL Lo whaL is aL lcasL in parL a markcLing Lrap—Lhc scduc-
Livc íorcc oí novclLy, howcvcr supcrficial, has long íuncLioncd as
Lhc salcs cnginc oí capiLalism—I noncLhclcss procccd by submiL-
Ling LhaL Lhc íollowing sLudy has indccd somcLhing ncw Lo oí-
ícr wiLh rcgard Lo iLs choscn subjccL maLLcr, imagcs oí violcncc
Prejace x
in liLcraLurc and film. Spccifically, whaL diffcrcnLiaLcs Lhis book
írom cxisLing sLudics oí imagcd violcncc such as, íor insLancc,
Lhc gcncrally illuminaLing monographs or collccLions by SLcphcn
Princc (:nn8, iooo), ChrisLophcr ScharrcLL (:nnn), 1. David Slo-
cum (ioo:), SLcphcn 1ay Schncidcr (iooi), or 1amcs R. Cilcs
(ioo6) pcrLains Lo iLs basic mcLhodological—indccd onLologi-
cal—assumpLion, namcly, LhaL signalcLic maLcrials oí any kind
arc noL rcprcscnLaLions oj somcLhing buL, insLcad, consLiLuLc Lhc
rea|ìty oí rcprcscnLaLions (or Lhc rcal íorccs aL work in whaL arc
oíLcn dccmcd rcprcscnLaLions). PuL diffcrcnLly, unlikc oLhcr criLi-
cal sLudics oí violcncc in liLcraLurc and film, minc docs noL íramc
Lhc cncounLcr wiLh violcnL imagcs in Lcrms oí significaLion and
mcaning (mcdiaLion) buL, insLcad, in Lcrms oí affccLs and íorcc—
LhaL is, asigniíying inLcnsiLics.
Why docs Lhis mcLhodological—and onLological—diffcrcncc
makc a diffcrcncc` To cvokc Baruch Spinoza’s wcll-known claim
LhaL wc do noL cvcn know whaL bodics can do, Lhc conccpLual
gambiL oí Lhis projccL is LhaL wc do noL cvcn know whaL violcnL
imagcs arc, lcL alonc how Lhcy work and Lhus whaL Lhcy can do—
and Lhis dcspiLc Lhc cvcr-growing body oí inLcllccLual labor cx-
pcndcd on Lhc subjccL maLLcr (albciL wiLh grcaLcr írcqucncy and
sysLcmaLiciLy in film and mcdia sLudics Lhan in liLcrary sLudics,
as cvidcnccd by Lhc ficlds’ rcspccLivc bibliographics on Lhis sub-
jccL). In conLrasL Lo Lhis SpinozisL provocaLion, Lhc cxisLing body
oí scholarship on violcnL imagcs Lcnds Lo assumc LhaL iL alrcady
knows whaL an (violcnL) imagc is and how iL works. IL simply as-
sumcs LhaL violcnL imagcs, jusL likc any oLhcr imagc, represent.
OpcraLing on Lhc rcprcscnLaLionalisL assumpLion LhaL (violcnL)
imagcs arc rcprcscnLaLions—rcflccLions oí somcLhing prior Lo
Lhcir cmcrgcncc, LhaL is, immaLcrial Lraccs oí abscnL prcscnccs—
Lhcsc sLudics sooncr raLhcr Lhan laLcr Lurn Lhcir aLLcnLion away
írom Lhcir allcgcd íocus (Lhc violcncc oí imagcs) in íavor oí analy-
scs oí whaL Lhcy “rcprcscnL” or “mcan.”
As a rcsulL, howcvcr, Lhcsc sLudics ncglccL imporLanL aspccLs
oí Lhcsc violcnL imagcs—aspccLs so crucial LhaL Lhcy may aL lcasL
parLially ncgaLc Lhc vcry conclusions rcprcscnLaLionally bascd
Prejace xi
sLudics oí violcnL imagcs Lcnd Lo promoLc. Ií, íor insLancc, wc in-
dccd do noL ycL know whaL violcnL imagcs arc and how Lhcy work
bccausc Lhcy arc noL firsL and íorcmosL rcprcscnLaLions, Lhcn wc
may havc Lo qucsLion Lhc “posL-LhcorisL” asscrLion LhaL Lhc social
scicnccs and Lhcir “hard findings” arc supcrior Lo Lhc “mcrc in-
LcrprcLaLions” oí LradiLional film (or liLcrary or culLural) sLudics,
sincc Lhc social scicnccs undoubLcdly opcraLc Lhcir invcsLigaLions
oí violcnL mcdia imagcs by assuming LhaL Lhosc imagcs arc in-
dccd rcprcscnLaLional (scc Princc, “Film Scholars”). In whaL I Lakc
Lo bc a raLhcr Lypical social scicnLific approach Lo violcnL imagcs
in Hollywood films, Nick Brownc and Tcrcsa Wcbb, íor insLancc,
sLudy Lhc cxLcnL Lo which bodics in Hollywood films can susLain
Lhc violcncc wiLh which Lhcy arc coníronLcd. Tcir daLa shows
LhaL ficLional cincmaLic characLcrs’ abiliLy Lo cxpcricncc pain íar
cxcccds Lhc violcncc any rcal human body could possibly cndurc.
Clcarly, so Lhc rcscarchcrs concludc, Hollywood violcncc is jusL
noL rcalisLic. Who would havc LhoughL` Any ían oí Lhc grcaL BriL-
ish Invasion group Tc Kinks would havc ccrLainly known Lhis
wiLhouL counLing insLanccs oí violcncc in Lhcsc films. As Lhcy
sing in Lhcir hiL “Cclluloid Hcrocs,” hcrocs oí Lhc big scrccn ncvcr
íccl lasLing pain and ccrLainly ncvcr dic. NoL cvcn diffcrcnLiaL-
ing bcLwccn insLanccs oí violcncc in animaLcd films and phoLo-
graphic rcalisL films, sLudics such as Lhc onc by Brownc and Wcbb
cnd up noL only producing raLhcr undcrwhclming rcsulLs buL also
promoLing conclusions LhaL arc qucsLionablc prcciscly bccausc oí
Lhcir ncglccL Lo Lhcorizc Lhcir objccL oí sLudy: imagcs and how
Lhcy work and whaL Lhcy do.
In gcncral, Lhcn, iL sccms Lo mc LhaL Lhc rcsulLs produccd by
social scicnLific rcscarch can bc assumcd Lo bc valid on|y ií Lhc
basic assumpLion undcrlying Lhcir approach Lo Lhc objccL Lhcy
sLudy is acLually valid—and I suggcsL iL may noL bc. And ycL, so-
cial policy is madc—and insLiLuLional rclcvancc csLablishcd—on
Lhc basis oí such findings. Tus, Lhrowing inLo rclicí how prob-
lcmaLic Lhc basic assumpLions oí such sLudics arc may, in Lhc cnd,
noL bc a small maLLcr.
In Lurn, my SpinozisL provocaLion LhaL wc do noL ycL know
Prejace xii
whaL violcnL imagcs arc and how Lhcy work also Lroublcs morc
LradiLional “inLcrprcLaLivc” sLudics (humanisL or noL) oí (vio-
lcnL) imagcs. Iikc Lhosc oí Lhc social scicnccs, Lhcsc sLudics ul-
LimaLcly Lcnd Lo skirL Lhc rcal issuc (how violcnL imagcs opcraLc
and whaL Lhcy do) in ordcr Lo gcL Lo Lhc lcvcl oí whaL such imagcs
“rcprcscnL.” Tc diffcrcncc bcLwccn Lhc social scicnccs and inLcr-
prcLaLivc sLudics is LhaL Lhc íormcr acccpL Lhc rcprcscnLaLional
hypoLhcsis and makc claims abouL Lhcsc rcprcscnLaLions’ social
(bchavioral) cffccLs, whcrcas Lhc laLLcr arc morc inLcrcsLcd in dc-
baLing Lhc poliLical (idcological) cffccLs oí such rcprcscnLaLions.
BuL in so doing, Lhcy may undcrminc Lhc vcry conclusions Lhcy
offcr in Lhc namc oí an idcnLiLy poliLics–drivcn vcrsion oí jus-
Licc. According Lo Lhcsc sLudics, (violcnL) imagcs arc good or bad
dcpcnding on how accuraLcly Lhcy rcflccL Lhc world Lhcy arc sup-
poscd Lo rcprcscnL, as wcll as on Lhc conLcxL wiLhin which Lhc dc-
picLcd violcncc occurs. BuL ií Lhcsc imagcs do noL primarily rcp-
rcscnL anyLhing Lo bcgin wiLh—or, in any casc, ií Lhcsc imagcs’
work is noL primarily rcprcscnLaLional—Lhcn whaLcvcr poliLical
advocacy is offcrcd, no maLLcr how admirablc, íaccs Lhc problcm
oí irrclcvancy, sincc iL grounds iLs poliLical sLancc in somcLhing
LhaL simply docs noL cxisL as such.
Indccd, hcrc lics Lhc crux oí my inLcrvcnLion. Bccausc oí Lhc
assumpLion oí csLablishcd sLudics—social scicnLific and inLcrprc-
LaLivc alikc—LhaL (violcnL) imagcs arc representatìons oí somc-
Lhing clsc, criLical pracLicc cnds up, in onc íorm or anoLhcr, laying
claim Lo whaL Lhcy bclicvc Lo bc a wcll-íoundcd posiLion oí ìudg-
ment. TaL Lhcsc cxisLing sLudics oí (violcnL) imagcs ulLimaLcly
arc abouL judgmcnL is, howcvcr, no accidcnL, íor Lhc purposc oí
such rcprcscnLaLional sLudics is ulLimaLcly always PlaLonic in
naLurc. Tcir goal is prcciscly Lo disLinguish bcLwccn good (jusL)
and bad (unjusL) copics and Lo mainLain Lhc abiliLy Lo judgc bad
imagcs (oí violcncc) as a ncccssary and cffccLivc mcans Lo curb
Lhcm and Lhcir allcgcd ncgaLivc cffccLs (bchavioral or idcologi-
cal). TaL is, such judgmcnL always scrvcs Lhc implicd purposc
oí drawing a linc bcLwccn Lhc judging subjccL (Lhc criLic) and
Lhc judgcd objccL (Lhc imagc, violcnL or oLhcrwisc), cvcn ií Lhc
Prejace xiii
languagc oí judgmcnL is noL cxpliciLly uscd. (I.c., Lhc disLancing,
analyLic languagc characLcrisLic oí rcprcscnLaLionally bascd aca-
dcmic discoursc íuncLions as a rhcLorical dcvicc Lo dirccL aLLcn-
Lion away írom Lhc vcry moralizing judgmcnLs LhaL acLually arc aL
work buL, Loday, arc oíLcn dccmcd Loo uníashionablc íor Lhcm Lo
bc cxprcsscd dirccLly.) Tc vcry abiliLy Lo judgc imagcs bascd on
Lhcir rcprcscnLaLional qualiLy is considcrcd a ncccssary (Lhough
pcrhaps noL suffi cicnL) Lool in Lhc fighL againsL violcncc. Rcprc-
scnLaLional sLudics oí violcncc always insinuaLc Lhc cxisLcncc oí
a nonviolcnL spacc, suggcsLing LhaL a nonviolaLcd phcnomcno-
logical wholc cxisLs prior Lo Lhc onscL oí violcncc. To (rc)csLablish
Lhis sLaLc oí affairs is Lhc (implicd) hopc oí rcprcscnLaLional criLi-
cism and characLcrizcs iLs poliLics and moral vicw.
My hypoLhcsis, howcvcr, is LhaL rcprcscnLaLionally bascd criLi-
cal cncounLcrs wiLh violcnL imagcs arc bascd on a poLcnLial con-
ccpLual crror and LhaL Lhis crror dirccLly dcrivcs írom commonly
acccpLcd assumpLions abouL (violcnL) imagcs—Lo wiL, LhaL Lhcy
arc rcflccLions oí somcLhing clsc. In íacL, I will arguc LhaL Lhc vcry
rccoursc Lo imagcs qua rcprcscnLaLions ìs iLsclí a íorm oí violcncc,
raLhcr Lhan consLiLuLing Lhc assumcd anLidoLc. Morcovcr, Lhc
íollowing sLudy oí violcnL imagcs offcrs Lhc vicw LhaL Lhc hopc Lo
cscapc violcncc as such is an impossiblc onc—bccausc onLologi-
cally violcnccs arc cvcrywhcrc and incscapablc.
I purposcíully offcr Lhis proposiLion wiLh somc polcmical íorcc
in hopcs LhaL iL will ulLimaLcly bc wclcomcd as my aLLcmpL Lo pro-
vokc a diffcrcnL LrajccLory oí LhoughL abouL Lhc subjccL aL hand. Ií
Lakcn scriously, howcvcr, Lhis claim dcmands LhaL Lhc qucsLions
wc ask oí violcnL imagcs arc noL whaL Lhcy mcan and whcLhcr
Lhcy arc jusLificd buL how Lhcy configurc our abiliLy Lo rcspond
Lo, and do Lhings wiLh, Lhcm. Tc planc oí cncounLcr wiLh Lhcsc
imagcs is, in oLhcr words, noL LhaL oí judgmcnL buL LhaL oí cLhics
(rcsponsc-abiliLy). I will call whaL is ulLimaLcly a Lhoroughly sub-
juncLivc cncounLcr wiLh violcncc “masocriLicism.” Such a modc oí
cngagcmcnL wiLh violcnL imagcs bcgins, and conLinucs Lo pursuc,
iLs inquiry by asking, whaL would happcn ìj wc bcgan wiLh Lhc
onLological assumpLion LhaL violcnccs arc cvcrywhcrc and undcr-
Prejace xiv
sLood iL as Lhc cnginc oí an experìmenta| cndcavor raLhcr Lhan a
dubious claim Lo LruLh`
Tough Lhis sLudy limiLs iLsclí Lo a discussion oí violcnL im-
agcs, iLs implicaLions Lransccnd Lhc primary subjccL maLLcr, íor
iL is vcry much conccrncd wiLh Lhc practìce and pedagogìca| jorce
oí liLcrary, film, and culLural criLicism. Spccifically, alLhough my
sLudy is noL dcsigncd Lo íuncLion as an cxLcndcd cngagcmcnL wiLh
Lhc criLical rcccpLion and dc íacLo applicaLion oí posL-sLrucLural-
isL LhoughL Lo Lhc sLudy oí liLcrary and cincmaLic imagcs, iL can
ncvcrLhclcss bc rcad as proposing LhaL posL-sLrucLuralisL criLical
pracLicc has noL ycL bccn posL-sLrucLural cnough. NoLwiLhsLand-
ing Lhc many cxccllcnL cngagcmcnLs wiLh posL-sLrucLural Lhink-
crs such as 1acqucs Dcrrida, Michcl FoucaulL, or Cillcs Dclcuzc,
I, íor onc, Lcnd Lo Lhink LhaL mosL oí Lhc Limc Lhcsc cncounLcrs
do noL go íar cnough prcciscly bccausc Lhcy conLinuc Lo conccivc
oí signalcLic maLcrial in rcprcscnLaLional Lcrms. Hcncc, Dcrrida
bccomcs Lhc high pricsL oí undccidabiliLy, FoucaulL Lhc sagc oí
subvcrsion, and Dclcuzc Lhc guru oí minoriLarianism. Whilc iL
is undcrsLandablc LhaL Lhcsc Lhinkcrs arc oíLcn rcccivcd in such
ways—aíLcr all, Dcrrida ìs conccrncd wiLh undccidabiliLy, Fou-
caulL wiLh rcsisLancc, and Dclcuzc wiLh Lhc minor—whaL oíLcn
gcLs crucially omiLLcd írom Lhcir LhoughL is LhaL all Lhrcc conccp-
Lualizc languagc and imagcs in Lcrms oí jorce, LhaL is, arcprcscn-
LaLionally. Hcncc, Lo my mind, as long as criLical pracLicc conLin-
ucs Lo producc work in Lhc namc oí posL-sLrucLuralisL LhoughL
wiLhouL hccding whaL I Lakc Lo bc iLs kcy provocaLion, iL will con-
Linuc Lo pcrpcLuaLc claims abouL iLs objccL oí sLudy LhaL, Lo usc
Tcodor Adorno’s phrasc, do noL hccd Lhc primacy oí Lhc objccL.
In addiLion Lo Lhis book’s rclcvancc íor Lhc gcncral discoursc
on (violcnL) imagcs and iLs aLLcmpL Lo puL a spccific undcrsLand-
ing oí Lhcory (cspccially Dclcuzc buL also FoucaulL, Adorno, and
Michacl HardL and AnLonio Ncgri) Lo work, Lhis sLudy also brings
LogcLhcr a numbcr oí kcy LcxLs in Dclcuzc’s ocuvrc LhaL havc Lhus
íar rcccivcd rclaLivcly liLLlc aLLcnLion in liLcrary, film, and culLural
sLudics: Masochìsm. Co|dness and Crue|ty and Francìs Pacon. Te
Logìc oj Sensatìon. In íacL, in conjuncLion wiLh Dclcuzc’s (and Dc-
Prejace xv
lcuzc and Fclix CuaLLari’s) work in gcncral, much oí my conccp-
Lual Loolbox will bc dcvclopcd írom Lhcsc Lwo kcy monographs—
boLh oí which spccifically cngagc violcnL subjccL maLLcrs. Tus,
as a poLcnLially addcd bcncfiL, Lhc prcscnL book inviLcs Lhc rcadcr
Lo (rc)considcr Dclcuzc’s work in lighL oí Lhc (ncw) connccLions I
íorgc Lhrough considcring Lhcsc books LogcLhcr.
Civcn Lhc abovc, I Lhcrcíorc ask Lhc rcadcr Lo rcad Lhc íollow-
ing sLudy as an aLLcmpL Lo do oLhcrwisc—LhaL is, as an experì-
ment. Tis book should noL bc rcad as a hisLory oí violcnL imagcs,
and alLhough all oí my primary siLcs comc írom posL–World War
II Amcrican ficLion and cincma, Lhis book makcs no claims abouL
Lhc parLicular naLionaliLy oí Lhcsc violcnL imagcs. Oí coursc, in Lhc
agc oí “posL-Lhcory,” onc oí Lhc ccnLral LcncLs oí scholarship is LhaL
onc musL conLcxLualizc a work oí arL ií onc wanLs Lo undcrsLand
iL. In rcsponsc Lo Lhis hisLoricisL commonplacc, I agrcc wiLh Slavoj
Žižck LhaL Lhc propcr Dclcuzcan counLcrclaim is Lo suggcsL LhaL
“Loo much oí a hisLorical conLcxL can blur Lhc propcr conLacL wiLh a
work oí arL (i.c., LhaL Lo cnacL Lhis conLacL onc should absLracL írom
Lhc work’s conLcxL), buL also LhaL iL is, raLhcr, Lhc work oí arL iLsclí
LhaL providcs a conLcxL cnabling us Lo undcrsLand propcrly a givcn
hisLorical siLuaLion” (Organs wìthout Podìes :=).
Or, as Dcrrida has LaughL us long ago, whilc conLcxL—social,
hisLorical, psychic, poliLical, and so on—maLLcrs, “il n’y a pas dc
hors-LcxLc.” Howcvcr, I Lakc Dcrrida’s sLaLcmcnL lcss as a dircc-
Livc íor criLics Lo ícLishizc LcxLualiLy Lhan as an arLiculaLion oí
a scnsc oí a ncLwork oí cxLcrioriLy wiLhin which no onc Lcrm is
privilcgcd. 1usL as no mcaning can bc dcLcrmincd ouL oí conLcxL,
so no conLcxL allows íor Lhc LoLal saLuraLion oí a LcxL’s mcaning.
In íacL, onc oí Lhc morc crucial lcssons offcrcd Lo us by posL-sLruc-
Luralism is LhaL conLcxL is ncvcr rcally “ouLsidc” Lhc LcxL prcciscly
bccausc conLcxL and LcxL arc Lhc rcsulL oí Lhc same ncLwork oí
íorccs, or, Lo usc Dclcuzc and CuaLLari’s kcy conccpL, planc oí im-
mancncc. TaL is, iL is impossiblc boLh Lo cscapc conLcxL by Lurn-
ing Lo a morc or lcss hcrmcLically scalcd-off hcrmcncuLic conccp-
Lion oí Lhc LcxL (closc analysis) and Lo cscapc cxccssivc LcxLualiLy
by poinLing Lo Lhc ouLsidc oí a LcxL, Lhc conLcxL. FiLhcr movc is
Prejace xvi
impossiblc bccausc iL ncccssarily would occur mcrcly in rcsponsc
Lo Lhc cngcndcring play oí asigniíying íorccs (whaL Dcrrida, íor
insLancc, calls, among oLhcr Lcrms, “diffcrancc”) wiLhouL which
Lhcrc would bc nciLhcr LcxL nor conLcxL.
Whilc hisLorical and conLcxLual approachcs undoubLcdly havc
much Lo offcr, Lhcy arc ncvcrLhclcss spccific cxamplcs oí Lhc vcry
rcprcscnLaLional approach Lo violcnL imagcs LhaL Lhis book wanLs
Lo puL inLo suspcnsion, aL lcasL momcnLarily. Hcncc, arLiculaLing
in grcaLcr dcLail Lhc costs oí such rcprcscnLaLional approachcs Lo
violcnL imagcs and offcring, alLcrnaLivcly, an cncounLcr wiLh such
imagcs as asigniíying inLcnsiLics or affccLs, Lhis sLudy will gradu-
ally work iLsclí Lhrough a numbcr oí liLcrary and filmic siLcs—a
ícw momcnLs in Lhc films oí Lhc Cocn BroLhcrs, Lhc discursivc
rclaLionship bcLwccn BrcL FasLon Fllis’s novcl Amerìcan Psycho
and iLs film adapLaLion by ícminisL dirccLor Mary Harron, PaLri-
cia HighsmiLh’s ficLion, Lhc acLing work oí RobcrL DcNiro, and
Don DcIillo’s cssay on n/::. Tis choicc oí primary siLcs, whilc
undoubLcdly bascd on pcrsonal prcícrcnccs, acLually cmbodics a
Lwo-íold logic: on onc hand, iL arLiculaLcs a spccific insLanLiaLion
oí an affccLivc smcaring oí violcncc across a sliding scalc oí inLcn-
siLics; on Lhc oLhcr, iL rcflccLs Lhis work’s proccss oí gcncraLion as
such. Fach cncounLcr wiLh onc spccific siLc cndcd up provoking a
ncw qucsLion wiLh which Lhc siLc iLsclí was noL conccrncd as such
and Lhus ncccssiLaLcd my Lurning clscwhcrc as a mcans Lo find a
siLc LhaL Lacklcs Lhc vcry qucsLion Lhc prcvious siLc provokcd buL
did noL addrcss.
Tus, Lhc argumcnLaLivc logic oí Lhis book pcríormaLivcly oí-
ícrs a pcdagogical cngagcmcnL wiLh violcnL imagcs LhaL dcrivcs
iLs cLhical impcLus dirccLly írom Lhc siLcs Lhcmsclvcs, írom how
Lhc imagcd violcncc iLsclí calls íorLh criLical rcsponsc-abiliLy—noL
“íor” Lhcsc objccLs buL bejore Lhcm. In Lhc cnd, I will suggcsL LhaL
whilc such rcsponsc-abiliLy can ncvcr cscapc Lhc momcnL oí judg-
mcnL, suspcnding iLs occurrcncc is a qucsLion oí habiL(uaLion)—
oí pcdagogical rcpcLiLion cmbodicd by a masochisLic pracLicc oí
inhabiLing Lhc momcnL bejore subjccLivc inLcrprcLaLion, LhaL is,
Lhc momcnL oí Lhc cvcnL oí violcncc iLsclí.
In Lhc summcr oí :nn=, I rcad íor Lhc firsL Limc BrcL FasLon Fllis’s
Amerìcan Psycho. For bcLLcr or íor worsc, Lhc physical cxpcricncc
oí rcading Lhis novcl had a proíound impacL on mc. AL various
momcnLs in my cncounLcr wiLh Lhis LcxL, I íclL Lhc urgc Lo scL Lhc
book asidc Lo go ouL íor a walk in Lhc unbcarablc summcr hcaL
oí ALlanLa, Ccorgia. Fxposing mysclí Lo LcmpcraLurcs around
onc hundrcd dcgrccs FahrcnhciL and ncar :oo pcrccnL humidiLy
sccmcd a morc scnsiblc Lhing Lo do Lhan siLLing in silcncc in my
chair pondcring somc oí Lhc mosL nausca-inducing passagcs in
Fllis’s iníamous novcl. Bcing lcss morally ouLragcd by Lhc book’s
conLcnL Lhan physically affccLcd by Lhc cxpcricncc oí rcading Lhis
LcxL, I could noL hclp buL scnsc my íascinaLion wiLh Lhis novcl and
whaL iL was capablc oí doing Lo mc. In hindsighL I Lhink iL was Lhis
capaciLy oí Fllis’s novcl Lo affccL mc LhaL iniLially poinLcd mc in a
dirccLion oí rcscarch oí which Lhis book is Lhc cnd rcsulL. For Lhis
rcason alonc, my firsL cxprcssion oí graLiLudc musL go ouL Lo BrcL
FasLon Fllis.
BuL íor ulLimaLcly channcling whaL was iniLially noL much
morc Lhan a íccling oí bcing inLrigucd (and coníuscd) inLo whaL I
hopc is now an inLcllccLually cohcrcnL and sLimulaLing argumcnL,
I am indcbLcd Lo many oLhcrs whom I cncounLcrcd ovcr Lhc ycars,
bc iL in pcrson or Lhrough Lhcir work. IL would bc impossiblc Lo
providc a complcLc lisL oí all Lhc namcs oí Lhosc who inspircd my
own Lhinking. I am graLcíul Lo all oí you. SLill, I musL singlc ouL
somc pcoplc whosc inLcllccLual labor lcíL indcliblc marks on Lhc
shapc Lhis projccL has Lakcn. FirsL oí all, I am parLicularly graLc-
íul Lo KaLhryn Humc, 1cffrcy T. Ncalon, and 1ohn Muckclbaucr,
wiLhouL whosc invaluablc advicc and asLonishing inLcllccLual
gcncrosiLy I could ncvcr havc finishcd Lhis book. My counLlcss
discussions wiLh Lhcm allowcd mc Lo gcncraLc and LcsL ouL a sus-
Laincd LhcorcLical vcrsion oí whaL sLarLcd ouL as mcrcly a vagucly
scnscd LhcorcLical inclinaLion Loward my objccL oí rcscarch. So
Lhank you íor ncvcr Liring oí rcading whaL wcrc aL Limcs cxcruci-
aLingly long rough draíLs oí individual chapLcrs!
As wcll, I íccl blcsscd Lo havc bccn ablc Lo profiL írom a sc-
rics oí incrcdibly smarL and sharing inLcrlocuLors: Richard Doylc,
Fvan WaLkins, SLcvcn Shaviro, Charlcs SLivalc, Philip 1cnkins,
Dan SmiLh, 1cffrcy Karnicky, 1im RobcrLs, Ryan NcLzlcy, Mc-
gan Brown, ChrisLinc Harold, Kcvin DcIuca, PaL Cchrkc, Cina
Frcolini, Dcbbic Hawhcc, and FlizabcLh Mazzolini all offcrcd mc
íricndship and good counscl ovcr Lhc ycars LhaL susLaincd my in-
LcrcsL in Lhis projccL and gavc mc cncrgy Lo bring iL Lo a finish. I
also wanL Lo Lhank my collcagucs in Lhc DcparLmcnL oí Fnglish
aL Lhc UnivcrsiLy oí Ncbraska, which scrvcs as my insLiLuLional
homc: Lhc warm, wclcoming aLmosphcrc LhaL awaiLcd mc upon
my arrival in Iincoln in iooi cnablcd mc Lo finish my book in
a rclaxcd and inLcllccLually sLimulaLing cnvironmcnL. I wanL Lo
cxprcss my graLiLudc cspccially Lo Whcclcr WinsLon Dixon and
Cwcndolyn Audrcy FosLcr, who havc bccn morc Lhan íorLhcom-
ing in sharing Lhcir knowlcdgc oí acadcmic publishing. Iikcwisc,
Lhank you Lo Iinda Ray PraLL, who gavc mc my firsL Lcnurc-Lrack
job hcrc aL uNi, íor puLLing such íaiLh in mc, as wcll as 1oy RiLchic,
who in hcr capaciLy as my dcparLmcnL chair showcd conLinuing
supporL oí my work. FurLhcrmorc, I musL Lhank Nick Spcnccr,
noL mcrcly íor rcading parLs oí Lhc manuscripL, buL also íor Lhc
counLlcss discussions oí all Lhings Lhcory and, imporLanLly, íooL-
ball! IcL’s go Rcds! And, oí coursc, many Lhanks Lo IadcLLc Ran-
dolph and cvcryonc clsc aL Lhc UnivcrsiLy oí Ncbraska Prcss who
workcd so diligcnLly on Lhc final producLion oí Lhis book, as wcll
as Lo Alcxandra 1cnkins íor hcr swiíL and diligcnL íacL chccking. I
am also graLcíul Lo Raincr Smolinski and Tomas McHancy, who
Acknow|edgments xviii
boLh counsclcd mc Lo considcr going Lo graduaLc school and, in
Lhc casc oí Lhc laLLcr, hclpcd mc gcL my firsL publicaLion, wiLhouL
which I probably would noL bc in Lhis counLry righL now.
BuL such a book is noL wriLLcn wiLhouL also rccciving much
supporL írom pcoplc who bclong Lo a diffcrcnL, nonacadcmic parL
oí onc’s liíc. Having movcd írom Ccrmany Lo Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs
in :nni, I íccl cspccially graLcíul íor Lhc cnduring íricndship oí
somc oí my oldcsL íricnds írom Ccrmany, including buL noL lim-
iLcd Lo Marc Donay, ChrisLian Wcisz, 1oachim Milkowski, Dan-
icla Hcirich, ULz Farbcr, and, írom ALlanLa, my firsL “homc away
írom homc,” T. ScoLL BarrcLL. Whcncvcr I hiL a rough spoL during
Lhc wriLing oí Lhis book ovcr Lhc ycars, I íclL comíorLcd by Lhc
knowlcdgc oí your íricndship. IasL, buL ccrLainly noL lcasL, my
warmcsL graLiLudc gocs Lo Robyn Cay íor hcr supporL, kindncss,
and inLcgriLy.
In Lhc cnd, howcvcr, Lhis book would havc simply bccn im-
possiblc íor mc Lo wriLc wiLhouL Lhc ncvcr-cnding supporL oí my
parcnLs, Richard and Magda Abcl. Tough Lhcy will noL bc ablc
Lo rcad Lhis book (barring Lhc casc oí a íuLurc LranslaLion inLo
Ccrman), I ncvcrLhclcss Lakc grcaL plcasurc in knowing LhaL Lhcy
will bc ablc Lo havc Lhis book aL homc on a bookshclí as a maLcrial
Lracc oí my inLcllccLual labor LhaL Lhcy supporLcd so gcncrously
ovcr Lhc ycars.
Acknow|edgments xix
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon :
Violcncc. MosL would bc happy ií Lhcy ncvcr had Lo cxpcricncc
iL, and many arc convinccd oí Lhc cxisLcncc oí nonviolcnL spaccs,
whcLhcr Lhcy cxisLcd only in Lhc pasL and clscwhcrc, arc acLu-
ally availablc in Lhc hcrc and now, or, pcrhaps, arc only going Lo
cmcrgc in a ycL Lo comc Limc and spacc. And ycL, noLwiLhsLand-
ing Lhc all-pcrvasivc privilcging oí Lhc nonviolcnL ovcr Lhc vio-
lcnL, violcncc surrounds us, has surroundcd us, and iL is hard
Lo scc how iL will noL surround us in Lhc íuLurc. ViolcnL imagcs
arc Lhc liícblood oí 1v and abound in Lhc hisLory oí cincma; Lhc
hisLory oí liLcraLurc and Lhc arLs in gcncral would bc unLhink-
ablc wiLhouL Lhcm. And whaL abouL Lhc pcrvcrscly luring imagc
oí violcncc in íorm oí a car crash on Lhc Ncw 1crscy Lurnpikc`
Tis cvcnL oí rcal violcncc incviLably produccs Lraffi c jams—in
Lhc other dirccLion, causcd by voycurisLic drivcrs scduccd by Lhc
imagc oí oLhcrs’ pain. BuL violcncc is noL jusL cvcrywhcrc in im-
agcd íorm. Can anyonc rcmcmbcr a singlc momcnL whcn Lhcrc
was noL somc violcnL conflicL somcwhcrc around Lhc world or
a day wiLhouL murdcr, rapc, baLLcry, or oLhcr acLs oí violcncc`
Or whaL abouL Lhc war on Lcrror, subscqucnLly rcnamcd “global
sLrugglc againsL violcnL cxLrcmism”: docs anyonc rcally bclicvc
LhaL Lhis spccific violcncc can cvcr bc complcLcly climinaLcd`
WhaL abouL Lhc violcncc oí haLc spccch or all-pcrvasivc cconomic
cxploiLaLion` WhaL abouL Lhc violcncc cnLailcd by Lhc dcmand
LhaL passcngcrs Lakc off Lhcir shocs whcn going Lhrough airporL
sccuriLy, noL Lo mcnLion LhaL Lhcy submiL Lhcmsclvcs Lo random

Miller’s Crossing, Affect, and Masocriticism
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon i
body scarchcs` Tc violcncc oí Lhc aLLacks oí n/:: has now mu-
LaLcd—pcrmancnLly, irrcvocably, iL sccms—inLo a mulLipliciLy oí
pracLiccs whosc violcncc is admiLLcdly lcss rccognizablc Lhan LhaL
oí a planc cxplosion. BuL why assumc LhaL violcncc cxisLs, and is
rcal, only whcn iLs occurrcncc is casily rccognizablc`
Oí coursc, Lhc violcncc involvcd in anoLhcr pcrson cnLcring
my privaLc spacc, cvcn ií I bclicvc LhaL hc has no oLhcr moLivc
Lhan cnsuring Lhc saícLy oí all passcngcrs (buL how cxacLly do I
know Lhis`), is noL Lhc samc as Lhc spccLacular violcncc involvcd
in blowing up Lhc World Tradc CcnLcr. Tc violcncc LhaL is parL
oí Lhc rouLinc pracLiccs oí U.S. airporL sccuriLy pcrsonncl gcLLing
Loo closc íor my pcrsonal comíorL aL lcasL parLially dcrivcs írom
Lhc íacL LhaL I simply havc no way Lo prcvcnL Lhis violaLion oí
pcrsonal spacc írom happcning: ií I objccLcd in any way, I would
insLanLancously undcrgo an incorporcal LransíormaLion, írom
privaLc ciLizcn oí anoLhcr counLry Lo suspccL, and conscqucnLly
would bc violaLcd cvcn morc. Tis violcncc is noL oí Lhc samc kind
as Lhc violcncc oí Lhc bombs in Madrid, Iondon, FgypL, or Iraq,
Lhough Lhis docs noL makc iL any lcss rcal or significanL. Nor is
Lhc violcncc oí n/:: oí Lhc samc kind as Lhc violcncc pcrpcLraLcd
againsL Lhc millions who dicd in Ccrman conccnLraLion camps,
SovicL gulags, or civil wars LhaL havc bccn and sLill arc íoughL all
ovcr Lhc world—and arc oíLcn morc or lcss covcrLly sponsorcd
by Lhc vcry counLrics LhaL arc Lhc sLaunchcsL pracLiLioncrs oí a
rhcLoric oí dcmocraLic nonviolcncc.
Indccd, Lo say LhaL Lhcsc cxamplcs oí rcal and imagcd vio-
lcncc arc noL Lhc samc, LhaL Lhcy arc dìfferent, and LhaL Lhcrc is a
problcm wiLh considcring Lhcm as cxamplcs oí Violcncc insLcad
oí rcgarding Lhcm as a scrics oí diffcrcnL violcnccs—Lhis is Lhc
firsL gambiL oí Lhc prcscnL sLudy.
In íacL, parL oí my argumcnL
LhroughouL Lhis book will bc LhaL onc oí Lhc drawbacks oí rcprc-
scnLaLional criLicism oí violcncc is LhaL iL Lcnds Lo cradicaLc Lhis
vcry diffcrcncc by configuring Lhc event oí violcncc as always bc-
ing abouL somcLhing oLhcr Lhan iLs consLiLuLivc íorccs, inLcnsi-
Lics, or rhyLhms.
BuL lcL us slow down, as wc arc gcLLing ahcad oí oursclvcs. Onc
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon j
Lhing LhaL I Lhink is unconLrovcrsial—unlikc, pcrhaps, somc oí
my sLaLcmcnLs in Lhc prcvious paragraphs—is LhaL violcnL im-
agcs Lcnd Lo bc conLrovcrsial.
To somc, Lhcy arc maddcningly rc-
pulsivc and rcsponsiblc íor Lhc dcclinc oí WcsLcrn civilizaLion; Lo
oLhcrs, Lhcy arc cxciLingly subvcrsivc, rcsponsiblc íor provoking
uncomíorLablc qucsLions and powcríul LruLhs abouL “normaLivc”
socicLy. And Lo oLhcrs sLill, violcncc jusL “rulcs,” Lo cvokc Lhc bril-
lianLly limiLcd rhcLorical capaciLics oí Lhosc Lwo grcaL pracLiLio-
ncrs oí all Lhings un-PC: Bcavis and BuLL-Hcad. WhaLcvcr diffcr-
cnccs criLics may display in Lhcir criLical cngagcmcnL wiLh violcnL
imagcs in film and liLcraLurc, howcvcr, Lhc onc Lhing cvcryonc
(okay, maybc noL Bcavis) sccms Lo agrcc on is LhaL a kcy aLLribuLc
oí such imagcs is Lhcir abiliLy Lo raisc Lhc qucsLion oí Lhcir ethìca|
valuc. Indccd, wc may arguc LhaL violcnL imagcs’ provocaLion oí
Lhc cLhical momcnL is nciLhcr limiLcd Lo nor randomly mobilizcd
by insLiLuLionalizcd habiLs oí criLical rcflccLion. InsLcad, violcnL
imagcs themse|ves consLiLuLivcly raisc Lhc qucsLion oí cLhics, as
Lhc rcmaindcr oí Lhis chapLcr will arguc in grcaLcr dcLail. TaL is,
in Lhis inLroducLory chapLcr I hopc Lo build a conccpLual Loolbox
LhaL may bc producLivc íor a criLical cngagcmcnL wiLh violcnL im-
agcs LhaL dcsircs Lo cncounLcr Lhcm on Lhc lcvcl oí Lhcir own rea|-
ìty raLhcr Lhan on Lhc lcvcl oí Lhcir “mcaning.”
Te Violence of Sensation
Takc, íor insLancc, Mì||er’s Crossìng (:nno), an Amcrican indc-
pcndcnL film by Lhc Cocn BroLhcrs LhaL cxpliciLly íorcgrounds
Lhc qucsLion oí cLhics as Lhc ccnLral driving cnginc oí Lhc film’s
violcnL narraLivc. Tc film opcns wiLh a rcmarkablc sccnc LhaL
cincmaLically dramaLizcs Lhc íocus oí Lhc sLudy ahcad. As wc scc
icc cubcs bcing droppcd inLo an cmpLy glass oí whiskcy, wc hcar
an ILalian Amcrican voicc dcclarc: “I’m Lalkin’ abouL íricndship.
I’m Lalkin’ abouL characLcr. I’m Lalkin’ abouL—hcll, Ico, I’m noL
cmbarrasscd Lo usc Lhc word—I’m Lalkin’ abouL cLhics.” 1usL bc-
íorc Lhc final dcclaraLion, Lhc camcra cuLs Lo a long shoL oí Lhc
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon i
spcakcr, showing us a pudgy, round-íaccd man siLLing in a chair
on Lhc gucsL sidc oí a dcsk. Tc man sporLs a Lhin musLachc LhaL
concurrcnLly indicaLcs Lhc carc hc puLs inLo his physical appcar-
ancc and Lhc raLhcr ridiculous characLcr oí whaL hc bclicvcs Lo bc
Lhc look oí a sophisLicaLcd gangsLcr oí Lhc laLc :nios. Vicwcrs ía-
miliar wiLh Lhc violcnL gangsLcr film cyclcs oí Lhc laLc :nios and
carly :njos LhaL lcd Lo Lhc implcmcnLaLion oí Lhc Haycs Codc will
immcdiaLcly scnsc LhaL Lhis guy is no “IiLLlc Cacsar” (as playcd
by Fdgar C. Robinson in Mcrvyn IcRoy’s Lìtt|e Caesar í:njo]),
“Public Fncmy” (as playcd by 1amcs Cagncy in William Wcllman’s
:nj: film oí Lhc samc namc), or “Scaríacc” (as playcd by Paul
Muni in Howard Hawks’s :nji film). As Lhc camcra slowly zooms
in onLo Lhc spcakcr’s íacc, Lhc man who will laLcr bc idcnLificd as
1ohnny Caspar (1on PoliLo) conLinucs his spccch:
You know I’m a sporLing man. I likc Lo lay an occasional bcL.
BuL I ain’L LhaL sporLing. Whcn I fix a fighL, say I pay a j Lo :
Lo Lhrow a goddamn fighL, I figurc I goL Lhc righL Lo cxpccL
LhaL fighL Lo go off on j Lo :. BuL cvcry Limc I lay a bcL wiLh
LhaL son oí a biLch Bcrnic Bcrnbaum, bcíorc I know iL Lhc
odds is cvcn up, or worsc, I’m bcLLing on Lhc shorL moncy.
Tc shccny knows I likc surc Lhings. Hc’s sclling Lhc inío
LhaL I fixcd a fighL.
AíLcr a bricí silcncc, a closc-up oí Caspar highlighLs his mouLh
making smacking noiscs, again indicaLing LhaL hc is anyLhing buL
a man oí sophisLicaLion. Tcn hc íorccs Lhc issuc: “So, iL’s clcar
whaL I’m saying`” CuL back Lo Ico (AlbcrL Finncy), siLLing in his
chair bchind an imprcssivc dcsk, coldly rcsponding: “As mud.”
Bclicving LhaL Ico noL only has undcrsLood buL also agrccs
wiLh his posiLion, Caspar, again shown in a closc-up, carrics on:
“IL’s gcLLing so a busincss man can’L cxpccL no rcLurn írom a fixcd
fighL. Now, you can’L LrusL no fix, whaL can you LrusL` For a good
rcLurn you goLLa go bcLLing on chancc.” In Caspar’s vicw, Lhcn,
cLhics mcans firsL and íorcmosL Lhc climinaLion oí chancc. WiLh
chancc in play, so hc argucs as Lhc camcra inLcrcuLs his lincs wiLh
shoLs oí Ico and Lwo oLhcr gangsLcrs prcscnL in Lhc room—Tom
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon =
(Cabricl Byrnc), Lhc man wc iniLially saw only in a blurrcd imagc,
and Caspar’s hiL man, “Lhc Danc” (1. F. Frccman)—“you’rc back
wiLh anarchy. RighL back in Lhc junglc. TaL’s why cLhics is im-
porLanL. WhaL scparaLcs us írom Lhc animals, bcasLs oí burdcn,
bcasLs oí prcy—cLhics. Whcrcas Bcrnic Bcrnbaum is a horsc oí a
diffcrcnL color, cLhics-wisc. As in ‘hc ain’L goL any.’” AíLcr a mo-
mcnL, Ico asks Caspar, “So you wanL him killcd`” Lo which Lhc
Danc, raLhcr Lhan Caspar, answcrs, “For sLarLcrs.”
On onc lcvcl, Lhc film’s cxposiLion sccms LradiLional and prc-
dicLablc cnough. Vicwcrs arc allowcd Lo obscrvc Lhc whcclings
and dcalings oí undcrworld characLcrs and arc lcd Lo cxpccL vio-
lcnL conflicL Lo cmcrgc bcíorc Lhc film is ovcr. Wc cxpccL Lhis noL
only bccausc oí any poLcnLial prior cxposurc Lo Lhc filmmakcrs’
work, oLhcr gangsLcr films, or pulp ficLion/crimc novcls buL also
bccausc Lhc film’s narraLivc iLsclí is consLrucLcd in lincar íashion:
wc arc privy Lo a prcscnL convcrsaLion in which wc lcarn why pasL
gricvanccs dcmand íuLurc rcsoluLion.
In oLhcr words, Lhc film
providcs us wiLh Lhc causc íor Lhc violcncc LhaL is ycL Lo comc.
Violcncc on Lhis lcvcl is a íuncLion oí narraLivc, or oí probabil-
iLy: givcn Lhc narraLivc iníormaLion, iL is cxLrcmcly likcly LhaL aL
lcasL onc oí Lhc characLcrs will bc dcad bcíorc Lhc cnd crcdiLs roll
across Lhc big scrccn.
YcL, on anoLhcr lcvcl Lhis sccnc also coníronLs vicwcrs wiLh a
diffcrcnL kind oí violcncc. IL is a violcncc rcndcrcd visiblc Lhrough
Lhc inLcnsiLics oí Lhc coloraLion oí Lhc misc-cn-sccnc. Tis vio-
lcncc coníronLs spccLaLors on Lhc lcvcl oí affccL bejore iL is madc
availablc Lo Lhcm on Lhc lcvcl oí narraLivc or symbolism, LhaL is,
rcprcscnLaLion. IL is Lhc violcncc oí scnsaLion raLhcr Lhan Lhc vio-
lcncc oí rcprcscnLaLion, Lo usc Lhc disLincLion LhaL Cillcs Dclcuzc
inLroduccs in his sLudy oí Lhc violcnL works oí BriLish painLcr
Francis Bacon. According Lo Dclcuzc, Bacon’s crcaLivc—indccd
cLhical—íormula is “Lo painL Lhc scrcam morc Lhan Lhc horror”
(Francìs Pacon ji). TaL is, Bacon is morc inLcrcsLcd in painLing
an affccL LhaL susLains Lhc inLcnsiLy oí violcncc Lhan Lhc causc
(Lhc horror) LhaL produccd Lhc cffccL (Lhc scrcam).
PainLing Lhc causc would bc analogous Lo Lhc dcpicLcd violcncc
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon 6
in films such as Olivcr SLonc’s Natura| Porn Kì||ers (:nni) or Rob-
crL Rodrigucz’ Sìn Cìty (ioo=) in which Lhc causcs oí violcncc and
Lhcir cffccLs Lcnd Lo bc coprcscnL Lhrough LradiLional Lwo-shoL
or shoL-rcvcrsc-shoL figurcs. No maLLcr how bruLal and acsLhcLi-
cally compclling Lhc imagcs, Lhcy rcmain Lhoroughly narraLiv-
izcd (logical) and Lhus raLional, rcgardlcss oí our lcvcl oí (moral)
disgusL wiLh Lhcm. Rcmaining on Lhc lcvcl oí íamiliar imagcs oí
violcncc LhaL havc long bccomc clichcs in Lhc hisLory oí cincma,
Lhcy Lcll us vcry liLLlc in Lhc cnd abouL Lhc violcncc oí scnsaLion
or Lhc scnsaLion oí violcncc prcciscly bccausc “scnsaLion is LhaL
which is LransmiLLcd dirccLly, and avoids Lhc dcLour and borcdom
oí convcying a sLory” (Dclcuzc, Francìs Pacon ji). As such, scnsa-
Lion has noLhing Lo do wiLh a vicwing subjccL’s ícclings: “Lhcrc arc
no ícclings in Bacon: Lhcrc arc noLhing buL affccLs, LhaL is ‘scnsa-
Lions’ and ‘insLincLs’” (j=). AccounLing íor affccL, or Lhc “rhyLhmic
uniLy oí Lhc scnscs” (jn), in phcnomcnological Lcrms would sim-
ply bc “insuffi cicnL bccausc íphcnomcnology] mcrcly invokcs Lhc
livcd body. BuL Lhc livcd body is sLill a palLry Lhing in comparison
wiLh a morc proíound and almosL unlivablc Powcr” (jn). Scnsa-
Lion—affccL—is prcsubjccLivc: iL is whaL consLiLuLcs Lhc subjccL
raLhcr Lhan bcing a synonym íor an alrcady consLiLuLcd subjccL’s
cmoLions or ícclings. Whcrcas phcnomcnology’s conccpLion oí
scnsaLion or affccL is Licd Loo much Lo Lhc living organism (affccL
qua cmoLion), Lhc affccL Dclcuzc has in mind is Lhc affccL oí Lhc
body wiLhouL organs whosc cncmy is organizaLion, LhaL is, Lhc
rcducLivc íorcc oí rcprcscnLaLion.
DiffcrcnLly puL, “Lo painL Lhc scrcam” is a maLLcr oí “capLuring
íorccs” (Dclcuzc, Francìs Pacon i8) raLhcr Lhan rcprcscnLing Lhcm.
As Dclcuzc wriLcs, Lhc “Lask oí painLing is dcfincd as Lhc aLLcmpL
Lo rcndcr visiblc íorccs LhaL arc noL Lhcmsclvcs visiblc” (i8).
Ií wc
rcplacc “cincma” íor “painLing” wc havc hcrc an arLiculaLion oí an
arLisLic impcraLivc LhaL Lhc Cocns puL inLo pracLicc in Lhc opcn-
ing scqucncc oí Mì||er’s Crossìng. Whilc Lhcy do noL gcL rid oí nar-
raLivc (or whaL Dclcuzc also calls “figuraLion”), Lhcy ìntensìjy Lhc
lcvcl oí figuraLion Lhrough Lhcir color schcmc Lo Lhc poinL whcrc
Lhc cquivalcnL oí Bacon’s “Figurc” cmcrgcs in Lhc íorm oí Caspar.
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon ¬
In Bacon’s work, Lhc Figurc is an icon or imagc LhaL cmcrgcs ouL
oí a painLcrly proccss oí isolaLing iL írom Lhc ficld, “Lhc round arca
or parallclcpipcd” (6) wiLhin which iL cxisLs. As Dclcuzc puLs iL,
Lhc “rclaLion oí Lhc Figurc Lo iLs isolaLing placc dcfincs a ‘íacL’: ‘Lhc
íacL is . . .,’ ‘whaL Lakcs placc is . . .’” (6). Tc Figurc, in oLhcr words,
docs noL signiíy: bcing isolaLcd, iL avoids “Lhc figuratìve, ì||ustra-
tìve, and narratìve characLcr Lhc Figurc would ncccssarily havc ií
iL wcrc noL isolaLcd” (6). In Lhc Cocn BroLhcrs’ film, 1on PoliLo’s
characLcr appcars isolaLcd by Lhc inLcnsiLy oí Lhc brown misc-cn-
sccnc, all doom and gloom and clausLrophobically suffocaLing, as
indicaLcd by Lhc swcaL on Caspar’s bald hcad and uppcr lip and
íurLhcr cmphasizcd visually Lhrough PoliLo’s brillianL porLrayal,
wiLh his mouLh, almosL likc a fish ouL oí waLcr, gasping íor air, lips
purscd sidc Lo sidc. Iikc Bacon, Lhc Cocns do noL appcar Lo opposc
figuraLion buL, raLhcr, inLcnsiíy figuraLion Lo producc Lhc Figurc;
Lhcy go Lhrough narraLivc in ordcr Lo gcL Lo Lhc lcvcl oí purc affccL,
LhaL is, scnsaLion. Tis immancnL sLraLcgy crucially diffcrs írom
sLandard avanL-gardc filmmaking pracLiccs LhaL rcjccL figuraLion/
narraLivc who|esa|e—Lhus immcdiaLcly rcinLroducing narraLivc
Lhrough Lhcir vcry acL oí dialccLical rcjccLion.
WhaL wc wiLncss in Lhis sccnc, howcvcr, is noL Lhc acLual íorcc
LhaL is cxcrLcd upon Caspar’s body. For alLhough íorcc may bc
Lhc “condiLion oí scnsaLion, iL is noncLhclcss noL Lhc íorcc LhaL is
scnscd, sincc Lhc scnsaLion ‘givcs’ somcLhing complcLcly diffcr-
cnL írom Lhc íorccs LhaL condiLion iL” (Dclcuzc, Francìs Pacon i8).
Why is Lhis imporLanL írom an arLisL’s, as wcll as criLical, poinL
oí vicw` Simply puL, Lhc problcm is LhaL wc, as spccLaLors, arc
noL privy Lo Lhc acLual, buL Lo us invisiblc, íorccs LhaL impingc on
Lhc body, bc iL LhaL oí onc oí Bacon’s scrcaming popcs or LhaL oí
Mì||er’s Crossìng’s sccLhing Caspar. Hcncc, Lhc qucsLion íor Bacon,
and Lhc Cocns, is how Lo makc us scnsc Lhcsc invisiblc íorccs, or
how Lo acLualizc whaL is mcrcly virLual in Lhc íramc` Mcrcly dc-
picLing Lhcsc íorccs will noL do, as LhaL would aL bcsL posiLion
vicwcrs in a rcprcscnLaLional íramcwork in which wc would bc
ablc Lo pcrccivc Lhcsc íorccs whilc ncvcrLhclcss rcmaining unablc
Lo scnsc Lhcir inLcnsiLy. Tis is why “Bacon crcaLcs Lhc painLing oí
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon 8
Lhc scrcam íin which] hc csLablishcs a rclaLionship bcLwccn Lhc
visibiliLy oí Lhc scrcam (Lhc opcn mouLh as a shadowy abyss) and
invisiblc íorccs, which arc noLhing oLhcr Lhan Lhc jorces oj the ju-
ture” (=:, my cmphasis). As a rcsulL, wc arc cxposcd Lo Lhc scrcam
as an asscmblagc oí inLcnsiLics, allowing us Lo scnsc Lhc scnsa-
Lion oí Lhc scrcam and Lhus Lo bc affccLcd by Lhc affccL inhcring
in Lhc scrcam. By kccping Lhc causc oí Lhc horrific scrcam “off-
scrccn,” Bacon managcs Lo painL Lhc violcncc oí scnsaLion—as
cmbodicd ìn Lhc scrcam—raLhcr Lhan Lhc violcncc oí rcprcscnLa-
Lion, as would bc Lhc casc ií hc rcprcscnLcd whaLcvcr is jusL Lo Lhc
sidc oí Lhc íramc.
WhaL is Lo Lhc sidc` Wc do noL know—and only a juture mo-
mcnL could rcvcal Lhis as oí ycL invisiblc íorcc. By wiLhholding Lhis
íuLurc momcnL, howcvcr—by suspendìng iL—wc arc coníronLcd
wiLh Lhc íuLurc qua íuLurc, madc scnsiblc Lo us raLhcr Lhan rcp-
rcscnLcd íor us in “Lhc uniLy oí Lhc scnsing and Lhc scnscd” (Dc-
lcuzc, Francìs Pacon j:). WhaL wc scc is a “living” body, horrificd
by invisiblc íorccs—which arc noLhing clsc buL Lhc íorccs oí Lhc
íuLurc. As a rcsulL, Dclcuzc argucs LhaL a rcvcrsal oí Hcidcggc-
rian phcnomcnology occurs: “DcaLh is judgcd írom Lhc poinL oí
vicw oí liíc, and noL Lhc rcvcrsc, as wc likc Lo bclicvc” (=i–=j).
According Lo Dclcuzc, whcn “Bacon disLinguishcs bcLwccn Lwo
violcnccs, LhaL oí Lhc spccLaclc and LhaL oí scnsaLion, and dc-
clarcs LhaL Lhc firsL musL bc rcnounccd Lo rcach Lhc sccond, iL is
a kind oí dcclaraLion oí íaiLh in liíc” (=i). Tc violcncc oí scnsa-
Lion—cmbodicd in Lhc Figurc (as opposcd Lo Lhc violcncc oí Lhc
spccLaclc, narraLivc, symbolism, LhaL is, rcprcscnLaLion)—is an
affi rmaLion oí Lhc cncounLcr wiLh íuLuriLy in Lhc prcscnL, in liíc.
For MarLin Hcidcggcr, liíc is Lo bc judgcd írom Lhc horizon oí
possibiliLy—LhaL is, dcaLh. For Dclcuzc, in conLrasL, Lhc cLhical
Lask is oncc again Lo bc ablc Lo bclicvc “in Lhis world, Lhis liíc,
íwhich] bccomcs our mosL diffi culL Lask, or Lhc Lask oí a modc oí
cxisLcncc sLill Lo bc discovcrcd,” as hc and Fclix CuaLLari puL iL in
Lhcir final collaboraLion, what !s Phì|osophy? (¬=). IL is, oí coursc,
Lhc Limc-imagc Lhcorizcd in Dclcuzc’s sccond book on Lhc cincma
LhaL is rcsponsiblc íor making Lhis bclicí oncc again availablc Lo
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon n
us; in Francìs Pacon, iL is Lhc conccpL oí Lhc Figurc LhaL accom-
plishcs Lhc samc Lask.
FiLhcr way, whaL maLLcrs is LhaL in arL “iL is noL a maLLcr oí
rcproducing or invcnLing íorms, buL oí capturìng jorces. For Lhis
rcason no arL is figuraLivc. Paul Klcc’s íamous íormula—‘NoL Lo
rcndcr Lhc visiblc, buL Lo rcndcr visiblc’—mcans noLhing clsc”
(Dclcuzc, Francìs Pacon i8, my cmphasis). Indccd, Lhis is whaL
happcns in Mì||er’s Crossìng. Oí coursc, rcprcscnLaLional (figura-
Livc) violcncc cvcnLually cnsucs, and iL could noL bc any oLhcr
way. As Dclcuzc argucs, “Lhc firsL figuraLion írcprcscnLaLion, nar-
raLivc] cannoL complcLcly bc climinaLcd; somcLhing oí iL is always
conscrvcd” (¬n). AíLcr all, “iL is casy Lo opposc Lhc figural Lo Lhc
figuraLivc in an absLracL manncr, ííor] wc ncvcr ccasc Lo Lrip ovcr
Lhc objccLion oí íacL: Lhc Figurc is sLill figuraLivc; iL sLill rcprc-
scnLs somconc (a scrcaming man, a smiling man, a scaLcd man),
iL sLill narraLcs somcLhing” (¬n)—cvcn ií iL is a Lypically quirky
Lalc so characLcrisLic oí Lhc Cocn BroLhcrs’ ocuvrc. YcL, Lhcrc is
“a sccond figuraLion,” which “Lhc painLcr obLains, Lhis Limc as a
rcsulL oí Lhc Figurc, as an cffccL oí Lhc picLorial acL” (¬n)—or as
a rcsulL oí Lhc misc-cn-sccnc, Lhc cincmaLic sLaging oí Lhc sccnc,
Lhc “how” LhaL givcs risc Lo a rcprcscnLaLional “whaL.”
So, bejore Lhc incviLablc figuraLion oí violcncc occurs in Mì||-
er’s Crossìng, wc arc alrcady cxposcd Lo Lhc Figurc oí violcncc, Lhc
violcncc oí scnsaLion. As spccLaLors, howcvcr, wc “cxpcricncc Lhc
scnsaLion only by cnLcring Lhc painLing” (Dclcuzc, Francìs Pacon
j:), by rcaching Lhc uniLy oí Lhc scnsing and Lhc scnscd. How
docs Lhis happcn` How do spccLaLors cnLcr a painLing, a film, or
any (arL) objccL in gcncral` Or, morc prcciscly, how arc spccLaLors
made to cnLcr Lhc objccL` ConLinuing his cxplanaLion oí Bacon’s
usc oí color, Dclcuzc argucs, “Color is Lhc body, scnsaLion is in
Lhc body, and noL in Lhc air. ScnsaLion is whaL is painLcd. WhaL is
painLcd on Lhc canvas is Lhc body, noL insoíar as iL is rcprcscnLcd
as an objccL, buL insoíar as iL is cxpcricnccd as susLaining thìs
scnsaLion” (ji). I suggcsL LhaL ií wc rcplacc “filmcd” íor “painLcd”
and “scrccn” íor “canvas” Lhcn wc havc a prcLLy accuraLc dcscrip-
Lion oí whaL gocs on in Lhc Cocn BroLhcrs’ film: scnsaLion is whaL
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon :o
Lhcy film, and whaL Lhcy film and is subscqucnLly projccLcd on
scrccn is Lhc body—noL insoíar as iL is rcprcscnLcd as an objccL,
buL insoíar as iL is cxpcricnccd as susLaining thìs scnsaLion.
imporLanLly, as íor Bacon, Lhis scnsaLion is írcqucnLly violcnL,
as is Lhc casc, íor insLancc, aL Lhc prccisc momcnL whcn Caspar
prosclyLizcs abouL his scnsc oí cLhics.
Te Violence of Ethics
In íacL, LhaL Lhc qucsLion oí cLhics is raiscd aL and Lhrough Lhc
vcry momcnL whcn Lhc audicncc can scnsc Lhc violcncc oí scnsa-
Lion is no coincidcncc, íor cLhics is a qucsLion oí rcsponsibiliLy,
or bcLLcr ycL, rcsponsc-abiliLy, LhaL docs noL dcpcnd on raLional
choicc. Tcorizing cLhics qua pcríormaLivc subjccLiviLy, liLcrary
LhcorisL 1cffrcy Ncalon posiLs LhaL “rcsponsibiliLy is noL mcrcly
choosìng Lo rcspond, aL lcasL ií Lhis rcsponsibiliLy is Lo bc an affi r-
matìon oí alLcriLy. í . . . ] RaLhcr, Lhc cLhics oí pcríormaLivc subjcc-
LiviLy is cnacLcd prcciscly in and as a response Lo Lhc always alrcady
cxLcrior, Lo Lhc oLhcr LhaL is Lhc ground oí Lhc samc. Tc poinL is
noL LhaL I nccd always Lo rcmcmbcr Lo acL ‘as ìj I was alrcady rc-
sponsiblc’; raLhcr, ‘I’ am noLhing buL Lhis rcsponsibiliLy” (A|terìty
Po|ìtìcs :6n). Tc affccLivc or inLcnsivc íorccs inhcring in Lhc vio-
lcncc oí scnsaLion consLiLuLc such an cxLcrioriLy, somcLhing LhaL
impingcs on Lhc body írom ouLsidc. Tcsc íorccs producc cffccLs
prìor Lo Lhcir incviLablc narraLivizaLion, Lhcir cvcnLual LcrriLori-
alizaLion onLo Lhc planc oí rcprcscnLaLion—and bccausc Lhcsc
íorccs affccL mc bcíorc Lhc narraLivc apparaLus oí capLurc orga-
nizcs Lhcm íor mc, I am alrcady rcsponsc-ablc. WiLh my rcspon-
sibiliLy always alrcady bcing rcsponsc-abiliLy—my consLiLuLivc
abiliLy Lo rcspond bejore Lhcsc imagcs rcprcscnL—whaL counLs
in such a conccpLion oí pcríormaLivc cLhics is Lo cxaminc “Lhc
producLion oí cffccLs, noL Lhc zcro-sum gamc oí dcciding whaL an
idcnLiLy or movcmcnL rcally or auLhcnLically ‘mcans’” (:¬o).
A criLical cncounLcr wiLh violcnL imagcs would Lhcrcíorc havc
Lo aLLcnd Lo Lhcsc imagcs’ affectìve inLcnsiLics—Lhcir effects raLhcr
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon ::
Lhan Lhcir rcprcscnLaLional “mcanings.” ALLcnding Lo Lhc cffccLs
provokcd by Lhc rcaliLy oí violcnL imagcs in film and liLcraLurc is
Lhc aim oí Lhis sLudy. To do so, iL is indccd ncccssary Lo Lhink oí
Lhcsc imagcs in affccLivc Lcrms raLhcr Lhan addrcssing Lhcm on
Lhc lcvcl oí Lhcir rcprcscnLaLional qualiLy, as is commonly donc
in Lhc major sLudics oí Lhc subjccL maLLcr.
By “affccL,” howcvcr,
I do noL mcan whaL a givcn subjccL is phcnomcnologically madc
Lo íccl (íccling is mcrcly affccL LcrriLorializcd onLo Lhc subjccL)
buL, Lo usc Brian Massumi’s words, “a suspcnsion oí acLion-rcac-
Lion circuiLs” (i8). AffccL, in oLhcr words, is noL so much a maLLcr
oí causc and cffccL rcsulLing írom acLion or movcmcnL; raLhcr,
affccL is a “sLaLc oí passional suspcnsion in which íLhc body] cx-
isLs morc ouLsidc oí iLsclí, morc in Lhc absLracLcd acLion oí Lhc
impinging Lhing and Lhc absLracLcd conLcxL oí LhaL acLion, Lhan
wiLhin iLsclí” (j:).
Tis, I suggcsL, is indccd whaL Mì||er’s Crossìng provokcs us Lo
considcr in grcaLcr dcLail, as iL wagcs Lhc qucsLion oí cLhics prcciscly
aL Lhc momcnL whcn iL coníronLs us wiLh Lhc violcncc oí scnsaLion
LhaL occurs bcíorc any figuraLion oí violcncc rcsulLs. Tc qucsLion
oí Lhc cLhics oí violcncc, in oLhcr words, cmcrgcs prior Lo any rcp-
rcscnLaLion oí violcncc. Hcncc, as long as wc cngagc Lhc imaging
proccss oí violcncc bascd on rcprcscnLaLionalisL assumpLions, wc
csscnLially rcmain oblivious Lo Lhcir consLiLuLivc inLcnsiLics—noL-
wiLhsLanding LhaL such accounLs cannoL hclp buL bc affccLcd by
Lhcm. Ií noLhing clsc, aLLcnding Lo Lhc violcncc oí scnsaLion would
rcquirc us aL lcasL parLially Lo rcdirccL our aLLcnLion away írom
films by OucnLin TaranLino, Sam Pcckinpah, or any shooL-’cm-up
blockbusLcr, LhaL is, any film LhaL mcrcly rcndcrs violcncc visiblc
(as opposcd Lo rcndcring visiblc Lhc invisiblc íorccs—inLcnsiLics,
affccLs—oí violcncc). Or, raLhcr, wc mighL wanL Lo Lhink abouL
films such as Te wì|d Punch (dir. Sam Pcckinpah, :n6n) or Pu|p Fìc-
tìon (dir. OucnLin TaranLino, :nni) noL so much in Lcrms oí Lhcir
rcprcscnLcd violcncc buL in Lcrms oí Lhc inLcnsiLics LhaL pcrcolaLc
wìthìn Lhc clichcd violcncc oí rcprcscnLaLion.
BuL lcL us bc cvcn morc prccisc wiLh rcgard Lo Mì||er’s Crossìng
and whaL iL offcrs us wiLh rcgard Lo Lhc inLcrsccLion oí violcncc
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon :i
and cLhics, or rcsponsc-abiliLy, íor Lhc film playíully cngagcs Lwo
diffcrcnL conccpLions oí cLhics. In Lhc film’s opcning sccnc, wc
wiLncss how a (violcnL) characLcr dcsircs Lo sidcsLcp chancc, or,
pcrhaps bcLLcr, wc wiLncss his inabiliLy Lo dcal wiLh chancc.
inabiliLy makcs Caspar insisL LhaL “cLhics” arc supposcd Lo bc a
saíc and sound conLracL wriLLcn in sLonc LhaL hc can LrusL so LhaL
hc will noL havc Lo worry abouL any unwclcomc surpriscs. To him,
cLhics is a maLLcr oí kccping Lhc ouLsidc—cxLcrioriLy, chancc—aL
bay. On Lhc lcvcl oí narraLivc, Lhc problcm wiLh Caspar’s suggcs-
Lion LhaL violcncc can bc avoidcd as long as cvcryonc hccds Lhc
conLracL’s Lcrms, howcvcr, is simply LhaL hc cannoL íaLhom LhaL
his scnsc oí cLhics is noL only unconvcnLional and qucsLionablc
in and oí iLsclí (sincc whcn docs fixing gamcs counL as cLhical
bchavior`) buL also conLrary Lo LhaL oí Lhc oLhcr characLcrs in
Lhc film who do noL sharc his cnLhusiasm íor “cLhics.”
íor Lhcm Caspar’s cLhics arc noL a mcans Lo prcvcnL violcncc buL
insLcad an inspiraLion—howcvcr uninLcnLional—íor bccoming-
violcnL. Or, as Ico cxplains his rcíusal Lo granL Caspar’s rcqucsL
Lo kill Bcrnic, hc sccs no rcason Lo gcL rid oí Bcrnic, a ducs-paying
cusLomcr and hcncc proLccLcd wisc guy. DiffcrcnLly puL, Ico sug-
gcsLs LhaL his conLracL wiLh Bcrnic is as good as Caspar’s, and who
is Lo say LhaL onc is morc cLhical Lhan Lhc oLhcr` As long as his
scL oí rulcs arc bcing adhcrcd Lo, Ico has no causc Lo Lakc acLion;
and sincc hc is Lhc ulLimaLc boss, Caspar’s rulcs simply carry lcss
íorcc Lhan his. Oí coursc, in upholding his conLracL wiLh Bcrnic,
Ico violaLcs his conLracL wiLh Caspar, as Tom rcpcaLcdly rcminds
Ico LhroughouL Lhc film. Caspar pays Ico so LhaL Ico will proLccL
him againsL his cncmics. From Caspar’s poinL oí vicw, Lhcn, Ico’s
rcíusal Lo hclp is ycL anoLhcr cxamplc oí a lack oí cLhics LhaL dc-
mands, in his vicw, drasLic rcsponsc: Lo wiL, hc Lrics Lo kill Ico
and Lakc ovcr his posiLion as Lhc undcrworld lcadcr.
Howcvcr, as vicwcrs wc arc noL inviLcd jusL Lo acccpL Caspar’s
dcfiniLion oí cLhics and waiL íor Lhc kill-’cm-all Lypc oí violcncc Lo
occur. RaLhcr, wc havc a|ready bccn madc privy Lo Lhc cxpcricncc
oí violcncc in Lhc vcry abscncc oí Lhis “cxccssivc” Lypc oí violcncc.
Tc film’s cincmaLography has rcndcrcd visiblc a body—noL Cas-
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon :j
par’s buL Lhc brown filling cvcry íramc—LhaL susLains Lhc scnsa-
Lion oí violcncc Lhrough iLs purcly affccLivc íorcc, iLs inLcnsiLy.
Fvcn Lhough noLhing is happcning (ycL), wc ncvcrLhclcss sense
Caspar’s (body) Limc liLcrally cxpiring; LhaL iL will Lakc anoLhcr
nincLy minuLcs oí scrccn Limc or so bcíorc hc will acLually bc
killcd is in Lhis rcgard raLhcr incidcnLal. TaL is, aL Lhc momcnL
oí Caspar’s sLaLic cxposiLion oí cLhics, hc is cincmaLically madc Lo
subsisL in, whilc bcing isolaLcd írom, Lhc brown misc-cn-sccnc,
which rcndcrs visiblc Caspar’s ulLimaLc incpLiLudc as boLh an
cLhicisL and a gangsLcr. ConcurrcnLly, Lhis momcnL oí violcncc
alrcady calls íorLh our rcsponsc, our rcsponsc-abiliLy. Rcgardlcss
oí whcLhcr wc rccognizc Lhc violcncc inhcring Lhis momcnL, wc
arc madc Lo rcspond. Rcsponsc, and Lhus cLhics, simply cannoL bc
rcduccd Lo a momcnL oí rcprcscnLaLional rccogniLion and, in íacL,
is always alrcady consLiLuLivc oí iL.
Whilc Caspar’s scnsc oí cLhics as a sLaLic, unmoving conLracL
pcrmcaLcs many oí Lhc Cocns’ films including P|ood Sìmp|e and
Fargo, Lhcir sty|e oí filming providcs us wiLh a diffcrcnL sense oí
violcncc and Lhus cLhics. Challcnging Lhc audicncc wiLh an ab-
surd dcfiniLion oí cLhics ouL oí Lhc mouLh oí whaL would appcar
Lo bc a raLhcr uncLhical man, Mì||er’s Crossìng’s discoursc on cLh-
ics ncvcrLhclcss íascinaLcs bccausc oí Lhc way iL affccLivcly lcnds
Caspar’s propricLary dcfiniLion oí cLhics an ominous scnsc oí
So saLuraLcd is Lhc sccnc wiLh brown ovcrLoncs LhaL
Lhc goings-on can hardly bc Lakcn as naLuralisLic or rcalisLic. Tc
ovcrbcaring, clausLrophobic, inLcnsc prcscncc oí Lhc Lhick laycrs
oí brown LhaL fill cvcry íramc lcnds Caspar’s swcaLing a diffcr-
cnL íorcc: morc Lhan jusL pcrcciving iL, wc, as spccLaLors, scnsc
Caspar’s scnsaLion. As such, wc arc indccd noL mcanL Lo Lakc sc-
riously Caspar’s scnsc oí cLhics as an acccpLablc jusLificaLion íor
violcncc; insLcad, we are meant to sense the vìo|ence oj ethìcs iLsclí.
And sincc scnsing is a maLLcr oí sLylc, Lhc audicncc is askcd vis-
ccrally Lo immcrsc iLsclí in Lhc misc-cn-sccnc, likc Lhc characLcrs
baLhcd in Lhc surrcal brown lighL. By cnLcring Lhc Lhickncss oí
Lhc misc-cn-sccnc, Lhc vicwcr cncounLcrs Lhc violcncc oí scnsa-
Lion. BuL Lhis violcncc is noL simply scnsaLional, alLhough Lhc
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon :i
Cocns’ films arc noL írcc oí a ccrLain lcvcl oí scnsaLionalism. Rc-
call, íor insLancc, Lhc cnding oí P|ood Sìmp|e or Lhc parking ga-
ragc and woodchippcr sccncs in Fargo. Iikcwisc, Caspar’s cLhical
dcclaraLions makc all Loo obvious whcrc Lhc film is hcading, and,
surc cnough, wc do noL havc Lo waiL Loo long íor a scnsaLionally
violcnL shooL-ouL Lo Lranspirc. YcL Lhis occurrcncc iLsclí musL bc
considcrcd Lhc logical working ouL oí Caspar’s dcfiniLion oí cLh-
ics—LhaL is, cLhics as a sLaLic conLracL. BuL whaL wc scc in Lhc
sccnc aL hand is a dirccL imagc oí violcncc, noL onc LhaL is mcdi-
aLcd Lhrough movcmcnL as in Natura| Porn Kì||ers, whcrc Lhc ki-
ncLic aspccL oí Lhc film dominaLcs our scnsc oí violcncc Lo such a
dcgrcc LhaL wc cannoL hclp buL íccl violaLcd by iL. Whcrcas in Lhc
laLLcr film violcncc occurs in Lhc (visual) prcscncc oí Lhc acLion
causing Lhc violaLion oí bodics (pcoplc arc killcd by gun shooL-
ing, c.g.), in Mì||er’s Crossìng Lhc “body iníolds Lhc effect oí Lhc
íviolcnL] impingcmcnL—iL conscrvcs Lhc impingcmcnL minus
Lhc impinging Lhing, Lhc impingcmcnL absLracLcd írom Lhc ac-
Lual acLion LhaL causcd iL and acLual conLcxL oí LhaL acLion” (Mas-
sumi j:–ji). In Lhc vcry abscncc oí whaL wc commonscnsically
Lhink oí as violcncc, violcncc occurs Lo Lhc film’s bodics in íronL
oí our cycs and Lhus affccLs us.
Tc film makcs clcar LhaL whcn iL comcs Lo violcnL imagcs Lhc
qucsLion is ncvcr whcLhcr or noL onc shou|d rcspond Lo Lhcm (by
criLicizing or affi rming Lhcm according Lo Lhcir rcprcscnLaLional
valuc); raLhcr, Mì||er’s Crossìng clarifics wiLh admirablc rigor LhaL
wc arc always alrcady rcsponsc-ablc, noL “íor” Lhcsc imagcs or
Lhcir conscqucnccs buL bejore Lhcm. How, Lhcn, do Lhcsc imagcs
call íorLh our rcsponsc-abiliLy` And imporLanLly íor Lhc prcscnL
sLudy, how can a criLical cncounLcr wiLh such imagcs arLiculaLc
Lhis rcsponsc-abiliLy in such a manncr LhaL iL docs noL abdicaLc
iLs rcsponsc-abiliLy by LcrriLorializing Lhis cLhical qucsLion onLo
Lhc rcprcscnLaLional planc oí judgmcnL` In oLhcr words, whaL
criLical and conccpLual Lools arc availablc Lo us LhaL mighL accom-
plish Lhc Lask givcn us by Mì||er’s Crossìng: Lo hccd Lhc singulariLy
(cLhics) oí violcncc, Lo rcspond Lo iL—and Lhus bc rcsponsc-ablc
bcíorc iL—by hccding Lhc primacy oí Lhc cvcnL`
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon :=
Te Violence of Masochism
In Francìs Pacon, Dclcuzc cmphasizcs how diffi culL iL is íor Lhc
painLcr noL Lo rclapsc inLo Lhc clichc. In íacL, Dclcuzc suggcsLs
LhaL onc “can only fighL againsL Lhc clichc wiLh much rusc, pcr-
scvcrancc, and prudcncc: iL is a Lask pcrpcLually rcncwcd wiLh
cvcry painLing, wiLh cvcry momcnL oí cvcry painLing” (¬n). NoLc
LhaL Dclcuzc is íar írom advocaLing an “anyLhing gocs” rclaLiv-
isL cLhics, as opponcnLs oí posL-sLrucLuralism in gcncral oíLcn
allcgc. FighLing Lhc clichc is noL a maLLcr oí random subvcrsion
buL oí carcíully planncd, LhoughL-Lhrough, and rcpcaLcd pracLicc
LhaL ìn iLs rcpcLiLivcncss varics Lo iLsclí. 1usL rccall, íor insLancc,
Dclcuzc’s rcading oí NicLzschc’s conccpL oí Lhc FLcrnal RcLurn.
In conLrasL Lo Lhc LradiLional (cxisLcnLialisL) undcrsLanding oí
Lhc FLcrnal RcLurn, Dclcuzc proposcs in Nìetzsche and Phì|osophy
LhaL Lhc FLcrnal RcLurn oughL noL bc undcrsLood as an infiniLc
rcLurning oí Lhc samc buL as an cLcrnal rccurrcncc oí LhaL which
has Lhc capaciLy Lo diffcr írom iLsclí. On|y LhaL which has Lhis ca-
paciLy is capablc oí rcLurning. WhaL rcLurns, Lhus, is diffcrcncc
iLsclí or, raLhcr, Lhc íorcc oí diffcrcnLiaLion. FurLhcrmorc, in Lìj-
jerence and Repetìtìon, pcrhaps Lhc kcy LcxL íor any undcrsLanding
oí Dclcuzc’s ocuvrc, Lhc philosophcr brings Lhis undcrsLanding
Lo bcar on mcdicval Lhcologian Duns ScoLus’s univociLy oí bcing
Lhcsis, which opcraLcs as Lhc driving íorcc oí Dclcuzc’s work. Un-
likc many oí his posL-sLrucLuralisL ícllow Lravclcrs who laborcd
ovcr Lhc problcm oí mcLaphysical prcscncc, Dclcuzc was ncvcr
rcally Loo boLhcrcd by Lhis problcm bccausc Lo him Bcing can al-
ways bc said on|y oí bccoming. Ií Bcing “is” always alrcady bccom-
ing, Bcing, or prcscncc, is noL quiLc Lhc problcm as, say, Dcrrida’s
work suggcsLs iL is.
In Lhc casc oí Francis Bacon’s painLcrly pracLicc, bcing con-
íronLcd wiLh a canvas LhaL is always alrcady fillcd wiLh (clichc)
imagcs, hc invcnLs a Lcchniquc oí manually produccd, accidcn-
Lal, írcc marks LhaL hclps him Lo “cxLracL Lhc improbablc Figurc
írom Lhc scL oí figuraLivc probabiliLics” (Dclcuzc, Francìs Pacon
¬¬), LhaL is, írom narraLivizaLion LhaL is a priori inscribcd inLo
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon :6
Lhc canvas. Bacon uscs Lhis Lcchniquc as a mcans Lo hack inLo Lhc
alrcady cxisLing (clichcd) ordcr oí Lhc canvas.
Hc crcaLcs whaL
Dclcuzc calls a “diagram” LhaL can bc callcd “‘nonrcprcscnLaLivc,’
prcciscly bccausc íiL] dcpcnds on Lhc acL oí chancc and ícxprcsscs]
noLhing rcgarding Lhc visual imagc” (¬¬). Making Lhcsc chancc-
dcpcndcnL marks is a prcpicLorial acL, a pracLicc LhaL is inLcndcd
Lo allow Lhc painLcr himsclí Lo cnLcr Lhc painLing bcíorc bcgin-
ning Lhc acL oí painLing as such.
Crucially, Lhis cncounLcr wiLh Lhc canvas allows Bacon Lo cnLcr
“inLo Lhc clichc, inLo probabiliLy. Hc cnLcrs inLo iL prcciscly bc-
causc hc knows what he wants to do, buL whaL savcs him is Lhc íacL
LhaL he does not know how to get there, hc docs noL know how Lo do
whaL Lo do” (Dclcuzc, Francìs Pacon ¬8). And is Lhis noL Lhc vcry
problcm wc cncounLcr whcn coníronLing Lhc qucsLion oí violcnL
imagcs: LhaL wc simply do noL know how Lo do iL and bccausc oí
Lhis unccrLainLy cnd up having immcdiaLc rccoursc Lo Lhc clichcs
oí rcprcscnLaLion` TaL is, cvcn Lhough wc cannoL buL rcspond Lo
(violcnL) imagcs, Lhis rcsponsc is all Loo quickly arLiculaLcd on Lhc
planc oí rcprcscnLaLion, Lhus immcdiaLcly Lransccnding Lhc event
oí rcsponsc as such.
ConLinuing his dcscripLion oí Bacon’s sLraLcgics íor combaLing
Lhc clichc, Dclcuzc suggcsLs LhaL Lhc painLcr will only gcL Lo whcrc
hc wanLs Lo bc “by gcLLing ouL oí Lhc canvas. Tc painLcr’s prob-
lcm is noL how Lo cnLcr inLo Lhc canvas, sincc hc is alrcady Lhcrc
(Lhc prcpicLorial Lask), buL how Lo gcL ouL oí iL, Lhcrcby gcLLing
ouL oí Lhc clichc, gcLLing ouL oí probabiliLy (Lhc picLorial Lask). IL
is Lhc chancc manual marks LhaL will givc him a chancc, Lhough
noL a ccrLiLudc” (Francìs Pacon ¬8). Again, is Lhis noL whaL wc arc
íaccd wiLh whcn dcaling wiLh violcnL imagcs: finding mcans LhaL
afford us a chancc Lo cscapc Lhc clichc` BuL in ordcr Lo havc any
chancc oí cscaping Lhc clichc wc nccd Lo affi rm, wcll, chancc as
such—somcLhing LhaL is casicr said Lhan donc. TaL is, wc havc
Lo affi rm Lhc roll oí Lhc dicc, which is opposcd Lo Lhc doubling
up pracLicc oí Lhc “bad” gamblcr. Tc laLLcr cncounLcrs chancc
and íuLuriLy in Lcrms oí probabiliLy, whcrcas a NicLzschcan aí-
firmaLion oí a sìng|e roll oí Lhc dicc LrcaLs chancc as indcpcndcnL
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon :¬
oí probabiliLy. Tc cLhical Lask is Lo affi rm Lhc mulLipliciLy im-
mancnL Lo Lhis singlc Lhrow: “IL is noL a maLLcr oí scvcral dicc-
Lhrows which, bccausc oí Lhcir numbcr, finally rcproducc Lhc
samc combinaLion. On Lhc conLrary, iL is a maLLcr oí a singlc di-
ccLhrow which, duc Lo Lhc numbcr oí Lhc combinaLion produccd,
comcs Lo rcproducc iLsclí” (Dclcuzc, Nìetzsche and Phì|osophy i=).
WhaL I am suggcsLing hcrc is, simply, LhaL Dclcuzc’s dcscripLion
oí Bacon’s painLcrly pracLicc offcrs us a spccific scL oí Lools LhaL
may allow us Lo dcvclop a criLicism oí violcncc LhaL cscapcs Lhc
criLical clichcs prcciscly bccausc iL works by affi rming chancc. Tc
Lools I havc in mind pcrLain Lo Lhc íormal pracLicc oí masochism
LhaL undcrlics Dclcuzc’s analysis oí Bacon’s painLings as wcll as
his subscqucnL work on Lhc cincma.
Considcr, íor insLancc, Lhc Cocn BroLhcrs’ Fargo, a film oí in-
LcrcsL hcrc bccausc iL cincmaLically csLablishcs, and dramaLizcs, a
“masochisLic conLracL.” Such a conLracL, as Dclcuzc cxplains in his
sLudy oí Icopold von Sachcr-Masoch’s wriLings, “implics in prin-
ciplc ccrLain condiLions likc Lhc írcc acccpLancc oí Lhc parLics, a
limiLcd duraLion and Lhc prcscrvaLion oí inalicnablc righLs” (Mas-
ochìsm n:–ni). YcL, Lhc ulLimaLc purposc oí Lhis conLracL is Lo
dcrivc a law írom iL: “Lhc masochisL aims noL Lo miLigaLc Lhc law
buL on Lhc conLrary Lo cmphasizc iLs cxLrcmc scvcriLy” (n:). To
cmphasizc Lhis scvcriLy (and Lo dcrivc Lhc law írom Lhc conLracL),
Lhc masochisLic conLracL is wriLLcn in a vcry prccisc languagc, rhc-
Lorically consLrucLcd as LighLly as Lhc bounds LhaL Lhc masochisL’s
misLrcss will apply Lo his body.
Tis LighL consLrucLion oí Lhc
conLracL mighL, howcvcr, rcsulL in Lhc problcm LhaL “Lhc law iL
gcncraLcs always Lcnds Lo íorgcL iLs own origins and annul Lhcsc
rcsLricLivc condiLions” (ni). TaL is, Lhc law LhaL mighL cmcrgc
írom Lhc conLracL, oncc in placc, bcgins Lo violaLc “Lhc conLracL
in LhaL iL can apply Lo a Lhird parLy, is valid íor an indcLcrminaLc
pcriod and rccognizcs no inalicnablc righLs” (ni). Whcrcas Lhc
conLracL sLipulaLcd, indccd prcsupposcd and dcpcndcd on, Lhc
spccific rclaLion bcLwccn Lhc masochisL and his misLrcss—wiLh
thìs misLrcss raLhcr Lhan anoLhcr—Lhc cnsuing LransíormaLion
oí Lhc conLracLual cxigcncy inLo a lcgal apparaLus issucs íorLh an
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon :8
incorporcal LransíormaLion oí Lhc misLrcss hcrsclí: shc is now
oLhcr Lo hcr conLracLcd sclí, assuming a diffcrcnL, “lcgal,” subjccL
posiLion. Tis ncw subjccL posiLion placcs ncw dcmands on hcr
LhaL cxcccd Lhosc oí Lhc original conLracL. In íacL, Lhc naLurc oí
Lhcsc dcmands is such LhaL oLhcrs can accomplish Lhcm as wcll.
ConscqucnLly, Lhc law, bccausc iL ìs Lhc law, allows somconc clsc
Lo bc subsLiLuLcd íor Lhc misLrcss. WiLh Lhis rcplaccmcnL, how-
cvcr, Lhc singulariLy oí Lhc iniLial ethìca| commiLmcnL oí Lhc mis-
Lrcss Lo Lhc masochisL vanishcs. In oLhcr words, Lhc Lransíorma-
Lion írom conLracL inLo law is a LransíormaLion írom singulariLy
(cLhics) inLo gcncraliLy (moraliLy). YcL, as Dclcuzc poinLs ouL, “as
a gcncral rulc, í . . . ] in masochism Lhc conLracL is caricaLurcd in
ordcr Lo cmphasizc iLs ambiguous dcsLinaLion. íIL impliciLly chal-
lcngcs], by cxccss oí zcal, a humorous accclcraLion oí Lhc clauscs
and a complcLc rcvcrsal oí Lhc rcspccLivc conLracLual sLaLus oí
íLhc signaLorics]” (ni).
Tis is prcciscly whaL happcns in Fargo. In Lhc firsL LwcnLy scc-
onds oí Lhc film, an cpigraph scrolls across Lhc scrccn, asscrLing
LhaL Lhc sLory wc arc abouL Lo scc is bascd on Lruc incidcnLs. IL
is hcrc whcrc Lhc film firsL scLs up a rigid conLracL wiLh iLs audi-
cncc—a conLracL LhaL is characLcrizcd by a humorous accclcra-
Lion oí clauscs. SubscqucnLly, iL plays ouL Lhis conLracL’s logic
in Lhc rcsL oí Lhc film, gradually undcrmining Lhis vcry conLracL
prcciscly so LhaL iL will noL cvcr bc applicd as a gcncraliLy Lo all
Fargo scLs up a masochisLic conLracL as a mcans Lo affccL
vicwcrs so LhaL Lhcy bccomc and rcmain rcsponsc-ablc Lo Lhc
film’s violcnL subjccL maLLcr, rcgardlcss oí how absurd or unrc-
alisLic Lhc violcnL cvcnLs may appcar. YcL, Lhis rcsponsc-abiliLy is
onc oí singulariLy, sincc iL docs noL rcquirc LhaL I musL rccall LhaL
I am rcsponsiblc as a vicwcr “íor” Lhcsc imagcs whcn I waLch Lhcm
buL LhaL I am always noLhing buL Lhis rcsponsc-abiliLy bejore Lhc
singulariLy oí an cvcnL (oí violcncc). In oLhcr words, conLrary Lo
Caspar’s scnsc oí cLhics as a sLaLic, wriLLcn in sLonc conLracL, Lhc
Cocns’ cold and clinical cincmaLic sLylc rcpcaLcdly invokcs a con-
LracLual rclaLionship bcLwccn film and audicncc in which Lhc im-
plicd signaLorics oí Lhc conLracL agrcc Lo a modc oí cngagcmcnL
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon :n
LhaL scLs spccific rulcs íor Lhc cncounLcr wiLhouL dcLcrmining iLs
ouLcomc. Chancc, or Lhc íuLurc, rcmains ncccssarily an inLcgral
parL oí Lhc gamc.
RaLhcr Lhan vicwing Fargo’s cincmaLic rcndcring oí Lhc mas-
ochisLic conLracL as an occurrcncc limiLcd Lo Lhis film, howcvcr, I
wanL Lo suggcsL LhaL a criLical affi rmaLion oí Lhis conLracL mighL
scrvc as a producLivc methodo|ogìca| algoriLhm íor a criLical cn-
gagcmcnL wiLh violcnL imagcs—an algoriLhm LhaL is groundcd
in Dclcuzc’s onLological vicw oí imagcs. Tis pcdagogical algo-
riLhm is noL, howcvcr, a LransccndcnLal criLical law; insLcad, iL is
“groundcd” in Lhc singulariLy oí Lhc cncounLcr wiLh an cvcnL as
such—an cncounLcr LhaL, bcing iniLiaLcd írom wiLhin Lhc cvcnL
iLsclí, hccds Lhc irrcduciblc spccificiLy oí LhaL which calls íorLh
rcsponsc and Lhus rcsponsc-abiliLy. Such singulariLy cLhically rc-
quircs LhaL onc hccd Lhc cvcnL’s primacy—LhaL is, Lhc affccLivc
inLcnsiLics consLiLuLivc oí (violcnL) imagcs—which is prcciscly
whaL blocks Lhc applicaLion oí Lhc ouLcomc oí onc cncounLcr Lo
Lhc conLcxL oí a diffcrcnL cvcnL. Onc could say LhaL Lhis kind oí
pcdagogical algoriLhm is in no small way affccLcd by a ccrLain
kind oí íorgcLLing—Lhc íorgcLLing oí Lhc (illusory) scnsc LhaL
onc alrcady knows whaL Lhc objccL wiLh which onc is coníronLcd
is. Whcrcas Lhc applicaLion oí LransccndcnLal criLical laws ncccs-
sarily prcsupposcs a priori knowlcdgc oí Lhc objccL LhaL allows
onc Lo apply a law wiLh ccrLainLy, Lhc masochisLic pcdagogy I am
dcscribing hcrc is, as such, noL applicablc prcciscly bccausc iL is
characLcrizcd by a sty|e oí cncounLcr raLhcr Lhan a scL oí rulcs
consLiLuLing a law. Whcrcas Lhc laLLcr is always a gcncraliLy, Lhc
qucsLion oí sLylc is always onc oí singulariLy.
In Lhis conLcxL, I should poinL Lo Lhc masochisL’s dcsirc Lo
cducaLc, a dcsirc LhaL mighL appcar Lo bc counLcrinLuiLivc, givcn
LhaL onc mighL bc inclincd Lo arguc LhaL Lhc rcpcaLcd pain Lo
which Lhc masochisL cxposcs himsclí suggcsLs LhaL hc docs noL
lcarn aL all (how clsc Lo cxplain Lhc csscnLially incomprchcnsiblc
rcpcLiLion oí pain`). Howcvcr, raLhcr Lhan concciving oí íorgcL-
Ling as LhaL which allows íor Lhc rcLurn oí pain and mcmory as
LhaL which would prcvcnL pain írom occurring, Dclcuzc suggcsLs
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon io
LhaL “íorgcLLing is Lhc impossibiliLy oí rcLurn, and mcmory is
Lhc ncccssiLy oí rcncwal” (Foucau|t :o8). Hcncc, Lhc masochisL’s
“íorgcLLing” oí his prior pain should noL bc rcad as ncgaLivc—as
his íailurc Lo lcarn. Tc masochisL is noL a Hcgclian subjccL who
somchow íails Lo lcarn írom his íailurcs. RaLhcr, íorgcLLing is Lhc
cnabling mcchanism LhaL, in conjuncLion wiLh mcmory (config-
urcd as mcmory oí Lhc íuLurc), cnablcs Lhc masochisL Lo bccomc-
oLhcrwisc. FducaLion, in Lhc masochisLic cconomy, is Lhcrcíorc
noL bascd on imiLaLion buL on Lhc conccpL oí alliancc, oí rcsponsc
or cncounLcr. Or, as Dclcuzc wriLcs, “wc lcarn noLhing írom Lhosc
who say: ‘Do as I do.’ Our only Lcachcrs arc Lhosc who Lcll us Lo
‘do wiLh mc,’ and arc ablc Lo cmiL signs Lo bc dcvclopcd in hcLcro-
gcnciLy raLhcr Lhan proposc gcsLurcs íor us Lo rcproducc” (Lìffer-
ence and Repetìtìon ij).
Crucially, Lhc íormal pracLicc oí masochism mighL bc uscíul
íor a criLicism oí violcnL imagcs noL jusL bccausc masochism is
a pcdagogical pracLicc buL cspccially bccausc iL is a pedagogy oj
vìo|ence—a pracLicc oí rcsponsc Lo violcncc LhaL insisLs on an cn-
counLcr wiLh violcncc on iLs own Lcrms. Masochism carcíully rcg-
ulaLcs iLs cconomy oí violcncc. Masochism is a criLical and clinical
pcdagogy LhaL crcaLivcly csLablishcs a bclicí in Lhis world Lhrough
disavowal. As Dclcuzc cxplains, “Disavowal should pcrhaps bc un-
dcrsLood as Lhc poinL oí dcparLurc oí an opcraLion LhaL consisLs
nciLhcr in ncgaLing nor cvcn dcsLroying, buL raLhcr in radically
conLcsLing Lhc validiLy oí LhaL which is: iL suspcnds bclicí in and
ncuLralizcs Lhc givcn in such a way LhaL a ncw horizon opcns up
bcyond Lhc givcn and in placc oí iL” (Masochìsm j:). ConLcsLing
Lhc validiLy oí LhaL which is—is noL Lhis NicLzschcan provoca-
Lion prcciscly whaL musL bc affi rmcd ií onc wanLs Lo cscapc Lhc
clichc, ií onc wanLs Lo avoid an immcdiaLc rcducLion oí Lhc cvcnL
inhcring Lhc violcncc oí scnsaLion Lo Lhc clichcs cmbodicd in Lhc
violcncc oí rcprcscnLaLion`
How, Lhcn, docs Lhc masochisL managc Lo conLcsL Lhc sLaLus
quo` FirsL and íorcmosL, hc conLcsLs Lhc validiLy oí LhaL which is
by having rccoursc Lo Lhc ícLish, buL, as Dclcuzc insisLs againsL
psychoanalyLic dogma, Lhc ícLish is “noL a symbol aL all, buL as
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon i:
iL wcrc a írozcn, arrcsLcd, Lwo-dimcnsional imagc, a phoLograph
Lo which onc rcLurns rcpcaLcdly Lo cxorcisc Lhc dangcrous consc-
qucnccs oí movcmcnL, Lhc harmíul discovcrics LhaL rcsulL írom
cxploraLion; iL rcprcscnLs Lhc lasL poinL aL which iL was sLill pos-
siblc Lo bclicvc” (Masochìsm j:). Tis írcczing oí movcmcnL—Lhc
producLion oí Lhc Limc-imagc—is akin Lo slowing down, indccd
arrcsLing, Lhc movcmcnL inhcrcnL Lo rcprcscnLaLion LhaL pro-
cccds always wiLh Loo much spccd írom LhaL which is (Lhc rcaliLy
oí an imagc) Lo LhaL which is characLcrizcd by Lhc logic oí lack
(Lhc rcprcscnLaLion oí rcaliLy). 1usL as Lhc Limc-imagc slows down
Lhc logic oí Lhc movcmcnL-imagc, which, according Lo Dclcuzc,
largcly dominaLcd cincma hisLory bcíorc Lhc cnd oí World War II,
so Lhc masochisLic acL oí ícLishizing (or obscssivcly lingcring on
and rcLurning Lo) Lhc samc imagc is a criLical and clinical pracLicc
mobilizcd Lo opcn up Lhc givcn—whaL is—Lo Lhc íuLurc. Indccd,
Lhis is a pracLicc LhaL Lravcrscs all oí Lhc ccnLral pcrsonac oí Lhis
sLudy: Lhc Cocn BroLhcrs, BrcL FasLon Fllis, PaLricia HighsmiLh,
RobcrL DcNiro, Don DcIillo, and, indccd, Cillcs Dclcuzc.
Obscssivcly lingcring wiLh Lhc objccL—and Lhus íorging an
alliancc, indccd a íricndship, wiLh iL—allows LhaL cxisLcncc Lo
bccomc oLhcr Lo iLsclí; Lhrough Lhis spccific pracLicc oí cncoun-
Lcring Lhc oLhcr, cxisLcncc bccomcs availablc Lo Lhc masochisL
as a momcnL oí purc diffcrcnLiaLion, oí íuLuriLy. Or, Lo puL Lhis
samc argumcnL in íormal Lcrms, masochism is, according Lo Dc-
lcuzc, “a sLaLc oí waiLing; Lhc masochisL cxpcricnccs waiLing in
iLs purc íorm. Purc waiLing dividcs naLurally inLo Lwo simulLanc-
ous currcnLs, Lhc firsL rcprcscnLing whaL is awaiLcd, somcLhing
csscnLially Lardy, always laLc and always posLponcd, Lhc sccond
rcprcscnLing somcLhing LhaL is cxpccLcd and on which dcpcnds
Lhc spccding up oí Lhc awaiLcd objccL” (Masochìsm ¬:).
Tc masochisL, howcvcr, crcaLcs Lhis sLaLc actìve|y wiLh Lhc
hclp oí Lhc masochisLic conLracL. IL is Lhc conLracL LhaL sLipulaLcs
Lhc prccisc rulcs by which Lhc masochisLic cconomy—consisLing
oí Lhc misLrcss and Lhc masochisL—is Lo procccd. Doing so, Lhc
carcíully rcgulaLcd masochisLic pracLicc acLualizcs varying con-
figuraLions oí imagc íorccs LhaL allow somcLhing ncw—namcly,
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon ii
Lhc íuLurc—Lo cmcrgc. Trough Lhis acLualizaLion oí virLual
íorccs rcsulLing írom a proccss oí giving oncsclí ovcr Lo Lhc oLhcr
by suspcnding movcmcnL, Lhc masochisLic conLracL posiLions Lhc
masochisL in such a way LhaL hc cncounLcrs himsclí as diffcrcnL
írom himsclí: “I is anoLhcr” (Dclcuzc, Cìnema i :jj). Tis is why
Lhc masochisL liLcrally suspcnds his body wiLh Lhc hclp oí his mis-
Lrcss: Lo cngagc in a pracLicc LhaL conLinually alLcrs Lhc paramcLcrs
oí his body and Lhus his subjccLiviLy. Hc cxpands his capaciLy Lo bc
affccLcd by diffcrcncc. Bound in chains, sLrcLchcd Lo Lhc limiLs oí
whaL Lhc body can Lakc, írozcn in a momcnL oí Limc, Lhc masoch-
isL bccomcs Lhc onc who Lakcs scriously and rcsponds Lo Spinoza’s
conLcnLion LhaL wc do noL cvcn know whaL a body can do (finding
ouL is by dcfiniLion a qucsLion oí cxpcrimcnLaLion and Lhus Lhc
And Lhc masochisL affi rms Lhis cxpcricncc prcciscly as
a mcans Lo cncounLcr diffcrcncc, Lhc ncw—Lhc íuLurc. Hc is boLh
Lhc subjccL oí and Lhc audicncc íor violcncc. Hc bcars wiLncss Lo iL
whilc hc is also bcing casL as Lhc pcrson prcsumcd guilLy.
BuL iL is only in Lhc pracLicc iLsclí LhaL Lhc masochisL cnLcrs
Lhis doublc-bccoming. Hc is Lhus ncvcr in Lhc prcscnL buL always
oí Lhc íuLurc—a ycL Lo comc, a subjccL ycL Lo bc produccd Lhrough
and in Lhc pracLicc iLsclí, in and Lhrough iLs pcríormaLivc íorcc.
As Dclcuzc wriLcs, Lhc masochisL “waiLs íor plcasurc as somcLhing
LhaL is bound Lo bc laLc, and cxpccLs pain as Lhc condiLion LhaL will
finally cnsurc (boLh physically and morally) Lhc advcnL oí plca-
surc. Hc Lhcrcíorc posLponcs plcasurc in cxpccLaLion oí Lhc pain
which will makc graLificaLion possiblc. Tc anxicLy oí Lhc masoch-
isL dividcs Lhcrcíorc inLo an indcfiniLc awaiLing oí plcasurc and
an inLcnsc cxpccLaLion oí pain” (Masochìsm ¬:). AcLualizcd as a
pcdagogical algoriLhm íor a criLical cngagcmcnL wiLh violcncc, Lhc
Lask would Lhcn bc Lo dcícr Lhc advcnL oí plcasurc LhaL criLicism
clcarly dcrivcs írom Lhc arrival oí Lhc momcnL aL which Lhc criLic
gcLs Lo arLiculaLc his judgmcnL oí violcncc, or ccrLainLy (cvcn ií iL
comcs in íorm oí Lhc asscrLion LhaL Lhc rcprcscnLaLional mcan-
ing rcmains undccidablc). Tis is possiblc only ií Lhc criLic givcs
him- or hcrsclí ovcr Lo Lhc cxpccLaLion oí pain rcsulLing írom Lhc
inLcnsiLy oí Lhc cncounLcr wiLh violcnL imagcs.
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon ij
FLhics, configurcd masochisLically as rcsponsc-abiliLy, is,
Lhcrcíorc, a maLLcr oí spccd modulaLion, oí slowing down Lhc
spccd oí judgmcnL, or rcprcscnLaLion. Tc aLLracLion oí rcprcscn-
LaLion, oí judgmcnL, is prcciscly Lhc inLcnsiLy oí Lhis spccd, Lhc
rush íclL by quickly arriving aL Lhc mcaning, Lhc significancc, oí
violcnL imagcs, which is affi rmcd all Lhc morc prcciscly bccausc
iL allows us Lo cscapc Lhc spccd inhcring Lhc violcncc oí scnsa-
Lion, onc LhaL movcs inLcnsivcly raLhcr Lhan cxLcnsivcly, slowly
raLhcr Lhan quickly, rcmaining momcnLarily írozcn raLhcr Lhan
insLanLancously moving clscwhcrc. I submiL LhaL Lhis masochis-
Lic pcdagogy—iLsclí a pracLicc oí violcncc—would bc producLivc
íor an cncounLcr wiLh a|| imagcs; ycL, violcnL imagcs, bccausc oí
Lhcir spccial discursivc sLaLus, prcscnL us wiLh a limiL casc íor Lhis
masochisLic pcdagogy LhaL Lhc íollowing chapLcrs inLcnd Lo hold
up Lo Lhc LcsL oí acLual criLical pracLicc.
Civcn Lhc masochisLic pracLicc oí Lhc ycL Lo comc, Lhc rcgisLcr
oí rc-prcscnLaLion bccomcs mcaninglcss—or in any casc iLs usc-
íulncss is puL inLo qucsLion—as Lhc ycL Lo comc is a qucsLion oí
productìon. ConccpLualizcd Lhis way, a criLicism oí violcncc musL
cngagc in a rigorous pracLicc oí dcícrrals, oí diagnosing insLcad oí
judging imagcs, oí producing a sympLomaLology insLcad oí a his-
Lory oí syndromcs, oí rcsponding Lhrough Lhc affccLivc, visccral
sidc oí languagc and imagcs raLhcr Lhan Lhrough Lhcir sccond or-
dcr lcvcl—rcprcscnLaLion.
Clcarly, masochisLic pracLicc can ncvcr bc bascd on prcdic-
Lion, on prior knowlcdgc; raLhcr, Lhc masochisL is íorccd Lo givc
himsclí ovcr Lo Lhc ycL Lo comc, Lhc íuLurc, as his body will bc
rcconfigurcd only Lhrough his cngagcmcnL wiLh his misLrcss LhaL
is rcgulaLcd Lhrough Lhcir conLracL. In oLhcr words, Lhc masoch-
isLic—rcad, criLical—body is incviLably alLcrcd by Lhc cncounLcr
wiLh Lhc íuLurc raLhcr Lhan wiLh Lhc pasL or prcscnL. Tc masoch-
isL is Lhus cngagcd in a pcrpcLual producLion oí subjccLiviLy, onc
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon ii
LhaL shiíLs and pcrmcaLcs as iL comcs inLo conLacL wiLh spccific
machincs or gcLs disconnccLcd írom oLhcrs. RaLhcr Lhan ciLhcr
plcasurc or pain, Lhc masochisL is inLcrcsLcd in Lhc affccLivc cx-
pcricncc oí Lhc momcnL, Lhc in-bcLwccn, Lhc suspcnsc and whaL
iL docs. And Lhc qucsLion oí whaL iL docs ncccssarily bclongs Lo
Lhc íuLurc, íor Lhc masochisL musL cxpcrimcnL—“do iL”—bcíorc
hc can find ouL.
Masochism—and iLs criLical pracLicc, whaL I proposc Lo call
“masocriLicism”—is Lhus noL an cpisLcmology buL a pragmaLics.
I borrow Lhc Lcrm “masocriLicism” írom Paul Mann’s cssay oí Lhc
samc LiLlc. Howcvcr, cvcn Lhough his cssay providcs an inLcrcsLing
mcLacommcnLary on Lhc pracLicc oí criLicism, I sLrongly disagrcc
wiLh his vicw oí masochism as bcing abouL lack and rcprcscnLa-
Lion: “Tc Hcgclian sysLcm is masochism wriL largc (or masoch-
ism is shrunkcn Hcgclianism). Masochism is a LhcaLcr in which
onc submiLs Lo cnslavcmcnL and Lhcrcby hopcs Lo ovcrcomc cn-
slavcmcnL” (ij–ii). Via Dclcuzc (and CuaLLari), I hold againsL
Mann’s rcading LhaL masochism is noL a LhcaLcr buL a íacLory, noL
abouL rcprcscnLaLion buL abouL producLion. Masochism is a prac-
Licc—onc LhaL is noL abouL Lhc hopc Lo ovcrcomc cnslavcmcnL
buL abouL regu|atìng Lhc momcnL oí cnslavcmcnL. Tc masoch-
isL nccds somconc clsc and musL Lhus acL wiLh Lhc oLhcr raLhcr
Lhan imiLaLc a prccxisLing scL oí acLions or sLaLcs. Tc masochisL
needs his misLrcss. Tis rclaLion is a priori configurcd in Lcrms oí
an cLhical alliancc LhaL is characLcrizcd by a doublc movcmcnL:
jusL as Lhc misLrcss musL hccd hcr conLracLcd obligaLion Lo Lhc
oLhcr (Lhc masochisL), so Lhc laLLcr sccks ouL his subjccLion Lo
Lhc oLhcr (Lhc conLracLcd misLrcss). Tis doublc movcmcnL dc-
scribcs a doublc-bccoming, a bccoming-oLhcrwisc LhaL is spccific
Lo, sincc gcncraLcd by, Lhc rclaLion iLsclí.
And Lhc samc characLcrizcs Lhc criLical pracLicc oí masocriLi-
cism: jusL as Lhc LcxL Lo bc rcspondcd Lo, Lhrough iLs shccr cxis-
Lcncc as a spccifically configurcd objccL, arrivcs bcíorc mc wiLh a
scL oí cxpccLaLions dcrivcd írom iLs proccss oí gcncraLion (which
is irrcduciblc Lo Lhc conccpL oí inLcnLionaliLy and cxcccds Lhc cx-
planaLory íorcc oí conLcxL), so Lhc criLical acL sccks ouL, Lhrough
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon i=
subjccLion, an cncounLcr wiLh Lhis oLhcr (Lhc LcxL) in such íashion
LhaL Lhc singulariLy oí Lhis oLhcr, oí iLs proccss oí gcncraLion and
Lhc inhcring affccLivc íorcc, is aidcd in iLs cffccLiviLy, in rcalizing
iLsclí, raLhcr Lhan bcing rcLcrriLorializcd onLo a planc whcrc iLs
virLual poLcnLial is wcakcncd or simply blockcd. In shorL, maso-
criLicism—conccivcd oí as Lhc immancnL condiLion oí possibiliLy
íor an cncounLcr wiLh violcncc—ncccssiLaLcs rcsponsc, and Lhc
laLLcr rcquircs a giving ovcr oí oncsclí Lo Lhc OLhcr, Lo bccom-
ing-oLhcr, Lo Lhc proccss oí bcing affccLcd and cffccLuaLcd by and
írom Lhc íuLurc—Lo Lhc cxpcrimcnL.
ConscqucnLly, a masochisLic pracLicc sLrongly rcsonaLcs wiLh
Dclcuzc’s noLion oí sLoryLclling. As hc wriLcs in his analysis oí
cincma, “sLory-Lclling is noL an impcrsonal myLh, buL nciLhcr is iL
a pcrsonal ficLion: iL is a word in acL, a spccch-acL Lhrough which
Lhc characLcr conLinually crosscs Lhc boundary which would scp-
araLc his privaLc busincss írom poliLics, and which ìtse|j produces
co||ectìve utterances. í . . . ] NoL Lhc myLh oí a pasL pcoplc, buL
Lhc sLory-Lclling oí a pcoplc Lo comc. Tc spccch-acL musL crc-
aLc iLsclí as a íorcign languagc in a dominanL languagc, prcciscly
in ordcr Lo cxprcss an impossibiliLy oí living undcr dominaLion”
(Cìnema i iii–ij). A criLical spccch acL musL producc iLsclí as
íorcign Lo Lhc clichcs oí a criLical discoursc sLccpcd in rcprcscn-
LaLionalism. ImporLanLly, howcvcr, doing so is noL a maLLcr oí
subvcrsion, which is a Lhoroughly rcprcscnLaLional conccpL and
pracLicc. Nor is sLoryLclling a qucsLion oí sclí-cxprcssion, jusL as
Lhc masochisL is noL inLcrcsLcd in cxprcssing himsclí. RaLhcr,
boLh sLoryLclling and masochism arc pracLiccs oí collccLivc pro-
ducLion, machincs íor Lhc producLion oí Lhc íuLurc. Tcy boLh
work as a mcans Lo arLiculaLc Lhc impossibiliLy oí living undcr
dominaLion or Lo conLcsL whaL cxisLs. And Lhis sLrikcs mc as Lhc
Lask oí masocriLical pracLicc as wcll: bcing in Lhc busincss oí pro-
ducing spccch acLs, masocriLical pracLicc is a priori configurcd as
a co||ectìve uLLcrancc. Bcing cngcndcrcd only by an affi rmaLion oí
an alliancc wiLh Lhc oLhcr qua Lhc oLhcr’s cngcndcring íorcc and
Lhus iLs muLabiliLy, masocriLicism parLicipaLcs in Lhc collccLivc
producLion oí íuLuriLy as an cvcnL LhaL is always Lo comc; ìn Lhis
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon i6
producLion, ìn Lhis immancnL rcconfiguraLion, Lhc íorccs oí LhaL
which “cxisLs” (rcprcscnLaLion) arc inLcnsificd and rcdirccLcd íor
Lhcm Lo bccomc-oLhcrwisc.
MasochisLic pracLicc, oí coursc, cnLails morc Lhan jusL spccch
acLs, buL iL is noncLhclcss crucially govcrncd by onc spccific
spccch acL—Lhc conLracL. Trough Lhis conLracL, Lhc masochisLic
pracLicc is LighLly rcgulaLcd, ycL iL is Lhrough Lhis rcgulaLion LhaL
Lhc íuLurc arrivcs in Lhc íorm oí purc diffcrcncc. WiLh Lhc hclp
oí Lhc conLracL, Lhc masochisL givcs himsclí ovcr Lo his misLrcss
undcr Lhc prccisc rcgulaLions upon which Lhcy agrccd, Lhus scL-
Ling in moLion Lhcir muLual proccss oí bccoming-oLhcrwisc (a
proccss LhaL Caspar’s dcfiniLion oí cLhics blocks—wiLh íaLal con-
scqucnccs íor his abiliLy Lo cxisL).
Again, Lhis pracLicc oí giving ovcr inLroduccs Lhc momcnL oí
Lhc íuLurc, Lhc crcaLion oí íuLurc sLorics, oí pcoplc ycL Lo comc,
as Lhc masochisL has mcrcly providcd paramcLcrs oí and íor his
cxpcricnccs, buL by no mcans has hc dcLcrmincd Lhc acLion, iLs
Limc, or locaLion. InsLcad, hc cnLcrs an alliancc wiLh Lhc oLhcr, a
liíc in dominaLion, buL Lhis dominaLion simulLancously consisLs
oí a rcíusal Lo bc dominaLcd by dominanL culLurc. Tc masochisL
Lwcaks dominaLion inLo somcLhing clsc, an cncounLcr wiLh Lhc
violcncc oí scnsaLion in which Lhc íuLurc, alLcriLy, cmcrgcs, bc-
comcs acLualizcd—buL only wiLh Lhc hclp oí Lhc oLhcr.
ImporLanLly, masochism as a pracLicc/pragmaLics oí violcncc
violcnLly pushcs Lhc conccpL oí alLcriLy Lo iLs own limiL. Ií an cn-
counLcr wiLh alLcriLy is Lakcn scriously in cLhical Lcrms, violcncc
sccms Lo consLiLuLc Lhc cxLrcmc limiL: do I givc mysclí ovcr Lo Lhc
oLhcr cvcn Lhough I will bc violaLcd` Tc masochisL answcrs Lhis
qucsLion in Lhc affi rmaLivc, cvcn Lhough Lhc affi rmaLion ncccs-
siLaLcs, and is Lhus limiLcd by, Lhc masochisLic conLracL. Nonc-
Lhclcss, Lhc masochisL’s rcsponsc Lo alLcriLy rcvcals Lhc libcral
humanisL rhcLoric oí communicaLivc rcason and iLs dcsirc íor
conscnL (“lcL us acknowlcdgc our diffcrcncc and agrcc Lo disagrcc,
so wc all can gcL along”) íor whaL iL is: an obliLcraLion oí diffcr-
cncc (and as such violcncc wriL largc) raLhcr Lhan an affi rmaLion
oí diffcrcncc.
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon i¬
In shorL, masochism—masocriLicism—is a rigorous pracLicc
oí cxpcrimcnLaLion LhaL, Lo borrow írom Dclcuzc’s dcscripLion oí
Lhc Limc-imagc, “carrics ouL a suspensìon oj the wor|d or affccLs Lhc
visiblc wiLh a dìsturbance, which, íar írom making LhoughL visiblc
íis] on Lhc conLrary dirccLcd Lo whaL docs noL lcL iLsclí bc LhoughL
in LhoughL, and cqually Lo whaL docs noL lcL iLsclí bc sccn in vi-
sion” (Cìnema i :68). Tc masochisL suspcnds Lhc world by crc-
aLing a ncw onc wiLh Lhc hclp oí Lhc oLhcr (a pcrson, an objccL,
an imagc). Bcing (liLcrally) suspcndcd, Lhc masochisL bccomcs-
oLhcr, jusL as Lhc oLhcr is affccLcd by Lhc masochisL and bccomcs-
masochisL (pace an cnLirc LradiLion oí criLicism influcnccd by
Sigmund Frcud who considcrcd masochism and sadism as onc
cohcrcnL cnLiLy: sadomasochism). TogcLhcr, Lhcy crcaLc a world,
sLorics, and LhoughL LhaL do noL rcícr Lo sysLcms oí judgmcnL.
Tcir world, sLorics, and LhoughL, Lhough rcal, arc morc akin Lo
whaL Dclcuzc calls íalsiíying narraLion, which “írccs iLsclí írom
íand] shaLLcrs Lhc sysLcm oí judgmcnL bccausc Lhc powcr oí Lhc
íalsc (noL crror or doubL) affccLs Lhc invcsLigaLor and Lhc wiLncss
as much as Lhc pcrson prcsumcd guilLy” (Cìnema i :jj).
Tc íollowing chapLcrs aim aL dcvcloping and pcríorming Lhis
shaLLcring oí judgmcnL in Lhcir rcpcaLcd cncounLcrs wiLh vio-
lcncc. ChapLcr i íocuscs on Lhc novcl and film Amerìcan Psycho in
ordcr Lo dclincaLc morc carcíully whaL iL may cosL criLical pracLicc
Lo approach violcnL imagcs Lhrough Lhc lcns oí rcprcscnLaLion;
chapLcr j providcs a LhcorcLical gcncalogy LhaL cxplains why rcp-
rcscnLaLion is always alrcady a qucsLion oí judgmcnL; chapLcr i
cngagcs Lhc ficLion oí PaLricia HighsmiLh—cspccially hcr Riplcy
novcls—in ordcr Lo invcsLigaLc how a ficLion wriLcr crcaLivcly
works Lhrough Lhc problcm oí rcprcscnLaLion as a problcm oí
judgmcnL in Lhc conLcxL oí violcncc; chapLcr = íocuscs on Lhc acL-
ing work oí RobcrL DcNiro in ordcr Lo complicaLc Lhc kcy disLinc-
Lion oí working Lhrough and acLing ouL LhaL sLrucLurcs much oí
Lhc moral discoursc on (mcdia) violcncc; and chapLcr 6 Lurns Lo
Don DcIillo’s cssay on n/:: in ordcr Lo show in conclusion whaL
Lhc payoff oí masocriLicism may bc íor Lhc so-callcd rcal world.
TroughouL Lhis book, I will pursuc a doublc íocus: on onc
Te vìo|ence oj Sensatìon i8
hand, I will rcpcaLcdly aLLcnd Lo Lhc criLical work donc by Lhc con-
ccpL oí rcprcscnLaLion in Lhc conLcxL oí violcnL imagcs; on Lhc
oLhcr, I puL in moLion masocriLical pracLicc. Or, morc prcciscly,
Lhc LrajccLory oí my argumcnL dcmands LhaL I movc through Lhc
work LhaL rcprcscnLaLion docs in Lhc conLcxL oí violcnL imagcs in
ordcr Lo arrivc aL a pracLicc oí masocriLicism. Tc laLLcr may pcr-
haps bcsL bc LhoughL oí as Lhc prcconscious oí rcprcscnLaLional
criLicism—rcprcscnLaLional criLicism opcraLing aL a diffcrcnL
spccd or on a diffcrcnL lcvcl oí inLcnsiLy. My hopc, in Lhc cnd, is
Lo offcr a way oí Lhinking abouL boLh violcnL imagcs and criLical
pracLicc LhaL, aL Lhc vcry lcasL, provokcs Lhc rcadcr Lo considcr
Lhc criLical habiLs hc or shc has rccoursc Lo whcn coníronLcd wiLh
(violcnL) imagcs. I would considcr Lhis projccL a small succcss ií
iL somchow wcrc Lo do noL jusL somc work íor Lhc rcadcr (“aha,
a ncw mcLhodology wc can Lcach!”) buL, pcrhaps, also on him or
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt in
Comparison, Representation, Judgment
Mary Harron opcns hcr gcncrally wcll rcccivcd film adapLaLion oí
BrcL FasLon Fllis’s iníamous :nn: novcl Amerìcan Psycho as ií shc
consciously wanLcd Lo hccd 1can-Iuc Codard’s wcll-known anLi-
rcprcscnLaLional adagc “noL blood, rcd,” wiLh which hc maLLcr-
oí-íacLly rcspondcd Lo a Cahìers du Cìnema inLcrvicwcr who sug-
gcsLcd LhaL Codard’s Pìerrot Le Fou was banncd íor childrcn undcr
cighLccn bccausc “Lhcrc is a good dcal oí blood in Pìerrot” (Co-
dard, “IcL’s Talk abouL PicrroL” i:¬). AgainsL a sLcrilc backdrop
oí purc whiLc, small rcd bloLchcs slowly drip down Lhc scrccn, onc
by onc, wiLhouL íurLhcr (conLcxLual) commcnLary or cxplanaLion
cxccpL íor Lhc nondicgcLic, ccric violin sounds LhaL acccnLuaLc
Lhc dripping. CondiLioncd by numcrous horror movics, counLlcss
arLiclcs on Lhc making oí Lhc film, prcrclcasc rcvicws cvaluaLing
Harron’s adapLaLion, and, poLcnLially, Lhc mcmory cvokcd by
Lhc book iLsclí and Lhc public conLrovcrsy iL spawncd, Lhc audi-
cncc probably cxpccLs Harron Lo cuL Lo Lhc chasc righL írom Lhc
ouLscL and show PaLrick BaLcman—psychoLic Wall SLrccL brokcr
cxLraordinairc—commiLLing onc oí his grisly dccds. Civcn LhaL
Fllis’s novcl has gaincd Lhc qucsLionablc rcpuLaLion oí bcing onc
oí Lhc mosL scandalously gory Amcrican novcls cvcr Lo bc pub-
lishcd by a mainsLrcam publishing housc, iL makcs only scnsc íor
Harron Lo mark írom Lhc firsL sccnc whaL Lhc novcl is all abouL:
Representation, Affect, and American Psycho
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt jo
Tc slow dripping oí Lhc rcd gradually muLaLcs inLo a slow
drizzlc, pcrhaps suggcsLing a gaping wound waiLing off-scrccn Lo
bc rcvcalcd by onc oí Lhc ncxL shoLs. Tc audicncc rcadics iLsclí
íor somc poLcnLially discomíorLing imagcs—pcrhaps a closc-up
oí a slain woman wiLh hcr brcasLs cuL off, a homclcss bcggar wiLh
his cycs gougcd ouL, or a wcll-drcsscd yuppic puL ouL oí his mis-
cry by onc swiíL blow Lo Lhc hcad wiLh a dcsigncr ax.
AíLcr all,
wc havc sccn many horror flicks bcíorc, and Lhus wc know LhaL
Lhc rcd wc scc musL bc blood. YcL, Lo our surprisc—arLiculaLcd
by audiblc sighs oí rclicí convcycd Lhrough chuckling or ouLrighL
laughLcr by Lhc audicnccs wiLh whom I waLchcd Lhc film Lhc day
oí iLs LhcaLrical rclcasc—Lhc ncxL shoL rcvcals Lhc rcd running
down Lhc whiLc scrccn as noLhing morc ghasLly Lhan a dccoraLivc
condimcnL bcing drizzlcd around Lhc circumícrcncc oí an cxpcn-
sivc looking nouvcllc cuisinc dcsscrL. WhaL oncc was blood now
appcars Lo bc raspbcrry saucc.
WiLh Lhis wondcríully Codardian opcning momcnL, Lhc film
pcríormaLivcly inLroduccs Lhc novcl’s singular asigniíying, aí-
íccLivc íorcc. Or so iL sccms, íor almosL insLanLancously Harron
abandons hcr aLLcmpL aL rcndcring cincmaLically Fllis’s violcnL
LcxL as a qucsLion oí affccLs and íorccs raLhcr Lhan significaLions
and mcanings. As Lhis chapLcr will arguc in grcaLcr dcLail, Lhc
film subsLiLuLcs Lhc laLLcr qucsLion íor Lhc íormcr by cxLracLing
and rcshaping Lhc novcl’s íorccs in such a manncr LhaL Lhc film
quickly Lurns inLo a rclaLivcly LradiLional saLirc—in Lhis casc oí
Wall SLrccL capiLalism in Lhc :n8os as cxcmplificd by PaLrick BaLc-
man, Lhc psychoLically violcnL yuppic proLagonisL oí Fllis’s novcl.
In cincmaLically insLanLiaLing Lhc criLical rcccpLion oí Amerìcan
Psycho LhaL obscssivcly judgcd Fllis’s allcgcd saLirical rcprcscn-
LaLion oí Rcaganomics, Harron’s film sympLomaLically cmbod-
ics Lhc Lcndcncy oí culLural criLicism Lo conccivc oí violcncc as
a maLLcr oí rcprcscnLaLion and, in Lurn, Lo mark as ìudgment Lhc
incviLablc violcncc iL docs Lo a (violcnL) LcxL.
Rcmarkably, Harron’s film rcccivcd considcrably morc praisc
Lhan scorn, and nonc oí Lhc ncgaLivc criLical rcsponscs havc cvcn
comc closc Lo approaching Lhc lcvcl oí hosLiliLy launchcd againsL
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt j:
Fllis’s novcl.
Fvcn whcn Lhc film is rcvicwcd uníavorably, iL is sLill
sccn as an improvcmcnL ovcr Lhc book. In íacL, Lhosc who considcr
Lhc film a íailurc blamc Lhc book íor iL. For insLancc, Tony Rayns
claims in Sìght and Sound LhaL ovcrall “Lhc film docsn’L work” (ii).
Hc gocs on Lo arguc, howcvcr, LhaL, “againsL Lhc odds, Mary Har-
ron and Cuinivcrc Turncr havc succccdcd in cxLracLing a viablc
narraLivc scrccnplay írom Lhis ploLlcss blank. í . . . ] íT]hcy havc
scnsibly junkcd a hugc amounL” (ii). How, Lhcn, can wc cxplain
LhaL Lhc film has gcncrally bccn wcll rcccivcd whcn Lhc LcxLual
basis íor iL has bccn so widcly and íorccíully rcvilcd` Why has
Harron’s film adapLaLion avoidcd Lhc angcr and ouLragc LhaL Fllis
has bccn fighLing off sincc Lhc book’s publicaLion` Tis qucsLion
cmcrgcs as bcing cvcn morc pcrLincnL ií wc considcr LhaL many
criLics (írom boLh Lhc lcíL and Lhc righL) who arc conccrncd abouL
Lhc cffccLs LhaL arL mighL havc on a givcn audicncc mainLain LhaL
film Lcnds Lo bc a mcdium LhaL Lhrough iLs visccral immcdiacy
has Lhc powcr Lo affccL an audicncc morc violcnLly Lhan a book.
To bcgin answcring Lhcsc qucsLions, I suggcsL LhaL wc havc Lo
aLLcnd Lo onc oí Lhc film’s main cffccLs, namcly, iLs indcxing Lhc
pracLicc oí criLiquing boLh BrcL FasLon Fllis’s novcl and (violcnL)
LcxLs in gcncral. Tis indcxing occurs, howcvcr, prcciscly bccausc
Lhc film dcploys (a rcsponsc Lo) Lhc criLical discoursc surrounding
whaL I call Lhc cvcnL “Amcrican Psycho” as onc oí iLs kcy narraLivc
Taking scriously Lhis suggcsLion rcsulLs in an imporLanL mcLh-
odological conscqucncc íor Lhis chapLcr, namcly, LhaL iL docs noL
providc a susLaincd inLcrprcLaLion oí ciLhcr Lhc novcl or Lhc film.
Tis chapLcr is noL inLcrcsLcd in uncovcring Lhc mcaning oí ciLhcr
LcxL buL raLhcr in mapping ouL Lhc rclaLionship bcLwccn Lhcm
as iL maniícsLs iLsclí on and Lhrough Lhc suríacc lcvcl oí criLical
pracLiccs and discoursc. Unlikc mosL insLanccs oí cincmaLic adap-
LaLions oí liLcrary blucprinLs, I mainLain LhaL Amerìcan Psycho is
a spccial casc bccausc oí Lhc rolc playcd by Lhc criLical discoursc
surrounding Lhc novcl. Tis is noL simply Lurning a poorly wriL-
Lcn book inLo a rcspccLablc film, as may havc bccn Lhc casc, íor
insLancc, wiLh many noir films oí Lhc :nios and :n=os (cspccially
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt ji
Lhosc noL bascd on Lhc works by Dashicll HammcLL, Raymond
Chandlcr, or 1amcs M. Cain).
WhaL, Lhcn, docs criLicism oí violcncc do` Onc answcr is LhaL
iL comparcs. 1usL considcr LhaL onc oí Lhc mosL rcpcaLcd sLaLc-
mcnLs abouL mcdia violcncc is LhaL, supposcdly, Loday wc havc
morc mcdiaLcd violcncc (1v, movics, vidco gamcs) Lhan cvcr bc-
íorc. In íacL, Lhis comparaLivc sLaLcmcnL has achicvcd Lhc íalsc
wisdom oí “common scnsc,” as iL has bccn produccd by having
bccn rcpcaLcd ad nauscum íor Lhc lasL Lhrcc dccadcs.
An cxamplc
oí pcríormaLiviLy in Lhc Dcrridcan scnsc, such a clichc is parL oí
Lhc LargcL oí my projccL. IL is bccausc such “common scnsc” wis-
dom has coagulaLcd Lo a sLalc dogma LhaL our criLical and cLhical
Lask is Lo absLracL clichcs írom Lhc cxisLing misc-cn-sccnc oí criLi-
cal discoursc in ordcr Lo arLiculaLc whaL violcncc docs and how iL
works. In doing so wc will bcgin Lo dcvclop a diffcrcnL pcdagogi-
cal ncLwork LhaL offcrs a modc oí rcsponsc Lo violcncc LhaL, whilc
always consLiLuLing a íorm oí violcncc iLsclí, commiLs iLs violcncc
immancnLly, always hccding Lhc primacy oí a spccific arLiculaLion
oí violcncc as a mulLipliciLy oí íorccs.
Again, Lhcn, criLicism comparcs, whcLhcr Lhcmcs and sLylcs,
auLhors, or dirccLors, across dccadcs or wiLhin a givcn ycar.
pcrhaps mosL imporLanLly, criLicism’s ulLimaLc inLcrcsL Lcnds
Lo bc a comparison oí a diffcrcnL ycL rclaLcd kind: LhaL bcLwccn
Lhc LcxL and Lhc rcaliLy iL is said Lo rcprcscnL. NoLwiLhsLanding
Lhc LhcorcLical inLcrvcnLions oí posL-sLrucLuralisL philosophcrs
(or arLisLic pracLiccs such a I-A-N-C-U-A-C-F pocLry), onc oí
Lhc mosL dominanL habiLs oí culLural criLicism írom PlaLo Lo Lhc
prcscnL has bccn Lo comparc a work oí arL Lo rcaliLy; íurLhcr, aL
lcasL sincc PlaLo, Lhis comparison has bccn inscribcd wiLh Lhc
Lcndcncy Lo judgc Lhc work oí arL in Lcrms oí iLs LruLh valuc.
closcr arL rcscmblcs liíc, Lhc highcr iLs valuc; Lhc lcss accuraLc iLs
rcprcscnLaLion—Lhc morc dissimilar Lhc copy is írom Lhc origi-
nal—Lhc morc qucsLionablc iLs mcriL.
Obviously, iL would bc
ovcrly simplisLic Lo claim LhaL Loday’s criLics arc cxclusivcly, or aL
lcasL prcdominanLly, PlaLonisLs, and iL would bc cqually problcm-
aLic Lo suggcsL LhaL culLural criLicism has noL movcd bcyond MaL-
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt jj
Lhcw Arnold’s pracLicc oí moral criLicism. Howcvcr, by diagnosing
Lhc discoursc spawncd by Amerìcan Psycho, I wanL Lo show LhaL
Lhc parLicular sty|e oí conLcmporary cngagcmcnL wiLh violcnL
culLural LcxLs conLinucs Lo pcrpcLuaLc LhaL which has cmcrgcd
wiLh PlaLonism’s dcnunciaLion oí simulacra as dangcrously iníc-
rior arLiíacLs comparcd Lo “Lruc” copics: LhaL is, Lhc criLical habiL
Lo rcspond Lo violcnL arL as a maLLcr oí rcprcscnLaLion LhaL incvi-
Lably, howcvcr subLly, dcmands a judgmcnL oí iL.
Focusing on Lhc cvcnL “Amcrican Psycho,” oí coursc, is noL
a ncuLral choicc. RaLhcr, I am inLcrcsLcd in iL prcciscly bccausc
Lhc novcl, iLs criLical rcccpLion, and Lhc film as parL oí Lhc laL-
Lcr violcnLly arLiculaLc Lhc problcmaLic aL hand: Lhc way criLical
discoursc habiLually LranslaLcs Lhc asigniíying íorccs oí (liLcrary
and cincmaLic) imagcs—affccLivc inLcnsiLics—inLo a signiíy-
ing rcgimc oí judgmcnL. Tis rcgimc consisLcnLly qucsLions Lhc
valuc oí violcncc as ií wc alrcady kncw whaL violcncc in Lhc rcalm
oí acsLhcLics is or can do, all Lhc whilc ignoring in iLs shccr sclí-
assurancc Lhc NicLzschcan provocaLion Lo invcsLigaLc Lhc valuc
oí valuc iLsclí. ALLcnding Lo Lhc cvcnL “Amcrican Psycho,” Lhcn,
will hopcíully hclp us work ouL whaL is aL sLakc in Lhc qucsLion
oí imagcd violcncc, Lhus allowing us Lo íormulaLc a scrics oí
problcms LhaL subscqucnL chapLcrs will rcíramc, dcvclop, and
rcspond Lo.
Civcn LhaL criLicism is abouL comparing, Lhc qucsLion cmcrgcs
whcLhcr wc can imaginc ways oí comparison LhaL do noL rcly on,
or havc rccoursc Lo, Lhc modc oí judgmcnL as a crucial compo-
ncnL oí criLical pracLicc. Or, Lo puL a diffcrcnL spin on Lhis qucs-
Lion, givcn Lhc incviLabiliLy oí violcncc LhaL criLicism docs Lo LhaL
which iL cncounLcrs (i.c., any criLicism is sclccLivc and Lhus omiLs,
paraphrascs and Lhus changcs, LranslaLcs and Lhus alLcrs, cuLs
inLo Lhc objccL and Lhus cxLracLs), is iL possiblc íor criLicism Lo
mark iLs violcncc noL immcdiaLcly as judgmcnL`
Tc Lask hcrc is
nciLhcr Lo gcL rid oí comparison as a criLical Lool nor Lo dcny Lhc
incviLablc violcncc oí onc’s criLical pracLicc. RaLhcr, iL is Lo ask
why Lhis violcncc Lcnds Lo bc markcd as judgmcnL and whaL Lhc
cosL oí Lhis is, as wcll as whcLhcr wc posscss alLcrnaLivc Lools LhaL
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt ji
mighL allow us Lo cngagc in comparaLivc criLicism wiLhouL acccpL-
ing iLs inviLaLion Lo judgc.
Deleuze’s Symptomatology
WhaL, Lhcn, mighL bc Lhc problcm wiLh judgmcnL` Considcring
criLicism’s poLcnLial Lo bc somcLhing oLhcr Lhan criLiquc—which,
írom KanL on, has bccn Lhc mosL vcncraLcd way oí rcacLing Lo an
(arLisLic) cvcnL—Cillcs Dclcuzc providcs onc answcr Lo Lhis qucs-
Lion and, in Lurn, offcrs us a way oí rcsponding Lo cvcnLs wiLhouL
judgmcnL or, in any casc, wiLhouL immcdiaLcly having rccoursc Lo
iL. Fvoking Fricdrich NicLzschc, Baruch Spinoza, and AnLonin Ar-
Laud, Dclcuzc argucs in “To Havc Donc wiLh 1udgmcnL” LhaL Lhc
problcm wiLh judgmcnL is a pragmaLic onc: “1udgmcnL prcvcnLs
Lhc cmcrgcncc oí any ncw modc oí cxisLcncc. For Lhc laLLcr crc-
aLcs iLsclí Lhrough iLs own íorccs, LhaL is, Lhrough Lhc íorccs iL is
ablc Lo harncss, and is valid in and oí iLsclí inasmuch as iL brings
Lhc ncw combinaLion inLo cxisLcncc. Hcrcin, pcrhaps, lics Lhc sc-
crcL: to brìng ìnto exìstence and not to ìudge. Ií iL is so disgusLing Lo
judgc, iL is noL bccausc cvcryLhing is oí cqual valuc, buL on Lhc
conLrary bccausc whaL has valuc can bc madc or disLinguishcd
only by dcíying judgmcnL” (:j=, my cmphasis). IL is imporLanL
Lo sLrcss Dclcuzc’s asscrLion LhaL “noL cvcryLhing is oí cqual
valuc.” In oLhcr words, nciLhcr Dclcuzc nor ícllow posL-sLrucLur-
alisLs such as 1acqucs Dcrrida or Michcl FoucaulL arc rclaLivisLs
or nihilisLs, as Lhc anLiLhcory crowd oíLcn allcgcs. Civcn Lhc gc-
ncalogical connccLion Lo NicLzschc, Lo whom Lhc nihilisL was Lhc
cncmy, Lhis can bc ncws only Lo Lhosc who íalscly bclicvc LhaL
Lhc Ccrman philosophcr holds mass aL Lhc alLar oí nihilism. I scc
my argumcnL in íricndship wiLh Lhis nonnihilisLic, nonrclaLivisL,
NicLzschcan gcncalogy, íor which valuc has Lo bc produccd, noL
rcproduccd. In conLrasL, judgmcnL rcproduccs valuc bascd on a
prccxisLing (moral) ground, Lhus pcrpcLuaLing Lhc samc modcs oí
cxisLcncc raLhcr Lhan hclping Lhc ncw/diffcrcncc Lo cmcrgc.
Dclcuzc suggcsLs wc Lakc Spinoza’s claim LhaL wc do noL cvcn
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt j=
know whaL a body can do morc scriously. For Dclcuzc Lhc crucial
qucsLion is noL how Lo judgc a body buL Lo find ouL whaL clsc a
body is capablc oí and how iL can cxisL diffcrcnLly: how clsc can
a body cnLcr rclaLionships wiLh oLhcr bodics whosc opcraLivc cn-
ginc is affectìve íorcc—wiLh Lhc vccLor oí Lhis íorcc (iLs wcighL
and dirccLion, LhaL is, iLs inLcnsiLy) dcLcrmining Lhc capaciLy oí
a body boLh Lo bc affccLcd by and affccL oLhcr bodics` Hcncc, íor
Dclcuzc, whosc criLical cyc always scarchcs íor LhaL which has Lhc
capaciLy Lo producc ncw lincs oí flighL producLivc oí ncw modcs
oí cxisLcncc, iL is lovc and haLc—íorccs, affccLs—insLcad oí judg-
mcnL LhaL providc Lhc impcLus íor wriLing criLically on liLcraLurc
or film, íor diagnosing which rcsponscs work and which do noL.
Iovc and haLc, I should sLrcss, arc íundamcnLally diffcrcnL
modcs oí inLcnsiLy Lhan judgmcnL, noLwiLhsLanding Lhc impor-
LanL íacL LhaL all Lhrcc affccLivc modaliLics arc parL oí Lhc samc
sliding scalc oí rcsponsivcncss and Lhus rcsponsc-abiliLy. Sccn
in Lhis lighL, Lhc criLical Lask oí comparing is not a qucsLion oí
judging any givcn Lcrm oí Lhc comparison as supcrior or inícrior,
good or cvil. From Dclcuzc’s poinL oí vicw íor whom “Lhc only
Lruc criLicism is comparaLivc í . . . ] bccausc any work in a ficld is
iLsclí imbricaLcd wiLhin oLhcr ficlds” (“Brain Is Lhc Scrccn” j6¬),
Lhc judgmcnLal modc oí comparison sccms only Lo pcrpcLuaLc Lhc
sLaLus quo, as Lhis chapLcr will show in Lhc ncxL sccLions. IL con-
Linucs Lo affi rm a givcn moral ground bascd on which judgmcnL
is passcd, Lhus rcmaining incapablc oí invcnLing a ncw modc oí
rcsponsc or linc oí flighL. AgainsL Lhis, Dclcuzc cngagcs in com-
paraLivc criLicism bccausc iL allows connccLions Lo bc drawn, link-
agcs Lo bc íorcgroundcd, diffcrcnccs Lo bc arLiculaLcd—in shorL,
iL allows íor Lhc producLion oí ncw modcs oí cxisLcncc, oí bccom-
ing-affccLcd oLhcrwisc.
Pcrhaps mosL imporLanLly, comparaLivc criLicism as conccivcd
and pracLiccd by Dclcuzc is capablc oí diagnosing arL in Lcrms
oí sympLoms raLhcr Lhan syndromcs. Hc docs noL ask whaL Lhc
discasc (syndromc) “is” in ordcr Lo curc iL buL invcsLigaLcs Lhc
sympLomaLic íorccs (in NicLzschcan Lcrms, acLivc and rcacLivc
íorccs) LhaL makc up Lhc syndromc: hc asks whaL sympLoms do,
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt j6
how Lhcy work, raLhcr Lhan dcbaLing whcLhcr somcLhing is bad or
noL. InsLcad oí blaming a virus and Lrying Lo gcL rid oí iL bccausc
oí whaL iL ìs, íor insLancc, Dclcuzcan sympLomaLology diagnoscs
which íorccs oí Lhc virus’s makcup can bc harncsscd producLivcly.
Tc qucsLion is always, how can Lhcsc íorccs bc dcploycd dìffer-
ent|y` As Paul PaLLon, onc oí Dclcuzc’s mosL lucid commcnLaLors,
cxplains, “Whilc íillncss] is clcarly a rcacLivc íorcc, iLs valuc dc-
pcnds on Lhc naLurc oí Lhc subjccL and how iL rcsponds Lo Lhc ill-
ncss which acLs upon iL. Tc samc physiological sLaLc may wcakcn
somc powcrs buL also opcn ncw possibiliLics oí íccling or bring
abouL ncw capaciLics íor acLing and bcing acLcd upon” (6j).
RaLhcr Lhan conflaLing syndromcs wiLh sympLoms and Lhus
ovcrlooking Lhc way illncss is always mulLiplc, sympLomaLology
harncsscs Lhc varying íorccs immancnL Lo modcs oí cxisLcncc as
a way inLo human rclaLionships, inLo mulLipliciLy. Hcncc, symp-
LomaLology fighLs and cxpcrimcnLs wiLh Lhc mulLipliciLy oí íorccs
immancnL Lo somcLhing likc canccr (or, as will bc sccn Lhrough-
ouL, violcncc), noL bccausc oí somc moral undcrsLanding oí whaL
Lhc syndromc ìs, buL bccausc oí whaL Lhc sympLoms do—LhaL is,
bccausc oí Lhcir cffccLs.
PuL diffcrcnLly, comparison is always a sorL oí classificaLion,
somcLhing Dclcuzc was parLicularly íond oí LhroughouL his liíc.

Hc argucs LhaL a “classificaLion always involvcs bringing LogcLhcr
Lhings wiLh vcry diffcrcnL appcaranccs and scparaLing Lhosc LhaL
arc vcry similar. í . . . ] A classificaLion is always a sympLomaLol-
ogy” (“Brain Is Lhc Scrccn” j68). Dclcuzc’s usc oí sympLoms,
howcvcr, oughL noL Lo bc coníuscd wiLh hcrmcncuLic psychoana-
lyLic pracLiccs whcrc sympLoms arc ulLimaLcly somcLhing Lo bc
uncovcrcd and curcd. Oí coursc, noL all psychoanalysis is hung
up on uncovcring sympLoms. For cxamplc, Slavoj Žižck proposcs
íor psychoanalysis Lo íocus on Lhc ícLish raLhcr Lhan sympLoms
bccausc Loday “idcology íuncLions in a way LhaL is much closcr
Lo Lhc noLion oí íLhc íormcr]” (“Philosophcr” 8). His noLion oí
sympLom, howcvcr, crucially diffcrs írom Dclcuzc’s in LhaL íor
Žižck cvcryLhing bcgins and cnds wiLh Lhc Iacanian noLion oí
consLiLuLivc Iack—Lhc impossiblc nonobjccL oí dcsirc LhaL, íor
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt j¬
Iacanian psychoanalysis in iLs bcsL íorm, dcfincs Lhc proccss oí
subjccL, and Lhus social, íormaLion. In conLrasL, Iack—rcprcscn-
LaLion—plays no such rolc in Dclcuzc’s LhoughL. IL is prcciscly
Lhis conccpLual aporia bcLwccn Dclcuzc and 1acqucs Iacan LhaL,
dcspiLc Lhcir LhoughLs’ many sccming convcrgcnccs, marks Lhc
irrcduciblc diffcrcncc bcLwccn Lhcm.
For Dclcuzc, Lhcn, sympLomaLology diagnoscs Lhc diffcrcnccs
bcLwccn objccLs in ordcr Lo cmphasizc Lhc diffcrcnccs wiLhouL
cradicaLing Lhcm, wiLhouL rcducing Lhcm Lo somc prior original
idcnLiLy, including Lhc ccnLral Iacanian conccpL oí Iack LhaL is
supposcd Lo govcrn Lhc cnLircLy oí our sociopsychic cconomy.
FurLhcr, iL dcscribcs Lhcsc diffcrcnccs as bcing produccd on Lhc
samc planc oí immancncc—LhaL is, objccLs’ diffcrcnccs rcsulL
írom Lhc samc ficld oí suríacc íorccs aL work in Lhc samc culLural-
hisLorical maLrix. To comparc somcLhing wiLh somcLhing clsc,
Lhcrcíorc, is always a maLLcr oí diagnosing onc objccL through Lhc
oLhcr, as a rcsponsc Lo iL, in an aLLcmpL Lo dcscribc whaL Lhc dií-
ícrcnccs arc, whcrc Lhcy comc írom, whaL Lhcir inLcnsiLics arc,
and whaL Lhcy suggcsL abouL Lhc íorccs LhaL havc produccd Lhc
Immancncc, as Alain Badiou puLs iL, “rcquircs LhaL you placc
yoursclí whcrc LhoughL has alrcady sLarLcd, as closc as possiblc
Lo a singular casc and Lo Lhc movcmcnL oí LhoughL” (:i). Hcncc,
immancnL criLicism docs noL dcsirc an (unaLLainablc and Lhus
always lacking) ouLsidc írom which Lo judgc saícly Lhc moraliLy
oí Lhc cvcnL. CommcnLing on Lhc poliLical and cLhical incffi cacy
oí culLural and poliLical criLicism’s dcsirc íor an ouLsidc, promi-
ncnL MarxisL culLural LhcorisLs Michacl HardL and AnLonio Nc-
gri concur wiLh Dclcuzc’s philosophy oí immancncc and conLcnd
LhaL “wc should bc donc oncc and íor all wiLh Lhc scarch íor an
ouLsidc, a sLandpoinL LhaL imagincs a puriLy íor our poliLics. IL is
bcLLcr boLh LhcorcLically and pracLically Lo cnLcr Lhc Lcrrain í. . .]
and coníronL iLs homogcnizing and hcLcrogcnizing flows in all
Lhcir complcxiLy, grounding our analysis in Lhc powcr oí Lhc í. . .]
mulLiLudc” (i6). In oLhcr words, Lhc only way ouL is Lhrough.
Taking Lhc basic LcncLs oí sympLomaLological comparaLivc
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt j8
criLicism—inLcnsiLy, immancncc, and a BarLlcbycsquc aLLiLudc
Loward judgmcnL, Lhc cxhausLcd “I would prcícr noL Lo” insLcad
oí Lhc sadisLic dcsirc Lo Lransgrcss as a pcríormaLivc mcans Lo
pass judgmcnL—as Lhc arrow oí LhoughL Lo bc caughL and rcdi-
rccLcd, lcL us Lurn Lo Lhc comparison aL hand: ícminisL dirccLor
Mary Harron’s cincmaLic rcsponsc Lo Fllis’s much-loaLhcd Amerì-
can Psycho. Rcsponding Lo boLh Dclcuzc’s aLLiLudc Loward com-
paraLivc criLicism and Lhc objccLs oí comparison, I wanL Lo diag-
nosc Lhc diffcrcnccs bcLwccn Lhc novcl and iLs movic adapLaLion
as sympLoms oí Lhc largcr discoursc LhaL Lhc novcl has produccd
and, in Lurn, bccn affccLcd by sincc Lhc prcpublicaLion oí sclccLcd
passagcs oí Fllis’s LcxL in Tìme and Spy LhaL inLroduccd Lhc public
Lo Lhc novcl’s LiLlc characLcr, PaLrick BaLcman, as hc cngagcs in
cxLrcmc acLs oí violcncc. All Loo oíLcn, criLics arguc LhaL Harron’s
film capLurcs Lhc csscncc oí Fllis’s novcl buL is bcLLcr bccausc iL
condcnscd Lhc cxccsscs oí Lhc book. IL is againsL Lhis cradicaLion
oí diffcrcncc bcLwccn Lwo works oí arLisLic producLion—Lhc cli-
sion oí spccificiLy in íavor oí ulLimaLcly collapsing Lhc Lwo LcxLs
as onc—LhaL I wanL Lo dcploy Dclcuzc’s conccpL oí “sympLom-
aLology,” which hc firsL inLroduccd in Masochìsm: “SympLomaLol-
ogy is always a qucsLion oí arL” and is offcrcd againsL dialccLical
sublimaLion in ordcr Lo íosLcr “a criLical and clinical appraisal ablc
Lo rcvcal Lhc Lruly diffcrcnLial mcchanisms as wcll as Lhc arLisLic
originaliLics” (:i). By sympLomaLologically cngaging Harron’s
film as a rcsponsc Lo Lhc cvcnL “Amcrican Psycho”—LhaL is, Lo
Lhc novcl and iLs discursivc hisLory—I ulLimaLcly conccivc oí Lhc
rcsL oí Lhis chapLcr as an aLLcmpL aL arLiculaLing whaL iL cosLs
criLical discoursc consisLcnLly Lo rcad Fllis’s novcl rcprcscnLaLion-
ally, LhaL is, as a saLirc oí Lhc immoral maLcrialisL cxccsscs oí Rca-
ganomics or, as Cavin SmiLh puLs iL in his rcvicw, as “a mordanLly
íunny and agrccably blaLanL saLirc wiLh gcnuinc subvcrsivc biLc”
Morc spccifically, I wanL Lo cxaminc whaL iL cosLs us in Lcrms
oí our capaciLy Lo rcspond Lo a violcnLly boring as wcll as boringly
violcnL LcxL such as Amerìcan Psycho whcn criLical discoursc con-
Linucs Lo affi rm—indccd cclcbraLc—Harron’s dccision Lo rcmovc
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt jn
Lhc novcl’s “cxccss íaL in a kind oí cincmaLic liposucLion” (Holdcn
s:). As a rcsulL oí Harron’s flaLLcning ouL oí Fllis’s LcxL, Lhc film
cnds up cradicaLing Lhc novcl’s varying inLcnsiLics as cmbodicd
by iLs composiLional corncrsLoncs (rcpcLiLion, borcdom, and vio-
lcncc) in ordcr Lo rcpcaL Lhc criLical ordcr-word “saLirc” LhaL has
dominaLcd Lhc popular and criLical rcccpLion oí Fllis’s novcl írom
Lhc vcry bcginning.
I wanL Lo íorcground whaL happcns wiLh a
Lypc oí criLicism LhaL “conLinually rclics on and rcLurns Lo oldcr
acsLhcLic caLcgorics ísuch as saLirc], cvcn in iLs cngagcmcnL wiLh
radically diffcrcnL íorms oí culLural producLion”—namcly, LhaL iL
rcmains incapablc oí hccding Lhcsc works’ “call íor ncw Lcrms íor
dcscribing our rcsponscs Lo innovaLivc works, ncw dirccLions Lo
bc uscd in Lhc work oí criLically commcnLing on Lhcm” (Ngai :6).
In oLhcr words, whilc I will spccifically comparc admiLLcdly sclcc-
Livc momcnLs írom Fllis’s novcl and Harron’s film adapLaLion, I am
noL so much inLcrcsLcd in simply asscrLing LhaL Lhcsc Lwo LcxLs
arc diffcrcnL, lcL alonc LhaL onc is bcLLcr Lhan Lhc oLhcr. Prcciscly
bccausc Lhc rcal qucsLion violcnL imagcs raisc is noL whcLhcr vio-
lcncc is good or bad buL whaL iL docs, I insLcad wanL Lo cxaminc
whaL Lhc LcxLs’ diffcrcnccs consisLs oí, írom whaL pracLiccs Lhcsc
diffcrcnccs cmcrgc, and why Lhc diffcrcnccs indccd makc a diffcr-
cncc íor culLural criLicism’s capaciLy Lo rcspond Lo boLh Amerìcan
Psycho in parLicular and acsLhcLic violcncc in gcncral.
Harron’s Film as a Double Response
From Lhc bcginning, criLics havc conccnLraLcd on Lhrcc rclaLcd
qucsLions abouL Fllis’s novcl: whcLhcr Lhc LcxL’s violcncc is im-
moral or noL, whcLhcr Amerìcan Psycho is a succcssíul saLirc or
noL, and whcLhcr Lhc inccssanL rcpcLiLivcncss and flaLncss oí Lhc
book’s prosc indicaLcs a saLirical purposc or mcrc lack oí auLho-
rial skill. Tosc who condcmn Lhc novcl as immoral consisLcnLly
rcjccL iLs saLirical componcnL and dcny Fllis any skill whaLsocvcr.
ChrisLophcr Hudson, íor cxamplc, argucs, “Ií Lhcrc had bccn
somc anguishcd purposc bchind íLhc novcl’s] obsccniLics—íor
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt io
insLancc, Lo rcflccL upon man or his socicLy in cxLrcmis—Lhcy
mighL, jusL possibly, havc bccn dcícnsiblc. Amerìcan Psycho ap-
pcars Lo bc cmpLy oí any purposc whaLsocvcr, oLhcr Lhan Lo gcL
iLs auLhor back in Lhc ncws aíLcr Lhc criLical and commcrcial íail-
urc oí his sccond novcl, Ru|es oj Attractìon” (qLd. in Icbcau :i¬).
Tcrry TcachouL concurs: “IL’s incpLly wriLLcn. IL’s sophomoric. IL
is, in Lhc LrucsL scnsc oí Lhc word, obsccnc” (i=). And, mosL inía-
mously, Rogcr RoscnblaLL cncouragcs New York Tìmes rcadcrs Lo
snuff Fllis’s book bccausc oí iLs “moronic and sadisLic conLcnLs,”
bccausc iL is “so poinLlcss, so Lhcmclcss, so cvcryLhinglcss,” and
bccausc Lhc novcl’s main characLcr “has no moLivaLion íor his
madncss íand] is ncvcr broughL Lo jusLicc.”
Tosc who arc willing Lo cnLcrLain Lhc idca LhaL Lhc novcl
mighL havc a moral purposc aLLcmpL Lo rcscuc Lhc novcl írom iLs
dcLracLors by making as good oí a casc as possiblc íor Lhc LcxL’s
saLirical inLcnLions and cffccLs.
CriLics’ aLLiLudc Loward Fllis’s
sLylc, in Lurn, Lcnds Lo bc dcLcrmincd by how Lhcy judgc Lhc ovcr-
all cffccL oí Lhc novcl: Lhosc who judgc iL as conscrvaLivc rcjccL
his sLylc as arLlcss; Lhosc who judgc Lhc novcl as a morc or lcss
good saLirc Lhink oí Lhc sLylc as aL lcasL noL cnLircly poinLlcss.

Rcgardlcss oí Lhc ouLcomc oí Lhc criLics’ judgmcnL, howcvcr, Lhc
novcl’s violcncc iLsclí is ncvcr conccpLualizcd; iL ncvcr consLiLuLcs
Lhc íocus íor rcsponsc in and oí iLsclí. IndicaLivc oí Lhc gcncral
diffi culLics suríacing whcn criLical discoursc cncounLcrs Lhc issuc
oí violcncc, Lhc rcccpLion oí Amerìcan Psycho always configurcs
Lhc novcl’s violcncc as allcgorical or mcLaphorical, as bcing abouL
somcLhing oLhcr Lhan violcncc iLsclí—and Lhc succcss oí Lhc vi-
olcncc’s rcprcscnLaLional sLaLus dcLcrmincs Lhc criLical judgmcnL
oí iL. In oLhcr words, Lhc criLical violcncc donc Lo Fllis’s LcxL—iL-
sclí íurLhcr highlighLcd by Lhc passionaLc, oíLcn viLriolic rhcLoric
dcploycd by Lhc criLics—marks iLsclí in Lcrms oí “judgmcnL,” as
bcing conccrncd wiLh whcLhcr violcncc is good or bad raLhcr Lhan
wiLh whaL iL docs.
Now, Lhis criLical violcncc donc Lo Lhc novcl—onc which con-
sisLcnLly marks iLsclí as “judgmcnL”—docs noL so much consLi-
LuLc a problcm bccausc any oí Lhcsc criLics arc “wrong”; raLhcr,
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt i:
iL raiscs Lhc morc inLcrcsLing qucsLions oí whaL judgmcnL docs,
oí whaL iLs cffccLs arc. Among Lhc many cffccLs Lhis spccific criLi-
cal judgmcnL had, onc oí Lhc mosL rcmarkablc was Lo havc cs-
Lablishcd Lhc condiLions oí possibiliLy íor íuLurc rcsponscs Lo
Fllis’s Amerìcan Psycho—in Lhis casc Mary Harron’s film. In oLhcr
words, Harron hardly could ignorc Lhc vicious and wcll-publicizcd
characLcr oí Lhc criLical rcsponsc Lo Fllis’s novcl, íor Lhc spcci-
ficiLics oí Lhc rcccpLion’s Lcrms consLiLuLcd Lhc discursivc íorma-
Lion by which any arLiculaLion oí íuLurc rcsponscs was bound.

WhaLcvcr hcr pcrsonal rcsponsc Lo Fllis’s LcxL mighL havc bccn,
by Lhc Limc oí shooLing hcr film, Harron’s rcsponsc was incviLa-
bly bound Lo bc a rcsponsc Lo Fllis through Lhc criLical rcsponsc
LhaL circulaLcd in Lhc public íor Lhc prcvious dccadc. Civcn Lhc
írcqucnL aLLacks on Lhc novcl as dangcrously immoral garbagc,
Lhc possibiliLics íor Harron Lo rcspond Lo Lhc LcxL wiLhouL im-
mcdiaLcly scLLing hcrsclí up íor Lhc samc kind oí rcsponsc LhaL
Fllis rcccivcd wcrc limiLcd. To avoid Lhc poLcnLial criLical ouLragc
looming aL Lhc horizon, Harron—who in hcr firsL ícaLurc-lcngLh
film, ! Shot Andy warho| (:nn6), rcvisiLcd Lhc biography oí Valcric
Salonas, Lhc iníamous auLhor oí Lhc scur (SocicLy íor CuLLing Up
Mcn) maniícsLo and wannabc assassin oí Andy Warhol—was cs-
scnLially íorccd Lo rcspond Lo Lhc criLical discoursc by ampliíying
Lhc clcmcnL LhaL was LhoughL Lo bc Lhc solcly rcdccming íacLor oí
Fllis’s violcnL novcl: namcly, iLs saLirc.
Oí coursc, films arc subjccL Lo raLing sysLcms and Lhus cannoL
always show whaL novcls can, lcsL Lhcy rcccivc an X raLing. (In-
cidcnLally, wc can casily imaginc Olivcr SLonc, who had bccn in-
LcrcsLcd in dirccLing Lhc film, grcaLly ampliíying Lhc violcncc and
gcLLing away wiLh iL.) Howcvcr, I arguc prcciscly LhaL íocusing on
Lhc rcprcscnLaLional quantìty oí cincmaLic gorc consLiLuLcs, in a
scnsc, Lhc problcm wiLh much oí culLural criLicism oí violcncc.
Harron’s film would noL ncccssarily havc bccn morc affccLivcly
chargcd had shc includcd morc violcncc. AffccL is noL simply a
maLLcr oí “morc” in Lhc purcly quanLiLaLivc scnsc oí Lhc word;
raLhcr, iL is a maLLcr oí morc or lcss in Lhc scnsc oí inLcnsiLy. For
insLancc, an cxamplc oí Lhc íormcr would bc Lo gcL drunk by con-
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt ii
suming a boLLlc oí ScoLch; an cxamplc oí Lhc laLLcr would bc Lo
gcL drunk on waLcr (scc Dclcuzc and CuaLLari, Tousand P|ateaus
:66). Tc qucsLion, Lhus, is how and Lo whaL cffccL cincma could
rcndcr Amerìcan Psycho’s violcncc nonrcprcscnLaLionally, raLhcr
Lhan whcLhcr morc lcnicnL codcs would lcad Lo morc LruLhíul
rcprcscnLaLions. Can wc, íor cxamplc, imaginc a Codardian cn-
counLcr LhaL docs noL dcpcnd íor iLs affccLivc íorcc on rcprcscnL-
ing Fllis’s violcncc by Lrying Lo push Lhc boundarics oí indusLry
limiLs Lo Lhcir uLmosL` TaL is, Codard’s qucsLions—“BuL arc
Lhcsc Lhc words and imagcs Lo usc` Arc Lhcrc no oLhcrs`” (Two or
Tree Tìngs, :n66)—rcmain as rclcvanL as cvcr whcn iL comcs Lo
any aLLcmpL Lo imagc an cvcnL.
In oLhcr words, by magniíying Lhc novcl’s saLirical aspccLs, Har-
ron’s film cmphasizcs LhaL Fllis’s violcnL novcl rea||y rcprcscnLs a
criLiquc oí Lhc social raLhcr Lhan consLiLuLing mindlcss glorifica-
Lion oí violcncc, as has írcqucnLly bccn allcgcd.
From Lhis symp-
LomaLological vicw oí Lhc cvcnL “Amcrican Psycho,” Lhcn, iL docs
noL comc as a surprisc LhaL Lhc film cmbodics Lhc criLical dcbaLc
LhaL prcccdcd iL. Tc film docs indccd mark iLs main inLcrcsL in
saLirizing Lhc shallowncss and cruclLy oí :n8os Amcrican capiLal-
ism, a íacL almosL unanimously aLLcsLcd Lo by Lhc film’s criLical rc-
ccpLion. (In íacL, onc hardly finds any posiLivc rcvicw oí Lhc film
LhaL docs noL usc Lhc word “saLirc.” Fvcn Lhc rcvicws cxprcssing
dissaLisíacLion wiLh Lhc film discuss iL in Lhcsc Lcrms.)
qucsLion, according Lo Lhc film, Fllis’s novcl ncgaLivcly judgcs iLs
rcprcscnLaLion oí Wall SLrccL Amcrica; in Lurn, Lhc film posiLivcly
judgcs whaL iL pcrccivcs Lo bc Lhc novcl’s saLirical rcprcscnLaLion
and docs iLs bcsL Lo clariíy Lhis purposc. Tc novcl’s violcncc, in
all oí Lhis, íuncLions mcrcly as a mcLaphor íor capiLalism’s can-
nibalisLic cruclLy—onc LhaL can bc acccpLcd prcciscly bccausc iL
mcrcly allcgorizcs Lhc largcr poinL oí Lhc novcl.
Four rclaLivcly bricí cxamplcs suffi cc Lo illusLraLc how cxacLly
Lhc film modifics Lhc novcl in ordcr Lo ampliíy and clucidaLc iLs
saLirical—and Lhus rcprcscnLaLional—qualiLy. FirsL, Harron
spliccs diffcrcnL sccncs írom Lhc book LogcLhcr as a mcans oí
clariíying BaLcman’s moLivaLion and psychology. Shc Lhus ncu-
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt ij
Lralizcs Lhc possibiliLy íor a rccurrcncc oí onc argumcnL lcvicd
againsL Fllis, namcly, LhaL hc íailcd Lo providc any insighL inLo
why a human bcing mighL bc inclincd Lo such cxLrcmc violcncc.

Sccond, Harron adds Lwo sccncs noL írom Lhc book iLsclí in or-
dcr Lo makc Lhc oLhcrwisc dormanL dcLccLivc sLory oí Fllis’s LcxL
sccm much morc crucial. Tc firsL sccnc has BaLcman draw Lhc
killing oí a prosLiLuLc on a LablccloLh as hc siLs across írom his
fiancc, LcrminaLing Lhcir rclaLionship ovcr dinncr aL an upscalc
rcsLauranL. Tc sccond shows his ícmalc sccrcLary, 1can (Chloc
Scvigny), scarching BaLcman’s offi cc dcsk aíLcr hc placcd a raLhcr
incohcrcnL and dcspcraLc-sounding phonc call Lo hcr. FvcnLually,
shc finds a noLcbook in which BaLcman has drawn a grcaL num-
bcr oí graphic LorLurc sccncs. Magniíying Lhc dcLccLivc clcmcnL
providcs Lhc film wiLh prcciscly LhaL which Lhc book lackcd Lo Lhc
angry dismay oí many criLics: a ploL. In addiLion Lo lcsscning Lhc
likclihood íor criLics’ complainLs LhaL Lhc film’s violcncc mighL
bc purcly scnsaLionalisL and graLuiLous (íamiliar chargcs againsL
Fllis’s “ploLlcss blank”), Lhc cmphasis on Lhc dcLccLivc ploL also
cncouragcs Lhc audicncc Lo íocus on Lhc qucsLion oí whcLhcr or
noL Lhc violcncc wc scc on scrccn rea||y Lranspircd. Tc audicncc
iLsclí Lurns inLo dcLccLivcs, dcsiring Lo disccrn bcLwccn cvcnLs
LhaL Lruly occurrcd and Lhosc LhaL consLiLuLc mcrc íanLasics oí
Lhc proLagonisL.
Tird, Harron allows acLor ChrisLian Balc Lo puL on a raLhcr
affccLcd pcríormancc oí PaLrick BaLcman LhaL clcarly draws Lhc
Amcrican Psycho as onc oí Lhc mosL ludicrous “monsLcr” charac-
Lcrs in film hisLory. ConíronLcd wiLh Lhis vcrsion oí BaLcman, Lhc
audicncc can íccl supcrior and Lhus is likcly Lo rcmain uninLcr-
csLcd in idcnLiíying iLsclí wiLh him. In oLhcr words, Lhc film hclps
Lhc vicwcr Lo mainLain a disLancc Lo Lhc characLcr, which allows
him morc casily Lo snccr aL Lhc ridiculousncss oí boLh BaLcman
as a characLcr and Lhc world hc appcars Lo rcprcscnL.
In con-
LrasL, Lhc novcl has oíLcn bccn criLicizcd íor sadisLically luring
Lhc rcadcr inLo sympaLhizing wiLh BaLcman only Lo bcLray and
punish hcr by ovcrwhclming hcr wiLh dcscripLivc onslaughLs oí
cxLrcmc violcncc. Finally, Harron downplays Lhc cxpliciLncss oí
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt ii
Lhc novcl’s inLcnsc violcncc by Lurning iL inLo a raLhcr comíorLing
and íamiliar slapsLicklikc violcncc LhaL is casily rccognizablc Lo
Lhc audicncc írom, say, Lhc Scrcam íranchisc. Violcncc in Har-
ron’s film is, by and largc, a maLLcr oí laughLcr, albciL aL Limcs
uncasy laughLcr, whcrcas in Lhc novcl, Lo many criLics’ consLcrna-
Lion, Lhc violcncc inspircd noLhing buL purc incomprchcnsion. In
shorL, all oí Lhcsc sLylisLic dcviccs scrvc Harron Lo Lakc Lhc wind
ouL oí Lhosc criLics’ sails who mighL oLhcrwisc havc bccn inclincd
Lo crush hcr film íor Lhc samc rcasons LhaL Lhcy lambasLcd Fllis’s
book. Crucially, Harron succccds aL Lhis Lask prcciscly by Lrans-
íorming Lhc criLical discoursc on Lhc book inLo Lhc cnginc íor Lhc
producLion and sLrucLuring oí hcr cincmaLic imagcs.
Spcnding any morc Limc Lhan I havc alrcady on mapping ouL
Lhc saLirical LrajccLory oí Harron’s film would go againsL Lhc
poinL oí Lhis chapLcr, namcly, LhaL Harron’s film is a sympLomaLic
effect oí Lhc novcl and iLs rcccpLion, an cffccL LhaL has alrcady
maniícsLcd iLsclí raLhcr obviously in Lhc film’s rcvicws. Tc íacL
is, Harron’s film consLiLuLcs a rcsponsc Lo Fllis’s novcl LhaL has
soliciLcd a criLical rcccpLion almosL complcLcly Lhc rcvcrsc oí LhaL
provokcd by Lhc original LcxL: Lo wiL, criLical discoursc affi rms
Harron’s saLirical sLraLcgics and praiscs hcr dccisions Lo alLcr Lhc
novcl so LhaL jusL abouL cvcryLhing offcnsivc abouL iL has disap-
pcarcd. Hcrc, I jusL wanL Lo dcmarcaLc Lhc cost involvcd in allow-
ing Lhc ordcr-word “saLirc”—which Lcnds Lo bc mcrcly anoLhcr
namc íor Lhc cvcn oldcr ordcr-word “TruLh” and Lhc rcgimc oí
rcprcscnLaLion wiLhin which iL íuncLions—Lo dominaLc onc’s (in-
sLiLuLionalizcd) rcsponsc Lo a LcxL such as Fllis’s. AíLcr all, whaL
do wc know oncc wc havc dcLcrmincd LhaL Lhc novcl is saLirical`
WhaL do wc know abouL Lhc íorcc oí Lhc LcxL—Lhc íorcc oí lan-
guagc and imagcs as such—oncc wc know LhaL Amerìcan Psycho
is a (un)succcssíul saLirc` WhaL cxacLly do wc know abouL cvcn
sympaLhcLic rcadcrs’ cxLrcmc diffi culLy in dcaling wiLh Lhc novcl
oncc wc havc cndlcssly rcpcaLcd and obcycd Lhc ordcr Lo confinc
Lhc LcxL on Lhc lcvcl oí saLirc` WhaL prcciscly do wc know abouL
Lhc obscssion LhaL cffccLuaLcd and affccLcd Lhc wriLing oí Lhc LcxL
and, in Lurn, Lhc rcading oí iL oncc wc havc concludcd LhaL Lhc
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt i=
LcxL was mcanL Lo bc saLirical or oncc wc havc dccidcd whcLhcr or
noL BaLcman rcally did Lhc violcnL dccds jusL dcpicLcd (cvcn ií wc
dccidc LhaL wc cannoL dccidc)`
And, finally, whaL do wc know
abouL LhaL which upscLs so many rcadcrs oí Amerìcan Psycho—Lhc
“cxccssivc,” uncxplaincd, “incomprchcnsiblc” violcncc—oncc wc
agrcc LhaL Lhc novcl saLirizcs Lhc capiLalisL cxccsscs oí Lhc pasL`
Wc havc Lo ask oursclvcs, Lhcrcíorc, whaL oLhcr cffccLs Har-
ron’s sLraLcgic modificaLions oí Fllis’s novcl (mighL havc) had:
whaL docs Harron’s sLraLcgy and iLs wholchcarLcd cmbracc by
criLical discoursc cosL us wiLh rcgard Lo our capaciLy Lo rcspond
noL only Lo Fllis’s cxLrcmcly violcnL LcxL buL also Lo violcnL im-
agcs in gcncral` To find somc answcrs, lcL us cxaminc Harron’s
handling oí whaL arguably consLiLuLcs Lhc novcl’s mosL impor-
LanL dynamic: Lhc inLcracLion bcLwccn iLs boringly slow passagcs
oí cndlcssly rcpcaLcd dcLails oí BaLcman’s liíc and Lhc spccdcd-up
inLcrrupLions oí violcnL ouLbursLs.
Te Boredom of Violence, the Violence of Boredom
Tc main diffcrcncc bcLwccn Harron’s film and Fllis’s book is
markcd by Lhc cxLcnL Lo which borcdom is dcploycd as a major
sLylisLic sLraLcgy. Rcmcmbcr LhaL onc oí Lhc mosL annoying parLs
oí Lhc novcl is Lhc cndlcss rcpcLiLion oí brand namcs, workouL
rouLincs, rcsLauranL mcnus, cloLhing advicc, Lclcvision programs,
music criLicism, misogynisL commcnLs, and non scquiLur chiLchaL.
Arguably, whaL happcns in rcading Lhc novcl is LhaL (íaiLhíul, or
pcrhaps bcLLcr, paLicnL) rcadcrs bccomc borcd by Fllis’s narra-
Livc—dcspiLc iLs occasionally undcniablc humor—and cvcnLually
bcgin Lo long íor somc acLion. (Rcmcmbcr Loo LhaL Lhc firsL sccnc
oí graphic violcncc docs noL cvcn occur bcíorc abouL onc-Lhird
oí Lhc way inLo Lhc book.) Tc acLion, oí coursc, arrivcs—as a
surprisc Lo Lhosc rcadcrs who paid liLLlc aLLcnLion Lo a numbcr
oí hinLs indicaLing LhaL somcLhing may bc amiss wiLh BaLcman
and pcrhaps lcss surprising Lo Lhosc who havc puL Lhosc hinLs Lo-
gcLhcr and aL Lhc vcry lcasL wcrc awarc oí BaLcman’s pcnchanL íor
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt i6
violcnL acLions. BuL, as shocking as Lhc LorLuring oí a homclcss
man and his dog surcly is, iL is only Lhc gradual incrcasc in rcpcLi-
Lion oí cxcccdingly bruLal muLilaLions oí busincss acquainLanccs
and íormcr or currcnL scx parLncrs LhaL Lhrough a spccdcd-up
cumulaLivc cffccL bcgins Lo affccL Lhc rcadcrs in such a manncr
LhaL Lhcy find Lhcmsclvcs in a posiLion Lhcy havc noL occupicd
bcíorc, LhaL Lhcy havc noL dcsircd—a posiLion LhaL calls íor a rc-
sponsc íor which, cvidcnLly, Lhc “Lools” arc noL (ycL) immcdiaLcly
Hcncc, as cvinccd by Lhc book’s rcccpLion, mosL rcadcrs
sooncr or laLcr bcgin Lo long prcciscly íor LhaL írom which Lhcy
havc wanLcd Lo cscapc: Lhc boring iLincraLion oí consumcr goods,
shallow obscrvaLions, and scnsclcss acLiviLics. In oLhcr words,
Fllis’s abandonmcnL oí any prcLcnsc Lo characLcrizaLion, psy-
chology, or moLivaLion paradoxically lurcs rcadcrs inLo longing
íor Lhc vcry violcncc Fllis docs Lo Fnglish prosc. Rcadcrs prcícr
Lhc affccLivc qualiLy oí prosaic, Lhough oíLcn comical, borcdom
Lo LhaL oí hcighLcncd graphic aggrcssion, ycL iL is, oí coursc, Lhc
cxposurc Lo Lhc íormcr LhaL affccLs and cffccLuaLcs Lhc rcsponsc
Lo Lhc laLLcr. Clcarly, Lhcn, Lhc rcpulsivcncss oí Lhc LcxL dccidcdly
cxisLs on boLh lcvcls, as cvidcnccd by Lhc jorceíulncss oí Lhc criLi-
cal rcsponscs Lo iL: LhaL oí Lhc acLual physical violcncc commiLLcd
by BaLcman and LhaL oí Lhc prosc iLsclí. WhaL rcadcrs discovcr
is LhaL, in Lhc cnd, Lhcrc indccd cxisLs “no cxiL” (Fllis jnn), no
way ouL írom Lhc cndlcss onslaughL oí Lhc diffcrcnL buL muLually
rcsonaLing affccLivc rcgisLcrs oí violcncc.
ConLrary Lo Lhc novcl, Lhc film’s cmphasis on Lhc “rcalncss” oí
BaLcman’s acLions—hcighLcncd by iLs cxpliciL rcliancc on dcLcc-
Lion as a main ploLLing dcvicc—providcs Lhc audicncc wiLh an
cxiL by LranslaLing Lhc qucsLion oí violcncc and affccL inLo LhaL
oí LruLh and rcprcscnLaLion, wiLhouL cvcr hinLing LhaL LruLh iL-
sclí is an affccLivcly chargcd producL and pracLicc oí violcncc as
wcll. Howcvcr, iL is hard Lo bclicvc LhaL rcadcrs sLruggling jusL Lo
gcL Lhrough Lhc novcl arc all LhaL conccrncd wiLh Lhc qucsLion oí
whcLhcr or noL BaLcman acLually commiLLcd Lhc violcnL dccds. Ií
noLhing clsc, Lhis qucsLion—Lhc qucsLion oí LruLh—arrivcs aí-
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt i¬
Lcrward, buL whaLcvcr arrivcs Lhcn has alrcady bccn affccLcd and
cffccLuaLcd by Lhc parLicular lcvcl oí inLcnsiLy oí Lhc cncounLcr
wiLh Lhc sLylc and conLcnL oí Lhc narraLivc. To haLc or Lo lovc
as a rcsponsc occurs prior Lo Lhc analyLic modc, prior Lo Lhc po-
LcnLial conccrn wiLh qucsLions abouL LruLh. TaL Lhc qucsLion oí
LruLh, saLirc, or rcprcscnLaLion indccd arrivcs, almosL incviLably,
spcaks morc Lo Lhc insLiLuLional powcr Lo ordcr and Lrain rcadcrs
in “adcquaLc” or “moral” rcading habiLs Lhan Lo whaL Lhc book
iLsclí docs.
YcL, asking rcprcscnLaLional qucsLions consLiLuLcs pcrhaps
Lhc main mcchanism by which criLicism has hcld aL bay qucsLions
oí affccL, oí asignificaLion.
BuL sincc iL is impossiblc Lo rcjccL
ad hoc, and Lhus claim a sLancc ouLsidc oí, rcprcscnLaLional lan-
guagc, iL is only by going through Lhis diagram oí rcading (“rcp-
rcscnLaLion”) LhaL criLical languagc has any chancc oí providing
rcadcrs wiLh ncw Lools Lo cncounLcr a book such as Amerìcan Psy-
cho. 1cffrcy Ncalon cloqucnLly argucs Lhis poinL: “Simply Lo as-
sumc such an ‘ouLsidc’ placc would bc Lo LrcaL as Lhc objccL oí my
discoursc LhaL which, in íacL, consLiLuLcs Lhc vcry condiLions oí
possibiliLy íor discoursc in gcncral: a rcprcscnLaLivc mcLaphysical
sLrucLurc characLcrisLic oí Lhc cpoch oí modcrn subjccLiviLy LhaL
scLs up Lhc paramcLcrs íor whaL can bc said and Lhc ways in which
iL can bc said. Tc only way Lo bcgin spcaking abouL Lhis sysLcm,
Lhcn, is írom wiLhin” (Loub|e Readìng 86–8¬). I am noL claiming
LhaL masocriLicism somchow miraculously Lransccnds Lhc logic oí
rcprcscnLaLion; raLhcr, as I hopc Lo show LhroughouL, Lhc maLLcr
is onc oí s|owìng down Lhis logic or condiLion oí possibiliLy.
WhaLcvcr Lhcsc ncw criLical Lools will bc, Lhcn, íor Lhcm Lo
bc diffcrcnL írom Lhc cxisLing oncs Lhcy would havc Lo allow Lhc
affccLivc qualiLy oí languagc or imagcs inLcnsivcly uscd by LcxLs
such as Amerìcan Psycho Lo subsisL wiLhouL rcducing Lhcm Lo Lhc
lcvcl oí any oLhcr LcxL. InsLcad oí cradicaLing LhaL which is dií-
ícrcnL abouL Lhc inLcnsiLy oí Lhc affccLivc componcnL inhcrcnL
Lo Lhcsc LcxLs, criLical languagc would havc Lo affi rm affccL as a
mcans oí arLiculaLing Lhc ncw modcs oí cxisLcncc invcnLcd in
and by Lhcsc arLisLic pracLiccs.
Pcrhaps Lhc lcgcndary Amcri-
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt i8
can Ncw Wavc band Talking Hcads was righL in provoking us Lo
“sLop making scnsc.” Tc problcmaLic oí violcncc simply cannoL
bc “rcsolvcd” by ascribing mcaning Lo somcLhing LhaL, as Ncalon
argucs vis-à-vis Lhc unspcakablc violcnL horror oí AuschwiLz, “is
an irrcduciblc cvcnL in LhaL iL cannoL bc rcassuringly rcduccd Lo
a logic LhaL can bc said Lo havc broughL iL abouL” (Loub|e Read-
ìng ¬¬–¬8). Violcncc, in Lhis scnsc, is noL Lo bc “undcrsLood” or
rcduccd Lo Lhcorics oí significaLion. Dclcuzc’s sympLomaLology,
Lhcrcíorc, cmcrgcs as a valuablc Lool íor analysis bccausc iL pro-
ducLivcly cuLs inLo whaL Brian Massumi asLuLcly locaLcs as Lhc
ccnLral problcm oí culLural discoursc Loday, namcly, “LhaL Lhcrc is
no culLural-LhcorcLical vocabulary spccific Lo affccL” (i¬).
So, iL is prcciscly Lhc novcl’s “cxccssivc” violcncc LhaL ovcr-
whclms, írusLraLcs, annoys, upscLs, and cvcn sickcns; iL is Lhis
ovcrkill LhaL provokcs rcadcrs Lo Lhrow away Lhc book, Lo Lcar
iL aparL, Lo spiL aL iL, and, poLcnLially, Lo Lalk or wriLc abouL iL.
In oLhcr words, ií noLhing clsc, Lhc valuc oí Lhc book is LhaL iL
íorccs iLs audicncc Lo cncounLcr Lhc undcniably visccral rcsponsc
Lhcy havc. Tc novcl soliciLs a purc affccLivc rcsponsc írom Lhc
audicncc, cvcn Lhough mosL criLics who wroLc abouL iL havc bccn
unwilling—pcrhaps incapablc—oí acknowlcdging Lhis, Lhus
ironically cmulaLing all Lhosc characLcrs populaLing Amerìcan
Psycho who havc provcn Lo bc incapablc oí sccing LhaL Lhcir “boy
ncxL door,” as BaLcman’s fiancc íondly calls him, is also Lhc killcr
írom hcll. AíLcr all, how docs onc wriLc abouL affccL—asigniíying
íorccs—ií onc has bccn Lraincd Lo rcspond Lo liLcraLurc (and film)
on Lhc lcvcl oí rcprcscnLaLion, mcaning, and LruLh` How docs onc
rcspond affccLivcly—or, bcLLcr, how docs onc hccd onc’s affccLivc
rcsponsc wiLhouL immcdiaLcly LcrriLorializing iL onLo a diffcrcnL
lcvcl—whcn onc oí Lhc mosL insisLcnL scLs oí ordcr-words has
commandcd us Lo carc abouL whcLhcr or noL a work oí arL ac-
complishcs goals LhaL arc valucd by criLics or socicLy, whaLcvcr
LhaL may cnLail`
BuL I immcdiaLcly nccd Lo qualiíy Lhc prcccding paragraph’s
Lopical claim. For iL is noL so much Lhc “cxccssivc” violcncc oí Fl-
lis’s Amerìcan Psycho LhaL crcaLcs iLs affccL ovcrload; insLcad, Lhc
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt in
novcl achicvcs Lhis inLcnsc rcsponsc Lhrough a carcíul modula-
Lion oí slowncss and spccd (inLcnsiLics), oí cndlcss rcpcLiLion oí
iLcms and rcpcLiLivc sccncs oí gorc.
BoLh rcpcLiLions, howcvcr,
dcploy Lhc samc clinical flaLncss oí Lonc, which suggcsLs noL only
Lhcir affccLivc affi niLics buL also LhaL affccL is noL so much a rcsulL
oí dcpLh (Lhc oíLcn-cvokcd narraLivc “voicc”) buL oí spccd diffcr-
cnLials, oí Lhc accumulaLing proccsscs oí narraLivc sLrucLurcs,
iLincraLions oí cvcnLs, and cncounLcrs wiLh Lhc flow oí Lhc nar-
raLivc aL largc. “Morning,” “Harry’s,” “PasLcls,” “Tunncl,” “Offi cc,”
“HcalLh Club,” “DaLc,” “Dry Clcancrs,” “Harry’s,” “Dcck Chairs,”
“Busincss MccLing,” “Vidco SLorc,” “Facial,” “DaLc,” “Tucsday”—
on Lhc vcry suríacc lcvcl oí Lhc chapLcrs’ LiLlcs, boLh Lhc mundanc
rcpcLiLivcncss and Lhc singulariLy oí Lhc novcl’s cvcnLs arc markcd
Lo Lhc cffccL LhaL Lhc rcading oí Lhc book movcs aL Limcs painíully
slowly. Slowncss is Lhc novcl’s dominanL modc oí spccd. Consc-
qucnLly, Lhc rcading proccss is violcnLly inLcrrupLcd—dcspiLc Lhc
occasional hinL aL BaLcman’s prcvious ouLbursLs oí violcncc—
whcn Tucsday arrivcs, almosL ouL oí nowhcrc, and Lhc rcadcr is
coníronLcd wiLh Lhc firsL sccnc oí graphic violcncc. Sncakcd inLo
Lhis sLrucLurc is a ccrLain amounL oí humor, oí comcdic momcnLs
LhaL provokc laughLcr—ncrvous laughLcr LhaL only acccnLuaLcs
Lhc cffccLs Lhc clinically prccisc dcscripLions oí LorLurc havc on
Lhc rcadcr, dcscripLions LhaL sound as flaL or void oí “voicc” as
Lhc rcsL oí Lhc novcl, Lhus oncc again rcpcaLing or scrializing
spccific cffccLs raLhcr Lhan saLirically commcnLing upon Lhc vio-
lcncc as such. Nowhcrc, I Lhink, cmcrgcs Lhc qucsLion oí LruLh,
oí whcLhcr Lhc cighLics wcrc rcally likc Lhis, or whcLhcr BaLcman
acLually commiLs or mcrcly imagincs his Lcrriíying dccds. Or, aL
lcasL onc docs hardly worry abouL Lhcsc qucsLions—prcciscly bc-
causc whaL onc has Lo dcal wiLh firsL and íorcmosL is Lhc dclirium-
inducing affccLivc componcnL oí Lhc book, wiLh Lhc íacL LhaL Lhc
spccd oí Lhc book configurcs Lhc rcadcr’s body as assailcd, as aL-
Lackcd by an onslaughL oí diffcrcnL íorms oí violcncc. Rcadcrs arc
morc likcly Lo dcal wiLh gcLLing sick oí Lhc book—liLcrally—Lhan
wiLh conLcmplaLing Lhc rcprcscnLaLional qualiLy oí Lhc novcl.
WhaL I am dcscribing hcrc should also bc rcad as onc way oí
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt =o
conLcsLing onc oí Lhc mosL widcsprcad clichcs abouL so-callcd
posLmodcrnism—Lo wiL, LhaL iLs arLisLic cxprcssions arc sup-
poscd Lo bc affccLlcss, a criLical noLion LhaL was probably firsL
arLiculaLcd by Frcdric 1amcson in his landmark sLudy in which
hc discusscs Lhc “waning oí affccL in posLmodcrn culLurc” (:o). IL
sccms Lo mc, howcvcr, LhaL Lhc cxLrcmcly violcnL ycL flaLly nar-
raLcd ficLion oí wriLcrs such as Dcnnis Coopcr or Brian Fvcnson,
Lo namc buL Lwo addiLional cxamplcs, is anyLhing buL affccLlcss.
Or raLhcr, such works can bc dccmcd wiLhouL affccL only ií wc
rcducLivcly conccivc oí affccL in Lcrms oí a subjccL’s cmoLions and
ícclings. InsLcad, whaL appcars Lo bc wiLhouL affccL—duc Lo Lhc
narraLivc voicc’s sccmingly monoLonous flaLncss or Lhc ovcrall
abscncc oí psychological dcpLh—insLanLiaLcs noLhing buL a dií-
ícrcnL dcgrcc oí affccLivc inLcnsiLy. Tcsc ficLions havc Lhcir own
affccLivc íorcc—onc LhaL is noL dcfincd by any lack in rclaLion
Lo Lhc humanisL privilcging oí psychological dcpLh. By dcscribing
ficLions such as Dcnnis Coopcr’s Frìsk (:nn:) or Te S|uts (iooi),
as wcll as Brian Fvcnson’s “Tc Polygamy oí Ianguagc” (iooo) or
Te Protherhood oj Mutì|atìon (iooj), as affccLlcss, liLcrary criLi-
cism auLomaLically LcrriLorializcs Lhcsc works onLo Lhc lcvcl oí
judgmcnL (sincc gcncrally, a lack oí affccL qua subjccLivc cmoLing
is dccmcd “bad” in onc way or anoLhcr) and ncglccLs Lo diagnosc
how Lhc violcncc in Lhcsc LcxLs acLually works.
To rcLurn Lo Lhc cvcnL “Amcrican Psycho,” iL sccms Lo mc
LhaL whcrcas Fllis’s novcl soliciLs iLs rcadcrs Lo diagnosc whaL
Lhc LcxLual violcncc docs and how iL works, Lhc opposiLc occurs
in Harron’s adapLaLion. Arguably, Lhc minuLcs lcading up Lo Lhc
firsL sccnc oí cxpliciL violcncc—BaLcman’s killing oí a homclcss
black man and his dog—arc ablc Lo crcaLc cffccLs similar Lo Lhc
book. Harron sLrings LogcLhcr a scrics oí comcdic cvcnLs: scrious
looking waiLcrs cnumcraLing dinncr mcnus; BaLcman parLying
drcsscd in powcr suiLs; BaLcman’s obscssivc clcansing rouLinc;
his vapid offi cc rouLinc; his shallow inLcracLion wiLh his fiancc;
his lovc íor cash machincs; his Lroublcs wiLh Lhc suspicious dry
clcancr; his inabiliLy Lo gcL a Lablc aL Dorsia, his rcsLauranL du
jour; his crowd-plcasing swcaLing ovcr oLhcr yuppics’ bcLLcr look-
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt =:
ing busincss cards; and his lccLurc on Lhc sLaLc oí Lhc naLion, con-
sisLing oí a sccmingly comprchcnsivc sLring oí caLch phrascs uscd
by poliLicians on Lhc campaign Lrail. All oí Lhis is quiLc íunny.
Tcn, almosL ouL oí nowhcrc, BaLcman passcs a homclcss pcrson.
Hc sLops, cynically Lcascs him wiLh a LwcnLy-dollar bill, and Lhcn
sLabs him Lo dcaLh. AL Lhis momcnL, mosL oí Lhc audicncc wiLh
whom I waLchcd Lhc film wcnL audibly quicL, scnsing LhaL Lhcy
had bccn Lrickcd by Lhc prcccding rcpcLiLion oí agrccablc Lhough
mundanc comcdy. Tc violcncc on Lhc scrccn sccmcd now Lo aí-
íccL our rcsponsc noL only Lo LhaL sccnc buL also Lo Lhc humorous
momcnLs bcíorc. Pcrhaps wc íclL bcLraycd by Lhc narraLivc sLraL-
cgy, pcrhaps noL, buL iL is clcar LhaL Lhc film managcs Lo soliciL a
raLhcr visccral rcsponsc aL Lhis sLagc.
Howcvcr, whcrcas Lhis scqucncc oí sccncs works wcll, Lhc rcsL
oí Lhc film docs noL—ìj Lhc idca was Lo Lap inLo Lhc affccLivc íorcc
oí Fllis’s novcl. Harron’s sLraLcgy was Lo condcnsc Lhc rcpcLiLion
oí Lhc book so LhaL shc could gcL iL ouL oí Lhc way, noL having hcr
narraLivc wcighcd down by Lhc rcpcLiLion oí Lhc novcl. As Harron
Lcllingly commcnLs on hcr Lcchnical problcms Lo rcndcr Lhc book
cincmaLically, “I had Lo kind oí givc iL morc Lhc íaçadc oí a ploL”
(Harron, Fllis, and Balc). Hcncc, in Lhc firsL LwcnLy minuLcs wc
csscnLially gcL Lhc book in a nuLshcll. Harron speeds up precìse|y
that whìch ìs a|| about s|owness ìn the book in ordcr Lo gcL on wiLh
hcr goal oí crcaLing a swiíLly moving saLirc. Tis íronLloading oí
Lhc rcpcLiLion prcvcnLs hcr írom cvcr rcLuning Lo iL, Lhus ncvcr
slowing down Lhc narraLivc so LhaL no affccLs can cmcrgc oLhcr
Lhan Lhosc soliciLcd by sLandard Hollywood narraLivcs in which
chascs and chcap Lhrills arc Lhc highpoinLs oí affccLivc produc-
Lion. FurLhcr, bccausc Harron gcLs rid oí any modulaLion oí inLcn-
siLics, Lhc violcnL sccncs in Lhc film bccomc prcdicLablc, as Lhcy
arc ncvcr again scL up as a surprisc momcnL. Now wc jusL movc
írom onc sccnc oí violcncc Lo Lhc ncxL, cvcnly paccd, whcLhcr iL
is a sccnc mcrcly suggcsLcd or acLually shown.
Finally, Lhc film Lamcs Lhc affccLivc íorcc oí violcncc Lhrough a
Lwoíold Lrick. FirsL, iL Lurns Lhc violcncc inLo slapsLick. (BaLcman,
nakcd, chasing a prosLiLuLc wiLh a running chainsaw Lhrough Lhc
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt =i
sLaircasc oí his Uppcr FasL Sidc aparLmcnL homc musL consLiLuLc
onc oí Lhc wcirdcsL imagcs oí Lhc film. YcL, onc scnscs LhaL Lhis
sccnc’s ovcr-Lhc-Lopncss mighL acLually providc a kcy Lo a diffcr-
cnL cincmaLic rcsponsc Lo Lhc novcl. Pcrhaps Lhc film is noL slap-
sLick cnough.) And sccond, Lhc film rcndcrs idcnLical Lhc novcl’s
radically diffcrcnL affccLivc scrics oí music criLicism and violcncc.
Tc book carcíully juxLaposcs Lhc music criLicism chapLcrs noL
only Lo Lhc violcnL chapLcrs buL Lo all oLhcr cvcnLs in Lhc book,
Lhus scvcring Lhc music chapLcrs írom Lhc ploL, casLing Lhcm as
purc inLcrrupLion, as narraLivc brcakdowns, as a íorm oí narra-
Livc violcncc, dramaLizing LhaL narraLion works by brcakdowns—
by violcncc. By conLrasL, Lhc film has BaLcman rhapsodizc abouL
Ccncsis, WhiLncy HousLon, and Hucy Icwis and Lhc Ncws as a
prcludc Lo—indccd almosL simulLancous wiLh—his LorLuring oí
his vicLims, Lhus cradicaLing prcciscly LhaL which givcs risc Lo Lhc
spccific affccLivc cncounLcrs provokcd by Lhc rcading oí Lhc novcl:
Do wc íccl morc sickcncd by BaLcman’s asscssmcnL oí Lhc music
or by his ouLragcously violcnL LorLurc dcviccs` And whaL docs Lhc
answcr Lo Lhis qucsLion say abouL Lhc rcadcr` Tc film’s sLraLcgy
oí having Balc rcad parLs oí Lhc music chapLcrs as íarcical lcad-ins
Lo Lhc cnsuing violcncc—absurdly suggcsLing LhaL Lhc badncss
oí Lhc music almosL incviLably lcads Lo violcncc, which is akin Lo
claiming LhaL rcading Amerìcan Psycho lcads Lo commiLLing ho-
micidc—noL only Lurns diffcrcnL scrics oí cvcnLs LhaL inLcrsccL
wiLh cach oLhcr inLo onc and Lhc samc momcnL buL iL also rcsulLs
in Lhc audicncc mosLly laughing aL Lhc combinaLion oí ludicrous
music criLicism and slapsLick violcncc. (Balc’s pcríorming a íunny
dancc whilc pronouncing Lhc grcaLncss oí Hucy Icwis’s “Hip Lo
Bc Squarc” mcrcly acccnLuaLcs Lhc absurdiLy oí Lhc sccnc.) Tc
íacL LhaL Harron scLs all killings oí prosLiLuLcs and acquainLanccs
Lo BaLcman’s music lccLurcs mcrcly hcighLcns Lhc comcdy, Lhus
Lurning Lhc poLcnLial íor rcvolLing, inLcnsivcly scnscd affccLs inLo
onc oí comíorLing humor.
Wc should noLc LhaL Lhc book docs noL rcally clariíy who is
spcaking in Lhc music chapLcrs. AlLhough wc (pcrhaps corrccLly)
assumc LhaL iL is BaLcman, Lhc maLLcr rcmains somcwhaL ambig-
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt =j
uous. In any casc, iL is unclcar aL whaL momcnL, in whaL íorm, and
Lo whom Lhc music criLicism is narraLcd. Tc film, on Lhc oLhcr
hand, cradicaLcs Lhc narraLivc brcakdown by unambiguously
cquaLing Lhc narraLivc voicc wiLh BaLcman. Whcrcas Lhc book
configurcs Lhc qucsLion oí brcakdown—violcncc—as a qucsLion
oí (dis)cmbodicd voicc, Lhc film posiLs voicc, Lhc saLirisL’s poinL
oí vicw, as an cxiL, an cscapc rouLc lcading away írom Lhc allcg-
cdly immoral Loward a moral placc oí judgmcnL. Fllis’s novcl con-
figurcs poinL oí vicws as an cffccL oí narraLivc violcncc; Lhc film
prcsupposcs Lhc unLarnishcd cxisLcncc oí onc poinL oí vicw.
Tc film is cvcnly paccd, wiLh vcry ícw up and downs. Indccd,
iL is oddly boring. BuL Lhis borcdom is oí a diffcrcnL kìnd Lhan Lhc
onc produccd by Fllis’s novcl. Whcrcas Lhc laLLcr is upscLLing prc-
ciscly bccausc wc havc no capaciLy Lo rcspond Lo iL in any mcan-
ingíul or comíorLing way—bccausc Fllis insisLs LhaL borcdom
works as borcdom only whcn disrupLcd by violcncc as violcncc,
and vicc vcrsa, LhaL is, as Lwo scrics LhaL cxisL parallcl Lo, and
ycL affccL, cach oLhcr as wcll—Lhc íormcr is rcassuring bccausc
wc arc lcd Lo affi rm Lhc saLirical componcnL (and Lhc posiLion oí
judgmcnL such a narraLivc modc affords us). UlLimaLcly, Lhcn, wc
can cnjoy Lhc film íor iLs humor, iLs ridiculing oí iLs characLcrs
and Lhcir world, and all Lhc whilc rcmain convinccd LhaL wc arc
living in a bcLLcr world, LhaL wc havc progrcsscd, and LhaL wc arc
nciLhcr Lhc pcrpcLraLors nor Lhc vicLims oí violcncc in any íorm.
Hcncc, onc mighL say LhaL Lhc movic is noL boring cnough. For ií
iL had bccn boring in Lhc scnsc oí Lhc novcl, wc would bc íorccd
Lo comc Lo Lcrms wiLh Lhc affccLs crcaLcd by Lhis borcdom—wiLh
Lhc poLcnLial Lo íacc violcncc qua violcncc raLhcr Lhan as a mc-
diaLcd íorm oí saLirical criLiquc—rcgardlcss oí whcLhcr or noL
Lhc mcdium oí film posscsscs a morc immcdiaLc affccLivc qualiLy
Lhan liLcraLurc.
BuL LhaL Lhc film is pcrhaps noL boring cnough is noL so much
a lack inhcrcnL Lo Lhc film or an cxprcssion oí a dcsirc íor Lhc film
Lo “rcprcscnL” morc accuraLcly. (AffccL is a maLLcr oí doing, noL
significaLion.) RaLhcr, Lhc diminishcd lcvcl oí borcdom prcscnL in
Lhc film consLiLuLcs Harron’s sympLomaLic cincmaLic rcsponsc Lo
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt =i
Lhc criLical discoursc on Amerìcan Psycho, íor onc oí Lhc Lwo main
complainLs againsL Lhc novcl was prcciscly LhaL iL was Loo bor-
ing and Lhus could noL susLain any rcadcrly inLcrcsL. (IL was, oí
coursc, also Lhc pcrccpLion LhaL Lhc novcl’s borcdom acccnLuaLcs
Lhc novcl’s violcncc LhaL, in Lurn, íormcd Lhc basis íor Lhc mosL
violcnL rcacLions Lo Fllis’s LcxL.) Tc agrccablc pacc oí Lhc film
caLcrs Lo our cxisLing capaciLy Lo rcad or waLch—rcacL Lo—a LcxL.
IL íurLhcrs LhaL which wc arc Lraincd in LhroughouL high school
and collcgc, Lhrough film (and liLcrary) criLicism, acadcmic and
popular alikc, as wcll as Lhrough an cndlcss cxposurc Lo Lhc ma-
joriLy oí Hollywood narraLivcs LhaL Lhrivc on aL Limcs ouLragcous
buL mosLly Lamc, clichc-riddcn soliciLaLions oí affccLivc vicwcr
rcsponscs. TaL is, in such narraLivcs affccL iLsclí Lurns inLo a cli-
chc aL Lhc vcry momcnL iL is LcrriLorializcd onLo mcrcly visccral,
physical cmoLions. Tis is noL Lo dcny LhaL such cmoLions arc im-
porLanL (scc Shaviro or Sobchack íor cxccllcnL argumcnLs in Lhis
dirccLion), buL ií affccL is configurcd as noLhing buL cmoLion, or is
madc Lo do noLhing buL appcal Lo cmoLions, Lhcn Lhc (posiLion oí
Lhc) subjccL iLsclí is ncvcr puL aL sLakc, Lhus inviLing him or hcr Lo
acLivaLc judgmcnL as Lhc primary modc oí rcsponsc.
In Lhc proccss oí “humanizing” Fllis’s work along Lhc lincs con-
figurcd by Lhc criLical languagc uscd in rcsponsc Lo his novcl—
LhaL is, by crcaLing a way ouL LhaL dcpcnds on Lhc individual, íully
psychologizcd, LruLhíul human agcnL—cvcryLhing LhaL Lhc novcl
is almosL Loo sclí-cvidcnLly abouL is climinaLcd: affccLivc inLcn-
siLy. In Lhc novcl, affccL is configurcd and produccd by Lhc LcxL’s
simulLancous poLcnLial íor boring and horriíying iLs rcadcrs, a
poLcnLial LhaL Lhc novcl achicvcs prcciscly bccausc iL provcs LhaL
horror and borcdom arc not conLradicLory Lcrms buL insLcad cxisL
as affccLs ncxL Lo cach oLhcr on Lhc samc planc oí immancncc,
muLually producing and Lhus modiíying cach oLhcr. Borcdom
violaLcs cxpccLaLions, sLandards, bodics, and violcncc, in Lurn, is
boring. (NoLc LhaL Lhc clinical rcndcring oí iL in Amerìcan Psycho
mcrcly rcpcaLs Lhc samc violcnL sccnc wiLh Lhc similarly rcpcaLcd
addiLion oí somc cxLra spicc. Harron—maybc ouL oí rccogniLion
oí Lhc violcnL sccncs’ inhcrcnL borcdom LhaL noncLhclcss so íorcc-
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt ==
íully affccL rcadcrs—rcsisLs Lhis narraLivc sLraLcgy by slapsLick-
ing all buL Lhc firsL violcnL sccnc.) Tc diffcrcnccs bcLwccn Lhcsc
Lwo íorms oí violcncc can only bc dcLcrmincd in Lhcir cffccLs,
noL in Lhcir inLrinsic mcaningíulncss. Tc simulLanciLy, cvcn in-
disccrnibiliLy, oí shock and borcdom so obviously missing írom
Harron’s rcsponsc Lo Fllis’s LcxL, affccLs our capaciLy Lo rcspond.
As Siannc Ngai wriLcs in a diffcrcnL conLcxL, Lhc “suddcn cxciLa-
Lion oí ‘shock,’ and Lhc dcscnsiLizing wc associaLc wiLh ‘borcdom,’
Lhough diamcLrically opposcd and sccmingly muLually cxclusivc,
arc boLh rcsponscs LhaL coníronL us wiLh Lhc limiLaLions oí our
capaciLy íor rcsponding in gcncral” (:o).
Harron’s rcprcscnLaLional rcading oí Fllis’s novcl Lurns a LcxL
LhaL so obviously has affccLcd rcadcrs on a visccral lcvcl Lhrough
iLs alLcrnaLing spccds—Lhc boring slowncss oí Lhc cndlcss lisLs
and so on and Lhc íasL-paccd acLion oí Lhc oíLcn surprising
violcncc—inLo a LcxL LhaL wanLs iLs audicncc Lo havc a mosLly
ccrcbral rcsponsc LhaL is cncouragcd prcciscly by a raLhcr cvcn-
kcclcd, prcdicLablc narraLivc pacc LhaL has rid iLsclí oí Lhc novcl’s
diffcrcnLiaLing cnginc: rcpcLiLion and violcncc. Iikc Lhc criLical
rcccpLion LhaL prcccdcd iL, Lhc film íocuscs on whaL Lhc book al-
lcgcdly mcans—a criLiquc oí Lhc capiLalisL cxccsscs oí Lhc cighL-
ics—and Lhus somchow ncvcr gcLs around Lo arLiculaLc whaL Lhc
book docs, namcly, LhaL iL produccs rcadcrs apparcnLly incapablc
oí rcsponding Lo Lhc LcxL’s affccLivc íorcc in any way oLhcr Lhan
judging iL.
To puL Lhc lasL poinL in NicLzschcan Lcrms, Lhc novcl produccs
unLimcly rcadcrs, rcadcrs who arc ycL Lo comc, who arc oí Lhc
íuLurc LhaL musL bc produccd, rcadcrs who firsL havc Lo dcvclop
Lhc capaciLy Lo bc affccLcd wiLhouL dcsiring Lo Lurn Lhcir affcc-
Livc rcsponsc immcdiaLcly inLo a qucsLion oí logos, raLionaliLy,
cogniLion, and rcprcscnLaLion.
Tc film cxplains, dclimiLs, and
jusLifics Lo Lhc audicncc Lhc ícw momcnLs iL affords Lhcm oí Lruly
affccLivc cncounLcrs wiLh Lhc imagcs in íronL oí Lhcm. IL cocrccs
Lhcm Lo rcspond judgmcnLally raLhcr Lhan affccLivcly, or, in any
casc, privilcgcs judgmcnL as a parLicular modulaLion oí affccL.
Harron’s film, Lhus, is sympLomaLic oí Lhc common criLical prac-
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt =6
Licc Lo pass judgmcnL bascd on Lhc rcprcscnLaLional qualiLy oí
imagcs and words. IL soliciLs rcsponscs LhaL rcproducc Lhc vcry
rcgimc oí pcdagogical disciplinc LhaL has insLillcd in audicnccs
Lhc Lcndcncy Lo rcad and vicw LcxLs rcprcscnLaLionally. Consc-
qucnLly, Lhc film, as a conLinuaLion—indccd, an insLanLiaLion—
oí Lhc criLical discoursc on Fllis’s novcl, cradicaLcs Lhosc íorccs
oí Lhc novcl LhaL havc Lhc capaciLy íor producing diffcrcncc, LhaL
which is unknown. BuL, as Dclcuzc argucs abouL Lhc possibiliLy
oí and íor wriLing, “How clsc can onc wriLc buL oí Lhosc Lhings
which onc docsn’L know, or knows badly` IL is prcciscly Lhcrc LhaL
wc imaginc having somcLhing Lo say. Wc wriLc only aL Lhc íron-
Licrs oí our knowlcdgc, aL Lhc bordcr which scparaLcs our knowl-
cdgc írom our ignorancc and Lransíorms Lhc onc inLo Lhc oLhcr”
(Lìfference and Repetìtìon xxi).
IL sccms Lo mc LhaL violcncc is prcciscly such a íronLicr. Al-
Lhough wc claim LhaL wc know violcncc whcn wc scc or cxpcri-
cncc iL, violcncc has rcmaincd onc oí Lhc grcaL incomprchcnsiblc
cvcnLs oí liíc—cvcn morc so in lighL oí Lhc íacL LhaL counLlcss
cxplanaLory apparaLuscs havc bccn mobilizcd Lo cxplain iLs
Hcncc, pace jusL abouL all rcsponscs Lo Fllis’s novcl, in-
cluding Harron’s, Amerìcan Psycho’s valuc appcars Lo bc prcciscly
in prcscnLing us wiLh a pracLicc oí wriLing aL Lhis íronLicr, in cx-
pcrimcnLing wiLh LhaL which is “unknown” Lo us. (And Lhis valuc
mighL vcry wcll noL havc cmcrgcd as íorccíully had iL noL bccn
íor Harron’s film and Lhc diffcrcnccs iL sympLomaLically indcxcs.)
In rcíusing Lo providc a prcmadc cxplanaLion, Lhc novcl invcnLs a
ncw, albciL horriíying, knowlcdgc, onc LhaL docs noL makc scnsc
oí Lhc íronLicr buL inhabiLs iL wiLhouL rcducing iL Lo somcLhing
oLhcr Lhan whaL iL is: Lhc ulLimaLc oLhcr. Rcsponding Lo Lhc oLhcr
(violcncc) as oLhcr, as LhaL which docs noL signiíy anyLhing, as
LhaL which can bc cncounLcrcd mcrcly Lhrough iLs íorccs LhaL pro-
ducc spccific affccLivc cffccLs, howcvcr, would rcquirc criLicism
Lo hccd Dclcuzc’s cncouragcmcnL Lo dcícr judgmcnL, Lo do away
wiLh iL: “AffccL as immancnL cvaluaLion, insLcad oí judgmcnL as
LransccndcnL valuc: ‘I lovc or I haLc’ insLcad oí ‘I judgc’” (Cìnema
i :i:).
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt =¬
Representation(al) Costs
SympLomaLologically comparing Lhc novcl, iLs criLical rcccpLion,
and Lhc film as parL oí Lhc laLLcr is noL a maLLcr oí who is righL
or wrong, oí whosc rcading is bcLLcr or worsc. InsLcad, iL cmpha-
sizcs LhaL Harron’s cincmaLic rcsponsc Lo Fllis’s novcl is symp-
LomaLic oí Lhc criLical discoursc Amerìcan Psycho has soliciLcd and
arLiculaLcs whaL iL cosLs criLical discoursc—including Lhc film—
Lo rcndcr Lhc book as a (succcssíul) saLirical rcprcscnLaLion oí Lhc
:n8os. Again, whaL do wc know oncc wc havc dccidcd` NoL much
oLhcr Lhan LhaL wc havc íound LradiLional, long-csLablishcd criLi-
cal paLLcrns—darc I say clichcs—LhaL allow us ciLhcr Lo rcscuc a
sccmingly unrcdccmablc LcxL íor “progrcssivc” poliLical purposcs
(“look, man, Lhc cighLics wcrc rcally bad!”) or, using a clichc oí
my own, Lo dump iL íor good inLo Lhc dusL bin oí liLcrary his-
Lory whcrc iL should roL away wiLh similar immoral (conscrva-
Livc or noL) Lrash. In oLhcr words, whaL is finally problcmaLic wiLh
Lhc criLical violcncc—including Lhc film’s—donc Lo BrcL FasLon
Fllis’s novcl is not Lhc criLical violcncc cxcrLcd (as ií iL could bc
oLhcrwisc) buL whaL Lhis spccific íorm oí violcncc does, namcly,
LhaL Lhis violcncc is ulLimaLcly rcassuring and comíorLing in LhaL
iL makcs Amerìcan Psycho’s violcncc rccognizablc in a íamiliar
criLical and cLhical rcgisLcr. IL would bc poinLlcss Lo dcridc Lhis as
a “bad” Lhing. RaLhcr, Lhis parLicular criLical violcncc sympLom-
aLically marks an inLcrcsLing domcsLicaLing rcsponsc Lo violcncc,
onc LhaL indicaLcs LhaL rcgardlcss oí Lhc supposcd proliícraLion
and amplificaLion oí violcnL imagcs in conLcmporary Amcrican
culLurc iL is noL so much violcncc as such buL Lhc sLaLc oí noL
knowing whaL violcncc is LhaL consLiLuLcs the cxpcricncc oí hor-
And, as iL Lurns ouL, affccL—scLs oí íorccs LhaL criLical lan-
guagc has noL ycL bccn ablc Lo cncounLcr on Lhcir own Lcrms
wiLhouL rcducing Lhcm Lo Lhc morc íamiliar discoursc oí rcp-
rcscnLaLion and judgmcnL—is Lhc propcr namc íor LhaL which
largcly rcmains unknown. WhaL Lhc criLical rcsponscs Lo Amerì-
can Psycho sympLomaLically cosL us, Lhcn, is our capaciLy Lo cx-
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt =8
pcrimcnL wiLh, and arLiculaLc somcLhing abouL, affccL in rcgard
Lo a LcxL so clcarly producLivc oí affccLivc rcsponscs.
will conLinuc Lo OLhcr Lhc capaciLy and knowlcdgc providcd by,
and immancnL Lo, affccL as long as iL pcrsisLs Lo rcly almosL cxclu-
sivcly on an FnlighLcnmcnL discoursc oí raLionaliLy, undcrsLand-
ing, logos, and judgmcnL (Lhc possibiliLy oí which dcpcnding on
a clcar-cuL disLincLion bcLwccn a subjccL’s prccxisLing poinL oí
vicw and Lhc pcrccivcd objccL). By pcrpcLuaLing Lhc ordcr-word
“rcprcscnLaLion” (a syndromc), criLicism conLinucs Lo ignorc LhaL
rcprcscnLaLions arc madc up oí íorccs (sympLoms), jusL as sub-
jccLs arc consLiLuLcd by Lhcir poinL oí vicws raLhcr Lhan Lhc oLhcr
way around. (NoL coincidcnLally, Lhc novcl rclcnLlcssly shows us
LhaL idcnLiLy is noLhing buL a scrics oí masks, which arc noL dc-
fincd by originary Iack buL by Lhcir spccific, nonlacking, effectìve
rcaliLy. In conLrasL, Lhc film insisLs LhaL undcrncaLh Lhc íbcauLy]
mask wc scc BaLcman pccl off in íronL oí his baLhroom mirror
Lhcrc cxisLs a “Lruc,” sLablc idcnLiLy—cvcn ií Lhis idcnLiLy is dc-
scribcd as noLhingncss, as BaLcman’s rccogniLion LhaL “Tcrc is
no rcal mc. í. . .] I simply am noL Lhcrc.”) I wanL Lo suggcsL LhaL
culLural criLicism musL hccd Lhcsc suríacc íorccs ií iL wanLs Lo
cxplain anyLhing abouL languagc or imagcs. Accordingly, any po-
liLical projccL íormulaLcd in rcsponsc Lo occurrcnccs oí violcncc
in film or liLcraLurc LhaL mighL bc inLcrcsLcd in Lhc qucsLion oí
rcsisLancc or subvcrsion is, I Lhink, Lrappcd as soon as iL íocuscs
on Lhc qucsLion oí rcprcscnLaLion and judgmcnL. IL has no Lools
Lo accounL íor Lhc emergence oí rcprcscnLaLions and is Lhus bound
Lo ignorc LhaL rcprcscnLaLions arc simply noL “abouL” rcprcscnLa-
Lions buL always abouL íorccs—abouL doing, noL mcaning. 1udg-
mcnL—a criLical pracLicc immancnL Lo Lhc conccpL oí rcprcscnLa-
Lion in LhaL Lhc laLLcr conccivcs oí signs as rcproducLivc and Lhus
cncouragcs a judgmcnL oí Lhcm in Lcrms oí Lhcir morc or lcss ac-
curaLc rcscmblancc Lo rcaliLy and LruLh (Lhc Lwin pillars íor our
conccpLion oí moraliLy)—Lurns ouL Lo bc parL oí Lhc problcm, not
Lhc soluLion, as I will arguc in morc dcLail in chapLcr j.
CriLically insisLing on Lhc supcrioriLy oí Lhc film cosLs us a loL,
namcly, a scrious aLLcmpL Lo provokc qucsLions abouL affccL, Lo
1udgment !s Not an Fxìt =n
Lhink abouL whaL affccL can Lcll us abouL arL, Lo pondcr whaL hap-
pcns Lo Lhc allcgcd rariLy oí rcsisLancc oncc wc givc affccL a biL
morc crcdiL. To paraphrasc Dclcuzc, oncc wc íocus on affccL, Lhc
qucsLion is no morc how wc can rcsisL (answcr: by criLiquc) buL
how wc can Lap inLo Lhc affccLivc íorccs—lincs oí flighL—LhaL
consLiLuLc Lhc social.
Tc social is always alrcady in flighL, ac-
cording Lo Dclcuzc and CuaLLari; ií flccing consLiLuLcs an imma-
ncnL componcnL oí Lhc social, Lhcn affccL docs as wcll, as flccing
is a íorm oí affccL. FlighL, Lhcn, is a qucsLion oí inLcnsiLics or aí-
íccLs: How íasL or slow is Lhis flccing` In whaL dirccLion and wiLh
whaL íorcc docs iL procccd` And wiLh whaL accclcraLion and prcs-
surc docs iL movc` Hcncc, Lhc poliLical and pcdagogical qucsLion
Lo ask—onc LhaL, I Lhink, Fllis’s novcl provokcs buL pcrhaps could
bc acLualizcd only Lhrough Harron’s cincmaLic rcsponsc—is how
wc can bccomc capablc oí bccoming-affccLcd by íorccs wiLhouL
immcdiaLcly Lurning Lhcir affccL inLo a criLical discoursc oí logos.
Masochism and iLs cconomy oí borcdom and conLracLual violcncc
mighL havc Lo say somc inLcrcsLing Lhings in rcsponsc, as I sug-
gcsLcd in chapLcr :. In Lcrms oí cincma, wc mighL wanL Lo Lhink
abouL how film—as onc oí Lhc morc privilcgcd affccL producing
machincs Lhanks Lo Lhc visccrally immcdiaLc qualiLy oí visual-
iLy—could Lcach us how Lo rcspond on Lhc lcvcl oí affccL Lo a LcxL
such as Amerìcan Psycho.
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 6o
BuL pcrhaps Lhc prcccding chapLcr has movcd Loo quickly. In
claiming LhaL Lhc pracLicc oí conLcmporary criLicism conLinually
cxprcsscs iLs dcsirc Lo judgc, I mighL havc givcn Lhc imprcssion
LhaL all oí conLcmporary criLicism mcrcly consisLs oí an cxLcnsion
oí MaLLhcw Arnold, LhaL wcll-known figurc oí VicLorianism whosc
criLical projccL is, righLly or wrongly, oíLcn undcrsLood Lo bc syn-
onymous wiLh cxcrcising valuc judgmcnLs. Wcll-known rcícrcncc
books such as C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon’s A Handbook
to Lìterature dcscribc Arnold’s projccL as “sccking Lo judgc liLcraLurc
by high sLandards” (::¬), a scnLimcnL sccondcd by Lhc Norton An-
tho|ogy’s inLroducLion Lo Arnold (“culLurc rcprcscnLs íor Arnold Lhc
mosL cffccLivc way oí curing Lhc ills oí a sick socicLy” í:ji8]), mani-
ícsLing Lhc rcccpLion and subscqucnL canonizaLion oí his LhoughL
as a moral, judgmcnLal cndcavor. AlLhough Lhc casc may bc morc
complicaLcd Lhan Lhc cnLrics on Arnold makc iL ouL Lo bc, his own
words lcnd much supporL Lo Lhc idca LhaL liLcrary or, morc gcncr-
ally, culLural criLicism oughL Lo conLribuLc Lo Lhc producLion oí a
civilizcd—rcad, moral—socicLy. So hc Lirclcssly wcnL Lo baL íor Lhc
criLical sLudy oí Lhc humaniLics—cspccially liLcraLurc—Lo curc cul-
Lurc írom iLs ills. In whaL can bc considcrcd his criLical maniícsLo,
Lhc widcly anLhologizcd cssay “Tc FuncLion oí CriLicism” (:86=),
íor insLancc, Arnold wriLcs oí Lhc purposc oí criLicism LhaL iLs busi-
ncss is “Lo scc Lhc objccL as in iLsclí iL rcally is í. . .] Lo makc Lhc
bcsL idcas prcvail” (Norton :jn:). PosiLioning himsclí againsL Lhc
popular bclicí in uLiliLarianism, Arnold insLcad advocaLcd a criLi-

A Conceptual Genealogy of Judgment
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 6:
cism LhaL rcmains “disinLcrcsLcd” (:jn¬), by which hc mcanL an
indcpcndcncc and objccLiviLy oí Lhc criLical consciousncss raLhcr
Lhan a lack oí inLcrcsL as such. Hcncc, hc wriLcs in onc oí his bcsL-
known íormulas, “By sLcadily rcíusing Lo lcnd iLsclí Lo any oí Lhosc
ulLcrior, poliLical, pracLical considcraLions abouL idcas íLhc Lask oí
criLicism is] Lo know Lhc bcsL LhaL is known and LhoughL in Lhc
world, and by in iLs Lurn making Lhis known, Lo crcaLc a currcnL oí
Lruc and írcsh idcas” (:jn¬).
Arnold ncvcr Lircd oí rcpcaLing Lhis íormula—his basic dcfini-
Lion oí criLical pracLicc. Hc Lhcrcíorc Lrics Lo disLinguish Lhis dc-
scripLion—or, raLhcr, prcscripLion—oí criLical pracLicc írom LhaL
oí passing “mcrc” judgmcnL. Arguing LhaL “mcrc judgmcnL and
applicaLion oí principlcs is, in iLsclí, noL Lhc mosL saLisíacLory
work Lo Lhc criLic” (Norton :ioi), hc promoLcs a morc nuanccd
dcploymcnL oí criLical judgmcnL: “iL is by communicaLing írcsh
knowlcdgc, and lcLLing his own judgmcnL pass along wiLh iL—buL
inscnsibly and in Lhc sccond placc, noL Lhc firsL, as a sorL oí com-
panion and cluc, noL as an absLracL lawgivcr—LhaL Lhc criLic will
gcncrally do mosL good Lo his rcadcrs” (:io:). YcL, dcspiLc his
rcLiccncc Lo comc across as Loo much oí a moralizcr, iL is quiLc
clcar LhaL Arnold is indccd invcsLcd in Lhc abiliLy oí liLcrary criLi-
cism Lo bcLLcr iLs rcadcrs’ “scnsc oí conducL.” Arnold bclicvcs LhaL
Lhc cducaLion in propcr conducL makcs Lhc sLudy oí liLcraLurc su-
pcrior Lo LhaL oí Lhc naLural scicnccs, as hc argucs in “IiLcraLurc
and Scicncc,” his rcsponsc Lo Tomas Hcnry Huxlcy’s claim LhaL
Lhc sLudy oí liLcrary works docs noL providc suffi cicnL knowlcdgc
oí Lhc world in lighL oí Lhc cnormous dcvclopmcnLs in Lhc naLural
scicnccs sincc Lhc mcdicval agcs. Arnold counLcrs Huxlcy’s claims
by arguing LhaL scicncc produccs “knowlcdgc íLhaL is] noL puL íor
us inLo rclaLion wiLh our scnsc oí conducL” (:ij6)—LhaL is, sci-
cnLific knowlcdgc, whilc undcniably imporLanL, has noLhing Lo
say abouL Lhc moral qucsLions íaccd by individual and socicLy. In
shorL, dcspiLc Arnold’s complicaLing his vicw oí criLicism as noL
bcing dirccLly a judgmcnLal discoursc, hc ulLimaLcly conccivcs oí
his pracLicc as prcciscly LhaL—and Lhus confirms his subscqucnL
rcccpLion in Lhc ficld oí liLcrary sLudics.
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 6i
Arc conLcmporary criLics, Lhcn, sLill Arnoldians` Ycs and no.
Clcarly, as illusLraLcd in Lhc prcvious chapLcr, public criLicism
as publishcd in popular culLurc magazincs or daily ncwspapcrs
knows almosL no oLhcr modc oí opcraLion—parLicularly whcn iL
cncounLcrs Lhc issuc oí violcncc. In LhaL scnsc, magazincs such
as Fntertaìnment week|y, ncwspapcrs such as Lhc New York Tìmes,
or 1v shows such as Fbert and Roper at the Movìes do noL so much
íuncLion as objccLivc disLribuLors oí iníormaLion Lhan as filLcr
mcchanisms LhaL rcgulaLc whaL Lhcir audicncc will rcad, lisLcn Lo,
and waLch. Tc shccr abundancc oí iníormaLion is Lhus channclcd
in ccrLain dirccLions. Tc írcqucnL occurrcncc oí moral judgmcnL
passcd by Lhcsc siLcs opcraLcs simply as onc oí Lhc mosL powcríul
Lools Lo dirccL, indccd producc, culLural knowlcdgc.
CulLural sLudics scholar Iawrcncc Crossbcrg calls Lhis mcch-
anism a “rcgulaLory rcgimc” (we Cotta Cet Out :6i). Tc samc
rcgimc has, oí coursc, bccn opcraLing on many oLhcr rcgisLcrs
íor a long Limc. For insLancc, Lhc producLion codc oí Lhc MoLion
PicLurc Produccrs and DisLribuLors oí Amcrica (rrrbt), “wriLLcn
in :njo buL noL cffccLivcly cníorccd unLil :nji” (SchaLz i), rcgu-
laLcd Hollywood’s film producLions unLil iL was rcplaccd by Lhc
rrtt raLing sysLcm in :n68, which inLroduccd Lhc lcLLcr raLing
sysLcm LhaL, in modificd íorm, is sLill in placc Loday. Iikcwisc,
Lhc 1v raLings mandaLcd by Lhc TclccommunicaLions AcL oí :nn6
codiíy imagcs íor Lhc small scrccn bascd on Lhc samc “nichc mar-
kcL” principlc LhaL Hollywood uscs. WhaL boLh Lhc “wholcsalc”
and “rcLail” principlcs oí govcrning imagcs havc in common, how-
cvcr, is Lhc mcdia corporaLions’ dcsirc Lo kccp Lhc govcrnmcnL
aL arm’s lcngLh. IcsL Lhc govcrnmcnL cníorcc a law LhaL would
rcgulaLc Lhc cnLirc indusLry írom ouLsidc, mcdia companics havc
always bccn savvy cnough Lo avoid such cxLcrnal rcgulaLions by
couching Lhcir inLcrnal rcgulaLing mcchanisms in moral Lcrms.
For insLancc, Lhc producLion codc was dominaLcd by a rhcLoric Lo
proLccL Lhc “uncducaLcd”; likcwisc, conLcmporary raLing sysLcms
arc jusLificd as a mcans Lo prcscrvc Lhc innoccncc oí childrcn,
who may bc corrupLcd by bcing cxposcd Lo violcnL or scxually
cxpliciL imagcs.
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 6j
ConvcnicnLly íor mcdia corporaLions, Lhis moral jusLificaLion
gocs pcríccLly in hand wiLh a largcr LransíormaLion oí capiLal-
ism. IL is noL a coincidcncc LhaL Lhc raLing sysLcm cmcrgcd aL Lhc
vcry momcnL Hollywood was in scrious financial diffi culLics. Onc
oí Lhc soluLions Lo iLs insolvcncy was Lo hccd a lcsson lcarncd
írom Madison Avcnuc Lwo dccadcs carlicr. As Tomas Frank pcr-
suasivcly shows in Te Conquest oj Coo|, corporaLions discovcrcd
nichc markcLing in Lhc :n=os. A salcs principlc bascd on a rcLail
raLhcr Lhan wholcsalc approach, nichc markcLing LargcLs only a
small scgmcnL oí Lhc populaLion. As a rcsulL oí Lhis kcy shiíL in
corporaLc salcs sLraLcgy, Amcrican capiLalism bcgan Lo work much
morc cffi cicnLly: insLcad oí worrying abouL producing a producL
LhaL appcals Lo Lhc largcsL common dcnominaLor, corporaLions
can producc many producLs LargcLcd aL spccific, diffcrcnL con-
sumcr groups. Fvcn bcLLcr, corporaLions arc now capablc oí scll-
ing liícsLylcs raLhcr Lhan mcrc producLs; as a rcsulL, many morc
producLs can bc sold, as long as Lhcy arc all markcLcd Lo a ccrLain
nichc group dcsiring Lo parLicipaLc in a ccrLain liícsLylc. WiLh Lhis
LransíormaLion, Lhc spccd oí capiLal bcgan Lo accclcraLc, jusL as iL
did wiLh Lhc invcnLion oí Taylorism bcíorc and Lhcn again wiLh
Lhc shiíL Lo sLock markcL–drivcn capiLalism somc dccadcs laLcr.
In Lhc casc oí Hollywood in Lhc posL-:n68 cra, iL bccamc pos-
siblc íor sLudios Lo producc films madc íor ccrLain agc groups.
ConscqucnLly, iL managcd Lo rcgain somc oí Lhc rclcvancy iL had
losL sincc Lhc cnd oí World War II. WiLh imagcs oí rcal violcncc
broadcasL livc on 1v (i.c., VicLnam, Lhc assassinaLion oí 1FK, or
Lhc murdcr oí Icc Harvcy Oswald) and Lhc scxual rcvoluLion in
íull bloom, Lhc raLing sysLcm allowcd Hollywood films Lo providc
vicwcrs wiLh imagcs LhaL cxprcsscd morc closcly Lhc zciLgcisL
Lhan Lhc ovcrly gcncric imagcs LhaL iL was condcmncd Lo makc
duc Lo Lhc rcgulaLions oí Lhc codc (noLwiLhsLanding LhaL Holly-
wood had alrcady bccn pushing hard Lo cxpand Lhc codc’s bound-
arics). Tough Hollywood ncvcr rcgaincd Lhc powcr and popular-
iLy iL cnjoycd in iLs goldcn agc, iL bcgan Lo rccovcr financially in
Lhc carly :n¬os and rcmains a morc or lcss poLcnL and hcalLhy
indusLry Lo Lhis day, noLwiLhsLanding Lhc cyclic complainLs hcard
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 6i
abouL LickcL salcs dcclinc, supposcdly causcd by parasiLical invcn-
Lions such as vns or bvb. Today, oí coursc, mcdia corporaLions
makc morc profiL írom sccondary and LcrLiary markcL cxploiLa-
Lion Lhan írom LhcaLrical runs oí movics, and popular criLicism’s
judgmcnLs play an imporLanL rolc in Lhis, noL lcasL bccausc Lhcy
bclong Lo Lhc samc mcdia corporaLions LhaL producc and dis-
LribuLc Lhc vasL majoriLy oí Hollywood films. Tis is also why a
íorccíul ncgaLivc judgmcnL bascd on cxpliciLly moral grounds is,
salcswisc, noL aL all undcsirablc Lo Lhcsc corporaLions, as Lhc in-
íamous cxamplc oí Mcl Cibson’s Te Passìon oj the Chrìst (iooi)
BuL whaL abouL acadcmic, or so-callcd scrious, criLicism` In my
vicw, iL can ccrLainly bc said Lo havc movcd away írom Arnold’s
Lypc oí moral criLicism during Lhc ccnLury íollowing Lhc publica-
Lion oí Arnold’s criLical salvos. YcL, iL is noL aL all clcar LhaL criLical
disciplincs—cspccially liLcrary criLicism—havc cscapcd Lhc rcalm
oí judgmcnL alLogcLhcr.
In íacL, onc oí Lhc mosL influcnLial Lhc-
orisLs oí Lhc :n¬os and :n8os, Paul dc Man, bcgins his pcrhaps
bcsL known and mosL influcnLial collccLion oí cssays, A||egorìes oj
Readìng, by Lurning immcdiaLcly Lo whaL hc saw as Lhc conLinuing
dcploymcnL oí judgmcnL in liLcrary criLicism.
Whilc iL may sccm
LhaL Lhc hcyday oí Amcrican dcconsLrucLion has long passcd—un-
doubLcdly Lo Lhc grcaL rclicí oí iLs counLlcss opponcnLs—Lurning
our aLLcnLion Lo dc Man’s landmark cssay “Scmiology and RhcLo-
ric” mighL noncLhclcss allow us Lo complicaLc Lhc qucsLion oí judg-
mcnL as iL opcraLcs in liLcrary and film sLudics. Indccd, dc Man
shows LhaL liLcrary criLicism’s supposcd progrcssion away írom
Lhc world oí Arnoldian valuc judgmcnLs Lurns ouL Lo bc lcss clcar-
cuL Lhan Lhc disciplinc mighL havc imagincd. Hcncc, my inLcrcsL
in Lurning Lo dc Man lics lcss in his insLiLuLional imporLancc (or
lack Lhcrcoí Loday) Lhan in his abiliLy Lo cngagc Arnold’s impcra-
Livc and Lhc disciplinc’s rcsponsc on a conccpLual lcvcl. As such, dc
Man’s complicaLion oí Lhc conccpL oí liLcrary judgmcnL—and his
subscqucnL insLanLiaLion oí a “soluLion” Lo whaL hc pcrccivcs Lo bc
Lhc problcm oí liLcrary criLicism—can bc considcrcd sympLomaLic
oí Lhc disciplinc aL largc. Whilc his work shows why Lhc rcalm oí
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 6=
judgmcnL consLiLuLcs a scrious problcm íor liLcrary criLicism, dc
Man’s “soluLion” ulLimaLcly rcmains wiLhin Lhc graviLaLional pull
oí Lhc vcry problcm hc diagnoscs.
Paul de Man: Debunking Meaning
Dc Man rcsponds in “Scmiology and RhcLoric”—a paradigmaLic
cssay illusLraLing Amcrican dcconsLrucLion in a nuLshcll—Lo
whaL hc pcrccivcs as Lhc disciplinary rcjccLion oí íormalisL and
inLrinsic criLicism (Ncw CriLicism) in íavor oí a criLical pracLicc
LhaL is inLcrcsLcd in Lhc “nonvcrbal ‘ouLsidc’ Lo which languagc
rcícrs” (j).
Hc quickly arrivcs aL Lhc hcarL oí his conccrn, which
is worLh quoLing aL lcngLh:
WiLh Lhc inLcrnal law and ordcr oí liLcraLurc wcll policcd, wc
can now confidcnLly dcvoLc oursclvcs Lo Lhc íorcign affairs,
Lhc cxLcrnal poliLics oí liLcraLurc. NoL only do wc íccl ablc
Lo do so, buL wc owc iL Lo oursclvcs Lo Lakc Lhis sLcp: our
mora| conscìence would noL allow us Lo do oLhcrwisc. Bchind
Lhc assurancc LhaL valid inLcrprcLaLion is possiblc, bchind
Lhc rcccnL inLcrcsL in wriLing and rcading as poLcnLially cí-
íccLivc public spccch acLs, sLands a highly rcspccLablc mora|
ìmperatìve LhaL sLrivcs Lo rcconcilc Lhc inLcrnal, íormal,
privaLc sLrucLurcs oí liLcrary languagc wiLh Lhcir cxLcrnal,
rcícrcnLial, and public cffccLs. (j, cmphascs minc)
In oLhcr words, dc Man bcgins his scminal dcconsLrucLivc cn-
dcavor as a rcsponsc Lo a moral impcraLivc LhaL hc pcrccivcs Lo
bc pcrmcaLing conLcmporary criLical pracLicc, namcly, LhaL criLi-
cism musL hccd Lhc posiLivc and ncgaLivc cffccLs liLcraLurc may
or may noL havc on Lhc cxLcrnal world. Tis moral impcraLivc is
simulLancously produccd and pcrpcLuaLcd by a íundamcnLal bi-
nary rclaLion LhaL, in by now íamiliar dcconsLrucLivc pracLicc, dc
Man scLs ouL Lo undo: Lo wiL, Lhc insidc/ouLsidc opposiLion LhaL
ulLimaLcly allows íor judgmcnLs Lo bc madc abouL Lhc LcxL írom
a placc ouLsidc oí iL.
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 66
Clcarly, Lhcn, dc Man bcgins his dcconsLrucLivc invcsLigaLion oí
criLical pracLicc by claiming LhaL, conLrary Lo whaL many may havc
LhoughL, criLicism has not movcd ouLsidc Lhc rcalm oí judgmcnL.
In íacL, Lhis could noL occur prcciscly bccausc Lhc insidc/ouLsidc
binary conLinucd Lo affccL various modcs oí criLicism as a consLiLu-
Livc íorcc. Whcrcas Ncw CriLicism, íor cxamplc, rcduccd “mcaning”
Lo Lhc íormal sLrucLurcs oí Lhc LcxL, subscqucnL dcvclopmcnLs in
criLicism posiLcd íorm Lo bc mcrcly a Lrapping oí liLcrary mcaning
and conLcnL and Lhcn íound Lhc LcxL’s mcaning in iLs rcícrcnLial
qualiLy. As dc Man wriLcs, Lhc “polariLics oí insidc and ouLsidc havc
bccn rcvcrscd, buL Lhcy arc sLill Lhc samc polariLics LhaL arc aL play:
inLcrnal mcaning has bccomc ouLsidc rcícrcncc, and Lhc ouLcr íorm
has bccomc inLrinsic sLrucLurc” (i). Hcncc, onc oí Lhc rcsponscs Lo
a Ncw CriLical hcrmcncuLic was rcadcr rcsponsc criLicism LhaL rclo-
caLcd Lhc ncxus íor LcxLual mcaning írom Lhc auLhor or LcxL Lo LhaL
oí Lhc rcadcr’s, or discoursc communiLy’s, acLiviLy.
Tc rcsL oí dc Man’s cssay dcconsLrucLs Lhc “insidc/ouLsidc
mcLaphor LhaL is ncvcr bcing scriously qucsLioncd” (=) by firsL
flipping Lhc binary Lo cmphasizc Lhc dcprivilcgcd Lcrm and Lhcn
rcplacing iL wiLh a ncw conccpLual pair as a mcans Lo cxaminc rcla-
Lions such as rhcLoric/grammar, Lhcory/pracLicc, rcading/undcr-
sLanding, and mcLaphor/mcLonymy. Dcploying insighLs gaincd
írom scmiology LhaL shiíL Lhc qucsLion írom whaL somcLhing
mcans Lo how iL mcans, dc Man counLcrs Lhc dominanL assump-
Lion LhaL liLcrary languagc is mcLaphorical by dclincaLing how iL is
mcLonymical. In Lhc proccss, hc shows LhaL Lhc undcrsLanding oí
liLcrary languagc as mcLaphorical lcads Lo a rcícrcnLial criLicism
LhaL wanLs Lo havc iL boLh ways: “oí bcing, Lo paraphrasc Marx in
Lhc Ccrman Idcology, a íormalisL criLic in Lhc morning and a com-
munal moralisL in Lhc aíLcrnoon” (6).
For our purposcs, wc do noL havc Lo discuss in dcLail how, spc-
cifically, dc Man discusscs Archic Bunkcr, William BuLlcr YcaLs,
and Marccl ProusL Lo csLablish LhaL liLcrary languagc is govcrncd
by a mcLonymical raLhcr Lhan mcLaphorical logic (i.c., by conLigu-
iLy and chancc raLhcr Lhan analogy and idcnLiLy). WhaL dc Man
concludcs, howcvcr, is imporLanL. Hc finds LhaL
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 6¬
prcciscly whcn Lhc highcsL claims arc bcing madc íor Lhc
uniíying powcr oí mcLaphor, Lhcsc vcry imagcs rcly in íacL
on Lhc dcccpLivc usc oí scmi-auLomaLic grammaLical paL-
Lcrns. Tc dcconsLrucLion oí mcLaphor and oí all rhcLorical
paLLcrns such as mimcsis, paronomasia, or pcrsonificaLion
LhaL usc rcscmblancc as a way Lo disguisc diffcrcnccs, Lakcs
us back Lo Lhc impcrsonal prccision oí grammar and oí a sc-
miology dcrivcd írom grammaLical paLLcrns. Such a rcading
puLs inLo qucsLion a wholc scrics oí conccpLs LhaL undcrlic
Lhc va|ue ìudgments oí our criLical discoursc: Lhc mcLaphors
oí primacy, oí gcncLic hisLory, and, mosL noLably, oí Lhc au-
Lonomous powcr Lo will oí Lhc sclí. (:6, cmphasis minc)
McLaphors, in oLhcr words, arc always alrcady mcLonymics. Tc
upshoL oí dc Man’s argumcnL is LhaL a “rhcLorizaLion oí grammar
(as in Lhc rhcLorical qucsLion)” bascd on a mcLaphorical undcr-
sLanding oí languagc lcads Lo “indcLcrminaLion, in a suspcndcd
unccrLainLy LhaL was unablc Lo choosc bcLwccn Lwo modcs oí
rcading,” whcrcas whaL hc calls a “grammaLizaLion oí rhcLoric í. .
.] sccms Lo rcach a LruLh” (:6). Whcrcas a mcLaphorical cncoun-
Lcr wiLh liLcrary languagc mcrcly lcads Lo morc inLcrprcLaLions
LhaL arc ulLimaLcly unablc Lo dcLcrminc any mcaning oí Lhc LcxL,
dc Man suggcsLs LhaL (mcLonymically govcrncd) dcconsLrucLion
as cxcmplificd in his cssay arrivcs aL a dccision, aL a LruLh, albciL
a ncgaLivc onc (:6).
YcL, in “Lruc” NicLzschcan íashion, dc Man hasLcns Lo asscrL
LhaL aL Lhc momcnL oí sLaking a claim íor dcconsLrucLion as a
supcrior LcxLual cngagcmcnL (“dcconsLrucLion is noL somcLhing
wc havc addcd Lo Lhc LcxL buL iL consLiLuLcd Lhc LcxL in Lhc firsL
placc” í:¬]) iL is also ncccssary Lo dcbunk Lhc “criLic-philosophcr”
(:¬) as Lhc owncr oí LruLh. As dc Man argucs, “ií LruLh is Lhc rcc-
ogniLion oí Lhc sysLcmic characLcr oí a ccrLain kind oí crror íLhc
pocLic bclicí in Lhc primacy oí mcLaphor ovcr mcLonymy], Lhcn
iL would bc íully dcpcndcnL on Lhc prior cxisLcncc oí Lhis crror”
(:¬). Tc implicaLions oí Lhis claim arc aL lcasL Lwoíold. FirsL,
dcconsLrucLion is a íorm oí anLihumanism, íor “Lhc disLincLion
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 68
bcLwccn auLhor and rcadcr is onc oí Lhc íalsc disLincLions LhaL
rcading makcs cvidcnL” (:¬). NciLhcr rcadcrs nor auLhors con-
Lrol “mcaning.” Sccond, and íor our purposcs morc imporLanL,
dcconsLrucLion is cLhically obligcd Lo dcconsLrucL Lhc vcry LruLh
iL finds; iL has Lo dcconsLrucL iLsclí. Tis, howcvcr, mcans noLhing
lcss Lhan LhaL dcconsLrucLion, as popularizcd by dc Man’s criLical
wriLings, pracLiccs a modc oí criLicism characLcrizcd by a “sLaLc oí
suspcndcd ignorancc” (:n). TaL is, bccausc “onc rcading is prc-
ciscly Lhc crror dcnounccd by Lhc oLhcr and has Lo bc undonc by
iL íwc cannoL] in any way makc a valid dccision as Lo which oí Lhc
rcadings can bc givcn prioriLy ovcr Lhc oLhcr; nonc can cxisL in
Lhc oLhcr’s abscncc” (:i).
Hcrc dc Man has arrivcd aL a pcculiar placc—onc LhaL, duc Lo
Lhc influcncc oí his work, had cnormous conscqucnccs íor Lhc
way criLicism was pracLiccd LhroughouL much oí Lhc :n¬os and
:n8os. Hc has indccd drasLically complicaLcd somc oí Lhc basic
assumpLions oí conLcmporary liLcrary pracLicc LhaL conLinuc Lo
producc a criLicism noL all LhaL íar away írom Arnold’s. YcL, symp-
LomaLic oí Amcrican dcconsLrucLion—and, indccd, Lhc dominanL
Lcndcncy oí liLcrary criLicism aL largc—dc Man’s approach ulLi-
maLcly docs noL cscapc Lhc cconomy oí judgmcnL ciLhcr. For ií
wc íollow his own logic LhaL bcgan wiLh his dcconsLrucLing Lhc
insidc/ouLsidc binary, Lhcn wc havc Lo bc suspicious oí whaL hc
posiLs as Lhc ncccssary “sLaLc oí suspcndcd ignorancc”—or, in
1cffrcy Ncalon’s Lcrms, “Lhc dcmonsLrablc ncccssiLy oí LoLaliza-
Lion’s íailurc” (A|terìty Po|ìtìcs ¬8)—consLiLuLing liLcrary pracLicc,
criLical and pocLic alikc. AL Lhc vcry momcnL hc pulls Lhc rug
írom undcrncaLh Lhc insidc/ouLsidc disLincLion LhaL givcs criL-
ics a purchasc on a criLical posiLion ouLsidc Lhc LcxL LhaL allows
íor Lhc producLion oí moral valuc judgmcnLs, dc Man’s logic also
rcaffi rms judgmcnL in iLsclí. AíLcr all, ií Lhc LruLh oí criLicism is
iLs ignorancc or incviLablc íailurc and, Lhus, iLs ncccssary dcícrral
oí judgmcnL, Lhcn iLs LruLh cxisLs only in rclaLion Lo a prior cr-
ror—LhaL oí judgmcnL iLsclí. Ií Lhis is Lhc casc, howcvcr, Lhcn iL is
noL aL all clcar whaL dc Man’s claboraLc proccdurc has gaincd him
in Lhc cnd, oLhcr Lhan íurLhcr complicaLing Lhc conccpL oí judg-
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 6n
mcnL and how iL opcraLcs (by ncccssiLy`) in criLicism. Whcrcas
criLicism uscd Lo find mcaning in a LcxL LhaL iL Lhcn procccdcd Lo
judgc, dc Man dclincaLcs Lhc ncccssary íailurc oí Lhis projccL (iL
íails prcciscly bccausc rcprcscnLaLions arc ncvcr prcscnL as such;
Lhcy arc govcrncd by consLiLuLivc abscnccs) and insLcad posiLs
impossibiliLy iLsclí as Lhc mcaning oí a LcxL: Lhc vcry íacL LhaL
wc can ncvcr conclusivcly dccidc whaL a LcxL rcally mcans ìs Lhc
LcxL’s mcaning. In Lhis scnsc, dc Man’s cfforLs do noL providc a
way ouL oí Lhc cconomy oí judgmcnL, cvcn Lhough Lhcy clcarly
and hclpíully display how Lhc dominanL pracLicc oí liLcrary criLi-
cism (rcícrcnLial criLicism) conLinucs Lo íuncLion in a nco-Ar-
noldian íashion.
Lawrence Grossberg: Affecting Cultural Studies
BuL ií cvcn dc Man’s cnormously sophisLicaLcd criLical rcsponsc
Lo liLcraLurc docs noL and cannoL cscapc judgmcnL, Lhcn wc may
havc Lo ask why Lhis is Lhc casc: why is iL LhaL, whcn all is said
and donc, Amcrican dcconsLrucLion “mcrcly” inLcnsifics Lhc logic
oí judgmcnL wiLhouL rcaching a brcaking poinL aL which a íun-
damcnLal LransíormaLion mighL occur` IL sccms LhaL onc way oí
answcring Lhis qucsLion is hinLcd aL by Iawrcncc Crossbcrg in his
criLiquc oí culLural sLudics, Lhc vcry disciplinc hc hclpcd shapc in
significanL ways. CulLural sLudics, jusL likc Ncw HisLoricism and
Ncw MaLcrialism, Lhc Lwo mosL popular LhcorcLical paradigms
bcíorc iL, casLs iLsclí in opposiLion Lo dcconsLrucLion, pcrcciving
iL Lo bc Loo LcxLual and Loo ahisLorical.
Rcgardlcss oí Lhc validiLy
oí Lhis criLiquc, Lhcsc ncwcr criLical paradigms Lricd Lo shiíL criLi-
cal aLLcnLion Lo hisLory, maLcrial pracLiccs, and siLcs alLogcLhcr
diffcrcnL írom whaL was pcrccivcd as Lhc privilcgcd locaLion oí
YcL, in all LhaL, so Crossbcrg sccms Lo Lhink, a ncw
dcad cnd has bccn produccd, onc, I mighL add, LhaL is hardly ncw
aL all, íor iL is Lhc samc dcad cnd LhaL Lraps dc Man’s projccL in Lhc
rcalm oí judgmcnL: Lo wiL, the economy oj representatìon ìtse|j now
emerges as the prob|em. 1usL likc dc Man’s cfforLs rcmain inLri-
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? ¬o
caLcly Licd Lo a rcprcscnLaLional cconomy (Lhc ncvcr-cnding flip-
ping oí Lhc binary undocs Lakcn íor granLcd hicrarchics buL docs
noL displacc Lhc sysLcm oí significaLion and mcaning iLsclí), so
Crossbcrg argucs LhaL culLural sLudics—LhaL which supposcdly
ncgaLcs dcconsLrucLion and iLs cmphasis on rcading LcxLs—also
rcmains wiLhin Lhc íamiliar confincs oí rcprcscnLaLion.
Ií Cross-
bcrg is righL, iL appcars LhaL Lhc allcgcdly ncw paradigm, which
has rcmaincd dominanL Lo Lhis day, mighL noL bc ablc Lo providc
Lhc impcLus LhaL iL promiscs.
In “Tc VicLory oí CulLurc,” Crossbcrg’s main LargcL consisLs oí
Lhc |ogìc oí mcdiaLion (as opposcd Lo Lhc cxisLcncc oí mcdiaLing
proccsscs). DirccLing his prolcgomcnon—a gcnrc LhaL “dcfincs a
projccL and Lhc condiLions which makc such a projccL boLh ncccs-
sary and possiblc”—spccifically aL Lhc disciplinc oí culLural sLud-
ics, hc asks whcLhcr “iL is rcasonablc Lo conLinuc íollowing Lhc
samc paLh” oí idcnLiLy poliLics LhaL has obscsscd culLural sLudics
(j). Spccifically, givcn LhaL idcnLiLy poliLics is a poliLics oí mcdia-
Lion and rcprcscnLaLion, Crossbcrg argucs, “culLural sLudics has
Lo rcspond Lo Lhc incrcasing imporLancc, boLh LhcorcLically and
poliLically, oí Lhc asigniíying, whcLhcr undcrsLood as Lhc maLc-
rial, Lhc body or affccL” (i). Oí coursc, Crossbcrg is noL Lhc firsL Lo
rccognizc Lhc imporLancc oí Lhc asigniíying; Fricdrich NicLzschc,
íor onc, Lhcorizcd Lhc asigniíying LhroughouL his ocuvrc (scc,
c.g., “On TruLh and Iying in Lhc FxLra-Moral Scnsc”), Lhus pro-
ducing a LhoughL arrow LhaL was laLcr pickcd up and rcdirccLcd by
Lhc likcs oí Cillcs Dclcuzc and Michcl FoucaulL. YcL, I Lhink iL is
worLh quoLing Crossbcrg aL lcngLh on Lhis issuc, íor hc succincLly
cxprcsscs a hisLorical poinL LhaL affccLs conLcmporary LhoughL
prcciscly bccausc iL has largcly gonc unconLcsLcd, cspccially in
culLural sLudics:
NorLh ALlanLic ModcrniLy has always rccognizcd LhaL Lhcrc
is somcLhing clsc Lo human cxisLcncc bcyond Lhc cpisLc-
mological buL iL always assigns Lhis cxccss Lo Lhc domain
oí Lhc irraLional, Lhc unsLrucLurcd, Lhc unmappablc (c.g.,
as dcsirc or crcaLiviLy). Tus whcn Lhcy arc Lalkcd abouL,
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? ¬:
Lhcy arc ciLhcr immcdiaLcly rcconfigurcd inLo Lhc rcalm oí
rcprcscnLaLion, or Lhcy arc LrcaLcd as Lhc concrcLc, Lhc par-
Licular, Lhc aLhcorcLical. As a rcsulL, much oí conLcmporary
culLural Lhcory and criLicism assumcs a binary opposiLion
bcLwccn affccL, Lhc body, maLcrialiLy and Lhc concrcLc on
Lhc onc sidc, and idcology, subjccLiviLy, consciousncss and
Lhcory on Lhc oLhcr. (i)
NicLzschc cxplaincd Lhc human dcsirc íor LruLh by linking iL Lo
moral and raLional rcasons LhaL subscqucnLly Lurncd Lhc consLi-
LuLivc íorcc oí languagc—which íor him is Lhc powcr oí Lhc íalsc,
or lying—inLo Lhc sphcrc oí Lhc irraLional and, Lhus, immoral.
Similarly, Crossbcrg suggcsLs LhaL conLcmporary LhoughL con-
Linually bypasscs íorccs oí asignificaLion, whcLhcr by dcnigraLing
Lhcm as irraLional and pcrsonalizcd cxpcricnccs or by LranslaLing
Lhcm inLo a diffcrcnL rcgimc LhaL iL is morc íamiliar and comíorL-
ablc wiLh: LhaL oí rcprcscnLaLion. In Lhc prcvious chapLcr I showcd
onc oí Lhc conscqucnccs oí Lhis laLLcr opcraLion—namcly, LhaL
Lhc asigniíying íorccs oí violcncc in Amerìcan Psycho arc Lurncd
inLo a qucsLion oí rcprcscnLaLion LhaL in Lurn allows and, indccd,
ncccssiLaLcs a moral judgmcnL oí Lhcsc íorccs. Tc poinL Lo mark
hcrc is LhaL Crossbcrg locaLcs Lhc samc opcraLion LhaL I locaLcd
in a raLhcr LcxLual manncr Lo bc opcraLing aL Lhc hcarL oí Lhc vcry
disciplinc LhaL casLs iLsclí agaìnst LcxLual “rcadings.”
Tc main parL oí Crossbcrg’s cssay aLLcmpLs Lo map ouL how
Lhc logic oí mcdiaLion cmcrgcd, how iL íuncLioncd, and whaL iL
produccd. Onc oí Lhc kcy conccpLs cmcrging in rclaLion Lo Lhc
logic oí mcdiaLion is LhaL oí culLurc as a “dcscripLivc and norma-
Livc” conccpL (:o). Crucially, so Crossbcrg argucs, “Lhc vcry acL oí
producing Lhc conccpL oí culLurc involvcs Lhc consLrucLion oí a
placc which allows onc Lo boLh dcscribc and ìudge Lhc changcs in
cvcryday liíc” (:o, cmphasis minc). TaL is, culLurc as a conccpL
produccs Lhc possibiliLy—or, bcLLcr, ncccssiLy—íor judgmcnL:
“arL as moraliLy” (:o). Rcícrring Lo Arnold’s bclicí LhaL “culLurc is
Lhc bcsL LhaL has bccn LhoughL and said” (qLd. in Crossbcrg :o),
Crossbcrg shows how culLural sLudics and iLs conccrns arc noL
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? ¬i
íar aL all írom a sccmingly ouLmodcd opcraLion oí criLicism.
íacL LhaL Lhc conccpL oí culLurc—so crucial Lo Lhc ficld oí culLural
sLudics LhaL morc or lcss opposcs liLcraLurc and iLs apparcnL íc-
Lishizing oí Lhc LcxL—is inLricaLcly linkcd Lo an Arnoldian scnsc
oí moraliLy hclps cxplain why, íor insLancc, Lhc culLural rcsponsc
(and I Lakc Lhis Lcrm in iLs largcsL scnsc) Lo BrcL FasLon Fllis oc-
currcd in Lhc manncr iL did. AíLcr all, Fllis was clcarly markcd
and markcLcd as “culLurc” cvcr sincc his firsL novcl Less Tan Zero
(:n8=) Lurncd him inLo Lhc nom du ìour in Lhc mid-cighLics, al-
lowing him Lo írcqucnL circlcs oLhcrwisc rcscrvcd íor Lhc culLural
cliLc oí Lhc FasL and WcsL CoasL csLablishmcnL. Prcciscly bccausc
Lhcrc was scanL qucsLioning oí Fllis’s high culLural posiLion, Lhc
shock oí Amerìcan Psycho was all Lhc morc inLcnsc: ií arL/culLurc
cmbodics Lhc bcsL oí mankind and ií Fllis is somchow parL oí cul-
Lurc in Lhis scnsc, Lhcn criLicism has no problcm Lo jusLiíy com-
mcnLing on him; buL Lhis vcry casc wiLh which iL could cmbracc
Fllis also madc iL singularly unprcparcd íor dcaling wiLh Amerìcan
Psycho, and iLs aLLcndanL cvcnL, as such. TaL is, bccausc culLural
criLicism assumcd iLsclí Lo bc capablc oí addrcssing onc oí iLs
own, iL íound iLsclí unablc Lo cncounLcr a LcxL LhaL marks iLsclí in
Lcrms radically uníamiliar Lo iL—hcncc Lhc nccd Lo addrcss Fllis’s
LcxL in Lcrms oí “saLirc” íor Lhosc who wanLcd Lo dcícnd iL. SaLirc,
aL lcasL, consLiLuLcs a íamiliar conccpL and can in Lurn bc mobi-
lizcd Lo arLiculaLc a judgmcnL abouL Lhc LcxL and whaL iL is said Lo
saLirizc—Lhus pcrpcLuaLing Lhc idca LhaL culLurc is Lhc bcsL LhaL
has bccn LhoughL and said by mankind.
So, prcciscly bccausc Fllis had bccn markc(Lc)d as “culLurc,”
judgmcnL was dcmandcd, cvcn in lighL oí Lhc íacL LhaL Amerìcan
Psycho iLsclí was hardly pcrccivcd as dcscrving oí Lhis aLLribuLion.
Tis oughL Lo bc noLcd simply bccausc oí Lhc cxisLcncc oí many
oLhcr LcxLs LhaL arguably did whaL Fllis’s did long bcíorc. Tc dií-
ícrcncc, Lhough, is LhaL many oí Lhcsc bruLal, “immoral” LcxLs arc
markc(Lc)d noL as ficLion or liLcraLurc buL as mysLcry, suspcnsc,
horror, and so on. Tc rcaliLy oí Lhis disLincLion should bc clcar
Lo anyonc who írcqucnLs booksLorcs, whcrc ficLion is scparaLcd
írom all oí Lhc oLhcr caLcgorics, Lhus íainLly rcscmbling Lhc moral
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? ¬j
scgrcgaLion bcLwccn “immoral” pornographic maLcrial and allcg-
cdly morally upliíLing or insLrucLivc oncs.
BuL iL is Lhis consLiLu-
Livc opcraLion LhaL allows criLicism—liLcrary, film, and culLural
sLudics—Lo judgc a spccific scL oí LcxLs; in íacL, iL bccomcs Lhc
moral impcraLivc Lo do so.
In conLrasL, Lhc samc opcraLion oí criLicism appcars Lo bccomc
impossiblc aL Lhc vcry momcnL iL is coníronLcd wiLh LcxLs noL
markc(Lc)d as culLurc. So, íor insLancc, PaLricia HighsmiLh or 1im
Tompson’s ficLions do noL lcnd Lhcmsclvcs Lo Lhc samc criLical
opcraLion prcciscly bccausc iL is íar írom clcar LhaL Lhc criLical ap-
paraLus oí high culLurc shou|d bc broughL Lo Lhcm. IL is noL aL all
csLablishcd LhaL, say, HighsmiLh’s Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey (:n==)
or Tompson’s Kì||er !nsìde Me (:n=i) is worLhy oí our collccLivc
criLical cfforLs. In íacL, boLh HighsmiLh and Tompson havc rc-
ccivcd barcly morc criLical aLLcnLion in scholarly ouLlcLs Lhan Fllis
has—dcspiLc Lhc íacL LhaL Lhc laLLcr has wriLLcn only six books Lo
daLc, whcrcas boLh HighsmiLh and Tompson, culL auLhors caLc-
gorizcd as crimc/mysLcry/suspcnsc wriLcrs, auLhorcd morc Lhan
LhirLy. Tc samc holds Lruc íor Lhc grcaL Aírican Amcrican crimc
wriLcr ChcsLcr Himcs. IiLcrary sLudics “propcr” prcícrs Lhc can-
onizcd, and oíLcn raLhcr bourgcois liLcrary pracLiccs oí Aírican
Amcrican wriLcrs such as Ralph Fllison, 1amcs Baldwin, or Toni
Morrison Lo Lhc bruLal pulp sLylc oí Himcs, whosc ocuvrc camc
Lo an cxplosivc cnd wiLh his lasL Harlcm novcl, P|an P (:n8j).
Tis unfinishcd novcl rcachcd a limiL poinL oí cxplosivc violcncc
on Lhc lcvcl oí conLcnL LhaL Lhc novcl’s sLylc was barcly ablc Lo
conLain. Ií Lhis rclaLionship bcLwccn Lhc applicaLion oí criLical cí-
íorLs and Lhc pcrccivcd insLiLuLional mcriL oí LcxLs is as dcscribcd
hcrc, Lhcn judgmcnL iLsclí bccomcs a raLhcr impoLcnL modc oí rc-
sponsc (bccausc LhaL which rcquircs rcsponsc is noL pcrccivcd as
bcing worLhy oí rcsponsc Lo bcgin wiLh). Crucially, Lhc íacL LhaL
criLicism’s main modus opcrandi is noL—or jusL barcly—in acLion
wiLh rcgard Lo Lhcsc wriLcrs paradoxically prccludcs iL írom aL-
Lcnding Lo somc oí Lhc morc inLcrcsLing opcraLions somconc likc
HighsmiLh cngagcs in, as I will arguc in Lhc ncxL chapLcr.
So, Crossbcrg’s analysis oí Lhc logic oí mcdiaLion wiLh iLs aL-
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? ¬i
LcndanL culLural “logic oí lack” (::) hclps us cxplain Lhc largcr
opcraLion oí culLural criLicism. In Lhc conLcxL oí his conccrn—
culLural sLudics—Crossbcrg Lhcrcíorc urgcs us Lo qucsLion iLs rc-
liancc on idcnLiíying “mcdiaLion wiLh communicaLion” (:i) LhaL
sccs all culLural pracLiccs as involving “Lhc producLion oí mcan-
ings and rcprcscnLaLions, oí subjccLiviLics and idcnLiLics” (:i).
Spccifically, Crossbcrg’s analysis suggcsLs LhaL Lhis rcliancc docs
noL providc a poliLical or cLhical LacLic LhaL would bc capablc oí
living up Lo Lhc promiscs iL makcs in culLural sLudics work, íor iL
mighL bc Lhc casc LhaL “Lhc cmcrging íormaLions oí powcr may
no longcr find Lhis logic íoí mcdiaLion] uscíul” (:i). Tus, Lhc
conccpL oí culLurc as currcnLly dcploycd by culLural sLudics noL
only rcduccs cvcryLhing Lo mcaning buL also docs so as a mcans
Lo combaL a modc oí powcr LhaL mighL bc ouLmodcd by now. And
ií Lhis is indccd Lhc casc, as I am inclincd Lo agrcc, noL Lhc lcasL
bccausc oí FoucaulL’s raLhcr powcríul argumcnLs Lo Lhis cxLcnL,
Lhcn rcprcscnLaLion as a locus íor poliLics and criLicism no longcr
offcrs a promising modc oí cngagcmcnL.
Crossbcrg’s own work has long aLLcmpLcd Lo accounL íor Lhis
shiíL in powcr íormaLions. So, íor insLancc, hc Lhcorizcs rock
music as a modc oí affccL raLhcr Lhan concciving iL in idcologi-
cal, rcprcscnLaLional Lcrms. Considcring affccL a main íorcc dc-
ploycd by LcxLs Lo gcncraLc inLcnsiLics, Crossbcrg aLLcnds, íor
insLancc, Lo Lhc sonoriLy oí rock music, an affccLivc rcgimc LhaL
crcaLcs “spaccs oí non-KanLianism íLimc, mcdiaLion, judgmcnL]
and such spaccs opcraLc on Lhc suríacc íor all Lo cnLcr; iL opcr-
aLcs wiLh a kind oí cconomy oí placc-making whcrc Lhc logic oí
mcdiaLion docs noL and cannoL opcraLc” (:=). WhaL is oí inLcrcsL
in Crossbcrg’s work, Lhcn, is his cfforL Lo Lakc affccL morc scri-
ously by diagnosing how nonrcprcscnLaLional íorccs arc always aL
work—íorccs LhaL may producc rcprcscnLaLions buL LhaL cannoL
bc cxplaincd by LhaL logic.
Whilc Brian Massumi asLuLcly criLicizcs Crossbcrg íor having
muddlcd Lhc imporLanL disLincLion bcLwccn cmoLion and affccL, I
Lhink Crossbcrg’s argumcnL musL ncvcrLhclcss bc Lakcn scriously
as an inLcrvcnLion inLo Lhc ficld LhaL oíLcnLimcs prcLcnds LhaL iL
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? ¬=
has succcssíully climinaLcd Lhc piLíalls oí liLcrary sLudics.
as dc Man was ablc Lo show LhaL liLcrary sLudics is íar írom having
cscapcd Arnold’s shadow, so Crossbcrg conccpLually shows LhaL
dc Man’s soluLion Lo Lhc problcm oí judgmcnL mcrcly Lurncd LhaL
conccpL inLo a ncw, ycL rclaLcd, problcm: LhaL oí rcprcscnLaLion.
From a Crossbcrgian culLural sLudics pcrspccLivc, wc cannoL ac-
ccpL cndlcss dcícrral as a saLisíying soluLion Lo Lhc íuncLioning
oí judgmcnL as Lhc opcraLivc íorcc oí criLicism; íurLhcr, írom Lhis
pcrspccLivc wc bcgin Lo scc now LhaL Lhc logic oí rcprcscnLaLion
iLsclí is Lhc problcm.
Crossbcrg, oí coursc, docs noL dcny LhaL rcprcscnLaLion/mc-
diaLion cxisLs. RaLhcr, hc urgcs culLural sLudics Lo apprcciaLc Lhc
possibiliLy LhaL rcprcscnLaLion mighL noL bc “abouL” rcprcscnLa-
Lion—LhaL Lhc producLion oí “mcaning” is mcrcly onc cffccL “rcp-
rcscnLaLions” producc, and noL Lhc mosL imporLanL onc aL LhaL.
WhaL wc considcr “rcprcscnLaLions” arc Lhcmsclvcs produccd by
asigniíying íorccs. Or, as hc puLs iL, “SignificaLion and rcprcscn-
LaLion arc mcrcly Lwo modcs—and noL ncccssarily Lhc mosL im-
porLanL oncs—in Lhc rcgimc oí mcdiaLion, or cvcn oí discursivc
mcdiaLion” (¬–8). ConsLanLin Boundas’s criLiquc oí whaL hc calls
dominanL dcconsLrucLion sLrikcs a similar noLc: “PosiLioning iL-
sclí, as ídcconsLrucLion] did, ambiguously in íronL oí Lhc proccss
oí (Lhc) producLion (oí signs) and (Lhc) anLi-producLion (oí Lhc
body-wiLhouL organs), iL lcíL Lhc mcLaphysical primacy oí rcpro-
ducLion íviz. rcprcscnLaLion, mcdiaLion] unchallcngcd. And iL is
Lhis unchallcngcd mcLaphysical primacy oí rcproducLivc íorccs
í . . . ] LhaL accounLs íor ‘Lurning cvcryLhing inLo a drama’ in Lhc
dcploymcnL oí (major) dcconsLrucLivc sLraLcgics” (:6=). BoLh
Crossbcrg and Boundas arc making Lhc samc poinL wiLh rcgard Lo
Lhcir disciplincs (culLural sLudics and philosophy, rcspccLivcly),
which lcads Lhcm Lo ask, in Boundas’s words, “wiLh whaL clsc
íoLhcr Lhan rcprcscnLaLions] docs a LcxL gcncraLc inLcnsiLics”
(:6¬)` To addrcss Lhis qucsLion, boLh Boundas and Crossbcrg
Lurn íor Lhcir answcrs Lo Lhc sLricLly arcprcscnLaLional LhoughL
oí Cillcs Dclcuzc, a Lhinkcr whosc work inhabiLs culLural sLudics,
as wcll as liLcrary and film sLudics, mosLly on Lhc margins.
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? ¬6
TaL Crossbcrg poinLs Lo Dclcuzc’s LhoughL as a way Lo prob-
lcmaLizc somc oí Lhc morc dominanL criLical paradigms—bc iL Lhc
sLill lingcring dcconsLrucLivc vcin or Lhc culLural sLudics rcsponsc
Lo iL—is cvcn morc rcmarkablc in LhaL hc Lhus marks an inLcr-
csLing and Lclling dynamic inhcrcnL Lo any disciplinc invcsLcd in
inLcrprcLaLion. TaL is, dc Man’s criLiquc oí liLcrary criLicism’s
conLinuing judgmcnLal modc oí opcraLion mighL havc bccn ablc
Lo producc somc iniLial shock wavcs; ycL Lhc vcry naLurc oí dc
Man’s own pracLicc ulLimaLcly allowcd Lhc disciplinc Lo wclcomc
his criLiquc and makc iL iLs own prcciscly bccausc dc Mancan
criLicism (Amcrican dcconsLrucLion) rcmains solidly wiLhin Lhc
rcalm oí rcprcscnLaLion and inLcrprcLaLion. Tc criLical qucsLion
rcmains “whaL docs Lhis mean`” cvcn Lhough Lhc oíL-rcpcaLcd
rcsponsc is LhaL wc cannoL dccidc or LhaL Lhc LcxLual mcaning
assumcs a pluraliLy oí íorms. Iikcwisc, Lhc aLLracLivcncss oí cul-
Lural sLudics, dcspiLc iLs aLLack on Lhc privilcging oí LcxLs, is oí
liLLlc surprisc considcring LhaL iL Loo has much invcsLmcnL in Lhc
conccpL oí rcprcscnLaLion (albciL in a much morc poliLical scnsc),
as Crossbcrg has niccly parcclcd ouL. In iLs aLLcmpL Lo poliLicizc
Lhc acL oí criLicism, culLural sLudics has (parLially) Lurncd away
írom Lhc liLcrary (or cincmaLic) LcxL buL has ncvcr rcally qucs-
Lioncd rcprcscnLaLion as such. In íacL, iL mighL noL bc ovcrsLaL-
ing Lhc casc LhaL much oí culLural sLudics has no inLcrcsL aL all
in qucsLioning rcprcscnLaLionalism, sincc much oí iLs poliLics arc
Licd Lo noLions oí rccogniLion, idcnLiLy, and Lhus rcprcscnLaLion
and judgmcnL.
Tis hclps cxplain why, gcncrally spcaking, Dclcuzc’s LhoughL
has had considcrably lcss influcncc on liLcrary and film criLicism
Lhan dcconsLrucLion, Ncw HisLoricism, or culLural sLudics. Any
quick rit daLabasc scarch using Lhc Lcrm “Dclcuzc” will producc
considcrably ícwcr cnLrics Lhan “culLural sLudics,” “FoucaulL”/
“Ncw HisLoricism,” or “Dcrrida”/“DcconsLrucLion.” Similarly, a
pcrusal oí Lhc main cincma journals will noL bring íorLh a vasL
array oí scholarly work LhaL dcals wiLh or dcploys Dclcuzcan
LhoughL—dcspiLc Lhc íacL LhaL hc wroLc Lwo books on cincma,
jusL as hc wroLc cxLcnsivcly on liLcraLurc.
WhaL Lhcn is going
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? ¬¬
on` Why is onc noL cnLircly misLakcn in suggcsLing LhaL Lhc aca-
dcmic criLical apparaLus has largcly kcpL Dclcuzc aL bay` Whilc
Lhcrc may bc all kinds oí cxplanaLions (such as his diffi culL and
consLanLly changing Lcrminology, Lhc sccming—buL only sccm-
ing—lack oí sysLcmaLiciLy oí his wriLing, Lhc shccr brcadLh oí his
inLcrcsL LhaL makcs his argumcnLs oíLcn raLhcr diffi culL Lo íol-
low íor rcadcrs), I suggcsL, íollowing Crossbcrg, LhaL Dclcuzc’s
insisLcncc on Lhc asigniíying íorcc oí languagc lics aL Lhc rooL oí
criLicism’s rclucLancc Lo cngagc his LhoughL. Or, pcrhaps morc Lo
Lhc poinL, disciplincs such as liLcrary or film criLicism mighL bc
rclucLanL Lo Lakc Dclcuzc’s arcprcscnLaLionalism morc scriously
bccausc íollowing Dclcuzc on Lhis poinL pulls Lhc rug írom undcr-
ncaLh Lhc disciplincs’ chcrishcd LriniLy—rcprcscnLaLion, inLcr-
prcLaLion, and judgmcnL—as I havc bcgun Lo arguc in chapLcr i.

To íurLhcr Lhis argumcnL, lcL us Lurn Lo onc oí Dclcuzc’s carlicr
cssays, “Tc Simulacrum and AncicnL Philosophy”—an cssay LhaL
in iLs vcry clariLy and concision shaLLcrs many wcll-chcrishcd and
naLuralizcd prcsupposiLions oí conLcmporary criLical pracLicc,
noL lcasL bccausc iL runs a hard linc on Lhc kcy insighL LhaL “mo-
dcrniLy is dcfincd by Lhc powcr oí Lhc simulacrum” (i6=).
Gilles Deleuze: Overcoming Platonism
Taking up NicLzschc’s claim LhaL Lhc Lask oí modcrn philosophy
is “Lo rcvcrsc PlaLonism,” Dclcuzc wanLs Lo diagnosc whaL Lhis
ovcrLurning mcans and how iL could bc accomplishcd (“Simula-
crum” i=j). IL is oí coursc hardly a coincidcncc LhaL Dclcuzc bc-
comcs inLcrcsLcd in Lhc qucsLion oí PlaLonism. AíLcr all, iL was
PlaLo who powcríully inLroduccd rcprcscnLaLionalism inLo WcsL-
crn LhoughL. As 1acqucs Dcrrida has írcqucnLly suggcsLcd, Lhc
lascr bcam oí WcsLcrn mcLaphysics wcnL írom PlaLo all Lhc way
Lo conLcmporary philosophcrs such as MarLin Hcidcggcr, and I
wanL Lo add LhaL PlaLo’s arrow oí LhoughL has also bccn caughL by
Lhc modcrn pracLicc oí liLcrary and film criLicism as pracLiccd in
acadcmia and popular culLurc. As such, Lhcn, an ovcrLurning oí
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? ¬8
PlaLonism is noL a small Lask. Morc spccifically, a succcssíul ovcr-
Lurning would scriously qucsLion Lhc validiLy oí Lhc cnLirc criLi-
cal cnLcrprisc—or aL lcasL criLicism in iLs rcprcscnLaLional modc.
BuL íor our purposcs cvcn morc crucial is LhaL an ovcrLurning oí
PlaLonism would also show why judgmcnL, no maLLcr how subLlc,
cannoL bc considcrcd a hclpíul rcsponsc Lo a liLcrary (or filmic)
LcxL, cspccially, Lhough noL cxclusivcly, in iLs cxLrcmc casc: LhaL
oí violcncc. So, ií dc Man has shown LhaL liLcrary criLicism con-
Linucs Lo rcly on judgmcnL and argucs íor a dcconsLrucLivc criLi-
cism suspcndcd in rcprcscnLaLional ignorancc and ií Crossbcrg
has shown LhaL rcprcscnLaLion iLsclí mighL bc Lhc problcm, Lhcn
Dclcuzc givcs us Lhc Lool Lo scc how judgmcnL is Lhc opcraLion
oí rcprcscnLaLion. TaL is, sympLomaLologically rcading Dclcuzc’s
cssay on PlaLo and Lhc simulacrum allows us Lo undcrsLand why
Lhc disciplinc oí criLicism cannoL cscapc Lhc rcalm oí judgmcnL as
long as iL conLinucs Lo basc iLsclí on Lhc cconomy oí rcprcscnLa-
WhaL, Lhcn, happcns in and wiLh PlaLo’s LhoughL according
Lo Dclcuzc` IL is wcll known LhaL PlaLo’s argumcnLs workcd by
his division oí gcnus inLo spccics. Dclcuzc, howcvcr, conLcnds
LhaL Lhc rcal purposc oí PlaLonic division “is noL aL all Lo dividc
a gcnus inLo spccics, buL, morc proíoundly, Lo sclccL lincagcs: Lo
disLinguish prcLcndcrs; Lo disLinguish Lhc impurc írom Lhc purc,
Lhc auLhcnLic írom Lhc inauLhcnLic” (“Simulacrum” i=i). Pcrhaps
Lhc bcsL-known cxamplc oí Lhis proccdurc is PlaLo’s aLLcmpL Lo
Lrack down Lhc SophisL.
And iL is in Lhis conLcxL, so Dclcuzc sug-
gcsLs, LhaL wc havc Lo undcrsLand Lhc íuncLion oí myLh in PlaLo’s
LhoughL. Ií Lhc mcLhod oí PlaLonic division is a “dialccLic oí ri-
valry” (i=i), Lhc abiliLy Lo disLinguish bcLwccn Lhc auLhcnLic and
inauLhcnLic, Lhc Lruc and Lhc íalsc, ulLimaLcly dcpcnds on somc
a priori ground LhaL allows a subjccL Lo makc Lhcsc divisions.
And myLh, in PlaLo, bccomcs Lhis ground. TaL is, his Lhcory oí
Idcas—as cxprcsscd in Lhc myLh oí Lhc purc souls—“pcrmiLs Lhc
consLrucLion oí a modcl according Lo which Lhc diffcrcnL prcLcnd-
crs can bc judgcd” (i==). Ií Lhc rcalm oí Idcas is Lhc highcsL good
Lo bc aspircd Lo, Lhcn iL íollows LhaL Lhcrc arc a numbcr oí dií-
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? ¬n
ícrcnL lcvcls oí parLicipaLion, namcly, LhaL Lhcrc arc parLicipanLs
who íaiLhíully copy Lhcsc idcas and parLicipanLs who do noL.
TaL is, PlaLo’s Lhcory oí Idcas “consLrucLs Lhc immancnL modcl
or Lhc íoundaLion-LcsL according Lo which Lhc prcLcndcrs should
bc judgcd and Lhcir prcLcnsions mcasurcd” (i=6). WhaL Dclcuzc
rclcnLlcssly poinLs ouL hcrc is Lhc ccnLraliLy oí ìudgment Lo Pla-
Lonic—LhaL is, rcprcscnLaLional—LhoughL. Tis bccomcs crucial
as soon as Dclcuzc movcs on Lo discussing Lhosc PlaLonic con-
ccpLs mosL rclcvanL Lo Lhc pracLicc oí criLicism: Lhc copy and Lhc
In PlaLonism, says Dclcuzc, copics “arc sccondary posscssors
íor] wcll-íoundcd prcLcndcrs, guaranLccd by rcscmblancc; sìmu-
|acra arc likc íalsc prcLcndcrs, builL upon a dissimilariLy, implying
an csscnLial pcrvcrsion or a dcviaLion” (“Simulacrum” i=6). Tc
moral imporLancc oí Lhis disLincLion cannoL bc ovcrcsLimaLcd, íor
Lhc PlaLonic moLivaLion Lo diffcrcnLiaLc bcLwccn good and bad
copics or, raLhcr, bcLwccn copics and simulacra, is immancnLly
linkcd Lo Lhc dcsirc Lo promoLc Lhc inhcrcnL goodncss oí Lhc Lruc
prcLcndcr (copy) prcciscly bccausc Lhis prcLcndcr is modclcd on
Lhc puriLy oí Lhc Idca: “Tc copy Lruly rcscmblcs somcLhing only
Lo Lhc dcgrcc LhaL iL rcscmblcs Lhc Idca oí LhaL Lhing. Tc prc-
Lcndcr coníorms Lo Lhc objccL only insoíar as hc is modclcd (in-
Lcrnally and spiriLually) on Lhc Idca. Hc mcriLs Lhc qualiLy (Lhc
qualiLy oí bcing jusL, íor cxamplc) only insoíar as hc has íoundcd
himsclí on Lhc csscncc (jusLicc). In shorL, iL is Lhc supcrior idcn-
LiLy oí Lhc Idca, which íounds Lhc good prcLcnsion oí Lhc copics,
as iL bascs iL on an inLcrnal or dcrivcd rcscmblancc” (i=¬). In con-
LrasL, Lhc simulacrum’s prcLcnsion is uníoundcd, as iL conccals iLs
inhcrcnL dìssìmì|arìty írom Lhc Idca: iL mcrcly prcLcnds Lo bc likc
Lhc Idca whcn in rcaliLy iL is oí an cnLircly diffcrcnL—inauLhcnLic,
Onc oí Lhc upshoLs oí Dclcuzc’s argumcnL hcrc is LhaL Lhc
popular posLmodcrn languagc oí simulaLion docs noL makc much
scnsc, ií wc undcrsLand by simulacra “copics oí copics” as 1can
Baudrillard and Frcdric 1amcson do.
Tc poinL Dclcuzc makcs
is prcciscly LhaL simulacra arc diffcrcnL ìn kìnd írom copics; sim-
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 8o
ulacra arc noL copics oí copics bccausc Lhc íormcr arc dcrivcd
írom a diffcrcnL lincagc Lhan Lhc laLLcr. Copics arc sccondary Lo a
prior idcnLiLy, whcrcas simulacra givc risc Lo idcnLiLy as an effect:
“onc írcading oí Lhc world] inviLcs us Lo Lhink diffcrcncc írom
Lhc sLandpoinL oí a prcvious similiLudc or idcnLiLy; whcrcas Lhc
oLhcr írcading] inviLcs us Lo Lhink similiLudc and cvcn idcnLiLy as
Lhc producL oí a dccp dispariLy. Tc firsL rcading prcciscly dcfincs
Lhc world oí copics or rcprcscnLaLions; iL posiLs Lhc world as icon.
Tc sccond, conLrary Lo Lhc firsL, dcfincs Lhc world oí simulacra;
iL posiLs Lhc world iLsclí as phanLasm” (i6:–6i). For PlaLo, and
Lhosc LhoughL sysLcms dcrivcd írom or simply influcnccd by him,
such as (nco-)PlaLonism and ChrisLianiLy, Lhc purposc oí validaL-
ing Lhc moral supcrioriLy oí copics ovcr simulacra lics prcciscly
in Lhc íacL LhaL copics rcscmblc—bc iL a purc Idca (PlaLonism) or
Cod (ChrisLianiLy). For insLancc, ChrisLianiLy, as Dclcuzc wriLcs,
claims, “Cod madc man in his imagc and rcscmblancc. Trough
sin, howcvcr, man losL Lhc rcscmblancc whilc mainLaining Lhc
imagc. Wc havc bccomc simulacra. Wc havc íorsakcn moral cxis-
Lcncc in ordcr Lo cnLcr acsLhcLic cxisLcncc” (i=¬). Copics—rcprc-
scnLaLions—arc inLrinsically judgcd as morally good; in conLrasL,
simulacra, and wiLh Lhcm acsLhcLics, havc Lhoroughly bccn dc-
Dclcuzc’s analysis, howcvcr, docs noL posiL a choicc bcLwccn
Lhcsc Lwo rcadings oí Lhc world. Dclcuzc is noL a posLcr boy íor
TiVo uscrs, who can rccord an cnLirc cvcning’s worLh oí Lclcvi-
sion Lalk shows and choosc Lhc ncxL morning which onc Lhcy arc
in Lhc mood íor waLching: Icno or IcLLcrman, or pcrhaps boLh.
RaLhcr, hc makcs iL unmisLakably clcar LhaL Lhc powcr oí Lhc sim-
ulacrum—iLs vcry cxisLcncc—undocs Lhc proposiLion LhaL wc arc
living in a world sLrucLurcd by rcprcscnLaLions as primary íorccs.
On Lhc conLrary, Lhc simulacrum, “Lhc Bcing oí all bcings” (i6=),
“harbors a posiLivc powcr which dcnics the orìgìna| and the copy.
the mode| and the reproductìon” (i6i). Tc simulacrum’s powcr—
“Lhc powcr oí Lhc íalsc” (i6j)—lics in iLs constìtutìve capaciLy Lo
sLrucLurc cxisLcncc, íor iL docs away wiLh Lhc vcry possibiliLy Lo
disLinguish bcLwccn copy and modcl.
Tc simulacrum looks likc
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 8:
Lhc modcl and Lhus insinuaLcs LhaL iL has copicd Lhc modcl, whcn
rcally Lhc simulacrum dcploys an inLcrnal diffcrcncc, a dissimilar-
iLy, Lo producc Lhc cffccL oí similariLy, rcscmblancc, and idcnLiLy.
Tc Colossus oí Rhodcs lookcd likc a pcríccLly proporLioncd hunk
oí a man only bccausc iLs proporLions wcrc Lhoroughly dissimilar
Lo a rcal human bcing or, raLhcr, Lo Lhc Idca oí a rcal human bcing.
Tc powcr oí Lhc simulacrum, Lhcn, induccs a “vcrLigo” (i6i), a
dizzincss, dclirium, or hallucinaLion—a psychic modc LhaL is dií-
ícrcnL írom an illusion prcciscly in LhaL Lhc laLLcr can bc mca-
surcd againsL a LruLh whcrcas Lhc íormcr cannoL: a hallucinaLion
is noL bascd on somcLhing in cxisLcncc LhaL could bc cmpirically
mcasurcd, whcrcas an illusion is.
BuL Lhc simulacrum consLiLuLcs íor PlaLo a problcm noL only
bccausc oí iLs simplc inícrioriLy Lo Lruc copics. RaLhcr, as Dclcuzc
poinLs ouL, PlaLo appcars Lo bc disLurbcd by Lhc íacL LhaL “Lhc sim-
ulacrum implics hugc dimcnsions, dcpLhs and disLanccs LhaL Lhc
obscrvcr cannoL masLcr” (i=8). Bccausc oí Lhc impossibiliLy Lo
masLcr, Lo know, or simply Lo undcrsLand Lhcsc dimcnsions—or,
in KanLian Lcrms, Lhc sublimc—Lhc pcrcciving subjccL íalscly cx-
pcricnccs Lhc simulacrum as a rcscmblancc Lo Lhc copy, Lhc origi-
nal. As a rcsulL, Lhc subjccL loscs iLs disLincLncss írom Lhc objccL
oí pcrccpLion: “Lhc simulacrum includcs Lhc diffcrcnLial poinL oí
vicw; and Lhc obscrvcr bccomcs a parL oí Lhc simulacrum iLsclí,
which is Lransíormcd and dcíormcd by his poinL oí vicw” (i=8).
Or, as Clairc Colcbrook glosscs Lhis argumcnL, “any spccific poinL
oí vicw is noL a poinL oí vicw ovcrlooking somc objccL world, buL a
proliícraLion oí poinLs, a prc-pcrsonal ficld oí singulariLics. í . . . ]
Wc can’L subordinaLc looking, rcccpLiviLy or Lhc givcnncss oí Lhc
world Lo Lhc siLc oí Lhc subjccL, as Lhough Lhc world wcrc locaLcd
wìthìn poinL oí vicw. Bcíorc Lhc rcprcscnLing powcr oí Lhc subjccL
Lhcrc is an infiniLc scrics oí looks or ‘conLcmplaLions’” (:::–:i).
AL sLakc, Lhcn, is a PlaLonic dcsirc íor mainLaining Lhc disLincLivc-
ncss oí subjccL and objccL; likcwisc, in phcnomcnological Lcrms,
Lhc problcm wiLh Lhc simulacrum is LhaL iL íalsifics “Lruc” pcrccp-
Lion in LhaL iL lcads Lhc pcrccivcr Lo bccomc conscious oí somc-
Lhing LhaL rcally docs noL cxisL as such. Tc violcncc occurring
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 8i
hcrc, Lhcn, is onc againsL a prcsumcd wholcncss oí pcrccpLion.

Tc pcrcciving subjccL, in his or hcr cncounLcr wiLh Lhc “aggrcs-
sion oí Lhc simulacra” (Dclcuzc, “Simulacrum” i6:), cxpcricnccs
an “affccLivc chargc” (i6:), a “bccoming-mad” (i=8)—somcLhing
LhaL, írom PlaLo onward, Lhc hisLory oí WcsLcrn (major) LhoughL
has bccn aL pains Lo dcnigraLc, Lo rcprcss.
According Lo Dclcuzc, PlaLonism “íounds Lhc cnLirc domain
LhaL philosophy will laLcr rccognizc as iLs own: Lhc domain oí rcp-
rcscnLaLion fillcd by copics-icons, and dcfincd noL by an cxLrinsic
rclaLion Lo an objccL, buL by an inLrinsic rclaLion Lo Lhc modcl or
íoundaLion” (i=n). As such, iL insLanLiaLcs a movcmcnL againsL
Lhc íorccs oí bccoming—oí affccL—and cmbcds a moral choicc,
arLiculaLcd as “a prcícrcncc íor Lhc calm, ordcrcd liíc oí Lhc soul
govcrncd by rcason Lo Lhc disordcrly and passionaLc liíc oí Lhc
soul movcd by pocLry” (PaLLon jj). Iiíc as such is rcndcrcd as
a sLablc proccss oí copying in which clcarly dclincaLcd subjccLs
can bc judgcd bascd on Lhcir abiliLy Lo cmulaLc Lhc idcalisLic
original. Tc rcalm oí rcprcscnLaLion, in oLhcr words, is írom Lhis
momcnL on immancnLly consLiLuLcd by Lhc dcsirc Lo judgc: rcp-
rcscnLaLionalism cannoL bc LhoughL wiLhouL judgmcnL, cannoL
bc donc wiLhouL judgmcnL. Or, in NicLzschc’s gcncalogical Lcrms,
Lhc íorcc oí judgmcnL so crucial íor PlaLo sLill affccLs rcprcscnLa-
Lional LhoughL in Lhc prcscnL. A rcvcrsal oí PlaLonism, Lhcrcíorc,
is an unLimcly acL, onc LhaL by “acLing counLcr Lo our Limc íacLs]
on our Limc and, lcL us hopc, íor Lhc bcncfiL oí a Limc Lo comc”
(NicLzschc, “Uscs and DisadvanLagcs” 6o). Dclcuzc’s inLcrcsL in
rcvisiLing PlaLo, and in asscrLing Lhc primacy oí Lhc simulacrum,
is Lhus noL onc oí cxcavaLing a “Lrucr” rcading oí PlaLo. Dclcuzc
is noL a pracLiLioncr oí whaL NicLzschc dcnigraLcd as “anLiquarian
RaLhcr, Lhc poinL LhaL I Lhink wc would do wcll Lo hccd
vcry carcíully is Dclcuzc’s insisLcncc LhaL wc havc noL ycL donc
wiLh PlaLo(nism). PlaLo’s LhoughL is noL onc wc can look aL “ob-
jccLivcly” as a hisLorical documcnL prcciscly bccausc iL sLill opcr-
aLcs in conLcmporary criLical pracLiccs. Tc virLual íorcc oí PlaLo’s
iniLial affi rmaLivc insLanLiaLion oí rcprcscnLaLionalism as a moral
judgmcnL conLinucs Lo bc acLualizcd Loday, jusL as, iL sccms Lo
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 8j
mc, Arnoldianism is noL a maLLcr oí a pasL cra wc havc donc wiLh
buL insLcad conLinucs Lo pcrmcaLc conLcmporary LhoughL and
IL sccms, Lhcn, LhaL wc havc answcrcd Lhc qucsLion wiLh which wc
bcgan. As long as criLicism, in iLs cncounLcr wiLh liLcraLurc or cin-
cma (or oLhcr arLs), conccivcs oí iLs objccL as rcprcscnLaLions, iL
is bound Lo producc moral judgmcnLs, no maLLcr how subLlc Lhcy
mighL appcar Lo bc. In Lhis conccpLion, arL rcmains inLricaLcly
Licd Lo a morc or lcss Arnoldian vicw oí arL as moral pcdagogy.
FurLhcr, Lhis conccpLion oí signalcLic maLcrial (cincmaLic imagcs,
liLcrary words, musical noLcs, cLc.) also ncccssarily insisLs on Lhc
scparaLion oí Lhc pcrcciving subjccL írom Lhc objccL pcrccivcd,
íor iL is Lhis disLincLivcncss LhaL is ncccssary íor a valid judgmcnL
Lo bc madc Lo bcgin wiLh. For only ií Lhc pcrcciving subjccL is noL
affccLcd by Lhc objccL can onc bc surc LhaL Lhc pcrccpLion oí iL and
Lhc aLLcnding judgmcnL will bc purc, unícLLcrcd by Lhc bccom-
ing-mad oí Lhc íorcc oí Lhc simulacrum. Howcvcr, whaL Dclcuzc’s
rcading oí PlaLonism’s dcnigraLion oí Lhc simulacrum suggcsLs is
noL only LhaL PlaLo acLually rccognizcd Lhc unLcnabiliLy oí his own
Lhcory; iL also shows LhaL our idca oí poinL oí vicw—so crucial Lo
many liLcrary and film analyscs—cannoL bc mainLaincd in a way
LhaL suggcsLs Lhc agcncy oí a írccly pcrcciving subjccL.
Lhc consLiLuLivc íorcc oí simulaLion—LhaL which pcrcolaLcs cvcry
imagc—rcndcrs Lhc subjccL as indisccrniblc írom a mulLipliciLy
oí poinL oí vicws. Tc subjccL is noLhing buL a scqucncc oí poinL
oí vicws, oí affccLivc cncounLcrs wiLh Lhc world; or, as Fllis shows
in Amerìcan Psycho (and HighsmiLh in Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey), Lhc
subjccL is mcrcly a scqucncc oí masks: Laking off onc mask rc-
vcals noLhing clsc buL Lhc dclirious suríacc qualiLy oí ycL anoLhcr
BuL Lhis is a diffi culL lcsson Lo lcarn íor a disciplinc so invcsLcd
in Lhc criLic as Lhc subjccL in chargc oí inLcrprcLaLion or Lhc auLhor
(or rcadcr, as Lhc casc may bc) in chargc oí “making mcaning.”

Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 8i
Whcrcas dc Mancan dcconsLrucLion was raLhcr casy Lo incorpo-
raLc inLo Lhc disciplinc prcciscly bccausc iL rcmaincd Lhoroughly
invcsLcd in rcprcscnLaLionalism, and whcrcas culLural sLudics Loo
could sLrongly affccL criLicism bccausc oí iLs (poliLical) inLcrcsL in
rcprcscnLaLionalism, Dclcuzc’s LhoughL has had a much hardcr
Limc affccLing Lhc disciplinc as such prcciscly bccausc iL puLs inLo
qucsLion Lhc vcry ground on which Lhc disciplinc dcpcnds. AíLcr
all, Lhc qucsLion onc nccds Lo ask now is “WhaL can onc do ií Lhc
assumcd puriLy oí a criLical poinL oí vicw cannoL bc mainLaincd`”
or “WhaL is onc Lo do now LhaL imagcs in whaLcvcr íorm do noL
rc-prcscnL Lhc world, naLurc, or somc Lruc idca`” Oí coursc, somc
answcrs Lo Lhcsc qucsLions havc alrcady bccn providcd, noL only
by Dclcuzc himsclí, buL also by somc LhcorisLs such as Ncalon or
SLcvcn Shaviro.
WhaL I am inLcrcsLcd in hcrc is Lo providc onc íurLhcr link, onc
LhaL, I Lhink, is madc cxpliciLly by HighsmiLh’s ficLion Lo which
I will Lurn ncxL. TaL is, ií Dclcuzc shows us LhaL Lhc rcalm oí
rcprcscnLaLion is Lhc rcalm oí judgmcnL, Lhcn I would likc Lo sug-
gcsL LhaL an cncounLcr wiLh violcncc in liLcraLurc or film cannoL
possibly assumc Lhc íorm oí judgmcnL—noL only bccausc judg-
ing rcprcscnLaLions is oddly rccursivc (iL judgcs iLsclí by ncccssiLy
and Lhus can ncvcr assumc a moral placc ouLsidc said rcprcscn-
LaLion, as iL is morc Lhan oíLcn assumcd by criLics), buL bccausc
judgmcnL, in iLs immancncc wiLh rcprcscnLaLion, ìs Lhc movc-
mcnL or íorcc oí violcncc par cxccllcncc. Morc prcciscly, in aL lcasL
onc scnsc Dclcuzc’s analysis shows LhaL, onLologically spcaking,
vìo|ence ìs a|| there ìs in LhaL Lhc primacy oí Lhc diffcrcnLial poinL
oí vicw—oí diffcrcncc—íuncLions as a modc LhaL can only bc
dcscribcd as violcncc in LhaL iL is purc íorcc. YcL Lhis consLiLu-
Livc violcncc is noL a violcncc dirccLcd againsL or donc Lo somc
prior wholcncss, Lo somc phcnomcnological world or Bcing LhaL
wc somchow lack or dcsirc Lo rcLurn Lo bccausc iL is írcc oí vio-
lcncc. In íacL, undcrsLanding violcncc in Lcrms oí “doing violcncc
Lo” always dcnoLcs a rcprcscnLaLional conccpLion oí violcncc.

IL sccms Lo mc, howcvcr, LhaL Lhc movcmcnL oí pcrccpLion—in-
cluding LhaL oí imagcs—is drivcn by Lhc violcncc oí diffcrcncc. As
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 8=
such iL docs noL makc much scnsc Lo Lry Lo judgc Lhis violcncc, íor
iL is whaL makcs us up. All our capaciLics arc produccd by Lhis vio-
lcncc. YcL noL all violcncc is Lhc samc. In íacL, Dclcuzc’s analysis
oí PlaLonism shows—ií wc undcrsLand iL as suggcsLing Lhc purc
immancncc oí Lhc Lriad rcprcscnLaLion-judgmcnL-violcncc—LhaL
iL maLLcrs whaL kind oí violcnccs violcncc produccs. Or whaL kind
oí violcncc wc do Lo violcncc. Wc always do violcncc Lo diffcrcncc,
buL iL maLLcrs whaL dirccLion and wcighL Lhis violcncc assumcs:
WhaL cffccLs arc produccd` WhaL docs a spccific íorm oí violcncc
cnablc onc Lo do` WhaL kind oí linc oí flighL can iL scL inLo mo-
Lion` In masocriLical Lcrms, Lhcn, Lhc Lask is noL Lo cscapc vio-
lcncc buL Lo rcgulaLc iL diffcrcnLly.
NoL coincidcnLally, in Dclcuzc’s LhoughL diffcrcncc is inLri-
caLcly linkcd Lo Lhc caLcgory oí affccL. AffccL is Lhc íorcc oí dií-
ícrcncc, Lhc íorcc oí diffcrcncc affccL. And in conLrasL Lo a Kan-
Lian aLLcmpL Lo rcndcr affccL ulLimaLcly inícrior Lo conccpLs and
rcason, Dclcuzc’s “simulaLing” philosophy affi rms affccL as such,
wclcomcs iL íor whaL iL is: Lhc movcmcnL oí violcncc. AffccLs pro-
ducc cffccLs; Lhcy arc abouL linkagcs, abouL Lhc logic oí Lhc “and”
raLhcr Lhan LhaL oí “ciLhcr/or.” AffccL indcxcs Lhc cLhical and on-
Lological ncccssiLy Lo conLinually go clscwhcrc in an cxpcrimcnLal
movcmcnL oí inLcnsificaLion, innovaLion, and improvisaLion, buL
Lhis movcmcnL’s LrajccLory always lcads through Lhc objccL iLsclí.
Tc Lask, Lhcrcíorc, is noL Lo subjccL Lhc objccL Lo judgmcnL buL Lo
coníronL iL wiLh Lhc qucsLion oí whaL iL docs. Tc violcncc oí a liL-
crary or cincmaLic work, Lhcn, is noL subjccLcd Lo Lhc dcmand íor
a “good” and “moral” mcaning (à la Lhc discoursc surrounding Lhc
supposcd moraliLy oí, say, SLcvcn Spiclbcrg’s violcnL World War
II films Schìnd|er’s Lìst í:nnj] and Savìng Prìvate Ryan í:nn8]).
RaLhcr, iL is qucsLioncd mcrcly íor whaL iL docs and how iL docs
iL: Is iL capablc Lo incrcasc Lhc powcr oí Lhc subjccLs cncounLcring
iL (and bcing configurcd and Lransíormcd by iL) Lo acL, Lo Lhink,
Lo movc` Or docs iL dccrcasc Lhcsc íorccs` In shorL, docs iL íur-
Lhcr Lhc powcrs oí living or hindcr Lhcm Lo uníold` Tis is Lhc
cLhical principlc undcrlying a Dclcuzcan Lhcory oí asignificaLion,
a criLical and clinical cncounLcr wiLh imagcs LhaL vicws imaging
Are we A|| Arno|dìans? 86
as producLivc oí cffccLs Lhrough affccLs, raLhcr Lhan conLaining,
howcvcr mulLiplc or undccidablc, LruLhs or mcanings. Tc laLLcr
arc always mcrcly cffccLs oí Lhc prior íorccs oí simulaLion, aí-
íccL, violcncc: LhaL is, oí diffcrcncc.
Taking Lhis scriously mighL
producc a way íor criLicism Lo cngagc iLs objccLs in a rigorously
ajudgmcnLal modc; iL would, pcrhaps, opcn up a Lhorough pro-
ccss oí rcLhinking why wc sLudy imagcs Lo bcgin wiLh and whaL
Lhc promisc oí arL mighL bc íor Lhc qucsLions oí poliLics and pcda-
Tis, Lhcn, is Lhc Lask: Lo dclincaLc—and Lhus producc—lincs
oí flighL Lhrough an affccLivc, masocriLical cncounLcr wiLh (vio-
lcnL) imagcs, bc Lhcy wriLLcn, cincmaLic, or oLhcrwisc. By ncccs-
siLy, Lhis cndcavor musL Lakc mulLiplc íorms, sincc Lhc objccL
and conLcxL oí Lhc cncounLcr wiLh iL auLomaLically affccLs and
cffccLuaLcs dìfferent rcsponscs. BoLh objccL and subjccL alLcr in
Lhis affccLivc cncounLcr; wc cannoL dcLcrminc Lhc mcaning oí
Lhcsc changcs, buL wc can map ouL Lhc (virLual) cffccLs. Tc cru-
cial qucsLion wc havc Lo ask abouL Lhc usc oí violcncc in liLcra-
Lurc or cincma is noL whcLhcr or noL iL is moral (good or cvil).
RaLhcr, Lhc only qucsLions wc arc lcíL wiLh arc Lo ask whcLhcr iL
works, whcLhcr iL allows íor Lhc producLion oí ncw LhoughL, and
whcLhcr iL incrcascs a body’s capaciLy Lo acL, Lo bccomc hcalLhicr,
Lo bc ablc Lo acL in and upon Lhc world—a world LhaL, iL should
bc rccallcd, is onLologically sLrucLurcd by, noL againsL or in ícar
oí, violcncc.
As I argucd in chapLcr i, considcrablc inLcrcsL cxisLcd in :nnn
and iooo in Lhc film adapLaLion oí BrcL FasLon Fllis’s widcly
loaLhcd novcl Amerìcan Psycho. VirLually simulLancous wiLh Lhc
burgconing anLicipaLion in how ícminisL dirccLor Mary Harron
would rcndcr whaL is gcncrally considcrcd onc Lhc mosL anLiícm-
inisL Amcrican novcls in rcccnL mcmory, anoLhcr novcl and iLs
upcoming film vcrsion crcpL inLo Lhc limclighL oí public rcvicws
and middlcbrow magazinc discussions. Whcn on ChrisLmas Day
:nnn AnLhony Minghclla’s adapLaLion oí PaLricia HighsmiLh’s Te
Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey vicd íor Lhc aLLcnLion oí an Amcrican movic
audicncc sLuffcd wiLh Lurkcy and pumpkin pic, Lhc usual ncws-
papcr rcvicws had bcgun cvaluaLing Lhc film as a poLcnLial Acad-
cmy Awards conLcndcr.
AnLicipaLing—and pcrhaps morc signifi-
canLly, hclping Lo manuíacLurc—Lhc succcss oí Lhc film, culLural
ouLlcLs such as Lhc New Yorker and Lhc New York Tìmes prcccdcd
Lhc movic’s rclcasc by raLhcr cxLcndcd discussions oí boLh Lhc
film and HighsmiLh’s work. For insLancc, Lhc New Yorker prinLcd
a íour-pagc analysis by Susannah Clapp oí Minghclla’s cncoun-
Lcr wiLh HighsmiLh, “Lhc chillicsL crimc wriLcr oí Lhcm all” (ni).
Iikcwisc, Lhc New York Tìmes dcvoLcd íour consccuLivc cssays Lo
HighsmiLh and Lhc cincmaLic rcndcring oí hcr mosL íamous novcl.
FirsL, in laLc Novcmbcr, Michiko KakuLani, Lhc papcr’s lcading
book criLic, rcvicwcd Lhc rcissuc oí Lhrcc oí Lhc fivc Riplcy novcls
in a singlc volumc by Lhc Fvcryman’s Iibrary.
Tcn culLural criLic
Frank Rich publishcd a íull-lcngLh Lhink piccc in Lhc ncwspapcr’s
Patricia Highsmith’s “Empirical” Pedagogy of Violence
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence 88
Sunday Magazinc sccLion on Lhc Limclincss oí Te Ta|ented Mr. Rì-
p|ey íor laLc-LwcnLicLh-ccnLury Amcrican culLurc. Finally, David
Tomson and 1ancL Maslin, boLh among Lhc íorcmosL Amcrican
(popular) film criLics, subsLanLially rcvicwcd Lhc film in Lhc wcck
immcdiaLcly prcccding iLs rclcasc.
I poinL Lo Lhcsc ciLaLions mainly Lo suggcsL LhaL Minghclla’s
film noL only provokcd inLcrcsL in a ncw work by Lhc acclaimcd
dirccLor oí Acadcmy Award–winning Te Fng|ìsh Patìent (:nn6)
buL also dirccLcd rcncwcd aLLcnLion Lo PaLricia HighsmiLh, an
Amcrican wriLcr whosc írcqucnLly violcnL, oíLcn sccmingly mis-
anLhropic ficLion has long bccn cclcbraLcd in Furopc buL whosc
rcpuLaLion has suffcrcd in Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs largcly bccausc oí
Lhc suspcnsc/mysLcry/crimc labcl aLLachcd Lo hcr ficLion.
Iikc many oLhcr rcvicwcrs and criLics (scc, c.g., Shorc and
DuponL), Clapp poinLs ouL LhaL “HighsmiLh’s criLical rcpuLaLion
has bccn ambiguous” (ni) and LhaL hcr “books wcrc always morc
succcssíul in Furopc Lhan in Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs” (n6). Rcgarding
HighsmiLh’s diffi culLics as a liLcrary figurc in Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs,
Michacl Bronski Lcllingly poinLs ouL LhaL Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs has
sccn “no lcss Lhan fivc aLLcmpLcd HighsmiLh rcvivals íbcLwccn
:n¬= and :nn=], cach wiLh Lhc rc-rclcasc oí back LiLlcs and a flood
oí aLLcndanL rcvicws and laudaLory arLiclcs” (ii). IncidcnLally, in
Lhc wakc oí Minghclla’s film, HighsmiLh’s work undcrwcnL ycL
anoLhcr comcback. In conjuncLion wiLh Lhc hardcovcr publica-
Lion oí Te Se|ected Storìes oj Patrìcìa Hìghsmìth (ioo:) and Noth-
ìng Tat Meets the Fye. Te 0nco||ected Storìes oj Patrìcìa Hìghsmìth
(iooi), NorLon also rcrclcascd a numbcr oí HighsmiLh’s long ouL-
oí-prinL novcls, including Lhc classic Strangers on a Traìn (:n=o),
and Bloomsbury publishcd Lhc firsL major biography oí High-
smiLh, Andrcws Wilson’s Peautìju| Shadow (iooj). To booL, LhaL
samc ycar HighsmiLh’s íormcr lovcr Marijanc Mcakcr publishcd
Hìghsmìth. A Romance oj the :o=os (iooj), a romancc novcl bascd
on Lhcir rclaLionship. Tough iL is Loo carly Lo asscss Lhc longcviLy
and impacL oí Lhis mosL rcccnL comcback, iL sccms doubLíul LhaL
iL will radically alLcr hcr marginal sLaLus in U.S. lcLLcrs.
Morc crucially íor my argumcnL, Lhc inLcrcsL in Minghclla’s
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence 8n
film and HighsmiLh’s ficLion as arLiculaLcd in Lhc pagcs oí Lhc
largcr naLional ncwspapcrs and culLural magazincs has consis-
LcnLly bccn íramcd around Lhc qucsLions oí mora|ìty and ìudg-
ment. TaL is, rcgardlcss oí Lhc criLics’ cvaluaLivc rcsponsc Lo Lhc
film adapLaLion oí HighsmiLh’s íourLh novcl, almosL all oí Lhcm
íclL compcllcd Lo poinL ouL LhaL Lhc film cnds wiLh Lhc murdcr-
ous proLagonisL, Tom Riplcy, rcmaining aL largc. For cxamplc,
Rich spcculaLcs LhaL Lhc sLudio’s moLivc in rclcasing Lhc film on
ChrisLmas Day aLLcmpLcd Lo appcal Lo an audicncc inLcrcsLcd in
Lhc sLar powcr oí Lhc film “bcíorc Lhcrc íwas] Limc íor Loo much
backlash ovcr iLs crccpincss, iLs violcncc, iLs homocroLic scxual-
iLy and iLs dcfiancc oí Lhc moral closurc usually providcd by big-
budgcL Hollywood cnLcrLainmcnLs.” Iikcwisc, in rcporLing on Lhc
producLion oí Lhc film, Tomson iníorms his rcadcrs LhaL “Te
Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey had problcms wiLh iLs cnding. Somc pcoplc
havc íclL LhaL jusLicc should bc scrvcd.” Hcrc, Tompson alludcs
Lo Lhc íacL LhaL an unabashcdly amoral killcr cscaping “jusL”
punishmcnL musL bc considcrcd raLhcr rcmarkablc—cvcn aíLcr
LhirLy ycars oí “ncw violcncc” in Amcrican cincma—givcn LhaL
onc oí Hollywood’s unspokcn rulcs dicLaLcs LhaL crimc musL bc
InLcrcsLingly, Minghclla himsclí considcrs his film in
morc LradiLionally moral Lcrms, pace Lhc public discoursc cmcrg-
ing írom his adapLaLion. Hc bclicvcs LhaL Riplcy’s cscapc aL Lhc
cnd oí Lhc film consLiLuLcs his punishmcnL par cxccllcncc. As hc
claims in an inLcrvicw wiLh Sìght and Sound, “I was charmcd by
Lhc idca oí a ccnLral characLcr who could commiL murdcr and gcL
away wiLh iL. IL’s noL LhaL I cnjoy Lhc amoraliLy oí LhaL. I wanLcd Lo
say LhaL gettìng away wìth ìt ìs hìs punìshment” (1amcs, “My Bloody
ValcnLinc” :6, my cmphasis). Iikcwisc, Bronski argucs LhaL, in
Lhc final analysis, Lhc film rcmains “vcry saíc” (ij) and conscr-
vaLivc—cspccially comparcd Lo Lhc unabashcdly amoral univcrsc
oí Lhc novcl. In shorL, no maLLcr whaL oLhcr issucs Lhc criLical
rcccpLion oí Minghclla’s film addrcsscd, Lhc ovcrall rcacLion Lo iL
clcarly íorcgroundcd Lhc issuc oí judgmcnL—spccifically Lhc lack
oí punishmcnL oí Tom Riplcy—as a kcy qucsLion oí inLcrcsL and
conccrn in Lhc conLcxL oí Lhc film’s LrcaLmcnL oí violcncc.
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence no
In Lhc casc oí BrcL FasLon Fllis’s work, onc mighL arguc LhaL
Lhc conccrn wiLh judgmcnL is almosL cxclusivcly onc íor and oí
criLicism. Fllis docs noL appcar Lo LhcmaLizc dirccLly Lhc qucs-
Lion oí judgmcnL as such, íor nonc oí his proLagonisLs—mosL ccr-
Lainly noL PaLrick BaLcman or VicLor Ward, Lhc main characLcr oí
C|amorama (:nnn)—could carc lcss abouL Lhc amoraliLy oí Lhcir
violcnL acLions. My discussion oí Amerìcan Psycho is Lhus mainly
conccrncd wiLh working ouL how criLicism crucially inLcrsccLs
wiLh ficLional producLions oí violcncc and whaL happcns whcn iL
dcploys judgmcnL as iLs main Lool oí analysis oí Lhis ficLional vio-
lcncc. IcsL iL appcar LhaL judgmcnL is always mcrcly an cxLcrnal
conccrn, onc broughL Lo Lhc LcxL by (criLical) rcadcrs and vicwcrs,
howcvcr, I wanL Lo dirccL closcr aLLcnLion Lo HighsmiLh’s work as
a mcans oí showing LhaL ficLion iLsclí has Lhc capaciLy Lo—and in-
dccd docs—coníronL Lhc issuc and pracLicc oí judgmcnL. PaLricia
HighsmiLh, I Lhink, mighL bc bcsL rcad as a clinically cold scicnLisL
whosc ficLion consLiLuLcs hcr laboraLory in which shc invcnLs dií-
ícrcnL modcs oí rcsponsc Lo violcncc and, in so doing, LcsLs Lhcir
As my bricí rccalling oí Lhc criLical rcccpLion oí Minghclla’s film
adapLaLion is mcanL Lo insinuaLc, HighsmiLh’s work also has
bccn Lhc íocus íor a Lypc oí criLicism conccrncd wiLh moraliLy
and judgmcnL.
Howcvcr, in Lhis chapLcr I am lcss conccrncd wiLh
Lhc criLicism oí HighsmiLh’s work or oí iLs many cincmaLic ad-
InsLcad, I wanL Lo work Lhrough HighsmiLh’s ficLion
Lo scc how iL problcmaLizcs judgmcnL as a modc oí rcsponsc Lo
violcncc. Indccd, my inLcrcsL in Lurning Lo PaLricia HighsmiLh
cmcrgcs írom Lhc íacL LhaL Lhc qucsLion oí judgmcnL affccLcd
HighsmiLh Lo such a dcgrcc LhaL shc can bc said Lo havc wclcomcd
iL as Lhc dcfining problcmaLic oí hcr cnLirc ocuvrc. In LhaL scnsc,
HighsmiLh pracLiccs whaL wc mighL call a FoucaulLcan cLhics, íor
hc, Loo, conccivcd oí his work as a scqucnLial cncounLcr wiLh dií-
ícring prob|ematìques LhaL, in his words, musL bc vicwcd noL so
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence n:
much as “bad” Lhan as “dangcrous” (Foucau|t Reader jij). Mi-
chcl FoucaulL, jusL likc Cillcs Dclcuzc, LhoughL LhaL a “problcm
docs noL cxisL, aparL írom iLs soluLions” (Lìfference and Repetìtìon
In oLhcr words, Lhc LhcorcLical conccpLion oí problcms/
soluLions offcrcd by Lhcsc Lwo Frcnch philosophcrs casLs Lhc cx-
isLcncc oí boLh problcm and soluLion on Lhc samc planc oí im-
mancncc. Hcncc, Lhc only way ouL is Lhrough. You cannoL “find a
soluLion Lo a problcm in Lhc soluLion oí anoLhcr problcm raiscd
aL anoLhcr momcnL” (Foucau|t Reader jij). And Lhis is csscnLially
HighsmiLh’s modc oí rcsponsc Lo hcr problcmaLic oí judgmcnL.
Tc soluLions shc offcrs, novcl by novcl, sLory by sLory, arc con-
sisLcnLly íormulaLcd through hcr cncounLcr wiLh Lhc qucsLion oí
violcncc—an cncounLcr LhaL, duc Lo iLs clinical coldncss, onc may
vcry wcll call masochisLic. TaL is, ovcr Lhc coursc oí a íorLy-fivc-
ycar-long wriLing carccr in which shc produccd LwcnLy-Lwo nov-
cls, scvcn books oí shorL ficLion, and hcr “how Lo” manual P|ot-
tìng and wrìtìng oj Suspense Fìctìon (:n8j), HighsmiLh obscssivcly
rcíormulaLcd hcr problcmaLic, rcpcaLcdly puL iL Lo Lhc LcsL, and,
in Lhc proccss, scrially rcconfigurcd Lhc qucsLion oí judgmcnL as
always and alrcady bcing shoL Lhrough wiLh Lhc qucsLion oí vio-
In íacL, íor HighsmiLh, Lhc qucsLions oí judgmcnL and violcncc
arc immancnL Lo cach oLhcr, somcLhing LhaL will bccomc clcarcr
oncc wc cxaminc Lhc movcmcnL oí HighsmiLh’s ovcrall work
raLhcr Lhan íocus on any givcn LcxL as Lhc locus íor inLcrprcLaLion.
Tc movcmcnL oí HighsmiLh’s ficLion indicaLcs LhaL hcr rcsponsc
Lo Lhc qucsLion oí violcncc is lcss and lcss characLcrizcd by Lhc dc-
sirc Lo supcrimposc somc sorL oí judgmcnL aL Lhc cnd, no maLLcr
how LcnLaLivc, implausiblc, or irrclcvanL Lo Lhc largcr cffccL oí hcr
LcxLs iL may appcar. MosL oí hcr carly novcls sLill cnd by passing
judgmcnL on Lhc violcnL main characLcrs. In Lhcsc novcls, judg-
mcnL is dishcd ouL in Lhc íorm oí suicidc, capLurc by law cníorcc-
mcnL, or violcnL dcaLh aL Lhc hands oí somconc clsc. Hcr work oí
Lhc sccond halí oí hcr carccr, howcvcr, incrcasingly Lurns Lo Tom
Riplcy’s characLcr (íour ouL oí hcr lasL Lcn novcls conccrn him),
who conLinucs Lo cscapc judgmcnL—by Lhc characLcrs in Lhc LcxL
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence ni
as wcll as Lhc novcls’ auLhor. InLcrcsLingly cnough, HighsmiLh’s
own sLaLcmcnLs madc in hcr :n8j nonficLion book suggcsL LhaL
by Lhcn, rclaLivcly laLc in hcr carccr, shc was ablc Lo grasp hcr fic-
Lional cndcavor in Lhcsc vcry Lcrms. Shc claims noL only LhaL shc
is “inLcrcsLcd in moraliLy, providing iL isn’L prcachcd” (P|ottìng
and wrìtìng :io) buL also LhaL “crcaLivc pcoplc do noL pass moral
judgmcnL—aL lcasL noL aL oncc—on whaL mccLs Lhcir cyc. Tcrc
is Limc íor LhaL laLcr in whaL Lhcy crcaLc, ií Lhcy arc so inclincd,
buL arL csscnLially has noLhing Lo do wiLh moraliLy, convcnLions
or moralizing” (i=). Indccd, shc finds “Lhc public passion íor jus-
Licc quiLc boring and arLificial, íor nciLhcr liíc nor naLurc carc ií
jusLicc is cvcr donc or noL” (=6). For HighsmiLh, Lhcn, Lhc Lask is
Lo suspcnd Lhc cmcrgcncc oí judgmcnL, insisLing LhaL iLs Limc is
always mcrcly LhaL oí a Limc Lo comc, LhaL is, oí a íuLurc momcnL
LhaL is ycL Lo bc dcLcrmincd.
In whaL íollows, I will invcsLigaLc Lhc LrajccLory oí HighsmiLh’s
ficLion wiLh an cmphasis on Lhc Riplcy novcls in ordcr Lo work
ouL how onc spccific Amcrican posLwar wriLcr oí violcnL ficLion
makcs Lhc qucsLion oí judgmcnL hcr own as a qucsLion oí violcncc
only Lo arrivc aL an incrcasingly immancnL modc oí rcsponsc Lo
Lhis doublc problcmaLic. HighsmiLh’s violcnL ficLion incrcasingly
conccivcs oí Lhc possibiliLy íor rcsponding Lo violcncc only as an
affccLivc pracLicc, as an cncounLcr occurring on Lhc vcry planc oí
immancncc LhaL is shoL Lhrough wiLh violcncc. Tis implics LhaL
(íor HighsmiLh) judgmcnL, a pracLicc always in nccd íor a rcprc-
scnLaLional posiLion ouLsidc LhaL which is Lo bc judgcd íor iL Lo bc
cffccLivc and “morally sound,” has bccomc an impossibiliLy and
In LhaL, hcr ficLion crucially parallcls Lhc largcr culLural, cco-
nomical, social, and poliLical dcvclopmcnL mappcd ouL by Michacl
HardL and AnLonio Ncgri in Lhcir influcnLial sLudy oí conLcmpo-
rary capiLalism’s modc oí powcr, Fmpìre, which iLsclí is crucially
iníormcd by Dclcuzc and CuaLLari’s work. 1usL as iL bccomcs cs-
scnLially mcaninglcss íor HighsmiLh Lo allow íor any judgmcnL
Lo bc passcd on hcr violcnL, amoral characLcrs as hcr work movcs
inLo Lhc laLc :n6os and onward, so HardL and Ncgri arguc LhaL iL
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence nj
is poliLically mcaninglcss, indccd dangcrous, Lo pracLicc a Lypc oí
sociopoliLical rcsponsc Lo capiLalism’s flows LhaL is noL immancnL,
LhaL insLcad lays claim Lo a LransccndcnL posiLion oí judgmcnL,
which, pcrhaps, mighL havc providcd a viablc poliLical posiLion
in prcvious cras oí Amcrican socicLy. And jusL as onc oí Lhc mosL
crucial poliLical implicaLions oí Fmpìre is LhaL wc musL bccomc ca-
pablc oí rcsponding diffcrcnLly Lo Lhis íundamcnLally ncw modc
oí powcr pcrmcaLing conLcmporary socicLy, so HighsmiLh’s work
produccs an “Fmpirical” pcdagogy oí violcncc. Hcr ocuvrc aL-
LcmpLs Lo affccL—LhaL is, Lo Lrain or habiLuaLc—rcadcrs so LhaL
Lhcy bccomc capablc oí cncounLcring hcr ficLional violcncc in a
diffcrcnL manncr: carcíully aLLuncd Lo Lhc changcs occurring on
Lhc largcr sociopoliLical planc oí Fmpirc.
Tc íollowing sccLions will build a map oí HighsmiLh’s work,
bcginning wiLh a Lclling biographical anccdoLc, íollowcd by a
carcíul and cxLcndcd analysis oí hcr mosL íamous novcl, which,
in Lurn, will lcad Lo a morc gcncral discussion oí hcr work’s Lrajcc-
Lory and iLs cLhicopcdagogical rcsponscs in conjuncLion wiLh Lhc
Fmpirc Lhcsis. Ií Lhc call oí Lhc lasL chapLcrs was Lo hccd “affccL”
as a crucial íorcc criLicism musL rcspond Lo, Lhis chapLcr providcs
onc cxLcndcd cxamplc in LhaL iL rcsponds Lo Lhc ìntensìtìes—Lhc
spccd and slowncss, movcmcnL and rhyLhm—oí HighsmiLh’s
work, wiLh all iLs inLcrrupLions, scdimcnLaLions, muLaLions, and
amplificaLions. Violcncc, as imagcd in HighsmiLh’s work, cnds
up bcing incrcasingly scvcrcd írom any “mcaning.” TaL is, Lhc
ficLional violcncc iLsclí opcraLcs wiLhouL bcing rcLcrriLorializcd
onLo Lhc LransccndcnLal planc oí mcaning—oí rcprcscnLaLion—
and Lhus qucsLions Lhosc cxplanaLory apparaLuscs LhaL prcLcnd
Lo “undcrsLand” iLs (noncxisLcnL) mcaning.
Violence, Judgment, and Writing
Rcadcrs íamiliar wiLh PaLricia HighsmiLh’s work mighL havc comc
across an oíL-ciLcd sLory LhaL may vcry wcll havc had íormaLivc
conscqucnccs íor hcr obscssivc rcLurn Lo Lhc issucs oí moraliLy,
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence ni
judgmcnL, and violcncc. IL appcars LhaL shc was an unwclcomc
child. According Lo HighsmiLh, hcr moLhcr Lricd Lo aborL hcr by
drinking LurpcnLinc fivc monLhs bcíorc hcr birLh: “Shc rcally
Lricd Lo gcL rid oí iL íLhc ícLus]—shc Lold mc—! dìdn’t mìnd. Shc
said, ‘IL’s íunny you adorc Lhc smcll oí LurpcnLinc, PaL.’ Bccausc
shc drank LurpcnLinc bcíorc I was born Lrying Lo havc a miscar-
riagc. ! dìdn’t mìnd one bìt” (DuponL 6i, my cmphascs). In Lhc cnd,
wc can only spcculaLc abouL how scriously shc was affccLcd by
Lhis knowlcdgc, cspccially in lighL oí Lhc íacL LhaL shc madc Lhis
sLaLcmcnL as an adulL, Lhus raising Lhc possibiliLy LhaL hcr ficLion
mighL havc affccLcd hcr vicw oí hcr biography. IL is Lhcrcíorc noL
Lhc LruLh valuc oí hcr biographical sLaLcmcnL LhaL should conccrn
us hcrc buL hcr sty|e oí rcsponsc Lo Lhc narraLcd cvcnL iLsclí, íor
whaL sLicks ouL in HighsmiLh’s bricí rccounLing oí Lhis childhood
incidcnL is hcr doublc asscrLion LhaL shc “didn’L mind.” In oLhcr
words, shc was noL boLhcrcd by Lhis piccc oí iníormaLion, by hcr
moLhcr’s inLcnLions, and, prcsumably, by hcr moLhcr’s acLion. To
HighsmiLh, hcr moLhcr’s violcnL inLcnLions and conscqucnL ac-
Lions wcrc whaL Lhcy wcrc—rcgardlcss oí whcLhcr shc likcd Lhcm
or noL, rcgardlcss oí whcLhcr shc considcrcd hcr moLhcr Lcrriblc
or noL.
ManiícsLing an insLancc oí Lruly immancnL rcsponsc, High-
smiLh rcplicd Lo hcr moLhcr’s aLLcmpL aL doing away wiLh hcr
by doing away wiLh judgmcnL. InsLcad oí judging hcr moLhcr,
shc counLcrs Lhc knowlcdgc oí hcr moLhcr’s violcnL inLcnLions
wiLh a sLubborn insouciancc LhaL rcíuscs Lo rcgard Lhc cvcnL as
any morc painíul Lhan iL acLually was or is. ConLinually judging
hcr moLhcr likcly would havc Lrappcd hcr in an cndlcss Ocdipal
drama LhaL consLanLly rcLurncd Lo iLsclí, Lhus blocking hcr írom
Lruly cxpcrimcnLing wiLh Lhc qucsLion oí violcncc.
As Dclcuzc
argucs LhroughouL his carccr, crcaLing somcLhing oí rcal valuc
is, in íacL, always a qucsLion oí rigorous cxpcrimcnLaLion; iL is
ncvcr “a qucsLion oí judging oLhcr cxisLing bcings, buL oí scns-
ing whcLhcr Lhcy agrcc or disagrcc wiLh us, LhaL is, whcLhcr Lhcy
bring íorccs Lo us, or whcLhcr Lhcy rcLurn us Lo Lhc miscrics oí
war, Lo Lhc povcrLy oí Lhc drcam, Lo Lhc rigors oí organizaLion”
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence n=
(“To Havc Donc” :j=). As ií Lo illusLraLc Lhc philosophcr’s argu-
mcnL, HighsmiLh’s BarLlcbycsquc “I would prcícr noL Lo” Lypc oí
rcsponsc maniícsLs Lhc LransíormaLion oí Lhc singulariLy oí Lhis
parLicular violcnL cvcnL inLo a producLivc cxpcrimcnLal cnginc
íor hcr ficLion, íor imaginaLivcly invcsLigaLing Lhc rclaLionship
bcLwccn violcncc and judgmcnL.
To rcpcaL, I am not suggcsLing LhaL wc Lurn Lo HighsmiLh’s bi-
ography in ordcr Lo locaLc an allcgcd originary cxpcricncc LhaL
mighL cxplain hcr apparcnL obscssion wiLh violcncc; doing so
would immcdiaLcly rcducc Lhc qucsLion oí violcncc Lo Lhc planc
oí rcprcscnLaLion. RaLhcr, I wanL Lo call aLLcnLion Lo Lhc sty|e oí
cngagcmcnL iLsclí LhaL Lhis anccdoLc displays and LhaL, as wc will
scc, crucially rcsonaLcs wiLh hcr ficLional work. Hcncc, raLhcr Lhan
rcducing hcr íascinaLion wiLh violcncc Lo onc biographical cvcnL
along Lhc linc oí Lhc always popular “rcLurn oí Lhc rcprcsscd”
Lhcsis, I Lhink wc musL hccd Lhc attìtude HighsmiLh Lhc wriLcr
arLiculaLcs in rcsponsc Lo hcr cncounLcr wiLh pcrsonal violcncc,
all Lhc morc so bccausc shc rcpcaLcdly displays Lhc samc aLLiLudc
whcn shc conccpLualizcs Lhc acL oí wriLing. 1usL likc hcr rcsponsc
Lo a íorm oí violcncc shc has bccn privy Lo hcrsclí is markcd by a
rcmarkablc abscncc oí (moral) judgmcnL, so hcr aLLiLudc Loward
Lhc crcaLivc acL oí wriLing abouL violcncc is shoL Lhrough wiLh
Lhc impcraLivc Lo kccp judgmcnL and íamily hisLory aL bay. High-
smiLh dismisscd any corrclaLion bcLwccn hcr biography and work
and quiLc obviously rcjccLcd Lhc “wriLc whaL you know” school
oí crcaLivc wriLing promoLcd by counLlcss rrt programs in Lhc
UniLcd SLaLcs LhaL cmcrgcd in Lhc aíLcrmaLh oí Lhc succcss oí Lhc
conícssional wriLcrs such as Sylvia PlaLh, Ann ScxLon, or RobcrL
Iowcll. Shc rcpcaLcdly dcclarcd LhaL hcr “idcas arc noL rclaLcd Lo
whcrc I was born, or Lo Lhc íamily, and, I musL say, I misLrusL
wriLcrs who usc Lhcir íamily bccausc I Lhink Lhcy’rc noL imagi-
naLivc” (DuponL 6:). HighsmiLh csscnLially arLiculaLcs LhaL hcr
obscssion wiLh Lhc ncxus judgmcnL-violcncc docs noL so much
rcprcscnL a working Lhrough oí somc kind oí Ocdipal conflicL as
iL consLiLuLcs a rcsponsc Lo a singular cvcnL in hcr liíc (rcgard-
lcss oí Lhc dcgrcc oí iLs possiblc ficLionalizaLion), onc LhaL íunc-
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence n6
Lions as a provocaLion along Lhc lincs oí a NicLzschcan arrow oí
LhoughL LhaL musL bc caughL and shoL íorLh again in a diffcrcnL
In oLhcr words, I am noL suggcsLing HighsmiLh licd
abouL Lhis cvcnL. RaLhcr, givcn Lhc Liming oí Lhc sLaLcmcnL’s uL-
Lcrancc, iL sccms cnLircly possiblc LhaL Lo HighsmiLh Lhc cvcnL
had bccomc ycL anoLhcr violcnL sLory Lo bc Lold—onc LhaL docs
noL bcar cxplanaLory powcr buL LhaL posscsscs a ccrLain íorcc
Lo soliciL rcsponscs. Tc cvcnL, in shorL, could bc considcrcd Lo
íuncLion as a provocaLion, a prob|ematìque. RaLhcr Lhan sccking
iL ouL, iL íound hcr, Lhus Lransíorming hcr liíc. Tc Lransíorming
cvcnL, Lhough, ccascd Lo bc pcrsonal íor hcr and rcmaincd cffcc-
Livc mcrcly as an accidcnL LhaL bccomcs an cxpcrimcnL in which
Lhc world around hcr parLicipaLcs.
Rcmarkablc in LhaL HighsmiLh dcploys Lhis conccpL oí abio-
graphical wriLing around Lhc issuc oí violcncc—onc LhaL habiLu-
ally Lcnds Lo bc rcad by criLics Lhrough Lhc lcns oí somc sorL oí
LransccndcnLal significr, bc iL locaLcd in íamily or social oncs (Oc-
dipus, cconomic rclaLions, racc conflicLs, gcndcr issucs)—iL pro-
vidcs a crucial conccpL íor my purposcs in LhaL iL links Lhc issuc oí
how criLical languagc rcsponds Lo violcncc in ficLional LcxLs and
Lhc diffcrcnLial philosophy oí Dclcuzc LhaL undcrlics much oí my
diagnosis. Whcrcas Dclcuzc Lcachcs us a Lhoroughly arcprcscn-
LaLional cngagcmcnL wiLh languagc (as argucd in Lhc prcccding
chapLcr), HighsmiLh providcs a casc in poinL by pushing Lhc idca
Lo iLs limiL casc—violcncc—LhaL Lcnds Lo dirccL any rcsponsc
immcdiaLcly inLo a dcmand íor cxplanaLion, undcrsLanding, and
judgmcnL. BuL boLh HighsmiLh and Dclcuzc rcjccL Lhis approach.
1usL as HighsmiLh disdains rccoursc Lo hcr biography as a mcans
íor cxplaining hcr ficLional world, so Dclcuzc proclaims LhaL “Lo
wriLc is noL Lo rccounL onc’s mcmorics and Lravcls, onc’s lovcs
and gricís, onc’s drcams and íanLasics. í . . . ] Wc do noL wriLc
wiLh our ncuroscs” (“IiLcraLurc and Iiíc” i–j).
In oLhcr words,
ií wc puL Lhcsc Lwo philosophics oí wriLing in closc proximiLy Lo
Lhc qucsLion oí violcncc, wc sLarL mobilizing a LhoughL or modc
oí rcsponsc LhaL is lcss inLcrcsLcd in whaL a parLicular incidcncc
oí ficLional violcncc mcans Lhan in how iL opcraLcs.
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence n¬
Tc firsL Lhing Lo bc markcd abouL HighsmiLh’s violcnL ficLion is
Lhc obscssivc qualiLy oí hcr inccssanL rcLurn Lo approaching Lhc
qucsLion oí judgmcnL as a qucsLion oí violcncc—oíLcn markcd
in Lcrms oí characLcrs’ guilL pcrccivcd ciLhcr by Lhcmsclvcs or
Lhcir surroundings. HighsmiLh hcrsclí is Lhc firsL Lo acknowlcdgc
Lhc rcpcLiLivcncss oí hcr ficLion: “Wcll, sincc I was sixLccn or scv-
cnLccn, I’vc bccn wriLing Lhc samc kind oí sLorics” (Hochkcppcl
:8j, my LranslaLion). WhaL, Lhcn, arc Lhcsc sLorics, and how docs
Lhc LrajccLory oí HighsmiLh’s carccr look likc` Arc hcr sLorics rc-
ally Lhc samc, and, ií so, whaL is Lhc cffccL oí iLs rcpcLiLion` Or, ií
Lhc sLorics diffcr in Lhcir sccming samcncss—cspccially around
hcr works’ kcy qucsLions oí judgmcnL and violcncc—Lhcn whaL
arc Lhc spccific cffccLs produccd by Lhis rcpcLiLion`
Hcr mosL íamous characLcr, Tom Riplcy, is Lhc LiLlc charac-
Lcr oí fivc novcls LhaL HighsmiLh publishcd bcLwccn :n== and
:nn:. Civcn Lhc singulariLy oí Lhis scrializaLion—HighsmiLh
ncvcr wroLc abouL anoLhcr ccnLral characLcr morc Lhan oncc—iL
pcrhaps makcs scnsc Lo bcgin Lhinking abouL Lhc qucsLions oí
judgmcnL and violcncc as Lhcy arc posiLcd and affccLcd by Lhis
scrializaLion. CriLicism on HighsmiLh has rcpcaLcdly argucd LhaL
Tom Riplcy is HighsmiLh’s mosL amoral characLcr, a man who is
unabashcdly unconccrncd abouL his írcqucnLly violcnL acLions.
KakuLani, íor insLancc, complains LhaL Lhc laLcr Riplcy novcls
lack psychological rcalism and LhaL Lhc incrcasing improbabiliLy
oí Riplcy’s acLions in Lhc laLcr novcls havc Lurncd him inLo “an
ouL-and-ouL madman: a sadisL í . . . ] a Lhrill-sccking murdcrcr.”
Shc suggcsLs LhaL Lhis cxccss oí amoraliLy inviLcs rcadcrs “Lo íccl
smug and morally supcrior: a íaLal flaw in jusL abouL any novcl.”
KaLhlccn Crcgory Klcin claims LhaL Riplcy is noL “immoral buL
Lhoroughly amoral, hc acccpLs no sLandards oí judgmcnL” (:ni).
FurLhcr, “bccausc Tom Riplcy, likc ícw oLhcr HighsmiLh proLago-
nisLs, is a calculaLing criminal whosc bchavior is boLh conscious
and dclibcraLc, hc poscs a dilcmma íor Lhc rcadcr” (:ni). Tus,
íocusing on Lhis scrics as iL íuncLions wiLhin Lhc largcr conLcxL
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence n8
oí HighsmiLh’s ovcrall work mighL providc a producLivc cnLry
inLo Lhc problcmaLic oí judgmcnL and violcncc as HighsmiLh con-
ccivcs iL.
Indccd, as I will arguc, Lhc Riplcy scrics noL only marks Lhc
ìntensìficatìon oí HighsmiLh’s problcmaLic buL íuncLions as brcak-
downs—poinLs oí singulariLy aL which LransíormaLions occur—
in hcr ovcrall carccr. Tc rcpcLiLion LhaL characLcrizcs hcr ocuvrc
aL largc is inLcnsificd in and Lhrough onc dramaLic pcrsona, buL
Lhis vcry inLcnsificaLion is iLsclí amplificd Lhrough scrializcd rcp-
cLiLion. Fach Limc HighsmiLh rcachcs Lhis brcaking poinL, somc-
Lhing in hcr approach Lo hcr problcmaLic is bcing Lransíormcd.
In Lhis, shc dcvclops an cLhics oí wriLing—and, in Lurn, produccs
an cLhics oí rcading—LhaL is characLcrizcd by a paLicnL, cxpcri-
mcnLal, immancnL cncounLcr wiLh Lhc problcms shc íaccs LhaL I
considcr cxcmplary oí Lhc kind oí masocriLical cLhics I havc bccn
dclincaLing Lhus íar. HighsmiLh avoids applying wholcsalc onc
soluLion Lo hcr problcmaLic in all oí hcr work, íor shc knows LhaL
hcr problcmaLic consLanLly muLaLcs, a muLaLion conLingcnL on
hcr socioculLural cnvironmcnL as wcll as hcr cvoluLion as an arL-
isL and pcrson. In avoiding Lhis cLhicopoliLical íaux pas, shc also
inviLcs, ií noL dcmands, hcr rcadcrs Lo inhabiL morc carcíully Lhc
LrajccLory oí hcr work.
In csscncc, hcr work aLLcmpLs Lo affccL rcadcrs so LhaL Lhcy will
bcgin Lo habiLuaLc ncw rcading pracLiccs LhaL allow íor spccific rc-
sponscs Lo spccific problcms. Crucially, Lhis cmcrging pracLicc oí
rcsponsc opcraLcs wiLhouL any rccoursc Lo somc ovcrriding uni-
vcrsal soluLions LhaL somchow dcclarc Lhc inhcrcnL “badncss” oí
Lhc problcm aL hand. As iL Lurns ouL, HighsmiLh’s problcmaLic
rcmains LhroughouL hcr carccr how Lo cncounLcr íorccs oí judg-
mcnL as a modc oí rcsponsc Lo insLanccs oí violcncc. As arLicu-
laLcd in hcr cncounLcr wiLh hcr moLhcr’s conícssion as wcll as in
hcr “propcrly” ficLional work, iL sccms LhaL shc indccd pracLiccd
somcLhing akin Lo a FoucaulLcan cLhics oí problcmaLizaLion char-
acLcrizcd by producing spccific rcsponscs bascd on spccific diag-
noscs. Tis pracLicc oí prob|ematìques bccomcs Lhc driving íorcc
oí HighsmiLh’s wriLing, and iL is Lhis íorcc LhaL will Lransíorm hcr
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence nn
soluLions, LhaL will íorcc hcr Lo rcdcscribc Lhc problcm, Lo rccon-
ccivc oí hcr answcrs, indccd Lo posiL onc answcr only Lo rcLracL
írom iL íor a whilc bcíorc rcLurning Lo iL in changcd íorm as a ncw
soluLion Lo a ncw problcm.
A prcliminary ovcrvicw in Lcrms oí whaL happcns Lo Lhc violcncc
in hcr carly novcls confirms my dcscripLion oí Lhis HighsmiLhcan
pracLicc oí wriLing. Tc Lhrcc novcls shc wroLc bcíorc Te Ta|ented
Mr. Rìp|ey all cnd in a clcan rcsoluLion. Strangers on a Traìn (:n=o)
ícaLurcs Lhc accidcnLal dcaLh oí onc murdcrcr (Bruno) and Lhc
capLurc by a Lricky dcLccLivc oí Lhc oLhcr (Cuy). Te Prìce oj Sa|t
(:n=i) iLsclí is noL conccrncd wiLh cxpliciL violcncc (i.c., murdcr)
buL noncLhclcss rcsolvcs Lhc sLory’s main conflicL abouL Lhc rcla-
Lionship oí a lcsbian couplc by giving iL a happy cnd. Tc ncgaLivc
judgmcnL passcd on Lhc lcsbian lovcrs by Lhcir surroundings is
ulLimaLcly dcscribcd and dcficd as hypocriLical.
Oí coursc, in providing a happy cnd, HighsmiLh violaLcd Lhc
sLandard oí lcsbian ficLion aL Lhc Limc. As HighsmiLh dcscribcs
Lhis maLLcr in Lhc aíLcrword Lo Lhc novcl’s rcrclcasc in :nno, now
cnLiLlcd Caro| (wiLh HighsmiLh’s own namc finally on Lhc covcr),
Lhc “appcal oí Te Prìce oj Sa|t was LhaL iL had a happy cnding íor
iLs Lwo main characLcrs, or aL lcasL Lhcy wcrc going Lo Lry Lo havc a
íuLurc LogcLhcr. Prior Lo Lhis book, homoscxuals malc and ícmalc
in Amcrican novcls had Lo pay íor Lhcir dcviaLion by cuLLing Lhcir
wrisLs, drowning Lhcmsclvcs in a swimming pool, or by swiLching
Lo hcLcroscxualiLy (so iL was sLaLcd), or by collapsing—alonc and
miscrablc and shunncd—inLo a dcprcssion cqual Lo hcll” (i6:).
HighsmiLh claims LhaL shc iniLially publishcd Lhc novcl using hcr
pscudonym, Clairc Morgan, bccausc shc wanLcd Lo avoid Lhc labcl
oí “a lcsbian book wriLcr” (i6:), jusL as shc did noL wanL Lo bc
pigconholcd as a suspcnsc auLhor; ycL, onc suspccLs LhaL Lhc par-
Licular moral climaLc dcscribcd in hcr sLaLcmcnL mighL havc had
an cffccL on hcr “disowning” oí Lhc book as wcll.
Fvcn Lhough Te Prìce oj Sa|t docs noL ícaLurc Lhc Lypc oí vio-
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :oo
lcncc mosL oí HighsmiLh’s work is oLhcrwisc known íor, iL íca-
Lurcs Lhc samc basic problcmaLic, albciL in a spccific milicu LhaL
musL bc hccdcd in rcading Lhc novcl. AbouL LhirLy ycars laLcr,
HighsmiLh would rcLurn morc cxpliciLly Lo Lhc qucsLion shc bc-
gan Lo Lacklc in Te Prìce oj Sa|t, and Lhis Limc around shc would
dcploy violcncc as a mcans Lo affccL Lhc qucsLion diffcrcnLly (scc
Found ìn the Street í:n86] and Sma|| g. a Summer !dy||). Finally, in
Te P|underer (:n=i), hcr sccond novcl abouL violcncc, an inno-
ccnL man (WalLcr SLockhousc) is judgcd guilLy by Lhc policc and
shoL dcad by Lhc acLually guilLy man (Crcgor Kimmcl), who, in
Lurn, mccLs violcnL dcaLh as wcll.
In oLhcr words, all Lhrcc novcls find a rclaLivcly ncaL rcsolu-
Lion Lo Lhcir rcspccLivc ploLs. In conLrasL, Lhc firsL Riplcy novcl
cnds wiLh Riplcy, Lhcn “mcrcly” a doublc murdcrcr, aL largc, Lhus
allowing íor Lhc possibiliLy oí íuLurc sLorics abouL him. WhaL
happcns in Lhis LransíormaLion is LhaL íor rcadcrs Lhc arrival oí
plcasurc (affordcd by Lhc momcnL whcn a LcxL inviLcs us Lo cxpc-
ricncc Lhc ccrLainLy oí “sound” judgmcnL) is dcícrrcd by Lhc íacL
LhaL LradiLional rcadcr cxpccLaLions arc violaLcd (lack oí rcsolu-
Lion) and, cvcn morc painíully íor us, LhaL wc havc bccn madc Lo
íccl sympaLhcLic Lowards Lhc schcming doublc murdcrcr Riplcy.
HighsmiLh, LhaL is, pushcs on Lhc conccpLs oí guilL and LruLh—in
shorL, moraliLy—hard cnough íor Lhcm Lo crysLallizc Lo Lhc poinL
whcrc nciLhcr appcars Lo maLLcr anymorc. Or, bcLLcr, whcrc judg-
mcnL was closcly Licd Lo Lhc qucsLion oí “LruLh” (including who is
guilLy in whosc cycs), judgmcnL is now rcndcrcd as violcncc.
1usL considcr Lhc diffcrcncc bcLwccn Strangers on a Traìn and
Te P|underer. Tc íormcr csscnLially ícaLurcs HighsmiLh’s only
dcLccLivc sLory—LhaL is, a sLory whcrc dcLccLion oí Lhc LruLh has
considcrablc narraLivc íorcc. Only íour ycars laLcr, HighsmiLh rc-
jccLs Lhc conccpL oí LruLh as mcaninglcss as Lhc primary locus íor
accuraLc judgmcnL prcciscly bccausc shc can show how Lhc íorcc
oí “LruLh” is cffccLivc rcgardlcss oí iLs validiLy or LruLhíulncss.
As David Cochran wriLcs, WalLcr, Lhc proLagonisL oí Te P|und-
erer, “rcalizcs his Lcchnical innoccncc is irrclcvanL in íacc oí Lhc
íacL LhaL hc had ploLLcd íhis wiíc] Clara’s dcaLh íLhough hc ncvcr
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :o:
acLcd on iL], whcrcas Kimmcl’s acLual guilL íhc killcd his wiíc] is
similarly irrclcvanL, sincc hc has succccdcd in puLLing Lhc policc
off his Lrail” (:ii) and rcdirccLcd aLLcnLion Lo WalLcr’s seemìng
buL noL acLual guilL. Kimmcl docs Lhis bccausc WalLcr, Lhc blund-
crcr oí Lhc novcl’s LiLlc, inadvcrLcnLly rcopcns Lhc invcsLigaLion
oí Lhc dcaLh oí Kimmcl’s wiíc. Bccausc WalLcr cxacLly imagincs
how Kimmcl had killcd his wiíc bascd on ncwspapcr rcporLs, bc-
causc Lhis imaging cvcnL lcads his imaginaLion Lo ploL Lhc murdcr
oí his wiíc jusL as Kimmcl did, and bccausc hc lcavcs Lraccs oí Lhis
imaginary ploL in his noLcbooks, Lhc policc cvcnLually suspccL
boLh WalLcr and Kimmcl oí having murdcrcd Lhcir wivcs.
BuL, and Lhis is onc oí Lhc grcaL achicvcmcnLs oí Lhc firsL (and
subscqucnL) Riplcy books, HighsmiLh carcíully rcconfigurcs Lhc
qucsLion oí judgmcnL as bcing abouL LruLh by now consLrucLing
judgmcnL qua violcncc as an affccLivc caLcgory, LhaL is, a maLLcr
oí inLcnsiLics. Tc LransíormaLion occurring, Lhcn, movcs írom
Lhc qucsLion oí judgmcnL as an issuc oí LruLh, logos, and rcaliLy
Lo Lhc qucsLion oí judgmcnL as an issuc oí and íor violcncc, affccL,
and simulaLion.
Sincc Lhis LransíormaLion is kcy Lo all oí hcr work in LhaL iL will
conLinuc Lo rcsonaLc in cvcry book, wc nccd Lo slow down our
mapping proccss aL Lhis sLagc. Bcíorc procccding any íurLhcr, wc
should find ouL how cxacLly Lhis LransíormaLion happcns as wcll
as whaL iL docs. To Lhis cnd, Lhc ncxL sccLion will closcly cxaminc
Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey, a novcl LhaL allowcd HighsmiLh íor Lhc firsL
Limc Lo rcach a singular poinL oí LransíormaLion. Tis momcnL oí
LransíormaLion cnds up bcing Lhc consLiLuLivc íorcc oí Lhc rcsL oí
hcr ocuvrc, a body oí work LhaL iLincraLcs Lhis LransíormaLion as a
proliícraLion oí cfforLs Lo find rcsponscs Lo hcr basic problcmaLic.
InLcrcsLingly cnough, Lhc rcmaining íour Riplcy novcls will allow
hcr Lo achicvc Lhc purcsL momcnLs oí Lhis brcaking poinL, buL, as
will hopcíully bccomc clcar, Lhcsc momcnLs could noL havc bccn
rcachcd had iL noL bccn íor HighsmiLh’s inccssanL rcpcLiLion oí
hcr basic sLory wiLh all Lhcir rcLracLions, hcsiLaLions, or, pcrhaps,
accommodaLions Lo spccific gcnrc cxpccLaLions.
In oLhcr words, Lhc acL oí rcpcLiLion iLsclí cnds up opcraLing
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :oi
as a pcdagogical mcchanism. InsLcad oí caLcring Lo an cxisLing
audicncc who is alrcady capablc oí acccpLing HighsmiLh’s spccific
rcsponsc Lo Lhc qucsLion oí judgmcnL and violcncc as muLually in-
íorming cach oLhcr, HighsmiLh rclcnLlcssly produccs hcr audicncc
as ycL Lo comc. Tc largcr movcmcnL oí hcr work aLLcsLs LhaL shc
was vcry wcll in Lunc wiLh Lhc likclihood LhaL rcadcrs would noL
bc ablc Lo íollow hcr mosL radical soluLions ií shc wcrc noL Lo Lrain
Lhcm in how Lo rcad hcr ficLion. In csscncc, shc produccs whaL
Dclcuzc dcscribcs as “minor liLcraLurc”—a liLcraLurc dcscribcd by
Lhc producLion oí spccch acLs LhaL crcaLc Lhcmsclvcs “as a íorcign
languagc in a dominanL languagc, prcciscly in ordcr Lo cxprcss an
impossibiliLy oí living undcr dominaLion” (Cìnema i iij).
As an
Amcrican born in Tcxas, parLly raiscd in Ncw York, who livcd mosL
oí hcr liíc in Fngland, Francc, and SwiLzcrland, who was morc
popular and criLically acclaimcd in Ccrmany and Francc Lhan in
hcr naLivc counLry, HighsmiLh conLinucd Lo wriLc in Fnglish abouL
ficLional Amcrican ciLizcns.
BuL shc did so in such a íashion LhaL
allowcd hcr Lo dcvclop a violcnL languagc abouL moraliLy/judg-
mcnL wiLhin Lhc dominanL moral discoursc oí Amcrican languagc
as arLiculaLcd in much oí Lhc liLcraLurc oí hcr Limc, lcL alonc Lhc
poliLico-culLural aLmosphcrc oí Lhc :n=os (and cvcn laLcr). BuL
pcrhaps prcciscly bccausc HighsmiLh’s siLuaLion rcscmblcd LhaL oí
a wriLcr such as Kaíka—bcing an cxilc in his own languagc—High-
smiLh as a wriLcr was “noL in a condiLion Lo producc individual uL-
Lcranccs which would bc likc invcnLcd sLorics; buL also, bccausc
Lhc pcoplc arc missing, Lhc auLhor is in a siLuaLion oí producing
uLLcranccs which arc alrcady collccLivc, which arc likc Lhc sccds
oí Lhc pcoplc Lo comc, and whosc poliLical impacL is immcdiaLc
and incscapablc” (Dclcuzc, Cìnema i ii:). Tom Riplcy, Lhc liLcrary
pcrsona Lhrough which HighsmiLh was ablc Lo producc hcr minor
“moral” languagc—a languagc LhaL conccrns iLsclí wiLh Lhc qucs-
Lion oí judgmcnL—is iLsclí Lhc producL oí hcr rcpcaLcd cncounLcr
wiLh Lhc condiLions surrounding Lhc possibiliLy íor hcr wriLing:
anonymous, collccLivc, poliLical. No wondcr, Lhcn, LhaL HighsmiLh
claimcd shc “oíLcn had Lhc íccling LhaL Riplcy was wriLing iL and I
was mcrcly Lyping” (P|ottìng and wrìtìng ¬6).
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :oj
Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey inLroduccs HighsmiLh’s rcadcrs Lo Tom
Riplcy, who subscqucnLly will appcar in íour morc novcls as Lhc
LiLlc characLcr. In Lhcsc laLcr novcls, Riplcy will havc alrcady suc-
cccdcd aL csLablishing himsclí as a rclaLivcly wcalLhy, marricd,
and gcncrally rcspccLcd man lcading a comíorLablc, quicL liíc in
Lhc counLrysidc noL íar írom Paris. Having gaincd much oí his
wcalLh Lhrough his criminal acLiviLics, Riplcy conLinucs Lo bc aí-
íccLcd by his violcnL pasL acLions. In conLrasL, our firsL glimpsc
oí Riplcy in Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey is oí a young man sLruggling
Lo makc cnds mccL wiLh parL-Limc jobs and small-Limc criminal
acLiviLics such as Lhc occasional íorging oí Lax rccords. His luck
bcgins Lo changc whcn onc day Mr. Richard Crccnlcaí, a wcalLhy
owncr oí a shipbuilding firm, pcrsuadcs him Lo Lravcl Lo ILaly in
ordcr Lo Lalk his son, Dickic, inLo rcLurning Lo Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs
Lo join Crccnlcaí’s company. Riplcy, who is only marginally ac-
quainLcd wiLh Dickic, iniLially succccds aL bccoming íricndly wiLh
Lhc laLLcr. FvcnLually, howcvcr, Lhcir rclaLionship Lurns sour, as
Dickic loscs inLcrcsL in Tom’s company. Rcsponding Lo Lhis Lrou-
bling Lurn oí cvcnLs, Tom murdcrs Dickic and Lhcn assumcs Lhc
laLLcr’s idcnLiLy. Tc rcsL oí Lhc novcl uníolds Lhc conscqucnccs
oí Tom’s violcnL dccd, showing us how hc managcs Lo hold off
boLh Lhc bumbling ILalian policc and Lhosc pcrsonally acquainLcd
wiLh Dickic such as his ícmalc íricnd, Margc, his íaLhcr, as wcll
as Frcddy Milcs, a good íricnd oí Dickic’s whom Riplcy kills as
wcll oncc hc gcLs Loo closc Lo uncovcring Lhc LruLh. By Lhc cnd oí
Lhc novcl, Tom Riplcy, now as himsclí again, has murdcrcd Lwo
pcoplc, considcrcd Lhc possibiliLy oí killing Lwo morc, and sLill
rcmains aL largc, having succcssíully dcccivcd cvcryonc abouL Lhc
lcvcl oí his involvcmcnL in Lhcsc murdcrous cvcnLs.
CriLical rcsponscs Lo Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey, including LhaL oí
Minghclla’s film, Lcnd Lo highlighL whaL Hilícr has callcd Lhc “pro-
Lcan” qualiLy oí Riplcy’s amoral characLcr and acLions. BuL whilc iL
is undoubLcdly Lruc LhaL Riplcy’s criminal succcss has much Lo do
wiLh his abiliLy Lo “acL,” Lhc parLicular inflccLion acLing is givcn in
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :oi
much oí HighsmiLh criLicism—LhaL is, as an inLcnLional, planncd
cndcavor—has donc liLLlc Lo shcd lighL on whaL, cxacLly, High-
smiLh has accomplishcd wiLh Lhc wriLing oí hcr firsL Riplcy novcl.
Dcscribing Riplcy’s acLions as masLcríul, willing cnacLmcnLs oí
rolcs LhaL crasc his rcal idcnLiLy, Lhcsc criLics rcíusc Lo considcr
Lhc possibiliLy LhaL idcnLiLy mighL bc noLhing clsc buL a scrics
oí pcríormanccs—an cndlcss puLLing on and off oí masks. Iikc-
wisc, posiLing Riplcy’s acLions as Lhc ouLcomc oí a LalcnLcd acLor
planning his acLions in ordcr Lo advancc his own causc dcploys
an undcrsLanding oí acLing bascd on inLcnLional imiLaLion. Tis,
howcvcr, makcs iL diffi culL Lo accounL íor somc oí Lhc kcy affectìve
momcnLs in Riplcy’s rapLurous dcvclopmcnL Lo bccoming a vio-
lcnL characLcr LhaL havc noLhing aL all Lo do wiLh making raLional
dccisions, or masLcrminding, as Frlcnc Hubly (:ij) suggcsLs.

MosL imporLanL, pcrhaps, Lhc characLcrizaLion oí Riplcy as a ra-
Lionally inLcnding subjccL allows us Lo admirc his succcss whilc
disLancing us írom Lhc morc immoral conscqucnccs oí his acLions;
wc can admirc and congraLulaLc Riplcy íor his grcaL LalcnL whilc
concurrcnLly rcmaining disLanccd írom Lhc cnds Lo which hc puLs
his LalcnLs. YcL, Lhis sorL oí sLiff-arming oí Lhc lcss moral cffccLs
ulLimaLcly lcads Lo a rcaffi rmaLion oí Lhis moral spacc—onc noL
occupicd by Riplcy buL, so iL is claimcd, pcrhaps by HighsmiLh and
ccrLainly by Lhc criLics—LhaL has bccn placcd undcr scruLiny by
HighsmiLh in hcr largcr ficLional projccL. In Lhc íollowing, Lhcn, I
will show how HighsmiLh rcconfigurcs moraliLy—judgmcnL—in
Lcrms oí violcncc as an affccLivc caLcgory by morc carcíully aL-
Lcnding Lo Riplcy’s wcll-known LalcnL—acLing.
Bcing iniLially “borcd, Cod-damncd bloody borcd, borcd,
borcd” (8) by Mr. Crccnlcaí’s iniLial proposiLion Lo Lravcl Lo ILaly,
Riplcy soon sccms Lo rcconsidcr his aLLiLudc. His inLcnsc ouL-
pouring oí angcrcd cmoLions—arLiculaLcd in his mind as borc-
dom—quickly subsidcs and givcs way Lo Lhc firsL insLancc oí his
abiliLy Lo acL. IisLcning Lo Crccnlcaí’s cxplanaLions, Riplcy soon
gcLs “inLo Lhc spiriL” (8) oí Lhc siLuaLion and bcgins rcsponding
Lo Lhc oldcr man’s qucsLions morc carcíully, alLcrnaLing bcLwccn
LruLhíul sLaLcmcnLs, slighL cxaggcraLions, and flaL-ouL lics. Riplcy
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :o=
himsclí rcgisLcrs his changc oí aLLiLudc. Fccling LhaL his “borcdom
had slippcd inLo anoLhcr gcar” (n), his “hcarL Look a suddcn lcap.
Hc puL on an cxprcssion oí rcflccLion. IL was a possibiliLy. Some-
thìng ìn hìm had sme|t ìt out and |eapt at ìt even bejore hìs braìn” (n,
my cmphasis). Tc significancc oí whaL HighsmiLh dcscribcs in
hcr Lypically “íacLual, almosL mcLaphorlcss prosc” (Handkc :¬i,
my LranslaLion) cannoL bc undcrcsLimaLcd íor Lhc coursc oí Lhc
novcl and hcr work aL largc, íor aL Lhis momcnL Riplcy is shown Lo
rcgisLcr an cncounLcr wiLh whaL a numbcr oí LhcorisLs, including
BlanchoL, FoucaulL, and Dclcuzc, havc callcd “Lhc ouLsidc”: Riplcy
cncounLcrs a íorcc (“iL”) LhaL somcLhing in him had smclL ouL, likc
a sccnL oí possibiliLy oozing Lhrough Lhc smoky bar in which Lhcir
mccLing Lakcs placc.
ConLrary Lo many rcsponscs Lo Tom Riplcy claiming LhaL hc
is a proLcan man planning his dccds by dcploying his LalcnL íor
acLing, HighsmiLh suggcsLs írom Lhc vcry firsL momcnLs oí Lhc
novcl on LhaL Riplcy’s acLing is noL Licd Lo a plan originaLing in
a prcmcdiLaLcd mood. Hcrc as LhroughouL Lhc novcl, HighsmiLh
narraLcs Riplcy’s acLions and LhoughLs in affccLivc Lcrms: his íccl-
ing oí cxLrcmc borcdom, his “gcLLing inLo Lhc spiriL” (8), his ca-
paciLy Lo bc “manically poliLc” (n)—all oí Lhis suggcsLs a rcmark-
ablc narraLivc configuraLion oí LhoughL as an affectìve proccss.
Dclcuzc is cnlighLcning in Lhis conLcxL:
ToughL is primarily Lrcspass and violcncc. í . . . ] Do noL
counL upon LhoughL Lo cnsurc Lhc rclaLivc ncccssiLy oí
whaL iL Lhinks. RaLhcr, counL upon Lhc conLingcncy oí an
cncounLcr wiLh LhaL which íorccs LhoughL Lo raisc up and
cducaLc Lhc absoluLc ncccssiLy oí an acL oí LhoughL or a pas-
sion Lo Lhink. í . . . ] Somethìng ìn the wor|d jorces us to thìnk.
Tis somcLhing is an objccL noL oí rccogniLion buL oí a
íundamcnLal encounter. íWhaLcvcr is cncounLcrcd] may bc
graspcd in a rangc oí affectìve Loncs: wondcr, lovc, haLrcd,
suffcring. In whichcvcr Lonc, iLs primary characLcrisLic is
LhaL iL can only bc scnscd. (Lìfference and Repetìtìon :jn,
firsL and Lhird cmphascs minc)
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :o6
Dclcuzc’s dcscripLion oí Lhc “somcLhing in Lhc world íLhaL] íorccs
us Lo Lhink” capLurcs whaL happcns Lo or wiLh Riplcy in almosL
Lhc samc Lcrms uscd by HighsmiLh: somcLhing in Riplcy scnscs
somcLhing ouLsidc oí him. Morc Lhan anyLhing clsc, Riplcy re-
sponds Lo a íorcc ouLsidc him. Tis íorcc, and noL a raLional dcci-
sion, Lriggcrs his rcsponsc. His acLions hcrc and clscwhcrc can bc
dcscribcd as acLing only ií wc conccivc oí acLing noL as a proccss
oí imiLaLion (rcprcscnLaLion), íor Riplcy docs not imiLaLc somc-
Lhing hc has obscrvcd, rcmcmbcrcd, or rccognizcd írom Lhc pasL
LhaL hc now scLs ouL Lo cmulaLc.
InsLcad oí Lhc íorcc oí rccollccLion undcrlying Lhc proccss oí
imiLaLion, Lhcn, iL is Dclcuzc and CuaLLari’s wcll-known conccpL
oí “bccoming” LhaL can bc said Lo sLrucLurc Tom’s bchavior.
coming, as Lhcy wriLc in A Tousand P|ateaus, “is ncvcr imiLaLing”
(jo=), nor has iL anyLhing Lo do wiLh “rcscmblancc íor] idcnLifica-
Lion” (ij¬). To bccomc-dog you do noL havc Lo bark or wag your
Lail whilc crawling on all íours. Tom Riplcy docs noL havc Lo ac-
quirc Lhc samc acsLhcLic LasLcs LhaL Dickic displaycd Lo bccomc-
Dickic. FurLhcr, bccoming docs noL consLiLuLc an cvoluLionary
proccss, bc iL as a progrcss or rcgrcss; insLcad, “bccoming is in-
voluLionary” (ij8), a “mulLipliciLy” (ijn), a íascinaLion wiLh “Lhc
ouLsidc” (iio), an affccL (i=¬), a capaciLy Lo bccomc affccLcd, Lo
cnLcr a “zonc oí proximiLy” (inj). IL is Tom’s capaciLy Lo rcspond
Lo Lhc íorcc oí chancc, his inclinaLion Lo cxpcrimcnL, LhaL cnablcs
him Lo cnLcr inLo Lhis zonc wiLh Lhc íorcc oí Lhc ouLsidc: bccom-
ing always consLiLuLcs “an cncounLcr bcLwccn Lwo rcigns, a shorL-
circuiL, Lhc picking-up oí a codc whcrc cach is dcLcrriLorializcd”
(Dclcuzc and ParncL, Lìa|ogues ii). Tom’s bccoming-Dickic as
maniícsLcd in Lhc novcl bccomcs possiblc in rcsponsc Lo his bc-
ing in Lhc middlc oí Lhings, wiLhouL a plan buL always pushing on
a vcrsion oí sclíhood LhaL nciLhcr dcpcnds on nor dcsircs a sLablc
scnsc oí sclí, nor prcLcnds LhaL Lhc sclí cxisLs in any oLhcr vcr-
sion buL as a momcnLary scdimcnLaLion oí mulLipliciLy: “SLarLing
írom Lhc íorms onc has, Lhc subjccL onc is, Lhc organs onc has,
or Lhc íuncLions onc íulfills, bccoming is Lo cxLracL parLiclcs bc-
Lwccn which onc csLablishcs Lhc rclaLions oí movcmcnL and rcsL,
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :o¬
spccd and slowncss LhaL arc closcsL Lo whaL onc is bccoming and
Lhrough which onc bccomcs. í . . . ] Tis principlc oí proximiLy or
approximaLion is cnLircly parLicular and rcinLroduccs no analogy
whaLsocvcr. IL indicaLcs as rigorously as possiblc a zone oj proxìm-
ìty” (Tousand P|ateaus i¬i). As Lhc vocabulary HighsmiLh uscs in
Lhis opcning passagc as wcll as laLcr oncs suggcsLs, Tom’s abiliLy
Lo “smcll” Lhis íorcc oí Lhc ouLsidc LhaL inspircs him Lo Lhink, Lo
go along wiLh Crccnlcaí’s proposiLion, opcraLcs on an affccLivc
lcvcl in Lhc scnsc LhaL an affccL is “Lhc cffccLuaLion oí a powcr oí
Lhc pack íor mulLipliciLy] LhaL Lhrows Lhc sclí inLo uphcaval and
makcs iL rccl” (Tousand P|ateaus iio). Riplcy docs indccd rccl.
So, írom Lhc bcginning, HighsmiLh configurcs hcr íavoriLc
characLcr noL so much as a proLcan man Lhan as a man oj response.
InsLcad oí judging Crccnlcaí’s proposiLion as absurd (aíLcr all,
Tom barcly knows Dickic), Riplcy scnscs—smclls—somcLhing hc
cannoL ycL puL inLo words buL is noncLhclcss willing Lo cncounLcr
as an cxpcrimcnL. In oLhcr words, Tom Riplcy Lakcs a gamblc. Hc
rolls Lhc dicc, bcLLing morc on chancc Lhan on his own capaciLy
Lo pull off a susLaincd hoax. BuL LhoughL is a roll oí Lhc dicc, as
Dclcuzc argucs: “WhaL Lhc dicc-Lhrow rcprcscnLs is LhaL Lhinking
always comcs írom Lhc ouLsidc (LhaL ouLsidc which is alrcady cn-
gulícd in Lhc inLcrsLicc or which consLiLuLcd Lhc common limiL).
Tinking is nciLhcr innaLc nor acquircd. IL is noL Lhc innaLc cxcr-
cisc oí a íaculLy, buL nciLhcr is iL a lcarning proccss consLiLuLcd
in Lhc cxLcrnal world” (Foucau|t ::¬). Tinking is always an in-
bcLwccn, an cncounLcr, a rcsponsc, an cnLcring and inhabiLing
oí a zonc oí proximiLy, raLhcr Lhan an imiLaLion. Tinking is an
affccL, a bccoming, noL a proccss oí rcprcscnLing. Tinking is
“Lrcspass and violcncc.” Hcrc, Lhcn, arc Lhc iniLial componcnLs oí
HighsmiLh’s mosL íamous books and characLcr: conLingcncy and
Lhc cncounLcr wiLh Lhc ouLsidc, LhoughL as affccLivc rcsponsc.
Ií wc Lakc Lhis rcsponsc sLrucLurc oí bccoming as Lhc imma-
ncnL modc oí Tom’s “acLing,” wc will also scc how an inLcnsifi-
caLion oí Lhis sLrucLurc affccLs Lhc way violcncc opcraLcs in Lhis
novcl. Tc pivoLal momcnL in Lhc novcl occurs whcn Tom sLarLs
assuming Dickic’s pcrsona. BuL, and Lhis cannoL bc ovcrcmpha-
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :o8
sizcd, Tom’s bccoming-Dickic íuncLions iLsclí as a rcsponsc Lo a
prior momcnL oí judgmcnL: Lo wiL, Lhc íaLcíul suggcsLion, madc
by Margc Lo Dickic, LhaL Tom is a homoscxual.
Rcgardlcss oí
Lhc validiLy oí Margc’s suspicion, onc which Dickic will cvcnLu-
ally sccond (8o), Lhc poinL hcrc is LhaL Tom ìmagìnes and, duc Lo
iLs inLcnsiLy, experìences Lhc cffccLs oí bcing judgcd: “Tc suddcn
wcighL oí guilL madc swcaL comc on Tom’s íorchcad, an amor-
phous ycL vcry sLrong scnsc oí guilL, as ií Margc had Lold Dickic
spccifically LhaL hc had sLolcn somcLhing or had donc somc oLhcr
shamcíul Lhing” (¬6). Tis sLrong scnsc oí guilL, alrcady prcfig-
urcd by Lhc novcl’s opcning sccnc (Riplcy “had a íccling oí guilL”
íio] whcn acccpLing Mr. Crccnlcaí’s proposiLion), provokcs an in-
LcnsificaLion oí his cmoLions. Sccing his rclaLionship wiLh Dickic
disinLcgraLing as a dirccL conscqucncc oí Margc’s judgmcnL (i.c.,
Margc dcploys Lhc ncgaLivc íorcc conLaincd by Lhc labcl “homo-
scxual” Lo drivc a wcdgc bcLwccn Dickic and Tom), Tom undcr-
gocs a violcnL LransíormaLion, Lhrowing Dickic’s posscssions ouL
oí Lhc window in a fiL (¬8). In all Lhis, hc “had a curious íccling
LhaL his brain rcmaincd calm and logical and LhaL his body was
ouL oí conLrol” (¬8).
AL Lhis cxacL momcnL oí affccLivc crisis, Tom sponLancously
bccomcs-Dickic. Hc bcgins drcssing up as him, assumcs his voicc,
and imagincs Dickic’s violcnL rcjccLion oí Margc (¬8–¬n). Civcn
Lhc abscncc oí any indicaLion LhaL Tom planncd Lhis cvcnL, wc can
hardly Lhink oí Lhis momcnL in LradiLional acLing Lcrms—LhaL is,
rcprcscnLaLion and imiLaLion. In íacL, somcwhaL laLcr in Lhc novcl,
Tom himsclí arLiculaLcs LhaL acLing is noL abouL imiLaLion: “Tc
main Lhing abouL impcrsonaLion í . . . ] was Lo mainLain Lhc mood
and temperament oí Lhc pcrson onc was impcrsonaLing, and Lo as-
sumc Lhc íacial cxprcssions LhaL wcnL wiLh Lhcm. Tc rcsL ícll inLo
placc” (:j:, my cmphascs). In oLhcr words, HighsmiLh dcscribcs
Tom’s acLions—his cnacLing—as a maLLcr oí sty|e, as a proccss oí
bccoming LhaL has noLhing Lo do wiLh rcprcscnLing, imiLaLing,
or rcscmbling. AcLing as a LruLhíul or rcalisLic acL oí copying or
imiLaLing is subsumcd by Lhc prior íorcc oí acLing as simulaLion:
inhabiLing a mood—dcploying an affccL, a íorcc—consLiLuLcs a
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :on
pracLicc oí simulaLion in LhaL iLs goal is noL Lo rcproducc buL Lo
An csscnLial íalschood, Lhcn, allows íor Lhc producLion
oí Lhc appcarancc oí similiLudc, indccd vcrisimiliLudc: onc musL
apply much makcup Lo appcar as “naLural” on 1v.
Tom’s bccoming-Dickic happcns in rcsponsc Lo his íccling oí
guilL, oí having bccn judgcd, and Lhis bccoming is írom Lhc bc-
ginning markcd in violcnLly affccLivc Lcrms. In Lhis scnsc, Lhcn,
Tom’s bccoming-violcnL prcccdcs his firsL acLual acL oí violcncc—
Lhc killing oí Dickic. His bccoming-Dickic marks his bccoming-vi-
olcnL. Tc indisccrnibiliLy oí Lhis cvcnL acLualizcs Dickic’s dcaLh.
Iong bcíorc hc finds his dcaLh aL Tom’s hands on a boaL Lrip,
Dickic has bccn scnLcnccd Lo dcaLh, cvcn Lhough nciLhcr Tom
nor Dickic kncw abouL iL. WhaL has Lakcn placc hcrc is whaL Dc-
lcuzc and CuaLLari dcscribc as an incorporcal LransíormaLion, Lhc
acLualizing oí an ordcr-word LhaL consisLs oí a linc oí flighL and a
dcaLh scnLcncc. Tc linc oí flighL insLanLiaLcd is Tom’s bccoming-
Dickic/bccoming-violcnL, whcrcas Dickic’s dcaLh maniícsLs Lhc
incviLabiliLy oí Lhc ordcr-word’s sccond aspccL: only ií Dickic can
bccomc somcLhing clsc as wcll can Tom bccomc-Dickic.
Whcn Lhcy Lakc Lhc íaLcíul Lrain Lrip írom Canncs Lo San Rcmo,
Tom’s írusLraLions wiLh Dickic, whosc indiffcrcncc, ií noL hosLil-
iLy, Lo Tom’s prcscncc íurLhcr amplifics Tom’s cmoLional insLabil-
iLy, arc pushcd Lo Lhcir limiL, in Lhc proccss Lransíorming Tom
írom a rclaLivcly innoccnL young man in scarch oí a bcLLcr liíc inLo
a cold-bloodcd murdcrcr: “Tom sLarcd aL Dickic’s closcd cyclids. A
crazy cmoLion oí haLc, oí affccLion, oí impaLicncc and írusLraLion
was swclling in him, hampcring his brcaLhing. Hc wanLcd Lo kill
Dickic. IL was noL Lhc firsL Limc hc had LhoughL oí iL. Bcíorc, oncc
or Lwicc or Lhrcc Limcs, iL had bccn an impulsc causcd by angcr
or disappoinLmcnL, an impulsc LhaL vanishcd immcdiaLcly and
lcíL him wiLh a íccling oí shamc. Now hc LhoughL abouL iL íor an
cnLirc minuLc, Lwo minuLcs, bccausc hc was lcaving Dickic any-
way, and whaL was Lhcrc Lo bc ashamcd oí anymorc` Hc had íailcd
wiLh Dickic” (:oo). InLcrcsLingly, Lhc vcry physicaliLy oí Lhis pas-
sagc—wiLh Lhc prosc’s rhyLhm spilling ovcr in Lhc rcpcaLcd aL-
LcmpLs aL prccisc Limc dcscripLions—links up wiLh Tom’s scnsc
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence ::o
oí íailurc: his having bccn judgcd by his íricnds, suggcsLing LhaL
Lhc inhcrcnL íorcc oí judgmcnL movcs always Loo íasL, is always
ahcad oí iLsclí, íorgcLs Lhc concrcLc maLcrialiLy oí Lhc siLuaLion
bcing judgcd. Tis violcncc oí judgmcnL, which docs noL allow Lhc
oLhcr Lo pcrsisL wiLhouL íorcing him or hcr inLo bcing, indccd bc-
coming, somcLhing or somconc clsc, produccs violcncc.
And Tom rcsponds Lo Lhis íorcc. Hc is capablc oí doing so prc-
ciscly bccausc hc has alrcady bccomc-Dickic, cvcn Lhough hc only
now rcalizcs Lhis: “Hc had jusL LhoughL oí somcLhing brillianL: hc
could bccomc Dickic Crccnlcaí himsclí” (:oo). BuL Tom has long
bccomc-Dickic, as HighsmiLh’s narraLivc makcs pcríccLly clcar in
LhaL iL docs noL providc any LransiLional pcriod bridging Tom’s
“brillianL LhoughL” wiLh his acLing upon iL. InsLanLancously, Tom
“bcgan Lo Lhink oí how” (:oo). NoL wasLing a sccond on conLcm-
plaLing Lhc conscqucnccs oí his bccoming, Tom inLuiLivcly knows
LhaL only his acLions maLLcr now, rcgardlcss oí Lhcir “mcaning.”
Tom imagincs a scrics oí possiblc murdcr sccnarios, as ií hc had
planncd iL íor a long Limc. BuL hc has noL. TaL hc can imaginc so
clcarly his íuLurc cnacLmcnL oí his violcnL dccd dirccLly rcsulLs
írom his prior bccoming-Dickic, as iL is indisccrniblc írom his bc-
And so Tom imagincs: “Tc WaLcr. BuL Dickic
was such a good swimmcr. Tc cliffs. íTom rcjccLs Lhis idca.] San
Rcmo. Flowcrs. A main drag along Lhc bcach again, shops and
sLorcs and Frcnch and Fnglish and ILalian LourisLs. AnoLhcr ho-
Lcl, wiLh flowcrs in Lhc balconics. Whcrc`” (:oo–:o:). No moral
scruplcs bccausc Lhc violcncc oí moraliLy iLsclí has provokcd his
rcsponsc, his violcncc. And Lhcn Dickic dics, having bccn smackcd
in Lhc hcad wiLh an oar LhaL conLinually “hiL him in Lhc sidc oí Lhc
ncck, Lhrcc Limcs, chopping sLrokcs wiLh Lhc cdgc oí Lhc oar, as
ií Lhc oar wcrc an axc and Dickic’s ncck a Lrcc,” “slicíing] Dickic’s
íorchcad,” and plunging Lhc oar’s handlc wiLh a bayoncL grip inLo
Dickic’s sidc (:oi). NoLably, HighsmiLh dcpicLs Lhc cnLirc proccss
oí Tom’s bccoming-violcnL as a rcsponsc Lo Lhc íorcc oí judgmcnL
lcvicd aL him and configurcs Lhc Lcrms oí Lhis rcsponsc as affccL.
And dcspiLc or, pcrhaps bcLLcr, because oí Tom’s cxpcricncc oí
guilL, hc docs noL pausc Lo considcr Lhc moraliLy oí his acLions.
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :::
Hc rcsponds Lo Lhc scnsc LhaL iL was Lhc rcalm oí judgmcnL LhaL
produccs—indccd ìs—violcncc iLsclí.
Tom’s proccss oí bccoming docs noL cnd hcrc. MosL crucially,
hc is cvcnLually íorccd Lo bccomc-Tom again, somcLhing LhaL hc
iniLially loaLhcs (aL onc momcnL hc Lhinks LhaL Lo idcnLiíy him-
sclí as Tom Riplcy “was going Lo bc onc oí Lhc saddcsL Lhings hc
had cvcr donc in his liíc” íioo]) buL LhaL bccomcs acccpLablc oncc
hc inLuiLs LhaL bccoming-Tom docs noL mcan a rcLurn Lo his old
sclí: “Hadn’L hc lcarncd somcLhing írom Lhcsc lasL monLhs` Ií
you wanLcd Lo bc chccríul, or mclancholic, or wisLíul, or LhoughL-
íul, or courLcous, you simply had Lo act Lhosc Lhings wiLh cvcry
gcsLurc” (:nj). TaL Lhis acLing docs noL íuncLion by imiLaLion hc
undcrsLands a biL laLcr, íor hc bcgins Lo scc LhaL rcgardlcss oí Lhc
ulLimaLc LruLh valuc oí his acLs, his “sLorics wcrc good bccausc
hc imagincd Lhcm ìntense|y, so ìntense|y LhaL hc camc Lo bclicvc
Lhcm” (i=j, my cmphascs). In shorL, his acLing is a pracLicc oí
imagining, which, in Lurn, is abouL affccL or inLcnsiLics, abouL cn-
Lcring a zonc oí proximiLy, oí bccoming.
His sccond bccoming is an cffccL oí his firsL onc, wiLh Lhc con-
scqucncc LhaL hc docs noL so much rcLurn Lo his carlicr cxisLcncc
buL Lo a ncw onc, affccLcd by his prior bccoming: Tom now dis-
plays a ncw scnsc oí sophisLicaLion, a ncw scnsc oí bcing in Lhc
world (which will undcrgo íurLhcr inLcnsificaLion in HighsmiLh’s
subscqucnL scrializing oí him) LhaL would havc rcmaincd impos-
siblc had iL noL bccn íor his prior bccoming-Dickic. Tis inLcnsi-
ficaLion will cvcnLually also do away wiLh any rcmnanLs oí Tom’s
guilL, as wcll as wiLh any prcLcnsc Lo rcalism on HighsmiLh’s parL.
Fvcn so, LhroughouL Lhc rcsL oí Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey, High-
smiLh occasionally conLinucs Lo show Tom sLruggling wiLh a lin-
gcring scnsc oí guilL (hc has nighLmarcs in which Dickic is sLill
alivc, having swam Lo Lhc shorc í:66]) LhaL inLcnsifics as a rcsulL
oí his sccond murdcr. In Lhc proccss, Tom’s acLions bccomc lcss
crcdiblc (Lhc policc can bc only so sLupid). BuL I Lakc HighsmiLh’s
“disavowal” oí rcalism Lo bc parL oí hcr projccL’s poinL, íor judg-
mcnL dcnoLcs a pracLicc bascd on rcalism—ií noL ncccssarily in
Lhc liLcrary scnsc pcr sc Lhcn in LhaL iL rcquircs a comparison Lo
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence ::i
an (imaginary or rcal) sLandard or origin, Lo somcLhing LhaL is
pcrccivcd as Lruc, as rcal.
In conLrasL, íor HighsmiLh judgmcnL
bccomcs Lhc problcm par cxccllcncc prcciscly bccausc iL ìs vio-
lcncc. Tus HighsmiLh rcdcscribcs Lhc qucsLion oí judgmcnL via
posing iL as an issuc oí LruLh and violcncc (Te P|underer) in such
a way LhaL Lhc qucsLion oí violcncc appcars as Lhc mosL ìntense
vcrsion oí judgmcnL.
Tom’s abiliLy Lo rcspond Lo somcLhing ouLsidc oí himsclí LhaL
íorccs him Lo Lhink, Lo imaginc, Lo invcnL—Lhis is whaL his acLing
qua bccoming consLiLuLcs. In Lurn, Lhis configuraLion oí Tom’s
characLcr suggcsLs LhaL HighsmiLh hcrsclí has arrivcd aL onc
spccific soluLion Lo hcr largcr prob|ematìque: bcginning wiLh Lhc
qucsLion oí judgmcnL, shc rcndcrs iL as Lhc qucsLion oí violcncc, a
rcndcring LhaL configurcs Lhcsc Lwo Lcrms as muLually immancnL
oí cach oLhcr. You can Lhink oí judgmcnL only as and Lhrough
violcncc. FurLhcr, Lhis immancncc iLsclí is markcd always as an
affccLivc proccss, a movcmcnL oí insLanccs oí bccoming. Tom
has Lo bccomc-violcnL in ordcr Lo bccomc-Dickic, buL bccoming-
Dickic rcquircs his bccoming-violcnL. Finally, hc has Lo bccomc-
Tom Lo achicvc Lhc abiliLy Lo scc his scnsc oí guilL íor whaL iL is:
producLivc oí and produccd by a pracLicc oí judgmcnL LhaL is vio-
lcnL aL iLs corc. As hc conLcmplaLcs, “ií hc hadn’L misjudgcd Lhc
rclaLionship bcLwccn Dickic and Margc so sLupidly, or had simply
waiLcd íor Lhcm Lo scparaLc oí Lhcir own voliLion, Lhcn nonc oí
Lhis would havc happcncd” (i¬i). 1udgmcnL, in oLhcr words, is
always a pracLicc LhaL proceeds wìth too much speed—jusL likc vio-
lcncc. IL is Lhis qualiLy oí judgmcnL LhaL consLiLuLcs iLs violcncc,
LhaL makcs iL producLivc oí violcncc.
Empirical Violence
WiLh Lhis rcmarkablc answcr íound so carly in hcr carccr, wc
mighL cxpccL HighsmiLh Lo havc wholchcarLcdly cmbraccd Lhis
“soluLion” Lo hcr prob|ematìque and conLinuc on Lhis parLicular
LrajccLory oí crcaLing likcablc, murdcrously violcnL characLcrs
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence ::j
LhaL somchow managc Lo cludc any judgmcnL whaLsocvcr. YcL,
wiLh Tom Riplcy sailing off íor CrcLc, HighsmiLh’s work in Lhc
ncxL Lcn ycars morc or lcss conLinucd as ií shc had noL bccn ablc
Lo rcach Lhc singular poinL oí LransíormaLion consLiLuLcd by Te
Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey. TaL is, in Lhc novcls írom :n=¬ Lo :n6i,
írom Leep water Lo Te Two Faces oj 1anuary, rcspccLivcly, all
fivc novcls rcsolvc Lhcir ploLs by Lhc violcnL proLagonisLs dying
(Tìs Sweet Sìckness í:n6o] and Te Two Faces oj 1anuary) or bc-
ing caughL by law cníorccmcnL (Leep water, A Came jor the Lìvìng
í:n=8]; in Te Cry oj the Ow| í:n6i], wc surmisc LhaL Lhc policc
will arrivc Lo dcLain Lhc woundcd criminal). CranLcd, Lhc parLicu-
lar Lypcs oí “soluLions” Lo violcncc providcd by Lhcsc novcls do
noL ncccssarily guaranLcc LhaL rcadcrs will considcr Lhc novcls
“propcrly” rcsolvcd. In Lhc cnd, iL sccms, onc would havc Lo admiL
LhaL Lhc acL oí judgmcnL, as prcscnLcd in Lhcsc novcls, íccls morc
likc a rclaLivcly arLificial Lag-on Lhan an inLcrnally ncccssiLaLcd
(acsLhcLic and cLhical) conclusion. Analogously, wc may Lhink oí
Lhc hypcrarLificial “happy cndings” oí Douglas Sirk’s Hollywood
mclodramas oí Lhc :n=os. RaLhcr Lhan rcsolving Lhc various
íorms oí violcncc pcrmcaLing Lhc sLorics, Lhcsc happy cndings
acLually inLcnsiíy Lhc vcry proccsscs LhaL had givcn risc Lo Lhc
affccLivcly rcndcrcd violcnccs Lhc proLagonisLs cxpcricncc. TaL
is, whilc onc may Lhink LhaL Lhc climinaLion oí Lhc violcnL main
characLcrs in HighsmiLh’s novcls oí Lhc pcriod rcconsLiLuLcs Lhc
world as a morally bcLLcr placc, onc hardly íccls comíorLcd by Lhis
LhoughL prcciscly bccausc oí Lhc rclcnLlcssly cold Lonc (in Lcrms
oí sLylisLic voicc and moral ouLlook) oí cvcryLhing LhaL prcccdcd
Lhcsc sccmingly moral cndings. In oLhcr words, violcncc in High-
smiLh’s ficLion has nciLhcr a caLharLic nor rcgcncraLivc cffccL.
For insLancc, in Te Two Faces oj 1anuary, wc obscrvc Rydal
Kccncr almosL mourn Lhc dcaLh oí his murdcrous rival, ChcsLcr
MacFarland, who has (somcwhaL incidcnLally) killcd his youngcr
wiíc whom hc suspccLcd Lo havc an affair wiLh Kccncr. DcspiLc
Lhc lcLhal dangcr MacFarland posiLcd Lo Kccncr, wc ncvcr gcL
Lhc imprcssion in Lhc novcl LhaL Kccncr minds Lhc LhrcaL. OuiLc
Lhc conLrary is Lhc casc. Bcing hung up on his Lroublcd rclaLion-
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence ::i
ship wiLh his íaLhcr and a pasL girlíricnd, Kccncr íccls oddly aL-
LracLcd Lo MacFarland, who appcars Lo rcmind him oí his íaLhcr.
My poinL hcrc is LhaL MacFarland’s punishmcnL arrivcs wiLhouL
Kccncr, Lhc characLcr rcadcrs arc mosL likcly Lo sympaLhizc wiLh,
cvcr dcsiring iL. Iikcwisc, David Kclscy’s suicidc in Tìs Sweet Sìck-
ness sccms Lo scrvc morc gcncric purposcs Lhan anyLhing clsc,
íor by Lhc cnd oí Lhc novcl, Kclscy’s schizophrcnic sLaLc oí mind
has all buL cradicaLcd his physical cxisLcncc. Tc cxLcnL Lo which
Lhc paLhcLic naLurc and paLhology oí his liíc has bccn csLablishcd
by HighsmiLh docs noL so much soliciL rcadcrs’ lusL íor rcvcngc
and punishmcnL as provokc piLy, ií noL cmpaLhy. Kclscy’s liíc has
bccn mclodramaLic cnough so LhaL his suicidc, his final íorm oí
his punishmcnL, docs noL makc any diffcrcncc aL all.
BuL Lhis inconscqucnLialiLy oí Lhc íorms oí punishmcnL in
Lhcsc fivc novcls should bc oí inLcrcsL Lo us: oughL wc noL aL lcasL
wondcr why HighsmiLh sccms Lo havc íclL compcllcd Lo abandon
hcr carcíully wroughL soluLion Lo hcr problcmaLic` Should wc noL
íccl puzzlcd LhaL shc rcLrcaLs írom hcr crucial achicvcmcnL Lo
havc broughL inLo muLual prcsupposiLion Lhc conccpL and prac-
Licc oí judgmcnL and violcncc aL Lhc vcry momcnL shc has bccn
ablc Lo configurc Lhcm as qucsLions immancnL Lo cach oLhcr`
Only in HighsmiLh’s novcls oí Lhc sccond halí oí Lhc :n6os do
wc oncc again cncounLcr violcnL characLcrs who rcmain aL largc
by Lhc cnd oí Lhc books, such as Philip CarLcr in Te C|ass Ce||
(:n6i) and Sydncy BarLlcby in Te Story-Te||er (:n6=). Te C|ass
Ce|| documcnLs Lhc cffccLs prison can havc on a man—cspccially
whcn hc is unjusLly imprisoncd. In many ways, Lhc sLory pursucs
a quiLc Pavlovian Lhcsis: ií you push a man so much, you will Lurn
him inLo a violcnL bcing. Much morc inLcrcsLing Lhan Lhis argu-
mcnL is Lhc onc offcrcd in Te Story-Te||er. Hcrc, Lhc imaginaLion
oí BarLlcby, a sccond-raLc wriLcr oí crimc sLorics, lcads Lo his cn-
acLing oí an acLual crimc: prcciscly bccausc hc has imagincd mur-
dcr so inLcnscly hc is firsL (íalscly) suspccLcd oí having killcd his
wiíc and Lhcn finds iL casy Lo íorcc hcr lovcr Lo swallow a lcLhal
dosc oí slccping pills. RaLhcr Lhan a bchaviorisL Lhcsis, Te Story-
Te||er argucs íor Lhc lcLhal íorcc oí Lhc arLisLic imaginaLion. In
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence ::=
Lhis conLcxL, wc should noLc LhaL HighsmiLh cvcnLually rcLracLcd
Lhc “Lhcsis” oí hcr firsL novcl, namcly, LhaL any pcrson can bc-
comc a murdcrcr, a scnLimcnL LhaL sLill circulaLcs as bcing ccnLral
Lo HighsmiLh’s “philosophy.” Howcvcr, HighsmiLh, acknowlcdg-
ing LhaL shc may havc LhoughL iL whcn shc wroLc Strangers on a
Traìn, uncquivocally sLaLcd, “I don’L bclicvc LhaL cvcrybody can
bc cocrccd inLo murdcr” (Coopcr-Clark j:¬). Howcvcr, Lhc íacL oí
Lhc rcinLroducLion oí violcnL characLcrs who rcmain aL largc inLo
HighsmiLh’s ficLion has Lo bc qualificd immcdiaLcly by poinLing
ouL LhaL in hcr lasL Lwo novcls oí Lhc :n6os, Tose who wa|k Away
(:n6¬) and Te Tremor oj Forgery (:n6n), no murdcrs arc commiL-
Lcd Lo bcgin wiLh (wiLh Lhc laLLcr poLcnLially ícaLuring a violcnL
dcaLh as a rcsulL oí somcLhing akin Lo prcmcdiLaLcd sclí-dcícnsc).
TwcnLy ycars inLo hcr carccr, Lhcn, HighsmiLh had craíLcd Lhir-
Lccn novcls, oí which only Lhrcc, pcrhaps íour, ícaLurc violcnL
characLcrs LhaL cscapc Lhcir judgmcnL. Tis is worLh mcnLion-
ing ií íor no oLhcr rcason Lhan LhaL criLics conLinually cmphasizc
HighsmiLh’s allcgcd pcnchanL íor crcaLing amoral characLcrs LhaL
rcmain unpunishcd. AL lcasL up unLil Lhis poinL in HighsmiLh’s
ocuvrc, Lhis is paLcnLly wrong; buL Lhis claim somcwhaL ironically
poinLs Lo Lhc íuncLion oí criLicism and how iL is drivcn by iLs dc-
sirc íor judgmcnL Lo such a dcgrcc LhaL, aL Limcs, iL cannoL scc
whcn iL acLually occurs.
Ií, howcvcr, HighsmiLh’s wriLing bcLwccn :n== and :n6n
consLiLuLcs a “rcLurn Lo judgmcnL,” Lhcn wc musL hccd Lhc vcry
rcpcLiLivcncss oí Lhis sccming rcLracLion oí Lhc “soluLion” shc
arrivcd aL wiLh Lhc wriLing oí Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey. Rcading
HighsmiLh’s ficLion (and noL only LhaL írom Lhc firsL parL oí hcr
carccr), I am unlikcly Lo bc alonc in noLicing how diffi culL iL is
Lo diffcrcnLiaLc bcLwccn hcr characLcrs and, whcn all is said and
donc, hcr basic ploLs. All oí Lhis lcads Lo a rcmarkablc diffi culLy in
rccollccLing spccific incidcnLs aLLachcd Lo spccific propcr namcs.

ImporLanLly, iL appcars LhaL HighsmiLh hcrsclí musL havc bccn
affccLcd by Lhis incrcasing monoLony oí hcr work. A scnsc oí
borcdom mighL vcry wcll havc maniícsLcd iLsclí by Lhc Limc shc
conccivcd oí Te Tremor oj Forgery, hcr firsL book abouL Lhc mo-
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence ::6
raliLy oí violcncc wiLhouL Lhc clcar-cuL occurrcncc oí murdcr. In
Lhis book, Howard Ingham, an Amcrican wriLcr, spcnds Limc in
Tunisia Lo gaLhcr maLcrial íor a movic scripL. AíLcr hc finds ouL
LhaL Lhc produccr oí Lhc movic has dicd in Ncw York on Lhc bcd
oí Ingham’s girlíricnd, hc abandons his film projccL buL sLays on
in Tunisia. Onc nighL, hc hcars an inLrudcr Lrying Lo brcak inLo
his housc. NoL sccing Lhc man buL suspccLing a hoodlum who has
boLhcrcd him bcíorc, hc Lhrows his LypcwriLcr aL Lhc unwclcomc
gucsL, Lhcn shuLs Lhc door. Tc íaLc oí Lhc inLrudcr will rcmain
unclcar íor Lhc rcsL oí Lhc novcl: was hc íaLally injurcd and car-
ricd away by hoLcl cmployccs who wanLcd Lo covcr ovcr Lhc in-
Or was hc mcrcly hurL and hclpcd by Lhc cmployccs Lo
lcavc Lhc prcmiscs`
Rcgardlcss oí how wc rcad Lhc novcl’s kcy cvcnL—whcLhcr as
an acL oí sclí-dcícnsc lcading Lo Lhc dcaLh oí a small-Limc Ara-
bic crook or as a morc or lcss prcmcdiLaLcd acL oí violcncc in Lhc
guisc oí sclí-dcícnsc LhaL may or may noL havc lcd Lo a dcaLh—
Lhc novcl is bcyond Lhc shadow oí a doubL abouL HighsmiLh’s
kcy problcmaLic, namcly, Lhc qucsLions oí judgmcnL (moraliLy)
and violcncc, as cvcn Lhc back-covcr dcscripLion oí Lhc novcl’s
papcrback cdiLion cmphasizcs: “Cradually, howcvcr, a scrics oí
pcculiar cvcnLs—a hushcd-up murdcr, a vanishcd corpsc, and sc-
crcL broadcasLs Lo Lhc SovicL Union—lurcs íIngham] incxorably
inLo Lhc dccp, ambivalcnL shadows oí Lhis Arab Lown, inLo dccciL
and away írom convcnLional moraliLy. And whcn Ingham finds
an accomplicc Lo murdcr, or pcrhaps somcLhing morc, whaL is in
qucsLion is noL jusLicc or LruLh, buL Lhc sLaLc oí his oddly quicL
conscicncc.” MosL imporLanLly, iL is Adams, Lhc paLrioLic Amcri-
can radioing sccrcL propaganda mcssagcs Lo subvcrL Lhc SovicL
rcgimc, who bccomcs curious abouL Lhc (murdcrous`) incidcnL
and prcsscs Ingham Lo clcar his conscicncc. SuspccLing him oí
íoul play, Adams lccLurcs Ingham LhaL hc musL noL abandon his
good Amcrican moraliLy only bccausc hc is now in a world LhaL
is noL bascd on 1udco-ChrisLian moral valucs. Adams bclicvcs
LhaL Ingham’s (allcgcd) crimc will haunL him íorcvcr ií hc can-
noL bring himsclí Lo conícss—and Lhus Lo ask íor punishmcnL
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence ::¬
and íorgivcncss. Ingham, supporLcd by his Danish íricnd 1cnscn,
howcvcr, rcsisLs Adams’s moralizing and Lo Lhc cnd kccps quicL
abouL his involvcmcnL in Lhc disappcarancc oí Lhc Arab, in Lhc
proccss acccpLing his girlíricnd’s slow Lurning away írom him as
a rcsulL oí Adams’s insinuaLions. Clcarly, HighsmiLh wondcrs in
Lhis novcl how íar moraliLy has a purchasc on violcncc, how íar
jusLicc can bc donc, and how íar moraliLy is iLsclí íundamcnLally
shoL Lhrough wiLh aggrcssion (as cvidcnccd by Adams’s anLicom-
munisL and impcrialisL sLancc).
WiLh Lhc wriLing oí Lhis novcl, HighsmiLh has pursucd Lhc linc
oí judgmcnL as íar as shc could, Lo Lhc momcnL whcrc judgmcnL
iLsclí appcars as violcncc wiLhouL Lhc occurrcncc oí morc “obvi-
ous” violcnL cvcnLs. Shc rcpcaLs hcr ploLs, as wcll as hcr basic rc-
sponsc Lo Lhc problcms poscd by Lhcm, Lo Lhc cxLcnL LhaL shc
Lransíorms Lhis basic LrajccLory oí hcr work so LhaL Lhc doublc
qucsLion oí violcncc and judgmcnL docs noL íurLhcr rcly on Lhc
(scripLcd) acL oí murdcr iLsclí íor Lhc basic problcmaLic Lo mani-
ícsL iLsclí. TaL is, insLcad oí rcprcscnLing violcncc scnsaLion-
ally, shc rcndcrs scnsiblc Lhc violcncc oí scnsaLion as wcll as Lhc
violcncc oí judgmcnL. Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey marks íor Lhc firsL
Limc a momcnL oí purc inLcrrupLion in hcr work. Tis momcnL
oí brcakdown rupLurcs HighsmiLh’s basic cngagcmcnL wiLh hcr
problcmaLic and pushcs iL Lo Lhc poinL aL which somcLhing ncw
appcars (violcncc and judgmcnL as muLually immancnL íorccs).
Now, Te Tremor oj Forgery dcmarcaLcs Lhc cnd oí Lhc linc oí Lhis
parLicular LrajccLory. In Lhis casc, howcvcr, iL is noL so much LhaL
somcLhing ncw appcars in Lhc scnsc oí whaL happcncd wiLh Te
Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey; raLhcr, HighsmiLh simply has cxhausLcd Lhis
narraLivc linc, and in Lhc proccss shc appcars Lo havc cxhausLcd
Oí coursc, onc can mcrcly spcculaLc abouL Lhc cxLcnL Lo which
shc mighL havc íclL borcd wiLh hcr rcpcaLcd cfforL Lo comc Lo
grips wiLh hcr problcmaLic only Lo cnd on morc or lcss similar rc-
sponscs (and Lhis is noL Lo say LhaL Lhcsc novcls arc bad, quiLc Lhc
opposiLc), buL Lhc affccLivc íorcc oí borcdom mighL vcry wcll havc
pushcd HighsmiLh’s obscssion Lo a ncw, sccond momcnL oí inLcr-
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence ::8
rupLion. In íacL, HighsmiLh hcrsclí spokc posiLivcly oí Lhc íorcc
inhcrcnL Lo borcdom, oí iLs capaciLy Lo provokc LhoughL: “I crcaLc
Lhings ouL oí borcdom wiLh rcaliLy and wiLh Lhc samcncss oí rou-
Linc and objccLs around mc. Tcrcíorc, I don’L dislikc Lhis borc-
dom which cncroachcs on mc cvcry now and Lhcn, and I cvcn Lry
Lo crcaLc iL by rouLinc” (P|ottìng and wrìtìng in). In oLhcr words,
Lhc affccLivc íorcc consLiLuLing borcdom íuncLions producLivcly
in LhaL iL is oíLcn produccd by rcal or pcrccivcd rcpcLiLions LhaL
lcnd Lhcmsclvcs Lo a pausc, a spacc íor Lhc producLion oí LhoughL.
BuL, and Lhis musL bc markcd, borcdom has Lo bc produccd by Lhc
wriLcr or Lhc world shc livcs in. (I havc alrcady argucd Lhis in chap-
Lcr i. Tom Riplcy, oí coursc, iniLially acLs ouL oí borcdom as wcll.)
Tc affccLivc sLaLc oí borcdom has Lo bc crcaLcd Lhrough rouLincs,
Lhrough rcgulaLing onc’s pracLicc oí wriLing—and Lhrough rcgu-
laLing Lhc wriLcrly cncounLcr wiLh violcncc. In Lhis rouLinizcd,
rcgulaLcd, masochisLic inLcrval, HighsmiLh cxpcrimcnLs wiLh hcr
prob|ematìque, rcpcaLcdly LcsLing hcr insighL LhaL violcncc and
judgmcnL consisL oí íorccs LhaL arc muLually immancnL. Hcncc,
HighsmiLh had Lo wriLc all oí Lhcsc novcls Lo rcach Lhc poinL oí
inLcnsificaLion shc íound hcrsclí affccLcd by in Lhc laLc :n6os.
In Lhis conLcxL, 1ulian Symons, onc oí HighsmiLh’s bcsL com-
mcnLaLors, wroLc a pcrccpLivc passagc jusL bcíorc HighsmiLh pub-
lishcd Lhc sccond insLallmcnL oí hcr Riplcy scrics: “Tc rcLurn oí
Mr. Riplcy, abouL which HighsmiLh Lhinks aL Lhis momcnL í:n6n],
could solvc Lhc problcm oí corrccLly arLiculaLing hcr LhoughLs
abouL social moraliLy and individual bchavior by corrccLly dc-
ploying violcncc wiLhouL graLuiLous scnsaLionalism. Violcncc is
ncccssary, sincc hcr bcsL wriLcrly LalcnLs find cxprcssion Lhrough
violcncc and acLualiLy, and shc musL find a way rcalisLically Lo usc
Lhis” (:=o, my LranslaLion). In Lhis passagc, Symons niccly voiccs
his scnsc oí Lhc mood LhaL musL havc affccLcd HighsmiLh aL Lhc
Limc. Hc dcscribcs Lhc scarching modc oí opcraLion shc musL
havc parLicipaLcd in: HighsmiLh appcars Lo havc bccn sLuck in
hcr scarch íor a way ouL, íor a rcsoluLion Lo hcr basic prob|ema-
tìque, íor finding a way Lo dcploy violcncc in such a manncr LhaL iL
docs noL havc Lo rcly anymorc on Lhc counLcr acL oí punishmcnL
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence ::n
or judgmcnL. And I conLcnd LhaL aL Lhis momcnL HighsmiLh was
rcady, oncc again, Lo Lurn back. Tis Limc, howcvcr, hcr rcLurn Lo
an carlicr momcnL in hcr carccr is noL onc LhaL sLill rclics on cx-
pliciL punishmcnL; raLhcr, shc rcLurns Lo Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey,
Lo Lhc book LhaL has bcgun, ií noL cnLircly succcssíully (aíLcr all,
Riplcy rcmains plagucd by guilL), Lo configurc violcncc and judg-
mcnL as immancnL íorccs. TaL is, raLhcr Lhan a counLcr acL, judg-
mcnL is immancnL Lo, or shoL Lhrough wiLh, violcncc. Ií High-
smiLh indccd scarchcd íor a way ouL oí hcr dilcmma, ií shc indccd
lookcd íor an cxiL, Lhcn hcr parLicular wriLing pracLicc lcd hcr Lo
Lhc insighL LhaL, rcally, Lhcrc is no cxiL, LhaL Lhc only way ouL, ií
Lhcrc is onc aL all, is a proccss oí inLcnsificaLion, oí going Lhrough.
Violcncc is affccL, and only by masocriLically hccding Lhc affccLivc
íorcc inhcrcnL Lo acLs oí violcncc can shc dcLcrminc whaL is so in-
LcrcsLing abouL Lhc qucsLion oí violcncc Lo bcgin wiLh. PuL morc
íorccíully, only by inLcnsiíying hcr prob|ematìque can shc cxaminc
liíc undcr dominaLion and cxpcrimcnL wiLh modcs oí rcgulaLing
iL. Tis masocriLical inLcnsificaLion cvcnLually brings abouL a purc
linc oí flighL: insLcad oí cscaping violcncc, HighsmiLh’s wriLcrly
cncounLcr wiLh violcncc makcs Lhc wholc planc oí rcprcscnLa-
Lion/judgmcnL/violcncc flcc.
Tis iLcraLion oí a rcsponsc HighsmiLh had givcn somc fiíLccn
ycars prior Lo hcr wriLing oí Rìp|ey 0nder Cround (:n¬o) cannoL
bc undcrcsLimaLcd as an imporLanL achicvcmcnL oí hcr carccr, or,
íor LhaL maLLcr, posL–World War II (Amcrican) liLcraLurc, íor iL
occurs aL a crucial shiíL in Lhc dcvclopmcnL oí WcsLcrn sociopoliL-
ical liíc in gcncral. Michacl HardL and AnLonio Ncgri’s cnLirc Fm-
pìre projccL narraLcs Lhc baLLlc bcLwccn íorccs oí Lransccndcncc
and íorccs oí immancncc LhaL havc dominaLcd and irrcvocably
shapcd Lhc coursc oí WcsLcrn civilizaLion sincc Lhc Rcnaissancc.
By Lhc Limc wc gcL Lo Lhc posL–World War II cra, Lhc íorccs oí
immancncc havc, according Lo Lhc LhcorisLs, won ouL íor good,
producing whaL Lhcy Lcrm “Fmpirc”: “In conLrasL Lo impcrialism,
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :io
Fmpirc csLablishcs no LcrriLorial ccnLcr oí powcr and docs noL
rcly on fixcd boundarics or barricrs. IL is a decentered and deter-
rìtorìa|ìzìng apparaLus oí rulc LhaL progrcssivcly incorporaLcs Lhc
cnLirc global rcalm wiLhin iLs opcn, cxpanding íronLicrs. Fmpirc
managcs hybrid idcnLiLics, flcxiblc hicrarchics, and plural cx-
changcs Lhrough modulaLing ncLworks oí command. Tc disLincL
naLional colors oí Lhc impcrialisL map oí Lhc world havc mcrgcd
and blcndcd in Lhc impcrial global rainbow” (xii–xiii).
Tc mosL imporLanL characLcrisLic oí Lhis íundamcnLally ncw
íorm oí social organizaLion—oí powcr—is LhaL all oí iLs íorccs
opcraLc on Lhc samc planc oí immancncc: Fmpirc is Lhc firsL Lruly
immancnL modc oí powcr LhaL WcsLcrn civilizaLion has íaccd. As
parL oí Lhis cmcrgcncc oí a ncw modc oí powcr, oí liíc, oí whaL
Lhcy call biopoliLical producLion, capiLalism iLsclí has bccn Lrans-
íormcd. Fmpirc, and iLs capiLalisL cconomic lcg, produccs and rc-
produccs iLsclí, wiLh Lhc rcsulL LhaL Lhcrc is noLhing buL capiLal,
or, as Dclcuzc and CuaLLari oncc claimcd, “Tcrc is only dcsirc
and Lhc social, and noLhing clsc” (Antì-Oedìpus in).
Tc conscqucncc oí Lhis shiíL in social organizaLion is gravc íor
Lhc possibiliLy oí poliLics and inLcrvcnLion. As HardL and Ncgri
makc pcríccLly clcar, nosLalgia íor a losL world is a loscr as a po-
liLical sLraLcgy (and clcarly, Lhcy dirccL Lhis polcmical argumcnL
aL Lhcir ícllow MarxisLs). NoL dcnying Lhc cnormous cvidcncc
oí opprcssion and dcsLrucLion in Lhc conLcmporary world, Lhcy
noncLhclcss insisL, rcpcaLcdly, LhaL Lhc “passagc Lo Fmpirc and
iLs proccsscs oí globalizaLion offcr ncw possibiliLics Lo Lhc íorccs
oí libcraLion. íBuL our] poliLical Lask í . . . ] is noL simply Lo rcsisL
Lhcsc proccsscs buL Lo reorganìze Lhcm and redìrect Lhcm Loward
ncw cnds. í . . . ] Tc sLrugglcs Lo conLcsL and subvcrL Fmpirc, as
wcll as Lhosc Lo consLrucL a rcal alLcrnaLivc, will Lhus Lakc placc
on Lhc impcrial Lcrrain iLsclí” (xv, my cmphascs). Again, Lhc only
way ouL is Lhrough.
Howcvcr, in Lhc conLcxL oí Lhc pcdagogical and poliLical prac-
Licc oí criLicism LhaL I havc bccn Lhcorizing Lhus íar, Lhis socio-
poliLical map dawn by HardL and Ncgri providcs LhcorcLical and
pragmaLic rcasons LhaL cxplain why culLural criLicism cannoL aí-
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :i:
íord Lo hold on Lo, lcL alonc mourn íor, a (moral) posiLion ouL-
sidc. For as long as criLicism insisLs on Lhc availabiliLy oí Lhis po-
siLion íor iLsclí, iL givcs up Lhc possibiliLy oí “rcal” inLcrvcnLion.
HardL and Ncgri arc cspccially impaLicnL wiLh Lhc commonaliLy
oí mourníul, nosLalgic criLical discoursc: “DcspiLc rccognizing
íall Lhc suffcring in Loday’s world], wc insisL on asscrLing LhaL
Lhc consLrucLion oí Fmpirc is a sLcp íorward in ordcr Lo do away
wiLh any nosLalgia íor Lhc powcr sLrucLurcs LhaL prcccdcd iL and
rcíusc any poliLical sLraLcgy LhaL involvcs rcLurning Lo LhaL old ar-
rangcmcnL, such as Lrying Lo rcsurrccL Lhc naLion-sLaLc Lo proLccL
againsL global capiLal. Wc claim LhaL Fmpirc is bcLLcr in Lhc samc
way LhaL Marx insisLs LhaL capiLalism is bcLLcr Lhan Lhc íorms oí
socicLy and modcs oí producLion LhaL camc bcíorc iL” (ij).
HardL and Ncgri compcllingly insisL LhaL Lhc cLhical and poliLi-
cal (and Lhus criLical) Lask oí Loday is finally Lo hccd “Lhc primary
cvcnL oí modcrniLy íand iLs cvcnLual insLanLiaLion]: Lhc affi rma-
Lion oí Lhc powcrs oí thìs world, Lhc discovcry oí Lhc planc oí im-
mancncc” (¬:). IL musL bc noLcd, howcvcr, LhaL an affi rmaLion
oí Lhis momcnL docs noL mcan LhaL wc nccd Lo dcscribc or judgc
iL as “good.” In íacL, conLrary Lo Lhc írcqucnL cclcbraLion oí “dií-
ícrcncc” as “good” in conLcmporary acadcmia, HardL and Ncgri
hold LhaL Lhc “sLrucLurcs and logics oí powcr in Lhc conLcmporary
world arc cnLircly immunc Lo Lhc ‘libraLory’ wcapons oí Lhc posL-
modcrnisL poliLics oí diffcrcncc. In íacL, Fmpirc Loo is bcnL on do-
ing away wiLh Lhosc modcrn íorms oí sovcrcignLy and on scLLing
diffcrcnccs Lo play across boundarics” (:ii).
Howcvcr, Lhc grcaL
irony inhcrcnL in conLcmporary criLicism’s dcsirc Lo valorizc dií-
ícrcncc and casL iL as an ouLsidc Lo Lhc bad íorccs oí capiLal is LhaL
Lhis vcry dcsirc marks iLs own impossibiliLy. TaL is, Lhc íacL LhaL
Lhc “ouLsidc” has bccomc such a (markcLablc) caLchword marks
Lhc vcry disappcarancc oí iL; or bcLLcr, iL indcxcs LhaL Lhc ouLsidc
has bccn íoldcd inLo Lhc insidc on Lhc planc oí immancncc, Lhus
rcvcaling LhaL Lhc ouLsidc is noL availablc anymorc, ií iL cvcr was,
in Lhc LradiLional scnsc oí Lhc conccpL.
To rcLurn now Lo Lhc qucsLion aL hand—LhaL oí judgmcnL, or
moraliLy, as a íorm oí “cLhical” rcsponsc Lo violcncc—íor my pur-
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :ii
poscs Lhc mosL Lclling parL oí Lhcir analysis occurs whcn HardL
and Ncgri also Lurn Lo Lhc qucsLion oí moraliLy. Tcy do so in
Lhc conLcxL oí “inLcrvcnLion.” Diagnosing how Fmpirc opcraLcs,
how iL inLcrvcncs in Lhc social sphcrc, Lhcy claim LhaL iLs “pow-
crs oí inLcrvcnLion mighL bc bcsL undcrsLood as bcginning noL
dirccLly wiLh iLs wcapons oí lcLhal íorcc buL raLhcr wiLh iLs moral
insLrumcnLs” (j=). TaL is, Lhcir analysis bcars ouL LhaL whaL
wc commonly undcrsLand as bruLc violcncc is in many rcspccLs
much lcss inLcrcsLing Lhan Lhc pracLicc LhaL wc Lcnd Lo Lhink oí
as sLanding in opposiLion Lo violcncc: moral judgmcnL. HardL and
Ncgri spccifically cxaminc Lhc rolc playcd by nongovcrnmcnLal
organizaLions (Ncos) such as AmncsLy InLcrnaLional or Mcdccins
sans FronLicrcs, sociopoliLical groups sccmingly bcyond rcproach
in pcoplc’s csLimaLion. And, oí coursc, HardL and Ncgri’s cfforL
aL invcsLigaLing how, cxacLly, Lhcy íuncLion in Lhc agc oí Fmpirc
is noL Lo rcvcal LhaL Lhcy arc somchow “bad” and LhaL wc arc all
dupcd by Lhcm. InsLcad, Lhcir much morc inLcrcsLing poinL oí
inLcrvcnLion is Lo show LhaL Lhcsc organizaLions, commonly pcr-
ccivcd as corrccLivc insLiLuLions Lo Lhc morc cvil íorccs oí global
capiLalism, íorm parL oí Lhc ncxus oí Fmpirc’s opcraLivc sysLcm.
To quoLc aL lcngLh Lhis crucial passagc:
Such humaniLarian Ncos arc in cffccL (cvcn ií Lhis runs
counLcr Lo Lhc inLcnLions oí Lhc parLicipanLs) somc oí Lhc
mosL powcríul pacific wcapons oí Lhc ncw world ordcr—Lhc
chariLablc campaigns and Lhc mcndicanL ordcrs oí Fmpirc.
Tcsc Ncos conducL “jusL wars” wiLhouL arms, wiLhouL
violcncc, wiLhouL bordcrs. Iikc Lhc Dominicans in Lhc laLc
mcdicval pcriod and Lhc 1csuiLs aL Lhc dawn oí modcrniLy,
Lhcsc groups sLrivc Lo idcnLiíy univcrsal nccds and dcícnd
human righLs. Trough theìr |anguage and theìr actìon they
first define the enemy as prìvatìon (ìn the hope oj preventìng
serìous damage) and then recognìze the enemy as sìn. (j6, my
Slavoj Žižck concurs wiLh Lhis asscssmcnL, noLwiLhsLanding his
oLhcrwisc ncgaLivc vicw oí Fmpìre: “chariLy is, Loday, parL oí Lhc
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :ij
gamc as a humaniLarian mask hiding Lhc undcrlying cconomic
cxploiLaLion: in a supcrcgo-blackmail oí giganLic proporLions,
Lhc dcvclopcd counLrics arc consLanLly ‘hclping’ Lhc undcvclopcd
(wiLh aid, crcdiLs, cLc.), Lhcrcby avoiding Lhc kcy issuc, namcly,
Lhcir comp|ìcìty in and corcsponsibiliLy íor Lhc miscrablc siLu-
aLion oí Lhc undcvclopcd” (Organs wìthout Podìes :¬n). Tc in-
sLiLuLions LradiLionally occupying a mora| high ground, in oLhcr
words, posscss Lhcir supcrior íorcc by producing LhaL which is noL
moral (sin) and in Lurn arc dcploycd as a subLlc, only sccmingly
nonviolcnL, mcchanism againsL immoraliLy. Iikcwisc, givcn LhaL
Lhcsc insLiLuLions Lcnd Lo bc LhoughL oí as mainLaining a posi-
Lion ouLsidc oí capiLalisL grccd, oí poliLical gamcs, and oí human
íallibiliLy and corrupLion, iL is sLunning Lo find an analysis LhaL
raLhcr convincingly locaLcs Lhcsc vcry insLiLuLions aL Lhc hcarL
oí Lhc sysLcm Lo which Lhcy arc supposcd Lo bc opposcd. Again,
HardL and Ncgri aL lcngLh:
In ChrisLian moral Lhcology cvil is firsL poscd as privaLion
oí Lhc good and Lhcn sin is dcfincd as culpablc ncgaLion oí
Lhc good. WiLhin Lhis logical íramcwork iL is noL sLrangc buL
raLhcr all Loo naLural LhaL in Lhcir aLLcmpLs Lo rcspond Lo
privaLion, Lhcsc Ncos arc lcd Lo dcnouncc publicly Lhc sin-
ncrs (or raLhcr Lhc Fncmy in propcrly inquisiLional Lcrms);
nor is iL sLrangc LhaL Lhcy lcavc Lo Lhc “sccular wing” Lhc
Lask oí acLually addrcssing Lhc problcms. In Lhis way, mora|
ìnterventìon has become a jront|ìne jorce oj ìmperìa| ìnterven-
tìon. In cffccL, Lhis inLcrvcnLion prcfigurcs Lhc sLaLc oí cx-
ccpLion írom bclow, and docs so wiLhouL bordcrs, armcd
wiLh somc oí Lhc mosL cffccLivc mcans oí communicaLion
and oricnLcd Loward Lhc symbolic producLion oí Lhc cn-
cmy. Tcsc Ncos arc complcLcly immcrscd in Lhc biopoliLi-
cal conLcxL oí Lhc consLiLuLion oí Fmpirc; Lhcy anLicipaLc
Lhc powcr oí iLs paciíying and producLivc inLcrvcnLion oí
jusLicc. í . . . ] Mora| ìnterventìon ojten serves as the first act
that prepares the stage jor mì|ìtary ìnterventìon. (j6–j¬, my
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :ii
IL is hard Lo imaginc a morc íorccíul linc oí qucsLioning Lhc shccr
possibiliLy and, indccd, viabiliLy oí a rccoursc Lo moral judgmcnL
as a “propcr” rcsponsc Lo violcncc (in Lhc scnsc oí promising Lo
bc cffccLivc in cradicaLing or aL lcasL conLaining iL). As dcscribcd
by Lhcsc Lwo LhcorisLs, moraliLy—judgmcnL—scL Lhc sLagc íor
violcncc Lo cnsuc. Indccd, I Lhink iL is íair Lo asscrL LhaL íor HardL
and Ncgri moraliLy is violcncc, LhaL Lhc acL oí judgmcnL bascd on
whaLcvcr prcsumably moral ground cquals any givcn acL oí vio-
lcncc in Lhcir sLrucLural íuncLionaliLy and cffccLiviLy. 1udgmcnL
and violcncc, in shorL, muLually prcsupposc, rcquirc, and bring Lo
pass cach oLhcr. 1usL likc in “Lhc proccss oí capiLalizaLion the out-
sìde ìs ìnterna|ìzed ” (ii6), and jusL likc Fmpirc makcs brcakdowns
or crisis iLs LransíormaLivc cnginc, so judgmcnL inLcrnalizcs vio-
lcncc and casLs iL as iLs mosL inLcnsificd íorm.
Intensifying Violence through Serialization
PaLricia HighsmiLh arrivcd aL Lhis conclusion alrcady in :n==
wiLh hcr íourLh novcl, Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey. Howcvcr, Lhc íacL
LhaL shc rccoilcd írom Lhis rcmarkablc achicvcmcnL, and Lhc cvcn
morc inLcrcsLing íacL LhaL shc rcLurncd Lo iL fiíLccn ycars laLcr,
prcciscly aL Lhc momcnL whcn HardL and Ncgri locaLc somc oí Lhc
mosL íorccíul alLcraLions in Lhc global sphcrc LhaL Lransíormcd
Lhc rcign oí Lransccndcncc inLo onc oí purc immancncc, musL
now bc sccn as bcing in linc wiLh, indccd produccd by, Lhis largcr
sociopoliLical dcvclopmcnL.
Occupying Lhc posiLion oí an Amcri-
can wriLcr living in various Furopcan counLrics, crcaLing works oí
ficLions always conccrncd wiLh Amcrican ciLizcns living aL Limcs
in Lhcir homc counLry, aL Limcs abroad, HighsmiLh incviLably was
affccLcd by Lhc largcr global íorccs dcscribcd by HardL and Ncgri.
YcL, jusL as Fmpìre narraLcs a sLory oí conflicL LhaL only slowly
rcsolvcd iLsclí morc dccidcdly in Lhc posL–World War II pcriod,
so HighsmiLh’s sccming cmbracc oí Lhc lcsson oí immancncc—
LhaL Lhc only rcsponsc Lo violcncc is affccL, noL judgmcnL—was
bound Lo bc a LcnLaLivc, sLuLLcring onc, onc LhaL was impossiblc
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :i=
Lo mainLain wiLh grcaL consisLcncy, íor surcly Lhc lcsson iLsclí
was a sLrangc and diffi culL onc Lo lcarn. And so iL makcs scnsc
LhaL HighsmiLh had Lo wriLc hcrsclí through hcr problcmaLic, had
Lo LcsL ouL Lhc waLcrs ancw and cxpcrimcnL wiLh hcr “soluLion,”
cvcn aíLcr hcr firsL Riplcy succcss. ConLrary Lo Lhc criLical opin-
ion LhaL somchow hcr Riplcy novcls arc Lhc popular lighLwcighLs
among hcr oLhcrwisc morc challcnging work, LhaL, as Russcll
Harrison argucs, “íuncLioncd as a kind oí brcaLhcr íor HighsmiLh,
a ficLional placc Lo which shc could rcpair írom Limc Lo Limc whcn
Lhc oLhcrwisc quiLc grucsomc busincss oí social inLcracLion in
hcr morc ambiLious novcls bccamc Loo much” (in), I suggcsL LhaL
Lhcsc fivc novcls figurc as Lhc pcak momcnLs in hcr carccr, as sin-
gular momcnLs oí inLcnsificaLion—noL in Lhc scnsc LhaL Lhcy arc
“bcLLcr” (acsLhcLically or oLhcrwisc), buL in LhaL Lhcy consLiLuLc
Lhc culminaLion oí Lhc mosL íundamcnLal lcsson shc has LaughL
hcrsclí and offcrs Lo hcr rcadcrs as “arrows oí LhoughL” LhaL, in
NicLzschcan íashion, wc may pick up and shooL clscwhcrc.
Tc iLcraLion oí hcr problcmaLic Lhrough hcr ocuvrc, Lhcn,
Lurns ouL Lo bc noL so much a rcpcLiLion oí Lhc samc, as cvcn
HighsmiLh mighL havc LhoughL aL onc Limc or anoLhcr. RaLhcr,
hcr cfforL Lo scrializc hcr problcmaLic, firsL Lhrough crcaLing
a scrics oí sLorics rcmarkably similar on mosL lcvcls and Lhcn
Lhrough Lurning hcr firsL cncounLcr wiLh immancncc inLo iLs own
scrics, musL bc dcscribcd as whaL Dclcuzc and CuaLLari Lhcorizcd
as ìtìneratìon, a íorcc oí rcpcLiLion LhaL sLrucLurcs surpriscs, a Ni-
cLzschcan FLcrnal RcLurn LhaL allows only LhaL Lo rcLurn which
has Lhc capaciLy Lo diffcr.
IL is prcciscly HighsmiLh’s rcpcaLcd pcríormancc oí Lhis iLin-
craLing íorcc LhaL docs noL allow us Lo considcr hcr, as has oc-
casionally bccn donc, as an cxisLcnLialisL wriLcr.
For HighsmiLh,
noLhing is Lo bc ovcrcomc, lcasL oí all violcncc or, in propcr cx-
isLcnLialisL Lcrms, dcaLh. For cxisLcnLialism, Lhc wholc poinL oí
living is Lo íacc up Lo dcaLh, sincc Lhis is how wc gain and confirm
our auLhcnLiciLy and asscrL Lo oursclvcs LhaL wc arc alivc and írcc.
Rcíusing Lhc powcr oí dcaLh and bchaving morally in a univcrsc
oLhcrwisc as absurd as Lhc onc dcpicLcd in Samucl BcckcLL’s Lhc-
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :i6
aLcr oí Lhc samc namc bccomc Lhc markcrs oí “Lruc” human ac-
Lion. YcL, Lhc problcm inscribcd inLo cxisLcnLialism is LhaL onc
can ncvcr succccd aL Lhis Lask. IncviLably, our cfforL Lo csLablish
oursclvcs as auLhcnLic musL íail: wc will dic. HighsmiLh’s violcnL
ficLion, in conLrasL, is noL aL all govcrncd by Lhis logic oí íailurc or
lack. TaL wc will dic is a íacL oí liíc Lo which shc ascribcs no spc-
cial powcr, no Lclcological íorcc. Shc simply docs noL mind LhaL
dcaLh looms on Lhc horizon íor all oí us. Hcncc, hcr ficLional vio-
lcncc is nciLhcr a rcsponsc Lo ccrLain dcaLh nor a mcans Lo provc
oncsclí auLhcnLic. Violcncc, as iL works in hcr ficLion, is nciLhcr
LhaL which has Lo bc ovcrcomc nor LhaL which dcmarcaLcs íailurc.
Tcrc is no mourning in HighsmiLh’s work. In conLrasL, violcncc
is LhaL which has Lo bc masochisLically repeated in ordcr Lo push
iL Lo Lhc limiL oí whaL iL can do. And prcciscly whcn Lhcsc limiLs
arc achicvcd, a ncccssary LransíormaLion occurs, as I havc argucd
was Lhc casc wiLh Lhc firsL Riplcy novcl as wcll as wiLh Tremor oj
RcpcLiLion, Lhcn, can bc considcrcd Lhc pcdagogical—maso-
criLical—impcraLivc sLrucLuring HighsmiLh’s ficLion. ConLrary
Lo Immanucl KanL’s íamous univcrsalizing moral impcraLivc
prcscribing LhaL onc should acL only on a maxim LhaL onc si-
mulLancously wishcs Lo bc a univcrsal law (Foundatìons sccL. :),
HighsmiLh’s wriLing appcars Lo bc morc NicLzschcan in kind in
LhaL Lhc rcpcLiLion oí violcncc aL work is characLcrizcd noL by LhaL
which HighsmiLh dcsircs Lo bc donc Lo hcrsclí, íor LhaL would
noL gcL hcr anywhcrc aL all oLhcr Lhan rcproducing Lhc samc onc
morc Limc. RaLhcr, HighsmiLh’s rcpcLiLion oí violcncc opcraLcs by
Lhc logic oí iLincraLing inLcnsificaLion whcrc whaL is rcpcaLcd is
only LhaL which ulLimaLcly can rcLurn diffcrcnLly. In oLhcr words,
Lhc scrializcd rcpcLiLivcncss oí HighsmiLh’s ocuvrc docs noL con-
sLiLuLc an cLcrnal rcLurn oí Lhc samc—Lhc quinLcsscnLial cxis-
LcnLialisL rcading oí NicLzschc’s mosL íamous conccpL.
iL sccms Lo mc, Dclcuzc’s arLiculaLion oí how Lhc cLcrnal rcLurn
opcraLcs in NicLzschc dcscribcs much morc fiLLingly HighsmiLh’s
wriLing pracLicc. According Lo Dclcuzc, NicLzschc’s impcraLivc, as
opposcd Lo KanL’s, is, “whaLcvcr you will, will iL in such a manncr
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :i¬
LhaL you also will iLs cLcrnal rcLurn” (Lìfference and Repetìtìon ¬).
Hc gocs on Lo cxplain LhaL Lhis cLhical LcsL oí onc’s will gocs íur-
Lhcr Lhan KanL’s caLcgorical impcraLivc bccausc iL docs noL rclaLc
Lhc íorcc oí rcpcLiLion Lo “Lhc moralizing sourcc in Lhc gcncraliLy
oí conccpLs” (¬); raLhcr, “iL sccms Lo makc rcpcLiLion iLsclí Lhc
only íorm oí a law beyond moraliLy. í . . . ] Tc íorm oí rcpcLiLion in
Lhc cLcrnal rcLurn is Lhc bruLal íorm oí Lhc immcdiaLc, LhaL oí Lhc
univcrsal and Lhc singular rcuniLcd, which dcLhroncs cvcry gcn-
cral law, dissolvcs Lhc mcdiaLions and annihilaLcs Lhc parLiculars
subjccLcd Lo Lhc law” (¬, my cmphasis). In oLhcr words, rcpcLiLion
is “whaL is,” as iL wcrc. IL is noL bascd on Lhc gcncraliLy oí law
buL on Lhc spccificiLy oí acLions, oí a kind oí pracLicc LhaL mosL
dccidcdly brings Lo mind, oncc again, Lhc spccificiLics oí masoch-
ism. For docs Lhc masochisL noL prcciscly will his punishmcnL in
such a way LhaL hc also wills iLs rcLurn, ovcr and ovcr again, in a
(sccmingly) infiniLc way (according Lo Lhc masochisLic conLracL,
iL is only Lhc misLrcss who can puL an cnd Lo iL)` And hc wills Lhis
infiniLc rcLurn as a mcans Lo cxLcnd and inLcnsiíy Lhc cxpcricncc
oí inhabiLing an inLcrsLicc wiLhin which hc is subjccLcd Lo a scn-
saLion oí himsclí as bccoming-oLhcr Lo himsclí—a proccss oí bc-
coming LhaL assumcs a dcgrcc oí consisLcncy (which is crucial Lo
his survival) only bccausc oí Lhc spccificiLy oí Lhc conLracL’s Lcrms
LhaL íuncLion as a rcgulaLory íramcwork, albciL onc in which hc
has rclinquishcd his conLrol Lo his misLrcss, LhaL is, Lo Lhc oLhcr.
BoLh HighsmiLh’s ficLion and hcr nonficLional sLaLcmcnLs aL-
LcsL LhaL hcr inLcrcsL in, indccd obscssion wiLh, rcpcaLing hcr
violcnL sLorics docs noL maniícsL Lhc dcsirc Lo crcaLc or affi rm a
moral law. RaLhcr, HighsmiLh conLinually rcsponds Lo Lhc prob-
lcmaLic oí violcncc and judgmcnL as iL plays ouL in Lhc momcnL oí
rcpcLiLion. Having arrivcd carly on aL a poinL oí LransíormaLion
whcrc violcncc and judgmcnL havc bccn dcscribcd as muLually
immancnL íorccs, HighsmiLh’s ficLion conLinually rcLurns Lo Lhis
poinL, albciL in diffcrcnL guiscs. And hcrc is Lhc kcy: insLcad oí
wriLing íor a prccxisLing audicncc LhaL shc assumcs Lo bc capablc
oí acccpLing hcr dcscripLion oí violcncc as immancnL Lo judgmcnL,
HighsmiLh’s work scLs ouL Lo producc iLs own audicncc, Lo affccL a
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :i8
rcadcrship LhaL has ycL Lo comc, LhaL has ycL Lo bccomc capablc oí
rcsponding Lo HighsmiLh’s mosL íundamcnLal accomplishmcnL in
a manncr LhaL docs noL lcad Lhcm (immcdiaLcly) back Lo a moral
discoursc. Tc íacL LhaL HighsmiLh was markcLcd, cspccially in
Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs, as a mysLcry and suspcnsc wriLcr only dccpcns
Lhis poinL, íor whilc onc mighL go along wiLh Lhc labcl Lo a ccrLain
cxLcnL, iL is quiLc clcar LhaL Lhc ovcrL rcjccLion oí punishmcnL as
a moral conccpL gocs by and largc againsL Lhc gcnrc’s rulcs and
Lhus, onc would assumc, againsL whaL rcadcrs oí Lhc gcnrc arc
uscd Lo. Had HighsmiLh carcd Lo caLcr Lo hcr Amcrican rcadcrs’
nccds, iL sccms LhaL shc would havc mcrcly rcpcaLcd Lhc succcss
oí hcr firsL novcl. BuL shc did noL, as Lhc íollowing sLaLcmcnL,
cvoking hcr grcaL shorL sLory “Tc Man Who WroLc Books in His
Hcad,” makcs pcríccLly clcar: “cach book is, in a scnsc, an argu-
mcnL wiLh mysclí, and I would wriLc iL, whether ìt ìs ever pub|ìshed
or not” (DuponL 6j, cmphasis minc).
NoL Lo wriLc íor an audicncc—Lhis is whaL allows hcr Lo dc-
vclop a pracLicc oí wriLing LhaL bccomcs capablc oí rcsponding Lo
violcncc wiLhouL judgmcnL. IL cnablcs hcr Lo rcpcaL hcr prob|ema-
tìque bccausc shc docs noL (nccd Lo) hccd hcr cxisLing audicncc
(and undoubLcdly, hcr gaining commcrcial indcpcndcncc duc Lo
HiLchcock’s succcssíul adapLaLion oí hcr firsL novcl conLribuLcd
Lo Lhis abiliLy). BuL noL hccding an cxisLing audicncc mcans Lo
wriLc íor an audicncc ycL Lo comc raLhcr Lhan “showing us our-
sclvcs” (Klcin :n6), íor boLh “us” and “oursclvcs” arc mcrcly in
Lhc proccss oí cmcrging. IL mcans Lo producc a íuLurc rcadcrship
by dcploying rcpcLiLion as Lhc mosL íundamcnLal pcdagogical
Lool availablc. Hcrc cvcryLhing comcs LogcLhcr: hcr ficLion’s rc-
pcLiLivcncss, iLs immancnL characLcr, iLs rcíusal Lo judgc, iLs mo-
mcnL oí cmcrgcncc in a posL–World War II cnvironmcnL LhaL cvcr
íasLcr opcraLcs on a planc oí purc immancncc, and hcr rcíusal Lo
wriLc íor anyonc—all oí Lhis culminaLcs in Lhc producLion oí a
pcdagogy LhaL docs noL dcsirc Lo spcak “íor” anyonc, LhaL docs
noL insisL on a moral posiLion LhaL would hclp Lo auLhcnLicaLc
onc’s prccxisLing idcnLiLy or bcing, and LhaL docs noL wanL Lo
rcprcscnL anyLhing or anyonc aL all.
InsLcad, HighsmiLh’s pcda-
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :in
gogy—hcr Lraining oí hcr own (Amcrican) rcadcrship LhaL is only
gradually in Lhc proccss oí cmcrging (Lhc numbcr oí films bascd
on hcr work now in producLion pcrhaps suggcsLs Lhc quickcning
spccd oí Lhis proccss, buL iL rcmains Lo bc sccn how, cxacLly, Lhcsc
films will rcspond Lo hcr wriLing)—opcraLcs by Lhc íorcc oí Lhc
FLcrnal RcLurn. Again Dclcuzc on NicLzschc’s conccpL:
FLcrnal rcLurn cannoL mcan Lhc rcLurn oí Lhc IdcnLical bc-
causc iL prcsupposcs a world (LhaL oí Lhc will Lo powcr) in
which all prcvious idcnLiLics havc bccn abolishcd and dis-
solvcd. RcLurning is bcing, buL only Lhc bcing oí bccoming.
Tc cLcrnal rcLurn docs noL bring back “Lhc samc,” buL rc-
Lurning consLiLuLcs Lhc only Samc oí LhaL which bccomcs.
RcLurning is Lhc bccoming-idcnLical oí bccoming iLsclí. Rc-
Lurning is Lhus Lhc only idcnLiLy, buL idcnLiLy as a sccond-
ary powcr; Lhc idcnLiLy oí diffcrcncc, Lhc idcnLical which
bclongs Lo Lhc diffcrcnL, or Lurns around Lhc diffcrcnL. Such
an idcnLiLy, produccd by diffcrcncc, is dcLcrmincd as “rcpc-
LiLion.” RcpcLiLion in Lhc cLcrnal rcLurn, Lhcrcíorc, consisLs
in concciving Lhc samc on Lhc basis oí Lhc diffcrcnL. (Lìffer-
ence and Repetìtìon i:)
And bccausc “only Lhc cxLrcmc íorms rcLurn—Lhosc which í . . . ]
cxLcnd Lo Lhc limiL oí Lhcir powcr, Lransíorming Lhcmsclvcs and
changing onc inLo anoLhcr í . . . ] LhaL which passcs inLo somc-
Lhing clsc and bccomcs idcnLical” (Dclcuzc, Lìfference and Repetì-
tìon i:), iL cvcnLually had Lo bc Lhc violcncc oí Riplcy LhaL was
scrializcd. For iL is in Lhc firsL Riplcy novcl LhaL violcncc and judg-
mcnL Lransíorm Lhcmsclvcs inLo cach oLhcr and bccomc idcnLi-
cal, Lhus íorming a ncw, cxLrcmc íorm oí boLh violcncc and judg-
mcnL LhaL Lhus bccomc capablc oí rcLurning.
Tc sccond halí oí HighsmiLh’s carccr, Lhcrcíorc, is dominaLcd
by Lhc iLincraLion oí hcr problcmaLic Lhrough Riplcy’s characLcr:
Rìp|ey 0nder Cround (:n¬o), Rìp|ey’s Came, Te Poy who Fo||owed
Rìp|ey (:n8o), and Rìp|ey 0nder water (:nn:) cumulaLivcly inLcn-
siíy Lhc achicvcmcnL oí Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey. So, íor insLancc, in
Rìp|ey 0nderground, Tom’s acLions sLill bcar rcscmblancc Lo somc-
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :jo
Lhing likc rcalism. To proLccL Lhc discovcry oí his involvcmcnL in
an arL íorgcry schcmc, hc kills Lhc man whom hc ícars is abouL Lo
cxposc him. Tis insLancc oí violcncc, Lhcn, sccms Lo havc a raLhcr
sLraighLíorward, “undcrsLandablc” moLivc, unlikc Lhc violcncc in
Lhc ncxL Lhrcc novcls, which appcars Lo bc incrcasingly random,
“mcaninglcss,” and plainly cxprcssivc oí whaL sccms Lo bc Tom’s
psychosis. YcL, cvcn in Rìp|ey 0nder Cround, Lhc noLion oí moLivc
is qucsLioncd, mosL compcllingly whcn Tom asks himsclí abouL
why hc killcd Mr. Murchison: “Hc wouldn’L havc killcd somconc
jusL Lo savc DcrwaLL ILd. or cvcn Bcrnard, Tom supposcd. Tom
had killcd Murchison bccausc Murchison had rcalizcd, in Lhc
ccllar, LhaL hc had impcrsonaLcd DcrwaLL. Tom had killcd Mur-
chison Lo savc himsclí. And ycL, Tom Lricd Lo ask himsclí, had
hc inLcndcd Lo kill Murchison anyway whcn Lhcy wcnL down Lo
Lhc ccllar LogcLhcr` Had hc noL inLcndcd Lo kill him` Tom simply
could noL answcr LhaL. And did iL maLLcr much`” (8n–no).
For Tom, Lhc answcr Lo Lhc lasL qucsLion is “no,” as Lhc rcsL
oí Lhc novcl clarifics. And Lhc rcpcaLcd, scrializcd affi rmaLion
oí Lhis “no”—cxprcsscd in Lhis novcl Lhrough Tom’s words and
LhoughLs, and in Lhc coursc oí all fivc Riplcy novcls Lhrough High-
smiLh’s sLylc—inLcnsifics HighsmiLh’s configuraLion oí moraliLy
as violcncc.
WiLh cach subscqucnL Riplcy novcl, HighsmiLh pushcs Lhc
amoraliLy oí hcr soluLion Lo íurLhcr, “unrcalisLic” cxLrcmcs. BuL
Lhis is prcciscly Lhc poinL. Tc vcry íacL LhaL Riplcy’s violcnL
acLions bccomc incrcasingly lcss plausiblc, LhaL is, “rcalisLic,”
indicaLcs LhaL, aL lcasL íor HighsmiLh, Lhc dcmand íor rcalisLic
rcprcscnLaLions oí violcncc is Lhc problcm, noL Lhc soluLion, íor
rcalism iLsclí LradiLionally íuncLions as a moral law, a gcncral con-
ccpL, LhaL is supposcd Lo dcLcrminc Lhc social acccpLabiliLy oí vio-
lcncc in ficLional íorm. Hcncc, Lhc violcncc oí SLcvcn Spiclbcrg’s
Schìnd|er’s Lìst or Savìng Prìvate Ryan arc rcccivcd as “good” and
socially consLrucLivc, whcrcas Lhc violcncc oí Lhc “OucnLin Tar-
anLino school oí violcncc” Lcnds Lo bc condcmncd bccausc oí iLs
hypcrrcalism or lack oí rcalism, rcspccLivcly.
HighsmiLh’s Riplcy
scrics, in conjuncLion wiLh Lhc inLcrjccLions oí hcr oLhcr novcls,
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :j:
shows LhaL moraliLy and rcalism havc liLLlc purchasc on Lhc íorcc
oí violcncc bccausc Lhc laLLcr is a qucsLion oí affccLivc íorcc. To
aLLcmpL Lo “undcrsLand” Riplcy is Lhcrcíorc as misguidcd as, Lo
rcLurn Lo an carlicr cvocaLion, Lhc cfforL Lo cxplain Lhc HolocausL
prcciscly bccausc Lhc way “undcrsLanding” and “cxplaining” prc-
dominanLly íuncLion violaLcs Lhc singulariLy oí Lhc cvcnLs. TaL
is Lo say, Lo do violcncc Lo violcncc is, incviLably, Lhc only modc
oí rcsponsc availablc Lo us, which mcans noL so much LhaL wc
should noL Lry Lo undcrsLand or cxplain buL LhaL Lhcsc pracLiccs
and dcsircs will noL providc a soluLion dcLcrmincd as a way ouL.
1usL likc Fllis’s Amerìcan Psycho, Fmpìre, or Dclcuzc (and CuaL-
Lari’s) philosophy, HighsmiLh’s masochisLic pcdagogy oí violcncc
insisLs LhaL Lhcrc is no cxiL, LhaL all wc havc is immancncc, and
LhaL Lhis onLological íacL rcquircs us Lo rcspond Lo iL: rcsponsibil-
iLy as rcsponsc-abiliLy.
Wc mighL Lhink oí Lhis parLicular LrajccLory oí HighsmiLh’s
ficLion somcwhaL akin Lo a pcdagogical manual—an how-Lo-rc-
spond-Lo-violcncc scrial novcl—LhaL produccs an unLimcly audi-
cncc íor HighsmiLh, which would cxplain why hcr work has íor
Lhc longcsL Limc lackcd Lhc popular and acadcmic succcss iL has
long cnjoycd abroad. Tis ycL Lo comc audicncc has firsL Lo bc gcn-
craLcd ìn immcrsing Lhcmsclvcs in hcr unusual LrcaLmcnL oí Lhc
qucsLion oí violcncc íor Lhcm Lo bccomc capablc oí lcarning how
Lo wiLhhold judgmcnL—Lhc Lypc oí rcsponsc dominaLing criLi-
cal rcading and vicwing pracLiccs affccLcd by a long LradiLion oí
rcprcscnLaLional cncounLcrs wiLh languagc. In oLhcr words, whaL
may bc significanL abouL Minghclla’s adapLaLion oí Te Ta|ented
Mr. Rìp|ey is prcciscly iLs (poLcnLial) marking oí Lhc arrival oí a
parLicular Lypc oí rcadcr (or vicwcr) who firsL had Lo cmcrgc wiLh
Lhc capaciLy Lo bc affccLcd by HighsmiLh’s pcculiar pcnchanL íor
running Lhc qucsLion oí violcncc Lhrough LhaL oí judgmcnL. IL
musL bc poinLcd ouL, oí coursc, LhaL Lhis cmcrgcncc is produccd
by innumcrablc íorccs opcraLing in conjuncLion wiLh onc anoLhcr
and docs, in íacL, noL dcpcnd on any givcn subjccL Lo havc rcad
any oí HighsmiLh’s work. RaLhcr, HighsmiLh’s work sympLom-
izcs a largcr movcmcnL—LhaL oí Fmpirc—Lo which iL sLands in
Serìa|ìzìng vìo|ence :ji
muLual rcciprocaLion. BuL rcgardlcss oí whcLhcr Lhc virLual íorcc
produccd by and Lhrough Lhc inccssanL rcpcLiLion oí HighsmiLh’s
cndcavor has bcgun Lo bc acLualizcd—LhaL is, whcLhcr or noL iL
has now sLarLcd Lo succccd aL producing an Amcrican audicncc
capablc oí wclcoming hcr ficLion’s parLicular way oí rcsponding
Lo violcncc by showing how iL is always Lhc qucsLion oí judgmcnL
par cxccllcncc—iL sccms Lo mc LhaL any cncounLcr wiLh (ficLional)
violcncc could profiL írom hccding HighsmiLh’s aLLiLudc. To High-
smiLh, judgmcnL ncvcr providcs a saLisíying, producLivc cnLry
inLo Lhc qucsLion oí violcncc—an (inLuiLivc) insighL LhaL shc cm-
braccd wiLh incrcasing íorcc as hcr wriLing carccr maLurcd.
Ií pcríormancc, or raLhcr pcríormaLiviLy, is crucial Lo Lhc qucs-
Lion oí violcncc (i.c., boLh HighsmiLh’s pracLicc oí wriLing wiLh iLs
aLLcndanL producLion oí íuLurc rcadcrs Lhrough habiLuaLion via
Lhc FLcrnal RcLurn in Lhc Dclcuzcan and NicLzschcan scnsc and
Riplcy’s cnacLing oí his violcncc), as I havc suggcsLcd in Lhis chap-
Lcr, Lhcn wc mighL now wanL Lo Lurn Lo a morc spccific insLanLia-
Lion oí violcnL actìng.
And whcrc bcLLcr Lo Lurn Lo Lhan MarLin
Scorscsc, Lhc acclaimcd Amcrican dirccLor who also rcsponds Lo
Lhc problcmaLic oí judgmcnL as a problcmaLic oí violcncc` BuL,
morc prcciscly, Scorscsc rcsponds Lo his problcmaLic mosL com-
pcllingly, íorccíully, and íamously Lhrough and wiLh Lhc hclp oí
Lhc scrializaLion oí his cincmaLic avaLar—Lhc acLor RobcrL Dc-
First Prologue: A Poster on a Wall
A dark, run-down hallway wiLh sLonc walls oozing a scnsc oí filLh
and dangcr. A man in a black jackcL, poinLing aL you a .j8 Spccial
in his righL hand, a .ii Magnum in his lcíL. Tc laLLcr’s long barrcl
is so imposing LhaL you almosL can íccl Lhc cold, hard sLccl gcLLing
uncomíorLably closc Lo your hcad. Framcd by Lhcsc Lwo fircarms,
clcarly rcady Lo shooL your brains ouL, is Lhc assassin’s dcmcnLcd
íacc. His cycs, Lwo crazy halí moons, anLicipaLc immincnL joy. His
mouLh, mcrcly a crcsccnLlikc dark opcning, is conLorLcd in a grin.
And Lhcn Lhcrc is Lhc Mohawk. . . . TogcLhcr wiLh his cycs, iL rcn-
dcrs Lhc assassin’s íacc bcyond good and cvil. Tc only hopc you
havc lcíL is LhaL hc mighL havc íorgoLLcn Lo load Lhc guns. Tink
again, suckcr!
Second Prologue: Are You Talkin’ to Me?
As I rcpcaLcdly claimcd in Lhc prcvious chapLcrs, violcncc has
rcmaincd a rcmarkably undcrLhcorizcd conccpL—and LhaL is dc-
spiLc, or raLhcr bccausc oí, iLs ubiquiLy in conLcmporary Amcr-
ican culLurc. A rcccnL criLical argumcnL has givcn voicc Lo Lhis
paradox. Film scholar William RoLhman arLiculaLcs Lhc paradox
rcsulLing írom Lhc simulLanciLy oí Lhc “dcspiLc” and “bccausc” oí
Lhc prcvious scnLcncc. Hc argucs LhaL “Amcrica is a lcss violcnL
Rendering Violence Visible on Screen
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :ji
placc Lhan iL uscd Lo bc íbuL] Amcricans be|ìeve LhaL violcncc is
cscalaLing ouL oí conLrol, LhaL iL is LhrcaLcning Lhc moral íabric
oí our socicLy, and LhaL Lhc proliícraLion oí violcncc in Lhc mass
mcdia, cspccially Lhc graphic violcncc in Loday’s movics, is a
causc, and noL only a sympLom, oí Lhis LhrcaL” (j¬). Ií RoLhman’s
paradox is valid—and I Lhink Lhcrc is no shorLagc oí cvidcncc íor
iL—Lhcn I wanL Lo suggcsL in Lhis chapLcr LhaL Lhis paradox cx-
isLs bccausc oí a widcly acccpLcd conccpLual disLincLion bcLwccn
“Lhcory” and “pracLicc.” In Lcrms oí violcncc, Lhis opposiLional
division bcLwccn Lhcory and pracLicc LhaL pcrmcaLcs conLcmpo-
rary culLurc cnablcs and ulLimaLcly validaLcs Lhc sccmingly com-
monscnsical dcclaraLion LhaL onc knows violcncc whcn onc sccs
or cxpcricnccs iL. Tc vcry noLion oí sclí-cvidcncc implicd by Lhis
claim casLs a Lhcory oí violcncc as rcdundanL prcciscly bccausc
oí Lhc allcgcd phcnomcnological obviousncss oí violcncc (i.c., iLs
pracLiccs and pracLical maniícsLaLions).
In rcsponsc Lo Lhis all Loo oíLcn unqucsLioncd conccpLual
binary bcLwccn Lhcory and pracLicc (oí violcncc), I wanL Lo aí-
firm Michcl FoucaulL and Cillcs Dclcuzc’s insisLcncc LhaL Lhcory
ìs pracLicc, or LhaL pracLicc ìs Lhcory, LhaL, as Lhcy arguc, “prac-
Licc is a scL oí rclays írom onc LhcorcLical poinL Lo anoLhcr, and
íLhaL] Lhcory is a rclay írom onc pracLicc Lo anoLhcr” (io6). For
iL is pcrhaps only by rcconfiguring Lhc “paradoxical” dcbaLc sur-
rounding Lhc prob|ematìque oí violcncc LhaL wc mighL bc ablc Lo
cffccL a significanL changc in criLicism’s commonplacc (judgmcn-
Lal) rcsponsc habiLs Lo violcncc (in cincma or ficLion). I suggcsL,
Lhcrcíorc, LhaL wc now Lurn Lo a pracLiLioncr oí, in Lhis casc, film
violcncc in ordcr Lo gain through Lhis pracLicc oí violcncc onc spc-
cific Lhcory Lhcrcoí. Which brings mc back Lo Lhc firsL prologuc.
Tc posLcr dcscribcd abovc currcnLly íaccs mc, hanging on Lhc
wall abovc my compuLcr, drawing mc inLo a zonc oí proximiLy
wiLh iLs promincnL íacc and Lhc affccLivc chargc iL íorccíully cx-
crLs on mc:
Arc you Lalkin’ Lo mc` Arc you Lalkin’ Lo mc`
Tcn who Lhc hcll clsc arc you Lalkin’ Lo`
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :j=
Wcll, I’m Lhc only onc hcrc . . .
Who Lhc íuck do you Lhink you’rc Lalkin’ Lo`!
Oí coursc, Lhc posLcr is noL “Lalking” Lo mc, or Lo anyonc clsc íor
LhaL maLLcr. BuL iL kccps íascinaLing mc; iL conLinucs Lo cngagc
mc cvcry Limc I look aL iL. Morc prcciscly, whaL affccLs mc is a sin-
gular momcnL oí violcncc Lhis posLcr rcndcrs scnsiblc. Tis affcc-
Livcly Langiblc scnsaLion oí violcncc is prcscnLcd noL Lhrough dc-
picLions oí blood or spillcd guLs, blown-up cars, or a nuclcar cloud
mushrooming ovcr a dcsLroycd ciLyscapc. InsLcad, Lhc violcncc
oí scnsaLion is Lriggcrcd by and Lhrough Lhc íacc oí Travis Bicklc,
íamcd main characLcr oí MarLin Scorscsc’s landmark film Taxì
Lrìver (:n¬6).
Or raLhcr, Lhc affccLivc chargc cxcrLcd upon mc
dirccLly cmiLs írom Lhc íacc oí RobcrL DcNiro—an acLor whosc
íacc has violcnLly brandcd iLsclí inLo Lhc collccLivc (un)conscious
oí movic audicnccs morc Lhan LhaL oí any oLhcr (Amcrican) movic
acLor in rcccnL mcmory.
Fxprcssing his admiraLion íor DcNiro’s capaciLics as an acLor,
film scholar 1amcs Narcmorc argucs in his scminal sLudy Actìng
ìn the Cìnema LhaL DcNiro is noL only a “Lhoroughgoing naLu-
ralisL íbuL] also a sophisLicaLcd LhcorisL” (i6¬). Concurring wiLh
Lhis asscssmcnL, I íccl noncLhclcss compcllcd Lo rcíormulaLc
Narcmorc’s insighLíul characLcrizaLion and claim LhaL DcNiro
mighL vcry wcll bc our bcsL theoretìcìan oí violcncc (aL lcasL in
cincma) prcciscly bccausc hc is Lhc mosL consisLcnL and írcqucnL
practìtìoner oí scrccn violcncc (in Lhc scnsc LhaL hc parLicipaLcs
in and cxpcrimcnLs wiLh iL). And in his cvolving rolc as Amcrica’s
grcaL LhcorisL oí violcncc DcNiro has gradually bccomc Lhc un-
dispuLcd íacc oí violcncc in Amcrican cincma, indccd in Amcri-
can culLurc.
Analyzing how DcNiro has “íacializcd” violcncc should Lhcrc-
íorc advancc Lhc Lask aL hand—namcly, Lo rcLhink (criLicism’s
abiliLy Lo rcspond Lo) violcncc qua violcncc, as an affccLivc, asigni-
íying rcgimc oí inLcnsiLics and scnsaLion LhaL soliciLs audicnccs’
íascinaLion morc Lhan Lhcir dcsirc, lcL alonc capaciLy, Lo “undcr-
sLand” whcn cxposcd Lo iL in film or oLhcr culLural producLions.
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :j6
Why íascinaLion` Bccausc iL cxprcsscs a parLicular aLLracLion Lo
a kind oí imagc LhaL cannoL bc circumscribcd by Lhc sLandard
psychoanalyLic conccpLs oí Lhc voycurisLic gazc and iLs sadomas-
ochisLic implicaLions. For, as Mauricc BlanchoL argucs in his rc-
sponsc Lo Lhc qucsLion “Why íascinaLion`” LhaL hc posiLs in Lhc
conLcxL oí Te Space oj Lìterature, “whcn whaL you scc, alLhough
aL a disLancc, sccms Lo Louch you wiLh a gripping conLacL, í . . . ]
whcn whaL is sccn imposcs iLsclí upon Lhc gazc, as ií Lhc gazc
wcrc scizcd íLhcn whaL] is givcn us by Lhis conLacL aL a disLancc is
Lhc imagc, and jascìnatìon ìs passìon jor the ìmage” (ji, my cmpha-
sis). BlanchoL cncouragcs us hcrc Lo hccd íascinaLion as a passion,
a dcgrcc oí inLcnsiLy, a bccoming-affccLcd by somcLhing or somc-
onc clsc. Tis bccoming-affccLcd has noL ncccssarily anyLhing aL
all Lo do wiLh a dcsirc Lo dominaLc or bc dominaLcd (which, íor
psychoanalyLic film Lhcory, arc dcsircs LhaL Lcnd Lo comc as an
inscparablc pair). ALLcnding Lo Lhis íascinaLion—mosL oíLcn rcg-
isLcrcd on and cxprcsscd Lhrough a jace (Lhink oí a child’s asLon-
ishcd, dumbíoundcd gazc Lriggcrcd by somcLhing uníamiliar, or
hcr gaping mouLh in rcsponsc Lo, c.g., a magician’s Lrick)—I sug-
gcsL wiLh liLcrary criLic 1cffrcy Karnicky LhaL íascinaLion’s valuc
lics in prcvcnLing “inLcrprcLaLion oí a ccrLain kind” (Contempo-
rary Fìctìon =8), onc LhaL always Lurns Loo quickly Lo Lhc dcsirc
Lo “undcrsLand” and “judgc” Lhc imagc raLhcr Lhan cncounLcr iLs
opcraLivc íorcc on iLs own Lcrms.
Diagnosing Lhc proccss oí DcNiro’s bccoming-violcnL Lhrough
his íacializaLion oí violcncc, Lhus, is mcanL Lo aLLcnd Lo Lhc
íorcc wc call íascinaLion and LhaL wc mosL oíLcn wiLncss on and
Lhrough Lhc íacc oí somconc clsc. Howcvcr, íaccs, as Dclcuzc and
CuaLLari arguc, cannoL bc assumcd “Lo comc rcady-madc. Tcy
arc cngcndcrcd by an abstract machìne oj jacìa|ìty” (Tousand
P|ateaus :68).
Faccs arc maps, or suríaccs. Tus, our diagnosis
oí DcNiro’s bccoming-violcnL musL dclincaLc Lhc dcvclopmcnL
oí his íacialiLy—his giving íacc Lo imagcs oí violcncc—ovcr Lhc
coursc oí his carccr. BuL bccausc “you don’L so much havc a íacc
as slidc inLo onc” (:¬¬), wc musL do morc Lhan jusL map DcNiro’s
changing “íacc.” Ií a íacc is noL Lo bc had, Lhcn a spccific pro-
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :j¬
ccss—Dclcuzc and CuaLLari call iL “íacialiLy”—musL producc iL.
“FacialiLy” diagrams proccsscs oí LcrriLorializaLion oí mulLiplc
íorccs LhaL includc Lhosc oí Lhc cnLirc body LhaL “comcs Lo bc ía-
cializcd as parL oí an incviLablc proccss” (:¬o). Our masocriLical
diagnosis musL Lhcrcíorc also hccd Lhc discoursc mosL closcly
associaLcd wiLh DcNiro as an acLor: LhaL oí so-callcd McLhod
acLing wiLh iLs aLLcndanL psychological conccpLs oí acLing ouL
and working Lhrough.
Tc promincncc oí whaL is commonly callcd “Lhc McLhod”
in Amcrican cincma oí Lhc posL–World War II cra has lcd Lo an
(popularizcd) associaLion oí acLing wiLh mimcsis (imiLaLion, rcp-
rcscnLaLion). Howcvcr, I will show LhaL DcNiro’s mcLhod is oí a
diffcrcnL kind, onc LhaL has cmcrgcd ouL oí Lhc hisLory oí McLhod
acLing buL LhaL has madc somc crucial alLcraLions. ALLcnding Lo
Lhis diffcrcncc, I Lhink, will rcsulL in a conccpLualizing oí cnacLcd
violcncc LhaL qucsLions and ulLimaLcly bypasscs any psychoana-
lyLic undcrsLanding oí iL. Tc laLLcr rcads violcncc and iLs mulLiplc
occurrcnccs (pracLiccs) as immoral acLing ouL oí rcprcsscd dcsircs
or mcmorics LhaL arc Lriggcrcd Lhrough Lhc proccss oí mimcsis
(which is how criLics Lcnd Lo rcad Tom Riplcy). PsychoanalyLic
discourscs rcspond Lo Lhc “discasc” oí acLing ouL by advocaLing
Lhc raLional, LhcrapcuLic proccss oí working Lhrough (Lhcory) as
Lhc ncccssary (and only) “curc.” Bascd Lhoroughly on a rcprcscn-
LaLional undcrsLanding oí acLing LhaL has cmcrgcd írom Lhc pop-
ularizaLion oí Lhc McLhod, psychoanalyLic film criLicism Lcnds
Lo hold as supcrior Lhcory Lo pracLicc, working Lhrough Lo acL-
ing ouL, mourning Lo mclancholia. In conLrasL, DcNiro’s pracLicc
Lhcorizcs a diffcrcnL conccpLualizaLion oí violcncc—onc LhaL dc-
ploys acLing ouL and working Lhrough as íundamcnLally affccLivc,
and Lhus immancnL, proccsscs. Ií working Lhrough and acLing ouL
sLand in an immancnL rclaLion Lo cach oLhcr, howcvcr, Lhcn Lhc
sLandard judgmcnL lcvicd againsL violcncc as a “bad” acLing ouL
bccomcs impossibly usclcss, indccd sclí-dcícaLing, prcciscly bc-
causc working Lhrough always and ncccssarily Lurns ouL Lo bc an
acLing ouL.
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :j8
Te Violence of Mourning and Melancholia
Tc blockbusLcr comcdy Meet the Parents (dir. 1ay Roach, iooo)
opcns wiLh Randy Ncwman’s íamiliar soundLrack voicc chccr-
ily inLoning, “Whcn you’rc a íool in lovc,” whilc documcnLary-
likc shoLs oí Lhc happy íacc oí a young woman appcar on scrccn.
SubscqucnLly, wc arc inLroduccd Lo malc nursc Crcg Fockcr (Bcn
SLillcr) who is gcLLing rcady Lo proposc Lo his girlíricnd, Pam By-
rncs (Tcri Polo), an clcmcnLary school Lcachcr whosc íacc was
jusL “documcnLcd” in Lhc film’s opcning shoLs. Typical íor a com-
mcrcially markcLcd romanLic comcdy, Lhc good inLcnLions oí Lhc
groom Lo bc arc inLcrrupLcd—in Lhis casc by a wcll-placcd phonc
call. Ovcrhcaring Lhc cnsuing phonc convcrsaLion, Crcg gradually
rcalizcs Lhc imprudcncc oí his plan Lo proposc Lo Pam as long as
hc has noL ycL obLaincd Lhc conscnL oí Pam’s íaLhcr.
AíLcr a ícw addiLional comcdic sccncs involving Lhc Lrials and
LribulaLions íamiliar Lo any air Lravclcr, wc wiLncss Lhc couplc ap-
proaching Pam’s parcnLs’ considcrablc suburban propcrLy. As Lhcy
pull Lhcir rcnLcd Ford Taurus up Lo Lhc housc, Pam insLrucLs Crcg
LhaL hc should “Lakc iL casy wiLh íhis] sarcasm,” sincc his humor
would bc “cnLircly wasLcd wiLh íhcr] parcnLs.” AL Lhis momcnL, an
ominous mclody inLoncs, and Lhc camcra cuLs írom a mcdium-
closc Lracking shoL oí Lhc moving car Lo a low-anglc closc-up oí
a sccond-sLory window. From Lhc curLain pccrs Lhc calm, clcan-
shavcn íacc oí Pam’s íaLhcr, 1ack. His dark cycs, conLorLcd inLo
inLcnsc sliLs, arc scparaLcd by Lwo vcrLical crcascs on his íorchcad.
Tc imposing Romancsquc nosc acccnLuaLcs Lhc linc oí Lhc cycs’
downcasL gazc. And Lhc írowning Lhinncss oí Lhc LighL-lippcd
mouLh, íramcd by Lwo dccp íurrows poinLing downward, finishcs
Lhc visual composiLion oí a íacc LhaL in iLs cxprcssivcncss sug-
gcsLs Lhc poLcnLial íor cnsuing violcncc. Tc camcra Lhcn dirccLs
our aLLcnLion back Lo Lhc arriving young couplc, Lhis Limc írom
1ack’s pcrspccLivc up high. Wc íainLly hcar Lhc couplc chaLLcring,
indicaLing LhaL our “cars” arc wiLh 1ack bchind Lhc window, his
prcscncc sLill undcLccLcd by Crcg and Pam. Tc camcra cuLs onc
morc Limc back Lo 1ack, his íacc unchangcd. Tis vcry rcpcLiLion,
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :jn
howcvcr, inLcnsifics Lhc íacial cxprcssion, pushing iLs gloomincss
Lo Lhc poinL whcrc wc mighL cxpccL iL Lo cxplodc.
Whcn wc ncxL scc Pam rcprimanding Crcg íor aLLcmpLing Lo
smokc (Daddy docs noL likc smoking!), wc a|ready know LhaL Bcn
SLillcr’s characLcr is in Lroublc. In íacL, likc so much clsc during
Lhc coursc oí Lhc movic—including Lhc iníormaLion LhaL 1ack is
a íormcr cit agcnL spccializing in LcsLing suspccLs on Lhcir sLaLc-
mcnLs’ LruLhíulncss—wc do noL nccd Lhis piccc oí iníormaLion
Lo scnsc LhaL Crcg will havc a diffi culL Limc wiLh 1ack. Tus íar,
wc havc bccn inLroduccd only Lo 1ack’s jace, buL wc rcally do noL
nccd any íurLhcr prooí íor 1ack’s poLcnLial íor bccoming-violcnL.
For, aíLcr all, 1ack’s íacc, so cffccLivcly inLroduccd in Lhc prcvious
shoLs, bclongs Lo RobcrL DcNiro.
Onc ycar prior Lo his mosL commcrcially succcssíul movic
Lo daLc, DcNiro sLarrcd in anoLhcr popular Hollywood comcdy,
Ana|yze Tìs (dir. Harold Ramis).
Whcrcas in Meet the Parents,
DcNiro did not acLually play a violcnL characLcr (aL lcasL, 1ack is
ncvcr shown Lo cxcrL physical íorcc, and wc havc no cvidcncc LhaL
hc uscd iL offscrccn), Lhc carlicr comcdy’s main dcvicc plays on iLs
audicncc’s knowlcdgc oí somc oí RobcrL DcNiro’s mosL íamous
rolcs. 1usL as in Mean Streets (dir. MarLin Scorscsc, :n¬j), Te
Codjather !! (dir. Francis Ford Coppola, :n¬i), Once 0pon a Tìme ìn
Amerìca (dir. Scrgio Iconc, :n8i), Te 0ntouchab|es (dir. Brian Dc-
Palma, :n8¬), CoodFe||as (dir. MarLin Scorscsc, :nno), and Casìno
(dir. MarLin Scorscsc, :nn=), hc plays a characLcr involvcd wiLh
Lhc mob; and jusL as in somc oí his oLhcr íamous rolcs in classics
such as Taxì Lrìver, Ragìng Pu|| (dir. MarLin Scorscsc, :n8o), Cape
Fear (dir. MarLin Scorscsc, :nn:), or Heat (dir. Michacl Mann,
:nn=), his characLcr is cxpliciLly associaLcd wiLh his willingncss
Lo “off” pcoplc who sLand in his way. YcL, unlikc all Lhcsc films,
Ana|yze Tìs plays DcNiro’s violcnL characLcr—powcríul crimc
íamily rackcLccr Paul ViLLy—íor laughs. TaL is, in conLrasL Lo any
oí DcNiro’s canonical pcríormanccs, Lhc cxprcssion oí violcncc
(and iLs acLual occasion) docs not dcpcnd on iL bcing acLcd ouL in
a scnsaLional manncr íor iL Lo bc cffccLivc. InsLcad, as Lhc film’s
psychoanalyLically inflccLcd LiLlc indicaLcs, in Lhis movic violcncc
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :io
dischargcs iLs affccLivc íorcc on Lhc lcvcl oí scnsaLion Lhrough iLs
occurrcncc in Lhc íorm oí a working Lhrough.
Or docs iL`
In Hìstory and Memory ajter Auschwìtz, culLural hisLorian and
LhcorisL Dominick IaCapra scLs in moLion Frcud’s wcll-known
diffcrcnLiaLion bcLwccn mourning (working Lhrough) and mclan-
cholia (acLing ouL) as a mcans oí dclincaLing Lwo diffcrcnL kinds
oí rcsponscs wiLh which HolocausL survivors dcal wiLh Lhc mcm-
ory oí AuschwiLz—an inLcnscly LraumaLic cvcnL LhaL “conLinucs
Lo bc Lhc ‘lcading imagc oí cvil’ in our Limcs” (Knox).
(psycho)analyLic languagc sLrongly bcars on Lhc prcscnL discus-
sion, noL bccausc I mcan Lo imply LhaL Lhc violcncc oí AuschwiLz
is oí Lhc samc kind as LhaL oí Hollywood films, buL bccausc his
analysis symptomatìca||y cxprcsscs a ccrLain Lcndcncy oí Lhc
gcncral discoursc on violcncc in conLcmporary U.S. culLurc. As
wc havc sccn in carlicr chapLcrs, Lhc languagc oí acLing (ouL) is
oíLcn uscd in conjuncLion wiLh violcnL cvcnLs oí “lcsscr” naLurc
Lhan AuschwiLz. Tom Riplcy’s violcnL characLcr, íor insLancc, is
írcqucnLly rcad in conjuncLion wiLh his abiliLy Lo “acL,” LhaL is, Lo
impcrsonaLc or imiLaLc oLhcrs. And in BrcL FasLon Fllis’s violcnL
ficLion, (Lhc acLion oí) characLcrs such as PaLrick BaLcman or Vic-
Lor Ward írom C|amorama arc oíLcn narraLcd Lhrough a languagc
rcsonaLing wiLh (cincmaLic) acLing. (In íacL, VicLor Ward acLually
bclicvcs LhaL hc is an acLor in an claboraLc snuff film.)
In Lhc
idiom oí (pop) psychology, íor cxamplc, wc írcqucnLly find claims
sLaLing LhaL, say, Lhc Lccnagc killcrs oí Columbinc “acLcd ouL” rc-
prcsscd íanLasics. For insLancc, in whaL I Lakc Lo bc a Lypical mo-
mcnL in Lhc discoursc surrounding Lhis Lragcdy, Carolinc Schomp
posiLs Lo hcr Lenver Post rcadcrs Lhc íollowing qucsLion: “WhaL
wcnL wrong in Lhc íamilics oí Lhc gun-LoLing, bomb-wiclding chil-
drcn LhaL Lhosc childrcn nccdcd Lo act out Lhcir alicnaLion and
hosLiliLy so caLaclysmically” (s::, cmphasis minc). WhaL oíLcn
is assumcd, indccd implicd, ycL noL cxpliciLly arLiculaLcd in such
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :i:
qucsLions or sLaLcmcnLs is LhaL in Lhcsc discourscs on violcncc
“acLing (ouL)” dcnoLcs a “bad” Lhing. IaCapra’s acadcmic wriLing
sympLomaLically cxcmplifics how crucial Lhis linkagc bcLwccn
acLing and moraliLy has bccomc—a linkagc so naLuralizcd LhaL
iL sccms Lo bc bcyond conLcsLabiliLy and as such has significanL
conscqucnccs íor Lhc qucsLion oí film violcncc.
IaCapra argucs LhaL onc’s (criLical) rcsponsc Lo LraumaLic
cvcnLs incviLably cnLails an affectìve componcnL. In íacL, Lo achicvc
a “hcalLhy” rcsponsc Lo Lrauma, IaCapra posiLs as impcraLivc Lhc
subjccL’s nccd Lo “undcrgo aL lcasL muLcd Lrauma and allow LhaL
Lrauma (or unscLLlcmcnL) Lo affccL onc’s approach Lo problcms”
(io). YcL, hc conLinucs Lo cmbcllish on his insighL inLo Lhc affcc-
Livc qualiLy oí rcsponsc by csscnLially wanLing Lo downplay, ií noL
flaL-ouL dcnigraLc, iLs ícasibiliLy. So hc wriLcs LhaL “onc should
noL rcmain aL Lhc lcvcl oí acLing-ouL or absoluLizc Lhc laLLcr in
Lhc íorm oí an aLLcmpL acLually Lo rclivc or appropriaLc oLhcrs’
Lraumas í . . . ] Fvcn ií Lrauma cannoL bc íully ovcrcomc, as iL
may noL bc íor vicLims oí limiL-cascs or cvcn íor aLLcnLivc scc-
ondary wiLncsscs, iL may bc counLcracLcd by Lhc aLLcmpL Lo work
Lhrough problcms, mourn Lhc vicLims oí Lhc pasL, and rccngagc
liíc in Lhc inLcrcsL oí bringing abouL a qualiLaLivcly bcLLcr sLaLc oí
affairs” (io).
In Lhis Lypical passagc, IaCapra ascribcs mcaning—or, morc
Lcllingly, moral valuc—Lo Lwo diffcrcnL Lypcs oí practìce. Indccd,
Frcud himsclí is quiLc cxpliciL abouL Lhc moral valuaLion inhcrcnL
Lo Lhcsc Lwo Lcrms. In “Mourning and Mclancholia,” hc links mcl-
ancholia Lo abnormal sadomasochisLic bchavior paLLcrns cmcrg-
ing írom unrcsolvcd Ocdipal conflicLs and Lhus characLcrizcs Lhc
mclancholic as “paLhological” (:=j) and “obscssional” (:6:). And
ycL, Frcud dcclarcs aL Lhc bcginning oí his cssay—bejore hc rc-
ducLivcly maps Lhc mclancholic onLo Ocdipus—LhaL mclancholia
is judgcd ncgaLivcly and mourning posiLivcly on|y bccausc oí Lhc
lack oí cxisLing iníormaLion abouL Lhc íormcr and Lhc abundancc
oí knowlcdgc abouL Lhc laLLcr. As hc wriLcs, “IL is rcally only bc-
causc wc know so wcll how Lo exp|aìn ímourning] LhaL Lhis aLLi-
Ludc docs noL sccm Lo us paLhological” (:=j, my cmphascs), as
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :ii
mclancholia docs. TaL which is íamiliar and Lhus possiblc Lo ra-
Lionalizc—LhaL which wc bclicvc wc know—is dccmcd normal.
According Lo Frcud, howcvcr, Lhis happcns only bccausc oí Lhc
írcqucncy wiLh which a phcnomcnon occurs and Lhus bccomcs
availablc Lo us as an cxpcricncc and, cvcnLually, knowlcdgc. In
oLhcr words, cvcn íor Frcud Lhcrc is noLhing “naLurally” bcLLcr
abouL ciLhcr mourning or mclancholia. RaLhcr, Lhc dcLcrmina-
Lion oí valuc clcarly dcrivcs írom a spccific proccss oí socializa-
Lion in which Lhc rcpcaLcd cnacLmcnL oí powcr rclaLions habiLu-
aLc—normalizc—ccrLain flows oí dcsirc as morally acccpLablc
and oLhcrs as unacccpLablc Lo Lhc social ordcr. Civcn LhaL Frcud
himsclí calls aLLcnLion Lo Lhc social proccsscs producLivc oí cpis-
Lcmological bclicís LhaL arc cvcnLually rcLcrriLorializcd as “naLu-
ral” moral valucs, iL is all Lhc morc rcmarkablc LhaL Frcud nonc-
Lhclcss cnds up “íorgcLLing” his own insighL and insLcad cxplains
mclancholia as a lack, as a morally problcmaLic dcviaLion írom a
“normal” rcsponsc Lo Lrauma.
IaCapra’s írcqucnL rcpcaLing oí Lhc claim LhaL “wiLh rcícr-
cncc Lo Lrauma, acLing-ouL may bc a ncccssary condiLion oí work-
ing-Lhrough” (i=) mcrcly givcs voicc Lo Lhc inhcrcnL moral(izcd)
qualiLy oí Frcud’s original disLincLion. Unsurprisingly, Lhcn, a||
posiLivc valuaLions in IaCapra’s argumcnL arc rcscrvcd íor Lhc
proccss oí “working Lhrough.” Ií acLing ouL Lurns ouL Lo bc ncccs-
sary aL all, Lhcn only bcgrudgingly so, and mcrcly as a mcans Lo a
highcr (rcad: hcalLhicr and morally supcrior) cnd. In Lhc passagc
quoLcd carlicr, working Lhrough cmcrgcs as a modc oí rcsponsc
counLcracLing Lhc cffccLs oí an acLing ouL. Or, in cxpliciLly cLhi-
cal Lcrms, IaCapra ovcrLly dcscribcs working Lhrough as cnabling
“cLhically rcsponsiblc acLion and criLical judgmcnL” (:86). FLhics
hcrc, howcvcr, is conccivcd oí as moraliLy, as has bccomc obvious
írom an carlicr passagc in which hc argucs LhaL mourning allows
“íor criLical judgmcnL and a rcinvcsLmcnL in liíc, noLably social
liíc wiLh iLs dcmands, rcsponsibiliLics, and norms rcquiring rc-
spccLíul rccogniLion and considcraLion íor oLhcrs” (i=). Tis Kan-
Lian-Habcrmasian Lcrminology bclics his laLcr insisLcnccs LhaL
his disLincLion docs noL connoLc a moral discoursc undcrlying iL.
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :ij
Oncc wc rccognizc his sophisLicaLcd acadcmic discoursc as
sympLomaLic oí a morc gcncral discoursc LhaL rcgards violcncc as
an immoral acLing ouL oí rcprcsscd dcsircs, IaCapra’s diagnosis
bccomcs cvcn morc inLcrcsLing íor our prcscnL purposcs in LhaL
hc rcgards mclancholic acLing ouL as inLrinsically “mimcLic” (i=)
and dcfincd by “rcpcLiLion-compulsion” (i=) LhaL “blocks íLhc su-
pcrior work donc by] mourning and working-Lhrough in gcncral”
(=i). Or, as indicaLcd in Lhc longcr quoLaLion carlicr, acLing ouL
is cquaLcd wiLh appropriaLion and rcliving, LhaL is, imiLaLion and
rc-prcscnLaLion. IaCapra cxprcsscs hcrc whaL wc can obscrvc in
mosL discourscs dcaling wiLh occurrcnccs oí violcncc: namcly,
LhaL violcncc is considcrcd a mimcLic acLing ouL (an imiLaLion oí
“rcprcscnLcd” acLions LhaL is pcríccLcd Lhrough an obscssivc rcp-
cLiLion oí, say, lisLcning Lo Marilyn Manson songs or waLching
Natura| Porn Kì||ers), which is incviLably Lo bc judgcd as morally
So, acLing cquals mimcsis cquals rcpcLiLion. And, in Lurn,
Lhis LriparLiLc cquaLion incviLably cnds up sclling a “moral” sLancc
by appcaling Lo Lhc ncccssiLy oí Lhc work oí mourning. Tis ap-
pcal, howcvcr, comcs packagcd wiLh an cnLirc apparaLus oí social
conLrol LhaL is offcrcd “íor írcc”—so írcc, in íacL, LhaL onc cannoL
choosc not Lo acccpL Lhis írccbic, jusL likc Lhc cxLra :o pcrccnL oí
“írcc” LooLhpasLc cannoL bc cuL off írom Lhc rcsL oí Lhc Lubc íor
which onc has Lo pay. Only Lhc work oí mourning, íaciliLaLcd by
Lhc psychoanalysL (or Lhc pricsL or Lhc criLic), so Lhc chorus oí
conLcmporary culLural criLicism inLoncs, will bring Lo lighL—and
subscqucnLly curc—Lhc undcrlying causcs íor a subjccL’s “uníor-
LunaLc” acLing ouL.
Dclcuzc and CuaLLari havc long providcd a compclling criLiquc oí
Lhc psychoanalyLic conccpLion oí Lhc unconscious as a LhcaLcr—a
sLagc LhaL cxprcsscs hiddcn dcsircs Lhrough rcprcscnLaLions.

Howcvcr, IaCapra’s rcliancc on a ncgaLivc conccpL oí dcsirc (i.c.,
dcsirc as lack) docs noL mcrcly suggcsL Lhc conLinuing grip LhaL
psychoanalysis holds ovcr conLcmporary discourscs (which aL
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :ii
lcasL parLially cxplains Lhc dominancc oí conícssional mcmoirs
on conLcmporary Amcrican bcsLscllcr lisLs). RaLhcr, iL indcxcs
Lhc imporLancc íor anyonc inLcrcsLcd in film Lo hccd Lhc powcr
oí Lhc argumcnL’s abiliLy Lo moralizc acLing—onc oí Lhc constìtu-
tìve pracLiccs oí (nondocumcnLary) cincma. Spccifically, Lhc Lypc
oí argumcnL puL íorLh by IaCapra casily lcads Lo a vicw oí acLing
as a mimcLic proccdurc, which, in Lurn, will givc risc Lo íurLhcr
rcpcLiLion compulsions. And ií criLicism is noL dirccLly lcvicd aL
Lhc mimcLic bchavior oí mimicking or copying, Lhcn iL dirccLs iL-
sclí aL Lhc “abnormal” compulsion Lo rcpcaL, as “rcal world” con-
scqucnccs arc ícarcd Lo occur on Lhc planc consLiLuLcd by rcpcLi-
Dclcuzc and CuaLLari arc, oí coursc, noL alonc in Lhcir criLiquc
oí psychoanalysis. In íacL, onc could show how Ana|yze Tìs—a
posLmodcrn comcdy LhaL knowingly spooís many oí DcNiro’s ía-
mous violcnL mobsLcr rolcs—cincmaLically dcconsLrucLs IaCap-
ra’s (and psychoanalysis’s) binary arLiculaLion oí acLing ouL and
working Lhrough. A closc analysis oí Lhc film would indccd rcvcal
LhaL Lhc film rcpcaLcdly plays wiLh Lhcsc Lwo conccpLs. To poinL
only Lo Lhc mosL promincnL cxamplcs írom Lhc film, Lhc rclaLion-
ship bcLwccn psychoLhcrapisL Bcn Sobcl (Billy CrysLal) and mob-
sLcr boss Paul ViLLy is írom Lhc bcginning sLrucLurcd around a
conflicL bcLwccn Lwo dcsircs: LhaL oí psychoanalysis’s caLcgorical
impcraLivc Lo Lalk or work Lhrough, and Lhc Mafia’s dcmand LhaL
iLs mcmbcrs shuL up and bc ablc Lo acL ouL Lhc violcncc iLs busi-
ncss rcquircs. Tc film maps ouL Lhc spccific cffccLs oí Lhcsc Lwo
pracLiccs, rcvcaling LhaL working Lhrough, íar írom bcing a mor-
ally supcrior caLcgory, is always consLiLuLcd by an acLing ouL. And
Lhc laLLcr is a íundamcnLally nonmimcLic pracLicc, sincc iL always
arLiculaLcs a singular rcsponsc Lo a givcn siLuaLion. Wc lcarn Lhis
mosL clcarly in onc oí Lhc film’s kcy sccncs in which Sobcl has
finally goLLcn ViLLy Lo iniLiaLc his proccss oí mourning. Far írom
producing “posiLivc” cffccLs, howcvcr, all Lhis docs aL Lhc momcnL
is cndangcr Lhcir livcs. ViLLy cnds up so immobilizcd as hc sobs
on his LhcrapisL’s shouldcrs LhaL hc cannoL “gcL shooLing” whcn
hc and Sobcl arc bcing fircd aL by assassins supporLivc oí his cn-
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :i=
cmy, rival Mafia boss Primo. Working Lhrough wiLhouL Lhc abiliLy
Lo acL ouL, according Lo Ana|yze Tìs, is ncarly worLhlcss. In íacL,
Sobcl himsclí is smarL cnough Lo rcalizc Lhis, as hc fircs ViLLy’s
gun in sclí-dcícnsc. Howcvcr, cvcn Lhough Sobcl shooLs, hc docs
noL hiL anybody: acLing ouL rcquircs LhaL you pracLicc, LhaL you
work Lhrough Lhc spccific Lask aL hand.
WiLhouL advocaLing violcncc by any mcans, Ana|yze Tìs dc-
picLs Lhrough DcNiro’s McLhodically cnacLcd characLcr’s rclaLion-
ship Lo a psychoanalysL LhaL Lhc Lwo rcsponsc mcchanisms Lo Lhc
cxpcricncc oí violcnL Lrauma—mclancholia and mourning—arc
consLiLuLivc oí, raLhcr Lhan disLincL írom, cach oLhcr. TaL is, Lhis
film cincmaLically íorcgrounds LhaL working Lhrough always cn-
Lails an acLing ouL and acLing ouL always pcríorms Lhc proccss oí
working Lhrough. ImporLanLly, as I will arguc laLcr in Lhis chapLcr,
in Lhc sccLion “Analyzc Lhc Facc,” Ana|yze Tìs accomplishcd Lhis,
jusL as Meet the Parents a ycar laLcr or films such as CoodFe||as, Ca-
sìno, or Heat a ícw ycars carlicr, by cmphasizing Lhc “íacialiLy” oí
DcNiro’s bccoming-violcnL. For Lhc momcnL, howcvcr, I mcrcly
wanL Lo mark LhaL Ana|yze Tìs complicaLcs Lhc proccsscs oí acL-
ing ouL and working Lhrough by insisLing LhaL acLing—indccd, Lhc
vcry abiliLy Lo acL—is a ncccssary and arcprcscnLaLional sLruc-
Lural componcnL oí boLh mourning and mclancholia. IL Lhus pulls
Lhc smug rug oí moraliLy írom undcrncaLh Lhc vcry conccpLs LhaL
arc supposcd Lo providc a doublc arLiculaLion Lhcrcoí. BuL ií cvcn
an cvcnL as sccmingly innocuous as a mainsLrcam Hollywood
producL can providc a rclaLivcly asLuLc criLiquc oí conLcmporary
culLurc’s psychoanalyLically inflccLcd undcrsLanding oí “acLing,”
Lhcn why has Lhc cquaLion acLing cquals mimcsis Lakcn such a
LighL hold oí (popular) Amcrican culLurc`
A Brief Genealogy of the Method, Part 
TaL IaCapra configurcs acLing as a mimcLic opcraLion—an acL-
ing ouL akin Lo Lhc proccss oí whaL psychoanalysis calls Lhc “rc-
Lurn oí Lhc rcprcsscd”—should noL bc considcrcd coincidcnLal
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :i6
or a choicc pcculiar only Lo IaCapra’s poLcnLially unschoolcd
criLical cyc whcn iL comcs Lo Lhc qucsLion oí whaL acLing is or
how iL works. OuiLc Lhc opposiLc is Lhc casc. In posLwar Amcri-
can culLurc, Lhc gcncral conccpL oí acLing has undoubLcdly bccn
inflccLcd by a morc spccific noLion oí acLing: Lo wiL, McLhod acL-
ing, which iLsclí is shoL Lhrough wiLh Lhc languagc oí imiLaLion. IL
docs Lhus noL comc as a surprisc LhaL IaCapra’s psychoanalyLical
conccpLs dcploy Lhc languagc oí acLing qua rcprcscnLaLion. And
ycL, a closcr look aL Lhc McLhod will show LhaL iLs currcnL configu-
raLion as mimcsis is raLhcr pcculiar.
My goal hcrc is noL Lo work Lhrough Lhc long hisLory oí acLing,
wiLh iLs aLLcndanL Lhcorics and pracLiccs rcgarding boLh sLagc
and cincma acLing.
A ícw commcnLs on Lhc hisLory oí McLhod
acLing arc in ordcr hcrc, Lhough, bccausc Lhis spccific insLanLia-
Lion oí acLing has dominaLcd Amcrican posL–World War II acLing
Lo such a dcgrcc LhaL iL has bccomc Lhc mosL influcnLial íorm oí
acLing oí Lhc lasL fiíLy ycars.
IL should bc poinLcd ouL, howcvcr, LhaL Lhis claim holds Lruc
mainly íor whaL is known as rcalisL film. Whilc many íorms oí rc-
alism cxisL in Lhc hisLory oí cincma, onc can crudcly diffcrcnLiaLc
bcLwccn aL lcasL Lwo. FirsL, Lhc Lypc oí “scamlcss” rcalism pro-
duccd cvcr sincc Hollywood cincma pcríccLcd Lhc shoL/counLcr-
shoL shooLing sLylc LhaL cnds up “naLuralizing” film imagcs as rcp-
rcscnLing an unmcdiaLcd “rcal” world (scc Bordwcll, SLaigcr, and
Tompson, C|assìca| Ho||ywood Cìnema, íor Lhc canonical work on
classical Hollywood cincma sLylc) is clcarly Lhc dominanL modc oí
Amcrican filmmaking up unLil Lhis day. Tc sccond Lypc oí rcal-
ism could bc callcd “acsLhcLic rcalism,” which hisLorically can bc
Lraccd Lo Lhc Frcnch pocLic rcalisL dirccLors and was cvcnLually
Lhcorizcd by Frcnch film criLic Andrc Bazin. Whcrcas Hollywood
rcalism rcduccs rcaliLy Lo Lhc onc iL shows us on scrccn (all Lhc
whilc lcading us Lo bclicvc LhaL whaL wc scc on scrccn is rcaliLy in
iLs LoLaliLy), acsLhcLic rcalism íorcgrounds LhaL, in Lhc words oí
Susan Hayward, “rcalism produccs rcalisms” (inn).
In any casc, McLhod acLing has so pcrmcaLcd Amcrican cul-
Lurc LhaL, Lo usc Lhc words oí rhcLorical LhcorisL Crcgory Ulmcr,
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :i¬
“cvcn Lhosc who arc noL íamiliar wiLh Lhc Lhcory íoí McLhod
acLing] arc íamiliar wiLh Lhc producL, Hollywood acLing” (::i).
Ulmcr impliciLly suggcsLs hcrc LhaL audicncc’s íamiliariLy wiLh
McLhod acLing docs noL dcpcnd on LhcorcLical knowlcdgc (i.c.,
Lhcir conscious awarcncss oí iL). InsLcad, Lhc McLhod is íamiliar
Lo us bccausc oí an ongoing proccss oí habiLuaLion Lo which cin-
cma audicnccs arc subjccLcd. Audicnccs arc rcpcaLcdly cxposcd Lo
(affccLcd by) Lhc Hollywood machincry and iLs sLar sysLcm. And
according Lo Narcmorc, McLhod acLing would bc íundamcnLally
unLhinkablc wiLhouL Lhis sLar sysLcm (i:i) bccausc Lhc McLhod’s
succcss dcpcnds on Lhc camcra’s abiliLy and willingncss Lo pro-
vidc Lhc audicncc wiLh closc-ups oí Lhc minuLcsL íacial gcsLurcs
oí Lhc acLors who Lry Lo cxprcss rcal, gcnuinc cmoLions. TaL Lhc
cffccLiviLy oí McLhod acLing dcpcnds on Lhc audicncc’s abiliLy Lo
scc Lhc acLor’s íacial gcsLurcs up closc cxplains why, as Hirsh puLs
iL, “Lhc McLhod is primarily and idcally a film Lcchniquc” (Method
ini) and as such dcpcnds on as wcll as produccs sLar imagcs. Or,
in Dclcuzc and CuaLLari’s languagc, “Lhc powcr oí film íopcraLcs]
Lhrough Lhc íacc oí Lhc sLar and Lhc closc-up” (Tousand P|ateaus
:¬=). Tis is parLicularly rcmarkablc givcn LhaL Lhc McLhod origi-
naLcd as a Lool íor sLagc acLors, as I will cxplain.
Our vcry un- or undcrLhcorizcd íamiliariLy wiLh McLhod acL-
ing rcquircs, Lhcrcíorc, all Lhc morc LhaL wc pay closcr aLLcnLion
Lo how Lhc McLhod—LhaL which has bccomc synonymous wiLh
Amcrican (film) acLing in gcncral—opcraLcs. To simpliíy only
slighLly, Lhc McLhod has cvolvcd Lhrough Lhrcc basic sLagcs.
FirsL, iL was csscnLially “invcnLcd” in and by Lhc carly Lcachings
oí Russian fin-dc-sicclc LhcaLcr dirccLor KonsLanLin SLanislav-
ski. Sccond, SLanislavski’s sysLcm was inLroduccd Lo Lhc Amcri-
can sLagc in Lhc :nios Lhrough his cmissary Lo Amcrica, Richard
Bolcslavski, whosc Lcachings influcnccd Lwo íamcd acLing Lcach-
crs, Icc SLrasbcrg and SLclla Adlcr—Lhough wiLh vasLly diffcring
rcsulLs. Tird, infighLs among Lhc mcmbcrs oí Lhc Croup TcaLcr
(:njos) around Lhc issuc oí “affccLivc mcmory” among oLhcrs,
lcd Lo Lhc liíclong spliL bcLwccn SLrasbcrg and Adlcr. As FosLcr
Hirsch argucs, “Along wiLh Bolcslavski, mosL oí his lisLcncrs aL
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :i8
Lhc Iab íAmcrican IaboraLory TcaLcr, originally callcd TcaLrc
ArLs InsLiLuLc] grcw discnchanLcd wiLh Lhc Lcchniquc íoí Lhc
McLhod]—buL noL SLrasbcrg, who was drawn Lo iL bccausc iL con-
firmcd his rcadings in Frcud and bccausc hc íclL iL lcd Lo Lhc kind
oí LruLhíul acLing sLylc hc was inLcrcsLcd in” (Method ¬=–¬6).
SubscqucnLly, in :nin, SLrasbcrg Look ovcr Lhc AcLors SLudio,
“LhaL mosL íamous oí all Amcrican acLing placcs” (Hirsch, Method
:on), which was íoundcd in :ni¬ by, among oLhcrs, Flia Kazan,
who subscqucnLly dirccLcd Marlon Brando in On the waterjront
In chargc oí Lhc sLudio, SLrasbcrg rclcnLlcssly promoLcd
“affccLivc mcmory” as Lhc Holy Crail oí rcalisL acLing. In conLrasL,
SLclla Adlcr íoundcd hcr own conscrvaLory, whcrc shc wagcd an
cnduring baLLlc againsL SLrasbcrg’s limiLcd ycL incrcasingly influ-
cnLial inLcrprcLaLion oí Lhc SLanislavskian sysLcm. I ulLimaLcly
wanL Lo call aLLcnLion Lo Adlcr’s influcncc on DcNiro; buL iL is
Lhc rolc oí SLrasbcrg, and Lhc original conLcxL wiLhin which SLan-
islavski codificd “whaL acLors bcíorc him had ímcrcly] LhoughL”
(Hirsch, Method j¬), LhaL cxplains IaCapra’s (and mosL cvcryonc
clsc’s) conccpLion oí acLing as a mimcLic acLing ouL oí un–workcd
Lhrough (rcprcsscd) dcsircs.
Tc main qucsLion SLanislavski askcd himsclí was how hc, as
a dirccLor, could coax LhcaLcr acLors inLo rccrcaLing rcal liíc on
sLagc as LruLhíully (rcad: rcalisLically) as possiblc. Having rcad
Frcnch psychologisL Tcodulc RiboL’s dcscripLion oí whaL hc
callcd “affccLivc mcmory,” SLanislavski bcgan Lo cxpcrimcnL wiLh
Lhis conccpL as a Lool (raLhcr Lhan a dogmaLic program) íor his ac-
Lors Lo acLivaLc cmoLions, ícclings, and mcmorics LhaL oLhcrwisc
would mcrcly lic dormanL bcyond Lhcir conscious awarcncss. As
Hirsch rcminds us, SLanislavski’s dirccLing pracLiccs closcly rc-
scmblc LhaL oí Frcud’s psychoLhcrapy: “Iikc Frcud, who was con-
ducLing his own cxpcrimcnLs aL abouL Lhc samc Limc and whosc
idcas maLurc jusL as SLanislavski bcgan Lo codiíy his sysLcm, Lhc
Russian dirccLor’s conccrn was in rcaching Lhc subconscious. Iikc
Frcud, SLanislavski askcd: WhaL LruLhs lic bcncaLh our conscious
minds`” (Method io). Tc acLor’s goal, Lhcn, bccomcs Lo cngagc
in a proccss oí “whaL ií.” Tc acLor is supposcd Lo ask him- or
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :in
hcrsclí, “what ìj Lhc siLuaLion in Lhc play wcrc rcally happcn-
ing—how would I rcacL`” (j8–jn). Tc applicaLion oí “affccLivc
mcmory” mcrcly consLiLuLcs Lhc mosL inLcnsificd vcrsion oí Lhc
“whaL ií” sccnario, an inLcnsificaLion, howcvcr, LhaL lcads acLors
down mcmory lanc oí Lhcir own livcs whcrc Lhcy mighL find long-
rcprcsscd insLanccs LhaL somchow arc supposcd Lo hclp Lhcm
undcrsLand Lhc characLcr’s moLivaLions, bclicís, and cmoLions.
Nccdlcss Lo say, giving oncsclí ovcr Lo Lhc proccss oí affccLivc
mcmory can bc an arduous and painíul Lask, oíLcn rcquiring long
pcriods oí Limc bcíorc Lhc acLor is ablc Lo connccL pcrsonal cxpc-
ricncc or mcmory Lo Lhc rcquircmcnLs oí Lhc play.
Scholars such as Narcmorc and Hirsch havc madc much oí Lhc
íacL LhaL SLanislavski himsclí had laLcr movcd away írom dcploy-
ing Lhc “affccLivc mcmory” Lcchniquc as a Lool íor soliciLing pcr-
íormanccs írom his acLors. Spccifically, SLanislavski grcw cvcnLu-
ally íond oí “Lhc mcLhod oí physical acLions” (Hirsch, Method jn)
LhaL cmphasizcs Lhc bchavior and moLivaLions oí Lhc characLcr
raLhcr Lhan Lhc acLual cxpcricnccs oí Lhc acLor. In oLhcr words,
SLanislavski movcd írom cmphasizing an acLor’s inLcrioriLy Lo
sLrcssing Lhc imporLancc oí Lhc LhcaLrical cncounLcr—Lhc abil-
iLy oí his acLors Lo rcspond Lo Lhc characLcrs’ nccds as dcfincd
by Lhc play iLsclí.
Tc poinL I wanL Lo mark hcrc, howcvcr, is
simply LhaL Lhc McLhod cmcrgcd in LcnLaLivcly codificd and mul-
Liplc íorm aL Lhc vcry momcnL whcn psychoanalysis Look hold
oí Lhc WcsLcrn imaginaLion—iLsclí only inLcnsiíying Lhc gradual
proccss oí subjccLificaLion around Lhc cmcrging noLion oí Lhc sclí
LhaL FoucaulL has dcscribcd so wcll in Te Order oj Tìngs.
Icc SLrasbcrg is gcncrally hcld rcsponsiblc íor popularizing
SLanislavski’s McLhod íor Lhc Amcrican sLagc and, cvcnLually—via
Lhc dcLour oí somc oí his morc íamous sLudcnLs aL Lhc AcLors SLu-
dio such as 1amcs Dcan, Paul Ncwman, 1ack Nicholson, Al Pacino,
Fayc Dunaway, Dianc KcaLon, and 1anc Fonda—íor Amcrican cin-
cma. BuL wc musL immcdiaLcly qualiíy Lhis claim by spcciíying LhaL
SLrasbcrg’s McLhod—Lhc acLing sLylc Amcrican culLurc is mosL
íamiliar wiLh Lhrough Lhc omniprcscncc oí Hollywood’s sLar sys-
Lcm— rclics almosL cxclusivcly on Lhc “affccLivc mcmory” mcLhod.
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :=o
In íacL, Lhc irrcconcilablc clash LhaL cvcnLually occurrcd among
SLanislavski’s Amcrican disciplcs was Lriggcrcd by SLrasbcrg’s un-
willingncss Lo hccd SLanislavski’s own insighLs LhaL madc him
movc bcyond Lhis psychoanalyLic Lcchniquc. Bccausc “SLrasbcrg
Look írom íBolcslavski] whaL hc wanLcd Lo, hcaring whaL hc wanLcd
Lo hcar” (Hirsch, Method ¬6), SLrasbcrg’s McLhod cndcd up con-
sisLing oí whaL Narcmorc raLhcr unsympaLhcLically dcscribcs as “a
scrics oí quasi-LhcaLrical cxcrciscs, oíLcn rcscmbling psychological
Lhcrapy, dcsigncd Lo ‘unblock’ Lhc acLor and puL him or hcr in Louch
wiLh scnsaLions and cmoLions” (:n¬). Narcmorc, a proponcnL oí a
morc avanL-gardc, BrcchLian Lypc oí acLing LhaL SLrasbcrg himsclí
dislikcd, criLicizcs SLrasbcrg’s psychoanalyLiclikc McLhod bccausc
iL cnds up rcproducing an idcology oí “romanLic individualism”
(ioo). 1usL abouL any cincmaLic biopic oí rcccnL mcmory dcpicLing
(Lroublcd) “gcniuscs”—Shìne (dir. ScoLL Hicks, :nn6), Po||ock (dir.
Fd Harris, iooo), Pejore Nìght Fa||s (dir. 1ulian Schnabcl, iooo),
and A Peautìju| Mìnd (dir. Ron Howard, ioo:) immcdiaLcly comc Lo
mind—LcsLifics Lo Lhc ongoing populariLy oí SLrasbcrg’s mcLhod’s
bclicí in Lhc ncccssiLy oí working Lhrough Lhc cxpcricncc oí pain
íor Lhc producLion oí grcaL arL.
And Lhis is prcciscly my poinL. Amcrican posLwar cincma has
bccn fillcd wiLh pcríormanccs iníormcd by SLrasbcrg’s mcLhod
Lo such a dcgrcc LhaL iL has bccomc almosL impossiblc Lo Lhink oí
acLing in oLhcr Lcrms Lhan Lhosc codificd by psychoanalysis. Tis
docs noL cvcn dcpcnd on whcLhcr or noL a givcn acLor acLually aL-
Lcndcd Lhc AcLors SLudio workshop. Tc vcry noLion oí whaL con-
sLiLuLcs grcaL film acLing has bccn Lhoroughly shapcd by counLlcss
Hollywood films LhaL ícaLurcd cclcbraLcd pcríormanccs by acLors
who wcrc Lraincd in or applicd McLhod acLing Lcchniqucs. Tc
pcríormanccs arc rccurrcnLly dcscribcd as bcing Lhc mosL LruLh-
íul Lo Lhc human spiriL, Lo whaL iL mcans Lo bc Lruly human. Or,
wiLh Narcmorc, Lhrough “Lhc raLhcr parochial Lcachings oí Lhc
AcLors SLudio, SLanislavski’s approach had bccn narrowcd down
Lo a quasi-Frcudian ‘inncr work’ íuclcd by an obscssion wiLh Lhc
‘sclí’” (:nn). Tis approach Lo acLing has so pcrmcaLcd Amcrican
cincma and Lhc discoursc surrounding iL LhaL Lhc McLhod has
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :=:
noL only bccomc synonymous wiLh Amcrican film acLing buL also
wiLh mimcsis. McLhod acLors (arc now bclicvcd Lo) imiLaLc Lhcir
own rcal-liíc cxpcricnccs in ordcr Lo rcndcr Lhc characLcrs Lo bc
playcd liíc-likc and bclicvablc, LhaL is, “rcalisLic.” Hcncc, a dircc-
Lor likc Hal HarLlcy írcqucnLly puzzlcs audicnccs and criLics alikc
wiLh films such as Te 0nbe|ìevab|e Truth (:nno), Amateur (:nni),
F|ìrt (:nn=), or Te Cìr| jrom Monday (iooi) bccausc hc consis-
LcnLly soliciLs pcríormanccs írom his acLors LhaL arc anyLhing buL
“rcalisLic” or “naLuralisLic,” Lhus noL rcally allowing Lhc world Lo
know who Lhc acLors “arc.”
A Brief Genealogy of the Method, Part 
So, Lhis bricí gcncalogy oí Lhc McLhod indicaLcs why IaCapra
can claim LhaL acLing ouL is abouL Lhc obscssivc compulsion Lo
rcpcaL mimcLically. AíLcr all, Lhc discursivc íormaLion LhaL gavc
risc Lo Lhc McLhod is shoL Lhrough wiLh psychoanalyLic conccpLs,
Lhcmsclvcs arLiculaLing and Lhus pcrpcLuaLing Lhc incrcasing cul-
Lural and social inLcrcsL in Lhc sclí LhaL inLcnsificd LhroughouL
Lhc nincLccnLh ccnLury. YcL, whaL has bccn íorgoLLcn in all oí Lhis
is prcciscly LhaL Lhc McLhod—wiLh Lhc cmphasis on iLs connoLa-
Lion oí “mcLhodical”—has írom carly on had a sccond hisLory, a
sccond Lhcory, a sccond pracLicc. Tis sccond Lhcory and pracLicc
was rclcnLlcssly advocaLcd by íamcd acLing Lcachcr SLclla Adlcr.
RobcrL DcNiro, who sLudicd wiLh Adlcr aL hcr ConscrvaLory íor
AcLing in Crccnwich Villagc bejore hc bccamc associaLcd wiLh
SLanislavski’s AcLors SLudio, crcdiLs hcr wiLh “having íhad] a big
influcncc on íhim]” (InLcrvicw). Whcrcas SLrasbcrg almosL cxclu-
sivcly rcad SLanislavski’s McLhod in Lcrms oí “affccLivc mcmory,”
Adlcr ncvcr ccascd Lo sLrcss SLanislavski’s laLcr prcícrcncc íor Lhc
mcLhod oí “physical acLions.” Hcncc, Adlcr was known Lo admon-
ish hcr sLudcnLs Lo avoid bringing Lhc characLcr down “Lo your
own small sclvcs” (Hirsch, Method i:i). InsLcad, as DcNiro cx-
plains in an inLcrvicw wiLh 1amcs IipLon, hosL oí Bravo 1v’s !n-
sìde the Actors Studìo, Adlcr rclcnLlcssly cncouragcd hcr sLudcnLs
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :=i
Lo brcak down a scripL, Lo analyzc iL wiLh grcaL carc, and Lo Lhink
abouL whaL Lhc characLcr is abouL.
Iikc SLrasbcrg, Adlcr acccpLcd LhaL acLing is abouL work and
LhaL Lhc rchcarsal cnvironmcnL oughL Lo rcscmblc LhaL oí a “labo-
raLory scLup” (Hirsch, Method io6), a dcscripLivc Lcrm suggcsLivc
oí Lhc machinical, proccsslikc characLcr immancnL Lo Lhc arL oí
acLing. YcL, unlikc SLrasbcrg, Adlcr conLinuously cncouragcd hcr
sLudcnLs Lo “cxplorc Lhc givcn circumsLanccs oí Lhc play raLhcr
Lhan Lhosc oí Lhcir own livcs” (Hirsch, Method i:=). Along Lhcsc
lincs, Hirsch niccly sums up Lhc Lwo Lcachcr’s diffcrcnccs:
On how an acLor coníronLs languagc in a conLcmporary rcal-
isL drama, Adlcr í . . . ] hcws Lhc SLudio linc. BuL whcrc SLras-
bcrg cncouragcd acLors Lo cnrich Lhc auLhor’s words by wriL-
ing a subLcxL Lriggcrcd by cmoLional and scnsory mcmory,
Adlcr Lclls sLudcnLs Lo rcmain wiLhin Lhc placc and siLuaLion
oí Lhc play. “CrcaLc Lhc placc; work wiLh props—a prop will
makc you acL; rcach ouL Lo your parLncr; prcparc a pasL íor
your characLcr—ií you don’L build a pasL, you insulL Lhc sLagc
and mc.” “SLanislavski said noL Lo sLarL wiLh languagc, sLarL
wiLh movcmcnL. AcLing is acLion, acLion is doing: find ways
Lo do iL, noL Lo say iL.” Adlcr’s idca is LhaL Lhc acLor claims
pcrsonal posscssion oí Lhc playwrighL’s words noL Lhrough
sclí-analysis, as aL Lhc SLudio, buL by steppìng out oj hìmse|j,
allowing his imaginaLion Lo Lakc flighL írom clucs Lhc auLhor
has planLcd. (Method i:¬, final cmphasis minc)
Icaving asidc Lhc íacL LhaL Adlcr disLinguishcs bcLwccn doing
and saying (pace 1. I. AusLin and, subscqucnLly, posL-sLrucLural-
isLs who show LhaL saying is doing), I Lhink wc bcgin Lo scc Lhc
cmcrgcncc oí a complcLcly diffcrcnL conccpLion oí acLing.
Considcr, íor insLancc, DcNiro’s pcríormancc in Mean Streets,
MarLin Scorscsc’s firsL grcaL, influcnLial film.
Our firsL vicw oí
DcNiro’s characLcr, 1ohnny Boy, comcs abouL fivc minuLcs inLo
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :=j
Lhc film. Wc waLch as hc suddcnly cmcrgcs írom bchind a housc-
íronL and drops somcLhing inLo a mailbox. As hc ncrvously zig-
zags away, hc kccps Lurning back whilc moving íorward. A ícw
scconds laLcr, Lhc mailbox cxplodcs. Whilc onc could arguc LhaL
his acL oí random vandalism marks 1ohnny Boy as a violcnL char-
acLcr írom Lhc ouLscL, I suggcsL LhaL iL is noL Lhc cxplosion iLsclí
LhaL sLands ouL in Lhis sccnc as an cxprcssion oí violcncc buL Lhc
sty|e 1ohnny Boy displays. In Lhis sccnc, as wcll as LhroughouL Lhc
movic, 1ohnny Boy movcs wiLh a “dcvil-may-carc flamboyancc”
(DicksLcin 8:). His movcmcnLs arc concurrcnLly cxprcssivc oí a
joic dc vivrc and cxplosivc rccklcssncss, and iL is Lhis irrcsisLiblc
combinaLion oí a ccrLain lighLncss oí bcing and impcnding vio-
lcncc LhaL brands iLsclí inLo our minds. And on Lop oí LhaL, Lhcrc
is LhaL haL: rcminisccnL oí Lhc Lypc oí sLylish haLs LhaL characLcrs
in Lhc gangsLcr movics oí Lhc :njos would wcar, 1ohnny Boy’s haL
ícaLurcs promincnLly in cach íramc. In íacL, wc noLc his haL bc-
causc Lhc film rcíuscs Lo shooL DcNiro in lingcring closc-ups, and
Lhc grainy qualiLy oí Lhc film sLock docs noL allow íor closc scruLiny
oí his íacial cxprcssions, lcL alonc his cyc movcmcnLs. BuL wc do
scc LhaL haL. Tc way DcNiro makcs 1ohnny Boy carry himsclí as
morc imporLanL Lhan hc rcally is in Lhc conLcxL oí Lhc local Mafia
hicrarchy (Lhc film’s opcning sccncs havc csLablishcd LhaL iL Lakcs
placc in a Mafialikc milicu) crucially dcpcnds on his cngagcmcnL
wiLh Lhc haL. Wc scnsc írom Lhis vcry firsL sccnc LhaL 1ohnny Boy
is an impaLicnL upsLarL who is bound Lo bccomc-violcnL sooncr
raLhcr Lhan laLcr. In oLhcr words, wc havc ycL Lo scc 1ohnny Boy
commiL an acL oí violcncc (LhaL is noL “mcrcly” a raLhcr boyish acL
oí vandalism), buL wc havc alrcady Lhc imagc oí violcncc firmly
implanLcd in our brain. Violcncc hcrc is a bccoming-haL, which
Lcnds Lo bc rccallcd by vicwcrs in LhaL mcmory LcrriLorializcs Lhis
bccoming onLo DcNiro’s íacc—or, raLhcr, iL cffccLs a bccoming-
íacc oí DcNiro in Lhc scnsc LhaL hc “slidcs inLo iL.”
From Lhis firsL appcarancc on, 1ohnny Boy, morc Lhan any
oLhcr characLcr in Lhc film, cmbodics a kind oí visccral íorcc LhaL
is so cxubcranL iL capLurcs Lhc vicwcrs’ íascinaLion. Tis íascina-
Lion, howcvcr, cannoL bc rcduccd Lo sadomasochisLic dcsircs. Aí-
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :=i
Lcr all, wc havc ycL Lo scc him inLcracL wiLh anyonc oLhcr Lhan
somc inanimaLc objccLs. Wc arc simply íascinaLcd by Lhc way
DcNiro managcs Lo acL ouL 1ohnny Boy’s poLcnLial íor violcncc—
which will cvcnLually bc rcalizcd—wiLhouL having rccoursc Lo
Lricd and Lruc cincmaLic (or oLhcr) imagcs oí violcncc. Wc Lhus
Lcnd Lo rcmcmbcr 1ohnny Boy as a violcnL characLcr noL bccausc
hc cvcnLually LhrcaLcns a madc guy wiLh a gun who ulLimaLcly
rcLurns Lhc íavor and has him shoL. Wc Lhink oí 1ohnny Boy in
violcnL imagcs bccausc oí his haL, Lhc way hc wcars iL, whaL hc
docs wiLh iL, and iLs cvcnLual abscncc (hc loscs iL in a bar fighL
LhaL, noL coincidcnLally, is Lriggcrcd by somconc asking him
abouL whcrc hc goL his haL), which acLually spccds up his impa-
Licncc, Lhus prccipiLaLing his cvcnLual downíall. Violcncc as rcn-
dcrcd by DcNiro in Lhis film, Lhcn, is abouL an cncounLcr wiLh a
prop—a haL. IL is a bccoming-haL LhaL scLs in moLion an imagc oí
violcncc as linkcd Lo spccd, Lo physical acLion, Lo Lhc agilc body
oí DcNiro-cum–1ohnny Boy. And Lhis bccoming-haL conLinucs Lo
maniícsL iLsclí cvcn in Lhc cvcnLual abscncc oí Lhc prop iLsclí.
Tus, Lhc film noL only dramaLizcs how Lhc nonmimcLic vcrsion
oí Lhc McLhod works buL also rcminds us LhaL a proccss oí imiLa-
Lion docs noL Lriggcr Lhc cvcnLual acLing ouL oí violcncc. Finally,
Lhc producLion oí an imagc oí violcncc as a bccoming-haL is any-
Lhing buL sclí-cvidcnL; iL calls aLLcnLion Lo Lhc íacL LhaL wc do noL
ncccssarily know violcncc whcn wc scc iL prcciscly bccausc Lhis
claim Lo common scnsc prcsupposcs LhaL wc know whaL violcncc
“is” and how iL maniícsLs iLsclí.
Adlcr’s mcLhod, as cxcmplificd by DcNiro’s pcríormancc in Mean
Streets, has vcry liLLlc Lo do wiLh Lhc idcology oí Lhc sclí, wiLh
imiLaLion, or wiLh an acLing ouL oí rcprcsscd mcmorics. Unlikc
SLrasbcrg’s vcrsion oí Lhc McLhod, Adlcr’s is noL abouL Lhc privi-
lcging oí Lhc (habiL Lo say) “I”—oí prioriLizing Lhc cgo’s (illusory)
abiliLy Lo bc idcnLical Lo iLsclí. InsLcad, Adlcr’s conccpLion oí Lhc
McLhod is primarily abouL inLcnsiLics oí movcmcnL, acLion, do-
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :==
ing; mosL imporLanLly iL is abouL an acLor’s abiliLy Lo cnLcr a zonc
oí proximiLy wiLh Lhc ouLsidc: “I is anoLhcr,” as Dclcuzc, quoLing
Rimbaud, aphorisLically wriLcs (Kant’s Crìtìca| Phì|osophy viii).
Ironically, Adlcr’s mcLhod mighL havc bccn bcsL arLiculaLcd by
onc oí SLrasbcrg’s sLudio mcmbcrs. BcsL known íor hcr rolc as Fdic
Doylc, Lhc lovc inLcrcsL oí Brando’s Tcrry Malloy in Kazan’s On the
waterjront, Fvc Maric SainL argucs LhaL Lhc “McLhod is noL playing
yoursclí—LhaL’s onc oí Lhc misundcrsLandings pcoplc havc abouL
Lhc sLudio. í . . . ] Tc McLhod hclps you Lo obscrvc, Lo scc liíc, Lo
look ouLsidc yoursclí” (Hirsch, Method ii:). Tc McLhod puLs Lhc
sclí undcr crasurc, or aL Lhc vcry lcasL casLs iL as a scrious prob|e-
matìque in Lhc FoucaulLcan scnsc. I Lhink LhaL Lhis ícaLurc oí Lhc
McLhod cannoL bc cmphasizcd cnough, íor iL produccs a conccpL oí
LhoughL (as pracLicc) LhaL dismanLlcs a CarLcsian noLion oí Lhc I as
íormulaLcd in his íamous dicLum, “I Lhink Lhcrcíorc I am.” Whcrcas
Lhc laLLcr insisLs on Lhc sclí-idcnLiLy oí Lhc I, and Lhus Lhc primacy
oí Lhc proccss oí rcprcscnLaLion and idcnLificaLion, Lhc McLhod’s
insisLcncc on movcmcnL, and Lhus Limc as iL passcs in Lhc inLcrval
oí Lhis movcmcnL, configurcs a subjccL’s sclí as consLanLly chang-
ing. As Dclcuzc wriLcs abouL Lhis kind oí sclí:
IL is a passivc, or raLhcr rcccpLivc, “sclí” LhaL cxpcricnccs
changc in Limc. Tc ! is an acL (I Lhink) LhaL acLivcly dc-
Lcrmincs my cxisLcncc (I am), buL can only dcLcrminc iL in
Limc, as Lhc cxisLcncc oí a passivc, rcccpLivc and changing
se|j, which only rcprcscnLs Lo iLsclí Lhc acLiviLy oí ìts own
LhoughL. Tc I and Lhc Sclí arc Lhus scparaLcd by Lhc linc oí
Limc, which rclaLcs Lhcm Lo cach oLhcr only undcr Lhc con-
diLion oí a íundamcnLal diffcrcncc. My cxisLcncc can ncvcr
bc dcLcrmincd as LhaL oí an acLivc and sponLancous bcing,
buL as passivc “sclí” LhaL rcprcscnLs Lo iLsclí Lhc “I”—LhaL
is, Lhc sponLanciLy oí Lhc dcLcrminaLion—as an OLhcr LhaL
affccLs iL. (“PocLic Formulas” in–jo)
So, pracLicing his or hcr abiliLy Lo rcspond Lo cxLcrnal clucs sccms
Lo mc Lhc mosL crucial lcsson Lo bc lcarncd írom Lhc McLhod—
and iL is Lhis lcsson LhaL wc musL hccd ií wc wanL Lo bc ablc Lo say
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :=6
anyLhing aL all abouL violcncc in cincma and Lhc cffccLs iL may or
may noL producc.
Violcncc, pcrhaps Lhc mosL onLologically “naLural” Lhing (and
as such, somcLhing wc cannoL buL rcspond Lo), is simulLancously
Lhc lcasL naLuralisLic phcnomcnon prcciscly bccausc acLors can
rcasonably acccss violcncc—and rcndcr iL visiblc—only by going
ouLsidc oí Lhcmsclvcs, or raLhcr, by affi rming LhaL Lhcir “I” is al-
ways “anoLhcr.” Tc acLor’s “I” ncvcr providcs Lhc locus oí cxpcri-
cncc írom which Lo draw Lhc affccLivc íorcc LhaL is Lo bc imiLaLcd
in ordcr Lo bccomc-violcnL on scrccn. TaL is, an acLor cannoL rc-
ally hold a kniíc Lo Lhc LhroaL oí a random pcrson on Lhc sLrccL
only Lo “know” whaL iL íccls likc Lo bc violcnL so LhaL shc can Lhcn
draw on Lhis cxpcricncc—via Lhc proccss oí imiLaLion rooLcd in
(rcmcmbcrcd) knowlcdgc—in íronL oí Lhc camcra. Hc cannoL
Lakc a .i= and hold up a convcnicncc sLorc and, aíLcr hc gcLs whaL
hc prcLcnds Lo wanL, shooL Lhc clcrk. Nor can acLors rcally givc
Lhcmsclvcs ovcr Lo Lhc posiLion oí a vicLim: in gcncral, you can-
noL volunLccr Lo bc LhrcaLcncd wiLh a gun in a rcal-liíc siLuaLion,
and you mosL ccrLainly will noL volunLccr Lo bc shoL aL in Lhc hcad
a ícw Limcs only Lo bc ablc Lo cxpcricncc “rcal” pain LhaL Lhcn can
bc rcprcscnLcd íor an audicncc. Hcncc, acLors who arc supposcd
Lo rcndcr violcncc rcalisLically on scrccn arc íorccd Lo makc a con-
nccLion wiLh somcLhing oLhcr Lhan Lhcir own cxpcricncc, mcm-
ory, or psychc. Tcy havc Lo sLcp ouLsidc oí Lhcmsclvcs, Lhus al-
lowing Lhcmsclvcs Lo cxpcrimcnL wiLh Lhc ouLsidc—in íorm oí a
haL, íor cxamplc—as a mcans íor rcndcring violcncc visiblc.
ií Lakcn scriously, Lhis cxpcrimcnLal impcraLivc lcads violcncc Lo
cmcrgc as a conLinual variaLion oí iLs own conccpL—a variaLion
LhaL always varics iLsclí, whosc sclí-diffcrcnLiaLion is immancnLly
gcncraLcd, always diffcring in iLs affccLivc chargc LhaL is produccd
Lhrough Lhc dcploymcnL oí McLhod-ical rcpcLiLion.
Only a ycar laLcr, íor cxamplc, DcNiro would noL acL- ouL vio-
lcncc Lhrough a bccoming-haL; insLcad, as Lhc young Don Cor-
lconc in Te Codjather !!, hc inhabiLs an odd spacc oí silcncc. Oí
coursc, his silcncc was prcscribcd by Lhc scripL (which also askcd
him Lo dclivcr his lincs in ILalian). BuL Lhis silcncc is mosLly cí-
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :=¬
íccLcd by his sLylc oí bcing in Lhc world Lhc film porLrays. IL
cmcrgcs dirccLly ouL oí Lhc way hc dclibcraLcly siLs down, calmly
Lurns his hcad, purposcíully movcs Lhrough Lhc crowdcd sLrccLs
oí IiLLlc ILaly, and cvcn spcaks whcn hc is addrcsscd. DcNiro’s
pcríormancc has bccomc a classic (and was honorcd wiLh an
Acadcmy Award) bccausc oí his abiliLy Lo cnacL a characLcr whosc
violcncc inhcrcs in his calm silcncc, in LhaL which hc docs not say
or do whilc surroundcd by an cnvironmcnL LhaL is bursLing wiLh
(dangcrous) cncrgy: bccoming-silcnL, bccoming-violcnL.
DcNiro has bccn praiscd íor drawing his characLcr as a pcríccLly
bclicvablc youngcr vcrsion oí Lhc oldcr ViLo whosc characLcr Brando
so indclibly drcw jusL Lwo ycars prior. BuL Lhc only way DcNiro could
havc achicvcd Lhis was by finding a way Lo íorm a consìstency—a
linkagc—bcLwccn his and Brando’s body. Had hc jusL imiLaLcd—
rcprcscnLcd—Brando’s manncrisms LhaL Brando uscd íor his much
oldcr vcrsion oí Lhc samc characLcr, DcNiro’s pcríormancc would
havc bccn laughably ouL oí Lunc wiLh Lhc carly-LwcnLicLh-ccnLury
world Lhc young ViLo cncounLcrs aíLcr his migraLion írom Sicily Lo
Ncw York. Brando’s ViLo is ncvcr shown Lo kill anyonc (oLhcr Lhan
by dclcgaLion). DcNiro, Lhcrcíorc, had Lo invcnL a youngcr vcrsion
oí Lhc CodíaLhcr as a ruLhlcss killcr LhaL sLill maLchcs up wiLh Lhc
idca oí Lhc CodíaLhcr Brando so íorccíully implanLcd inLo audicnccs’
minds. Young ViLo’s violcncc sccms “rcal” bccausc DcNiro managcs
Lo cnLcr a zonc oí proximiLy wiLh a parLicular mood (silcncc) LhaL
allows him Lo invcnL onc spccific íorm oí bccoming-violcnL raLhcr
Lhan having Lo imiLaLc anoLhcr. Imaging violcncc, in oLhcr words, is
ncvcr rcally a qucsLion oí “rcalism” as long as rcalism is undcrsLood
in rcprcscnLaLional Lcrms. InsLcad, violcncc is always a maLLcr oí
invcnLion—oí conLinually invcnLing ancw (Lhc proccsscs giving risc
Lo) inLcnsiLics, or scnsaLions, oí violcncc.
Acting Out Violence by Working Trough the Outside
AcLing, as conccivcd Lhrough or alongsidc Adlcr, is Lhus nciLhcr
abouL imiLaLion nor an acLing ouL oí rcprcsscd mcmorics. IL is noL
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :=8
a rcliving or an appropriaLion oí a prcviously livcd cxpcricncc.
A ccrLain Lypc oí criLicism oí DcNiro’s acLing is Lhus raLhcr mis-
placcd. TaL is, aL Limcs criLics havc accuscd DcNiro oí playing iL
saíc sincc his lasL grcaL “acLcd ouL” McLhod rolc in Scorscsc’s Kìng
oj Comedy (:n8j) as Lhc rcmarkably uníunny wannabc comcdian
RupcrL Pupkin. In pursuing a grcaL numbcr oí camco rolcs (Ange|
Heart í:n86] or Te 0ntouchab|es, c.g.), so Lhc claim gocs, DcNiro
has losL somc oí his cdgc as a pcríormcr. In an odd ironic rcvcrsal,
iL is crìtìcs who mourn LhaL DcNiro’s is noL “acLing ouL” anymorc.
Tcy mourn LhaL DcNiro has allcgcdly givcn up his Lradcmark in-
LcnsiLy wiLh which hc imbucd his visccral acLing ouL íor a morc
inLcllccLualizcd “working Lhrough” oí his violcnL pcríormanccs.
Tcy sccm Lo ycarn íor DcNiro’s physical bravado wiLh which hc
fillcd his pcríormancc oí boxcr 1akc IaMoLLa in Ragìng Pu||, or
cvcn Lhc rcmarkablc physical changcs LhaL Travis Bicklc is madc
Lo undcrgo on his way írom dissaLisficd ycL unsurc cab drivcr Lo
bccoming a killing machinc, a killcr cyborg, ií you will, whosc
wcapons arc mcchanically linkcd Lo his cvcry movcmcnL. Fx-
prcssing Lhc scnsc LhaL DcNiro has losL somc oí his íamous inLcn-
siLy, his willingncss Lo acL ouL, biographcr Andy Dougan wondcrs
whcLhcr DcNiro has “now lcarncd Lo íakc acLing” (ii¬). BuL Lo
accusc DcNiro oí “íaking iL” prcsupposcs in a SLrasbcrgian scnsc
LhaL acLing is a proccss oí imiLaLion, oí mimcLically rcprcscnLing
a rcal, auLhcnLic sclí LhaL providcs Lhc locus íor a pcríormancc.
YcL, inLcnsiLy is a maLLcr oí simulacral producLion—all Lhc way
down—raLhcr Lhan phcnomcnological auLhcnLiciLy. In Lhis scnsc,
iL is impossiblc Lo “íakc” acLing, íor Adlcr’s conccpLion oí acLing
docs noL rcly on a logic oí Lhc copy (rcprcscnLaLion) buL insLcad
mobilizcs whaL I discusscd in chapLcr j as Lhc logic oí simula-
Lion LhaL íuncLions as Lhc consLiLuLivc cnginc oí all producLion,
including (or cspccially) oí rcprcscnLaLions.
PuL diffcrcnLly, whaL DcNiro lcarncd írom Adlcr is LhaL inLcn-
siLy is noL abouL acLing ouL or cxccss; raLhcr, inLcnsiLy is a sLaLc
LhaL quiLc oíLcn inhcrcs and subsisLs wìthìn a sLylc oí cncounLcr.
McLhod acLing as pracLiccd by DcNiro, Lhcrcíorc, is abouL a carc-
íul cxpcrimcnLal, indccd masochisLic, cncounLcr wiLh Lhc ouLsidc,
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :=n
wiLh a mcLhodical rcpcLiLion oí spccific pracLiccs—a rcpcLiLion
LhaL, likc in a lab, allows Lhc acLor Lo work Lhrough a spccific acLing
problcmaLic. Tis Lypc oí acLing can bc considcrcd as consLiLuLing
whaL Dclcuzc and CuaLLari call a bccoming. Wc musL bc vcry clcar
aL Lhis poinL, howcvcr. DcNiro’s cvcnLual bccoming-íacc, which is
mcrcly Lhc mosL rcccnL insLanLiaLion oí his conLinually varying
bccoming-violcnL, has noLhing Lo do wiLh a Hcgclian undcrsLand-
ing oí bccoming. For LhaL maLLcr, iL has noLhing in common wiLh
Lhc sLory oí bccoming as iL has íuncLioncd LhroughouL Lhc his-
Lory oí WcsLcrn mcLaphysical LhoughL.
Bccoming is a proccss noL so much abouL dialccLical changc
or acquisiLion oí a sLaLc oí affairs as abouL somcLhing akin Lo im-
plosion, an inLcnsiíying oí affccLiviLy, a movcmcnL wiLh iLs spccd
and slowncss LhaL is noL dcscribablc by Lhc noLion oí “quickncss”
as such. Bccoming, as Dclcuzc and CuaLLari havc argucd, is Lhc
hardcsL Lhing Lo do (and cxplain) prcciscly bccausc WcsLcrn
LhoughL has conccpLualizcd, and pcdagogically cmploycd, bccom-
ing as a dialccLical proccss. TradiLionally, bccoming is conccivcd
oí as a consLanL war bcLwccn Lwo sLruggling opponcnLs LhaL is rc-
solvcd only by a Lhird Lcrm LhaL has “bccomc” Lhc synLhcsis oí Lhc
prcvious Lwo, sublaLing boLh and Lhus producing a ncw, highcr
lcvcl oí dcvclopmcnL. UndcrsLood Lhis way, onc would Lhink LhaL
DcNiro’s bccoming consLiLuLcs a sLory oí progrcss, a Lclcological
consolidaLion and as such an improvcmcnL oí his acLing skills
LhaL cvcnLually culminaLcs in DcNiro’s bccoming somconc clsc.
BuL a sLory abouL Lhc way DcNiro prcparcs himsclí íor an acL-
ing job illusLraLcs LhaL íor DcNiro (McLhod) acLing has liLLlc Lo
do wiLh Lhis Lypc oí bccoming, a bccoming ulLimaLcly rooLcd in
Lhc conccpL oí mimcLic rcprcscnLaLion. In :n¬j DcNiro was sLill
an up and coming acLor, having jusL landcd his firsL imporLanL
succcss wiLh his porLrayal oí 1ohnny Boy in Mean Streets. TaL
summcr, hc prcparcd íor a sLagc rolc in Lhc shorL-livcd onc-acL
play Schubert’s Last Serenade. 1ulic Bovasso, Lhc play’s auLhor,
dcscribcs DcNiro’s mcLhod in a Newsweek magazinc inLcrvicw:
“Bobby arrivcs aL his characLcrizaLions by whaL somcLimcs sccms
likc a vcry circuiLous rouLc. Hc wanLcd Lo do onc sccnc, íor cxam-
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :6o
plc, whilc chcwing brcadsLicks. I was dubious buL I agrccd and íor
Lhrcc days I didn’L hcar a word oí my play—iL was all garblcd up
in brcadsLicks. BuL I could scc somcLhing happcning; hc was mak-
ing a connccLion wiLh somcLhing, a kind oí clown clcmcnL. Tcn
aL drcss rchcarsal hc showcd up wiLhouL Lhc brcadsLicks. I said,
‘Bobby, whcrc arc Lhc brcadsLicks`’ And hc said simply, ‘I don’L
nccd Lhcm anymorc’” (qLd. in Dougan 6o). Bovasso’s obscrvaLion
cxprcsscs pcrhaps cvcn bcLLcr Lhan DcNiro’s own commcnLs rc-
garding his acLing Lcchniquc whaL, cxacLly, Lranspircs in Lhc pro-
ccss oí acLing. Dclcuzc and CuaLLari noLc in A Tousand P|ateaus
LhaL DcNiro himsclí has dcscribcd his walking sLylc in Taxì Lrìver
as crablikc (i¬i). Flscwhcrc, DcNiro apparcnLly rcmarkcd LhaL
hc had “sccn somc oí his rolcs as a crab, a caL, a wolí, a rabbiL, a
snakc, and an owl” (Dougan iji). Dclcuzc and CuaLLari crucially
cxplain LhaL DcNiro’s likcning his sLylc oí walking Lo LhaL oí a
crab has nothìng Lo do wiLh imiLaLion; DcNiro did noL cnd up bc-
ing “likc” a crab, nor “likc” a caL mcowing, a wolí howling, or a
snakc swallowing iLs prcy wholc.
InsLcad, Bovasso and DcNiro’s dcscripLions oí his acLing pro-
ccss musL bc undcrsLood in Lcrms oí whaL Dclcuzc and CuaLLari
call a bccoming-animal, or, pcrhaps morc appropriaLc íor Bovas-
so’s obscrvaLion, a bccoming-brcadsLick. Tis bccoming namcs
DcNiro’s ncccssary cncounLcr wiLh somcLhing LhaL allows him
Lo cnLcr a zonc oí proximiLy wiLh Lhc characLcr hc has Lo imag-
inc and Lhcn rcndcr visiblc on scrccn or sLagc. Much has bccn
madc oí DcNiro’s claboraLc rcscarch acLiviLics—so much so, in
íacL, LhaL Rob Frascr has a poinL in suggcsLing LhaL “For a Limc,
iL sccmcd as ií í . . . ] hisLory would rcmcmbcr RobcrL DcNiro
ímosLly] íor Lhc obscssivc dcLail wiLh which hc rcscarchcd cach
rolc” (“Pcríorming Miraclcs” =). BuL noL cnough has bccn madc
oí Lhc íacL LhaL DcNiro’s prcparaLion íar cxcccds Lhis hands-on
cmpirical rcscarch. IL is all Loo casy Lo vicw DcNiro’s rcscarch as a
proccss cxprcssing his dcsirc íor, and Lhus lcading Lo, imiLaLion;
boLh his own characLcrizaLion oí his bccoming-animal as wcll as
Bovasso’s brcadsLick sLory LcsLiíy LhaL Lhis is noL so. Tis is noL Lo
dcny Lhc imporLancc oí rcscarching a characLcr. For onc, DcNiro
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :6:
himsclí obviously placcs much valuc on iL. In íacL, hc bclicvcs LhaL
Lhc abiliLy Lo rcscarch a characLcr as much as possiblc is an idcal
siLuaLion, “buL iL docsn’L always work ouL” (InLcrvicw). I suggcsL
LhaL in Lhc casc oí violcncc, (DcNiro figurcd ouL LhaL) iL can never
work ouL.
InsLcad, DcNiro’s mcLhodological obscssion—cspccially cvi-
dcnL LhroughouL Lhc firsL fiíLccn ycars oí his film acLing carccr—
insLanLiaLcs a proccss oí lcarning, oí inhabiLaLion, oí making con-
nccLions noL Lhrough mimcsis buL by rcsponsc. Tis dcscribcs a
pcdagogical proccss noL unlikc LhaL oí Lhc swimmcr who lcarns
how Lo swim noL by imiLaLing Lhc swim Lcachcr buL by rcspond-
ing Lo Lhc cvcr-changing signs cmiLLcd by Lhc occan’s wavcs (Dc-
lcuzc, Lìfference and Repetìtìon ii–ij). TaL is, lcarning “Lakcs
placc noL in Lhc rclaLion bcLwccn a rcprcscnLaLion and an acLion
(rcproducLion oí Lhc Samc) buL in Lhc rclaLion bcLwccn a sign and
a rcsponsc (cncounLcr wiLh Lhc oLhcr)” (Dclcuzc, Lìfference and
Repetìtìon ii). Or, in DcNiro’s own words, an “acLor’s body is likc
an insLrumcnL and you havc Lo lcarn how Lo play an insLrumcnL.
IL’s likc knowing how Lo play Lhc piano. Tcrc oughL Lo bc acL-
ing schools LhaL Lakc you in as small childrcn, Lhc way Lhcy do
wiLh music. A pcrson docsn’L nccd cxpcricncc Lo lcarn Lcchniquc.
Tcchniquc comcs firsL, Lhcn as you grow oldcr and gcL cxpcricncc
you will apply iL Lo whaL you know” (qLd. in Dougan :o6).
How much morc powcríully could DcNiro havc rcíuLcd our
common wisdom abouL (McLhod) acLing` To cnacL pain, you do
noL havc Lo havc cxpcricnccd somc childhood Lrauma or an cxcru-
ciaLingly Liring divorcc. AcLing is abouL Lcchniquc—mcchanics,
ií you will; iL is abouL somcLhing LhaL has Lo bc lcarncd Lhrough
conLinual pracLicc, raLhcr Lhan insLiLuLionalizcd sclí-rcflccLion.
As DcNiro’s own asscssmcnL oí Lhc acLing proccss indicaLcs, in
ordcr Lo acL you havc Lo do iL; you havc Lo affi rm acLion, know-
ing LhaL you mighL “íail” and Lhus bc íorccd Lo do iL ovcr, again
and again, unLil you discovcr LhaL which is gcnuincly ncw, or LhaL
which sccms Lo work bcsL íor Lhc dcmands oí Lhc scripL and Lhc
characLcr Lo bc playcd. DcNiro himsclí puLs iL Lhis way: “Ií I jusL
jumpcd in and did iL and Look Lhc lcap íI’d] arrivc aL LhaL placc
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :6i
whcrc you LhoughL you had Lo go Lhrough all kinds oí, you know,
you jusL arrivcd Lhcrc, bclicvc iL or noL. í . . . ] You goLLa gcL ouL
aL Lhc cnd oí Lhc day and do iL. And ií you makc a misLakc you do
iL again” (InLcrvicw). In oLhcr words, whaLcvcr cxpcricncc Lhc ac-
Lor will gain is sccondary Lo Lhc process—Lhc McLhod—oí acLing
Conccivcd Lhis way, acLing has liLLlc Lo do wiLh psychologizcd
inLcrioriLy; insLcad, Lhc “acLiviLy oí Lhc acLor is lcss Lo imiLaLc a
characLcr in a scripL Lhan Lo mimic in Lhc flcsh Lhc incorporcal-
iLy oí Lhc cvcnL” (Massumi 6i). IL is abouL cnLcring a disciplincd
cncounLcr wiLh—a bccoming-íascinaLcd by—Lhc ouLsidc LhaL
consLiLuLcs Lhc ncccssary condiLion oí possibiliLy íor rcndcring
an (violcnL) imagc visiblc.
In DcNiro’s own words, “AcLors musL
cxposc Lhcmsclvcs Lo Lhc surroundings and kccp Lhcir minds ob-
scsscd wiLh LhaL. Sooncr or laLcr an ìdea wì|| creep ìnto your head.
A íccling pcrhaps, a cluc, or maybc an incidcnL will occur LhaL Lhc
acLor can laLcr connccL Lo Lhc sccnc whcn hc’s doing iL. I always
look aL cvcryLhing í. . .] cvcn ií iL’s boring” (qLd. in Dougan :o6,
my cmphasis). According Lo DcNiro, Lhcn, acLing is an cncounLcr
wiLh Lhc ouLsidc: Lhc acLor is rcsponsiblc Lo wclcomc Lhis ouLsidc,
Lhis idca LhaL will crccp inLo Lhc acLor’s hcad (or, in Tom Riplcy’s
casc, a sccnL LhaL aLLracLs his olíacLory inLcrcsL). Such a proccss is,
oí coursc, prcciscly akin Lo Lhc masochisLic proccsscs dcscribcd
by Dclcuzc. Tc pracLicc oí masochism íorccs, and Lhrough rcp-
cLiLion habiLuaLcs, Lhc “suspcndcd subjccL” Lo look aL cvcryLhing,
Lo waiL, Lo cndurc Limc unLil an idca crccps up; iL Lhus rcquircs
Lhc masochisLic subjccL Lo affi rm borcdom, íor mosL oí Lhc Limc
noLhing aL all happcns. BuL iL is ìn Lhc rcpcLiLion oí Limc pass-
ing wiLhouL acLion LhaL onc is madc capablc oí cxpcrimcnLing
wiLh a spccific prob|ematìque and Lhus is cnablcd Lo invcnL a novcl
modc oí LhoughL, a ncw imagc, a ncw modc oí rcsponsc. Bcing
suspcndcd by borcdom, Lhc masochisL bcgins Lo absLracL clichcs
írom his surroundings, gradually inLcnsiíying Lhc siLuaLion hc is
suspcndcd in, unLil Lhc momcnL oí LransíormaLion occurs (which
is ncvcr guaranLccd). Borcdom (cincmaLically cmbodicd in Lhc
Limc-imagc, or duraLion) íuncLions Lhus as an inLcnsificr, an aí-
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :6j
íccLivc sLaLc LhaL may bc ncccssary Lo inhabiL in ordcr Lo producc
a linc oí flighL, or LransíormaLion.
And iL is hard Lo imaginc a casc íor which Lhis analysis rings
morc Lruc Lhan Lhc casc oí violcncc. For how clsc, I wondcr, can
an acLor rcndcr violcncc visiblc Lhan by giving himsclí ovcr Lo
Lhc proccss dcscribcd by DcNiro` Oí coursc, mosL acLors do noL
íollow DcNiro’s advicc, buL Lhis is why DcNiro, and noL anoLhcr
acLor, has comc Lo cmbody Lhc íacc oí violcncc in Amcrican cin-
cma. For Lhc poinL madc by DcNiro is LhaL cxprcssing violcncc on
scrccn or sLagc is noL abouL digging dccp insidc yoursclí so LhaL
you can narcissisLically acL ouL your rcprcsscd anxicLics or angcr;
nor is iL mcrcly abouL imiLaLing rcal liíc violcncc by rcscarching
violcnL pcoplc or cvcnLs. PrcscnLing violcncc on scrccn, in oLhcr
words, has noL ncccssarily anyLhing aL all Lo do wiLh cxpcricncing
or having cxpcricnccd iL. ViolcnL imagcs arc cxprcsscd Lhrough a
spccific, and always varying, proccss LhaL rcquircs clinically cold
diagnosis (problcmaLizaLion) raLhcr Lhan Lhc applicaLion oí solu-
Lions dcvclopcd in Lhc conLcxL oí a diffcrcnL problcm—LhaL is,
Lhc slowncss inhcring in borcdom, raLhcr Lhan Lhc quickncss oí
acLion. In oLhcr words, iL is Lhc violcncc inhcring borcdom LhaL
íuncLions as an immancnL cnabling íorcc Lo rcndcr ncw imagcs oí
violcncc—violcnL imagcs LhaL diffcr írom Lhc clichcd imagcs oí
violcncc in all Loo many acLion films. And such problcmaLizaLion
ncvcr procccds írom a criLical posiLion cxLcrnal Lo Lhc objccL oí
cncounLcr. Tc incviLablc proccss oí bccoming-affccLcd or íasci-
naLcd by Lhc objccL cnsurcs—íor bcLLcr and worsc—Lhc criLic’s
own parLicipaLion in Lhc prob|ematìque. AcLion—criLical or noL—
docs Lhus noL rcsulL írom imiLaLion buL írom affccLaLion.
Analyze the Face
IL is hardly a coincidcncc LhaL DcNiro is dcscribcd as “a grcaL
lisLcncr and a grcaL obscrvcr” (Dougan i=). DcNiro himsclí cx-
plaincd oncc LhaL, rcscarching íor his violcnL rolc as Lhc young
Don Corlconc íor Te Codjather !!, hc rcpcaLcdly waLchcd Marlon
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :6i
Brando play Lhc old godíaLhcr in Lhc Lrilogy’s firsL parL. RaLhcr
Lhan wanLing Lo imiLaLc Brando’s pcríormancc—which hc kncw
would bc íuLilc—hc sLudicd Lhc movic ovcr and ovcr Lo “scc somc
liLLlc movcmcnLs LhaL íBrando] would do and Lry Lo link Lhcm
Lo my pcríormancc. IL was likc a maLhcmaLical problcm whcrc
you havc Lhc rcsulL and you Lry Lo makc Lhc bcginning fiL” (qLd.
in Dougan 6i). DcNiro cxplaincd his sLraLcgy íor rcndcring Lhc
young Don Lhusly: “I wasn’L inLimidaLcd by íLhc rolc and Lhc íacL
LhaL Brando had indclibly drawn Lhc picLurc oí Lhc oldcr Don Cor-
lconc only Lwo ycars prior]. I jusL LhoughL iL’s a prob|em í . . . ].
I kind oí likcd Lhc íacL LhaL I had boundarìes and I had Lo con-
nect iL Lo somcLhing. IL wasn’L likc I had Lo look íor somcLhing; iL
was Lhcrc. I jusL had Lo contìnue iL” (InLcrvicw, my cmphascs).

Flscwhcrc, DcNiro cxprcsscs LhaL McLhod acLing dcpcnds on crc-
aLing linkagcs bcLwccn diffcrcnL parLs oí him and Lhc characLcr,
wiLh Lhc linkagcs oíLcn bcing providcd by nciLhcr buL insLcad by
an animal or an inanimaLc objccL. DcNiro’s much-discusscd Limc
consuming rcscarch mcLhods, Lhcn, arc much lcss cxprcssivc oí
a dangcrous psychological anomaly indicaLing a Lroublcsomc mi-
mcLic proccss oí rcpcLiLion, oí, as IaCapra has iL, “mclancholic
acLing ouL,” Lhan a ncccssary componcnL oí his acLing proccss.
Tis proccss has Lo bc lcarncd ancw cvcry Limc, rcquiring singular
McLhod-ical responses raLhcr Lhan wholcsalc “soluLions.”
DcNiro’s violcnL and cclcbraLcd bccoming-obcsc in Ragìng Pu|| is
buL onc way oí acLing ouL Lhc McLhod, and iL is mosL ccrLainly a
way oí acLing ouL LhaL dcpcnds on a carcíul rcgimcn, a conLrollcd,
disciplincd dicL plan LhaL simulLancously cnsurcs Lhc acLor’s
hcalLh and his abiliLy Lo radically changc his physical appcarancc
in onc and Lhc samc film. And whilc Scorscsc’s film ícaLurcs many
violcnL imagcs (aíLcr all, iL is a film abouL a boxcr), iL mighL vcry
wcll bc Lhc shock produccd by Lhc radically diffcrcnL bodìes oí Dc-
Niro LhaL íascinaLcs us. Tc film ccrLainly sccms Lo bank on Lhis
cffccL, íor iL opcns wiLh a juxLaposiLion oí Lwo violcnL imagcs:
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :6=
LhaL oí a wcll-Lraincd, lcan, muscular body (wc cannoL ycL scc Lo
whom Lhc body bclongs, Lhough wc suspccL iL is DcNiro as Lhc
young IaMoLLa) “dancing” in Lhc boxing ring and LhaL oí Lhc fiíLy
pounds hcavicr, íaL, oldcr 1akc IaMoLLa (also playcd by DcNiro)
whom wc scc rchcarsing a jokc in Lhc drcssing room oí his nighL
club. Tc radical dispariLy oí bodics “wiLhin” Lhc samc acLor’s
body, I Lhink, capLurcs an imagc oí violcncc LhaL íascinaLcs and
Lhus sLicks wiLh us morc Lhan all Lhc brillianL misc-cn-sccnc rcal-
ism oí Scorscsc’s camcra work and Tclma Schoonmakcr’s cdiLing
cmploycd Lo capLurc Lhc violcnL acLion in Lhc ring. Bccoming-vio-
lcnL hcrc is imagcd Lhrough DcNiro’s bccoming-obcsc (whcrc his
obcsiLy maniícsLs iLsclí noL jusL in his bcing íaL buL also in his
gcsLurcs moving wiLh a dcgrcc oí slowncss inhcrcnLly rcsponsivc
Lo his incrcascd wcighL).
In his pcrccpLivc cssay “McLhods and Madncss,” culLural criLic
Iouis Mcnand argucs LhaL Ragìng Pu|| is, in many ways, abouL our
inabiliLy Lo undcrsLand (1akc IaMoLLa’s) violcncc, íor nciLhcr oí
Lhc Lwo common cxplanaLory paradigms—biology and culLurc—
quiLc suffi cc Lo dcscribc in a saLisíacLory manncr why a pcrson acLs
so violcnLly. Film criLic David Dcnby pushcs Lhc samc linc oí ar-
gumcnL a sLcp íurLhcr. Dcnby asscrLs in his rcvicw cssay “BruLc
Forcc” LhaL “DcNiro appcars Lo bc Lhc firsL grcaL acLor in Amcrican
movics Lo havc consciously rcjccLcd audicncc rapporL” bccausc “Dc-
Niro docsn’L wanL us Lo idcnLiíy” (ii). InsLcad, so Dcnby claims,
DcNiro’s “brillianL pcríormanccs arc a way oí saying, ‘don’L Lry Lo
undcrsLand mc, bccausc you can’L. I’m noL Lhc samc as you—I may
bc bcLLcr or worsc, buL I’m noL you’” (ii). BoLh Mcnand and Dcnby
arLiculaLc Lhc shccr impossibiliLy oí “undcrsLanding” violcncc—an
impossibiliLy LhaL is rcndcrcd Langibly visiblc Lhrough DcNiro’s acL-
ing sLylc.
Indccd, wc nccd Lo hccd Dcnby’s asscrLion LhaL DcNiro
rcíuscs Lo bc undcrsLood prcciscly bccausc violcncc—LhaL which
DcNiro mosL consisLcnLly has Lo rcndcr cincmaLically—is morc
abouL soliciLing íascinaLion raLhcr Lhan undcrsLanding. DcNiro’s
acLing ouL oí violcncc is (always) markcd as parLicular bccomings
LhaL conLinually vary Lhc imagc oí violcncc as a rcsulL oí a scrializcd
working Lhrough oí Lhc prob|ematìque.
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :66
DcNiro’s acLing, in oLhcr words, marks Lhc noncommonscnsical-
iLy oí violcncc. ConscqucnLly, acLing, as cxcmplificd by DcNiro,
has rcally noLhing Lo do wiLh Lapping inLo onc’s psychc or onc’s
pasL, as Dougan suggcsLs whcn hc claims LhaL DcNiro’s “McLhod
Lraining would havc cncouragcd íhim] Lo bring his own pain Lo Lhc
parL” (¬i). NoL surprisingly, Dougan Lhcn asscrLs, “Any LhcrapisL
would confirm LhaL Lo undcrsLand Lhc pain and play iL so con-
vincingly DcNiro would havc had Lo havc cndurcd aL lcasL somc
parL oí iL” (¬=). Dougan’s psychobiographical analysis sharply
conLrasLs wiLh DcNiro’s own dcscripLion oí Lhc McLhod acLing
proccss, howcvcr: “Building a characLcr,” DcNiro argucs in his
dcscripLion oí whaL hc lcarncd írom SLclla Adlcr, “is noL abouL
ncuroscs or playing on your ncuroscs. IL’s abouL Lhc characLcr
í . . . ], Lhc Lasks oí Lhc characLcr, wiLhouL going abouL iL as ií iL’s all
abouL you” (InLcrvicw). FxpcrimcnLing wiLh Lhc problcm oí how Lo
rcndcr his many violcnL characLcrs, Lhcrcíorc, rcquircs Limc and cí-
íorL; hc had Lo work Lhrough Lhc problcmaLic ovcr and ovcr, buL Lhc
only way hc possibly could work Lhrough Lhcsc varying problcms
was by acLing ouL scrializcd rcsponscs. BuL whcrcas psychoanalysis
Lcnds Lo vicw working Lhrough as prcícrablc Lo and disLinguishcd
írom acLing ouL, DcNiro’s casc shows LhaL cvcry working- Lhrough
always alrcady consisLs oí an acLing ouL, and LhaL acLing ouL is con-
sLiLuLcd by Lhc nccd Lo work Lhrough a problcm.
ConscqucnLly, onc mighL bcsL dcscribc DcNiro’s mcLhod as a
casc in poinL íor Dclcuzc’s obscrvaLion LhaL posLwar cincma is
LhaL oí Lhc sccr, noL Lhc docr (Cìnema i xi). AcLing, as cxcmplificd
by DcNiro, is noL so much abouL purc acLion as iL is abouL sccing,
abouL waiLing, obscrving, cnLcring a spccific mood Lhrough cx-
pcrimcnLaLion and, pcrhaps, an inLuiLivc rccogniLion LhaL mimc-
sis as a Lool is ovcrly dcpcndcnL on acLion.
Ií wc havc lcarncd Lo
Lhink oí McLhod acLing as bcing obscsscd wiLh acLiviLy—rcscarch,
inLcrvicwing, acLing ouL oí inncr ícars or oLhcr cmoLions—Lhcn
I Lhink DcNiro producLivcly counLcrs Lhis problcmaLic characLcr-
izaLion in LhaL hc consisLcnLly shows in his own pracLicc LhaL acL-
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :6¬
ing ouL is, ií anyLhing, a proccss LhaL cannoL bc LhoughL and donc
wiLhouL a concurrcnL working Lhrough, and vicc vcrsa.
WhaL diffcrs, Lhcn, is noL Lhc moral qualiLy oí acLing ouL or work-
ing Lhrough buL Lhcir inLcnsiLics and Lhc way Lhc proccss oí boLh is
accomplishcd and whaL is cffccLuaLcd. How, cxacLly, is Lhc (violcnL)
characLcr rcndcrcd, and Lhrough whaL is Lhc violcncc madc visiblc`
Or, wiLh Dclcuzc and CuaLLari, “what cìrcumstances trìgger the ma-
chìne LhaL produccs Lhc íacc and íacializaLion” (Tousand P|ateaus
:¬o)` And iL is DcNiro’s carccr-long cngagcmcnL wiLh Lhis problcm-
aLic LhaL, I Lhink, confirms and simulLancously cxpands Narcmorc’s
asscssmcnL oí DcNiro bcing a “Lhoroughgoing naLuralisL íbuL] also
a sophisLicaLcd LhcorisL” (i6¬). For Lhc “also” in Narcmorc’s asscss-
mcnL suggcsLs a disLincLion bcLwccn pracLicc and Lhcory, bcLwccn
his pracLicing naLuralism and his abiliLy Lo Lhcorizc a givcn prob-
lcmaLic. Or, Lo rcLurn Lo IaCapra’s Lcrminology, Narcmorc’s “also”
inadvcrLcnLly confirms Lhc casy opposiLion bcLwccn acLing ouL
(pracLicc) and working Lhrough (Lhcory). As DcNiro’s mulLiplc cn-
counLcrs wiLh violcncc makc clcar, howcvcr, Lhc Lhcory ìs Lhc prac-
Licc, Lhc pracLicc Lhc Lhcory. As ií Laking placc in a lab scLLing, acLing
is a proccss oí working Lhrough spccific cxpcrimcnLal problcms. To
work Lhrough, Lo Lhink Lhrough (Lhcorizc abouL) Lhc problcm, how-
cvcr, Lhc acLor ulLimaLcly has Lo find ways oí acLing ouL Lhc problcm-
aLic. For only Lhc doing will ulLimaLcly show whcLhcr Lhc problcm
has bccn “solvcd,” whcLhcr iL has bccn Lransíormcd inLo somcLhing
clsc, pcrhaps a ncw prob|ematìque LhaL cníorccs Lhc qucsLions “Ií
violcncc has bccn Lhis, Lhcn whaL clsc can iL bc`” or “How clsc can iL
bc rcndcrcd`” or “WhaL clsc can iL do`”
So, and Lhis brings us back Lo Ana|yze Tìs, IaCapra’s diagno-
sis oí acLing ouL as mimcLic and opposcd Lo working Lhrough is
always Loo íasL, sincc iL docs noL pay aLLcnLion Lo how, spccifi-
cally, acLing works and whaL iL docs. As I havc bccn suggcsLing
LhroughouL Lhis chapLcr, Lhc íacc plays a crucial rolc in Lhc pro-
ccss oí acLing prcciscly bccausc iL has Lhc capaciLy Lo LcrriLorializc
our íascinaLion wiLh whaL wc scc, cvcn ií iL is aL Limcs noL Lhc íacc
iLsclí LhaL iniLially makcs a violcnL imagc visiblc, as is Lhc casc in
Mean Streets, Te Codjather !!, Taxì Lrìver, or Ragìng Pu||.
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :68
Ana|yze Tìs undoubLcdly dramaLizcs Lhis poinL in iLs bcsL-known
momcnL: ViLLy and Sobcl’s firsL mccLing. ViLLy, having jusL cn-
Lcrcd Sobcl’s offi cc, wanLs Lo cnsurc LhaL his visiL rcmains a sc-
crcL, lcsL his undcrworld íricnds and íocs gcL wind oí iL and Lhink
him wcak. Hc playíully ycL dcLcrmincdly makcs Sobcl undcrsLand
LhaL Lhc psychoanalysL docs noL know who hc is (“You know mc`”
“Ycs I do.” “No you don’L.” “ox” “Sccn my picLurc in Lhc papcr`”
“Ycs I havc.” “No you didn’L.” “I didn’L cvcn gcL Lhc papcr.”). Hc
Lhcn prcLcnds LhaL hc visiLs Sobcl on bchalí oí a íricnd who has
problcms and “hc’s gonna havc Lo probably scc a shrink.”
BuL ViLLy is a poor liar, and aíLcr a ícw scnLcnccs, Sobcl rc-
sponds Lo ViLLy’s sLory by dcclaring: “I’m going ouL on a limb hcrc. I
Lhink your íricnd is you.” AL Lhis momcnL, Lhc camcra cuLs back Lo
a mcdium closc-up oí DcNiro’s íacc in which wc dcLccL Lhc slighL-
csL opcning oí his cycs, immcdiaLcly casLing a darkcr, LhrcaLcning
shadow ovcr his íacc. A rcvcrsc shoL oí CrysLal’s íacc confirms LhaL
Sobcl Loo has rcgisLcrcd Lhc subLlc, ycL imporLanL, shiíL oí mood,
íor his íacc now cxprcsscs lcss confidcncc and morc ícar (íor his liíc)
Lhan a ícw scconds bcíorc. Has hc possibly cxcccdcd his boundar-
ics` Tc camcra cuLs back Lo DcNiro’s íacc, as hc bcgins Lo pcríorm
a momcnL oí acLing LhaL by now has bccomc jusLly íamous. His íacc
gradually assumcs a happy, rclaxcd cxprcssion, wiLh DcNiro’s cycs
narrowing Lo Lwo small sliLs íramcd by joyíul horizonLal íurrows
oí laughLcr, as his only slighLly opcncd, narrow-lippcd mouLh in-
Loncs: “You, yooou, íwagging his indcx fingcr aL Sobcl], yooooou
goL a giíL my íricnd. You goL a giíL.” As Sobcl is rclucLanL Lo acccpL
ViLLy’s praisc, Lhcir dialoguc conLinucs:
Vitty: Oh ycah!
Sobel: No I don’L.
Vitty: Ycs you do. íin a Lcasing, sing-song voicc]
Sobel: No I rcally don’L.
WiLh Lhc camcra on DcNiro’s íacc, wc now scc iL changc iLs cx-
prcssion oncc morc, now back Lo iLs original sLaLc oí lingcring
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :6n
violcncc, wiLh DcNiro’s cycs widc opcn again, Lhc wrinklcs oí
joy gonc and Lhc dccp íurrows on his íorchcad back in all Lhcir
glory. “Ycs you do!” ViLLy cxLols, Lhc insisLcncc in DcNiro’s voicc
simply adding Lo whaL his íacc has alrcady csLablishcd, namcly,
LhaL hc has madc Sobcl an offcr oí praisc LhaL musL noL bc rc-
On onc lcvcl, Lhis sccnc conLrasLs ViLLy’s dcsirc íor a quick so-
luLion wiLh Sobcl’s rcíusal Lo acccpL rcsponsibiliLy íor anyLhing
LhaL docs noL coníorm Lo his insLiLuLionalizcd bclicí in Lhc íorcc
oí mourning. (And Lo somc dcgrcc hc is provcn corrccL, in Lhc
scnsc LhaL ViLLy’s anxicLy, which, according Lo Lhc mobsLcr, had
jusL disappcarcd, rcLurns shorLly LhcrcaíLcr.) BuL on anoLhcr
lcvcl, Lhis sccnc, Lhrough Lhc powcr oí acLing as singularizcd by
DcNiro’s íacc, is about Lhc consLiLuLivc íorcc oí acLing (ouL) iLsclí.
WhaL clsc is Lhis sccnc buL a showcasing oí DcNiro’s acLing pow-
crs` And whaL clsc is shown buL Lhc rcpcLiLivc compulsion LhaL
govcrns acLing` Indccd, whaL clsc is illusLraLcd buL an (violcnL)
inLcnsificaLion causcd by Lhc proccss oí rcpcLiLion, oí rcpcaLing
Lhc acLing ouL (cnacLing) oí Lhc samc linc LhaL, Lhrough iLs rcpcLi-
Livcncss, inLroduccs diffcrcncc, a diffcrcncc LhaL in iLs consLiLu-
Livc íorcc affccLs any aLLcmpL aL working Lhrough`
As Lhc rcsL oí Lhc movic comically dramaLizcs, working
Lhrough, íar írom bcing morally supcrior Lo, or indccd disLincL
írom, acLing ouL dcpcnds on a proccss oí rcpcaLcd acLing ouL, on
a compulsivcly scrializcd rcLurn Lo a pracLicc LhaL is noL abouL
mcmory buL, in íacL, abouL whaL NicLzschc has conccpLualizcd
as acLivc íorgcLLing. 1ohn Rajchman, glossing Dclcuzc, cxplains
iL Lhusly: “Tcrc is a ‘unmourning’ LhaL rcquircs morc work, buL
promiscs morc joy. íMclancholy] mighL Lhcn bc said Lo bc Lhc
scnsaLion oí an unhappy idcalizaLion, and Lhc rcal anLidoLc Lo iL
is Lo bc íound noL in rcmcmorizaLion and idcnLificaLion íwork-
ing Lhrough, or mourning], buL in acLivc íorgcLLing and affi r-
maLivc cxpcrimcnLaLion wiLh whaL is ycL Lo comc” (:ji–jj).
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :¬o
For ViLLy Lo bc ablc Lo íuncLion in a manncr appropriaLc Lo Lhc
logic oí his world and currcnL siLuaLion (rcgardlcss oí whcLhcr
iL agrccs wiLh our undcrsLanding oí social codcs and norms),
hc musL íorgcL Lhc guilL hc íccls abouL Lhc rolc hc playcd as a
young kid in his íaLhcr’s dcaLh. Similarly, DcNiro as an acLor
musL acLivcly “íorgcL” somc oí his pasL “Lricks” LhaL hc has uscd
Lo bccomc-violcnL in ordcr Lo rcinvcnL—or Lo invcnL again ncw,
diffcring—imagcs oí violcncc. DcNiro musL, in a scnsc, íorgcL
LhaL many oí his prcvious insLanccs oí bccoming-violcnL rcgis-
Lcrcd as a bodily violcncc: 1ohnny Boy’s cxubcranL ycL LhrcaL-
cning movcmcnL acccnLuaLcd by a haL, Travis Bicklc’s physical
disciplining oí himsclí acccnLuaLcd by his bccoming-crab, or
1akc IaMoLLa’s bccoming-obcsc, DcNiro’s mosL íamous physi-
cal bccoming.
Tc affccLivc impassc ViLLy cxpcricnccs rcsulLs írom an in-
LcrrupLion oí his body’s capaciLy Lo acL. Tc qucsLion raiscd by
Lhc problcm is whaL his body has Lo bc capablc oí doing, and Lhc
poLcnLially mulLiplc soluLions arc providcd by Lhc prob|ematìque
iLsclí raLhcr Lhan by somc prcscribcd, normaLivizcd answcr. Tis
docs noL mcan LhaL violcncc is “good” or LhaL working Lhrough is
“bad.” BuL Ana|yze Tìs dramaLizcs LhaL Lhc violcncc immancnL Lo
Lhc compulsion Lo rcpcaL—Lo acL ouL—is noL mcrcly a pcrhaps
ncccssary, Lhough rcally dcplorablc, sLcp Lo a hcalLhicr rcsponsc
mcchanism Lo violcnL Lrauma callcd mourning. InsLcad, Lhc
film—cspccially Lhc aíorcmcnLioncd sccnc LhaL mosL cffccLivcly
dcploys Lhc violcnL powcr oí DcNiro’s íacc—insisLs LhaL Lhis vio-
lcncc is constìtutìve oí Lhc proccss oí working Lhrough. In oLhcr
words, Ana|yze Tìs’s íacializaLion oí violcncc Lhrough DcNiro’s
pcríormancc dcconsLrucLs Lhc insLiLuLionalizcd moral disLinc-
Lion bcLwccn acLing ouL and working Lhrough and Lhus sccms
Lo suggcsL violcncc’s immancncc Lo liíc, Lo acLion. Trough iLs
rcpcLiLions on boLh Lhc lcvcl oí narraLivc sLrucLurc and DcNiro’s
cnacLmcnLs oí a wisc guy, iL affi rms LhaL working Lhrough is a
proccss oí violcnL acLing ouL, or oí affi rming a rcpcLiLion oí LhaL
which rcLurns as diffcrcncc.
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :¬:
A New Pop Iconography of Violence
Tc “íacial” sccnc in Ana|yze Tìs suggcsLs LhaL DcNiro has ac-
quircd Lhc capaciLy Lo cxprcss his characLcr’s mcnacc Lhrough
a Lypc oí acLing LhaL in iLs cxLrcmc minimalism and calmncss
mighL bc considcrcd Lhc culminaLion oí a long proccss oí work-
ing Lhrough Lhc McLhod modc oí acLing ouL. Whilc vicwcrs
may noL bc privy Lo a morc íorcgroundcd acLing proccss (acLing
ouL), Lhcy arc madc Lo wiLncss Lhc purc immancncc oí whaL all
Loo oíLcn is conccivcd oí as pragmaLically and morally disLincL
proccsscs: working Lhrough and acLing ouL. And our capaciLy Lo
wiLncss Lhis clcarly rcsulLs írom DcNiro’s carccr-long, rcpcLiLivc
giving ovcr oí himsclí Lo Lhc problcm oí how Lo rcndcr violcncc
Lhrough acLing. WiLhouL any masLcr plan bchind iL, wiLhouL any
prcconccivcd soluLion, or cvcn wiLhouL any purc rccogniLion oí
whaL hc was doing, DcNiro pcríormaLivcly “solvcd” his prob-
lcm by rcpcaLcdly coníronLing iL, Lrying Lo find diffcrcnL ways oí
cncounLcring Lhc qucsLion oí violcncc as posiLcd by his charac-
Lcrs. In oLhcr words, DcNiro’s pcríormancc has liLLlc Lo do wiLh
“consciousncss,” which is noL Lo dcny LhaL hc is an inLclligcnL,
Lhinking acLor.
RcpcaLcdly working Lhrough Lhc problcm, howcvcr, mcanL
íor DcNiro LhaL hc írcqucnLly had Lo acL violcnLly, LhaL hc had
Lo acL ouL. Tis acLivc rcpcLiLion wiLh a diffcrcncc oí DcNiro’s
aLLcmpL Lo find ways Lo rcndcr violcncc—Lo show on scrccn
how violcncc works and whaL iL docs—maniícsLs Lhis conLinual
variaLion, a variaLion LhaL cnds up bcing varicd iLsclí as a rc-
sulL oí an cnacLcd cxpcrimcnLaLion. IL has bccomc visiblc in his
carly McLhod acLing days in which his body providcd his ccnLral
íramc oí rcícrcncc (Mean Streets, Taxì Lrìver, Ragìng Pu||), Lo his
laLcr, pcrhaps morc mainsLrcam days oí camco rolcs (Te 0n-
touchab|es, c.g.), Lo his morc rcccnL rolcs in which Lhc íocus íor
DcNiro’s violcncc has almosL complcLcly shiíLcd írom his body
Lo his íacc.
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :¬i
Considcr, íor cxamplc, DcNiro’s pcríormancc oí 1immy Conway
in CoodFe||as, his sixLh collaboraLion wiLh Scorscsc. As opposcd
Lo his carlicr rolcs in his íricnd’s films, Lhis onc is “mcrcly” an
imporLanL supporLing rolc. YcL, iL is prcciscly Lhc supporL hc
lcnds—cspccially in juxLaposiLion Lo 1oc Pcsci’s volaLilc charac-
Lcr, Tommy—LhaL oncc again somcLhing inLcrcsLing cmcrgcs rc-
garding Lhc imaging oí violcncc. For Lhc firsL Limc in his carccr,
onc would bc jusLificd Lo characLcrizc DcNiro’s íacc as handsomc.
UndoubLcdly duc Lo Lhc skills oí makc-up arLisLs working íor Lhc
film, Lhis “maLurc” handsomcncss noncLhclcss appcars as ií iL
had ariscn ouL oí Lhc accumulaLcd acLing cxpcricncc oí Lhc lasL
LwcnLy ycars. His íacial bcauLy is onc oí cxLrcmc calmncss and
scrcniLy, as opposcd Lo Lhc shiíLincss cxprcsscd on 1ohnny Boy’s
or Travis’s íacc, íor insLancc. From Lhc film’s firsL sccnc (wc soon
discovcr LhaL iL is a flashback), oí coursc, CoodFe||as docs noL
lcavc any doubL abouL Conway’s violcncc. TogcLhcr wiLh Tommy,
Conway is shown Lo kill a body LhaL Lhcy bclicvcd Lo havc killcd
alrcady hours carlicr (a sccnc LhaL Lhc film shows an hour inLo Lhc
film). Whcrcas Tommy sLabs Lhc corpsc íour or fivc Limcs wiLh
his moLhcr’s imprcssivc kiLchcn kniíc, Conway fircs a ícw bullcLs
in iL íor good mcasurc. Iikcwisc, Lhc film ícaLurcs a numbcr oí
oLhcr scqucnccs in which Conway is dcpicLcd as violcnL: killing,
wc lcarn, is “jusL busincss” íor him.
YcL, DcNiro’s pcríormancc is parLicularly cffccLivc in iLs abil-
iLy Lo prcscnL us wiLh ycL anoLhcr bccoming-violcnL bccausc his
characLcr’s calmncss diffcrcnLiaLcs him so wcll írom Tommy’s
morc obvious nihilisLic madncss. Tis Limc iL is Pcsci who, in a
carccr-making pcríormancc, gcLs Lo “acL ouL” violcncc in iLs mosL
volaLilc íorm. Had DcNiro Lricd Lo maLch Pcsci’s íranLic acLing
ouL, Lhc film would havc bccn lcss compclling in iLs affccLiviLy. Oí
coursc, DcNiro was mosL ccrLainly dirccLcd, noL only by Scorscsc,
buL also by Nicholas Pilcggi’s scripL; buL íor all inLcnLs and pur-
poscs, iL is his pcríormancc oí 1immy LhaL marks Lhc firsL Limc oí
DcNiro’s bccoming-íacc as wc know iL Loday. For aíLcr Lhis pcríor-
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :¬j
mancc, his violcnL rolcs havc by and largc ccascd Lo work Lhrough
his body (wiLh Lhc major cxccpLion oí Cape Fear). In Casìno, Ronìn
(dir. 1ohn Frankcnhcimcr, :nn8) or, mosL rcccnLly, Te Score (dir.
Frank Oz, ioo:), as wcll as in Lhc comcdics, DcNiro’s characLcrs
cxudc varying dcgrccs oí (aging) íacial handsomcncss LhaL havc
caughL our cycs and Lhus havc LcrriLorializcd all oí his prcvious
bccoming-violcnLs onLo his íacc: bccoming-aLLracLivc, bccoming-
In a scnsc, wc can dcscribc DcNiro’s acLing carccr as a bccom-
ing-íacial and his proccss oí acLing as a conLinual bccoming. Tc
cmcrging íacc oí DcNiro as showcascd in Lhc Lwo comcdics Meet
the Parents and Ana|yze Tìs is consLiLuLcd by Lhis proccss oí rcp-
cLiLion, oí producing varicLy wiLhin Lhis scrializaLion, oí inLcnsi-
íying Lhc proccss oí acLing in ordcr Lo cnsurc LhaL variaLion iLsclí
conLinually varics. DcNiro’s íacialiLy has Lhus cmcrgcd bccausc
oí his consisLcnL (ií uninLcnLional) acLing ouL whì|e working
Lhrough, or working Lhrough whì|e acLing ouL. IL has cmcrgcd ouL
oí a McLhod LhaL pracLically Lhcorizcs acLing as nonmimcLic, as
having as liLLlc Lo do wiLh imiLaLion or rcprcscnLaLion as iL has
Lo do wiLh judgmcnL—which arc conccpLs and pracLiccs LhaL, as I
havc argucd in chapLcr j, always prcsupposc cach oLhcr and Lhus
cannoL bc LhoughL or pracLiccd scparaLcly.
Hcncc, wc arc lcd Lo concludc LhaL DcNiro’s sLylc oí bccom-
ing-violcnL, in all iLs diffcrcnL shapcs and íorms LhroughouL his
carccr, has noLhing aL all Lo do wiLh a mimcLic proccss Lriggcring
an acLing ouL Lhcrcoí, as is so oíLcn allcgcd by criLics oí onscrccn
violcncc. InsLcad, violcncc is an affccL produccd Lhrough cngag-
ing a proccss, a pracLicc oí sccing, oí bccoming-affccLcd, oí inLcn-
siíying moods Lo Lhc poinL oí brcaking. To gcL Lhcrc, DcNiro had
Lo figurc ouL—noL oncc or Lwicc, buL cvcry Limc ancw—how Lo
cnLcr Lhis acLing spacc. (“Failurc,” as DcNiro himsclí asscrLs, is
parL oí LhaL proccss.) Only by working ouL Lhis problcm could hc
arrivc aL spccific soluLions; and only by acLing Lhrough iL could
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :¬i
hc “cnsurc” LhaL his variaLions on Lhc samc Lhcmc (occasionally)
varicd Lhcmsclvcs.
All oí Lhis is Lo say LhaL Lhc conLinual variaLion LhaL DcNiro in-
íuscs inLo Lhc imagc oí violcncc rcsulLs írom a proccss oí subtrac-
tìon raLhcr Lhan addiLion. In a scnsc, acLing ouL is always abouL a
ccrLain way oí cxcccding, oí adding Lo a givcn. Ií my map oí Dc-
Niro’s diffcrcnL íorms oí bccoming-violcnL is pcrsuasivc, howcvcr,
iL sccms LhaL wc can claim LhaL, aL lcasL as a significanL Lcndcncy,
his carly cmphasis on addiLion, on a physical acLing ouL—all Lhc
whilc shoL Lhrough, consLiLuLivcly, by a working Lhrough—givcs
way Lo a sLrcss on working Lhrough, on a ccrLain calmncss (and
aLLracLivcncss, onc mighL add) LhaL cmcrgcs Lhrough Lhc powcr
oí an aging, wcll-Lraincd, immcnscly conLrollablc, and Lhus cí-
íccLivcly affccLivc íacc. As a íormula, Lhcn, DcNiro’s conLinually
varying íorms oí his bccoming-violcnL can bc said Lo havc bccn
cffccLuaLcd by subLracLing Lhc onc clcmcnL LhaL wc mosL oíLcn
associaLc (and ícar) wiLh Lhc conccpL oí violcncc: blood. DcNiro’s
algoriLhm íor bccoming-violcnL can Lhus bc namcd as “violcncc
lcss blood”—a íormula LhaL indcxcs film criLicism’s nccd Lo bc-
comc íascinaLcd by imagings oí violcncc in placcs or occasions
other Lhan Lhosc markcd by scvcrcd hcads, blood-drcnchcd bod-
ics, or buildings blown Lo smiLhcrccns.
Oí coursc, Lhis shiíL in DcNiro’s McLhod-ical pcríormancc sLylc
is noL complcLc by any mcans. For insLancc, in Cape Fear, DcNiro
oncc again rcLurns Lo imaging violcncc Lhrough an cmphasis on
his body. Famously, DcNiro flaunLs innumcrablc prison LaLLoos
on his muscular body. 1usL as wc rcmcmbcr his obcsc body in
Ragìng Pu||, or his cyborglikc appcarancc in Taxì Lrìver, so iL is
his bccoming-LaLLoo LhaL has lingcrcd wiLh us as Lhc main imagc
oí violcncc írom Scorscsc and DcNiro’s mosL commcrcially suc-
ccssíul collaboraLion.
Iikcwisc, as my firsL prologuc mcanL Lo
suggcsL, DcNiro’s íacc has alrcady bccn cnormously cffccLivc in
rcndcring a ncw imagc oí violcncc in Taxì Lrìver. Tc poinL hcrc
is LhaL bccoming-violcnL docs noL havc Lo bc limiLcd Lo onc in-
sLanLiaLion pcr pcríormancc. RaLhcr, mulLiplc íorms oí bccom-
ing-violcnL occur, buL as a maLLcr oí cmphasis iL sccms clcar LhaL
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :¬=
DcNiro has imagcd violcncc prcdominanLly Lhrough his body in
Lhc firsL Lwo dccadcs oí his carccr, whcrcas hc has rcndcrcd iL vis-
iblc prcdominanLly on his íacc in Lhc lasL Lcn or fiíLccn ycars. YcL,
LhaL DcNiro has bccomc Lhc íacc oí violcncc in posL–World War
II Amcrican popular culLurc significanLly rcsulLs írom Lhc proccss
oí íacializaLion LhaL ovcrcodcs his physical bccoming-violcnLs. As
Dclcuzc and CuaLLari wriLc, “Lhc íacc is produccd only whcn Lhc
hcad ccascs Lo bc a parL oí Lhc body, whcn iL ccascs Lo bc codcd by
Lhc body í . . . ]—whcn Lhc body, hcad includcd, has bccn dccodcd
and overcoded by somcLhing wc shall call Lhc Facc” (Tousand P|a-
teaus :¬o).
InLcrcsLingly cnough, popular culLurc was quick Lo rcgisLcr Lhis
shiíL in DcNiro’s imaging oí violcncc—onc LhaL insLanLiaLcs Lhc
proccss and cffccLs oí íacialiLy prcciscly bccausc his íacc cmcrgcs
ouL oí whaL happcns Lo, and is bcing donc wiLh, Lhc acLor’s body
aL largc. For a long Limc, Lhc íamous mirror sccnc írom Taxì
Lrìver—“arguably Lhc mosL quoLcd sccnc in movic hisLory” (Tau-
bin =6)—has govcrncd pop culLurc’s imagc oí DcNiro, and Lhus
oí violcncc, jusL as much as his bccoming-obcsc in Ragìng Pu||.
CounLlcss films havc ovcrLly acknowlcdgcd Lhc powcr inhcring
Lhc mirror sccnc, and acLors in Lhc posL–Ragìng Pu|| ycars havc
bccn unablc Lo cscapc Lhc cnormous obscssivc powcr displaycd by
DcNiro’s 1akc IaMoLLa pcríormancc.
YcL, comcdy skiLs cvincc
LhaL DcNiro’s mosL rcccnL bccoming-violcnL—his bccoming-íacc
oí Amcrican (film) violcncc—has Lakcn hold oí popular culLurc. IL
is hardly a coincidcncc LhaL Lhc “íacc” sccnc írom Ana|yze Tìs has
almosL insLanLly bccomc a íavoriLc momcnL in many conLcmpo-
rary comcdians’ rcpcrLoirc whcn Lhcy impcrsonaLc DcNiro. For
insLancc, 1immy Fallon oí Saturday Nìght Lìve puL Lhis DcNirocan
acLing momcnL Lo good comcdic purposc during Lhc “Wcckcnd
UpdaLc” scgmcnL oí Lhc longsLanding Nsc show. In his playíully
ncgaLivc rcvicw oí Meet the Parents, hc parodicd jusL abouL all
oí Lhc íacial (and vocal) Lics LhaL arc now casily rccognizablc as
Lradcmark DcNiro (OcLobcr :i, iooo). In íacL, DcNiro “sponLa-
ncously” rcspondcd by parLicipaLing in Fallon’s shLick onc show
laLcr (OcLobcr i:, iooo): whilc Fallon imiLaLcd DcNiro’s íacc, Dc-
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :¬6
Niro mockcd Fallon’s own manncrisms and slowly “LhrcaLcncd”
him inLo rccanLing his rcvicw.
So, in and ouL oí conLcxL, Lhis sccnc arLiculaLcs purc, raw vio-
lcncc Lhrough iLs cnacLing. WiLhouL cvcr saying so much, cvcry-
onc—Sobcl, Lhc vicwcrs oí Ana|yze Tìs, and 1immy Fallon’s au-
dicncc, whether or not Lhcy havc sccn Lhis parLicular movic—is
affccLcd by (and scnscs) Lhc violcnLly LhrcaLcning scnsaLion in-
hcring in and rcndcrcd by Lhis momcnL oí acLing. And whilc Lhc
vocal inLonaLion oí Lhc sccnc is cffccLivc and conLribuLcs much
Lo iLs succcss, I suggcsL LhaL iL is noL rcally nccdcd, as opposcd
Lo, say, Marlon Brando’s husky voicc in Te Codjather whcn hc,
as Don Corlconc, dcclarcs LhaL his offcr cannoL bc rcíuscd. Tc
closc-up oí DcNiro’s íacial acLing quiLc liLcrally docs all Lhc work
ncccssary Lo imbricaLc Lhis momcnL wiLh all Lhc violcncc oí scnsa-
Lion LhaL can bc musLcrcd wiLhouL acLually having Lo show—acL
ouL—(scnsaLional) vcrsions Lhcrcoí.
Becoming-Violent, Becoming-Minor
Michacl Mann’s Heat prcscnLs us quiLc possibly wiLh DcNiro’s
bcsL violcnL pcríormancc ouLsidc oí a MarLin Scorscsc film sincc
his cclcbraLcd rolc oí Lhc young Don Corlconc. AL Lhc Limc oí
Lhc film’s rclcasc, much clamor was provokcd by Lhc íacL LhaL iL
ícaLurcd íor Lhc firsL Limc Lhc Lwo prccmincnL McLhod acLors oí
Lhcir gcncraLion in Lhc samc sccnc: DcNiro and Al Pacino.
onc could say much abouL Lhcir diffcrcnL acLing sLylcs, I simply
wanL Lo highlighL LhaL Mann’s scripL providcs us wiLh onc final
imagc oí how DcNiro’s íacializaLion oí violcncc has cmcrgcd as a
consLiLuLivc íuncLion oí conLcmporary scrccn violcncc.
In Lhc cclcbraLcd íacc-Lo-íacc siL-down sccnc bcLwccn Lhc Lwo
lcgcndary acLors, Pacino’s characLcr, VinccnL Hanna, a righLcous
and accomplishcd ycL dissaLisficd IA dcLccLivc, cxprcsscs a ccrLain
admiraLion íor his criminal opponcnL, DcNiro’s Ncil McCaulcy, as
Lhcy arc siLLing across írom cach oLhcr aL a Lablc in a crowdcd coí-
ícc shop: “You know wc arc siLLing hcrc íacc Lo íacc likc a couplc oí
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :¬¬
rcgular ícllows and ií I havc Lo go ouL Lhcrc and puL you down, I’ll
Lcll you I won’L likc iL. BuL ií iL’s bcLwccn you and somc poor bas-
Lard whosc wiíc you’rc gonna Lurn inLo a widow, broLhcr, you arc
going down.” Pacino’s characLcr assumcs a ccrLain íraLcrniLy wiLh
DcNiro’s prcciscly bccausc oí Lhcir íacc-Lo-íacc cncounLcr. Whilc
Hanna acknowlcdgcs LhaL hc will noL hcsiLaLc Lo kill McCaulcy, hc
clcarly Lhinks LhaL Lhc valuc oí Lhcir íacc-Lo-íacc csLablishcs a rcla-
Lionship wiLh cach oLhcr—LhaL Lhcy sharc somcLhing—outsìde oí
Lhcir “proícssional” rclaLionship, which is sLrucLurcd by violcncc.
McCaulcy, howcvcr, will havc nonc oí LhaL. RaLhcr Lhan concciv-
ing oí Lhc íacc-Lo-íacc as (pcrhaps morc cLhical, mosL ccrLainly lcss
violcnL) ouLsidc oí Lhcir cop-criminal rclaLionship, hc insisLs LhaL
Lhc íacc-Lo-íacc docs noL changc anyLhing: “Tcrc is a flip sidc Lo
LhaL coin. WhaL ií you do gcL mc boxcd in and I will havc Lo puL you
down` Causc no maLLcr whaL, you will noL gcL in my way. Wc’vc
bccn jace-to-jace, ycah. BuL I will noL hcsiLaLc, noL íor a sccond” (cm-
phasis minc). Ycs, Lhcy havc bccn íacc-Lo-íacc, buL so whaL whcn
Lhc íacc iLsclí has bccomc Lhc mosL powcríul imagc oí violcncc`
(IL is almosL as ií Lhc film wanLcd Lo rcíuLc a libcral-mindcd
rcading oí Icvinas’s conccpL oí Lhc “íacc-Lo-íacc” LhaL uscs iL Lo
csLablish a vcrsion oí cLhics dominaLcd by rccogniLion and inLcr-
subjccLiviLy, or Lhc nccd Lo recognìze and Lhus rcspccL Lhc oLhcr-
ncss oí oLhcrs. Tis rcading sLrikcs mc as qucsLionablc, howcvcr,
íor Lwo rcasons: onc, Icvinas’s “íacc-Lo-íacc” is noL abouL an
cncounLcr wiLh anoLhcr human buL wiLh Cod; and, Lwo, Icvinas
is quiLc cxpliciLly arguing againsL “rccogniLion” as Lhc basis íor
cLhics. For Icvinas, cLhics, pcríormaLivcly provokcd in Lhc íacc-
Lo-íacc cncounLcr, is a onc-way sLrccL in which Lhc subjccL is sub-
ìected by Lhc oLhcr: “SubjccLiviLy is bcing hosLagc” íOtherwìse Tan
Peìng :i¬]. NoL only docs Lhc oLhcr noL carc whcLhcr I rccognizc
iL buL in íacL I am always and alrcady in dcbL íLhaL I can ncvcr pay
off] Lo Lhc oLhcr. Tc subjccL is always alrcady subjccLcd Lo and by
Lhc oLhcr, and iL is Lhis bruLc íacL oí Lhc subjccL’s passìvìty in hcr
rclaLion Lo Lhc oLhcr Lo which Icvinas ascribcs cLhical íorcc. FLh-
ics, so Icvinas argucs, is “a calling inLo qucsLion oí my sponLanc-
iLy” by Lhc prcscncc oí Lhc oLhcr íTota|ìty and !nfinìty ij]. Hcncc,
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :¬8
íor Icvinas cLhics can ncvcr bc abouL sccing Lhrough anoLhcr’s
cycs, íor Lhis pcrspccLival undcrsLanding oí rcsponsibiliLy is akin
Lo a kind oí subjccLivc impcrialism in which sccing Lhrough Lhc
oLhcr’s cycs cnds up in conLrolling Lhc oLhcr’s vision. In shorL, Lhc
inLcrsubjccLivc inLcrprcLaLion oí Icvinas’s íacc-Lo-íacc amounLs
Lo a parLicularly insidious insLanLiaLion oí violcncc, noL a mcLhod
íor cscaping violcncc.)
In Lhis scnsc, Lhcn, Heat dramaLizcs a raLhcr dangcrous habiL
oí film criLicism oí violcncc: namcly, Lhc film shows LhaL criLics
look íor violcncc and iLs poLcnLially dangcrous cffccLs in all Lhc
wrong placcs prcciscly bccausc Lhcy prcLcnd Lo know whaL vio-
lcncc “is,” jusL as Hanna Lhinks hc knows whaL a good old íraLcr-
nal íacc-Lo-íacc Lalk is. IL is up Lo McCaulcy—whosc violcncc is
madc maniícsL through DcNiro’s íacialiLy—Lo suggcsL oLhcrwisc;
iL is lcíL Lo Lhc onc who has bccomc Lhc íacc oí violcncc in Amcri-
can culLurc Lo spcak criLically oí Lhcsc assumpLions.
And in Lhc cnd, suggcsLing oLhcrwisc sccms Lo mc Lhc kcy Lo
DcNiro’s accomplishmcnL wiLh rcgard Lo his abiliLy Lo bccomc
Lhc íacc oí violcncc in Amcrican posL–World War II culLurc. For
Lhis “oLhcrwisc” is cffccLcd noL by aLLcmpLing Lo sLcp ouLsidc as
a mcans Lo opposc a givcn scL oí circumsLanccs; nor is iL broughL
abouL Lhrough a proccss oí imiLaLion. InsLcad, DcNiro’s McLhod-
ical acLing clcarly opcraLcs by rcpcaLcdly going through LhaL which
is bcsL known: McLhod acLing. InhabiLing Lhc McLhod allows an
affccLaLion írom insidc, vcry much akin Lo whaL Dclcuzc dcscribcs
as a “minor LrcaLmcnL” oí “HisLory,” oí “docLrinc,” oí “dogma”
(“Onc Icss ManiícsLo” iij). Ií Lhc McLhod has normalizcd a par-
Licular sLylc oí acLing wiLh Lhc rcsulL LhaL acLing is now hard Lo
bc conccpLualizcd wiLhouL having rccoursc Lo rcprcscnLaLional
conccpLs, Lhcn Lhc immancnL rcworking—iLs minorizing—oí iL
sccms Lo bcar Lhc poLcnLial oí noL only rcvcaling Lhc “crror” in-
hcrcnL in LhaL cquaLion buL oí acLually affccLing Lhc major modc
Lo Lhc dcgrcc LhaL anoLhcr modc oí LhoughL bccomcs availablc.
Wc mighL cvcn likcn Lhis minorizing oí McLhod acLing Lo Francis
Bacon’s painLcrly pracLicc oí immancnLly rcworking figuraLion in
ordcr Lo producc Lhc Figurc: nciLhcr Bacon nor DcNiro ouLrighL
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :¬n
rcjccL rcprcscnLaLion (i.c., figuraLion, narraLivc); raLhcr, Lhcy in-
Lcnsiíy iLs logic, making iL conLinuously vary írom iLsclí in ordcr
Lo imagc and makc affccLivcly availablc Lhc scnsaLion oí violcncc
as wcll as Lhc violcncc oí scnsaLion.
Wc can Lhus bcgin Lo Lhink oí acLing—clcarly an cnormously
crucial conccpL opcraLivc in Lhc discoursc surrounding scrccn
violcncc, as wcll as liLcrary violcncc as indicaLcd in chapLcrs i
and i—as a íundamcnLally asigniíying and amoral opcraLion. As
such, iL inhcrcs in boLh proccsscs oí working Lhrough and acL-
ing ouL, Lhus rcndcring Lhcsc Lwo pracLiccs as immancnL and,
conscqucnLly, morally ncuLral. YcL, dcspiLc Lhis moral ncuLraliLy,
working Lhrough and acLing ouL arc cxprcssivc oí diffcrcnL valucs
(in Lhc NicLzschcan scnsc): Lhcy arc ethìca||y diffcrcnL prcciscly
bccausc oí Lhcir diffcrcnL vccLors oí íorcc on Lhc samc sliding
scalc oí inLcnsiLics. ALLcnding Lo Lhc proccss oí whaL Dclcuzc and
CuaLLari call “íacialiLy,” Lhcn, allows us Lo diagram how a mulLi-
pliciLy oí íorccs consLiLuLivc oí Lhc acLing proccss LcrriLorializc in
spccific rcgisLcrs, Lhcrcíorc giving risc Lo diffcrcnL and diffcring
imagcs oí violcncc. Crucially, Lhc proccss oí (affccLivc) bccoming
I havc mappcd ouL in Lhis chapLcr works by and Lhrough rcpcLi-
Lion. DcNiro’s íacc íuncLions Lhus mcrcly as a visual markcr oí a
much morc complcx proccss, onc, howcvcr, LhaL has vcry liLLlc
ií anyLhing aL all Lo do wiLh mimcsis. CriLical rcsponscs Lo Lhc
qualiLy oí íacialiLy oí DcNiro’s íacc cannoL havc rccoursc Lo moral
judgmcnLs: íor how docs onc judgc a íacc` A íacc is whaL iL is,
which mcans iL is noLhing buL conLinual variaLion.
So, whcrcas
IaCapra’s mimcLic vcrsion oí acLing allows us mcrcly Lo rcpro-
ducc moralizing clichcs abouL scrccn violcncc, mapping ouL Lhc
spccific cffccLs and affccLs oí DcNiro’s bccoming-íacc oí Amcrican
violcncc cnablcs us Lo say somcLhing abouL whaL violcncc docs in
Amcrican cincma, or aL Lhc vcry lcasL in DcNiro’s films.
NoL coincidcnLally, Lhcrcíorc, Lhis chapLcr has íocuscd mosLly
on DcNiro’s Scorscsc films as wcll as Lhrcc films íollowing Lhcir
lasL collaboraLion Lo daLc. As oLhcrs havc poinLcd ouL, iL is almosL
impossiblc Lo Lhink oí DcNiro wiLhouL also Lhinking oí Scorscsc,
pcrhaps Lhc grcaLcsL Amcrican dirccLor oí violcncc. Tcirs is—
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :8o
morc Lhan a “cincma oí lonclincss,” as RobcrL Kolkcr’s landmark
book oí Lhc samc LiLlc claims—a cincma oí violcncc or, bcLLcr, a
cincma oí violcnL bccomings. BuL diagnosing Lhc suríacc íorccs
and movcmcnLs oí DcNiro’s acLing—iLs íacialiLy—allows us Lo
rcspond morc prcciscly Lo violcncc qua violcncc, wiLhouL having
Lo rcgrcss Lo psychoanalyLic caLcgorics oí inLcrioriLy, subjccLiviLy,
or idcnLificaLion as Dougan docs; or Lo Lhc caLcgory oí hisLorical
conLcxL as Kolkcr, as wcll as IcighLon CrisL in Te Fì|ms oj Martìn
Scorsese. :o6¸–;;. Authorshìp and Context, do. Oí coursc, Lhc vio-
lcncc oí DcNiro’s characLcrs, cspccially in his firsL Lhrcc or íour
Scorscsc films, is somc sorL oí rcsponsc Lo whaL happcncd in Lhc
UniLcd SLaLcs in Lhc :n6os. BuL, and Lhis is an imporLanL qualifi-
caLion, Lhc hisLorical conLcxL docs noL Lcll us anyLhing abouL how
Lhc violcncc íuncLions, how iL works, whaL iL docs. And I conLcnd
LhaL unlcss cincma sLudics—as wcll as liLcrary or culLural sLud-
ics, noL Lo mcnLion morc “cmpiricisL” cnLcrpriscs—has a bcLLcr
grasp oí Lhc answcrs Lo Lhcsc qucsLions iL will rcmain diffi culL íor
criLicism Lo say anyLhing aL all abouL oLhcr opcraLions such as
“conLcxL” and “causc and cffccL.”
UnLil criLicism will havc invcnLcd Lools Lo Lakc on violcncc on iLs
own Lcrms, iL rcally cannoL cxLrapolaLc anyLhing aL all abouL qucs-
Lions LhaL clcarly dcpcnd on—and all Loo oíLcn prcsumc LhaL wc
alrcady know—answcrs Lo Lhc qucsLions oí Lhc affccLivc cffccLiviLy
oí (scrccn) violcncc. And givcn LhaL onc oí Lhc main conccrns wiLh
scrccn violcncc is audicnccs’ íascinaLion wiLh iL, iL sccms Lo mc ab-
soluLcly ncccssary Lo aLLcnd carcíully Lo Lhc proccss oí íacializaLion
prcciscly bccausc iL providcs a way inLo Lhc vcry locaLion (and Lhc
proccsscs by which iL comcs inLo bcing) LhaL scLs in moLion and
capLurcs—dcLcrriLorializcs and (rc)LcrriLorializcs—vicwcrs’ bc-
coming-íascinaLcd. HighlighLing violcncc as a proccss oí íacialiLy,
Lhus, suggcsLs LhaL our conLcmporary aLLracLion Lo cincmaLic vio-
lcncc mighL noL jusL bc onc bascd on blood and oLhcr morc ovcrLly
acLcd ouL, scnsaLional íorms Lhcrcoí. Tis is noL Lo discounL Lhc aL-
LracLion blood has íor us as wcll. BuL iL is Lo insisL, wiLh Dclcuzc and
CuaLLari, LhaL DcNiro’s bccomings (including his bccoming-íacc)
suggcsL LhaL, quiLc possibly, “Lhc íacc has a grcaL íuLurc, buL only ií
Pecomìng-vìo|ent. Pecomìng-LeNìro :8:
iL is dcsLroycd, dismanLlcd. On Lhc road Lo Lhc asigniíying and asu-
bjccLivc” (Tousand P|ateaus :¬:). CriLicism, iL appcars, musL bcgin
Lo aLLcnd Lo Lhc íacializaLion oí violcncc in ordcr Lo ovcrcomc iL.
Tis would poLcnLially cnLail an overcomìng oj Ho||ywood cìnema ìt-
se|j—as 1can-Iuc Codard has rcccnLly insisLcd wiLh incrcasing can-
Lankcrousncss—sincc iLs succcss rclics, Lhough noL cxclusivcly, on
iLs abiliLy Lo insLiLuLionalizc sLar imagcs Lhrough ícLishizcd closc-
ups oí Lhcir íaccs.
Ií movic violcncc is in any íorm rclaLcd Lo rcal
liíc violcncc, iL has morc Lo do wiLh Lhc íacializcd sysLcm oí Hol-
lywood iLsclí Lhan wiLh vicwcrs’ unconLrollablc dcsircs Lo imiLaLc
and Lo acL ouL Lhcir rcprcsscd dcsircs.
In any casc, whaL Lhc cxamplc oí RobcrL DcNiro as boLh a Lhc-
orisL and pracLiLioncr oí violcncc suggcsLs is LhaL such violcncc is
iLsclí closcly connccLcd Lo Lhc prob|ematìque oí pcdagogy. Pcda-
gogy, howcvcr, should bc undcrsLood lcss as a maLLcr oí “lcarning
írom” Lhan “doing wiLh.” I am noL aLLcmpLing Lo dcícnd cincmaLic
or ficLional violcncc bccausc wc havc somcLhing Lo lcarn írom iL;
violcncc docs noL Lcach us anyLhing abouL anyLhing oLhcr Lhan
iLsclí, mcaning, violcnL imagcs do noL Lcach us somcLhing abouL
somcLhing clsc prcciscly bccausc imagcd violcncc is noL primar-
ily a rcprcscnLaLional opcraLion. RaLhcr, Lhc pcdagogical qualiLy
oí imagcd violcncc rcsidcs in Lhc laLLcr’s íorcc: in iLs soliciLaLion
oí our rcsponsc-abiliLy—a modc oí rcsponsc LhaL dcmands rcp-
cLiLion, habiLuaLion, LhaL is, masochism as Lhc pcdagogical and
cLhical impcraLivc oí criLicism. I aLLcmpLcd Lo cxcmpliíy Lhis in
Lhis chapLcr by sLrucLuring Lhc argumcnL around a scrics oí morc
or lcss rcpcLiLivc movcmcnLs—movcmcnLs oí rcpcLiLion LhaL, I
hopc, crcaLcd Lhrough Lhcir vcry rcpcLiLivcncss a ccrLain diag-
nosLic inLcnsiLy, so much so LhaL Lhcsc rcpcLiLions’ rccurrcnccs
wcrc Lhosc oí diffcrcncc iLsclí: a scnsc oí diffcrcnL and diffcring
arLiculaLions oí violcncc, all oí which immancnLly workcd ouL and
Lhrough Lhc cqually varying acLs oí imaging violcncc pcríormcd
by DcNiro. To claboraLc on Lhis masocriLical inLcrvcnLion íurLhcr,
I will Lurn in Lhc final chapLcr Lo Lhc prob|ematìque oí rcsponsc-
abiliLy as a pcdagogical cLhics oí violcncc raLhcr Lhan a rcprcscn-
LaLional (moral) rcsponsc Lo violcncc.
On Lhc morning oí ScpLcmbcr :i, ioo:, I was schcdulcd Lo Lcach
an Amcrican sLudics mass lccLurc coursc on “Violcncc in Twcn-
LicLh-CcnLury Amcrican CulLurc.” Iikc mosL pcoplc, I had spcnL
Lhc prcvious day glucd Lo Lhc Lclcvision, Lrying Lo caLch as grcaL a
varicLy oí covcragc oí Lhc cvcnLs oí n/:: as possiblc. Tc ncxL day,
aL n a.m., I approachcd my classroom wiLh a considcrablc amounL
oí LrcpidaLion. I kncw írom somc collcagucs LhaL I would havc Lhc
opLion Lo canccl class, allowing sLudcnLs Lo scck gricí counscling
or oLhcr mcans oí finding cmoLional comíorL and supporL. YcL,
Lhough I did noL know whaL cxacLly I should or would do in class
LhaL morning, somchow I íclL LhaL canccling class was ncvcr an op-
Lion íor mc—duc in largc parL Lo Lhc subjccL maLLcr oí my coursc.
AíLcr all, ! was supposcd Lo bc Lhc onc who had somcLhing inLcl-
ligcnL Lo say abouL violcncc in Lhc conLcxL oí Amcrican culLurc.
AíLcr cxplaining Lo my sLudcnLs LhaL Lhcy would bc cxcuscd ií
Lhcy prcícrrcd Lo lcavc, I LcnLaLivcly dirccLcd our aLLcnLion Lo Lhc
aLLacks oí Lhc prcvious day. Whilc I cxpccLcd LhaL my sLudcnLs
mighL noL bc willing Lo cngagc in a discussion oí Lhc cvcnLs so
soon, I discovcrcd LhaL Lhcy wcrc only all Loo cagcr Lo addrcss Lhis
violcnL cvcnL, having Lhcmsclvcs alrcady cngagcd in hours-long
convcrsaLions wiLh Lhcir íricnds and íamilics íor Lhc pasL LwcnLy-
íour hours. Morc prcciscly, I íound ouL LhaL Lhcy wanLcd me Lo
addrcss Lhc cvcnLs. As onc sLudcnL plainly puL iL, Lhcy wcrc hop-
ing LhaL !, Lhc Lcachcr, would Lcll them whaL Lhc cvcnLs oí n/::
“mcan.” A biL sLunncd by Lhcir dcmand LhaL I providc Lhcm wiLh
Violence, Pedagogy, and the Rhetoric of Seeing /
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :8j
Lhc mcaning oí Lhc cvcnL, I had no choicc buL Lo rcíusc Lo com-
ply wiLh Lhcir Louching rcqucsL, noL lcasL bccausc I did noL know
mysclí whaL Lo makc oí Lhc aLLacks. RaLhcr Lhan prcLcnding LhaL
I would havc a cohcrcnL cxplanaLion, I insLcad suggcsLcd LhaL as
a class wc mighL do wcll Lo Lakc scriously our collccLivc ìnabì|ìty
Lo arLiculaLc—íor oursclvcs as wcll as Lo onc oLhcr—in cohcrcnL
íashion Lhc “mcaning” oí n/::.
TaL is, I proddcd sLudcnLs Lo hccd our discussions oí somc oí
Lhc maLcrial wc had covcrcd in class up unLil Lhis momcnL—ma-
Lcrials LhaL in Lhcir collccLivc íorcc offcrcd us various Lools íor
Lhinking abouL violcncc (abouL whaL iL is, whaL iL docs, why iL hap-
pcns, cLc.); spccifically, I suggcsLcd LhaL wc mighL wanL Lo Lakc sc-
riously our sharcd sense oí unccrLainLy in rcsponsc Lo dcpicLions
oí violcncc in LcxLs as varicd as, íor insLancc, Dashicll HammcLL’s
Red Harvest (:nin), William Wcllman’s Pub|ìc Fnemy (:nj:), Te
Autobìography oj Ma|co|m X (:n6=), Sylvia PlaLh’s pocm “Daddy”
(:n6=), or hip-hop songs by Public Fncmy and N.W.A. In rcsponsc
Lo Lhc qucsLion oí whaL wc arc supposcd Lo makc oí Lhcsc various
vcrsions oí violcncc, morc oíLcn Lhan noL our rcsponscs Lcndcd
Lo bc LhaL iL is anyLhing buL casy Lo comc Lo Lcrms wiLh Lhcm prc-
ciscly bccausc oí Lhc way Lhc violcnL imagcs íuncLion and arc dc-
ploycd in Lhcsc LcxLs. Tinking, íor cxamplc, abouL Lhc íuncLion
oí violcncc in PlaLh’s pocLic languagc, Malcolm X’s prosc accounL
oí his bruLal liíc cxpcricnccs, or Public Fncmy’s rcvoluLionary lyr-
ics scL Lo violcnLly graLing soundscapcs complicaLcd any aLLcmpL
Lo simply condcmn violcncc wholcsalc.
Ovcr Lhc coursc oí Lhc ncxL ícw class scssions, I kcpL rcLurn-
ing Lo our scnsaLion oí unccrLainLy or doubL. I argucd LhaL wc
mighL vcry wcll bc on our way Lo dcvclop a producLivc rcsponsc
Lo n/:: by affi rming Lhc vcry íacL LhaL wc simply do noL know
whaL Lo makc oí Lhc cvcnL. I íurLhcr proposcd LhaL our siLuaLion
was noL so much dcfincd by a lack oí rcsponsc buL by Lhc íacL
LhaL wc had alrcady rcspondcd: our rcsponsc, iL Lurncd ouL, was
simply cxprcsscd in and by our collccLivc scnsc oí unccrLainLy.
And inLcrcsLingly, Lhc vcry cxisLcncc, lcL alonc acknowlcdgmcnL,
oí Lhis lack oí ccrLainLy had in iLsclí, as onc sLudcnL conícsscd,
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :8i
Lhc cffccL oí somcLhing akin Lo an insLancc oí violcncc. Affi rming
onc’s scnsc oí unccrLainLy, hcsiLaLing in Lhc íacc oí whaL appcars
Lo call íorLh an unproblcmaLic judgmcnL, and dcícrring a quick
cmoLional fix in lighL oí Lragcdy, so wc discovcrcd, is invcsLcd
wiLh rcal affccLivc íorcc. TaL is, wc scnscd Lhc violcncc oí scn-
saLion, as wcll as Lhc scnsaLion oí violcncc, noLwiLhsLanding Lhc
íacL LhaL aL LhaL momcnL wc wcrc collccLivcly unablc Lo rcprcscnL
Lhc cvcnL in íorm oí a cohcrcnL narraLivc. WhaL Lhis parLicular
sLudcnL cxprcsscd Lo us, I laLcr camc Lo undcrsLand, is prcciscly
whaL PaLricia HighsmiLh’s ficLion Lcachcs us: LhaL iL is noL aL all
casy not Lo rcspond Lo violcncc wiLhouL sccking immcdiaLc rc-
coursc Lo judgmcnL (or, in morc gcncral Lcrms, caLcgorics LhaL
arc íamiliar Lo us). DiffcrcnLly puL, not immcdiaLcly judging an
insLancc oí “obvious” violcncc LhaL appcars Lo bc calling íor noLh-
ing buL quick and dcLcrmincd judgmcnL shiíLs onc’s own inLcn-
sivc invcsLmcnLs írom onc rcgisLcr Lo anoLhcr—Lhc violcnL rush
cxpcricnccd by asscrLing a sLancc oí moral righLcousncss Lo Lhc
violcnL vcrLigo cxpcricnccd by an cncounLcr wiLh onc’s sclí as noL
always alrcady bcing in conLrol (howcvcr illusory such a scnsc oí
conLrol may acLually bc). IL was Lhc diffcrcncc bcLwccn Lhcsc Lwo
lcvcls oí inLcnsiLy and, pcrhaps, Lhc vcry uníamiliariLy wiLh Lhc
laLLcr LhaL insLillcd in us a vcry rcal scnsc oí (onc’s scnsc oí sclí)
bcing violaLcd prcciscly bccausc Lhc cvcnL iLsclí cníorccd upon us
Lhc violcncc oí scnsaLion.
InsLcad oí Lclling sLudcnLs “whaL’s whaL,” Lhcn, I workcd wiLh
Lhcm Lo scc whcLhcr wc may acLually havc somcLhing Lo gain
írom dcícrring such rcsponscs. (I should hasLcn Lo say, howcvcr,
LhaL wc did discuss morc sociohisLorically oricnLcd cxplanaLions
oí Lhc cvcnL—cxplanaLions LhaL, Lo my mind, havc considcrablc
íorcc. NcvcrLhclcss, dcspiLc Lhc compclling qualiLy oí such cx-
planaLions, sLudcnLs wcrc noL “saLisficd” wiLh Lhcm, sincc Lhcy
did noL gcL rid oí Lhcir scnsc oí affccLivc unccrLainLy.) For a bricí
whilc, aL lcasL, I íclL LhaL my sLudcnLs and I managcd Lo cncounLcr
n/:: by pracLicing such a sLaLc oí suspcnsc. For a bricí momcnL,
LhaL is, I Lhink wc managcd Lo crcaLc a collccLivc spacc in which
wc cncounLcrcd a vcry rcal momcnL oí violcncc wiLhouL rcducing
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :8=
iL Lo iLs rcprcscnLaLional qualiLy or Lo a sclí-hclp discoursc domi-
naLcd by cxprcssions oí subjccLivc cxpcricncc.
MasochisLically suspcnding, howcvcr momcnLarily, Lhc dc-
mand íor undcrsLanding pcríormaLivcly coníronLcd us wiLh a
vcry rcal momcnL oí violcncc: namcly, Lhc affccLivc violcncc oí
unccrLainLy. My poinL hcrc is oí coursc LhaL Lhcsc arc Lwo in-
commcnsurablc momcnLs oí violcncc: Lhc írusLraLion and pain
involvcd in noL knowing how Lo rcspond is noL aL all Lhc samc as
Lhc pain cxpcricnccd by Lhc rcal vicLims oí n/:: and Lhcir íricnds
and íamilics. BuL Lhc affccLivc sLaLc induccd by suspcnding Lhc
momcnL oí ccrLainLy consLiLuLcd an anglc oí cnLry, or linc oí
flighL, inLo Lhc cvcnL LhaL almosL by ncccssiLy íorccd us Lo hccd
iLs spccificiLy, iLs primacy—somcLhing wc accomplishcd prcciscly
by dcícrring our mosL immcdiaLc dcmands and dcsircs (which, in
Lhc cnd, arc mosLly abouL us raLhcr Lhan abouL Lhc oLhcr).
By masochisLically inLcnsiíying Lhc momcnL oí unccrLainLy
(raLhcr Lhan rclicving iL by providing an answcr, howcvcr con-
vincing), wc wcrc collccLivcly íorccd Lo givc oursclvcs ovcr Lo a
momcnL oí violcncc, namcly, Lhc violcncc oí scnsaLion. Far írom
bcing rcprcscnLaLivc oí, lcL alonc idcnLical Lo, Lhc violcncc oí
n/::, our affccLivc cncounLcr wiLh Lhc violcncc oí scnsaLion—
cmbodicd in our scnsc oí unccrLainLy—was producLivc, I Lhink,
bccausc iL pcríormaLivcly cmphasizcd Lhc vcry dìfference oí Lhcsc
Lwo íorms oí violcncc, whilc ncvcrLhclcss cxcmpliíying how Lhcy
rclaLc Lo cach oLhcr. Tc laLLcr íorm oí violcncc was noLhing “likc”
Lhc íormcr, buL in iLs vcry dissimilariLy—bccausc oí iLs arcprc-
scnLaLional qualiLy—our masochisLically habiLuaLcd cncoun-
Lcr wiLh Lhc affccLivc violcncc oí unccrLainLy allowcd us Lo aim
aL Lhis oLhcr íorm oí violcncc. NciLhcr posiLing Lhc violcncc oí
n/:: as “incomprchcnsiblc” nor rcducing iL Lo a rcprcscnLaLional
rcscmblancc, our pcdagogical, masocriLical cncounLcr wiLh Lhc
cvcnL was characLcrizcd by mainLaining Lhc inLcrval bcLwccn Lwo
diffcrcnL dcgrccs oí violcncc, which, Lhough infiniLcly diffcrcnL,
arc crucially rclaLcd ìn Lhis vcry scnsaLion oí diffcrcncc. In shorL,
howcvcr inLuiLivcly and wiLh howcvcr much ad hoc coaching on
my parL, wc Lricd Lo affi rm our rcsponsc-abiliLy—Lhc íacL LhaL wc
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :86
always alrcady rcspond and arc rcsponsc-ablc Lo Lhc cvcnL—by
mcans oí suspendìng and Lhus rcconfiguring Lhc mosL clichcd hab-
iLs oí rcsponsc, namcly, Lhc Lcndcncy Lo LcrriLorializc Lhc primacy
oí Lhc objccL or cvcnL onLo Lhc planc oí subjccLivc íamiliariLy and
Oí coursc, much oí whaL I jusL dcscribcd is now filLcrcd Lhrough
LwcnLy-LwcnLy hindsighL and rcflccLion on my parL. UndoubLcdly,
Lhc rcaliLy oí my classroom pracLicc in Lhosc firsL Lcn days or so
aíLcr n/:: did noL opcraLc on such high LhcorcLical grounds. YcL,
gcLLing my sLudcnLs Lo cxpcrimcnL wiLh Lhis noLion oí suspcnsc
and Lhus írusLraLing Lhcir cxpccLaLions oí Lhcmsclvcs and mc did,
I bclicvc, cxposc all oí us Lo an cncounLcr wiLh violcncc on iLs own
Lcrms—wiLhouL having Lo “cxpcricncc” iLs mosL Lcrriblc mani-
ícsLaLions, jusL likc RobcrL DcNiro docs noL havc Lo “cxpcricncc”
how iL íccls Lo shooL somconc or gcLLing shoL aL himsclí in or-
dcr Lo cnacL cincmaLic violcncc. Ií Lhis is indccd whaL Lranspircd,
Lhcn I considcr Lhis bricí pcriod a pcdagogical succcss.
YcL, Lhc íragiliLy oí my pcdagogical succcss bccamc clcar Lo mc
soon aíLcr Ccorgc W. Bush’s addrcss Lo Lhc naLion—a rhcLorically
powcríul spccch in which hc offcrcd wiLh rcmarkablc clariLy and
íorcc his rcsponsc Lo my sLudcnLs’ iniLial dcsirc Lo bc Lold whaL
Lo makc oí n/::. According Lo Lhc prcsidcnL, Lhc maLLcr was, and
sLill is, quiLc simplc: n/:: is noLhing morc, and noLhing lcss, Lhan
a maLLcr oí good and cvil. And whilc iL may bc casy Lo bcliLLlc such
a sccmingly simpliíying rcsponsc Lo Lhc (ciLhcr mcrcly assumcd
or rcal) complcxiLy oí n/::, iL is impossiblc Lo dcny Lhc rhcLori-
cal cffccL oí Lhis dcclaraLion, as I quickly wiLncsscd in Lhc con-
LcxL oí my classroom spacc. Whcrcas a grcaL numbcr oí sLudcnLs
iniLially had gonc along wiLh my aLLcmpL Lo dcícr judgmcnLs
such as Lhosc cvcnLually offcrcd by Lhc íorLy-Lhird prcsidcnL oí
Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs, Lhis willingncss bcgan quickly Lo disappcar
oncc Lhc íorcc oí Bush’s rhcLoric Look hold oí Lhc largcr public
discoursc on n/::. Incrcasingly, Lhc vcry sLudcnLs who had ini-
Lially givcn Lhcmsclvcs ovcr Lo cxpcrimcnLing wiLh suspcnding
judgmcnL cmbraccd wiLh considcrablc convicLion jusL such judg-
mcnLs; in my vicw, Lhis changc oí aLLiLudc occurrcd Lo Lhc grcaL
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :8¬
dcLrimcnL oí our collccLivc abiliLy Lo conLinuc our discussion oí
Lhc issuc on a lcvcl oí complcxiLy LhaL I bclicvc is ncccssary íor
any discussion abouL violcncc ií iL is Lo scrvc any purposc oLhcr
Lhan moralisLic prosclyLizing.
IcsL I cvcr LhoughL oí mysclí as an ubcrLcachcr, Lhc cffccL oí
Lhc prcsidcnLial pronounccmcnL madc iL painíully clcar Lo mc oí
jusL how diffi culL iL acLually is Lo habiLuaLc and susLain a modc oí
rcsponsc Lo violcncc LhaL noL only dcícrs íamiliar clichcs buL, ìn dc-
ícrring, acLually arrivcs aL a momcnL oí lasLing, indccd pcrpcLual,
LransíormaLion oí our vcry abiliLy Lo rcspond Lo violcncc. 1usL as
HighsmiLh musL havc sLrugglcd noL only wiLh dcvcloping buL also
susLaining a modc oí rcsponsc Lo violcncc LhaL docs noL immcdi-
aLcly opcraLc on Lhc planc oí judgmcnL, so I cxpcricnccd firsLhand
on a pcdagogical lcvcl how diffi culL iL is Lo affccL oLhcrs wiLh a sLylc
oí rcsponsc Lo violcncc LhaL violaLcs habiLual or “common scnsc”
modcs oí rcsponsc LhaL wc havc inLcrnalizcd as a rcsulL oí insLiLu-
Lional proccsscs. Oí coursc, I am noL suggcsLing LhaL my sLudcnLs
íailcd whcrc I succccdcd; doing so would prcsupposc LhaL Lhcrc is a
righL way oí rcsponding, which, in Lurn, prcsupposcs Lhc primacy
oí Lhc vcry rcprcscnLaLional rcgimc LhaL I havc aLLcmpLcd Lo slow
down LhroughouL Lhis projccL. OuiLc obviously, a mulLipliciLy oí
íorccs affccLs Lhc ways wc rcspond, which is why rcsponsc is always
a qucsLion oí singulariLy. My poinL hcrc is simply Lo acknowlcdgc
Lhc diffi culLy oí not surrcndcring Lo Lhc rhcLorical scducLion oí Lhc
languagc oí judgmcnL LhaL wc arc all cxposcd Lo all Lhc Limc. Hcncc,
Lo mc Lhc pcdagogical Lask is Lo find ways oí suspcnding Lhc dcsirc
Lo givc in Lo LhaL scducLion, howcvcr bricfly, as a mcans Lo cxpcri-
mcnL wiLh whaL happcns whcn Lhc clichcs oí rcsponsibiliLy arc rc-
configurcd írom wiLhin Lhc dcmand LhaL onc musL judgc an cvcnL
such as n/:: as response-abì|ìty (cLhics).
Tc purposc oí Lhis pcrsonal narraLivc was noL Lo soliciL sympa-
Lhy írom my rcadcrs íor Lhc prcdicamcnL I íaccd; nor did I mcan
Lo prcscnL mysclí as somconc who was propcrly humblcd and
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :88
Lhus divcsLcd oí any noLion LhaL I may own all Lhc soluLions Lo Lhc
prob|ematìque oí violcncc. For cvcn ií I had oncc íclL LhaL I pos-
scsscd suffi cicnL answcrs, Lhc cxpcricncc oí Lcaching Lhis coursc
madc iL pcríccLly clcar—ií I had cvcr bccn in doubL—LhaL having
Lhc answcrs docs by no mcans guaranLcc LhaL anyonc clsc will bc
affccLcd by Lhcm, jusL likc Caspar’s propricLary vcrsion oí cLhics
in Lhc Cocn BroLhcrs’ Mì||er’s Crossìng was anyLhing buL a guaran-
Lcc íor kccping violcncc aL bay.
No, Lhc purposc oí Lhis bricí narraLivc was Lo raisc a qucsLion
LhaL surcly should conccrn Lhosc oí us who (sLill) Lcach liLcraLurc
and film—a qucsLion LhaL is cqually prcssing Loday as iL was in
Lhc immcdiaLc aíLcrmaLh oí n/::. In iLs mosL basic íorm, Lhis
qucsLion is simply abouL Lhc valuc oí Lcaching liLcraLurc and film.
AL a Limc whcn our collccLivc (un)consciousncss undcrsLandably
prcoccupics iLsclí wiLh whaL aL lcasL appear Lo bc cvcnLs oí cra-dc-
fining proporLions, iL sccms Lo mc LhaL onc could bc cxcuscd íor
wondcring how (Lhc Lcaching oí) liLcraLurc and film could sLill bc
rclcvanL Lo cvcnLs LhaL sccm Lo havc liLLlc ií anyLhing Lo do wiLh
Lhc wriLing, rcading, vicwing, and producing oí imagcs. ScpLcm-
bcr ::, ioo:, onc mighL bc inclincd Lo arguc, cxposcd film and
liLcraLurc classcs as highly qucsLionablc dcploymcnLs oí sociocul-
Lural cncrgics. Discussions oí auLhorial or dirccLorial inLcnLions,
characLcrs’ psychology, LcxLs’ rcprcscnLaLional vcraciLy, and Lhc
always popular dcbaLcs abouL Lhc “mcaning” oí iL all—Lhcsc and
many oLhcr Lypical acadcmic discussion íoci may appcar now as,
aL bcsL, sooLhing divcrsions írom Lhc rcaliLics oí liíc; aL worsL,
Lcaching liLcraLurc or film in a Limc oí crisis may sccm likc Lhc
sclí-indulgcnL privilcgc oí an inLcllccLual cliLc whosc pracLiccs
bcar liLLlc rclcvancc íor Lhc “rcal” world. Iikcwisc, insLiLuLionally
rciníorccd claims íor Lhc subvcrsivc íorcc oí Lhis novcl, LhaL film,
or Lhc criLical rcadings Lhcmsclvcs incrcasingly assumc Lhc shapc
oí dcludcd solipsisms madc by Lhosc wishing Lhcir pracLiccs had
a morc Langiblc impacL on Lhc world. And Lhcrc appcars Lo bc no
obvious rcason íor cxcluding Lhis prcscnL sLudy—onc LhaL has ío-
cuscd only on liLcrary and cincmaLic LcxLs—írom Lhis suspicion
oí irrclcvancc. PuL diffcrcnLly, aíLcr n/:: onc mighL arguc LhaL
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :8n
sLudcnLs and Lcachcrs—indccd, all ciLizcns—would bc bcLLcr off
sLudying hisLory and poliLical cconomy raLhcr Lhan rcading fic-
Lion or waLching movics.
Or, Lo paraphrasc onc oí my sLudcnLs
during Lhc immcdiaLc aíLcrmaLh oí n/::, why boLhcr wiLh Lhc fic-
Lional whcn rcaliLy iLsclí providcs morc Lhan cnough challcngcs`
RaLhcr Lhan cngaging imaginary violcncc, should a sLudy such as
Lhis onc noL conccrn iLsclí wiLh Lhc causcs and cffccLs oí rcal-
world violcncc such as, íor insLancc, spousal abusc, rapc, murdcr,
Lcrrorism, or war`
My hcsiLaLion hcrc is mcanL Lo acknowlcdgc Lhc obvious im-
porLancc oí analyzing, íor insLancc, Lhc hisLorical Lransíorma-
Lions Islamic and WcsLcrn culLurcs havc undcrgonc in rcsponsc
Lo capiLalisL proccsscs LhaL havc by now all buL mappcd Lhcm-
sclvcs onLo Lhc cnLirc carLh. NcvcrLhclcss, I wanL Lo arguc jor
Lhc spacc oí film and liLcraLurc bccausc I Lhink Lhcy bcar Lhc
pedagogìca| poLcnLial íor acLivaLing an ethìca| modc oí cncoun-
Lcr wiLh violcncc. In ordcr Lo show LhaL Lhc spacc oí liLcraLurc
and film indccd providcs a producLivc linkagc Lo Lhc qucsLion oí
rcal-world violcncc, I would likc Lo concludc Lhis sLudy wiLh an
cxLcndcd discussion oí onc spccific wriLcrly rcsponsc Lo Lhc vio-
lcncc oí n/::: Don DcIillo’s cssay “In Lhc Ruins oí Lhc FuLurc,”
which appcarcd in Harper’s Magazìne in Dcccmbcr ioo:. WhaL I
am going Lo suggcsL in Lhcsc rcmaining pagcs, Lhcn, pcrLains Lo
Lhc qucsLion oí how a pcdagogical cngagcmcnL wiLh (conLcmpo-
rary) imagc cvcnLs oí violcncc mighL pcríormaLivcly provokc an
cncounLcr wiLh Lhc uníolding oí Lhc conscqucnccs oí n/:: LhaL
hccds Lhc cvcnL’s “irrcduciblc singulariLy” (Baudrillard, “SpiriL
oí Tcrrorism”), somcLhing LhaL can bc argucd Lo bc conspicu-
ously abscnL írom mosL cngagcmcnLs wiLh Lhis cvcnL. Tc rolc
oí cngaging Lhc qucsLions oí how imagcs work and whaL Lhcy
do, I shall arguc, rcquircs now, morc Lhan cvcr, an “aesthetìc
sLancc,” Lo usc NicLzschc’s phrasc (“TruLh and Iying” i=i, my
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :no
In the Ruins of the Event: Suspension No. 
In Lhc firsL ícw monLhs aíLcr n/::, Harper’s Magazìne askcd Don
DcIillo Lo wriLc an cssay on Lhc LcrrorisL aLLack. TaL Harper’s
askcd Lhc auLhor oí novcls such as P|ayers (:n¬¬), whìte Noìse
(:n8=), Lìbra (:n88), or Mao !! (:nn:) is hardly accidcnLal, íor
“Lcrrorism has playcd an imporLanL parL in ncarly cvcry novcl
íhc] has wriLLcn Lo daLc” (Allcn). Indccd, “Lcrror, likc an air-
bornc Loxic cvcnL, floaLs across Lhc dcccpLivcly shiny suríaccs
oí DcIillo’s ficLion” (Scanlan iin) and oíLcn maniícsLs iLsclí in
his cxaminaLion oí Lhc wriLcr-LcrrorisL rclaLionship.
Tc appcar-
ancc oí DcIillo’s cssay in Lhc Dcccmbcr issuc madc iL onc oí Lhc
carlicsL nonjournalisLic, ycL analyLical rcsponscs givcn Lo Lhc
cvcnLs oí ScpLcmbcr ::, ioo:. Howcvcr, whaL makcs Lhc cssay
Lruly rcmarkablc is noL mcrcly whaL iL says abouL n/:: buL how,
ìn respondìng to Lhc cvcnL, iL simulLancously puLs Lhc noLion oí
rcsponsc aL sLakc. RcsisLing Lhc dcmand Lo spcak wiLh moral clar-
iLy and dcclarc whaL Lhc cvcnL “mcans,” his cssay insLcad shows
LhaL rcsponsc is always a qucsLion oí rcsponsc-abiliLy, or Lhc cLhi-
cal how. DcIillo sLylisLically configurcs rcsponsc-abiliLy as always
and ncccssarily a qucsLion oí how raLhcr Lhan whaL, (c)valuaLion
raLhcr Lhan rcprcscnLaLion, Lhc powcr oí Lhc íalsc raLhcr Lhan
Lhc rcgimc oí LruLh. WhaL DcIillo’s rcsponsc Lhus Lcachcs us—
iLs mosL significanL inLcrvcnLion in Lhc posL-n/:: discoursc—is
LhaL prcscnL-day aLLcmpLs Lo imagc an (LraumaLic) cvcnL’s scnsc
cannoL possibly opcraLc cxclusivcly on Lhc lcvcl oí iLs conLcnL
(Lhc rcprcscnLaLional “whaL”) wiLhouL aLLcnding Lo Lhc rhetorìca|
modc oí prcscnLaLion, Lhc cLhical “how.” Or raLhcr, whaL DcIillo
shows, and whaL I will claboraLc on, is LhaL whaL an cvcnL mcans
is always alrcady shoL Lhrough wiLh how iL appcars. Ií anyLhing, iL
is Lhis vcry insighL LhaL I hopc Lo havc pcríormcd and illusLraLcd
LhroughouL Lhis masocriLical sLudy whcn cxamining how spccific
LcxLs Lhcmsclvcs coníronL Lhc prob|ematìque oí violcncc and how
Lo rcspond Lo iLs various dcgrccs oí inLcnsiLy.
DcIillo’s sLylc oí rcsponsc docs noL occur in a vacuum, how-
cvcr. RaLhcr, his narraLivc cncounLcr wiLh n/:: acLualizcs a modc
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :n:
oí seeìng Lhc world LhaL Lhc Frcnch cincasLc Andrc Bazin oncc con-
ccpLualizcd in Lcrms oí an onLophcnomcnological Lhcory oí cin-
cma. Bazin advocaLcs a film acsLhcLic mainly rclying on Lhc long
shoL, dccp íocus cincmaLography characLcrisLic oí Lhc ncorcal-
isL misc-cn-sccnc. CounLcring carlicr rcalisms, cspccially Scrgci
FiscnsLcin’s influcnLial Lhcory oí dialccLical monLagc, as “making
rcaliLy Lhc scrvanL oí somc a priori poinL oí vicw,” Bazin íavors a
cincmaLic acsLhcLic sLancc Loward rcaliLy LhaL arLíully rcsponds Lo
Lhc world imagc in iLs “wholcncss” (i:6i, n¬).
Tc cvcnL’s wholc-
ncss, howcvcr, is noL posiLcd as a LransccndcnL caLcgory; insLcad,
Lhc cincmaLic sLancc mobilizcd by, íor insLancc, Iuchino VisconLi,
RobcrLo Rosscllini, or ViLLorio Dc Sica “dividcís] Lhc cvcnL up inLo
sLill smallcr cvcnLs and Lhcsc inLo cvcnLs smallcr sLill, Lo Lhc cx-
Lrcmc |ìmìts oí our capaciLy Lo perceìve Lhcm in Limc” (Bazin i:8:,
my cmphascs). For Bazin, pcrccpLion iLsclí is up íor grabs, sincc
his Lhcory oí cincma—as a Lhcory oí vision—ulLimaLcly conccrns
Lhc vcry limiLs oí pcrccpLion as a conccpL. Whcrcas phcnomcnol-
ogy bcgins and cnds wiLh concciving Lhc subjccL as Lhc locus
íor and horizon oí pcrccpLion, Bazin Lhcorizcs Lhc vcry limiL
aL which Lhc pcrccpLivc acL LransmuLcs inLo an acL oí seeìng—a
modc oí rcsponsc Lo Lhc world LhaL, in Bazin’s hands, puLs Lhc
pcrcciving subjccL aL sLakc.
Seeìng, in oLhcr words, is lcss a maL-
Lcr oí (in)corrccL pcrccpLion Lhan a qucsLion oí how subjccLs can
rcspond Lo cvcnLs.
Bazin suggcsLs LhaL modcs oí sccing inhcrc in cvcnLs raLhcr
Lhan originaLc in a pcrcciving subjccL. Howcvcr, inhcring docs noL
connoLc a prcviously cxisLing auLhcnLiciLy oí Lhc cvcnL so much as
posiL poinL oí vicw as a rclaLion oí íorcc, as an cffccL oí Lhc cvcnL’s
acLualizaLion. As Clairc Colcbrook argucs, “any spccific poinL oí
vicw is noL a poinL oí vicw ovcrlooking somc objccL world, buL a
proliícraLion oí poinLs, a prc-pcrsonal ficld oí singulariLics” (:::).
Shc wriLcs LhaL, conscqucnLly, “pcrspccLivc and poinL oí vicw arc
cnablcd by sLylc. SLylc is noL Lhc cxprcssion oí Lhc human poinL
oí vicw; Lhc human is an cffccL oí a ccrLain sLylc” (::j). For Ba-
zin, Lhc cvcnL docs noL conLain a LruLh Lo bc uncovcrcd or rccov-
crcd. Hcncc, absLracLing clichcs írom Lhc cvcnL Lo push iL Lo iLs
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :ni
cxLrcmc limiLs ncccssarily prcccdcs Lhc nccd íor sLrucLuring im-
agcs Lhrough dialccLical monLagc proccsscs. Whcrcas FiscnsLcin
assumcs an a priori cmpLincss oí Lhc scrccn LhaL musL bc fillcd
wiLh dialccLically ordcrcd imagcs arrangcd írom a prccxisLing
human vanLagc poinL, Bazin’s cincma LhoughL implics LhaL Lhc
scrccn vìrtua||y is fillcd wiLh imagcs cvcn bcíorc Lhc film projccLor
plays whaL Lhc camcra’s cyc has arLíully “capLurcd.” Tc ncorcalisL
misc-cn-sccnc’s Lask is, Lhcrcíorc, Lo absLracL imagcs sLylisLically
írom Lhc íullncss oí Lhc scrccn.
Tis misc-cn-sccnc Lhus rcndcrs
visiblc Lhc cvcnL as noLhing buL a conjuncLion oí singular vicw-
poinLs prcccding Lhc objccLs Lo bc vicwcd.
DialccLical monLagc cannoL hclp buL bcgin wiLh subordinaLing
Lhc cvcnL Lo a subjccL’s poinL oí vicw—firsL Lo Lhc dirccLor’s and
Lhcn Lo Lhc subjccLcd vicwcr’s. In conLrasL, Lhc ncorcalisL visual
proccss oí absLracLing imagcs acLualizcs írom Lhc cvcnL modcs oí
sccing LhaL Lakc Lhc laLLcr clscwhcrc: seeìng as a rhcLorical acLual-
izaLion oí íuLuriLy raLhcr Lhan a pcrccpLivc capLuring oí an cvcnL’s
inhcrcnL auLhcnLiciLy, which is Lhcn offcrcd íor judgmcnL, seeìng
as an cxpcrimcnLal modc—noL as crcaLivc discovcry oí whaL is
buL as an cLhical producLion oí Lhc ycL Lo comc.
InsLcad oí Lhc Lhcsis-drivcn modc oí inducing conscious pcr-
ccpLion Lhrough dialccLical monLagc, DcIillo, as wc will scc, mo-
bilizcs a ncorcalisL acsLhcLic LhaL Bazin calls “a phcnomcnology”
(i:6=), which holds “morc an onLological posiLion Lhan an acs-
LhcLic onc” (i:66). Tc diffcrcnLiaLcd modcs oí sccing consLiLuLc
a subjccL’s poinL oí vicw or modc oí cxpcricncc. Tus, an acsLhcLic
sLancc LhaL rcsponds Lo Lhc cvcnL a subjccL cncounLcrs musL bc
considcrcd firsL and íorcmosL onLological in naLurc. YcL, aL Lhc
hcarL oí Bazin’s answcr Lo Lhc qucsLion “WhaL is cincma`” lics Lhc
way Lhis onLology is engaged—Lhc way iL is (madc Lo bc) vicwcd
Lhrough arLificc. For Bazin, Lhc onLology oí sccing consisLs oí
myriad diffcrcnL modcs oí sccing. Tcsc modcs, or íorcc rcla-
Lions, conLinually bccomc imagc cvcnLs LhaL cvcnLually maniícsL
Lhcmsclvcs Lhrough how spccific subjccLcd vicwcrs acLualizc—
(arc madc Lo) scc—Lhcm. Hcncc, ií cincma dcsircs Lo cncounLcr
rcaliLy, iL has no choicc buL Lo bcgin írom wiLhin Lhc acLs oí scc-
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :nj
ing. Bazin can Lhcrcíorc claim LhaL Lhc ncorcalisL acsLhcLic sLancc
“knows only immancncc” (6i). Tis acsLhcLic sLancc bcgins and
cnds in Lhc middlc, posiLions Lhc acL oí vicwing amidsL Lhc cvcnL’s
íorcc rclaLions, and, lcaving Lhc acL Lhcrc, Lrics Lo habiLuaLc Lhc
subjccL Lo cncounLcring Lhc middlc so LhaL Lhc subjccL bccomcs
ablc Lo see Lhc world—iLsclí always a bccoming-middlc—as iL “is”
bcíorc judging iL.
In the Ruins of Epistemology: Suspension No. 
To suspcnd judgmcnL oí Lhc world and Lo rcsLorc our “bclicí in
Lhis world,” as Dclcuzc (Cìnema i :¬i), cvoking Bazin, oncc dc-
mandcd—Lhis cLhical rccipc ulLimaLcly gcncraLcs Lhc paradox
oí a cincmaLic rcalism LhaL is proíoundly acsLhcLic.
rcalism in ordcr Lo rcndcr visiblc Lhc world’s onLological wholc-
ncss wiLhouL immcdiaLcly capLuring Lhc world on Lhc planc oí
judgmcnL “can only bc achicvcd in onc way—Lhrough arLificc”
(Bazin i:i6). Cincma musL aesthetìca||y cxLracL írom Lhc world
iLs mosL consLiLuLivc maLcrial proccsscs—acLs oí sccing. Tc no-
Lion oí “masochisLic írcczing” mighL bcsL dcscribc Lhis proccss oí
cxLracLing and is pcrhaps mosL íamously rcndcrcd aL Lhc cnd oí
Francois TruffauL’s Te Four Hundred P|ows (:n=n), whcn Lhc sud-
dcn zoom-in-on-írcczc-íramc imagc oí Lhc film’s youLhíul pro-
LagonisL, AnLoinc (1can Picrrc Icaud), lucidly, indccd clinically,
puLs inLo qucsLioning, masocriLical suspcnsc LhaL which hc, as
wcll as Lhc vicwcr, sccs or has sccn.
Tc abscncc oí such an acsLhcLic sLancc—configurcd in and
as an cffccL oí such a proccss oí masochisLic írcczing—pcrhaps
cxplains why o/::, Lhc documcnLary by Lhc Frcnch broLhcrs
1ulcs and Ccdcon NaudcL, whilc haunLing in iLs own righL, comcs
across as “bcing Lhcrc” almosL Loo much, in Lhc scnsc LhaL Lhc
film’s imagcs capLurc Lhc momcnL oí Lcrror so wcll as Lo íorcclosc
rcsponsc-abiliLy LhaL docs noL bcgin and cnd wiLh whaL Lhc vicw-
ing subjccL alrcady knows. Tc film offcrs imagcs íor our pcrccp-
Lion LhaL do noL íurLhcr our capaciLy Lo scc Lhc cvcnL in a manncr
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :ni
diffcrcnL írom Lhc ways wc havc pcrccivcd iL bcíorc. AL bcsL—and
Lhis is no small accomplishmcnL—Lhc documcnLary inLcnsifics
cxisLing ícclings oí horror as wc hcar íalling bodics impacL Lhc
ground wiLh a íaLal Lhump. UlLimaLcly, howcvcr, Lhc film sccms
Lo rciníorcc raLhcr Lhan Lransíorm, pcrhaps bccausc iL docs noL
risk Lhc qucsLion oí seeìng iLsclí. IL docs noL scc LhaL, as Dclcuzc
puLs iL, Lhc “diffcrcncc ìn Lhc origin docs noL appcar at Lhc ori-
gin—cxccpL pcrhaps Lo a parLicularly pracLiccd cyc, Lhc cyc which
sccs írom aíar, Lhc cyc oí Lhc íar-sighLcd, Lhc cyc oí Lhc gcncalo-
gisL” (Nìetzsche and Phì|osophy =).
In conLrasL, DcIillo’s wriLcrly cyc conccrns iLsclí wiLh Lhcsc
rhcLorical acLs oí imaging and sccing. Indccd, DcIillo’s liLcrary
cyc, in iLs aLLcnLivcncss Lo Lhc qucsLion oí imaging, acLualizcs Lhc
ncorcalisL conccpLion oí sccing as arLiculaLcd by Bazin, Lhus cru-
cially Lransíorming (Lhc imagc oí) Lhc cvcnL n/::.
Always Lhc
asLuLc obscrvcr oí conLcmporary narraLivc possibiliLics and nc-
ccssiLics, DcIillo shows LhaL liLcrary languagc docs noL rcmain
unaffccLcd by Lhc languagc oí visualiLy LhaL has cncroachcd upon
Lhc public LhroughouL Lhc LwcnLicLh ccnLury.
Crucially, howcvcr,
DcIillo—unlikc counLlcss commcnLaLors who argucd LhaL n/::
was “likc” a Hollywood disasLcr flick—docs noL havc rccoursc Lo
Lhc languagc oí imagcs as a similc or mcLaphor. InsLcad, imaging
proccsscs propcl his narraLivc Lo “analyzc írcaliLy] in a cincmaLic
way” (Virilio, war and Cìnema 6=), alLhough his mcdium oí cx-
prcssion rcmains languagc.
Whilc his “rcflccLions on Lcrror and
loss in Lhc shadow oí ScpLcmbcr,” as Lhc cssay’s subLiLlc sLaLcs,
alLcrnaLc in cighL sccLions bcLwccn morc absLracL, pcrhaps morc
“propcrly” cssayisLic musings and dcLailcd, almosL imprcssionis-
Lic (imaginary`) lisLs oí sLorics cmcrging írom Lhc aLLack on Lhc
World Tradc CcnLcr, DcIillo’s languagc pcríorms Lhc mcandcring
look oí Lhc ncorcalisL camcra cyc, íollowing no narraLivc in par-
Licular, ycL many aL oncc, Lhus inLcnsiíying Lhc vcry cxpcricncc
and conccpL oí narraLivc as a modc oí seeìng.
Unlikc Lhc dialccLical dcsirc Lo pcrccivc—or capLurc—rcal-
iLy rcprcscnLaLionally Lo alLcr iL, DcIillo’s narraLivc sLraLcgy in-
Lcrvcncs in Lhc world by seeìng, or rhcLorically (rc)invcnLing, iL,
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :n=
which is why his cncounLcr wiLh n/:: has noLhing Lo do wiLh a
lack oí Lhc Rcal, ciLhcr in Lhc KanLian or Iacanian scnsc.
cssay invcnLs a vicw oí rcaliLy LhaL inviLcs rcadcrs Lo shapc and
rcshapc rcaliLy inLo diffcrcnL imprcssions oí cqual valuc, which
combinc Lo a spcculaLivc scrics: Lhis happcncd and Lhis and Lhis
and . . .
Tus, Lhc cssay aLLcmpLs rhcLorically Lo posiLion Lhc
rcadcrs so LhaL Lhcy bccomc capablc oí seeìng LhaL which cannoL
bc pcrccivcd in Lhc cvcnL’s cndlcss Lclcviscd imagcs—imagcs LhaL
Lhrough Lhcir proliícraLions firsL inLcnsificd Lhc public’s affcc-
Livc rcsponscs Lo a poinL oí uLLcr coníusion (“WhaL happcncd`”
“Why`” “WhaL am I supposcd Lo Lhink`”) bcíorc Lhis affccL íound
iLsclí LcrriLorializcd onLo Lhc planc oí judgmcnL, oí “corrccL” pcr-
ccpLion (Ccorgc W. Bush’s “Lhc cvil oncs”). OpcraLing alongsidc
and wiLhin Lclcvision’s powcríul pcrccpLual apparaLus oí capLurc
in ordcr Lo muLaLc iLs mosL mind-numbing and moralizing cí-
íccLs, DcIillo’s cssay insLcad allows Lhc cvcnL Lo cmcrgc wiLh a
“crysLallinc ambiguiLy,” Lo usc a phrasc Iawrcncc Wcschlcr (qLd.
in Taylor j) oncc ascribcd Lo ArL Spicgclman’s graphic novcl Maus
(:n86)—also an aLLcmpL Lo rcndcr Lhc singulariLy oí an irrcduc-
iblc cvcnL.
DcIillo’s cssay lucidly rcsponds Lo Lhc mood oí n/::
and Lo iLs aíLcrmaLh—wiLhouL rcducing iL Lo a simplc cxplanaLion
or mcaning—by mobilizing seeìng as a narraLivc modc LhaL works
írom wiLhin Lhc imagc cvcnL insLcad oí imposing iLsclí on iL. YcL,
Lhc cssay docs noL avoid monLagc; raLhcr, iLs splicing LogcLhcr oí
various imagcs, sLorics, and sLylcs oí narraLing Lhc cvcnL providcs
an arLificial mcans Lo scrializc Lhc onLological cvcnLncss oí n/::.
In so doing, Lhc cssay shiíLs írom Lhc cpisLcmological rcgisLcr oí
Lhc posL-n/:: public discoursc Lo an cLhico-onLological rcgisLcr
LhaL primarily addrcsscs how an cvcnL dcmands iLs own modc oí
A compclling pcdagogical conscqucncc íor Lcachcrs oí liLcrary
and cincmaLic imagcs, DcIillo’s cssay posiLs alongsidc all oLhcr
ruins Lhc ruins oí a vcrsion oí liLcrary and film sLudics LhaL con-
Linucs Lo prcLcnd LhaL iL can proLccL iLsclí írom Lhc world. I am
Lhinking hcrc, íor insLancc, oí ValcnLinc Cunningham’s Readìng
ajter Teory in which Lhc auLhor gocs Lo baL íor Lhc primacy oí
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :n6
LcxLs ovcr all Lhcorizing abouL Lhcm bccausc “Lhcory docs vio-
lcncc Lo Lhc mcanings oí LcxLs” (88). Whilc Cunningham’s argu-
mcnL againsL Lhc “anyLhing gocs” (8i) pracLicc oí Lhcory is wcll
Lakcn, his soluLion—tactíully Lo proLccL Lhc meanìngs prcscnL in a
LcxL by hccding Lhc “prcscncc, Lhc righLs, Lhc nccds oí Lhc human
subjccLs, in LcxLs, in Lhc originaLions oí LcxLs, in Lhc rcccpLion
oí LcxLs” (:ii)—sLrikcs mc as sympLomaLic oí Lhc vcry problcm
írom which liLcrary and film sLudics suffcrs Lo bcgin wiLh: namcly,
Lhc ongoing configuraLion oí signalcLic maLcrial as wcll as rcading
and vicwing pracLiccs in Lcrms oí significaLion, rcprcscnLaLion,
and mcaning. IL is surcly no coincidcncc LhaL his discussion oí Lhc
hisLory oí Lhcory all buL ignorcs Dclcuzc, Lhc onc posL-sLrucLural-
isL Lhinkcr who cannoL aL all bc said Lo conccivc oí languagc and
imagcs rcprcscnLaLionally.
ConcurrcnL Lo posiLing Lhc ruins oí Lhis Lypc oí criLical ap-
proach, DcIillo’s cssay also insisLs LhaL social consLrucLivism docs
noL suffi cc as an cLhical modc oí cncounLcring imagcs, sincc Lo
asscrL LhaL cvcryLhing is socially consLrucLcd compriscs mcrcly
onc morc insLancc oí dcclaring Lhc “whaLncss” oí an cvcnL. (Onc
mighL also poinL ouL LhaL social consLrucLivism is iLsclí socially
consLrucLcd, somcLhing LhaL is írcqucnLly ovcrlookcd by propo-
ncnLs oí social consLrucLivism.) Dcploying imagcs as rcsponsc-
ablc Lo (raLhcr Lhan íor) Lhc world, DcIillo’s cssay lcans hard on
KaLhy Ackcr’s argumcnL LhaL “to wrìte should bc to wrìte the wor|d
and, simulLancously, to engage the wor|d”: insLcad oí proLccLing
iLsclí írom iLs rcsponsibiliLy Lo Lhc world or mcrcly showing how
somcLhing is socially consLrucLcd, “In Lhc Ruins oí Lhc FuLurc”
rcndcrs Lhc cvcnL otherwìse, subjuncLivcly—masocriLically—
submiLLing microvcrsions oí Lhc cvcnL wiLhouL insisLing on Lhcir
ulLimaLc vcraciLy. Tis rcndcring oLhcrwisc wiLh iLs aLLcnding di-
agnosLic rhyLhms and movcmcnLs cchocs Lhosc oí HighsmiLh’s
carccr-long aLLcmpL aL gcLLing aL Lhc rclaLion bcLwccn judgmcnL
and violcncc Lhrough rcpcaLcdly LcsLing LhaL rclaLion in a scrics
oí microcascs; DcIillo’s rcndcring oLhcrwisc also rcsonaLcs wiLh
DcNiro’s acLorly pracLicc LhaL is characLcrizcd by a conLinual
variaLion oí his own cnacLmcnLs oí scrccn violcncc as a mcans
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :n¬
Lo rclcasc Lhc mulLiplc íorccs pcrmcaLing boLh Lhc scnsaLion oí
violcncc and Lhc violcncc oí scnsaLion. All Lhcsc cxamplcs pcr-
íorm whaL I havc bccn calling masocriLicism—somcLhing LhaL I
Loo havc bccn Lrying Lo pracLicc, LhroughouL Lhis book as wcll as
in Lhis chapLcr, wiLh iLs digrcssions and LcnLaLivc cfforLs Lo ap-
proximaLc, Lo approach Lhc cvcnL oí n/:: Lhrough DcIillo’s cs-
sayisLic rcsponsc Lo iL.
In the Ruins of Point of View: Suspending Plots
Pcrhaps Lhc mosL imporLanL aspccL oí DcIillo’s cngagcmcnL wiLh
n/:: is his alLcrnaLing bcLwccn various narraLivc poinLs oí vicw.
Indccd, Lhc cssay is ovcrLly prcoccupicd wiLh Lhc qucsLion oí how
Lo narraLc and Lhus see Lhc cvcnL iLsclí. NoLc, íor insLancc, his
counLlcss uscs oí “narraLivc,” “sLory,” and “counLcr-narraLivc”
whcn naming Lhc cvcnL and Lhc possibiliLy oí rcsponding Lo iL.
DcIillo’s cssay cvcn invokcs Lhc nccd íor us Lo rcspond Lo Lhc
cvcnL by acLivcly rcwriLing iL. Tc cold war narraLivc íavorcd by
Lhc Bush adminisLraLion “cnds in Lhc rubblc, and iL is lcíL Lo us Lo
crcaLc Lhc counLcr-narraLivc” (ji), DcIillo wriLcs, prcíacing Lhc
random, flccLing imprcssions hc Lhcn procccds Lo lisL: “Tcrc arc
a hundrcd Lhousand sLorics crisscrossing Ncw York, WashingLon,
and Lhc world. Whcrc wc wcrc, whom wc know, whaL wc’vc sccn
or hcard. Tcrc arc Lhc docLors’ appoinLmcnLs LhaL savcd livcs,
Lhc ccll phoncs LhaL wcrc uscd Lo rcporL Lhc hijackings. SLorics
gcncraLing oLhcrs and pcoplc running norLh ouL oí Lhc rumbling
smokc and ash. Mcn running in suiLs and Lics, womcn who’d losL
Lhcir shocs, cops running írom Lhc skydivc oí all LhaL Lowcring
sLccl” (ji). BuL iL is noL cnough simply Lo givc voicc Lo Lhc “sLo-
rics oí hcroism and cncounLcrs wiLh drcad” (ji), Lhough Lhcy do
íorm parL oí Lhc proccss oí crcaLing a counLcr-narraLivc: “Tcsc
arc among Lhc smallcr objccLs and morc marginal sLorics in Lhc
siíLcd ruins oí Lhc day. Wc nccd Lhcm, cvcn Lhc common Lools oí
Lhc LcrrorisLs, Lo scL againsL Lhc massivc spccLaclc LhaL conLin-
ucs Lo sccm unmanagcablc, Loo powcríul a Lhing Lo scL inLo our
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :n8
íramc oí pracLiccd rcsponsc” (j=), or whaL hc laLcr calls “slanL oí
our pcrccpLions” (jn). Tc ulLimaLc Lask is prcciscly Lo alLcr “our
íramc oí pracLiccd rcsponsc.” For only by doing so, Lhc cssay sug-
gcsLs, do wc sLand a chancc oí cncounLcring n/:: as a singular
cvcnL wiLhouL having rccoursc Lo whaL FoucaulL and Dclcuzc dub
Lhc “indigniLy oí spcaking íor oLhcrs” (“InLcllccLuals and Powcr”
ion). Spcaking “íor” oLhcrs Loo oíLcn scrvcs as a disguisc íor
spcaking onc’s own poinL oí vicw, Lhus cradicaLing LhaL which is
oLhcr. TaL is, DcIillo’s sLancc hcrc suggcsLs Lhc ncccssiLy oí al-
Lcring our capaciLy Lo rcspond.
Tc cssay Lrics masocriLically Lo inducc in Lhc rcadcr a ccrLain
kind oí rcsponsc-abiliLy Lhrough rhcLorically inLcnsiíying iLs nar-
raLivc rhyLhm. IL alLcrnaLcs bcLwccn whaL appcars Lo bc a dia-
lccLical movcmcnL oí imprcssionisLic closc-ups oí Lhc cvcnL and
disLanccd, inLcllccLual analyscs oí whaL happcncd—buL wiLhouL
cvcr arriving aL a rcsoluLion oí Lhis movcmcnL. Ií Lhc rhyLhm oí
DcIillo’s cssay can bc dcscribcd as dialccLical, Lhcn only in Lhc
scnsc oí Tcodor Adorno’s Negatìve Lìa|ectìcs, which procccds
“immancnLly” (=) or chiasmically, casLing cvcnL and rcsponsc as
immancnL Lo cach oLhcr.
In shorL, DcIillo’s cssay dcploys a sLylc
oí rcsponsc—an cLhic oí movcmcnL—LhaL appcars Lo cmcrgc
írom wiLhin Lhc rubblc oí imagcs circulaLing around Lhc cvcnLs
oí n/::: Lhis, Lhcn Lhis, Lhcn Lhis, then . . . , scrializing iLsclí cvcr
íurLhcr inLo Lhc cvcnL’s maLcrialiLy.
Tus, Lhc cssay íuncLions as a LransíormaLivc rclay LhaL pro-
vokcs rcsponscs Lo Lhc cvcnL by mobilizing a spccific acsLhcLic
sLancc LhaL docs noL prcLcnd Lo do jusLicc Lo iL—cvcn ií Lhc
cvcnL is (ncccssarily) availablc íor a discoursc oí jusLicc. Tc cs-
say prcscnLs mcrcly an asigniíying scrics oí imagcs raLhcr Lhan a
scrics oí jusL, or moral, imagcs, Lo paraphrasc 1can-Iuc Codard,
a cincmaLic “sccr” influcnccd by Bazin. TaL is, as Dclcuzc glosscs
Codard’s slogan “Pas unc imagc jusLc, jusLc unc imagc,” “a ‘jusL
imagc’ is an imagc LhaL cxacLly corrcsponds Lo whaL iL is Lakcn
Lo rcprcscnL; buL ií wc Lakc imagcs as ‘jusL ía scrics oí] imagcs,’
wc scc Lhcm prcciscly as imagcs, raLhcr Lhan corrccL or incorrccL
rcprcscnLaLions oí anyLhing” (Negotìatìons :non:). In Lhis scnsc,
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” :nn
DcIillo’s imagc cvcnLs rcsonaLc acsLhcLically and cLhically wiLh
Lhosc oí ncorcalisL cincma: íaccd wiLh Lhc impossibiliLy ycL ncccs-
siLy oí rcsponding Lo cvcnLs LhaL cxcccd immcdiaLc cxplanaLion,
boLh kinds cnacL Lhcir rcsponsc-abiliLy Lo show how inLcnsivcly
inhabiLing—suspcnding—an cvcnL can bring cLhical rcsponsibil-
iLy Lo iL.
Unlikc mosL n/:: documcnLarics, which csLablish Lhcir LrusL-
worLhincss by giving voicc Lo pcrsonal cxpcricncc—somcLhing
LhaL Lcnds Lo lic ouLsidc cvaluaLion—DcIillo’s cssay rhcLorically
affccLs his rcadcrs by noL allowing Lhcm Lo LrusL any oí his nar-
raLivc voiccs as qualificd Lo do jusLicc Lo Lhc cvcnL. OsLcnsibly
nonficLion LhaL gcncrically rcquircs Lhc wriLcr Lo Lcll iL as iL is (or,
in any casc, noL Lo makc up íalsc sLorics), iL commcnccs innocu-
ously cnough by siLuaLing n/:: sccmingly objccLivcly in Lhc lasL
dccadcs’ globalizaLion proccsscs. BuL cvcn in Lhis firsL sccLion,
Lhc Lhird pcrson accounL is alrcady complicaLcd by iLs cxpliciL jux-
Laposing oí diffcrcnL narraLivcs—Lhc WcsL’s and Lhc LcrrorisLs’:
“In Lhc pasL dccadc Lhc surgc oí capiLal markcLs has dominaLcd
discoursc and shapcd global consciousncss. MulLinaLional corpo-
raLions havc comc Lo sccm morc viLal and influcnLial Lhan gov-
crnmcnLs. í . . . ] Tcrror’s rcsponsc is a narraLivc LhaL has bccn dc-
vcloping ovcr ycars, only now bccoming incscapablc. IL is our livcs
and minds LhaL arc occupicd now” (jj). Whcrcas in :n¬6 Wim
Wcndcrs’s film Kìngs oj the Road could posLulaLc LhaL Lhc “Yan-
kccs havc cvcn colonizcd íCcrmany’s] unconsciousncss” Lhrough
rclcnLlcssly proliícraLing popular culLurc imagcs, Lhus giving
voicc Lo a pcrccivcd movcmcnL oí colonialism cvcn wiLhin Lhc so-
callcd FirsL World, Lhc siLuaLion, aL lcasL írom a U.S. sLandpoinL,
has now crucially changcd. AlLhough Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs conLinucs
Lo circulaLc imagcs—aL a grcaLcr pacc Lhan cvcr—DcIillo wriLcs
LhaL iL is now “our world, parLs oí our world, LhaL havc crumblcd
inLo Lhcirs, which mcans wc arc living in a placc oí dangcr and
ragc” (jj): “Lhcy” arc now colonizing “us.”
BuL Lhis juxLaposiLion docs noL hold. SccLion i oí Lhc cssay
immcdiaLcly narraLcs a diffcrcnL kind oí sLory. InsLcad oí affi rm-
ing Lhc dialccLical us vcrsus Lhcm rhcLoric LhaL was cncroaching
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” ioo
on Lhc cssay—FirsL World vcrsus Tird World, UniLcd SLaLcs oí
Amcrica vcrsus Lhc Taliban, WcsL vcrsus FasL, globalism vcrsus
Lribalism—DcIillo narraLcs LhaL Lhc LcrrorisL “planLcd in a Flor-
ida Lown, pushing a supcrmarkcL carL” (ji) is noL affccLcd by Lhc
“sighL oí a woman pushing a sLrollcr” (ji) bccausc “hc docs noL
see hcr” (ji, my cmphasis). Incomprchcnsiblc Lo mosL oí “us,” Lhc
LcrrorisL docs noL scc Lhc woman and is Lhus noL Louchcd by Lhc
imagc’s affccLivc impacL—bccausc hc cxisLs in a diffcrcnL narra-
Livc “íormaL” (ji) and mood LhaL diffcr írom ours. Whcrcas “our”
narraLivc íormaL has a logical ploL (Lhink classical Hollywood cin-
cma), Lhc LcrrorisL pursucs Lhc “apocalypsc” (ji)—a narraLivc
whcrc logic and undcrsLanding, or knowlcdgc, havc no purchasc
on Lhc cvcnL. Tus, DcIillo’s narraLivc inLimaLcs, Lhc dialccLic oí
rccogniLion LhaL pcrmcaLcs public dcbaLcs oí n/:: docs noL hold
as an cxplanaLory apparaLus bccausc Lhc oLhcr docs noL cvcn ac-
knowlcdgc—is noL capablc oí acknowlcdging—our sclí. Tc oLhcr
bypasscs us. Tc LcrrorisL’s sclí is alrcady oLhcr Lo our conccpL oí
Lhc sclí; Lhc LcrrorisL’s sclí is non-sclí-idcnLical Lo iLsclí: Lhc I oí
Lhc sclí is always alrcady an oLhcr.
DcIillo’s compcLing narraLivcs suggcsL LhaL aLLacking Lhc
oLhcr’s sclí is bound Lo íail írom Lhc bcginning bccausc LhaL sclí
docs noL cxisL as wc configurc iL. “Wc” can bomb “Lhcm” ouL oí
Lhcir cavcs, buL Lhcir sclvcs havc alrcady muLaLcd inLo somcLhing
clsc, flccing Lo a diffcrcnL locaLion, cvcn ií Lhcsc sclvcs havc ycL Lo
bc produccd: “For many pcoplc, Lhc cvcnL has changcd Lhc grain
oí Lhc mosL rouLinc momcnL. Wc may find LhaL Lhc ruin oí Lhc
Lowcrs is impliciL in oLhcr Lhings. Tc ncw PalmPiloL aL fingcr-
Lip’s rcach, Lhc sLrcLch limousinc parkcd ouLsidc Lhc hoLcl, Lhc
midLown skyscrapcr undcr consLrucLion, carrying Lhc namc oí a
major invcsLmcnL bank—all haunLcd in a way by whaL has hap-
pcncd, lcss assurcd in Lhcir auLhoriLy, in Lhcir prcrogaLivcs Lhcy
offcr” (jn). Tc oLhcr has alrcady bccomc oLhcr Lo iLsclí: iL now
pcrcolaLcs wiLhin “us” and our Lcchnology, cffccLing Lransíorma-
Lions wiLhin “us” LhaL cannoL hclp alLcring Lhc vcry possibiliLy íor
cradicaLing “Lhcm.”
DcIillo has always bccn an unLimcly wriLcr. His ficLion rc-
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” io:
sponds Lo spccific social cvcnLs by arLiculaLing Lhcir íuLurc Lrans-
íormaLions and cffccLs, acLualizing Lhc as oí ycL virLual íuLurc,
which is, in Lhc Bcrgsonian scnsc arLiculaLcd by Dclcuzc in Perg-
sonìsm (chapLcr i) and Cìnema i (chapLcr i), always coprcscnL
wiLh Lhc prcscnL iLsclí. Tc dcvclopmcnLs oí Lhc so-callcd war on
Lcrror sincc n/:: Lragically provcd oncc again DcIillo’s qualiLics
as a prcscicnL sccr: as confirmcd by Lhc aLLacks on Iondon in Lhc
summcr oí ioo=, íor insLancc, Lhc LcrrorisLs arc noL “Lhcm” buL
“us”—in our midsL, homcgrown, naLionals oí Lhc vcry counLry
Lhcy aLLack, jusL likc DcIillo suggcsLcd mcrcly a ícw monLhs aí-
Lcr n/::. Tc grcaL íailurc oí Lhc “war on Lcrror” has bccn iLs in-
abiliLy up unLil rcccnLly Lo conccivc oí Lcrrorism as a viral war
machinc. Tcrrorism was a|ways a dcccnLralizcd opcraLivc íorcc;
whaL has changcd sincc n/:: is only LhaL Lhis consLiLuLivc dcccn-
LralizaLion has inLcnsificd ìn response to Lhc war on iL. Any hiL on
any onc oí iLs cclls gcncraLcs oLhcrs clscwhcrc bccausc Lhc vcry
ccll sLrucLurc oí Lcrrorism is consLiLuLcd dìfferentìa||y, similar Lo
FiscnsLcin’s Lhcory oí monLagc, which insisLs LhaL a “shoL is ínoL]
an e|ement oí monLagc íbuL] is a monLagc ce||” (j¬), propclling Lhc
cnLirc monLagc sysLcm íorward by inLcrnal conflicL and collision,
jusL likc a combusLion cnginc movcs Lhc car írom wìthìn raLhcr
Lhan wiLhouL.
To puL Lhis in a slighLly diffcrcnL rcgisLcr LhaL is ncvcrLhclcss
ccnLral Lo DcIillo’s cssay, n/:: has also dcsLroycd Lhc ncolibcral
drcam oí globalizaLion as ciLizcn-consumcr uLopia. Tc cvcnL has,
in a ccrLain scnsc, broughL back Lribal íorccs, buL Lhis rcinLroduc-
Lion oí Lribal powcr is, as Michacl HardL and AnLonio Ncgri’s Fm-
pìre illusLraLcs, noL so much a rcLurn Lhan an inLcnsificaLion oí
globalizaLion iLsclí. ClobalizaLion is noL opposcd Lo whaL mcdia
pundiLs dcmcan as “mcdicvalism,” nor is iL a progrcssivc movc-
mcnL away írom mcdicvalism, as wc arc conLinually assurcd. On
Lhc conLrary, globalizaLion is iníuscd wiLh and affccLcd by mcdi-
cvalism, consLiLuLing iLs mosL inLcnsificd momcnL ycL: Lhc global
sclí is always alrcady Lhc Lribal oLhcr going global.
Howcvcr, Lhc rcadcr is ulLimaLcly noL askcd Lo Lakc Lhis analy-
sis aL íacc valuc, as ií iL rcprcscnLcd Lhc mcaning or LruLh oozing
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” ioi
írom Lhc cvcnL. OuiLc simply, Lhc cvcnL cannoL bc rcduccd Lo an
aLmosphcrc oí mass paranoia à la X-Fì|es narraLivcs in which Lhc
proLagonisLs musL always ícar LhaL Lhcir bodics havc alrcady bccn
injccLcd wiLh alicn corpusclcs. For paranoia is simply Lhc mosL
comíorLing narraLivc availablc in rcsponsc Lo Lrauma, posiLing
Lhc sclí as pcrsccuLcd by Lhc ouLsidc, Lhc oLhcr.
Tc oLhcr scrvcs
as Lhc cxplanaLory íorcc par cxccllcncc Lo rciníorcc Lhc sclí as a
sclí-conLaincd cnLiLy LhaL conLrols iLsclí by suspccLing cvcryLhing
clsc. BuL paranoia is jusL anoLhcr ploL, and, as DcIillo asscrLs in
whaL mighL bc Lakcn Lo bc his Lhcsis (ií having a Lhcsis wcrc noL
Lo go againsL his cssay’s pcríormaLivc, pcdagogical íorcc), “PloLs
rcducc Lhc world” (ji). PloLs rcducc Lhc world bccausc Lhc acL
oí ploLLing consLiLuLcs Lhc virLual sccd oí dcsLrucLion: Lo wiL,
al-Ouacda’s ploLLing cndcd in Lhc plancs’ pcríccLly sLagcd and
cxccuLcd doublc impacL on Lhc Lwin Lowcrs. Tus, DcIillo’s cs-
say docs noL ploL an cxplanaLion LhaL would offcr rcadcrs a saíc
rcconsLiLuLion oí Lhc world; insLcad, Lhc cssay indicaLcs LhaL ploL
consLiLuLivcly parLakcs in Lhc problcm, as a “vision oí judgmcnL”
(ji) prcccding Lhc cvcnL. And whaL clsc is judgmcnL ií noL a
world-rcducing ploL`
BuL ploLs also rcducc Lhc world bccausc Lhcy can bc casily cx-
plaincd and uscd as cxplanaLions íor “cvil.” For insLancc, in Olivcr
SLonc’s 1FK (:nn:), Lhc “ploLLing” rcducLion oí Lhc prcsidcnL’s
assassinaLion Lo a LighLly kniL conspiracy schcmc scrvcs as a
sccmingly compclling ycL ulLimaLcly simplisLic cxplanaLion oí Lhc
“cvil” donc; convcrscly, Lhc conspiracy ploL iLsclí promiscs Lo bc
cxplainablc simply by locaLing Lhosc involvcd in Lhc ploL. In sLark
conLrasL, 1amcs Fllroy’s novcl Amerìcan Tab|oìd (:nn¬) cngagcs
1FK’s assassinaLion noL by rcducing Lhc cvcnL Lo one ploL buL by
ampliíying Lhc vcry idca oí ploL iLsclí: “You wanL ploL` I’ll givc
you ploL!” so Lhc book sccms Lo dcclarc in bold Labloid lcLLcrs as iL
providcs Lhc rcadcr wiLh hundrcds oí Lhcm. ConscqucnLly, rcad-
ing Fllroy’s novcl docs noL lcavc onc wiLh Lhc imprcssion LhaL fig-
uring ouL “whaL” happcncd will lcad Lo an undcrsLanding oí “why”
iL happcncd; insLcad, by inLcnsiíying Lhc vcry idca oí ploL(Ling),
Lhc novcl subjccLs Lhc rcadcr Lo Lhc provocaLion LhaL Lhc be|ìej in
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” ioj
ploLs is iLsclí a problcm raLhcr Lhan a soluLion. Or raLhcr, boLh
DcIillo’s cssay and Fllroy’s “rcsponsc” Lo SLonc’s 1FK show LhaL
ploLs incviLably rcducc Lhc world; indccd, as DcIillo has rciLcr-
aLcd LhroughouL his work, Lhcy “Lcnd Lo movc dcaLhward” (whìte
Noìse i6) or, again, “movc Loward dcaLh” (Lìbra ii:).
TaL ploLs rcducc Lhc world also on a phcnomcnological lcvcl
is dramaLizcd by Richard Crossman’s brillianL cxpcrimcnLal novcl
Te A|phabet Man.
Tc ploL oí Lhc iio-pagc narraLivc abouL a
schizophrcnic pocL/killcr can bc summarizcd in onc paragraph,
which Lhc novcl iLsclí cvcnLually providcs us on pagc ii6, LhaL
(sccmingly) clcarly maps ouL whaL happcncd Lo whom and why.
YcL Lhc vcry íacL LhaL Lhc ploL summary succeeds iio pagcs oí nar-
raLion docs noL so much indicaLc Lhc sadism oí Lhc auLhor or nar-
raLor who rclishcs Lhc LhoughL oí having írusLraLcd rcadcrs wiLh
Lhis wcird, violcnL, and coníusing narraLivc only Lo mock Lhcm
wiLh a sLraighLíorward accounL oí iL. RaLhcr, conciscly sLaLing
Lhc ploL calls aLLcnLion Lo Lhc vcry íacL LhaL rcadcrs’ experìence
oí rcading Lhc novcl cannoL bc summarily accounLcd íor Lhrough
having rccoursc Lo ploL as an cxplanaLory mcchanism—jusL as
Lhc dcploymcnL oí Lhc moral caLcgory oí “cvil” docs noL sum
up Lhc cxpcricncc oí Lhc public’s iniLial affectìve rcsponsc Lo Lhc
cvcnL oí n/::. Tc inLcnsiíying vcrLigo induccd Lhrough Lhc nov-
cl’s sLrucLurc and all iLs acsLhcLic narraLivc dcviccs, in addiLion Lo
Lhc obscurc conLcnL, which is osLcnsibly a mysLcry sLory, has con-
Linually affccLcd Lhc rcadcr so LhaL shc docs noL know whcrc shc
is aL any givcn Limc in Lhc narraLivc. Tc rcadcr is oLhcr Lo hcrsclí
aL any momcnL, jusL as Lhc novcl’s main characLcr, Lhc psychoLic
Clydc, is conLinually oLhcr Lo himsclí in psychosis. To namc Lhc
ploL is Lhus noL mcrcly Lhc lcasL inLcrcsLing Lhing Lo say abouL Lhc
novcl buL iL íundamcnLally misscs Lhc affccLivc inLcnsiLy gcncr-
aLcd íor rcadcrs by Lhc cncounLcr wiLh, LhaL is, ìn Lhc rcading oí,
Lhc LcxL.
TaL ploLs rcducc Lhc world, howcvcr, is noL a problcm in iL-
sclí. RaLhcr, whaL counLs is Lhc sty|e oí rcducLion. 1FK rcduccs
Lhc cvcnL oí Novcmbcr ii, :n6j Lo an “cxplanaLion” Lhcrcoí,
whcrcas Amerìcan Tab|oìd and “In Lhc Ruins oí Lhc FuLurc” “rc-
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” ioi
ducc” Lhcir rcspccLivc cvcnLs Lo Lhcir mosL inLcnsificd momcnLs,
absLracL Lhcm. Tus wc rcad in DcIillo’s cssay, “Tc ccll phoncs,
Lhc losL shocs, Lhc handkcrchicís mashcd in Lhc íaccs oí running
mcn and womcn. Tc box cuLLcrs and crcdiL cards. Tc papcr LhaL
camc sLrcaming ouL oí Lhc Lowcrs and driíLcd across Lhc rivcr Lo
Brooklyn back yards: sLaLus rcporLs, rcsumcs, insurancc íorms.
ShccLs oí papcr drivcn inLo concrcLc, according Lo wiLncsscs. Pa-
pcr slicing inLo Lruck Lircs, fixcd Lhcrc” (j=). DcIillo’s cssay Lakcs
Lhcsc rcduccd cvcnLs Lo Lhcir limiLs: “a prcgnanL woman, a ncw-
born, a dog” (j¬, my cmphascs). Dclcuzc and CuaLLari call Lhcsc
limiLs “hacccciLics”—vcrbs in Lhc infiniLivc, propcr namcs, daLcs,
indcfiniLc arLiclcs—which “consisL cnLircly oí rclaLions oí movc-
mcnL and rcsL bcLwccn molcculcs or parLiclcs, capaciLics Lo affccL
and bc affccLcd” (Tousand P|ateaus i6:). A hacccciLy namcs Lhc
cvcnL bccausc iL “has nciLhcr bcginning nor cnd, origin nor dcsLi-
naLion; iL is always in Lhc middlc. IL is noL madc oí poinLs, only oí
lincs. IL is a rhizomc” (i6j). In DcIillo’s asubjccLivc, amorphous
spacc oí narraLivc scrializaLion, seeìng is iLsclí rhcLorically acLu-
alizcd írom wiLhin Lhc cvcnL and away írom Lhc LcrriLorializing
íorcc oí subjccLivc and subjccLiíying acLs oí cxplanaLion bascd on
“LruLhíul” pcrccpLions. Tus, DcIillo’s hacccciLic narraLing bcgins
Lo rcndcr sccablc Lhc public’s iniLial affccLivc rcsponsc Lo n/::
and iLs hallucinaLory cliding oí cxposiLory claims. DiffcrcnLly puL,
rccoursc Lo ploL as prcdominanLly an cxplanaLory mcchanism oí
Lhc cvcnL’s whaLncss íundamcnLally misscs Lhc poinL LhaL ploL—
or sysLcmaLiciLy—is iLsclí consLiLuLcd by affccL or inLcnsiLics,
LhaL is, conLinual variaLion.
In the Ruins of Analogy: Suspending Likeness
DcIillo’s cssayisLic cncounLcr wiLh n/:: rigorously Lcachcs us
Lhis lasL poinL. For whilc wc as rcadcrs arc inclincd Lo bclicvc LhaL
Lhc cssay’s iniLial Lhird pcrson accounL is rcasonably objccLivc,
Lhc cssay quickly undcrmincs Lhis imprcssion. SccLion i narraLcs
Lhc sLory oí Karcn and Marc, Lhc firsL and only propcr firsL namcs
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” io=
uscd in Lhc cssay.
In Lhc cssay’s rhyLhm, Lhis ncw narraLivc
sccms a mcrc closc-up, calling our aLLcnLion Lo a spccific insLancc
among Lhc many sLorics—íor insLancc, LhaL oí Lhc “Lwo womcn
on Lwo plancs, bcsL oí íricnds, who dic LogcLhcr and aparL, Towcr
: and Towcr i” (ji), or LhaL oí “Lhc saxophonisL playing soíLly”
(j=)—LhaL wcrc only alludcd Lo carlicr. YcL, Lwo-Lhirds oí Lhc way
inLo Lhis sccLion, Lhc narraLor undcrmincs our confidcncc in him.
Having jusL dcscribcd Marc’s acLions during Lhc aLLack (hc sclí-
lcssly hclpcd oLhcr LcnanLs in his building), Lhc narraLor sLaLcs:
Marc camc ouL Lo Lhc corridor. I Lhink wc mìght dic, hc Lold
himsclí, hcdging his scnsc oí whaL would happcn ncxL.
Tc dcLccLivc Lold Karcn Lo sLay whcrc Lhcy wcrc.
Whcn Lhc sccond Lowcr ícll, my hcarL ícll wiLh iL. I callcd
Marc, who is my ncphcw, on his cordlcss. (j¬)
Wc arc surpriscd Lo discovcr LhaL Lhc narraLor has Lold a much
morc pcrsonal and prcsumably subjccLivc sLory Lhan wc havc bccn
lcd Lo bclicvc Lhus íar. Curiously, wiLhin a ícw lincs, Lhc narraLivc
voicc shiíLs írom Lhird pcrson omniscicnL Lo an odd mixLurc oí
narraLivc poinL oí vicws. Why, íor cxamplc, docs Lhc narraLor noL
say, “Hc LhoughL hc mighL dic” (indirccL discoursc)` Or, why docs
Lhc narraLor noL providc dirccL discoursc (i.c., “‘Wc mighL dic,’ hc
Lold himsclí”), as hc did in Lhc passagc jusL prcccding Lhis onc,
which dcscribcs Lhc momcnL Marc cxpcricnccs Lhc unLhinkablc:
“Whcn íMarc] hcard Lhc firsL low drumming rumblc, hc sLood in
a sLrangc dcad calm and said, ‘SomcLhing is happcning’” (j6)` In-
sLcad oí providing rcadcrs wiLh a sLablc vicwpoinL—and Lhus Lhc
possibiliLy íor idcnLificaLion—Lhc coníuscd narraLivc pcrspccLivc
calls aLLcnLion Lo Lhc shccr impossibiliLy oí (idcnLiíying wiLh) a
clcar vicw oí Lhc cvcnL. During Lhc disasLcr, as Karcn and Marc
comc ouL oí Lhc building “inLo a world oí ash and ncar nighL”
(j¬), Lhc cvcnL iLsclí is impossiblc Lo apprchcnd and ycL Lrans-
íorms Lhosc rcsponding Lo—seeìng—iL: “Tcrc was no onc clsc Lo
bc sccn now on Lhc sLrccL. Cray ash covcring Lhc cars and pavc-
mcnL, ash íalling in largc flakcs í. . .]. Tc mcmbcrs oí Lhc group
wcrc maskcd and Lowclcd, childrcn in adulLs’ arms, moving casL
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” io6
and Lhcn norLh on Nassau SLrccL, Lrying noL Lo look around, only
whaL’s immcdiaLc, onc sLcp and Lhcn anoLhcr, all closcly íocuscd,
a prcgnanL woman, a ncwborn, a dog” (j¬). Tc circumsLanccs
dcmand Lhis mcrging oí pcrspccLivc, noL bccausc iL promiscs Lhc
possibiliLy oí dcmocraLic inclusivcncss LhaL will cxplain n/::, buL
bccausc Lhc cvcnL induccs a ncccssary incorporcal Lransíorma-
Lion oí boLh iLsclí and Lhc rcsponding subjccL. NciLhcr cvcnL nor
subjccL can bc namcd oLhcr Lhan wiLh a daLc or indcfiniLc arLiclcs
and pronouns: somethìng happcncd, a dog, and, finally, “Someone
said, ‘I don’L wanL chccsc on LhaL.’ Someone said, ‘I likc iL bcLLcr
noL so cookcd’” (j¬, my cmphascs).
Tc firsL-pcrson poinL oí vicw cvcnLually cnsuing írom Lhis
insLanLancous LransíormaLion displays a rcmarkablc dcscripLivc
insighL inLo cvcnLs iL did noL wiLncss (Lhc narraLor was noL in
Lhc aparLmcnL building whcn Lhc Lowcrs crashcd). By Lhis mcans,
Lhc cssay sLylisLically (ncorcalisLically) marks Lhc cvcnLncss oí
Lhc cvcnL: iL happcns or happcncd and Lhus rcquircs rcsponsc,
buL iL docs noL allow íor prccxisLing subjccL posiLions Lo rcmain
unaffccLcd. SubjccLs rcspond bccausc Lhcy arc madc Lo rcspond in
a parLicular way, having bccn subjccLcd Lo LhaL which cannoL bc
rcduccd Lo a prccxisLing posiLion, a ploL’s limiLaLions, Lhc LruLh-
íulncss oí a subjccL’s pcrccpLion, or Lhc cvcr-prcscnL dcmand íor
moral clariLy.
FvcnLually, Lhc sccLion shiíLs back Lo a Lhird pcrson narra-
Lion, buL by Lhcn Lhc narraLor’s acsLhcLic dcviccs havc induccd
a dclirium LhaL allows us no longcr Lo rcspond Lo—or idcnLiíy
wiLh—Lhc cssay’s sLandpoinL on Lhc lcvcl oí purc conLcnL. Wc arc
now Lrying Lo “caLch up” (jn) Lo whaL happcncd Lo us—Lo Lhc
rhcLorical íorcc rclaLions inhcring in Lhc cvcnL oí narraLivc, or
languagc. Ií wc LhoughL LhaL Lhc narraLivc, or Lhc mulLiplc mini-
narraLivcs, mcanL Lo rcprcscnL a LruLh abouL n/::, Lhcn now wc
cannoL havc any íaiLh in Lhc vcraciLy oí Lhcsc accounLs. Ií wc wcrc
LcmpLcd Lo bclicvc LhaL Lhc flccLing counLcr-narraLivcs would ac-
cruc a largcr mcaning, wc arc now affccLivcly placcd in a posi-
Lion—a bccoming-oLhcr Lo onc’s sclí—LhaL cuLs across Lhc cxpc-
ricncc Lhc cssay is aLLcmpLing Lo provokc buL noL capLurc. BuL our
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” io¬
cxpcricncc rcading DcIillo’s cssay is noL “likc” cxpcricncing n/::;
nor is DcIillo’s dcploymcnL oí narraLivc misc-cn-sccnc “likc” LhaL
oí Lhc ILalian ncorcalisLs. Nor is Lhc cxpcricncc oí n/:: “likc” LhaL
oí AuschwiLz or Pcarl Harbor, Lo namc Lhc Lwo mosL uníorLunaLc
comparisons LhaL havc circulaLcd Lhrough Lhc mcdia. RaLhcr, Dc-
Iillo’s cssay puLs likcncss aL sLakc. Tc Lowcr’s implosion, so Lhc
narraLor rccounLs,
was so vasL and Lcrriblc LhaL iL was ouLsidc imagining cvcn
as iL happcncd. Wc could noL caLch up Lo iL. BuL iL was rcal,
punishingly so, an cxprcssion oí Lhc physics oí sLrucLural
limiLs and a void in onc’s soul, and Lhcrc was Lhc hugc an-
Lcnna íalling ouL oí Lhc sky, sLraighL down, blunL cnd firsL,
likc an arrow moving backward in Limc.
Tc cvcnL iLsclí has no purchasc on Lhc mcrcics oí anal-
ogy or similc. Wc havc Lo Lakc Lhc shock and horror as iL
is. (jn)
NoLc Lhc immcdiaLc crasurc oí Lhc narraLor’s inLuiLivc rccoursc Lo
LhaL which hc asscrLs lics bcyond Lhc cvcnL’s purvicw. Tc cvcnL
is “likc an arrow moving backward in Limc” only Lo bc noL “likc”
iL aL all prcciscly bccausc Lhc cvcnL is noL rcduciblc Lo rcprcscnLa-
Lion: “Wc havc Lo Lakc Lhc shock and horror as ìt ìs.” Tis crasurc
is cxprcsscd wiLh Lhc íorcc oí an imagc cvcnL, onc DcIillo pro-
duccs by hiLLing Lhc cnLcr kcy on Lhc kcyboard Lo crcaLc a visual
aporia markcd by Lhc whiLc spacc bcLwccn Lwo paragraphs. So
noL only docs Lhc cvcnL havc no grasp on Lhc mcrcics oí rcprc-
scnLaLional languagc, buL, convcrscly, Lhcsc vcry mcrcics havc
no purchasc on Lhc cvcnL bccausc oí iLs purc singulariLy. Or, as
Dclcuzc and CuaLLari conLcnd, an cvcnL is noL oj hisLory (i.c., a
narraLivc/ploL), Lhough iL is born in and íalls back inLo hisLory
Lhrough Lhc incviLablc appropriaLion oí Lhc cvcnL’s bccoming by
narraLivc íorccs (what !s Phì|osophy? ::o).
Tc poinL hcrc is noL Lo asscrL Lhc impossibiliLy oí spcaking,
wriLing, or knowing; nor is iL Lo suggcsL LhaL cLhics consisLs oí an
cLcrnal crasing oí Lhc said by Lhc saying. Wc do noL adcquaLcly
inLcrrogaLc Lhc cvcnL by wondcring whcLhcr or noL Lo wriLc or
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” io8
spcak abouL iL. Tc movcmcnL oí DcIillo’s cssay, iLs “acsLhcLic
sLancc,” rhcLorically, indccd masocriLically, imagcs how Lo bc-
comc rcccpLivc Lo Lhc rcsponsc-abiliLy in Lhc cvcnL: “Bcíorc poli-
Lics, bcíorc hisLory and rcligion, Lhcrc is Lhc primal Lcrror. Pcoplc
íalling írom Lhc Lowcrs hand in hand” (jn). BuL Lhcrc is also Lhc
primal íorcc oí languagc. DcIillo’s cssay Lrics Lo hccd and rcndcr
palpablc Lhis íorcc or affccL—Lhc how, or scnsaLion, oí languagc.
Tc íorm LhaL rcsponsc Lakcs bccomcs Lhc cvcnL’s conLcnL (which
is noL Lo downplay or cvcn dcny Lhc acLual dcaLhs Lhcmsclvcs or
Lhc dcsLrucLion oí Lhc ciLyscapc), and so Lhis parLicular modc oí
rcsponsc immancnLly subsisLs wiLhin Lhc cvcnL’s ncccssary vari-
abiliLy iLsclí. Or, as Lhc cssay’s narraLor affi rms, cvcn Lhough Lhc
languagc oí rcprcscnLaLion has no purchasc on Lhc cvcnL’s sin-
gulariLy, “living languagc is noL diminishcd. í. . .] lL|anguage ìs
ìnseparab|e jrom the wor|d that provokes ìt. Tc wriLcr bcgins in
Lhc Lowcrs, Lrying Lo imaginc Lhc momcnL, dcspcraLcly” (jn, my
cmphasis). Tc cvcnL has a discursivc dimcnsion, cxisLs in and
Lhrough discoursc, cvcn ií iL is noL rcduciblc Lo languagc.
RaLhcr Lhan a limiLaLion, howcvcr, Lhc cvcnL’s discursivc di-
mcnsion is Lhc wriLcr’s—as wcll as Lhc dirccLor’s or criLic’s—
condiLion oí possibiliLy íor rcsponsc-abiliLy. WiLhin Lhc cvcnL’s
virLual buL rcal rcalm, Lhc languagc oí analogy or similc—rcprc-
scnLaLion and judgmcnL—íuncLions as a crucial LcrriLorializing
íorcc. IL is a clichc (i.c., hcrocs vcrsus villains) LhaL rcduccs Lhc
irrcduciblc Lo Lhc íamiliar, or aL lcasL Lo LhaL which wc Lhink wc
know—wiLhouL cvcr marking LhaL Lhis knowlcdgc has bccn casL
in rcprcscnLaLional Lcrms. In conLrasL, rcsponsc bcgins ìn Lhc
cvcnL. Ianguagc immancnLly inhcrcs and subsisLs in Lhc cvcnL’s
variabiliLy or scrialiLy, which provokcs imaging. Tc problcm wiLh
Lhc logic oí rcprcscnLaLion as rcscmblancc is LhaL iL always posi-
Lions Lhc rcsponding subjccL ouLsidc Lhc cvcnL and so rcduccs Lhc
cvcnL Lo whaL subjccLs bclicvc Lo bc Lhcir poinL oí vicw.
YcL, as Richard Powcrs’s rcsponsc Lo n/:: insinuaLcs, whilc
Lhcrc arc no words LhaL rcprcscnL Lhc cvcnL, “Lhcrc arc only words”
And whilc “no comparison can say whaL happcncd Lo usí,]
wc can sLarL wiLh Lhc ruins oí our similc and lcL ‘likc’ move us Lo-
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” ion
ward somcLhing largcr, somc undcrsLanding oí whaL ‘is’” (ii, my
cmphasis). Wc mighL bc unablc Lo cscapc Lhc languagc oí similcs,
analogics, and Lhus mcaning. Tc inLcrcsLing aspccL oí an anal-
ogy, howcvcr, is noL Lhc poinLs Lo bc bridgcd buL iLs modulaLion,
iLs movcmcnL.
To bc movcd, Lo bccomc affccLcd—noL so much
in Lcrms oí íccling buL in Lcrms oí Lhinking oLhcrwisc and bcing
provokcd Lo movc clscwhcrc—consLiLuLcs Lhc cLhical rcsponsi-
biliLy oí Lhc wriLcr, dirccLor, criLic, Lcachcr, or anyonc clsc who
cngagcs imagcs. Tis movcmcnL or moving procccds cllipLically,
suspcnscíully. Tc proccss oí seeìng Lhc cvcnL, as rhcLorically in-
scribcd in and by DcIillo’s cssay, lcaps, Lo quoLc Bazin oncc morc,
“írom onc cvcnL Lo Lhc oLhcr as onc lcaps írom sLonc Lo sLonc in
crossing a rivcr” (i:j=).
Tis cllipLical proccss, howcvcr, docs noL work by judgmcnL.
According Lo Adorno, Lhis is prcciscly whaL scparaLcs arL írom
nonarL, whilc always cnabling Lhc íormcr Lo rcmain in rclaLion
Lo Lhc laLLcr. As hc wriLcs, “ArLworks arc, as synLhcsis, ana|ogous
Lo judgmcnL; in arLworks, howcvcr, synLhcsis docs noL resu|t
in judgmcnL; oí no arLwork is iL possiblc Lo dcLcrminc iLs judg-
mcnL or whaL iLs so-callcd mcssagc is. IL is Lhcrcíorc qucsLionablc
whcLhcr arLworks can possibly bc engage, cvcn whcn Lhcy cm-
phasizc Lhcir engagement. WhaL works amounL Lo, LhaL in which
Lhcy arc unificd, cannoL bc íormulaLcd as a judgmcnL, noL cvcn as
onc LhaL Lhcy sLaLc in words and scnLcnccs” (Aesthetìc Teory :ij,
firsL Lwo cmphascs minc). ArL, and I suggcsL LhaL DcIillo’s cssay
is prcciscly an artju| rcsponsc Lo n/::, can bc rcgardcd as bcing
analogous Lo judgmcnL wiLhouL cvcr arLiculaLing, lcL alonc beìng,
a judgmcnL. TaL is, analogy is noL Lhc samc as a rcsulL: “how”
is noL Lhc samc as “whaL.” Analogy moves inLransiLivcly raLhcr
Lhan Loward somcLhing. Tc disLancc cffccLcd by such analogical
movcmcnL is noL Lo bc coníuscd wiLh whaL MarxisL/psychoana-
lyLic film Lhcory oí Lhc :n¬os (and Lo Lhis day) associaLcs wiLh
Lhc so-callcd alicnaLion cffccL LhaL is supposcd Lo Lurn Lhc vicwcr
inLo an acLivc spccLaLor raLhcr Lhan a passivc consumcr oí cscap-
isL imagcs. Tis laLLcr kind oí disLancc advocaLcd by such film
LhcorisLs is a disLancc Lo bc crcaLcd bcLwccn imagcs and rcaliLy so
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” i:o
LhaL vicwcrs will cngagc Lhc laLLcr raLhcr Lhan idcnLiíy wiLh Lhc
íormcr; in conLrasL, analogy as I am dcploying iL hcrc crcaLcs a
ccrLain kind oí a dìstance jrom rea|ìty and, convcrscly, a ccrLain dc-
grcc oí ìmmedìacy wìth the ìmage, wiLh Lhc imagcd cvcnL, wiLh Lhc
cvcnL LhaL consisLs oí poinLs oí vicw LhaL givc risc Lo Lhc imagc oí
Lhc cvcnL. As such, analogy allows Lhc imagc, Lhc cvcnL, Lo rcLain
a mcasurc oí acsLhcLic (and Lhus cLhical) auLonomy, as Adorno
argucd in “Transparcncics oí Film,” an cssay in which hc rcviscd
somc oí his carlicr, flaL-ouL ncgaLivc vicws oí Lhc cincma.
Adorno’s pcrspccLivc, such acsLhcLic auLonomy slows down Lhc
movcmcnL Loward a íalsc idcnLificaLion oí Lhc parLicular and Lhc
univcrsal, whcrc Lhc dcLailcd imagc (Lhc parLicular) cnds up rcícr-
ring Lo (rcprcscnLing) somcLhing clsc (Lhc univcrsal). Suspcnding
Lhis rcícrcnLial logic (onc drivcn by giving primacy Lo “rcaliLy”
ovcr imagcs) in which Lhc jackbooLs oí Lhc subjccL crush scnsuous
singulariLy, arcprcscnLaLional analogous movcmcnL crcaLcs and
mainLains a disLancc bcLwccn Lhc parLicular and Lhc univcrsal,
Lhc imagc and rcaliLy, or Lo usc Lhc Lcrms oí masochism, bcLwccn
plcasurc and pain.
YcL, and Lhis is kcy, Lhrough Lhc inLransiLivc characLcr oí anal-
ogy, analogical movcmcnL has a powcríul purchasc on Lhc vcry
world iL simulLancously rcccdcs írom prcciscly bccausc iL sets the
wor|d ìtse|j ìn motìon, Lhus ncccssarily affccLing and Lransíorm-
ing iL. Trough iLs dcscripLivc-gcncraLivc opcraLion, arL sees Lhc
world noL as somcLhing Lo bc bchcld by a subjccL (as ií Lhc world
cxisLcd jor iL, likc a picLurc cníramcd íor a subjccL’s consuming
plcasurcs) buL as somcLhing Lo bc sccn by poinLs oí vicw LhaL
havc ycL Lo cmcrgc írom LhaL which is Lo bc sccn: Lhc objccL iL-
sclí in iLs conLinual variaLion.
Tc nccd Lo scc Lhc objccL in iLs
conLinual variaLion—cncounLcring iL qua bccoming—is, iL bcars
rcpcaLing, also whaL Bazin gcLs aL whcn hc approvingly dcscribcs
Frich von SLrohcim’s rulc íor dirccLion: “Takc a closc look aL Lhc
world, keep on doìng so, and in Lhc cnd iL will lay barc íor you all
iLs cruclLy and iLs uglincss” (::i¬, my cmphasis). Tc impcraLivc
Lo “kccp on doing so” is absoluLcly kcy Lo Bazin’s Lhcory oí cin-
cma and is also somcLhing LhaL characLcrizcs DcIillo’s cssay. Far
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” i::
írom arLiculaLing a naïvc íorm oí rcalism, as many oí Bazin’s criL-
ics allcgc, Bazin crucially insisLs on Lhc ncccssiLy oí a cincmaLic
acL oí rcpcLiLion in íorm oí an arLificially induccd inLcnsificaLion.
Bazin’s cLhical íaiLh in Lhc cincma—Lhc rcason hc Lhinks cincma
is a supcrior arL íorm—is prcciscly iLs abiliLy Lo rcndcr visiblc
Lhc world’s consLiLuLivc variabiliLy, iLs ongoing muLabiliLy, raLhcr
Lhan an unchanging csscncc or LruLh. Tc powcr oí cincma is, íor
Bazin, akin Lo Lhc momcnL oí sLaring aL an objccL íor such a long
Limc LhaL Lhc objccL iLsclí muLaLcs in our cycs, Lhus making iL-
sclí availablc Lo us in iLs consLiLuLivc variabiliLy or bccoming. Tc
problcm, howcvcr, is LhaL mosL oí Lhc Limc wc arc dcprivcd oí
visiblc acccss Lo Lhc world’s bccoming bccausc oí our insLiLuLion-
alizcd Lcndcncy Lo rcly on cnLrcnchcd, clichcd modcs oí pcrccp-
Lion—LhaL is, judgmcnL, which always procccds aL a spccd noL
conducivc Lo seeìng Lhc vcry proccsscs oí bccoming LhaL gcncraLc
judgmcnL’s condiLion oí arLiculaLion in Lhc firsL placc.
IiLcraLurc and cincma Lhus providc rhcLorical Lools or sLraLc-
gics íor rcsponding Lo cvcnLs LhaL cxcccd Lhcir immcdiaLc rcalm oí
influcncc and conccrn, as wcll as go bcyond subjccLs’ abiliLy Lo pcr-
ccivc Lhcm. Indccd, pcrccpLion, pace Lhc (nco)phcnomcnological
LradiLion, appcars Lo bc unncccssary (Lhough iL mighL vcry wcll
bc uscíul aL Limcs) íor rcsponsc-abiliLy. TaL is, undcrsLand-
ing and mcaning—indccd prcscncc and Bcing (in Lhc Hcidcg-
gcrian scnsc)—consLiLuLc problcms only ií onc agrccs wiLh
(nco)phcnomcnology LhaL consciousncss siLs aL Lhc rooL oí cvcry
rcsponsc-abiliLy. For Bazin, Dclcuzc, and DcIillo, howcvcr, prcs-
cncc or Bcing is no problcm prcciscly bccausc íor Lhcm Bcing
can bc said only oí bccoming (scc chapLcr j, noLc i8). Ií Bcing is
noLhing buL bccoming—variaLion, diffcrcnLiaLion—Lhcn pcrccp-
Lion or undcrsLanding aL bcsL scrvcs as onc among many lincs
oí cnLry and flighL. RaLhcr Lhan bcing dcpcndcnL on pcrccpLion
in Lhc phcnomcnological scnsc, Lhcn, lcarning Lo rcspond Lo Lhc
cvcnL rcquircs hccding “Lhc primacy oí Lhc objccL” (Adorno, Aes-
thetìc Teory :i=); iL is lcarning how Lo dcploy and rcspond Lo
imagcs wiLhouL making Lhcm indcbLcd Lo somcLhing LhaL is noL
parL oí Lhc cvcnL. Onc musL íollow Lhc lincs oí incision or cnLry
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” i:i
prcgivcn by Lhc cvcnL’s íorcc rclaLions, jusL as a diamond cuLLcr
cuLs Lhc raw diamond by íollowing iLs prccxisLing lincs LhaL dc-
Lcrminc Lhc only way oí cuLLing iL wiLhouL ruining iLs sLrucLural
inLcgriLy and luminosiLy. Tus, as DcIillo caps Lhc cnd oí sccLion
6 oí his cssay, “in iLs dcscrLion oí cvcry basis íor comparison, Lhc
cvcnL asscrLs iLs singulariLy. Tcrc is somcLhing cmpLy in Lhc sky.
Tc wriLcr Lrics Lo givc mcmory, Lcndcrncss, and mcaning Lo all
LhaL howling spacc” (jn)—buL Lhc wriLcr ncvcr knows whcLhcr
and whcn Lhc cfforL will succccd. Or, as Paul AusLcr’s narraLor in
Cìty oj C|ass sLaLcs, “Tc qucsLion is Lhc sLory iLsclí, and whcLhcr
or noL iL mcans somcLhing is noL íor Lhc sLory Lo Lcll” (j).
In the Ruins of Representation
In rcsponsc Lo Lhc horrors oí Lhc HolocausL, Adorno íamously
claimcd LhaL “Lo wriLc pocLry aíLcr AuschwiLz is barbaric. And
Lhis corrodcs cvcn Lhc knowlcdgc oí why iL has bccomc impos-
siblc Lo wriLc pocLry Loday. AbsoluLc rcificaLion, which prcsup-
poscd inLcllccLual progrcss as onc oí iLs clcmcnLs, is now prcpar-
ing Lo absorb Lhc mind cnLircly. CriLical inLclligcncc cannoL bc
cqual Lo Lhis challcngc as long as iL confincs iLsclí Lo sclí-saLisficd
conLcmplaLion” (Prìsms ji). Tc singulariLy oí Lhc violcncc inhcr-
cnL Lo Lhc HolocausL, Adorno suggcsLs, cannoL bc cxplaincd or
comprchcndcd in an acL oí conLcmplaLion qua pcrccpLual discov-
cry oí Lhc cvcnL’s mcaning. IncidcnLally, Lhis Adornian posiLion
sLands in sLark conLrasL Lo whaL is suggcsLcd by conLcmporary
films such as Schìnd|er’s Lìst and Savìng Prìvate Ryan, films in
which SLcvcn Spiclbcrg, according Lo Codard’s asLuLc analysis, rc-
consLrucLs AuschwiLz as “LoLaliLarian” in ordcr Lo convincc vicw-
crs oí his allcgcdly noblc purposc raLhcr Lhan discussing iL criLi-
cally (cí. Brody 6=). TaL is, Lhc qucsLions Adorno impliciLly asks,
and Spiclbcrg conLinually clidcs, arc WhaL docs a dcnunciaLion oí
AuschwiLz do` WhaL docs iL do Lo say Lhis was “cvil”—givcn LhaL
rcally no onc buL somc righL wing cxLrcmisLs (who oíLcn simply
dcny Lhc vcry cxisLcncc oí Lhc HolocausL Lo bcgin wiLh) would
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” i:j
disagrcc wiLh Lhis asscssmcnL` AuschwiLz and “similar” cvcnLs
arc dangcrous noL bccausc oí whaL Lhcy are—“cvil”—buL bccausc
oí whaL Lhcy do. To suggcsL oLhcrwisc, as has bccn and I Lhink
sLill is Lhc sLandard modc oí rcsponsc Lo violcncc in gcncral and
Lhc HolocausL in parLicular, mcrcly causcs Lhc libcral-humanisL
FnlighLcnmcnL LradiLion Lo pcrpcLuaLc iLsclí—a LradiLion “wiLh-
ouL which Lhcrc could havc bccn no AuschwiLz” (Adorno, Nega-
tìve Lìa|ectìcs j6j) and onc LhaL conLinucs Lo opcraLc Loday undcr
Lhc rubric oí “globalizaLion.” TaL is, globalizaLion, as HardL and
Ncgri arguc in Fmpìre, is noL violaLcd or dcícaLcd by “mcdicval”
íorccs; insLcad, iL uses Lhcm Lo rcproducc iLsclí.
Howcvcr, íor Adorno, wriLing aíLcr AuschwiLz did noL liLcrally
cxcludc pocLry. IL cxcludcd any purchasc on a mcaningíul rcprc-
scnLaLional, or mcLaphoric, cxplanaLion oí violcncc’s mosL cxLrcmc
insLanLiaLion, sincc such an cxplanaLion is implicaLcd in Lhc Holo-
causL’s violcncc. For Adorno, wc arc lcíL wiLh Lhc cLhical obligaLion
Lo respond Lo Lhc various modcs oí opcraLions maniícsLcd by Lhc
íorccs oí violcncc. WhaL Adorno calls “criLical inLclligcncc” musL
bcgin Lo rcLhink whaL iL mcans Lo rcspond Lo LhaL which sccms
bcyond onc’s capaciLy Lo pcrccivc and undcrsLand. AL sLakc is Lhc
qucsLion oí how Lo dcploy imaging proccsscs in rcsponsc Lo cvcnLs
such as AuschwiLz—or n/::, a violcnL cvcnL alLogcLhcr diffcrcnL
írom Lhc HolocausL. Prcciscly bccausc onc violcnL cvcnL is ncvcr
likc anoLhcr, cach rcquircs iLs own, singular modc oí rcsponsc. AL
lcasL íor Adorno, pcrccpLion—Lhc acL oí uncovcring mcaning in a
givcn cvcnL—Lcnds Lo havc a limiLcd criLical and cxplanaLory íorcc
and is likcly Lo impcdc singular rcsponsc-abiliLy. Indccd, Lhc privi-
lcging oí pcrccpLion can scrvc as an cLhically and poliLically dangcr-
ous covcring ovcr oí Lhc íacL LhaL Lhc unLcsLcd and undcrLhcorizcd
assumpLions undcrlying Lhc qucsL íor mcaning, or Lhc dcsirc Lo aL-
LribuLc mcaning Lo an cvcnL’s singulariLy, rcducc Lhc cvcnL’s com-
plcxiLy Lo an (moralizing) cxplanaLion.
Adorno suggcsLs LhaL posiLion Laking, or judgmcnL, is iLsclí
Lhc problcm, noL Lhc soluLion—even ií Lhc posiLion is a poliLically
admirablc onc. Hcncc, hc counLcrs, íor insLancc, Lhc íccl-good
glorificaLion oí undcrdogs (i.c., Lhc judgmcnL LhaL undcrdogs arc
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” i:i
somchow morally bcLLcr and Lhus dcscrving oí supporL) wiLh onc
oí his LrcnchanL, chiasmic aphorisms: “glorificaLion oí splcndid
undcrdogs is noLhing oLhcr Lhan Lhc glorificaLion oí Lhc splcndid
sysLcm LhaL makcs Lhcm so” (Mìnìma Mora|ìa i8). Unlikc Lhc smug
judgmcnL oí Lhc undcrdog as “good” and Lhc sysLcm as “bad” LhaL
accomplishcs noL much morc Lhan insLilling sclí-saLisíacLion in
Lhc onc passing Lhc allcgcdly bcnign judgmcnL, Adorno’s ncgaLivc
dialccLical inLcnsificaLion oí Lhis judgmcnL suspcnds iL and Lhus
rcvcals in surprising íashion Lhc violcncc inhcring in Lhc logic oí
judgmcnL iLsclí—a logic LhaL is covcrcd ovcr and, in so doing, pcr-
pcLuaLcd and amplificd by Lhc vcry assumpLion oí whaL appcars
Lo bc aL firsL a morally sound, ií noL supcrior, posiLion Lo Lakc vis-
à-vis Lhc opLion oí rooLing íor Lhc “undcrdog” or Lhc “man.”
PuL diffcrcnLly, Lhc carclcss dcploymcnL oí rcprcscnLaLional
languagc in Lhc íorm oí similcs and analogics cníorccs a culLurc
oí judgmcnL raLhcr Lhan prompLing an invcsLigaLion oí how val-
ucs íuncLion. Oí coursc, I am noL suggcsLing LhaL wc can cvcr sLcp
ouLsidc Lhc rcalm oí rcprcscnLaLion and Lhus judgmcnL, Lhough
I conícss Lo sharing FoucaulL’s drcam “oí a kind oí criLicism LhaL
would noL Lry Lo judgc” (“Maskcd Philosophcr” ji6). RaLhcr,
because oj Lhc impossibiliLy oí cscaping Lhis rcalm, iL maLLcrs all
Lhc morc how wc dcploy languagc, imagcs, and íorms oí judg-
mcnL. Or, as Frcdric 1amcson mighL say, Lhc qucsLion whcLhcr
rcprcscnLaLion is good or bad is irrclcvanL, as rcprcscnLaLion is
indiffcrcnL Lo how iL is judgcd; raLhcr, Lhc issuc is how rcprcscnLa-
Lion works.
Civcn Lhc conLcmporary prcvalcncc oí Lalking-hcad
sound-biLc pronounccmcnLs sold Lo us as “insighLs” inLo an cvcnL,
I suggcsL LhaL Lcachcrs oí liLcraLurc and film mighL Lry Lo hccd
DcIillo’s cncouragcmcnL Lo wriLc counLcr-narraLivcs. Howcvcr,
DcIillo’s cssay Lcachcs LhaL onc dcploys Lhcm producLivcly noL
by pronouncing whaL “should” bc LhoughL buL by asking again,
wiLh grcaLcr scriousncss and rigor Lhan cvcr bcíorc, how imaging
cvcnLs can rcndcr visiblc—seeab|e—an cvcnL such as n/::, how
Lhc sLylc oí cncounLcr maLLcrs aL lcasL as much as Lhc abiliLy Lo
dcclarc “whaL” happcncd. I havc suggcsLcd LhroughouL Lhis book
LhaL whaL I call masocriLicism is jusL such a sLylc oí cncounLcr
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” i:=
wiLh violcncc whosc rcsponsc-abiliLy inhcrcs in and dcrivcs írom
Lhc violcncc oí an cvcnL iLsclí.
DcIillo’s cssay’s final sccLion providcs a subLlc casc in poinL.
Rccalling an imagc hc wiLncsscd onc monLh bcíorc n/::, Lhc nar-
raLor dcscribcs Lhc busLling sccncry oí Canal SLrccL aL sunscL, wiLh
“Lhc pancLhnic swarm oí shoppcrs, mcrchanLs, rcsidcnLs and pass-
crsby, wiLh a ícw LourisLs as wcll” (io). AmidsL Lhis hccLic capiLal-
isL cnvironmcnL Lhc narraLor now rccalls having sccn a woman on
a praycr rug, “young and slcndcr, in a silk hcadscarí.” Fvcryonc is
busy buying and sclling, and “no onc sccmcd much Lo noLicc hcr.”
Tis woman, “parLly conccalcd by a couplc oí vcndors’ carLs,” was
“knccling, uppcr body piLchcd Loward Lhc cdgc oí Lhc rug” (io).
Whilc Lhc narraLor could havc casily madc Lhc praying woman inLo
an imagc akin Lo Lhc mcdia clichcs oí Islamic íundamcnLalism, hc
insLcad rcndcrs hcr visiblc as an inviLaLion íor rcadcrs Lo Lhink oí
Islam as an inLcnsificaLion oí Lhc prcscnL raLhcr Lhan an archaic
holdovcr írom a disLanL pasL. InsLcad oí having hcr pracLicc rcprc-
scnL Lhc FasLcrn oLhcr Lo Lhc WcsLcrn sclí, hc offcrs Lhc woman’s
imagc as a linc oí flighL dirccLcd aL a íuLurc, a íuLurc LhaL is iníuscd
wiLh, noL opposcd Lo, Lhc íorccs oí Lhc pasL. For whilc Lhc woman
pracLiccs hcr rcligion in ways sccmingly rccognizablc Lo mcdia im-
agcs oí íundamcnLalism, shc docs so by cngaging—indccd mobi-
lizing—Lhc globalizcd prcscnL.
Tc narraLor configurcs Lhc woman as inhabiLing a liminal—
barcly pcrccpLiblc—spacc on Lhc cdgc bcLwccn hcr rug and “a
sLorcíronL jusL a íooL and a halí írom hcr Lippcd hcad.” TradiLion-
ally, praycr rugs “includc a mìrhab in Lhcir dcsign, an archcd clc-
mcnL rcprcscnLing Lhc praycr nichc in a mosquc LhaL indicaLcs Lhc
dirccLion oí Mccca.” Crucially, howcvcr, Lhc “only locaLional guidc
Lhc young woman nccdcd was Lhc ManhaLLan grid” (io). TaL is,
in Lhc praying woman’s bccoming-visiblc, global capiLalism docs
noL so much “rcprcscnL” a íorcc Lo bc ovcrcomc as Lhc LcrrorisLs
appcar Lo bclicvc iL docs. InsLcad, Lhc woman uscs a consLiLuLivc
organizing principlc (Lhc grid) oí whaL is oíLcn considcrcd Lhc
hcarL oí globalizaLion (ManhaLLan) Lo inhabiL hcr LradiLion in Lhc
prcscnL cnvironmcnL. AL Lhis momcnL, Lhcn, shc bccomcs visiblc
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” i:6
as iníusing hcr capiLalisL surroundings wiLh a kind oí spiriLualiLy
LhaL docs noL dcpcnd on rcprcscnLaLion in any íorm.
InhabiLing a liminal spacc in which globalizaLion is shoL Lhrough
wiLh spiriLualiLy, and spiriLualiLy wiLh capiLalisL Lcchnology, Lhc
woman rcmains as unrccognizablc Lo Lhc busy ciLizcn-shoppcrs
as Lhc woman pushing a sLrollcr was Lo Lhc LcrrorisLs. Tis liminal
spacc’s bccoming-visiblc Lriggcrs in Lhc narraLor, in Lhc posL-n/::
prcscnL, Lhc imagc oí “Lhc daily swccping Lakcn-íor-granLcd grcaL-
ncss oí Ncw York,” a ciLy LhaL “will accommodaLc cvcry languagc,
riLual, bclicí, and opinion” (io). BuL Lhis imagc is characLcrizcd—
indccd cnablcd—noL so much by a libcral Lolcrancc íor diffcrcncc
as by Lhc vcry abscncc oí rccogniLion. Ií iL wcrc mcrcly a maLLcr oí
Lolcrancc, oí opcn-mindcdncss, diffcrcncc would bc simply sccond-
ary Lo Lhc logic oí rcprcscnLaLion or idcnLiLy (Lhc sclí-oLhcr dialcc-
Lic): diffcrcncc cxisLs Lhcn only bccausc subjccLs rccognizc iL. BuL
DcIillo rhcLorically imagcs an onLological diffcrcncc LhaL pcrsisLs
prior Lo a pluralisL poliLics oí rccogniLion. NoL bcholdcn Lo subjcc-
Livc rccogniLion, Lhis onLological diffcrcncc ncccssarily subsisLs as
an asubjccLivc diffcrcnLiaLing íorcc rclaLion (a “bccoming” in Lhc
Dclcuzcan scnsc) raLhcr Lhan as an idcnLiLy Lo bc rccognizcd and
labclcd as diffcrcnL. Tc cLhical Lask, accordingly, is noL Lo rcprc-
scnL (i.c., rccognizc) diffcrcncc buL Lo rcspond Lo iLs always alrcady
prcscnL íorccs. Hcncc Lhc cssay’s final imagc is “Lhc ícllowship wiLh
Lhc dcad” rccallcd in praycr aL Mccca, a ícllowship, a pracLicc, rc-
soundingly affi rmcd by Lhc bilingual “A||ahu akbar. Cod is grcaL”
(io). Tis ícllowship wiLh Lhc dcad is rccallcd Lhrough spccific prac-
Liccs LhaL LrcaL Lhc dcad noL as nonliving (rcprcscnLaLions oí Lhcir
íormcr living sclvcs) buL as dcad, as nonrcprcscnLablc, as nonrcc-
ognizablc. BuL Lhough Lhc dcad arc LrcaLcd as nonrccognizablc,
Lhcy bccomc all Lhc morc seeab|e in Lhcir ongoing cvcnLncss.
As DcIillo’s rhcLorical acLualizaLion oí a ncorcalisL modc oí scc-
ing suggcsLs, liLcraLurc and film can rcspond Lo Lhc conLcmpo-
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” i:¬
rary momcnL—ií Lhcy do noL prcsumc LhaL rcsponsc, or seeìng
Lhc world, bcgins wiLh Lhc subjccL as a dcLachcd pcrccivcr. Tc
chancc, raLhcr, consisLs in Lhcir pausing in Lhc spacc wiLhin which
imagcs arc madc Lo circulaLc, Lhus provoking a suspcnsion oí judg-
mcnL wiLhouL which, as a characLcr in Cìty oj C|ass says, “you’ll
ncvcr gcL anywhcrc” (AusLcr in). Convcrscly, ií wc dcmand LhaL
liLcraLurc or film spcak Lo Lhc world wc livc in, wc cannoL dcmand
Lhcsc mcdia do so by (accuraLcly or jusLly) “rcprcscnLing” n/::,
or any oLhcr cvcnL.
In conLrasL, as I havc hopcd Lo illusLraLc LhroughouL Lhis book,
masocriLically íorcgrounding Lhc sLylc—Lhc cLhical “how”—oí
rcsponsc slows down Lhc impcLus Lo dcclarc whaL an cvcnL is.
Tis impcLus supposcs LhaL an cvcnL such as n/:: conLains an
csscncc, a rcprcscnLaLional LruLh LhaL musL bc voiccd—rcprc-
scnLcd—by Lhc pcrcciving subjccL. And sincc LruLh, as NicLzschc
Lcachcs, mainly opcraLcs on a moral rcgisLcr, Lhc dcmand Lo say
whaL’s whaL is incviLably a dcmand íor judgmcnL, íor affi rming a
“corrccL” moraliLy—cvcn in Lhc abscncc oí a languagc cxpliciLly
couchcd in Lhc rhcLoric oí judgmcnL. DcIillo’s sLylc oí rcsponsc,
his acsLhcLic sLancc, rcíuscs Lo hypoLhcsizc an csscncc oí n/::,
Loward which a subjccL musL subscqucnLly assumc a clcar posi-
Lion. InsLcad oí consLiLuLing a corrccL sLandpoinL Lo bc dcícndcd,
DcIillo’s rcconfiguraLion oí rcsponsc as an acsLhcLic sLancc—as
rcsponsc-abiliLy—suggcsLs LhaL rcsponsc is abouL a mood, a
rhyLhm, or a capaciLy Lo givc oncsclí ovcr Lo Lhc primacy oí Lhc
DcIillo’s masocriLical íorcgrounding oí Lhc cvcnL’s how—iLs
íorcc rclaLions raLhcr Lhan iLs mcaning—Lcmporarily dcícrs Lhc
cndlcss proliícraLion oí judgmcnLs bascd on hasLy answcrs Lo Lhc
qucsLion oí whaL, inLcrrupLing a spccific modc oí posiLion Laking
LhaL, as DcIillo shows, mighL havc parLially produccd Lhc con-
diLions íor n/::.
Dcícrring judgmcnL, howcvcr, docs not mcan
advocaLing moral rclaLivism.
Dcícrral docs noL mcan Lo “sLcp
ouLsidc,” as ií onc cvcr could íully cscapc judgmcnL’s cluLchcs.
RaLhcr, Lo dcícr, undcrsLood in Lhc masocriLical Lcrms I havc ar-
gucd íor LhroughouL, is Lo suspend. ALLcnding Lo Lhc cvcnL’s how
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” i:8
suspcnds Lhc cvcnL. Asking how Lhc cvcnL works and whaL iL docs
crcaLcs a suspcnscíul rhyLhm LhaL mighL pcdagogically íuncLion
Lo slow down Lhc rapid spccd oí judgmcnL—noL in ordcr Lo cs-
capc judgmcnL, buL in ordcr Lo cxaminc Lhc valuc oí valuc iLsclí.
BuL suspcnding Lhc cvcnL in ordcr Lo dcícr judgmcnL is noL
avoiding Laking a sLancc; raLhcr, iL is Laking a sLancc LhaL, para-
doxically, is no sLancc aL all. As opposcd Lo posiLion Laking LhaL
ncccssarily prcsumcs Lhc spcaking subjccL’s pcrccpLual masLcry
oí Lhc cvcnL, which is Lhcn affi rmcd as a gcncraliLy—as Lhc righL
way oí sccing or rcprcscnLing iL—a sLancc as suspcnsion puLs Lhc
vcry capaciLy Lo pcrccivc aL sLakc. DiffcrcnLly puL, Lhc “poliLically
corrccL” dcmand íor Laking a posiLion (prcícrably Lhc corrccL, al-
lcgcdly moral onc) is cxprcssivc oí Lhc acadcmic or criLical proj-
ccL oí cnlighLcnmcnL and dcmysLificaLion (i.c., idcology criLiquc
in whaLcvcr íorm) LhaL, as Kriss RavcLLo cogcnLly wriLcs, acLually
hidcs “Lhc violcncc oí Lhc criLic” prcciscly bccausc such posiLion
Laking (no maLLcr how good Lhc causc íor which onc Lakcs Lhis po-
siLion is) incviLably rcduccs Lhc scnsaLion oí Lhc cincmaLic, liLcr-
ary, culLural, or any cvcnL (including so-callcd rcal-world cvcnLs)
“Lo a scL oí prcdcLcrmincd LhcorcLical cffccLs in ordcr Lo sccurc íor
íLhc criLic] Lhc affi rmaLivc posiLion oí acadcmic subjccLiviLy” (i=i).
Far írom sLanding ouLsidc oí and in opposiLion Lo such violcncc,
such criLical projccLs acLually inLcnsiíy LhaL which Lhcy wanL Lo
opposc by pcrpcLuaLing Lhc violcncc inhcrcnL Lo Lhcir own criLical
subjccLiviLy. Whilc iL musL bc cmphasizcd LhaL Lhc violcncc oí a
liLcrary or cincmaLic cvcnL, lcL alonc LhaL oí an cvcnL such as n/::,
is noL Lhc samc as Lhc violcncc pcrpcLuaLcd by criLical posiLions
groundcd in rcprcscnLaLionalism, Lhc laLLcr ncvcrLhclcss cannoL
buL íail aL accomplishing iLs goal oí lcsscning violcncc prcciscly
bccausc iL iLsclí adds (howcvcr uninLcnLionally) morc violcncc Lo
Lhc spccific cnvironmcnL wiLhin which iL opcraLcs.
Oí coursc, onc oí Lhis book’s ccnLral poinLs has bccn Lo insisL
LhaL violcnccs arc cvcrywhcrc and LhaL Lhcrcíorc Lhc Lask íor
criLicism can ncvcr bc Lo gcL away írom Violcncc; raLhcr, Lhc rcal
qucsLions Lo ask arc always, whaL kind oí violcnccs arc bcing cí-
íccLcd in whaL manncr, how do such violcnccs work, and whaL do
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” i:n
Lhcy cnd up doing` I havc bccn conLcnding LhroughouL LhaL such
qucsLions arc absoluLcly ncccssary Lo ask (on cLhical grounds) buL
LhaL Lhcy arc bcing blockcd by rcprcscnLaLionalisL assumpLions.
Tc cffccL oí such blockagc is LhaL Lhc violcncc aL hand noL only
rcmains unaffccLcd (bccausc iL docs noL carc whaL kind oí judg-
mcnL onc passcs on iL) buL acLually is capablc oí cxLcnding iLs
cffccLiviLy whcn approachcd Lhrough a rcprcscnLaLionalisL poinL
oí vicw. IL managcs Lo do so prcciscly bccausc Lhc laLLcr scrvcs
as an inLcnsificr íor Lhc vcry violcncc iL claims Lo bc morally op-
poscd Lo. Tis is why I havc bccn arguing LhroughouL LhaL Lhc
criLical Lask íor an cngagcmcnL wiLh violcncc in whaLcvcr íorm is
Lo inhabiL a sLylc oí rcsponsc LhaL is characLcrisLic oí masochism,
namcly, iLs logic oí suspcnsion. Tis is a logic LhaL cmbraccs such
masochisLic dcícrral (which is noL Lhc samc as “closc rcading” or
jusL good old íashioncd “criLical Lhinking,” boLh oí which prcsumc
Lhc primacy oí Lhc subjccL) bccausc iL subjccLs iLsclí Lo Lhc íorcc
oí FoucaulL’s diagnosLic insighL LhaL noL “cvcryLhing is bad buL
LhaL cvcryLhing is dangcrous” (“Ccncalogy oí FLhics” ij:–ji).
Tis insighL calls íor a modc oí cncounLcring Lhc world LhaL in-
Lcnsivcly invcsLs in Lhc opcraLion oí seeìng Lhis dangcr, oí Laking
an inLcnsc look aL iL and kccp on doing so—noL in ordcr Lo judgc
Lhis dangcr, buL in Lhc hopc oí rclaying iLs íorccs, oí Lransíorm-
ing Lhcm Lhrough an immancnL cngagcmcnL wiLh Lhcm. Such a
LransíormaLion, oí coursc, would ncccssarily consisL oí a doublc-
bccoming oí boLh subjccL and objccL: ìn Lhis inLcnsivc look aL Lhc
dangcr Lhc onc who looks bccomcs-oLhcrwisc Lo himsclí jusL as
Lhc íorccs oí Lhis dangcr arc rcconfigurcd, rcdcploycd, and Lhus
madc oLhcr Lo Lhcir prior LcrriLorializaLion.
MasocriLical suspcnsion consLiLuLcs an immancnL modc oí
rcsponsc LhaL hccds Lhc cvcnL’s irrcduciblc singulariLy, whcrcas
rcprcscnLaLionalisL judgmcnL iLsclí bcgins írom ouLsidc Lhc ob-
jccL or cvcnL Lo bc judgcd, and Lhc judging subjccL siLs saícly siLu-
aLcd aíar or abovc—unaffccLcd and, allcgcdly, objccLivc.
PuL dií-
ícrcnLly, judgmcnL qua suspcnsc consLiLuLcs an immancnL modc
oí rcsponsc. As such, Lhc ccnLral qucsLion Lo ask oí an cvcnL is
noL abouL whaL onc’s judgmcnL oí iL should bc buL how rcsponsc-
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” iio
abiliLy iLsclí is configurcd by Lhc cvcnL—Lhc answcr Lo which is
always singular in LhaL iL dcpcnds, prcciscly, on Lhc cvcnL iLsclí,
as I dcmonsLraLcd Lhrough Lhc cascs oí HighsmiLh’s ficLion and
DcNiro’s acLing, noL Lo mcnLion DcIillo’s cssay on n/::. Suspcn-
sion, in Lhis scnsc, docs noL promisc Lo rcsulL in a posiLivc Lcrm,
as docs Lhc suspcnsc immancnL Lo a dialccLical sublaLion. InsLcad,
Lhis suspcnsc works only re|atìona||y, akin Lo Dclcuzc’s masochis-
Lic sympLomaLology as wcll as Adorno’s ncgaLivc dialccLic. Rccall
LhaL, againsL Lhc Hcgclian dialccLics (Lhc csscncc oí which clcarly
conLinucs Lo dominaLc criLical pracLicc Loday) LhaL sublaLcs a posi-
Livc Lcrm írom Lhc opposiLion oí Lwo ncgaLivc oncs, Adorno casLs
ncgaLivc dialccLics as a criLical opcraLion LhaL procccds chiasmi-
cally wiLh Lhc rcsulL LhaL iL ncvcr arrivcs aL Lhc momcnL oí rcsolu-
Lion buL insLcad prolifically produccs ncw conccpLs, LhoughLs, and
anglcs oí cnLry íor social diagnosis. As Adorno wriLcs, Lo “changc
íLhc Hcgclian] dirccLion oí conccpLualiLy, Lo givc iL a Lurn Loward
nonidcnLiLy, is Lhc hingc oí ncgaLivc dialccLics. InsighL inLo Lhc
consLiLuLivc characLcr oí Lhc nonconccpLual in Lhc conccpL would
cnd Lhc compulsivc idcnLificaLion which Lhc conccpL brings un-
lcss halLcd by such rcflccLion. RcflccLion upon iLs own mcaning is
Lhc way ouL oí Lhc conccpL’s sccming bcing-in-iLsclí as a uniL oí
mcaning” (Negatìve Lìa|ectìcs :i).
Oí coursc, Lhcrc arc imporLanL diffcrcnccs bcLwccn Adorno
and Dclcuzc. For insLancc, onc oí Lhc diffcrcnccs bcLwccn Lhcir
“mcLhods” mighL lic in how Lhcy configurc diffcrcnLly Lhc qucs-
Lion oí “how docs iL work`” Whcrcas íor Dclcuzc Lhis qucsLion
íuncLions always alrcady as linkagc (“how docs iL work`” is always
a qucsLion oí doing and LransíormaLion in Dclcuzc’s hands), in
Adorno’s casc iL is pcrhaps lcss clcar whcLhcr Lhc qucsLion oí
“work” acLually Lransíorms inLo a qucsLion oí “doing” or “going
clscwhcrc.” BuL whaLcvcr Lhc diffcrcnccs bcLwccn Dclcuzc and
Adorno’s immancnL diagnosLics may bc, boLh Lcach us LhaL wc can-
noL bcgin an cncounLcr wiLh an cvcnL assuming LhaL Lhc subjccL
gcLs Lo choosc whaL an objccL or cvcnL “is.” RaLhcr, boLh Adorno
and Dclcuzc configurc somcLhing likc a “sLancc” only Lhrough a
“conLracL”: Lhc conLracL govcrning Lhc masochisLic cconomy or
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” ii:
Lhc chiasmic rhyLhm characLcrisLic oí ncgaLivc dialccLics. BoLh
carcíully rcgulaLc Lhc cncounLcr wiLh Lhc oLhcr by giving primacy
Lo Lhc oLhcr, which is quiLc diffcrcnL írom Lhc rcprcscnLaLionalisL
projccL oí inhabiLing Lhc spacc oí Lhc oLhcr Lhrough mcdiaLion
or in mcdiaLcd íashion. ConscqucnLly, Dclcuzc and Adorno’s di-
agnosLics cmphasizc Lhc productìon oí íuLurc cvcnLs LhaL arc noL
prcgivcn by Lhc Lcrms oí Lhc conLracLs—or diagnosLics—Lhcm-
sclvcs. Tcsc íuLurc cvcnLs maniícsL Lhcmsclvcs only in and
Lhrough Lhcir immancnL rclaLions, in Lhcir cffccLs—affccLivcly.
ImporLanLly, Lhc masochisL, “likc” Lhc ncgaLivc dialccLician,
docs noL prcLcnd Lo cscapc Lhc íorcc oí judgmcnL: a violaLion oí
Lhc conLracL docs noL Lcnd Lo bc a “good” Lhing and can indccd bc
plain dangcrous and Lhus undcsirablc. YcL, judgmcnL is noL Lhc
poinL oí Lhcir modcs oí cncounLcr. InsLcad, finding ouL how somc-
Lhing works and whaL iL docs, as wcll as whaL LransíormaLional
rclays can bc íorgcd through Lhc cncounLcr, consLiLuLcs Lhcir
diagnosLic íocus, onc LhaL by dcfiniLion sLrcsscs Lhc producLivc
componcnL oí any cncounLcr raLhcr Lhan Lhc rcproducLivc onc.
Tcy boLh aim aL Lhc world wiLhouL prcLcnding Lo know whaL iL
is, raLhcr Lhan LrcaLing iL as a knowablc objccL. Prcciscly bccausc
nciLhcr Dclcuzc’s sympLomaLology nor Adorno’s ncgaLivc dialcc-
Lics is parLicularly inLcrcsLcd in cpisLcmology do Lhcy downplay
(Lo diffcrcnL dcgrccs) Lhc rolc oí consciousncss and insLcad am-
pliíy Lhc asigniíying íorcc oí signalcLic maLcrial.
Tc ncccssiLy oí Lhinking oí imagc proccsscs as prcscnLing a
sLancc LhaL acsLhcLically aims aL Lhc world raLhcr Lhan rcprcscnLs
iL (as docs mosL public discoursc as wcll as liLcrary and film criLi-
cism, as I hopc Lo havc convincingly shown in Lhis book) is, fi-
nally, whaL conccrncd us LhroughouL Lhis projccL, which, as I sug-
gcsLcd in Lhc prcíacc, mighL bcsL bc considcrcd an experìmenta|
cncounLcr wiLh Lhc qucsLion oí how Lo rcspond Lo violcncc. IL is
worLh mcnLioning LhaL in DcIillo’s casc, his cssayisLic rcsponsc
Lo n/::, which occurs primarily on an acsLhcLic buL Lhcrcíorc, as I
argucd, a proíoundly cLhical lcvcl, alrcady affccLcd Lhc producLion
oí Ulrich Bacr’s ::o Storìes, which, Lo Lhis daLc, sLrikcs mc as Lhc
mosL inLcrcsLing collccLion oí sLorics rcsponding Lo n/::. Bacr in-
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” iii
Lroduccs Lhc collccLion wiLh a ccnLral rcícrcncc Lo DcIillo’s cssay,
arguing LhaL “In Lhc Ruins” idcnLificd “Lhc Lask aL hand: ‘Lo givc
mcmory, Lcndcrncss, and mcaning Lo all LhaL howling spacc’” (:).
Hc Lhcn procccds Lo dcsignaLc Lhc book’s Lask oí rcsponding Lo
n/:: as not giving inLo a rhcLoric oí Lhc “incomprchcnsiblc” (i).
In so doing, hc mighL vcry wcll bc indcxing Lhc Bazinian conccp-
Lion oí seeìng as I showcd iL Lo opcraLc in such crucial íashion in
DcIillo’s cssay.
PuL diffcrcnLly, Lhc onc Lhing ::o Storìes Lrics Lo avoid is rc-
coursc Lo Lhc incomprchcnsiblc or Lhc sublimc. Whcrcas Lhc sub-
limc namcs íor KanL Lhc Lhing in iLsclí, which Lransccnds and Lhus
pcrsisLs ouLsidc oí Lhc rcalm oí rcprcscnLaLion, íor posL-KanLians
such as Slavoj Žižck and Kaja Silvcrman Lhc sublimc connoLcs Lhc
Lhing in iLsclí as radical ncgaLiviLy. For Lhcm, Lhc impossibiliLy Lo
cxpcricncc Lhc Lhing ìs Lhc Lhing in iLsclí in iLs radical ncgaLiviLy.
Accordingly, Lhc problcm wiLh rcprcscnLaLion is noL, as iL was íor
KanL, LhaL iL rcduccs rcaliLy (LhaL, íor insLancc, n/:: cannoL bc
rcprcscnLcd jusLly) buL LhaL iL allows íor a posiLivc cnLiLy Lo cxisL
bcyond phcnomcnal rcprcscnLaLion (i.c., n/:: can bc cxpcricnccd
only in rcprcscnLaLion).
In conLrasL, íor DcIillo Lhc problcm wiLh rcprcscnLaLion is a
maLLcr oí spccd: rcprcscnLaLion is always Loo íasL, posiLioning
iLsclí as a causc whcn iL is mcrcly an cffccL oí a scrics oí íorccs
acLing upon onc anoLhcr.
RcprcscnLaLions arc apparaLuscs oí
capLurc LhaL assign mcaning Lo an cvcnL in accordancc wiLh Lhc
Lypc oí íorccs LhaL producc Lhcsc rcprcscnLaLions. ConscqucnLly,
íor DcIillo and Bacr, as wcll as Bazin íor whom Lhc “world is,
quiLc simply, bcíorc iL is somcLhing Lo bc condcmncd” (i:i:), Lhc
criLical Lask is Lo rcndcr visiblc Lhc acLs oí sccing LhaL gcncraLc
spccific rcprcscnLaLions, noL Lo dcclarc, mourn, dcny, or judgc Lhc
(im)possibiliLy oí rcprcscnLing or aLLaining Lhc “Rcal.”
DcIillo’s cssay, likc Lhc collccLion cdiLcd by Bacr, dcmonsLraLcs
Lhc impossibiliLy oí saying anyLhing dcfiniLivc abouL n/::—cspc-
cially anyLhing LhaL capLurcs Lhc cvcnL’s mcaning. DcIillo’s wriL-
crly cyc insLcad íocuscs on Lhc affectìve qualiLy oí Lhc cvcnL’s sin-
gulariLy and on how languagc can sLylisLically imagc and, in Lhc
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” iij
proccss, rcconfigurc whaL iL mcans íor conLcmporary LhoughL Lo
rcspond cLhically Lo whaLcvcr Lhc cvcnL’s violcnL conLcnL mighL
TaL such a modc oí rcsponsc cannoL bc Lakcn íor granLcd,
howcvcr, bccomcs immcdiaLcly obvious whcn considcring, íor
insLancc, Žižck’s “Wclcomc Lo Lhc DcscrL oí Lhc Rcal.” Žižck’s cx-
Lcndcd cssay on n/:: prcdicLably posiLs “Lhc dcscrL oí Lhc rcal”
as Lhc mcaning oí Lhc cvcnL. TaL is, similar Lo whaL Lranspircs
in Lhc conLcmporary Hollywood film Te Matrìx (dir. Andy and
Iarry Wachowski, :nnn), according Lo Lhc Iacanian culLural Lhco-
risL, n/:: has finally rcvcalcd Lhc Lruc “whaL-ncss” undcrncaLh
an Amcrica “corrupLcd by Hollywood” (Žižck, “Wclcomc”). Žižck,
who has candidly admiLLcd Lo oíLcn noL rcading or vicwing whaL
hc is wriLing abouL (“Philosophcr” i¬i), likcns Lhc cvcnL Lo a Hol-
lywood film. In my vicw, Žižck’s rccoursc Lo Lhc rcprcscnLaLional
languagc oí rcscmblancc noL only consLiLuLcs a lazy way ouL oí a
morc carcíul diagnosLic oí Lhc cvcnL buL also lcads Žižck Lo rclish
in a ccrLain Lonc oí Schadenjreude, as whcn hc suggcsLs LhaL Lhc
“unLhinkablc which happcncd was Lhus Lhc objccL oí íanLasy: in a
way, Amcrica goL whaL iL íanLasizcd abouL, and Lhis was Lhc grcaL-
csL surprisc” (“Wclcomc”). IL sccms Lo mc LhaL onc mighL wanL
Lo Lakc his admission LhaL hc has aL Limcs wriLLcn abouL whaL
hc has noL rcad or vicwcd morc scriously Lhan Lo chalk iL up Lo
Lhc quirky admission oí a íamous inLcllccLual, cspccially givcn his
influcncc on acadcmic sLudics oí imagcs. I wondcr, íor insLancc,
whcLhcr Lhcrc mighL noL bc a sLrucLural connccLion bcLwccn Lhc
bclicí LhaL onc docs noL cvcn havc Lo “look” aL whaL onc cngagcs
and “rcading” imagcs as rcprcscnLaLional íanLasics.
DcIillo, howcvcr, looks vcry carcíully aL Lhis cvcnL. Tis is why
I Lhink LhaL aLLcnding Lo DcIillo’s rcmarkablc rcsponsc Lo n/::
can Lcach much Lo Lhosc who cngagc imagcs pcdagogically in Lhc
classroom—pcrhaps currcnLly Lhc only rcal sphcrc oí influcncc
liLcraLurc and film scholars havc lcíL in a social spacc dominaLcd
by aLLiLudcs displaying indiffcrcncc and cvcn hosLiliLy Lo Lhc lib-
cral arLs. TaL is, carcíully hccding how DcIillo rcsponds Lo n/::
mighL provc íruiLíul in LhaL iL íorgcs an cxpliciL connccLion bc-
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” iii
Lwccn Lhc rcalm oí film/liLcraLurc and nonimaginary, rcal-world
violcncc, which is why I chosc Lo cnd Lhis book wiLh my analysis
oí DcIillo’s bricí cssay. TaL Lhis analysis assumcs an cxLcnL LhaL
sccmingly sLands in disproporLionaLc rclaLion Lo Lhc lcngLh oí
DcIillo’s LcxL was inLcndcd as onc final pcríormaLivc insLanLia-
Lion oí Lhc vcry modc oí masocriLical rcsponsc-abiliLy I havc bccn
Lhcorizing LhroughouL. A kcy poinL oí my analysis oí DcIillo’s cs-
say was prcciscly Lhc logic oí dcícrral (including LhaL oí my own
analysis), oí suspcnsc—oí inhabiLing Lhc inLcrsLiccs Lhcmsclvcs
as a mcans bcLLcr Lo prolong Lhc momcnL oí cncounLcr wiLh Lhc
objccL and Lo kccp aL bay as long as possiblc Lhc (incviLablc) rc-
Lurn Lo Lhc sccondary lcvcl oí rcprcscnLaLion and Lhus judgmcnL.
ImporLanLly, Lhis inLcnsificaLion oí DcIillo’s cssay iLsclí camc
wiLh an amounL oí violcnL affccL produccd by my vcry rcsponsc
Lo iL. Tis affccL is Lhc cffccL oí Lhc violcncc I did Lo his LcxL (as
wcll as Lo Lhc oLhcr LcxLs I discusscd LhroughouL Lhis book)—LhaL
is, iL was inLcndcd as an cxamplc oí Lhc violcncc commiLLcd by
Lhc criLic LhaL, qua criLical violcncc, ncvcr (so I hopc) prcLcndcd
Lo bc anyLhing buL a criLical dcploymcnL oí violcncc as wcll as a
violcnL dcploymcnL oí criLical íorcc. WhaL maLLcrcd Lo mc was
noL Lo cscapc Lhc violcncc oí, or cxprcsscd by, an objccL buL Lo
íorgc immancnL rclaLions wiLh iL.
Howcvcr, íorging Lhis connccLion bcLwccn film or liLcraLurc
and nonimaginary, rcal-world violcncc docs noL so much ascribc
a privilcgcd spacc Lo film and liLcraLurc as illusLraLc how Lhc Lools
Lhcy offcr can bc uscd Lo cncounLcr rcal-world violcncc in such a
manncr LhaL Lhc laLLcr mainLains iLs irrcduciblc singulariLy. And
iL sccms Lo mc LhaL hccding violcncc’s singulariLics—cxprcsscd
by Lhc íormula “violcnccs, noL Violcncc”—is a ncccssary rcquirc-
mcnL íor any cngagcmcnL wiLh violcnL cxprcssions, rcal or imagcd
(wiLh imagcs undcrsLood, in any casc, noL as rcflccLions oí rcaliLy
buL “Lhc rcaliLy oí a rcflccLion,” as onc oí Lhc IcninisL-MarxisL
rcvoluLionarics in Codard’s La Chìnoìse í:n6¬] has iL), LhaL hopcs
Lo avoid somc oí Lhc morc obvious shorLcomings oí cxisLing aca-
dcmic and popular LrcaLmcnLs oí violcnL LcxLs and cvcnLs.
WhaLcvcr íuLurc rcsponscs ficLion and film will givc Lo n/::—
Lon LeLì||o’s “!n the Ruìns oj the Future” ii=
and Lo violcncc in gcncral, in all iLs various guiscs—Lhc diffi culL
Lask aL hand is Lo do so wiLhouL rcducing iL Lo a moralisLic lcsson.
DcIillo’s cssay, I bclicvc, providcs us wiLh a poLcnLial pcdagogical
rccipc íor producing íuLurc rcsponscs (an cncouraging cxamplc
bcing ::o Storìes), jusL as HighsmiLh’s ficLion, DcNiro’s scrccn
acLing, and Lhc Cocn BroLhcrs’ films do in pcrhaps slighLly morc
impliciL ways. WhaL ií, Lhcy all ask, wc wcrc Lo Lakc scriously Lhc
(violcnL) cvcnL qua cvcnL, in iLs singulariLy, iLs unrcprcscnLabil-
iLy in languagc bccausc iL is noL oí languagc` Tcy all rcpcaLcdly
wondcr, “WhaL ií Lhc cvcnL wcrc likc Lhis, Lhcn whaL` Or ií iL wcrc
oLhcrwisc, Lhcn whaL`”
In shorL, Lhc ruins oí Lhc íuLurc arLiculaLcd by DcIillo’s cssay
arc Lhc ruins oí rcprcscnLaLional languagc. TroughouL Lhis book,
I havc bccn arguing íor Lhc imporLancc oí Laking scriously Lhis
ruin, íor masocriLically cncounLcring signalcLic maLcrials—vio-
lcnL in whaLcvcr íorm and shapc—as arcprcscnLaLional, rhcLori-
cal provocaLions raLhcr Lhan signiíying vcsscls. YcL, sincc rcprc-
scnLaLional languagc is Lhc (only`) onc wc havc, asking again how
Lo usc iL mighL noL bc a bad sLarLing placc íor inLcrvcning in Lhc
world, íor seeìng iL again, and, onc hopcs, íor acLing on iL “íor Lhc
bcncfiL oí a Limc Lo comc” (NicLzschc, “Uscs and DisadvanLagcs”
. Te Violence of Sensation
:. I should clariíy LhaL I considcr (violcnL) imagcs rcal as wcll. Tcy
havc Lhcir own rcaliLy and Lhcrcíorc arc noL in opposiLion Lo “rcal vio-
lcncc”: Lhc rcaliLy oí imagcs and Lhc rcaliLy oí, say, murdcr, cxisL as dií-
ícrcnL cvcnLs on Lhc samc planc oí immancncc.
i. Oí coursc, rcal acLs oí violcncc arc conLrovcrsial as wcll. Considcr
Lhc conLrovcrsy spawncd by RcuLcrs or Lhc ssc, which aL onc Limc or an-
oLhcr rcíuscd Lo usc Lhc Lcrm “LcrrorisL” whcn Lalking abouL Lhc pcoplc
rcsponsiblc íor Lhc aLLacks oí n/:: or Lhc violcncc pcrpcLraLcd againsL Is-
raclis: clcarly, somconc’s LcrrorisL wiLhouL any lcgiLimaLc causc is a írcc-
dom fighLcr Lo somconc clsc. WiLhouL inLcnding Lo cndorsc onc or Lhc
oLhcr labcl, I simply wanL Lo acknowlcdgc Lhc obvious: cvcn rcal violcncc
consisLcnLly rcccivcs diffcrcnL rcsponscs. Howcvcr, I am primarily going
Lo íocus on violcnL ìmages Lakcn írom Amcrican liLcraLurc and cincma,
which is why, írom hcrc on, I will noL conLinuc Lo rcícr Lo “rcal violcncc”
unlcss Lhc conLcxL obviously dcmands iL.
j. OuiLc obviously, Lhc Cocns playíully cngagc gcnrc convcnLions
LhroughouL Lhcir work. In addiLion Lo Lhcir nco-noirlikc rcworking oí
film noir and pulp ficLion gcnrc convcnLions, considcr also !nto|erab|e
Crue|ty (iooj), which is Lhcir aLLcmpL Lo rcacLivaLc Lhc classical Holly-
wood “comcdy oí rcmarriagc” subgcnrc íor Lhc posLmodcrn agc, as wcll
as Lhcir rcmakc oí onc oí Lhc bcsL-known Faling comcdics, Te Ladykì||-
ers (iooi; original dir. Alcxandcr Mackcndrick, :n==). Scc FosLcr Hirsh’s
Letours and Lost Hìghways íor a comprchcnsivc discussion oí nco-noir;
SLanlcy Cavcll’s Pursuìts oj Happìness íor morc on comcdics oí rcmarriagc
in Hollywood films oí Lhc :njos; and R. BarLon Palmcr’s 1oe| and Fthan
Coen íor an cxLcndcd discussion oí Lhc Cocn BroLhcrs as posLmodcrn
i. For Dclcuzc and CuaLLari’s mosL cxLcnsivc discussion oí Lhc body
wiLhouL organs, scc A Tousand P|ateaus :in–66.
=. Wc mighL also íramc Lhis disLincLion in Lcrms analogous Lo Lhc dií-
ícrcncc bcLwccn Lhc Limc-imagc and Lhc movcmcnL-imagc, rcspccLivcly,
LhaL Dclcuzc maps ouL in his Lwo cincma books. Civcn Lhc omniprcscncc
oí “scnsaLional” violcncc in conLcmporary mcdia culLurc, Bacon’s sLraL-
cgy íor cngaging violcncc appcars Lo bc onc oí “slowing down” raLhcr
Lhan “spccding up” violcncc. Ií Loday wc indccd íacc an cxccss oí kincLic
violcncc Lhcn pcrhaps Lhc bcsL way Lo coníronL violcncc is by making vio-
lcnL scnsaLions movc ìntensìve|y raLhcr Lhan extensìve|y. Bacon’s parLicu-
lar sLraLcgy mighL bc LhoughL oí as parallcling Lhc cincmaLic acsLhcLic oí
dirccLors such as ViLLorio DcSica (Te Pìcyc|e Tìej, :ni8), Alain Rcsnais
(Hìroshìma Mon Amour, :n=n), or Chris Markcr (La 1etee, :n6i), who all
prcícr Lo slow down Lhcir rcspccLivc narraLivcs in ordcr Lo rcndcr visiblc
Lhc sensatìon oí violcncc.
6. Tc íuncLion oí color in Lhc Cocn BroLhcrs’ work dcscrvcs a longcr
sLudy in iLs own righL. 1usL rccall Lhc dominanL color schcmcs oí Lhcir
films such as Lhc rcd in P|ood Sìmp|e (:n8i) and Parton Fìnk (:nno), Lhc
whiLc in Fargo (:nn6), Lhc ycllow in O Prother. where Art Tou (:nn8), or
Lhc luminous, impcccablc black and whiLc in Te Man who wasn’t Tere
(ioo:) LhaL visually rcndcrs Lhis film as morc noir Lhan “original” film
noir cvcr was.
¬. For Lhc bcsL rcccnL sLudics oí violcncc in film scc Barkcr and PcL-
lcy; ScharrcLL; Princc, Screenìng vìo|ence; Slocum, vìo|ence ìn Amerìcan
Cìnema; Schncidcr; and Cormlcy. For sLudics oí violcncc in Amcrican
liLcraLurc, scc Kowalcwski, SloLkin, and Cilcs. IL should bc poinLcd ouL
LhaL film sLudics Lcnds Lo cxpcnd considcrably morc cncrgy on sLudy-
ing violcnL imagcs Lhan liLcrary sLudics, possibly bccausc oí Lhc com-
monly hcld pcrccpLion LhaL violcncc in Lhc mcdia (including cincma) has
morc immcdiaLc (ncgaLivc) cffccLs on an audicncc Lhan violcnL liLcrary
imagcs. Tc work oí SLcphcn Princc, wiLh iLs sLrong appcal Lo Lhc “find-
ings” oí Lhc social scicnccs as wcll as cogniLivism, is parLicularly noLc-
worLhy. Opposing Lhc mcrcly “inLcrprcLaLivc íramcworks LhaL havc liLcr-
ary currcncy” (“Film Scholars” s:8), Princc’s work is aL Lhc íorcíronL oí
Lhc largcr “posL-Lhcory” aLLack on so-callcd Crand Tcory in film sLudics
iniLiaLcd by David Bordwcll and Nocl Carroll’s landmark volumc Post-
Teory. Bordwcll was onc oí Lhc firsL film scholars Lo Lurn Lo cogniLivism
as a paradigm íor film sLudics (scc his “Casc íor CogniLivism”).
8. Criminal characLcrs sLrugglc wiLh chancc in many oí Lhc Cocns’
films. Tink, íor insLancc, oí Fargo or Te Ladykì||ers.
n. Caspar’s scnsc oí moraliLy is unconvcnLional only Lo Lhc dcgrcc
Notes to pages 6–:i ii8
LhaL convcnLional moraliLy docs noL Lcnd Lo arguc in íavor oí chcaLing.
YcL, cvcn Lhis is qucsLionablc in an agc oí globalizcd corporaLc íraud LhaL
consLiLuLcs noL so much a “bad applc” cxccpLion Lo Lhc rulc oí morally
good capiLalism Lhan iLs mosL inLcnsificd insLanLiaLion. AíLcr all, aL Lhc
hcighL oí Lhc inLcrncL boom in Lhc mid Lo laLc :nnos, all sharc holdcrs
wanLcd was íor Lhc companics’ ccos Lo drivc up Lhc sLock priccs, Lhus
incrcasing sharc holdcrs’ pcrsonal profiLs. No onc rcally boLhcrcd Lo Lcll
Lhosc ccos noL Lo usc illcgal mcLhods, which bccamc a problcm on|y oncc
Lhcsc companics—and conscqucnLly Lhcir sharc holdcrs—incurrcd mas-
sivc financial losscs.
:o. Caspar’s cLhics arc Lhoroughly capiLalisL. As hc clcarly bclicvcs,
Lhcrc arc pcoplc who havc cLhics, and Lhcrc arc Lhosc (including Bcrnic)
who do noL. NoL only docs Lhis sLaLic, posscssivc, conccpLion oí cLhics
sLarkly conLrasL wiLh Lhc pcríormaLivc cLhics Lhcorizcd by 1cffrcy T. Nc-
alon and cincmaLically mobilizcd by Lhc Cocns, buL iL also would sccm LhaL
iL provokcs us Lo considcr Lhc inhcrcnL violcncc oí capiLalism as such.
::. “A wholc caLcgory LhaL could bc Lcrmcd clichcs alrcady fills Lhc
canvas, bcíorc Lhc bcginning” (Dclcuzc, Francìs Pacon ¬i).
:i. In íacL, Lhc ovcrall impacL oí Dclcuzc’s rclaLivcly carly work Mas-
ochìsm on his cnLirc ocuvrc has ycL Lo bc arLiculaLcd in sysLcmaLic ways
and surcly dcmands a longcr sLudy in iLs own righL.
:j. In Dclcuzc’s Masochìsm, Lhc masochisL is always malc. Howcvcr,
scc Lhc work oí Caylyn SLudlar íor a ícminisL appropriaLion oí Dclcuzc’s
scnsc oí masochism. SLudlar allows íor a ícmalc masochism LhaL docs
noL ncccssarily sLand in a dialccLical rclaLionship Lo a malc sadisL (i.c., sa-
domasochism), as is Lhc casc in boLh Frcudian psychoanalysis and iLs ap-
propriaLion in canonical film sLudics by ícminisLs such as Iaura Mulvcy
(scc “Visual Plcasurc and NarraLivc Cincma”) or Kaja Silvcrman (scc, íor
insLancc, hcr cssays “Masochism and SubjccLiviLy” and “Masochism and
Malc SubjccLiviLy”). Slavoj Žižck (“An FLhical Plca”) rcccnLly addrcsscd
masochism in cLhical Lcrms, buL dcspiLc his rcícrcncc Lo Dclcuzc’s book
on Lhc subjccL hc rcmains Lhoroughly íaiLhíul Lo psychoanalysis. For my
moncy, howcvcr, Lhc bcsL arLiculaLion oí cincma as a masochisLic ccon-
omy can bc íound in SLcvcn Shaviro’s rcmarkablc Cìnematìc Pody.
:i. For morc on Lhis, scc my cssay on Lhc film írom which I havc
adapLcd Lhc currcnL discussion.
:=. Kccp in mind, Lhough, LhaL any propcr scicnLific cxpcrimcnL is
bascd on, and works wiLh, rulcs. NciLhcr Lhc scicnLisL nor Lhc masochisL
is inLcrcsLcd in ciLhcr crcaLing chaos or blowing up Lhings.
Notes to pages :¸–ii
:6. I will claboraLc on Lhc conccpL oí sympLomaLology in Lhc ncxL
:¬. Or, as Lhc rhcLorician Richard Doylc is íond oí saying, “you havc
Lo run Lhc compuLcr program Lo know whcLhcr iL works.”
. Judgment Is Not an Exit
:. Dcnnis Harvcy calls Fllis’s novcl “arguably onc oí Lhc mosL-loaLhcd
and lcasL-rcad novcls in rcccnL mcmory”; likcwisc, KrisLcn Baldwin dc-
scribcs Fllis’s LcxL as “onc oí Lhc mosL shockingly violcnL novcls cvcr pub-
lishcd í . . . ] Lhc mosL rcvilcd book oí Lhc dccadc” (j6). Tcsc Lwo popular
prcss asscssmcnLs mcrcly rccall Lhc bruLaliLy oí Lhc Lonc LhaL had bccn
lcvicd againsL Fllis’s novcl LhroughouL Lhc :nnos—noL only in popular
publicaLions buL also in acadcmic arLiclcs, mosL noLably in Tara BaxLcr
and Nikki CraíL’s cssay wiLh Lhc Lclling LiLlc, “Tcrc Arc BcLLcr Ways oí
Taking Carc oí BrcL FasLon Fllis Tan 1usL Ccnsoring Him.” As íor Lhc
novcl’s publishing hisLory, whcn Knopí, which had paid Fllis a $joo,ooo
advancc on Lhc novcl, cvcnLually dcclincd Lo publish Amerìcan Psycho,
Random Housc immcdiaLcly jumpcd on Lhc opporLuniLy Lo publish iL in
iLs wcll-rcccivcd and influcnLial VinLagc ConLcmporarics scrics.
i. All oí Lhcsc imagcs arc Lakcn írom Fllis’s novcl.
j. Discussing Lhc rclaLionship bcLwccn comcdy and violcncc in Ncw
Hollywood cincma, Ccoff King discusscs films such as Olivcr SLonc’s
Natura| Porn Kì||ers (:nni), OucnLin TaranLino’s Pu|p Fìctìon (:nni),
and Amerìcan Psycho (iooo), cxamining Lhcir usc oí comcdy and saLiri-
cal íuncLion. Crucially, as hc poinLs ouL, Lhc vcry conccpL oí “saLirc—
comcdy wiLh a criLical-social cdgc—is somcLimcs uscd as a lcgiLimaLing
íramcwork, making a claim Lo ‘scriousncss’ LhaL sccks Lo absolvc Lhc LcxL
írom accusaLions LhaL iLs violcncc is mcrcly ‘graLuiLous’” (:i6). Tc cssay
gocs on Lo show how Lhc judgmcnL oí violcncc in such films hingcs on
whcLhcr criLics usc or rcjccL a claim Lo saLirc madc by Lhc filmmakcr or
oLhcr criLics. In my vicw, howcvcr, Lhcsc criLical posiLions arc six oí onc,
halí dozcn oí Lhc oLhcr: whcLhcr or noL Lhc claim Lo saLirc is acccpLcd,
íraming a dcbaLc abouL (film) violcncc in Lcrms oí saLirc auLomaLically
LcrriLorializcs Lhc qucsLion oí violcncc onLo Lhc lcvcl oí significaLion.
i. For oLhcr criLical asscssmcnLs LhaL íavor Lhc movic ovcr Lhc novcl,
scc SmiLh, Holdcn, Clcibcrman, and Ianc.
=. Scc David Slocum’s cssay “Tc ‘Film Violcncc’ Tropc” íor an cxccllcnL
Notes to pages i¸–¸i ijo
discussion oí Lhc hisLorical origins oí Lhis “wisdom,” which hc aLLribuLcs Lo
Lhc íuncLion Lhc :n6os play in Lhc discoursc oí cincmaLic violcncc.
6. For cxamplcs, scc Kowalcwski, Frohock, and SLcin, as wcll as
Kindcr. Ccnrc criLicism, oí coursc, is ycL anoLhcr wcll-known cxamplc oí
Lhc comparaLivc spiriL oí criLicism.
¬. My argumcnL rclics on Dclcuzc’s imporLanL, ycL oíLcn ovcrlookcd,
cssay “Tc Simulacrum and AncicnL Philosophy,” in which hc diagnoscs
PlaLonism’s dcnigraLion oí Lhc simulacrum and iLs cffccLuaLion oí a his-
Lory oí rcprcscnLaLion and judgmcnL bascd on a mcLaphysical íounda-
Lion. Whcrcas Dclcuzc affi rms NicLzschc’s call íor Lhc ovcrLurning oí
PlaLonism as Lhc quinLcsscnLial Lask oí modcrn philosophy, my projccL
mighL bc LhoughL oí as working Loward an ovcrLurning oí rcprcscnLa-
Lionalism in modcrn criLicism. Scc chapLcr j íor a morc cxLcndcd rcndcr-
ing oí Lhis crucial poinL.
8. Fvcn in criLicism on dccidcdly nonrcalisL LcxLs such as scicncc fic-
Lion wc can obscrvc Lhis Lcndcncy, íor much oí Lhc criLicism rcsponding
Lo Lhcsc LcxLs conccnLraLcs on iLs allcgorical sLaLus—LhaL is, how scicncc
ficLion is, in Lhc final analysis, abouL rcaliLy.
n. Tis is as good a momcnL as any Lo poinL ouL LhaL Dclcuzc and
CuaLLari’s wriLing on linguisLics in A Tousand P|ateaus (scc cspccially
chapLcrs i and =) undcrlics much oí my argumcnL. Tc upshoL oí Lhcir
analysis oí Lhc asigniíying íorcc oí signs is noL Lo dcny Lhc cxisLcncc
oí rcprcscnLaLions buL Lo íorcground LhaL rcprcscnLaLions arc, aL bcsL,
mcrcly onc among many ways by which languagc affccLs Lhc social.
:o. BoLh 1acqucs Dcrrida (in, c.g., Oj Crammato|ogy) and Mauricc
BlanchoL (in, c.g., Te !nfinìte Conversatìon) show how languagc—wriLing
and spcaking, rcspccLivcly—is an acL oí violcncc. And Dclcuzc adds LhaL
“LhoughL is primarily Lrcspass and violcncc” (Lìfference and Repetìtìon
:jn). Tc acL oí criLicism, in Lhis scnsc, has no choicc buL Lo bc violcnL.
::. AL iLs limiLs, Lhis argumcnL suggcsLs LhaL judgmcnL pcrpcLu-
aLcs Lhc primacy oí idcnLiLy/Samc in rclaLion Lo which diffcrcncc cxisLs
mcrcly as a sccondary caLcgory. For Lhc mosL compclling rcíuLaLion oí
Lhis onLological assumpLion, scc cspccially Lhc inLroducLion Lo and chap-
Lcr : oí Dclcuzc’s Lìfference and Repetìtìon, Lhc ccnLral poinL oí which is
Lo “Lhink diffcrcncc in iLsclí indcpcndcnLly oí Lhc íorms oí rcprcscnLa-
Lion which rcducc iL Lo Lhc Samc” (xix).
:i. Onc oí Dclcuzc’s carlicsL aLLcmpLs aL comparing and classiíying is
his bricí :n66 cssay on hardboilcd dcLccLivc ficLion, “Philosophy oí Lhc
Serìe Noìre.”
Notes to pages ¸i–¸6
:j. IL is hardly surprising, Lhcn, LhaL Žižck—pcrhaps Iacan’s grcaLcsL
rcadcr—is in cffccL incapablc oí rcading Dclcuzc as anyLhing oLhcr Lhan
a poor man’s Iacan (scc Žižck, Organs wìthout Podìes).
:i. Tc dcbaLc originaLcd in popular rcvicws oí Lhc novcl. For onc
oí Lhc ícw cxamplcs arguing LhaL Fllis succccds aL saLirizing Lhc :n8os,
scc Wcldon. For somc oí Lhc many cxamplcs arguing Fllis’s saLirc íails
duc Lo his lack oí LalcnL, scc SLilcs, RoscnblaLL, Ichmann-HaupL, Archcr,
Plagcns, TcachouL, and, mosL ingcniously, Mailcr and UdoviLch. For Lhc
bcsL accounL oí Lhc public rcsponsc Lo Fllis’s novcl, scc Fbcrly :oj–j:.
Acadcmic discoursc, wiLh Lhc usual Limc lapsc, conLinucd Lhis discus-
sion. For insLancc, FlizabcLh Young asscrLs LhaL Lhc novcl is indccd a
saLirc buL rcads iL ulLimaLcly as an affi rmaLion oí conscrvaLivc moral
valucs (8=–:ii). Iikcwisc, 1amcs Anncslcy claims LhaL Fllis’s íailurc Lo
considcr LhaL his rcprcscnLaLion oí Amcrican capiLalism mighL bc inac-
curaLc undcrmincs Lhc succcss oí his saLirc (::–ii). For a morc posi-
Livc Lakc on Fllis’s cndcavor, scc Cilcs :6o–¬i; Kauffman iij–6o; Pricc;
Humc, Amerìcan Lream :no–ni; and ícminisL criLic Carla Frccccro, who
warranLs Lhc mosL inLcrcsLing dcícnsc oí Lhc novcl.
:=. For Lhc bcsL accounLs oí Lhis rcsponsc, scc Kauffman iij–6o, and
Pricc. Tc laLLcr sympLomaLically bcgins his cssay on Lhc novcl by sLaLing
LhaL hc is in accord wiLh Lhosc criLics who conLcnd LhaL Fllis’s novcl has
Lo bc undcrsLood as a “Lypc oí saLirical novcl LhaL condcmns Lhc domi-
nanL Amcrican culLurc oí Lhc :n8os” (jii).
:6. For an cxamplc oí Lhc íormcr aLLiLudc, scc UdoviLch who rccog-
nizcs Lhc saLirical inLcnL oí Lhc novcl buL dccms iL “proíoundly conscrva-
Livc” (6=), largcly bccausc Fllis “rcmains an amaLcurish íormalisL and a
downrighL lousy sLylisL” (66) so LhaL hc rcmains incapablc oí Lransccnd-
ing Lhc gorc in which his novcl dwclls. Norman Mailcr iníamously con-
curs wiLh Lhis asscssmcnL, finding LhaL hc “cannoL íorgivc” (ii:) Fllis
íor lacking Lhc wriLcrly skills ncccssary íor íollowing Lhrough wiLh his
saLirical inLcnL.
:¬. Considcring LhaL filmmaking, indcpcndcnL or noL, is an cnLcr-
prisc pcrhaps morc closcly Licd Lo Lhc culLurc indusLry Lhan any oLhcr arL
íorm, Lhc vcry locaLion oí Lhc discoursc surrounding Fllis’s book—major
and minor ncwspapcrs, magazincs, 1v shows, cLc., all oí which arc owncd
by largcr corporaLions LhaL also havc sLakcs in Hollywood’s producLion,
disLribuLion, and cxhibiLion machincry—iL is hard Lo scc how iL could
havc bccn oLhcrwisc
:8. Harron’s own promoLional sLaLcmcnLs abouL hcr moLivcs íor
Notes to pages ¸;–¡i iji
Lackling Fllis’s novcl consisLcnLly rcvcal LhaL hcr inLcnLion was indccd Lo
wrcsLlc away Lhc LcxL írom iLs mosL viLriolic criLics and íorcground Lhc
progrcssivc saLirical qualiLy insLcad oí Lhc morc scnsaLionalisL aspccLs
oí Lhc novcl. As shc wriLcs in Lhc New York Tìmes, shc sccs Lhc novcl as
“a surrcal saLirc and alLhough many sccncs wcrc cxcruciaLingly violcnL,
iL was clcarly inLcndcd as a criLiquc oí malc misogyny, noL an cndorsc-
mcnL oí iL” (tr :j). AuLhorial inLcnLion is, oí coursc, ycL anoLhcr criLi-
cal conccpL LhaL rclics on and is cxprcssivc oí a rcprcscnLaLional logic
in which “mcaning” (ciLhcr locaLcd in Lhc LcxL as cxprcssivc, howcvcr
unconsciously, oí auLhorial inLcnLions, or in Lhc auLhor’s inLcnLions LhaL
wc can acccss Lhrough lcLLcrs, biographical maLcrial, cLc.) is Lhc nc plus
ulLra oí Lhc LcxLual cncounLcr.
:n. For cxamplcs oí Lhc íormcr, scc Baldwin, Holdcn, RoLhkopí, or
SmiLh; íor cxamplcs oí Lhc laLLcr, scc Harvcy or 1amcs, “Sick CiLy Boy.”
io. Tcsc vicws arc hcld by, among oLhcrs, Rogcr RoscnblaLL and
Tcrry TcachouL.
i:. A numbcr oí criLics havc discusscd Lhc qucsLion oí whcLhcr Lhc
film insinuaLcs LhaL mosL, ií noL all, oí Lhc cvcnLs mcrcly happcncd in
BaLcman’s sick imaginaLion. Scc Harvcy; Holdcn; 1amcs, “Sick CiLy Boy”;
King; Rayns; and Travcrs. Iikcwisc, in Lhcir Iacanian rcading oí boLh
novcl and film, 1aap Kooijman and Tarja Iainc arguc LhaL Lhc scrial killcr
idcnLiLy oí PaLrick BaLcman is mcrcly his own, imaginary consLrucLion.
ii. Civcn LhaL Fllis’s novcl quiLc obviously alludcs Lo BaLman (jusL
as iL rcícrs Lo many oLhcr pop culLurc arLiíacLs), I find iL inLriguing LhaL
ChrisLian Balc’s pcríormancc oí Lhc proLagonisL in ChrisLophcr Nolan’s
Patman Pegìns (ioo=) rclics on many oí Lhc samc acLing manncrisms LhaL
hc has alrcady displaycd in his pcríormancc oí PaLrick BaLcman in Har-
ron’s film. IL is as ií Nolan and Balc wanLcd Lo íorcground Lhc psychoLic
corc aL Lhc hcarL oí BaLman LhaL Fllis’s bruLal LcxL impliciLly hinLcd aL
fiíLccn ycars carlicr. Tc íacL LhaL boLh BaLcman and BaLman arc rich,
snobbish, narcissisLic, buff, aLLracLivc malcs inhabiLing CoLham/Ncw
York CiLy gocs a long way Lo subsLanLiaLc LhaL Lhis connccLion may noL
bc coincidcnLal.
ij. David Robinson discusscs íurLhcr diffcrcnccs bcLwccn film and
novcl—changcs LhaL, according Lo Robinson, hclp clariíy Lhc film’s basic
prcmisc oí suggcsLing LhaL Lhc “Amcrican consumcr mindscL, Lakcn Lo
iLs logical cxLrcmc, will cxposc iLsclí as inhcrcnLly violcnL” (j=). In Lhis
rcading, BaLcman commiLs his aLrociLics bccausc oí his “dccp dissaLisíac-
Lion and íhis] íailurc Lo aLLain a primal nccd” (j=). TaL is, his violcncc
Notes to pages ¡i–¡¡
poinLs Lo, indccd rcprcscnLs, Lhc cxisLcncc oí a lack oí sLablc subjccLiviLy/
idcnLiLy LhaL is cndcmic Lo consumcr culLurc—a culLurc LhaL, Lhcrcíorc,
is dccmcd morally corrupL by Lhc film (and Lhc cssay’s poinL oí vicw).
ii. As I will arguc in chapLcr j, undccidabiliLy is in Lhc cnd noL all LhaL
diffcrcnL írom arriving aL a spccific dccision abouL a LcxL’s mcaning.
i=. Tis projccL’s masocriLical gambiL is, oí coursc, Lo dcvclop a ícw oí
Lhcsc Lools by showing how somc pracLiLioncrs oí imagcd violcncc havc
mobilizcd Lhcm all along.
i6. Scc noLc ::.
i¬. Pcrhaps iL is bcLLcr Lo say LhaL Lhcsc LcxLs arc parLicularly good
aL showing us somcLhing abouL languagc and imagcs in gcncral, namcly,
LhaL a|| signalcLic maLcrial works bascd on lcvcls oí inLcnsiLy. TaL is, aí-
íccL is noL a scarcc occurrcncc buL a consLiLuLivc aLLribuLc. Pcrhaps onc
should show how rcprcscnLaLional criLicism LhaL docs noL aLLcnd Lo aí-
íccL is iLsclí always alrcady shoL Lhrough wiLh affccL.
i8. I should poinL ouL, howcvcr, LhaL during Lhc pcriod in which I
wroLc Lhis book, Lhc qucsLion oí affccL has bcgun Lo soliciL morc aLLcn-
Lion in Lhc humaniLics and cvcn scicnccs. Scc Clarc Hcmmings’s cssay
“Invoking AffccL” íor a criLiquc oí Lhc “conLcmporary cmcrgcncc oí aí-
íccL as criLical objccL and pcrspccLivc Lhrough which Lo undcrsLand Lhc
social world and our placc wiLhin iL” (=i8). SLill, in my vicw Lhc Dclcuz-
can scnsc oí affccL LhaL Massumi has in mind (i.c., as somcLhing LhaL is
prcindividual, prcsubjccLivc, and Lhus noL rcduciblc Lo or dcscribablc in
Lcrms oí mcrc “ícclings”) has ycL Lo bc dcvclopcd as a criLical conccpL and
Lool, cspccially wiLh rcgard Lo liLcrary and film sLudics. I hopc Lo conLrib-
uLc wiLh Lhis book Lo Lhis Lask.
in. KaLhryn Humc rcccnLly addrcsscd Lhc issuc oí narraLivc spccd—
“in Lhc scnsc oí Lhc narraLivc bcing accclcraLcd bcyond somc saíc com-
prchcnsion-limiL” (“NarraLivc Spccd” :o6)—in conLcmporary ficLion.
Humc diagnoscs in how íar narraLivc spccd “scrvcs boLh cscapc and
conLrol íuncLions” (:o¬)—LhaL is, how iL assisLs “Lhc purposcs ciLhcr oí
hcgcmonic powcrs or oí rcvoluLion” (:o¬).
jo. AnoLhcr way oí puLLing Lhis: unlikc Lhc film, Lhc novcl docs noL
prcach Lo Lhc libcral choir. IL insLcad shows how bourgcois libcralism—
cmbodicd in Lhc logic oí rcprcscnLaLionalism—is iLsclí compliciL wiLh
Lhc vcry violcncc iL allcgcdly opposcs. Scc my discussion oí HardL and
Ncgri’s Fmpìre in chapLcr i íor morc on Lhis.
j:. Scc Colcbrook íor an cxccllcnL discussion oí Dclcuzc’s Lakc on
voicc and poinL oí vicw, as wcll as chapLcr 6.
Notes to pages ¡=–=¸ iji
ji. Tc cnormiLy oí Lhis Lask will bc illusLraLcd in chapLcr i.
jj. ChapLcr = will rcLurn Lo Lhis sccming paradox, suggcsLing LhaL iL
is prcciscly Lhis allcgcd phcnomcnological obviousncss oí violcncc LhaL
Lcnds Lo obíuscaLc iLs cffccLiviLy.
ji. Scc Lhc opcning sccLion oí chapLcr 6 íor morc on Lhis parLicular
j=. Tc subscqucnL chapLcrs on HighsmiLh, DcNiro, and DcIillo aL-
LcmpL Lo do jusL LhaL, howcvcr LcnLaLivcly.
j6. DiffcrcnLiaLing his LhoughL írom FoucaulL’s, Dclcuzc wriLcs: “I
havc Lhcrcíorc no nccd íor Lhc sLaLus oí phcnomcna oí rcsisLancc; ií Lhc
firsL givcn oí a socicLy is LhaL cvcryLhing Lakcs flighL, Lhcn cvcryLhing in
iL is dcLcrriLorializcd” (“Dcsirc and Plcasurc” :8n).
j¬. I invcsLigaLc mosL íully how onc mighL affccLivcly rcspond Lo Lhc
mcdium oí film in chapLcr =.
. Are We All Arnoldians?
:. Film criLicism Loo rcmains ícLLcrcd by Lhc dcsirc Lo judgc imagcs.
Scc, c.g., Frus and Coldbcrg, who boLh arc clcarly invcsLcd in condcmn-
ing whaL Lhc wriLcrs pcrccivc Lo bc immoral violcnL imagcs. NoL unim-
porLanLly, Lhcsc imagcs arc dccmcd immoral bccausc Lhcy allcgcdly mis-
rcprcscnL—íalsiíy—rcaliLy. NoLcworLhy is also Lhc work oí Nocl Carroll,
who cxpliciLly advocaLcs a modc oí film criLicism, which, bascd on Kan-
Lian caLcgorics, is capablc oí arriving aL clcar valuc judgmcnLs abouL film
producLions. Scc, c.g., his cssay “InLroducing Film FvaluaLion,” which,
ironically, is includcd in Reìnventìng Fì|m Studìes. How, cxacLly, an cm-
phasis on film cvaluaLion bascd on KanLian conccpLs can bc considcrcd
“rcinvcnLing” anyLhing is bcyond mc. In gcncral, oí coursc, film criLicism
has inhcriLcd many oí iLs criLical opcraLions írom liLcrary sLudics duc Lo
iLs insLiLuLional hisLory LhaL cmcrgcd ouL oí Fnglish dcparLmcnLs.
i. Tis collccLion, wc may rccall, ícaLurcs a numbcr oí cssays LhaL al-
mosL singlc-handcdly insLiLuLionalizcd a criLical pracLicc wc now rcmcm-
bcr as Amcrican dcconsLrucLion.
j. AlLhough Lhis is noL Lhc Limc and placc Lo claboraLc on Lhis, I should
poinL ouL LhaL Lo mc Amcrican dcconsLrucLion is a íar cry írom Lhc acLual
provocaLion oí Dcrrida’s work. For whcrcas Lhc íormcr rcmains wcddcd
Lo an undcrsLanding oí languagc as rcprcscnLaLion, Dcrrida vicws lan-
guagc as “íorcc.” Scc, íor insLancc, his scminal cssay “Diffcrancc,” spccifi-
Notes to pages ==–6=
cally íooLnoLc io, which approvingly poinLs Lo Dclcuzc’s Nìetzsche and
Phì|osophy, a book LhaL insisLs LhaL, íor NicLzschc, languagc is íorcc, noL
i. Film sLudics Loo movcd Loward rcccpLion sLudics (scc, c.g., Bor-
dwcll, Princc, or SLaigcr). Tis changc oí cmphasis occurrcd as an cxpliciL
rcacLion againsL Iacanian film Lhcory, which dominaLcd Lhc :n¬os and
:n8os. AnLi-Iacanians such as SLcphcn Princc bcgan Lo accusc Iacanian
film Lhcory íor having “consLrucLcd Lhcorics oí spccLaLorship írom which
írcal] spccLaLors arc missing” (“PsychoanalyLic Film Tcory” 8j); in con-
LrasL, rcccpLion oricnLcd film sLudics íorcgrounds Lhc mcaning making
capaciLy oí Lhc acLual vicwcr. Whcrcas íor Iacanians “mcaning” Lcnds Lo
bc a maLLcr oí Lhc rclaLion bcLwccn Lhc Imaginary and Symbolic (and how
Lhcsc rcalms govcrncd spccLaLors’ rcsponscs), rcccpLion LhcorisLs cxam-
inc how Lhc spccLaLor plays a much morc acLivc rolc in making mcaning.
BoLh David Bordwcll and cspccially Princc givc Lhis Lurn Lo Lhc vicwcr a
parLicularly scicnLific LwisL, wiLh Lhcir advocacy oí cogniLivism as a mcans
Lo sLudy film. For insLancc, in “Truc Iics,” a challcnging cssay on Lhc prob-
lcmaLic dominancc oí “indcxically bascd noLions oí film rcalism” (j:) in
film Lhcory, Princc poinLs ouL LhaL LradiLional film Lhcory has íailcd Lo
aLLcnd Lo considcr how “rcalism” íuncLions írom a vicwcr’s pcrspccLivc
and insLcad obscsscd abouL Lhc “codcs” oí rcalism. To Princc, rcalism is
bascd on spccLaLors’ cogniLivc cxpcricnccs. Hcncc, a digiLal film can bc as
rcalisL as an analog film. WhaL maLLcrs is whaL Lhc spccLaLor has cogni-
Livcly availablc (much oí which is hardwircd, according Lo Princc), sincc
shc uscs Lhis cxpcricncc in waLching a film Lo comparc Lhc imagcs Lo hcr
rcal cxpcricncc. Ií imagcs rcasonably corrcspond Lo Lhc cogniLivc library,
shc will pcrccivc Lhc imagcs as rcalisLic, rcgardlcss oí whcLhcr Lhc imagc
is a dinosaur LhaL ncvcr cxisLcd in Lhc rcal world or a man wiLh a bicyclc
Lrying Lo makc a living in war-ravagcd Romc. NoLc, howcvcr, LhaL whaL
boLh approachcs havc in common is Lhc cmphasis on mcaning.
=. Fvcn wriLcrs who arc oLhcrwisc sympaLhcLic Lo posL-sLrucLuralisL
LhoughL chargc Dcrrida wiLh Lhis criLicism. F.g., ConsLanLin Boundas
complains LhaL Dcrridcan dcconsLrucLion conccivcs oí LcxLs as “laby-
rinLhs whcrc onc can crr íorcvcr and fishncLs in which onc could bccomc
caughL. í. . .] As íor Lhc rcícrcnL, iL is noL only brackcLcd í. . .] buL iL loscs
iLs pcrLincncc: onc can always find a rcícrcnL, buL iL is going Lo bc an-
oLhcr LcxL” (:6=). Scc, howcvcr, Baucom íor an cssay LhaL cxplains why
Lhc counLlcss culogics wriLLcn abouL dcconsLrucLion mighL havc bccn
Notes to pages 66–6o ij6
6. Oncc morc, film sLudics íollows a parallcl LrajccLory. Today, as Todd
McCowan and Shcila Kunklc corrccLly poinL ouL in Lhcir inLroducLion
Lo Lacan and Contemporary Fì|m, “Lhcory as such has givcn way almosL
complcLcly Lo hisLoricism and cmpirical rcscarch” (xii n. :). An cxccllcnL
cxamplc supporLing Lhis poinL is, c.g., 1. D. Slocum’s rcccnL Cìnema 1our-
na| cssay on World War II combaL films. Slocum offcrs “an alLcrnaLivc
modcl íor undcrsLanding film violcncc” (=8) whosc LargcLs arc Lhc uni-
vcrsalizing claims oí psychoanalyLic as wcll as morc bchaviorisL-bascd
Lhcorics. Slocum’s approach, so hc argucs, is rigorously “groundcd in his-
Lory” (=¬), as iL is guidcd by “Lhc idca oí a ‘civilizing proccss’ LhaL aLLcnds
boLh Lo spccific rcprcscnLaLions in war films and Lo Lhc insLiLuLional rolc
oí cincma in socializing and rcgulaLing individual bchavior” (j¬).
¬. Scc, howcvcr, 1cffrcy T. Ncalon’s Loub|e Readìng. in which hc makcs
a íorccíul casc íor a rcading oí dcconsLrucLion LhaL clcarly rcquircs Lhis
sysLcmic displaccmcnL, as Lhis is prcciscly whaL Lhc sccond dcconsLruc-
Livc movc offcrcd by Dcrrida dcmands as a ncccssary compound oí dc-
consLrucLivc pracLicc. As Dcrrida wriLcs, “DcconsLrucLion cannoL limiL
iLsclí or procccd immcdiaLcly Lo a ncuLralizaLion íoí Lhc binary]; iL musL,
by mcans oí a doublc gcsLurc, a doublc scicncc, a doublc wriLing, pracLicc
an overturnìng oí Lhc classical opposiLion and a gcncral dìsp|acement oí
Lhc sysLcm” (“SignaLurcs FvcnL ConLcxL” jin).
8. Tc poinL hcrc is LhaL culLural sLudics—gcncrally spcaking a lcíL-
libcral acadcmic nichc—is noL so íar rcmovcd írom Arnold’s cnLcrprisc.
IL is, oí coursc, no surprisc LhaL morc conscrvaLivc lcaning criLics makc
no boncs abouL conLinuing Lo work in an Arnoldian LradiLion. Scc Mi-
chacl Bcrubc’s criLiquc oí conscrvaLivc wriLcrs such as Allan Bloom or
Dincsh D’Souza in Te vì||age voìce. whcrc hc makcs a similar poinL.
n. I rcalizc LhaL in hindsighL iL mighL sccm absurd LhaL liLcrary culLurc
oncc cmbraccd BrcL FasLon Fllis. Indccd, cvcn aL Lhc hcighL oí his íamc
(achicvcd ovcrnighL as an undcrgraduaLc sLudcnL whcn hc publishcd his
firsL novcl), noL cvcryonc cmbraccd Lhis supposcd liLcrary wundcrkind.
YcL, Lhc íacL rcmains LhaL íor a bricí momcnL hc was the cclcbraLcd cníanL
Lcrriblc oí U.S. liLcraLurc. Tc poinL hcrc is noL Lo cndorsc or opposc Lhis
vicw oí him buL Lo show Lhc discursivc opcraLion oí which hc was parL.
:o. Whilc similar disLincLions cxisL ouLsidc Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs, iL
sccms Lruc LhaL in oLhcr counLrics “conLrovcrsial” wriLcrs oíLcn acquirc
a ccrLain sLaLus oí rcspccL prcciscly bccausc oí Lhcir work’s provocaLion.
Tc conLrovcrsy surrounding Lhc work oí Frcnch auLhor Michcl Houcl-
lcbccq is buL onc rcccnL casc in poinL.
Notes to pages 6o–;¸
::. Scc also HardL and Ncgri, Fmpìre, íor supporL oí Lhis argumcnL.
:i. Massumi praiscs Crossbcrg íor paying aLLcnLion Lo affccL in his
work buL poinLs ouL LhaL “Crossbcrg slips inLo an cquaLion bcLwccn aí-
íccL and cmoLion aL many poinLs” (i6onj).
:j. Oí coursc, Lhc surgc oí inLcrcsL in Lhc :nnos in Dclcuzc’s work
musL bc acknowlcdgcd, buL Lhis inLcrcsL was mainly oí philosophical na-
Lurc (wiLh Lhc occasional cssay conccrning liLcraLurc). CulLural sLudics
has rcmaincd raLhcr hosLilc Lo Dclcuzc, dcspiLc a ícw spccial issucs dc-
voLcd Lo his LhoughL, such as, c.g., Cu|tura| Studìes :i.i (iooo) and South
At|antìc Ouarter|y n6.j (:nn¬), as wcll as cxccllcnL sLudics such as Anì-
matìng (Le|euze and Cuattarì), a volumc cdiLcd by 1cnniícr Daryl Slack;
1. Macgrcgor Wisc’s Fxp|orìng Techno|ogy and Socìa| Space; and Charlcs
SLivalc’s Lìsenchantìng Les Pons Temps. And dcspiLc rcccnL book publica-
Lions such as Crcgg IambcrL’s Te Non-Phì|osophy oj Cì||es Le|euze, Ian
Buchanan and 1ohn Marks’s Le|euze and Lìterature, and Ronald Boguc’s
Le|euze on Lìterature, iL sccms Lo mc LhaL Dclcuzc’s posiLion in liLcrary
sLudics rcmains marginal. In film sLudics Loo Dclcuzc’s work occupics aL
bcsL an in-bcLwccn posiLion: mosL film sLudics do noL know whaL Lo do
wiLh his Lwo books on cincma, and Lhosc who cngagc him by and largc
do so on Lhc margins oí Lhc ficld. (Scc, howcvcr, D. N. Rodowick’s and
SLcvcn Shaviro’s powcríul works on Dclcuzc and cincma, as wcll as Flax-
man’s cdiLcd volumc.) In oLhcr words, Lo Lhis day, no “Dclcuzcan school”
has íormcd, as has bccn Lhc casc wiLh Dcrrida (Amcrican dcconsLruc-
Lion), FoucaulL (Ncw HisLoricism), or Iacan (Iacanian psychoanalysis),
noL Lo mcnLion Marx and Frcud. FoucaulL’s íamous (and undoubLcdly
somcwhaL jcsLing) claim LhaL “pcrhaps onc day, Lhis íLwcnLicLh] ccnLury
will bc known as Dclcuzian” (“TcaLrum Philosophicum” :6=) has ycL Lo
rcgisLcr insLiLuLionally—and ií iL cvcr did, Lhis (íuLurc) insLiLuLionaliza-
Lion would provc FoucaulL wrong, as Dclcuzc’s cnLirc work is characLcr-
izcd by a hosLiliLy Lo schools (gcncraliLics) and insLcad íavors singulari-
Lics, cvcnLs, and Lhc unLimcly or ycL Lo comc (which ncvcr ccascs Lo bc
jusL LhaL).
:i. An almosL incviLablc ouLcomc oí Lhis inLcrcsL in (poliLical) rcprc-
scnLaLion was culLural sLudics’ íounding rcjccLion oí Tcodor Adorno’s
LhoughL, sincc Lhc laLLcr makcs iL cxcccdingly diffi culL Lo havc any íaiLh
in a poliLics bascd on Lhc (rcprcscnLaLional) rccogniLion oí diffcrcncc.
IL Lhcrcíorc comcs as no surprisc LhaL Max Horkhcimcr and Adorno’s
landmark cssay “Tc CulLurc IndusLry” was includcd in Simon During’s
scminal Cu|tura| Studìes Reader only as a shorLcncd vcrsion, wiLh Lhc
Notes to pages ;¡–;6 ij8
FrankíurL School LhcorisLs’ ccnLral aphorisLic salvo againsL “diffcr-
cncc”—“Anyonc who rcsisLs can survivc only by bcing incorporaLcd.
Oncc rcgisLcrcd as divcrging írom Lhc culLurc indusLry, Lhcy bclong Lo iL
as Lhc land rcíormcr Lo capiLalism. RcalisLic indignaLion is Lhc Lradcmark
oí Lhosc wiLh a ncw idca Lo scll” (Lìa|ectìc oj Fn|ìghtenment :oi)—com-
plcLcly omiLLcd.
:=. For cxccllcnL cssays on Lhc problcmaLic rcccpLion oí Dclcuzc in
Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs, scc Flic During and IoLringcr.
:6. Scc also my cssay on Dclcuzc’s inLcrcsL in 1ack Kcrouac íor a dis-
cussion oí liLcrary sLudics qucsLionablc appropriaLion oí Dclcuzc and
CuaLLari’s conccpL oí “minor liLcraLurc.” Whcrcas íor Lhc laLLcr Lhis con-
ccpL has noLhing Lo do wiLh rcprcscnLaLion (iL is noL a numcrical con-
ccpL), liLcrary sLudics has gcncrally applicd Lhis conccpL as a mcans Lo
advocaLc onc or Lhc oLhcr undcrrcprcscnLcd minoriLy wriLcr.
:¬. For an cxccllcnL rcccnL cssay LhaL Lakcs scriously Lhc noLion oí
“Lracking down” in PlaLo’s cngagcmcnL wiLh Lhc SophisLs, scc Muckcl-
:8. Scc Baudrilliard, Sìmu|atìons, and 1amcson, Postmodernìsm.
:n. Dclcuzc poinLs ouL LhaL PlaLo sccms Lo havc rccognizcd Lhis
(“Was iL noL PlaLo himsclí who poinLcd ouL Lhc dirccLion íor Lhc rcvcrsal
oí PlaLonism`” í“Simulacrum” i=6]), Lhough hc Lhcn shicd away írom
iLs implicaLions. Tus, Dclcuzc suggcsLs LhaL PlaLo can bc said Lo havc
bcgun Lhc ovcrLurning oí PlaLonism himsclí. TaL PlaLo “íailcd” Lo affi rm
his own insighL mcrcly indicaLcs Lhc dcgrcc oí diffi culLy oí Lhinking wiLh-
ouL judgmcnL. ChapLcr i will claboraLc on Lhc diffi culLy oí “ovcrLurning”
io. PaLricia Dunkcr’s novcl Ha||ucìnatìng Foucau|t (:nn6) provoca-
Livcly plays wiLh Lhis disLincLion. I wanL Lo Lhank Cina Frcolini íor having
callcd my aLLcnLion Lo iL.
i:. In chapLcr 6, I will diffcrcnLiaLc bcLwccn “sccing” and “pcrccpLion”;
whcrcas Lhc laLLcr is govcrncd by Lhc logic oí auLhcnLiciLy (and Lhus rcp-
rcscnLaLion), Lhc íormcr is a modc oí producLion LhaL docs noL originaLc
wiLh and in a subjccL and his or hcr abiliLy Lo pcrccivc corrccLly.
ii. Fvcn—or, bcLLcr, mosL imporLanLly—KanL argucs in his Crìtìque
oj 1udgment íor Lhc acsLhcLic (and acsLhcLic judgmcnL) as a middlc ground
mcdiaLing Lhc rclaLionship bcLwccn Lhc pcrcciving subjccL and Lhc objccL
oí pcrccpLion. Hc Lhus clcvaLcs rcason as Lhc final arbiLcr oí acsLhcLic
LasLc, allocaLing affccL a placc Lo bc govcrncd by “sLaLc-ly” raLionaliLy and
iLs aLLcnding insLiLuLions: jurisprudcncc and acsLhcLic criLicism.
Notes to pages ;6–8i
ij. DisLinguishing “anLiquarian hisLory” írom boLh “monumcnLal”
and “criLical” hisLory, NicLzschc claims LhaL Lhc firsL “knows only how Lo
preserve liíc, noL how Lo cngcndcr iL; iL always undcrvalucs LhaL which is
bccoming bccausc iL has no insLincL íor divining iL—as monumcnLal his-
Lory, íor cxamplc, has. Tus, iL hindcrs any firm rcsolvc Lo aLLcmpL somc-
Lhing ncw, Lhus iL paralyscs Lhc man oí acLion who, as onc who acLs, will
and musL offcnd somc picLy or oLhcr” (“Uscs and DisadvanLagcs” ¬=).
ii. PaLLon argucs LhaL “Lhc imporLancc oí Lhc conccpL oí simulacra
is limiLcd Lo Lhc prcdominanLly ncgaLivc phasc oí Dclcuzc’s projccL”
(j=), ciLing a commcnL Dclcuzc madc in a lcLLcr Lo anoLhcr criLic. YcL,
I suggcsL LhaL prcciscly bccausc PlaLonism sLill works Lhrough and Lhus
affccLs conLcmporary pracLiccs wc cannoL ovcrcsLimaLc Lhc imporLancc
oí Dclcuzc’s cncounLcr wiLh PlaLo(nism). RaLhcr, in Lhis shorL cssay on
PlaLo, Dclcuzc providcs us wiLh a crucial “Lool” LhaL can bc dcploycd as a
mcans Lo cncounLcr or movc through Lhc dominancc oí rcprcscnLaLional
i=. Tis is parL oí Lhc rcason why I do noL Lhink LhaL film sLudics
oughL Lo privilcgc so-callcd cmpirical mcLhodologics, as Princc urgcs. In
my vicw, Lhc conccpL oí Lhc subjccL LhaL currcnLly is aL work in, say, cog-
niLivisL film sLudics sLrikcs mc as problcmaLically undcrLhcorizcd. In an
odd way, onc mighL say LhaL currcnL vcrsions oí film sLudics arc noL ycL
cmpirical cnough.
i6. In conLcmporary film sLudics, David Bordwcll is Lhc bcsL-known
proponcnL oí Lhis approach Lo moving imagcs. Scc, c.g., his apLly LiLlcd
Makìng Meanìng.
i¬. Tis is noL Lo dcny LhaL wc arc írcqucnLly cxposcd Lo jusL Lhis
acLualizaLion oí violcncc: violcncc is donc Lo us all Lhc Limc, in diffcrcnL
ways and wiLh diffcrcnL cffccLs, jusL as, pcrhaps lcss obviously, all oí us
also cannoL buL do violcncc Lo oLhcrs, Lo diffcrcnL dcgrccs and wiLh dií-
ícrcnL rcsulLs.
i8. IL should bc noLcd LhaL Dclcuzc’s noLion oí simulacrum docs noL
inLroducc a ncw íoundaLion. ConLrary Lo Alain Badiou’s provocaLivc
rcading oí Dclcuzc, Lhc simulacrum is an “un-íounding” (Dclcuzc, “Sim-
ulacrum” i6j). Badiou insisLs LhaL Dclcuzc is Lhc Lhinkcr oí Lhc Onc, oí
íoundaLionalism, which is Lruc only Lo Lhc dcgrcc (onc not acknowlcdgcd
by Badiou) LhaL Lhc Onc íor Dclcuzc is always jusL onc parL oí an as-
scmblagc, an cffccL. Whilc iL is Lruc LhaL Dclcuzc makcs much oí Duns
ScoLus’s Lhcsis oí Lhc univociLy oí bcing, Dclcuzc clarifics LhaL hc undcr-
sLands Lhis Lhcsis as arLiculaLing Lhc Bcing oí bccoming: “Lhc csscnLial in
Notes to pages 8i–86 iio
univociLy is noL LhaL Bcing is said in a singlc and samc scnsc, buL LhaL iL
is said, in a singlc and samc scnsc, oj all iLs individuaLing diffcrcnccs or
inLrinsic modaliLics. Bcing is Lhc samc íor all Lhcsc modaliLics, buL Lhcsc
modaliLics arc noL Lhc samc” (Lìfference and Repetìtìon j6). TaL is, Bcing
can bc considcrcd univocal (onc, íoundaLional) only Lo Lhc cxLcnL LhaL iL
is consLiLuLcd by proccsscs oí bccoming, oí “diffcrcnL/ciaLion” (Lìfference
and Repetìtìon, ion).
in. I rcLurn Lo Lhc qucsLion oí pcdagogy LhroughouL Lhc íollowing
chapLcrs buL will placc parLicular cmphasis on iL in Lhc concluding chap-
jo. Dclcuzc is noL Lhc only onc who lcads us Lo Lhink Lhis. In ad-
diLion Lo Dcrrida’s and BlanchoL’s claims LhaL, rcspccLivcly, wriLing and
spccch arc violcncc (scc chapLcr i, noLc :o), FoucaulL argucs LhaL his-
Lory is violcncc: iL “is noL madc íor undcrsLanding; iL is madc íor cuttìng”
(“NicLzschc, Ccncalogy, HisLory” :=i, my cmphasis). Marx, oí coursc,
Lcachcs us abouL Lhc violcncc oí Lhc markcL. IL sccms LhaL vcry liLLlc is
lcíL LhaL mighL consLiLuLc a nonviolcnL spacc oncc wc add Lhcsc Lhcorics
. Serializing Violence
:. Tc film was cvcnLually nominaLcd íor fivc Acadcmy Awards,
Lhough iL did noL win any. Scc also Michacl Bronski’s rcvicw oí whaL hc
calls Minghclla’s “MasLcrpiccc TcaLcrizcd Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey” (ii)
íor a cogcnL cxplanaLion oí Lhc film’s insLanLancous acclaim and suc-
i. In addiLion Lo Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey, Lhc Fvcryman’s cdiLion also
includcs Rìp|ey 0nder Cround (originally publishcd :n¬o) and Rìp|ey’s
Came (:n¬i). Tc Lwo Riplcy novcls noL includcd arc Te Poy who Fo|-
|owed Rìp|ey (:n8o) and Rìp|ey 0nder water (:nn:).
j. I Lakc Lhc Lcrm “ncw violcncc” írom Michacl SLcin’s Lwo-parL cssay
“Tc Ncw Violcncc, or TwcnLy Ycars oí Violcncc in Films: An Apprccia-
Lion.” Scc also Schncidcr íor an cxLcndcd cngagcmcnL wiLh ncw Holly-
wood violcncc.
i. Scc KakuLani, Cox, RaffcrLy, or Macrkcr.
=. In addiLion Lo counLlcss madc-íor-1v producLions (cspccially
íor Ccrman and Frcnch 1v), HighsmiLh’s work has Lhus íar givcn risc
Lo morc Lhan a dozcn films, Lhc majoriLy oí which wcrc produccd and
Notes to pages 86–oo
rclcascd in Furopcan counLrics. Tc mosL íamous film adapLaLions in-
cludc HiLchcock’s Strangers on a Traìn (:n=:), Rcnc ClcmcnL’s P|eìn So|eì|
(Purplc Noon; :n=n, bascd on Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey), Wim Wcndcrs’s
Ler amerìkanìsche Freund (Tc Amcrican Fricnd) (:n¬¬, bascd on Rìp|ey’s
Came), Claudc Millcr’s Lìtes-|uì que ìe |’aìme (:n¬¬, bascd on Tìs Sweet
Sìckness), Claudc Chabrol’s Le Crì du Hìbou (:n8¬, bascd on Te Cry oj the
Ow|), and Iiliana Cavani’s Rìp|ey’s Came (iooi). Tom Cox rcporLs LhaL
íurLhcr adapLaLions oí HighsmiLh’s work arc currcnLly undcr way.
6. Dclcuzc, in his lasL book wiLh Fclix CuaLLari, íamously proposcs
LhaL Lhc mosL íundamcnLal Lask oí philosophy is Lo íorm, invcnL, and
íabricaLc conccpLs (what !s Phì|osophy? i). Ií philosophy cncounLcrs a
problcm, Lhcn Lhc Lask oí solving iL is Lo invcnL a conccpL propcr Lo Lhc
problcm: “All conccpLs arc connccLcd Lo problcms wiLhouL which Lhcy
would havc no mcaning and which can Lhcmsclvcs only bc isolaLcd or
undcrsLood as Lhcir soluLion cmcrgcs” (:6). SoluLions, in oLhcr words,
cmcrgc in Lhc Lask oí invcnLing conccpLs, buL Lhis Lask is inLricaLcly, in-
cviLably, immancnLly rclaLcd Lo Lhc problcm aL hand: Lhc soluLion (Lhc
conccpL) cannoL bc íound ouLsidc oí Lhc problcm and Lhus cannoL bc
locaLcd anywhcrc clsc buL in Lhc spacc dcfincd and dclincaLcd by Lhc
¬. Strangers on a Traìn, HighsmiLh’s firsL novcl, was publishcd in
:n=o; Sma|| g. a Summer !dy|| íound posLhumous publicaLion jusL aíLcr
hcr dcaLh in :nn=. HighsmiLh publishcd a ícw shorL sLorics in Lhc :nios.
Tc imporLancc oí Lhc conccpL oí scrialiLy will bccomc clcarcr, as my dis-
cussion oí HighsmiLh’s work will íocus on Lhc íuncLion oí hcr only scrial-
izcd characLcr, Tom Riplcy, in conjuncLion wiLh, and as inLcrrupLion oí,
Lhc rcsL oí hcr prolific wriLing carccr.
8. I would cauLion againsL rcducing HighsmiLh’s work Lo Lhis Ocdipal
drama, as Wilson’s oLhcrwisc illuminaLing biography Lcnds Lo do.
n. For a brillianL analysis oí Mclvillc’s sLory, scc Dclcuzc’s “BarLlcby;
or, Tc Formula.” HardL and Ncgri also makc inLcrcsLing usc oí Lhis ía-
mous linc oí rcíusal in Fmpìre (ioj–i).
:o. According Lo Dclcuzc, NicLzschc “comparcs Lhc Lhinkcr Lo an ar-
row shoL by NaLurc LhaL anoLhcr Lhinkcr picks up whcrc iL has íallcn so
LhaL hc can shooL iL somcwhcrc clsc” (Nìetzsche and Phì|osophy ix).
::. Dclcuzc makcs Lhis poinL also in his Lclcvision inLcrvicw wiLh
Clairc ParncL, L’Abecedaìre de Cì||es Le|euze, in sccLion “F commc ‘Fn-
:i. In many ways, Lhc samc can bc said oí BrcL FasLon Fllis’s work,
Notes to pages o:–o; iii
which obscssivcly rcLurns Lo a limiLcd scL oí conccrns as wcll. His laL-
csL novcl, Lunar Park (ioo=), providcs a rcmarkablc íaux-biographical,
rcLrospccLivc mcLacommcnLary on Fllis’s ocuvrc and iLs ccnLral Lhcmcs.
Iikcwisc, Don DcIillo, Lo whom I will Lurn in Lhc lasL chapLcr, clcarly
obscsscs abouL issucs such as consumcr culLurc and Lhc íorcc oí imagcs.
YcL, oddly cnough, Lhc scholarship on all Lhrcc oí Lhcsc wriLcrs has paid
scanL aLLcnLion Lo Lhis obscssivc qualiLy and how iL mighL affccL noL only
Lhc wriLing iLsclí buL also Lhc sty|e oí cngagcmcnL wiLh a givcn subjccL
maLLcr aL hand. Tc acLing work oí RobcrL DcNiro, Lhc subjccL oí chapLcr
=, is also characLcrizcd by such an obscssivc rhyLhm.
:j. As Dclcuzc shows in his rcading oí PlaLo (scc chapLcr j), Lhc acL
oí judgmcnL, dcpcndcnL on iLs purchasc on LruLh, is an cffccL oí Lhc prior
íorcc oí diffcrcncc, oí Lhc simulacrum, oí Lhc powcr oí Lhc íalsc.
:i. Wc cannoL cnLircly ignorc Lhc íorcc oí labcls. As has bccn argucd
by gcnrc LhcorisLs, gcnrcs can íuncLion as an “acsLhcLic and social con-
LracL bcLwccn audicnccs and íarLisLic produccrs]” (MaLLhcw BcrnsLcin
qLd. in Slocum, “Film Violcncc” 66i). And noLwiLhsLanding Rick AlL-
man’s powcríul criLiquc oí gcnrc sLudics LhaL vicw gcnrcs in conLracLual
Lcrms (scc, c.g., Fì|m/Cenre), iL sccms clcar LhaL HighsmiLh would havc
had a rough Limc publishing hcr work wiLhouL aL lcasL minimally hccd-
ing gcnrc cxpccLaLions. In íacL, in P|ottìng and wrìtìng Suspense Fìctìon,
HighsmiLh Lclls hcr rcadcrs oí hcr occasional diffi culLics in finding a pub-
lishcr íor works LhaL sccmcd Lo bc Loo un-HighsmiLhcan. Tus, wriLing
wiLhin ccrLain gcnrc cxpccLaLions—and finding lincs oí flighL wiLhin
Lhcm—bccamc onc oí hcr grcaLcsL arLisLic and commcrcial challcngcs, as
cvidcnccd by hcr work’s rcccpLion, which shows írcqucnLly morc admira-
Lion íor commcrcially lcss succcssíul novcls such as Fdìth’s Lìary (:n¬¬)
Lhan íor hcr morc obvious suspcnsc cfforLs such as Lhc Riplcy scrics. (Ac-
cording Lo HighsmiLh hcrsclí, criLics considcrcd Fdìth’s Lìary hcr “bcsL
ínovcl] Lo daLc” (P|ottìng and wrìtìng :j=), an opinion Russcll Harrison
concurs wiLh, calling iL “HighsmiLh’s mosL ambiLious novcl” í8:].)
:=. Dclcuzc and CuaLLari firsL dcvclopcd Lhc conccpL oí “minor liLcra-
Lurc” in Kajka. Toward a Mìnor Lìterature.
:6. Clapp wriLcs LhaL hcr “books wcrc always morc succcssíul in Fu-
ropc Lhan in Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs” and LhaL cvcn as laLc as :n86 a ncw novcl
by HighsmiLh, Found ìn the Street, “sold scarccly íour Lhousand copics in
Lhc SLaLcs; in Ccrmany, iL sold íorLy Lhousand” (n6). 1oan DuponL spcc-
ulaLcs LhaL HighsmiLh’s lack oí rccogniLion in Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs mighL
havc rcsulLcd írom “hcr amoral cxploraLions oí pcrvcrsc bchavior íLhaL]
Notes to pages :o:–:oi
havc coníuscd Amcrican rcadcrs oí crimc ficLion” (6o). And Rich rcporLs
LhaL “jusL as hcr firsL novcl, Strangers on a Traìn, had bccn rcjccLcd by six
publishcrs aL Lhc sLarL, so hcr final novcl, Sma|| g. a Summer !dy||, was
rcjccLcd by Knopí (Lhough publishcd in Furopc) Lhc ycar shc dicd.”
:¬. In addiLion Lo Hubly, scc Hilícr, Cochran, and Rich íor Lhis sorL oí
rcading oí Riplcy.
:8. Tc ncxL chapLcr addrcsscs Lhc qucsLion oí acLing and whaL iL sug-
gcsLs vis-à-vis our ccnLral problcmaLic in grcaLcr dcLail.
:n. Oí coursc, NicLzschc, as carly as “On TruLh and Iying in Lhc FxLra-
Moral Scnsc,” shows LhaL imiLaLion docs noL rcly on rccollccLion in Lhc
firsL placc. InsLcad, Lhc íorcc oí jorgettìng produccs Lhc world: wc dcsirc
and dcploy “LruLh” only as an cffccL oí having íorgoLLcn LhaL languagc
iLsclí docs ncvcr rcally “rcprcscnL” Lhc world, LhaL LruLh as arLiculaLcd in
languagc is mcrcly a convcnLion, an cradicaLion oí diffcrcncc.
io. Minghclla, among oLhcrs, makcs much oí Lhis suggcsLion—onc
LhaL onc can, buL by no mcans has Lo, Lakc as an accuraLc dcscripLion
oí Riplcy’s characLcr. Tc cosL oí doing so, howcvcr, is Lo suggcsL LhaL
Riplcy’s violcncc occurs bccausc hc wanLs—buL cannoL havc—Dickic,
somcLhing LhaL is paLcnLly noL Lhc casc. Violcncc is noL Lhc ouLcomc oí
an cxpcricncc oí lack, aL lcasL noL in HighsmiLh’s work. Tc firsL adapLa-
Lion oí Lhis novcl, P|eìn So|eì|, docs a bcLLcr job aL showing Lhis, íor in
Lhc Frcnch film Riplcy is noL shown Lo dcsirc Dickic buL his liícsLylc. As
ií Lo confirm Lhis rcading oí hcr firsL Riplcy novcl, HighsmiLh wriLcs in
hcr sccond novcl, publishcd Lcn ycars aíLcr P|eìn So|eì|, LhaL Tom “had
longcd íor lcisurc and a biL oí luxury whcn hc had mcL Dickic Crccnlcaí,
and now LhaL hc had aLLaincd iL, Lhc charm had noL pallcd” (Rìp|ey 0n-
derground :oo).
i:. I will claboraLc on Lhis argumcnL in Lhc ncxL chapLcr.
ii. For morc on Lhc ordcr-word, scc Dclcuzc and CuaLLari, Tousand
P|ateaus ¬=–8=.
ij. As long as wc kccp in mind Dclcuzc’s suggcsLion LhaL Lhc virLual is
rcal, wc can also Lhink abouL Lhis cvcnL as an insLancc whcrc wc wiLncss
Lhc virLual bcing acLualizcd. IL is bccausc oí Lhc virLualiLy oí violcncc—
Riplcy’s alrcady having bccomc-Dickic—LhaL hc can now acLualizc iL, bc-
comc-violcnL, so smooLhly, so insLanLancously. For Dclcuzc’s discussion
oí Lhc rclaLionship bcLwccn Lhc virLual and Lhc acLual, scc, c.g., Pergson-
ìsm n:–:o6 and Lìfference and Repetìtìon io8–:i.
ii. KakuLani’s ncgaLivc judgmcnL oí Lhc laLcr Riplcy novcls is, in íacL,
rooLcd in hcr raLhcr LradiLional moralisLic assumpLion LhaL rcprcscnLa-
Notes to pages :o¡–::i iii
Lions oí violcncc arc acccpLablc only ií Lhcy arc rcndcrcd rcalisLically. Tc
mcdia’s glorificaLion oí Spiclbcrg’s World War II drama Savìng Prìvate Ryan
mcrcly brings Lhis Lcndcncy Lo a pcak: Lhc incrcdiblc violcncc oí Lhc film’s
opcning scqucncc is cclcbraLcd prcciscly bccausc iL prcLcnds Lo havc a pur-
chasc on Lhc rcal—LhaL iL Lruly rcprcscnLs Lhc hcll Amcrican soldicrs had
Lo go Lhrough Lo ovcrcomc Lhc Ccrman íorccs aL Omaha Bcach. Comparc
Lhc asscssmcnL oí a show such as South Park: iLs violcncc is írcqucnLly con-
dcmncd (as Lhc movic vcrsion oí Lhc 1v show mockingly dcpicLs) bccausc
iL docs noL hold a claim Lo rcalism, Lhus íorcgoing any purchasc on Lhc
allcgcdly pcdagogical possibiliLics oí rcalisLic rcprcscnLaLions.
i=. Tc allusions hcrc arc oí coursc Lo ArisLoLlc’s Lhcory oí Lragcdy,
claboraLcd in his Poetìcs, and Lo Richard SloLkin’s “rcgcncraLion Lhrough
violcncc” Lhcsis, rcspccLivcly. SloLkin íamously shows in Regeneratìon
through vìo|ence how Lhc usc oí violcncc has bccn inLcgral Lo Lhc consLruc-
Lion oí a uniqucly Amcrican myLhogcncsis. Arguing LhaL Lhc “íounding
íaLhcrs wcrc noL Lhosc cighLccn-ccnLury gcnLlcmcn who composcd a na-
Lion aL Philadclphia íbuL] Lhosc who í . . . ] Lorc violcnLly a naLion írom
implacablc and opulcnL wildcrncss,” SloLkin proposcs LhaL “rcgcncraLion
ulLimaLcly bccamc Lhc mcans oí violcncc, and Lhc myLh oí rcgcncraLion
Lhrough violcncc bccamc Lhc sLrucLuring mcLaphor oí Lhc Amcrican cx-
pcricncc” (=). Tis nco-ArisLoLclian argumcnL has bccn widcly applicd
Lo Amcrican liLcraLurc and ficLion, cspccially Lo íronLicr liLcraLurc and
WcsLcrn films.
i6. HighsmiLh’s work, oí coursc, is noL Lhc only onc LhaL bcars Lhis
characLcrisLic. IL mighL bc inLcrcsLing Lo comparc, c.g., hcr work Lo LhaL
oí Lwo oLhcr crimc wriLcrs roughly conLcmporary Lo hcr: 1im Tompson
and ChcsLcr Himcs. Tc íormcr is ulLimaLcly morc inLcrcsLcd in a psy-
chopaLhic vcrsion oí violcncc, and Lhc laLLcr in a morc social onc (wiLh
an cmphasis on racc). YcL, all Lhrcc dcploy scrialiLy as mcans Lo inLcnsiíy
Lhc mood oí Lhcir work. Tcy hcighLcn Lhc affectìve qualiLy oí violcncc
Lo such a dcgrcc LhaL Lhc singulariLy oí Lhc violcnccs rcndcrcd rcmains
irrcduciblc Lo any aLLcmpL aL accounLing íor Lhcm Lhrough rccoursc Lo
mcrc individual psychologizing or allcgory. For an cxccllcnL cssay on Lhc
affccLivc qualiLy oí Himcs’s ficLion, scc Fburnc.
i¬. Amerìcan Psycho (j66–¬o) also ícaLurcs a sccnc in which an appar-
cnL crimc is covcrcd ovcr íor Lhc sakc oí busincss.
i8. Avcry Cordon also cauLions oí an all Loo quick cmbracc oí “diffcr-
cncc” as Lhc nom du ìour. In his analysis oí conLcmporary corporaLions, hc
convincingly shows how companics Lhcmsclvcs havc coopLcd diffcrcncc
Notes to pages ::¸–:i:
as “a modc oí govcrnancc rcsponsivc Lo laLc capiLalism” (6): “CorporaLc
culLurc links a vision oí racial and gcndcr dìversìty Lo iLs cxisLing rcla-
Lions oí ruling Lo producc somcLhing LhaL mighL bc callcd mulLiculLural
corporaLism” (j). In Lhis analysis, divcrsiLy bccomcs a “managcmcnL
problcmaLic” (:j), jusL likc íor Max Horkhcimcr and Tcodor Adorno
diffcrcncc is whaL is bcing sold Lo cagcr consumcrs. Hcncc, wc scc Nikc
advcrLising iLs producL wiLh Lhc slogan “1usL do iL!” (bc diffcrcnL) and
SpriLc proclaiming “Obcy your LhirsL” (which will makc you diffcrcnL
írom Lhosc loscrs who look Lo commcrcials wiLh sporLs sLars íor whaL
Lhcy should drink). Also considcr LhaL Loday corporaLc Amcrica is quiLc
inLcrcsLcd in upholding somc sorL oí affi rmaLivc acLion policy pcrLaining
Lo highcr cducaLion. IL has long rccognizcd LhaL iLs survival in Lhc global
markcLplacc dcpcnds on iLs abiliLy Lo draw upon an applicanL pool LhaL is
suffi cicnLly comíorLablc wiLh racial and culLural oLhcrs.
in. FoucaulL dcscribcs Mauricc BlanchoL, Lhc Lhinkcr mosL oíLcn aL-
LribuLcd wiLh having Lhcorizcd Lhc “ouLsidc,” and his work in Lhcsc Lcrms:
“BlanchoL is pcrhaps morc Lhan jusL anoLhcr wiLncss Lo íLhc LhoughL oí
Lhc ouLsidc]. So íar as hc has wiLhdrawn inLo Lhc maniícsLaLions oí his
work, so complcLcly is hc, noL hiddcn by his LcxLs, buL abscnL írom Lhcir
cxisLcncc, LhaL íor us hc is LhaL LhoughL iLsclí—iLs rcal, absoluLcly dis-
LanL, shimmcring, invisiblc prcscncc, iLs incviLablc law, iLs calm, infiniLc,
mcasurcd sLrcngLh” (“Mauricc BlanchoL” :n). Scc also Dclcuzc’s Foucau|t
(csp. ¬o–:ij) íor a pcrLincnL arLiculaLion oí how FoucaulL himsclí is an-
oLhcr Lhinkcr íor whom Lhc ouLsidc was noLhing buL a íold. Tis íoldcd-
in ouLsidc, oí coursc, is prcciscly Lhc imagc Dclcuzc givcs his planc oí
immancncc: likc a íoldcd piccc oí papcr, Lhc insidc LhaL cnsucs írom Lhc
íolding proccss is noLhing buL Lhc íoldcd-in ouLsidc, Lhc suríacc arca.
DcpLh, in oLhcr words, is mcrcly an cffccL oí Lhis íolding opcraLion and
Lhus a sccondary principlc Lo LhaL oí purc immancncc.
jo. Tc abolishmcnL oí Lhc gold sLandard in :n¬: aL BrcLLon Woods
plays a crucial rolc in HardL and Ncgri’s narraLivc. Tis LransíormaLivc,
or inLcnsiíying, momcnL in capiLalisL hisLory almosL pcríccLly coincidcs
wiLh Lhc publicaLion oí HighsmiLh’s sccond Riplcy novcl. 1usL as Fmpirc
inLcnsificd iLs logic Lo such a dcgrcc LhaL, according Lo HardL and Ncgri,
any íorccs oí Lransccndcncc gavc way Lo purc immancncc, so HighsmiLh’s
cncounLcr wiLh violcncc now shiíLs inLo íull immancnL gcar. From Lhis
momcnL on, boLh hcr novcls and hcr shorL ficLion ncvcr sLop affi rming
Lhc soluLion Lo Lhc prob|ematìque oí violcncc LhaL HighsmiLh alrcady oí-
ícrcd in hcr firsL Riplcy novcl.
Notes to pages :i:–:i¡ ii6
j:. CriLics who scc hcr influcnccd by cxisLcnLialism includc KakuLani,
Klcin, and Shorc. HighsmiLh hcrsclí, howcvcr, did noL sccm Lo harbor
much sympaLhy íor cxisLcnLialism: “Tc word cxisLcnLialisL has bccomc
íuzzy. IL’s cxisLcnLialisL ií you cuL a fingcr wiLh a kiLchcn kniíc—bccausc
iL has happcncd. FxisLcnLialism is sclí-indulgcnL, and Lhcy Lry Lo gloss
ovcr Lhis by calling iL a philosophy” (Coopcr-Clark j:i).
ji. My discussion oí RobcrL DcNiro in Lhc ncxL chapLcr will conLinuc
Lhis argumcnL.
jj. 1can-Paul SarLrc is, oí coursc, Lhc main Lhinkcr wc associaLc wiLh
LhaL philosophy. His play Les 1eux Sont Faìts is buL onc cxamplc oí his in
which hc plays ouL Lhc ncccssiLy oí amor jatì in lighL oí Lhc íacL LhaL you
can ncvcr changc your acLions, LhaL cvcn whcn givcn Lhc hypoLhcLical
opporLuniLy you will noL bc ablc Lo changc Lhc iniLial ouLcomc: Lhc cLcr-
nal rcLurn is always and ncccssarily onc oí samcncss.
ji. Tc sLory is abouL F. Taylor Chccvcr who “wroLc books in his
hcad, ncvcr on papcr. By Lhc Limc hc dicd agcd sixLy-Lwo, hc had wriLLcn
íourLccn novcls and crcaLcd hundrcd and LwcnLy-scvcn characLcrs, all
oí whom hc, aL lcasL, rcmcmbcrcd disLincLly” (:). Chccvcr, whosc dying
wish is Lo bc buricd ncxL Lo Tcnnyson in WcsLminsLcr Abbcy’s PocL’s Cor-
ncr, cngagcs in Lhis pcculiar “wriLcrly” pracLicc in dirccL rcsponsc Lo a rc-
jccLion hc rcccivcd íor his firsL, and only, novcl hc acLually puL on papcr.
In oLhcr words, noLwiLhsLanding Lhc abscncc oí violcncc in Lhis sLory,
HighsmiLh’s ccnLral conccrn is oncc again Lhc violcncc oí judgmcnL.
j=. Hcrc Loo HighsmiLh sLands in rcmarkablc kinship Lo Lhc cxpcri-
mcnLal cLhics oí FoucaulL and Dclcuzc. DissccLing Hcgcl’s widcly influcn-
Lial philosophy oí diffcrcncc and rccogniLion—onc LhaL makcs diffcrcncc
an cffccL oí a prior samcncss or idcnLiLy—Dclcuzc argucs LhaL Lhc “mis-
íorLunc in spcaking is noL spcaking, buL spcaking jor others or rcprcscnL-
ing somcLhing” (Lìfference and Repetìtìon =i).
j6. IcsL iL bc LhoughL LhaL only Lhc poliLical righL would makc Lhcsc
disLincLions, Lurn Lo Lhc wriLings oí Hcnry Ciroux, onc oí Lhc mosL rc-
spccLcd Amcrican lcíL-lcaning culLural criLics. Hc dcridcs TaranLino’s hy-
pcrrcal violcncc bccausc hc vicws iL as csscnLially immoral (íor iL is scx-
isL, racisL, and opprcssivc oí Lhc working class) and lauds Lhc “symbolic
violcncc” oí Spiclbcrg bccausc iL “scrvcs Lo rcícrcncc a broadcr logic and
scL oí insighLs” (6i).
j¬. IncidcnLally, Fllis’s ficLion is shoL Lhrough wiLh Lhc noLion oí acLing,
íor boLh BaLcman in Amerìcan Psycho and Ward in C|amorama scc Lhcm-
sclvcs as acLors in films, Lhough iL is morc clcarly Lhc casc wiLh Lhc laLLcr.
Notes to pages :i=–:¸i
. Becoming-Violent, Becoming-DeNiro
:. Tc posLcr’s imagc is a sLill Lakcn írom Lhc film’s climacLic sccnc
whcn Travis cnLcrs a broLhcl finally Lo íollow Lhrough wiLh his obscssion
Lo “clcan up” Ncw York CiLy. Tc imagc docs noL indicaLc whcLhcr hc has
alrcady shoL somconc in Lhc hallway, buL his manic cxprcssion lcavcs no
doubL LhaL aL Lhc vcry lcasL hc cnjoys Lhc anLicipaLion oí doing so.
i. In íacL, pcrhaps wiLh Lhc cxccpLion oí 1amcs Cagncy in Lhc :njos
and :nios, or possibly RobcrL MiLchum in Lhc :n=os and :n6os, no ac-
Lor has morc singularly cmbodicd violcncc Lhan DcNiro.
j. For Lwo rcccnL cssays on Lhc rolc oí Lhc íacc in Dclcuzc’s work, scc
RushLon and SoLirin.
i. According Lo Lhc !nternet Movìe Latabase, Meet the Parents grosscd
morc Lhan $:66 million in iLs U.S. LhcaLrical rclcasc alonc. Tc film’s sc-
qucl, Meet the Fockers (dir. 1ay Roach, iooi), was cvcn morc succcssíul,
grossing closc Lo $i8o million, Lhus making iL onc oí Lhc mosL succcssíul
film scqucls oí all Limc. Ana|yze Tìs rakcd in a rcspccLablc $:o¬ million.
=. In “Trauma, Abscncc, Ioss,” IaCapra cxLcnds his discussion oí
mourning and mclancholia in rcsponsc Lo Lhc qucsLion oí LraumaLic cx-
pcricncc in gcncral. For anoLhcr inLcrcsLing sLudy dcaling wiLh Lrauma,
scc Iandsbcrg.
6. Scc also Fllis’s firsL Lwo novcls, Less Tan Zero (:n8=) and Ru|es oj
Attractìon (:n8¬). IL sccms no coincidcncc LhaL in addiLion Lo Amerìcan
Psycho boLh oí Lhcsc novcls wcrc adapLcd íor Lhc big scrccn as wcll. And
wiLh an adapLaLion oí C|amorama currcnLly in producLion (dirccLcd, likc
Ru|es oj Attractìon (iooi), by Rogcr Avary), Te !njormers (:nni) and Lu-
nar Park now rcmain Lhc only Fllis novcls noL ycL adapLcd íor Lhc big
¬. 1usL likc Fllis’s Amerìcan Psycho, so Olivcr SLonc’s film was accuscd
oí having causcd disLurbcd minds Lo kill pcoplc in rcal liíc.
8. For Lhcir mosL cxLcnsivc criLiquc oí psychoanalysis, scc Antì-Oe-
n. Scc Narcmorc, Actìng, and Hirsch, Method, íor cxccllcnL discus-
sions oí, rcspccLivcly, Lhc hisLory oí acLing and Lhc íamous AcLors SLudio,
an acLing school LhaL is singlc-handcdly rcsponsiblc íor Lhc cnormous
populariLy oí Lhc McLhod.
:o. I will rcLurn Lo Lhc issuc oí “rcalism” in Lhc final chapLcr, cspccially
in Lhc firsL sccLion. For an cxccllcnL rcccnL anLhology on cincmaLic rcal-
ism, scc Ivonc Margulics’s Rìtes oj Rea|ìsm. Fssays on Corporea| Cìnema.
Notes to pages :¸=–:¡6 ii8
::. Tis film is oíLcn considcrcd ground zcro íor Lhc McLhod in Amcr-
ican film hisLory. For an cxccllcnL discussion oí Lhc film and iLs rclaLion
Lo Lhc McLhod, scc Narcmorc, csp. :nj–i:i.
:i. In oLhcr words, SLrasbcrg’s “affccL” is unlikc Lhc onc I Lhcorizc
LhroughouL Lhis book. SLrasbcrg cquaLcs affccL wiLh cmoLion and Lhus
rcduccs Lhc íormcr Lo Lhc horizon oí Lhc subjccL; Lhc affccL I havc in
mind is rcduciblc nciLhcr Lo a subjccL’s cmoLion nor human bcings’ bod-
ics. AffccL, in Lhc Dclcuzcan scnsc, is propcrly LhoughL as prcsubjccLivc
and nonanLhropomorphic.
:j. To namc buL Lwo films influcnccd by Mean Streets, considcr Lhc
firsL ícaLurc-lcngLh cfforLs by Wong Kar-Wai, As Tears Co Py (:n88), and
FaLih Akin, Kurz und Schmerz|os (ShorL Sharp Shock, :nn8). BoLh films,
dcspiLc Lhc vasLly diffcrcnL socioculLural conLcxL oí Lhcir scLLings, rcpcaL
Mean Streets’ narraLivc drama ícaLuring a wild, upsLarL, small-Limc crimi-
nal running hcad-on inLo ruin whilc a slighLly oldcr mcnLor finds himsclí
unablc Lo prcvcnL his proLcgc írom dcsLroying himsclí. SLylisLically, all
Lhrcc films could bc considcrcd as cxprcssionisLic rcalism: LhaL is, whilc
Lhcy makc grcaL usc oí sLrccL locaLions and a numbcr oí oLhcr dcviccs
LhaL mark Lhcir sLylc as sLrccL rcalism, Lhis slicc oí liíc aLmosphcrc is in-
Lcnsificd by various cincmaLic dcviccs (such as Lhc usc oí color and slow
moLion, c.g.) LhaL arc dccidcdly cxprcssionisLic.
:i. In Lhc documcnLary on Lhc making oí Spikc Icc’s Lo the Rìght
Tìng (:n8n), acLor Bill Nunn, who playcd Radio Rahccm, Lhc charac-
Lcr who is bruLally sLranglcd Lo dcaLh by a cop wiLh his sLick, puLs Lhis
poinL in plain Lcrms whcn cxplaining how hc dccidcd Lo play LhaL sccnc:
“I íclL sorry íor Lhc kid. 1usL Lhc sympaLhy I cvokcd wiLhin mysclí íor Lhc
characLcr hclpcd mc Lo bc Lhc characLcr. IL wasn’L likc a dccp proccss. I
mcan, I’m noL dccp. I’m noL onc oí Lhcm 1ohnny Carson caLs who gcL
on 1ohnny and say ‘wcll, whcn I was prcparing íor Rahccm, you know, I
wcnL and livcd wiLh gang mcmbcrs and you know had ’cm whoop my ass
a couplc oí Limcs so I could rcally scc how iL íclL.’ No, I don’L havc Lo gcL
my ass kickcd Lo play likc him.”
:=. Civcn LhaL Taxì Lrìver so carcíully dclincaLcs Travis’s bccoming-
violcnL, iL sccms Lo mc íundamcnLally misguidcd Lo rcad Lhc film’s ía-
mous mirror sccnc in Lcrms oí “ícLish” and “casLraLion anxicLy,” as, c.g.,
Amy Taubin docs (=6). In LhaL sccnc, Travis docs noL misrccognizc his
own powcrs; hc docs noL “disavow whaL is known and rcplacc iL wiLh
bclicí and suspcnsion oí disbclicí” (=6). InsLcad, Lhc mirror sccnc dra-
maLizcs working Lhrough as a proccss immancnL Lo acLing ouL; iL consLi-
Notes to pages :¡8–:6o
LuLcs a conLinuaLion—an inLcnsificaLion—oí Travis’s bccoming-violcnL
LhaL DcNiro dcscribcs as a bccoming-crab.
:6. Pcrhaps iL is Lhc vcry disciplinc ncccssary íor accomplishing Lhis
LhaL cxplains why onc is hard-prcsscd Lo find LcsLimonics (including
Lhosc oí Lhc mosL ouLspokcn criLics oí violcncc in movics) LhaL bcmoan
Lhc violcncc oí, say, Lhc Star wars, Rambo, or Termìnator íranchiscs. Al-
Lhough Lhcsc movics ícaLurc a grcaL numbcr oí casualLics, iL sccms LhaL
imagcs oí violcncc LhaL affccL vicwcrs arc rcmarkably abscnL in Lhcm.
TaL is, I do noL Lhink LhaL Lhcsc films havc provcn virLually immunc Lo
Lhc wraLh oí campaigning poliLicians mcrcly bccausc oí Lhcir idcologi-
cally conscrvaLivc conLcnL.
:¬. In “MaLh AnxicLy,” an cxccllcnL cssay LhaL mobilizcs somc oí Dc-
lcuzc’s kcy conccpLs, Adcn Fvcns makcs rcmarkably similar claims abouL
Lhc íuncLion oí problcms and soluLions in maLhcmaLics.
:8. IncidcnLally, Lhc film iLsclí lcads Mcnand Lo arrivc aL Lhis claim
bccausc iL rcíuscs Lo providc Lhc vicwcrs wiLh any susLaincd analysis oí
IaMoLLa’s bchavior—dcspiLc Lhc íacL LhaL Ragìng Pu|| is a biopic oí a rcal
pcrson, mcaning Lhc gcncric cxpccLaLions would lcad audicnccs Lo cxpccL
much biographical maLcrial LhaL could hclp us undcrsLand IaMoLLa’s vio-
lcncc. InLcrcsLingly cnough, IaMoLLa himsclí docs providc iníormaLion
abouL his rough childhood in his auLobiography, Ragìng Pu||. My Story,
buL Scorscsc’s film clccLs noL Lo makc usc oí LhaL kind oí iníormaLion
aL all.
:n. TaL imiLaLion is all abouL acLion is pcrhaps bcsL cxprcsscd by
conLcmporary advcrLising, cspccially Lhc succcssíul CaLoradc and Nikc
commcrcials in which vicwcrs arc cncouragcd Lo “Bc likc Mikc” or “1usL
do iL!”—Lhc laLLcr bcing a command in which Lhc cxclamaLion poinL
mosL conciscly cxprcsscs LhaL Lhc proccss oí imiLaLion rcquircs (unprob-
lcmaLizcd) acLion.
io. I say “occasionally” bccausc DcNiro’s carccr has iLs sharc oí clichc
pcríormanccs. Tink Te Fan (dir. Tony ScoLL, :nn6), c.g.
i:. According Lo Lhc !nternet Movìe Latabase, Cape Fear grosscd $¬n.:
million in U.S. LhcaLrical rclcasc. IL was Scorscsc’s biggcsL all-Limc box
offi cc hiL unLil Te Avìator (iooi), which grosscd $:oi.6: million. Tc
grosscs íor Scorscsc’s oLhcr collaboraLions wiLh DcNiro, in ordcr oí com-
mcrcial succcss in U.S. LhcaLrical rclcascs arc CoodFe||as ($i6.8i million),
Casìno ($ii.ii million), Ragìng Pu|| ($jo million), Taxì Lrìver ($i:.: mil-
lion), New York. New York ($:j.8 million), Kìng oj Comedy ($i.= million).
No daLa is availablc íor Lhcir firsL collaboraLion, Mean Streets, buL I Lhink
Notes to pages :6i–:;¡ i=o
iL is unlikcly Lo havc cxcccdcd Lhc million-dollar mark. I lisL Lhcsc num-
bcrs Lo call aLLcnLion Lo Lhc íacL LhaL Lhcir collaboraLion is onc oí Lhc
mosL cclcbraLcd in movic hisLory dcspiLc Lhcir films’ rclaLivcly mcdiocrc
or cvcn poor box offi cc pcríormancc.
ii. Tc grcaL Frcnch film La Haìne (HaLc; dir. MaLhicu KassoviLz,
:nn6) probably mosL cffccLivcly uscd an homagc Lo Lhc mirror sccnc
íor iLs own purposcs. BuL scc also Lown ìn the va||ey (dir. David 1acob-
son, ioo=) in which Harlan, playcd by Fdward NorLon, who is oíLcn
considcrcd Lhc lcgiLimaLc hcir Lo DcNiro, sLands in íronL oí a mirror,
gun in hand, producing whaL SLcphanic Zacharck niccly dcscribcs as
a “sLuLLcring sLrcam oí crazy Lalk: Harlan’s likc Travis Bicklc crosscd
wiLh Andy Warhol’s silkscrccn porLraiL oí a gun-slinging Flvis, a man
ouL oí Limc.”
Will SmiLh’s acclaimcd pcríormancc in Michacl Mann’s A|ì (ioo:)
aL oncc comcs Lo mind as an cxamplc oí Lhc lasLing impacL oí DcNiro’s
Lour dc íorcc in Ragìng Pu||. Iikcwisc, considcr ChrisLian Balc’s pcr-
íormancc in Te Machìnìst (dir. Brad Andcrson, iooi). Tc Lhinncss oí
Balc’s body—mosL rcvicwcrs likcn iL Lo imagcs oí conccnLraLion camp
inmaLcs—is dccply disLurbing, noL lcasL bccausc iL juxLaposcs so sLarkly
Lo his buff body in Amerìcan Psycho (as wcll as in Patman Pegìns).
ij. Bcíorc Heat, DcNiro and Pacino workcd LogcLhcr on Lhc sccond
CodíaLhcr film, buL Lhcy ncvcr sharcd a sccnc.
ii. Pacino, c.g., has ncvcr rcally lcarncd Lo cxprcss inLcnsiLy Lhrough
calmncss and has bccn criLicizcd íor ovcr acLing in Lhis and oLhcr films,
parLicularly bccausc hc appcars Lo rcly Loo much on Lhc (voluminous)
sLrcngLh oí his vocal chords. In conLrasL, DcNiro has rcccivcd grcaL praisc
íor his pcríormancc in Heat LhaL is wcll summarizcd by Rob Frascr, who
characLcrizcs DcNiro’s pcríormancc, cspccially in Lhc coffcc sLorc sccnc
wiLh Pacino, as amounLing “Lo a masLcr class in non-vcrbal acLing: iL’s as
Lhough his LhoughLs and conflicLing cmoLions arc wriLLcn in bold Lypc
across his íacc” (“Mann’s World” :¬:).
i=. I liíL Lhis cxplanaLion írom my rcvicw cssay oí Andrca Iandsbcrg’s
book Prosthetìc Memory.
i6. IncidcnLally, Lhis íuncLion has noLhing Lo do wiLh criLcria oí “qual-
iLy.” IL sccms Lo mc Lhcrcíorc misguidcd Lo asscrL, as onc criLic docs, LhaL
DcNiro’s “primc associaLivc valuc íis] wiLh whaL wc mighL call main-
sLrcam ‘cincma oí qualiLy’” (1ackson ::j).
i¬. Scc, c.g., Codard, Hìstorìe(s) du Cìnema (:nn8) as wcll as Richard
Brody’s profilc oí Codard.
Notes to pages :;=–:8:
. Don DeLillo’s “In the Ruins of the Future”
:. V. S. Naipaul, rccipicnL oí Lhc Nobcl prizc in liLcraLurc in OcLo-
bcr ioo:, is onc oí Lhc morc promincnL wriLcrs who has rcccnLly madc
such argumcnLs, mainLaining LhaL “only nonficLion could capLurc Lhc
complcxiLics oí Loday’s world” (Donadio, “Irasciblc ProphcL”). As Rachcl
Donadio rcporLs in Lhc New York Tìmes, Loday’s magazinc cdiLors sharc
Lhis uncasc abouL Lhc rclcvancc oí ficLion. As a rcsulL, many magazincs
such as Te At|antìc Month|y, Parìs Revìew, Fsquìre, or co havc drasLically
cuL, or LoLally climinaLcd, Lhc spacc Lhcy LradiLionally uscd Lo allocaLc íor
Lhc publicaLion oí ficLion (“SLrongcr Tan FicLion”).
i. For morc on Lhis rclaLionship, scc Bakcr, Simmons. In an oddly
prcscicnL manncr, BrcL FasLon Fllis’s C|amorama also íorcgroundcd Lhc
rclaLionship bcLwccn consumcrism, Lhc socicLy oí Lhc spccLaclc, and Lcr-
rorism as a lasL-minuLc aLLcmpL Lo sLop, and cvcn undo, Lhis dcvclop-
j. FiscnsLcin posLulaLcs LhaL “absoluLc rcalism is by no mcans Lhc
corrccL íorm oí pcrccpLion. IL is simply Lhc íuncLion oí a ccrLain íorm oí
social sLrucLurc” (j=). DialccLical monLagc supposcdly rcvcals Lo vicwcrs
Lhcir Lruc condiLions oí liíc and inspircs Lhcm Lo acL accordingly.
i. TaL Bazin carcíully disLinguishcs bcLwccn pcrccpLion and scc-
ing—LhaL hc suspcnds pcrccpLion as an cvcnL—csscnLially disquali-
fics him írom bcing considcrcd a phcnomcnologisL, cvcn Lhough hc is
írcqucnLly labclcd as jusL LhaL (scc Sobchack, Roscn, and 1ay). FurLhcr,
Bazin’s considcrablc influcncc on Lhc cincma LhoughL oí Dclcuzc, who,
as 1ohn ProLcvi compcllingly argucs in Po|ìtìca| Physìcs, is noL a phc-
nomcnologisL buL a maLcrialisL, should also Lroublc any asscssmcnL oí
Bazin’s wriLings as phcnomcnological. Iikcwisc, Danicl W. SmiLh, onc oí
Dclcuzc’s mosL brillianL cxcgcLcs, pcrsuasivcly argucs in his LranslaLor’s
inLroducLion Lo Dclcuzc’s sLudy oí Francis Bacon’s painLings LhaL “Dc-
lcuzc is noL a phcnomcnologisL” (xv), noLwiLhsLanding Lhc suríacc simi-
lariLics bcLwccn somc oí Dclcuzc’s conccpLs and Lhosc oí phcnomcnolo-
gisLs such as Frwin SLraus or Mauricc Mcrlcau-PonLy.
=. Addrcssing a diffcrcnL kind oí scrccn—Lhc painLcr’s canvas—Dc-
lcuzc argucs in Francìs Pacon, “iL would bc a misLakc Lo Lhink LhaL Lhc
painLcr works on a whiLc and virgin suríacc. Tc cnLirc suríacc is alrcady
invcsLcd virLually wiLh all kinds oí clichcs, which iL will bc ncccssary Lo
brcak wiLh” (:i). Also rcmcmbcr LhaL Dclcuzc considcrs Lhc virLual rcal.
6. In Cìnema i, Dclcuzc wriLcs, “Ií Lhc world has bccomc a bad cincma,
Notes to pages :8o–:o¸ i=i
in which wc no longcr bclicvc, surcly a Lruc cincma can conLribuLc Lo giv-
ing us back rcasons Lo bclicvc in Lhis world and in vanishcd bodics” (io:).
¬. Dclcuzc argucs LhaL Lhc ícLish so crucial Lo Lhc masochisLic ccon-
omy íuncLions noL as a symbol, as psychoanalysis claims, buL as a “íro-
zcn, arrcsLcd, Lwo-dimcnsional imagc” (Masochìsm j:) LhaL ulLimaLcly
opcns up a paLh íor novclLy Lo cmcrgc.
8. TaL DcIillo’s modc oí narraLion íuncLions ncorcalisLically mighL
noL bc a coincidcncc considcring LhaL, as Dclcuzc argucs, Lhc ncorcalisL
modc oí sccing cmcrgcd írom Lhc dcsLrucLion pcrmcaLing Furopc aL Lhc
cnd oí World War II (Cìnema i xi). DcIillo’s narraLivc bcgins wiLhin and
rcsponds Lo anoLhcr, albciL diffcrcnL, ruin.
n. TroughouL DcIillo’s carccr, moving imagcs havc sLrongly iníuscd
his narraLivcs. Scc, c.g., Amerìcana (:n¬:), whìte Noìse (:n8=), or 0nder-
wor|d (:nn¬).
:o. Nicholas Spcnccr providcs an cxccllcnL analysis oí Lhc rcsonanccs
bcLwccn Virilio’s Lhcory oí pcrccpLion and DcIillo’s 0nderwor|d. Hc con-
cludcs LhaL “iL is LcmpLing Lo rcad DcIillo’s novcl as a nosLalgic appcal Lo
humanisL subjccLiviLy. Howcvcr, boLh DcIillo’s and Virilio’s inLcrcsL in
Lhc movcmcnL oí Lhc human body in social spacc disposcs wiLh phcnom-
cnology and humanism” (i:¬). Tc Lcrms and scnLimcnL oí Spcnccr’s
conclusion sLrongly rcsonaLc wiLh Lhc prcscnL analysis.
::. I will rcLurn Lo Lhis LhoughL.
:i. For an cxccllcnL cssay on DcIillo and scrialiLy, scc Karnicky,
“Wallpapcr Mao.”
:j. According Lo his inLroducLion Lo his !n the Shadow oj No Towers,
Spicgclman’s firsLhand cxpcricncc oí n/:: compcllcd him Lo rcLurn Lo
comix aíLcr having “spcnL much oí Lhc dccadc bcíorc Lhc millcnnium Lry-
ing Lo avoid making íLhcm].” During his hiaLus írom comix, hc crcaLcd
many oí Lhc bcsL-known covcr arL íor Lhc New Yorker—Lhc mosL íamous
onc bcing, oí coursc, his black-on-black aíLcrimagc LhaL appcarcd on Lhc
magazinc’s covcr six days aíLcr Lhc aLLacks.
:i. For Lhc bcsL and mosL comprchcnsivc arLiculaLion oí Dclcuzc’s
Lhcory oí languagc, scc IcCcrclc.
:=. For an cxccllcnL cxaminaLion oí Adorno’s chiasmic sLylc, scc Nc-
alon, “Maxima Immoralia`”
:6. Scc also Romuald Karmakar’s film Hamburger Lektìonen (Ham-
burg IccLurcs, ioo6) íor a powcríul cincmaLic cxamplc LhaL brings
across Lhis vcry poinL. RcsLaging word íor word Lwo acLual lccLurcs givcn
by Imam Mohammcd Fazazi aL Lhc Al Ouds mosquc in Hamburg LhaL
Notes to pages :o¸–ioo
mighL havc bccn aLLcndcd by various mcmbcrs oí Lhc so-callcd Hamburg
Ccll, including Lhrcc oí Lhc íour piloLs uscd in Lhc aLLacks oí n/::, Lhis
cxcrcisc in radical cincmaLic minimalism affccLivcly cnablcs iLs inLcndcd,
prcsumably “cnlighLcncd” audicncc Lo scnsc Lhc íundamcnLally diffcrcnL
logic wiLhin which Lhc Imam and his lisLcning inLcrlocuLors opcraLc—a
logic LhaL simply sidcsLcps any appcals Lo Lhc noLion oí rccogniLion as
configurcd by FnlighLcnmcnL discourscs. For a bricí discussion oí Lhc
film, scc Abcl, “PosL-Wall RcaliLy.”
:¬. Fmpìre analyzcs íundamcnLalism as somcLhing LhaL is “noL back-
ward-looking aL all, buL raLhcr a ncw invcnLion LhaL is parL oí a poliLical
projccL íFmpirc] againsL Lhc conLcmporary social ordcr” (:i8)—an “cm-
pirical” projccL LhaL rclcnLlcssly inLcnsifics capiLalism’s proccsscs.
:8. On paranoia in DcIillo’s work, scc Allcn, HanLkc, and KnighL.
:n. Tis novcl is Lhc firsL parL oí Crossman’s Amcrican IcLLcr Tril-
ogy, which also includcs Te Pook oj Lazarus (:nn8) and Preeze Avenue
(unpublishcd). Tc Lrilogy iLsclí is looscly paLLcrncd on DanLc’s “Divinc
Comcdy,” wiLh Te A|phabet Man bcing an arLiculaLion oí hcll, Te Pook
oj Lazarus a working Lhrough oí purgaLory, and Preeze Avenue an cxprcs-
sion oí salvaLion. Ironically, iL appcars LhaL Crossman offcrs his rcadcrs
salvaLion in íorm oí a novcl LhaL, whcn finishcd, is going Lo bc Lhrcc mil-
lion pagcs in lcngLh and, according Lo Lhc auLhor’s own book dcscripLion
on his Wcb siLc, “will bc pcrmancnLly insLallcd in a rcading room in Ios
Angclcs in ioo¬.” Spcaking oí violcnL affccL . . .
io. Tis is indccd onc oí Lhc kcy provocaLions oí Dclcuzc and CuaL-
Lari’s work. As Shaviro glosscs Lhis poinL, “Dclcuzc and CuaLLari insisL
LhaL social íormaLions bc dcfincd noL by Lhcir hcgcmonic insLiLuLions
and idcologics buL by Lhcir poLcnLials íor changc, noL by Lhcir norms buL
by ‘lincs oí flighL’” (ij).
i:. Wc can obscrvc Lhis suddcn zooming in on a parLicular sLory in
many ncorcalisL films. Tc narraLivc sLraLcgy is common Lo many cincma
acsLhcLics, buL Lhc choicc oí íocus Lcnds Lo bc morc random and lcss in-
cviLablc in ncorcalism Lhan in, say, classical Hollywood cincma. For in-
sLancc, Dc Sica’s Te Pìcyc|e Tìej íocuscs on Lhc íaLhcr-son rclaLionship,
buL Lhc film’s ovcrall acsLhcLic suggcsLs LhaL iL could havc bccn oLhcrwisc,
LhaL Lhcrc is no inLrinsic imporLancc Lo Lhc Lclling oí Lhc spccific sLory.
TaL DcIillo’s narraLor quickly abandons Lhc íocus on his ncphcw mcrcly
inLcnsifics Lhis ncorcalisL dcvicc: whaL sccms Lo bc mosL pcrsonal—and
almosL by dcfiniLion mosL imporLanL—is providcd as mcrcly onc non-
privilcgcd link in a scrics oí imagcs.
Notes to pages io:–io= i=i
ii. Hcrc, onc mighL also rccall Lhc opcning lincs írom Tomas Pyn-
chon’s Cravìty’s Raìnbow: “A scrcaming comcs across Lhc sky. IL has hap-
pcncd bcíorc buL Lhcrc is noLhing Lo comparc iL Lo now” (j).
ij. In his pcrccpLivc analysis oí DcIillo’s carly novcl, Fnd Zone (:n¬i),
1amcs R. Cilcs aLLribuLcs Lhis insighL Lo DcIillo, concluding LhaL Lhc au-
Lhor “ulLimaLcly rccognizcs LhaL words arc all hc has” (:o8).
ii. Dclcuzc makcs a similar argumcnL in chapLcr :j oí Francìs Pacon.
i=. Scc, c.g., Horkhcimcr and Adorno, “CulLurc IndusLry,” íor such
ncgaLivc vicws.
i6. Scc parL i oí Adorno’s cssay íor his discussion oí Lhc ethìca| nccd
Lo mainLain a disLancc bcLwccn Lhc (cincmaLic) imagc and rcaliLy.
i¬. For morc on Lhc noLion oí cníraming scc, c.g., Hcidcggcr.
i8. Scc, c.g., his Postmodernìsm, csp. i6.
in. Any cursory look aL Lhc discoursc surrounding Lhc burgconing
conflicL bcLwccn Lhc UniLcd SLaLcs and Islamic íundamcnLalism bcíorc
n/:: immcdiaLcly rcvcals judgmcnL as a sLraLcgic íorcc boLh sidcs rclcnL-
lcssly mobilizcd Lo Lhc dcLrimcnL oí almosL any oLhcr modc oí cncoun-
Lcr. Whilc Lhis rhcLoric oí judgmcnL did noL causc n/::, iL playcd a sig-
nificanL rolc in Lhc cvcnL’s gcncalogy.
jo. Tc U.S. Fmbassy in Scoul, SouLh Korca, sccms Lo disagrcc. Com-
mcnLing on a shorLcr vcrsion oí Lhis chapLcr publishcd in rVt/, Lhc cm-
bassy’s WcbsiLc absLracLs my arLiclc by claiming LhaL my argumcnL is “ad-
vocacy oí moral rclaLivism,” as ií Lo warn poLcnLial rcadcrs Lo bc lccry oí
my argumcnL lcsL Lhcy gcL suckcd inLo un-Amcrican ways oí Lhinking.
j:. Ií anyLhing, a rushcd affi rmaLion oí judgmcnL consLiLuLcs moral
rclaLivism, as NicLzschc argucs in Te Cenea|ogy oj Mora|s, asking, whaL
ií “moraliLy was Lhc dangcr oí dangcrs” (io)`
ji. Civcn Lhcir diffcrcnL rcalms oí influcncc ovcr conLcmporary
LhoughL, an cxLcndcd analysis oí Dclcuzc’s and Adorno’s work in con-
juncLion wiLh cach oLhcr mighL vcry wcll provc Lo bc cnormously íruiLíul
íor disciplincs such as film and liLcrary sLudics, culLural sLudics, as wcll
as philosophy. To daLc, Lhough, surprisingly ícw criLical analyscs oí Lhc
rclaLionship bcLwccn Lhcsc Lwo Lhinkcrs havc bccn produccd. For Lhc
mosL inLcrcsLing, scc Toolc; NcsbiLL, “Musical MulLipliciLy” and “Fxpul-
sion oí Lhc NcgaLivc”; and chapLcrs = and 6 in SLuhr.
jj. Scc Žižck, Sub|ìme Obìect oj !deo|ogy, csp. io:–¬. In Silvcrman’s
wor|d Spectators, which mcrgcs Iacan and Hcidcggcr in ordcr Lo show
LhaL “visual pcrccpLion íraLhcr Lhan linguisLic cxprcssion] comcs firsL”
(:i8), Lhc sublimc, Lhough noL namcd as such, pcrcolaLcs as Lhc Iaca-
Notes to pages io;–iii
nian “impossiblc non-objccL oí dcsirc” inflccLcd by Hcidcggcrian “Das-
cin.” KanL discusscs Lhc sublimc in his Crìtìque oj 1udgment.
ji. 1can-François IyoLard aphorisLically cxprcsscs Lhis whcn hc as-
scrLs, “that Lhcrc is íprcccdcs] what Lhcrc is” (!nhuman 8i). For IyoLard,
Lhis “Lhcrc is” arLiculaLcs Lhc sublimc as a rclaLion oí íorcc or “a maLLcr
oí inLcnsificaLion” (:oo). AlLhough hc succcssíully wrcsLlcs Lhc sublimc
away írom Lhcorics LhaL configurc iL in Lcrms oí lack, I hcsiLaLc Lo Lurn
Lo IyoLard simply bccausc I ícar LhaL Lhcorics oí lack havc Loo much oí
a sLronghold ovcr Lhc discoursc oí Lhc sublimc íor Lhc discoursc oí Lhc
sublimc Lo bc uscíul Lo Lhis projccL’s purposcs. Paul Virilio discusscs in
dcpLh Lhc issuc oí spccd in, c.g., Aesthetìcs oj Lìsappearance and Cround
Zero, his cssay on n/::.
Notes to page iii i=6
o/::. Dir. 1ulcs and Ccdcon NaudcL. iooi. bvb. ParamounL Homc
Vidco, iooi.
Abcl, Marco. “Fargo: Tc ViolcnL ProducLion oí Lhc MasochisLic ConLracL
as a CincmaLic ConccpL.” Crìtìca| Studìes ìn Mass Communìcatìon :6.j
(:nnn): jo8–i8.
———. “Tc SLaLc oí Tings ParL Two: Morc Imagcs íor a PosL-Wall
Ccrman RcaliLy.” Senses oj Cìnema. An On|ìne Fì|m 1ourna| Le-
voted to the Serìous and Fc|ectìc Lìscussìon oj Cìnema jn (April–1unc
ioo6). hLLp://www.scnscsoíícsLivals/o6/jn/
———. Rcv. oí Prosthetìc Memory. Te Transjormatìon oj Amerìcan Re-
membrance ìn the Age oj Mass Cu|ture, by Alison Iandsbcrg. Ouarter|y
Revìew oj Fì|m and vìdeo ij.i (ioo6): j¬¬–88.
———. “Spccding across Lhc Rhizomc: Dclcuzc MccLs Kcrouac On the
Road.” Modern Fìctìon Studìes i8.i (iooi): ii¬–=6.
Ackcr, KaLhy. “WriLing, IdcnLiLy, and CopyrighL in Lhc NcL Agc.” Ac-
ccsscd April n, iooi. hLLp://www.calarLs.cdu/~ackcr/ackadcmy/
Adorno, Tcodor. Aesthetìc Teory. Trans. RobcrL HulloL-KcnLor. Minnc-
apolis: UnivcrsiLy oí MinncsoLa Prcss, :nnn.
———. Mìnìma Mora|ìa. Reflectìons jrom a Lamaged Lìje. Trans. F. F. N.
1cphcoLL. Iondon: Ncw IcíL Books, :n¬i.
———. Negatìve Lìa|ectìcs. Trans. F. B. AshLon. Ncw York: ConLinuum,
———. Prìsms. Trans. Samucl and Shcrry Wcbcr. Cambridgc: ri1 Prcss,
———. “Transparcncics on Film.” New Cerman Crìtìque ii/i= (Fall
:n8:–WinLcr :n8i): :nn–io=.
Allcn, Clcn ScoLL. “Raids on Lhc Conscious: Pynchon’s Icgacy oí Paranoia
and Lhc Tcrrorism oí UnccrLainLy in Don DcIillo’s Ratner’s Star.” Post-
Pìb|ìography i=8
modern Cu|ture i.i (:nni). Acccsscd 1uly i6, iooi. hLLp://musc.jhu
AlLman, Rick. Fì|m/Cenre. Iondon: sri, :nnn.
Amerìcan Psycho. Dir. Mary Harron. iooo. bvb. Univcrsal SLudios,
Ana|yze Tìs. Dir. Harold Ramis. :nnn. vns. Warncr Bros., iooo.
Anncslcy, 1amcs. P|ank Fìctìons. Consumerìsm. Cu|ture. and the Contempo-
rary Amerìcan Nove|. Ncw York: SL. MarLin’s Prcss, :nn8.
Archcr, Mark. “Tc Funcral Bakcd McaLs.” Rcv. oí Amerìcan Psycho, by
BrcL FasLon Fllis. Te Spectator April i¬, :nn::j:.
AusLcr, Paul. Cìty oj C|ass. In Te New York Trì|ogy. Ncw York: Pcnguin,
Badiou, Alain. Le|euze. Te C|amor oj Peìng. Trans. Iouis Burchill. Min-
ncapolis: UnivcrsiLy oí MinncsoLa Prcss, iooo.
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Abcl, Marco, i=jn:6
acLing: languagc oí, :io–i:; as
mimcLic proccdurc, :ii; as
a pracLicc oí imagining, :::;
Lcchniquc oí, :6:
Actìng ìn the Cìnema (Narcmorc),
acLing ouL, :io, :ii, :ii–i=,
:=¬–6j, :66; McLhod modc
oí, :¬:; mirror sccnc shows,
iinn:=; moral qualiLy oí, :6¬;
and rcpcLiLion, :6n, :¬o; as
violcncc, :ij; and working
Lhrough, :¬n
AcLors SLudio, :i8, :=o, ii8nn
adapLaLions, cincmaLic, j:
Adlcr, SLclla, :i¬, :i8, :=:, :=i,
:=i; conccpLion oí acLing oí,
:=8; and influcncc on DcNiro,
Adorno, Tcodor, xiv, :n8, ion,
i:o, ij8n:i, ii=ni8; chiasmic
sLylc oí, i=jn:=; and ncgaLivc
dialccLic, iio–i:; and pocLry
aíLcr AuschwiLz, i:i–:j
“acsLhcLic rcalism,” :i6
Aesthetìcs oj Lìsappearance (Vir-
ilio), i=6nji
affccL, 6, ¬, iii; as clichc, =i;
as consLiLuLivc aLLribuLc,
ijini¬; as crucial íorcc, nj;
dcfiniLion oí, ::, =¬; and
cmoLion, ij8n:i; as íorcc oí
diffcrcncc, 8=; and inLcnsiLy,
i:; as main íorcc, ¬i; as mcans
oí arLiculaLion, i¬; as nonan-
Lhropomorphic, iinn:i; as
rcsponsc Lo LraumaLic cvcnLs,
:i:; violcncc as, ::n, :¬j; vo-
cabulary oí, i8; waning oí, =o
“affccLivc mcmory,” :i¬, :i8, :in
Akin, FaLih, iinn:j
algoriLhm: mcLhodological, :n;
pcdagogical, :n
A|ì (Mann), i=:nii
A||egorìes oj Readìng (dc Man), 6i
Te A|phabet Man (Crossman),
ioj, i=in:n
al-Ouacda, ploLLing oí, ioi
alLcriLy, i6
AlLman, Rick, iijn:i
Amateur (HarLlcy), :=:
Amcrica, violcncc in, :jj–ji
Amerìcana (DcIillo), i=jnn
Amerìcan Psycho (book) (Fllis), xvi,
xvii, in, ijon:, ii8n¬; criLi-
cal discoursc abouL, j:, jj,
=¬; íorccs oí violcncc in, ¬:;
haLrcd oí, j8, 8¬; immoraliLy
oí, jn; and rcprcscnLaLion, i¬;
saLirc oí, io; as scqucncc oí
masks, 8j; shock oí, ¬i
!ndex i¬6
Amerìcan Psycho (film) (Harron),
xvi, i=:nii; criLical rcsponsc
Lo, ii–i=; as a doublc rc-
sponsc, jn–i=; libcralism in,
ijinjo; Rcaganomics in, jo;
and rcprcscnLaLion, i¬; sa-
Lirical qualiLics oí, ii–ii; as a
surrcal saLirc, ijonj, ijjn:8;
and usc oí color, in
Amerìcan Tab|oìd (Fllroy), ioi, ioj
AmncsLy InLcrnaLional, :ii
analogy and movcmcnL, ion–:o
Ana|yze Tìs (Ramis), :¬j, :¬6;
íacc sccnc írom, :6¬, :68,
:¬:, :¬=; and spooí oí carlicr
DcNiro rolcs, :jn, :ii–i=;
and suggcsLcd violcncc, :¬o
Ange| Heart (Parkcr), :=8
Anìmatìng (Slack), ij8n:j
Anncslcy, 1amcs, ijin:i
anLihumanism, 6¬
Antì-Oedìpus (Dclcuzc and CuaL-
Lari), ii8n8
“anLiquarian hisLory,” 8i, iionij
arcprcscnLaLionalism, ¬¬
ArisLoLlc, ii=ni=
Arnold, MaLLhcw, jj, 6o–6:, ¬:,
ArLaud, AnLonin, ji
asignificaLion, i¬, ¬o, ¬=
As Tears Co Py (Kar-Wai), iinn:j
audicncc oí HighsmiLh’s work,
AuschwiLz, i8, :io; pocLry aíLcr,
AusLcr, Paul, i:i
auLhcnLiciLy, logic oí, ijnni:
Te Autobìography oj Ma|co|m X,
Te Avìator (Scorscsc), i=oni:
Bacon, Francis, =, :¬8, i=ini
Badiou, Alain, j¬, iioni8
Bacr, Ulrich, ii:–ii
Baldwin, 1amcs, ¬j
Baldwin, KrisLcn, ijon:
Balc, ChrisLian, ij, i=:nii
Parton Fìnk (Cocn BroLhcrs),
BaLcman, PaLrick, in, jo, j8, ij,
:io; and amoraliLy, no
Patman Pegìns (Nolan), ijjnii,
Baudrillard, 1can, ¬n
BaxLcr, Tara, ijon:
Bazin, Andrc, :nj, i:o, iii; and
“acsLhcLic rcalism,” :i6; and
cincmaLic rcpcLiLion, i::; and
influcncc on Codard, :n8;
and ncorcalisL conccpLion oí
sccing, :ni; and pcrccpLion,
i=ini; Lhcory oí cincma oí,
A Peautìju| Mìnd (Howard), :=o
Peautìju| Shadow (Wilson), 88
BcckcLL, Samucl, :i=–i6
“bccoming,” :o6–¬, :o8–:o, :::
bccoming-obcsc, :6i–6=, :¬=
Pejore Nìght Fa||s (Schnabcl), :=o
Bcing as bccoming, i::, iioni8
Pergsonìsm (Dclcuzc), io:
Bcrubc, Michacl, ij¬n8
Bicklc, Travis, :j=, :=8, :¬o,
Te Pìcyc|e Tìej (DcSica), ii8n=,
BlanchoL, Mauricc, :o=, :j6,
ij:n:o, ii:njo, ii6nin
!ndex i¬¬
blood: aLLracLion oí, :8o; usc oí in
film, in
P|ood Sìmp|e (Cocn BroLhcrs), :j,
:i, ii8n6
Bloom, Allan, ij¬n8
Te P|underer (HighsmiLh), :oo
Boguc, Ronald, ij8n:j
Bolcslavski, Richard, :i¬
Te Pook oj Lazarus (Crossman),
Bordwcll, David, ii8n¬, ij6ni,
borcdom: in Amerìcan Psycho
(film), =j; as an inLcnsificr,
:6i–6j; oí violcncc, i=–=6
Boundas, ConsLanLin, ¬=, ij6n=
Bovasso, 1ulic, :=n–6o
Te Poy who Fo||owed Rìp|ey
(HighsmiLh), :in, ii:ni
Brando, Marlon, :i8, :=¬, :6j–
6i, :¬6
Preeze Avenue (Crossman), i=in:n
Brody, Richard, i=:ni¬
Bronski, Michacl, 88, 8n, ii:n:
Te Protherhood oj Mutì|atìon
(Fvcnson), =o
Brownc, Nick, xi
“BruLc Forcc” (Dcnby), :6=
Buchanan, Ian, ij8n:j
Bunkcr, Archic, 66
Bush, Ccorgc W., :86, :n=
Cagncy, 1amcs, ii8ni
Cain, 1amcs M., ji
Cape Fear (Scorscsc), :jn, :¬j,
:¬i; box offi cc succcss oí,
capiLalism: Amcrican, ii, 6j; vio-
lcncc oí, iinn:o
Caro| (HighsmiLh), nn
Carroll, Nocl, ii8n¬, ij=n:
CarLcr, Philip, ::i
Casìno (Scorscsc), :jn, :i=, :¬j;
box offi cc succcss oí, i=oni:
Cavani, Iiliana, ii:n=
Cavcll, SLanlcy, ii¬nj
Chabrol, Claudc, ii:n=
chancc, :n; affi rmaLion oí, :¬; in-
abiliLy Lo dcal wiLh, :i
Chandlcr, Raymond, ji
chariLy, :ii–ij
Chccvcr, F. Taylor, ii¬nji
ChrisLianiLy, 8o
cincma, powcr oí, i::
Cìnema i (Dclcuzc), io:, i=in6
Cìnematìc Pody (Shaviro), iinn:j
Cìty oj C|ass (AusLcr), i:i, i:¬
Clapp, Susannah, 8¬, 88, iijn:6
C|assìca| Ho||ywood Cìnema (Bord-
wcll, SLaigcr, and Tompson),
ClcmcnL, Rcnc, ii:n=
clichc: avoiding, ji; fighLing
againsL, :=; oí rcprcscnLaLion,
Cochran, David, :oo
Cocn BroLhcrs, xvi, j, 6, ¬, n, i:,
ii=, ii¬nj, ii8n8; filming
sLylc oí, :j–:i, :¬, :8; and
Mì||er’s Crossing, j, 6–¬, n,
:88; and usc oí color, ii8n6
cogniLivism, ii8n¬, ij6ni
Colcbrook, Clairc, 8:, :n:
color, íuncLion oí, ii8n6
Columbinc shooLing, :io
comcdy and violcncc, ijonj
comparison, in–ji; as classifica-
Lion, j6; judgmcnLal modc
oí, j=
!ndex i¬8
Te Conquest oj Coo| (Frank), 6j
conscicncc, moral, 6=
ConscrvaLory íor AcLing, :=:
consLrucLivism, social, :n6
consumcr culLurc, iiin:i
conLcxL oí violcncc, xv
conLracL, i6; masochisLic, :¬–:n,
Conway, 1immy, :¬i
Coopcr, Dcnnis, =o
Coppola, Francis Ford, :jn
copy, conccpLs oí, ¬n–¬8
Corlconc, Don, :=6, :6j, :6i, :¬6
Cox, Tom, ii:n=
CraíL, Nikki, ijon:
criLical pracLicc, dcscripLion oí, 6:
criLicism, :8o, :8:, i:8; aca-
dcmic, 6i; comparaLivc, j=;
conLcmporary, 6o; culLural, 6o;
film, ij=n:; íuncLion oí, ::=;
is abouL comparing, jj; in
rcprcscnLaLional modc, ¬8; liL-
crary, 6i, 6n; and moral judg-
mcnLs, 8j; opcraLion oí, ¬j;
public, 6i; rcprcscnLaLional,
i8; oí violcncc, ji
Crìtìque oj 1udgment (KanL),
ijnnii, i==njj
Te Cry oj the Ow| (HighsmiLh),
CrysLal, Billy, :ii, :68
culLural sLudics, 6n–¬¬, 8i,
ij¬n8, ij8n:j, ij8n:i
Cu|tura| Studìes Reader (During),
culLurc, conccpL oí, ¬i
“Tc CulLurc IndusLry” (Hork-
hcimcr and Adorno), ij8n:i,
Cunningham, ValcnLinc, :n=–n6
“Daddy” (PlaLh), :8j
Dcan, 1amcs, :in
dcconsLrucLion, ¬6; Amcrican,
6i, 6=–6n, ij=ni, ij=nj,
ij8n:j; dc Mancan, 8i; domi-
nanL, ¬=
Leep water (HighsmiLh), ::j
dcícrral, logic oí, iii
Dclcuzc, Cillcs, :n8, ij:n::,
ij=nj; and acLing proccsscs,
:6o; analysis oí violcncc, 8i;
arcprcscnLaLional LhoughL
oí, ¬=; and asignificaLion, ¬o;
and “bccoming,” :o6, :=n;
and bclicí in liíc, 8; cincma
LhoughL oí, i=ini; and cul-
Lural sLudics, ij8n:j; diffcr-
cnLial philosophy oí, n6; and
FLcrnal RcLurn, :i6, :in; cx-
pcrimcnLal cLhics oí, ii¬nj=;
and Lhc íacc, :¬=, :8o–8:; and
íacialiLy, :j6–j¬, :6¬, :¬n;
and ícLishizing, i:; and Francìs
Pacon, ix, =; and íundamcnLal
Lask oí philosophy, iiin6; and
immanancc, n:; impacL oí,
iinn:i, iinn:j; and incorpo-
rcal LransíormaLion, :on; and
influcncc on HardL and Ncgri,
ni; and iLincraLion, :i=; and
judgmcnL, ji–jn, ni; lack
oí influcncc oí, ¬6–¬¬; and
masochism, :8, ii, ii; and
masochism sympLomaLology,
iio–i:; masochisLic proccsscs
dcscribcd by, :6i; and mcLhod
acLing, :i¬; and obscrva-
!ndex i¬n
Lion on cincma, :66; and Lhc
painLcr’s canvas, i=in=; and
PlaLonism, ¬¬–8j, ij:n¬,
iionii; and posL-sLrucLural
Lhinking, xiv–xv; and prob-
lcms in maLhcmaLics, i=on:¬;
and psychoanalysis, :ii; and
Lhc “sclí,” :==; and spcaking
íor oLhcrs, :n8; and sLoryLcll-
ing, i=; and Lcaching, io;
and Lhcory and pracLicc, :ji;
and Lhcory oí languagc, :n6,
i=jn:i; and “Lhc ouLsidc,”
:o=; and Lhc unconscious as
LhcaLcr, :ij; and violcncc,
ii:njo; and Lhc world as a
cincma, i=in6
Le|euze and Lìterature (Buchanan
and Marks), ij8n:j
Le|euze on Lìterature (Boguc),
DcIillo, Don, :8i–ii=, iiin:i;
and cssay on n/:: aLLacks, xvi,
i:, i¬; modc oí narraLion oí,
dc Man, Paul, 6i, 6=–6n, ¬8
Dcnby, David, :6=
DcNiro, RobcrL, xvi, i:, i¬,
:jj–8:; characLcrs oí, :jn; as
íacc oí violcncc in Amcrican
cincma, :j=; and lack oí cxpc-
ricncc oí violcncc, :86; obscs-
sivc rhyLhm oí, iiin:i
DcPalma, Brian, :jn
Ler amerìkanìsche Freund (Tc
Amcrican Fricnd) (Wcndcr),
Dcrrida, 1acqucs, ij:n:o, ij=nj;
and Amcrican dcconsLrucLion,
ij8n:j; and Bcing, :=; and
“diffcrancc,” xvi; and posL-
sLrucLuralisL LhoughL, ij6n=;
as posL-sLrucLural Lhinkcr, xiv,
ji; and sccond dcconsLrucLivc
movc, ij¬n¬; and violcncc,
ii:njo; and WcsLcrn mcLa-
physics, ¬¬
DcSica, ViLLorio, :n:, ii8n=,
Letours and Lost Hìghways
(Hirsch), ii¬nj
“diffcrcncc,” :i:, ii=ni8
“Diffcrancc” (Dcrrida), ij=nj
Lìfference and Repetìtìon (Dc-
lcuzc), :=, ij:n::
Lìsenchantìng Les Pons Temps (SLi-
valc), ij8n:j
Lìtes-|uì que ìe |’aìme (Millcr), ii:n=
division, PlaLonic, ¬8
Donadio, Rachcl, i=in:
Lo the Rìght Tìng (Icc), iinn:i
Loub|e Readìng (Ncalon), ij¬n¬
Dougan, Andy, :=8, :66, :8o
Lown ìn the va||ey (1acobson),
Doylc, Richard, ijon:¬
D’Souza, Dincsh, ij¬n8
Dunaway, Fayc, :in
Dunkcr, PaLricia, ijnnio
DuponL, 1oan, iijn:6
During, Flic, ijnn:=
During, Simon, ij8n:i
Fbert and Roper at the Movìes, 6i
cconomy, masochisLic, i:
Fdìth’s Lìary (HighsmiLh), iijn:i
cducaLion, masochisL’s dcsirc íor,
!ndex i8o
FiscnsLcin, Scrgci, :n:, :ni,
cllipLical proccss, ion
Fllis, BrcL FasLon, xvi, xvii, i:,
in, ijon:, ii8n6; and affcc-
Livc cncounLcr wiLh world, 8j;
and conccrn wiLh judgmcnL,
no; and consumcrism, i=ini;
íamc oí, ij¬nn; and haLrcd oí
novcl, j:, j8, ¬i, 8¬; and rc-
pcLiLivcncss oí work, iiin:i;
violcnL ficLion oí, :io
Fllison, Ralph, ¬j
Fllroy, 1amcs, ioi
Fmpìre (HardL and Ncgri),
ni–nj, ::n–i:, :ii, io:, i:j,
Fnd Zone (DcIillo), i==nij
cngagcmcnL, sLylc oí, n=
Te Fng|ìsh Patìent (Minghclla), 88
Fntertaìnment week|y, 6i
Frcolini, Cina, ijnnio
Fsquìre, i=in:
FLcrnal RcLurn: conccpL oí, :=;
íorcc oí, :in; habiLuaLion via
Lhc, :ji
cLhics, ij; conccpLions oí, :i,
iinn:o; dcfiniLion oí, :¬¬–¬8;
and climinaLion oí chancc, i;
as moraliLy, :ii; as a sLaLic
conLracL, :i; violcncc oí,
Fvcns, Adcn, i=on:¬
Fvcnson, Brian, =o
cxisLcnLialism, :i=–i6, ii¬nj:
cxpcrimcnLaLion, affi rmaLivc, :6n
cxploiLaLion, cconomic, :
Fxp|orìng Techno|ogy and Socìa|
Space (Wisc), ij8n:j
cxLrcmism, violcnL, :
íacc: oí DcNiro, :¬j; rolc in acL-
ing, :6¬
íaccs, :j6–j¬
“íacc-Lo-íacc,” conccpL oí, :¬¬
íacializaLion: proccss oí, :¬=, :8o;
oí violcncc, :¬6, :8:
Fallon, 1immy, :¬=
Te Fan (ScoLL), i=onio
Fargo (Cocn BroLhcrs), :j, :i, :¬,
:8; and usc oí color, ii8n6
íascinaLion as a passion, :j6
Fazazi, Imam Mohammcd,
ícLish, io–i:
ícLishizing, i:
ficLion, rclcvancc oí, i=in:
figuraLion, lcvcl oí, 6–¬
Figurc, 8, n; isolaLion oí Lhc, ¬
film: violcncc in, ii8n¬
Te Fì|ms oj Martìn Scorsese.
:o6¸–;;. Authorshìp and Con-
text (CrisL), :8o
film sLudics, iioni=, iioni6
flighL as qucsLion oí inLcnsiLy or
affccL, =n
Fonda, 1anc, :in
íorccs: affccLivc, :o; capLuring, n;
imagcs in Lcrms oí, xiv
íorgcLLing, :n–io; acLivc, :6n
FoucaulL, Michcl, ix, ii6nin; and
asignificaLion, ¬o; and criLi-
cism, i:i; diagnosLic insighL
oí, i:n; cxpcrimcnLal cLhics
oí, ii¬nj=; and immancncc,
n:; and Ncw HisLoricism,
ij8n:j; and noLion oí Lhc
sclí, :in; as posL-sLrucLural
!ndex i8:
Lhinkcr, xiv, ji; and rcprc-
scnLaLion, ¬i; and spcaking
íor oLhcrs, :n8; and Lhcory
and pracLicc, :ji; and “Lhc
ouLsidc,” :o=; and violcncc,
FoucaulLcan cLhics, no–n:
Found ìn the Street (HighsmiLh),
:oo, iijn:6
Te Four Hundred P|ows (Truí-
íauL), :nj
Francìs Pacon (Dclcuzc), i=in=
Francìs Pacon. Te Logìc oj Sen-
satìon, (Dclcuzc), ix, xiv, n,
Frank, Tomas, 6j
FrankíurL School, ij8n:i
Frascr, Rob, :6o, i=:nii
Frccccro, Carla, ijin:i
Frcud, Sigmund, i¬, :i:–ii, :i8,
Frìsk (Coopcr), =o
“Tc FuncLion oí CriLicism” (Ar-
nold), 6o
íundamcnLalism, i=in:¬; Is-
lamic, i==nin
A Came jor the Lìvìng (HighsmiLh),
Te Cenea|ogy oj Mora|s (NicLz-
schc), i==nj:
Cibson, Mcl, 6j
Cilcs, 1amcs R., x, i==nij
Te Cìr| jrom Monday (HarLlcy),
Ciroux, Hcnry, ii¬nj6
C|amorama (Fllis), no, :io, i=ini
Te C|ass Ce|| (HighsmiLh), ::i
global íorccs, :ii
globalizaLion, i:j, i:6; as
ciLizcn-consumcr uLopia, io:;
and n/:: aLLacks, :nn
Codard, 1can-Iuc, in, :8:, :n8,
i:i, iii, i=:ni¬
Te Codjather (Coppola), :¬6
Te Codjather !! (Coppola), :jn,
:=6, :6j, :6¬
gold sLandard, abolishmcnL oí
(:n¬:), ii6njo
CoodFe||as (Scorscsc), :jn, :i=,
:¬i; box offi cc succcss oí,
Cordon, Avcry, ii=ni8
Crand Tcory in film sLudics,
Cravìty’s Raìnbow (Pynchon),
Crccnlcaí, Richard, :oj
CrisL, IcighLon, :8o
Crossbcrg, Iawrcncc, 6i, 6n–¬¬,
¬8, ij8n:i
Crossman, Richard, ioj, i=in:n
Cround Zero (Virilio), i=6nji
Croup TcaLcr, :i¬
CuaLLari, Fclix, xv, 8; and acLing
proccsscs, :6o; and “bccom-
ing,” :o6, :=n; and Lhc íacc,
:¬=, :8o–8:; and íacialiLy,
:j6–j¬, :¬n; and íacializa-
Lion, :6¬; and íundamcnLal
Lask oí philosophy, iiin6; and
incorporcal LransíormaLion,
:on; and influcncc on HardL
and Ncgri, ni; and iLincraLion,
:i=; and mcLhod acLing, :i¬;
and psychoanalysis, :ii; and
Lhc unconscious as LhcaLcr,
!ndex i8i
hacccciLics, ioi
Ha||ucìnatìng Foucau|t (Dunkcr),
Hamburg Ccll, i=jn:6
Hamburger Lektìonen (Karmakar),
HammcLL, Dashicll, ji, :8j
A Handbook to Lìterature (Hol-
man), 6o
Hanna, VinccnL, :¬6, :¬¬, :¬8
HardL, Michacl, xiv, ::n–i:, :ii,
io:, i:j; and capiLalism’s
modc oí powcr, ni–nj; as
MarxisL culLural LhcorisL,
j¬; and moral inLcrvcnLion,
Harmon, William, 6o
Harper’s Magazìne, :8n, :no
Harrison, Russcll, :i=, iijn:i
Harron, Mary, xvi, in–j:, j:,
j8; and affccLivc íorcc, jo; as
ícminisL dirccLor, 8¬; filming
Amerìcan Psycho, i:
HarLlcy, Hal, :=:
Harvcy, Dcnnis, ijon:
Haycs Codc, i
Hayward, Susan, :i6
Heat (Mann), :jn, :i=, :¬6, :¬8,
i=:nij, i=:nii
Hcgcl, C. W. F. (Ccorg Wilhclm
Fricdrich): and bccoming, :=n;
and dialccLics, iio; and diffcr-
cncc, ii¬nj=; and Hcgclian
sysLcm, io, ii
Hcidcggcr, MarLin, 8, ¬¬, i==njj
Hcmmings, Clarc, ijini8
HighsmiLh, PaLricia, xvi, i:, i¬;
and borcdom, ::¬–:n; and
criLicism, ¬j; and cxpcrimcn-
Lal cLhics, ii¬nj=; ficLion oí,
:8i; and judgmcnL, :n6; and
monoLony oí hcr work, ::=–
:6; and rcalm oí judgmcnL, 8i;
and scqucncc oí masks, 8j;
violcncc oí, 8¬–:ji; and vio-
lcncc oí judgmcnL, ii¬nji
Hìghsmìth. A Romance oj the :o=os
(Mcakcr), 88
Himcs, ChcsLcr, ¬j, ii=ni6
Hìroshìma Mon Amour (Rcsnais),
Hirsch, FosLcr, :i¬, :i8, :in,
Hìstorìe(s) du Cìnema (Codard),
Hìstory and Memory ajter Ausch-
wìtz (IaCapra), :io
Holman, C. Hugh, 6o
HolocausL, i:j. See a|so Ausch-
Horkhcimcr, Max, ij8n:i,
Houcllcbccq, Michcl, ij¬n:o
Hublcy, Frlcnc, :oi
Hudson, ChrisLophcr, jn
Humc, KaLhryn, ijinin
Huxlcy, Tomas Hcnry, 6:
Idcas: puriLy oí Lhc, ¬n; Lhcory oí,
imagcs: íorcc oí, iiin:i; jusL, :n8;
as producLivc oí cffccLs Lhrough
affccLs, 8=–86; violcnL, :
imaging proccsscs, i:j
imiLaLion, i=on:n; proccss oí,
:=i; and rccollccLion, iiin:n.
See a|so mimcsis
immancncc, j8, :::; lcsson oí,
!ndex i8j
:ii; philosophy oí, j¬; planc
oí, xv, :io
immancnL íorccs, violcncc and
judgmcnL as, ::n
impcraLivc, moral, 6=
impcrsonaLion, :o8
Te !nfinìte Conversatìon (Blan-
choL), ij:n:o
Te !njormers (Fllis), ii8n6
Ingham, Howard, ::6–:¬
!nsìde the Actors Studìo (IipLon),
inLcnsiLy, j8
inLcrprcLaLivc sLudics, xii
“inLcrvcnLion,” :ii; moral, :ii
“In Lhc Ruins oí Lhc FuLurc”
(DcIillo), :8i–ii=
!n the Shadow oj No Towers (Spic-
gclman), i=jn:j
!nto|erab|e Crue|ty (Cocn BroLh-
crs), ii¬nj
“InLroducing Film FvaluaLion”
(Carroll), ij=n:
! Shot Andy warho| (Harron), i:
iLincraLion, :i=
1acobson, David, i=:nii
1amcson, Frcdric, =o, ¬n, i:i
1FK (SLonc), ioi, ioj
1oe| and Fthan Coen (Palmcr),
1ohnny Boy, :=i–=i, :=n, :¬o,
judgmcnL, in–=n; dcícrring,
i:¬–:8; dcfiniLion oí, =8; gc-
ncalogy oí, 6o–86; issuc oí, no;
moral valuc, 68; as opcraLion
oí rcprcscnLaLion, ¬8; passing,
n:; problcm oí, i:j–:i; qucs-
Lions oí, 8n, n¬, :oi; rcalm
oí, 8i; as a sLraLcgic íorcc,
i==nin; suspcnding, :8=–86;
and violcncc, :o:, ::¬, :ii
jusLicc, public passion íor, ni
jusLificaLion, moral, 6j
Kaíka, Franz, :oi
Kajka. Toward a Mìnor Lìtera-
ture (Dclcuzc and CuaLLari),
KakuLani, Michiko, 8¬, n¬,
iiinii, ii¬nj:
KanL, Immanucl, :i6, iii,
ijnnii, i==njj
Karmakar, Romuald, i=jn:6
Karnicky, 1cffrcy, :j6, i=jn:i
Kar-Wai, Wong, iinn:j
KassoviLz, MaLhicu, i=:nii
Kazan, Flia, :i8, :==
KcaLon, Dianc, :in
Kccncr, Rydal, ::j–:i
Kclscy, David, ::i
Kcnncdy, 1ohn F., assassinaLion
oí, ioi
Kcrouac, 1ack, ijnn:6
Kì||er !nsìde Me (Tompson), ¬j
King, Ccoff, ijonj
Kìng oj Comedy (Scorscsc), :=8,
Kìngs oj the Road (Wcndcrs), :nn
Klcc, Paul, n
Klcin, KaLhlccn Crcgory, n¬,
Kolkcr, RobcrL, :8o
Kooijman, 1aap, ijjni:
Kunklc, Shcila, ij¬n6
Kurz und Schmerz|os (Akin),
!ndex i8i
Iab (Amcrican IaboraLory Tc-
aLcr), :i8
Iacan, 1aqucs, j¬, ijin:j,
ij8n:j, i==njj
Lacan and Contemporary Fì|m (Mc-
Cowan and Kunklc), ij¬n6
Iacanian film Lhcory, ij6ni
Iacanian psychoanalysis, j¬,
IaCapra, Dominick, :io–ii, :i6,
:=:, :6¬; and mclancholic
acLing ouL, :6i; and mimcLic
acLing, :¬n
La Chìnoìse (Codard), iii
lack, Lhcorics oí, i=6nji
Te Ladykì||ers (Cocn BroLhcrs),
La Haìne (HaLc) (KassoviLz),
Iainc, Tarja, ijjni:
La 1etee (Markcr), ii8n=
IambcrL, Crcgg, ij8n:j
IaMoLLa, 1akc, :=8, :6=, :¬o,
:¬=, i=on:8
languagc: as an acL oí violcncc,
ij:n:o; asigniíying íorcc oí,
¬¬; rcprcscnLaLional, iii
Iansbcrg, Andrca, i=:ni=
Icaud, 1can Picrrc, :nj
IcCcrclc, 1can-1acqucs, i=jn:i
Le Crì du Hìbou (Chabrol), ii:n=
Icc, Spikc, iinn:i
Iconc, Scrgio, :jn
Les 1eux Sont Faìts (SarLrc),
Less Tan Zero (Fllis), ¬i, ii8n6
Icvinas, Fmanucl, :¬¬–¬8
libcralism in Amerìcan Psycho
(film) (Harron), ijinjo
Lìbra (DcIillo), :no
IipLon, 1amcs, :=:
liLcraLurc, violcncc in, ii8n¬
logic: mcLaphorical, 66; mcL-
onymical, 66
IoLringcr, Sylvcrc, ijnn:=
Iowcll, RobcrL, n=
Lunar Park (Fllis), iiin:i, ii8n6
IyoLard, 1can-François, i=6nji
MacFarland, ChcsLcr, ::j–:i
Te Machìnìst (Andcrson), i=:nii
Mailcr, Norman, ijin:6
Makìng Meanìng (Bordwcll),
Mann, Michacl, :¬6, i=:nii
Mann, Paul, ii
Manson, Marilyn, :ij
Te Man who wasn’t Tere (Cocn
BroLhcrs), ii8n6
“Tc Man Who WroLc Books in
His Hcad” (HighsmiLh), :i8
Mao !! (DcIillo), :no
Margulics, Ivonc, ii8n:o
Markcr, Chris, ii8n=
Marks, 1ohn, ij8n:j
Marx, Karl, ij8n:j; and violcncc,
“Tc Maskcd Philosophcr” (Fou-
caulL), ix
Maslin, 1ancL, 88
masochism, =n, :i¬, :8:, i:o,
i:n, iinn:j; dcfiniLion oí,
i:; and dcsirc Lo cducaLc, :n;
pracLicc oí, io, ii–i¬, :6i;
violcncc oí, :=–ij. See a|so
Hcgcl, C. W. F. (Ccorg Wilhclm
Masochìsm. Co|dness and Crue|ty
!ndex i8=
(Dclcuzc), xiv, j8, iinn:i,
masochisL, i:, i6; anxicLy oí Lhc,
masochisLic sympLomaLology,
masocriLical pracLicc, i=–i¬
masocriLicism, xiii, ij–i8, i¬,
:n¬, i:i
Massumi, Brian, ::, i8, ¬i,
“MaLh AnxicLy,” i=on:¬
Te Matrìx (Andy and Iarry Wa-
chowski), iij
“Maxima Immoralia`” (Ncalon),
McCaulcy, Ncil, :¬6, :¬¬, :¬8
McCowan, Todd, ij¬n6
Mcakcr, Marijanc, 88
mcaning: cmphasis on, ij6ni;
producLion oí, ¬=
Mean Streets (Scorscsc), :jn,
:=i–=i, :=n, :6¬, :¬:,
Mcdccins sans FronLicrcs, :ii
mcdia, violcncc in, ii8n¬
mcdiaLion, logic oí, ¬o, ¬:, ¬j–¬i
Meet the Parents (Roach), :j8–jn,
:jn, :¬j, :¬=
mclancholia (acLing ouL), :io,
:i:–ii, :ij, :i=
Mcnand, Iouis, :6=, i=on:8
Mcrlcau-PonLy, Mauricc, i=ini
mcLaphors, 66, 6¬
mcLaphysics, WcsLcrn, ¬¬
Lhc McLhod, :i=–=:, :=:–=¬,
:6i, ii8nn
McLhod acLing, :j¬, :6i, :66,
:¬:, :¬8
“McLhods and Madncss”
(Mcnand), :6=
mcLonymics, 66, 6¬
Millcr, Claudc, ii:n=
Mì||er’s Crossìng (Cocn BroLhcrs):
and lcvcl oí figuraLion, 6–¬, n;
and qucsLion oí cLhics, j–i,
::, :j; and violcncc, :i, :88
mimcsis, :¬n; and acLing, :j¬;
and Lhc McLhod, :i6, :=:;
rhcLorical paLLcrn oí, 6¬; as a
Lool, :66. See a|so imiLaLion
Minghclla, AnLhony, 8¬, 8n,
“minor liLcraLurc,” :oi, iijn:=
misLrcss, i:, ii, i6; cLhical com-
miLmcnL oí, :8
MiLchum, RobcrL, ii8ni
modcrniLy, ¬o
modcs oí sccing, :ni
moraliLy, ni, :ii; qucsLions oí,
8n; scnsc oí, ii8nn; violcncc
oí, ::o
moral judgmcnL, :ii
Morgan, Clairc, nn
Morrison, Toni, ¬j
MoLion PicLurc Produccrs and
DisLribuLors oí Amcrica
(rrrbt), 6i
mourning (working Lhrough),
:io, :i:–ij, :ij, :i=, :¬o;
íorcc oí, :6n
“Mourning and Mclancholia”
(Frcud), :i:
movcmcnL, írcczing oí, i:
rrtt raLing sysLcm (:n68), 6i
Muckclbaucr, 1ohn, ijnn:¬
Mulvcy, Iaura, iinn:j
murdcr, causcs and cffccLs oí, :8n
!ndex i86
murdcrcr, any pcrson can bccomc
a, ::=
music as prcvicw oí violcncc, =i
myLh, íuncLion oí, ¬8
Naipaul, V. S., i=in:
Narcmorc, 1amcs, :j=, :in, :=o,
narraLivcs oí n/::, :n¬–n8
narraLivc spccd, in, ==, ijinin
narraLivc sLraLcgy, i=ini:
narraLivizaLion, :=
Natura| Porn Kì||ers (SLonc), 6, :i,
:ij, ijonj
NaudcL BroLhcrs, :nj
Ncalon, 1cffrcy T., 68, 8i,
iinn:o, ij¬n¬; and Ausch-
wiLz, i8; and cLhics, :o; and
rcprcscnLaLion, i¬
ncgaLivc dialccLics, iio–i:
Negatìve Lìa|ectìcs (Adorno), :n8
Ncgri, AnLonio, xiv, ::n–i:, :ii,
io:, i:j; and capiLalism’s
modc oí powcr, ni–nj; as
MarxisL culLural LhcorisL,
j¬; and moral inLcrvcnLion,
nco-noir, ii¬nj
ncorcalism, i=ini:
Ncw CriLicism, 66
Ncw HisLoricism, 6n, ¬6, ij8n:j
Ncwman, Paul, :in
Ncwman, Randy, :j8
Ncw MaLcrialism, 6n
“ncw violcncc,” 8n, ii:nj
New York. New York (Scorscsc),
New Yorker, 8¬, i=jn:j
New York Tìmes, 6i, 8¬
Ngai, Siannc, ==
Nicholson, 1ack, :in
NicLzschc, Fricdrich, :=, ji, ¬o,
ij:n¬, i==nj:; and acLivc
íorgcLLing, :6n; and “anLi-
quarian hisLory,” iionij; and
dcsirc íor LruLh, ¬:; and imiLa-
Lion, iiin:n; and rcvcrsal oí
PlaLonism, 8i; and rcvcrsing
PlaLonism, ¬¬; and LruLh, i:¬
Nìetzsche and Phì|osophy (Dc-
lcuzc), :=, ij=nj
nihilism, ji
o/:: (NaudcL BroLhcrs), :nj
n/::, aLLacks oí, i, i¬, :8i–ii=;
and globalizaLion, :nn
Nolan, ChrisLophcr, ijjnii
nongovcrnmcnLal organizaLions
(Ncos), :ii
Te Non-Phì|osophy oj Cì||es Le-
|euze (IambcrL), ij8n:j
nonviolcnL spaccs, cxisLcncc oí, :
NorLon, Fdward, i=:nii
Norton Antho|ogy, 6o
Nothìng Tat Meets the Fye. Te
0nco||ected Storìes oj Patrìcìa
Hìghsmìth (HighsmiLh), 88
novclLy, ix
Nunn, Bill, iinn:i
O Prother. where Art Tou (Cocn
BroLhcrs), ii8n6
Ocdipus, :i:
Oj Crammato|ogy (Dcrrida),
Once 0pon a Tìme ìn Amerìca (Ic-
onc), :jn
::o Storìes (Bacr), ii:–ii, iii
On the waterjront (Kazan), :i8,
!ndex i8¬
“On TruLh and Iying in Lhc FxLra-
Moral Scnsc” (NicLzschc), ¬o
Te Order oj Tìngs (FoucaulL), :in
oLhcr, and conccpL oí Lhc sclí, ioo
ouLsidc, :o=, :i:, ii6nin; work-
ing Lhrough Lhc, :=¬–6j
Pacino, Al, :in, :¬6, :¬¬
pain, abiliLy Lo cxpcricncc, xi
Palmcr, R. BarLon, ii¬nj
paranoia, i=in:8; and Lrauma,
Parìs Revìew, i=in:
Te Passìon oj the Chrìst (Cibson),
PaLLon, Paul, j6, iionii
Pcckinpah, Sam, ::
pcdagogy, 86, :8:, ii:nin; mas-
ochisLic, ij
pcrccpLion: movcmcnL oí, 8i; and
sccing, i=ini
pcríormaLivc subjccLiviLy, cLhics
oí, :o
pcrsonificaLion, 6¬
Pcsci, 1oc, :¬i
“Philosophy oí Lhc Serìe Noìre”
(Dclcuzc), ij:n:i
Pìerrot Le Fou (Codard), in
Pilcggi, Nicholas, :¬i
P|an P (Himcs), ¬j
PlaLh, Sylvia, n=, :8j
PlaLo, ji, ¬¬
PlaLonism, ovcrcoming, ¬¬–8j
P|ayers (DcIillo), :no
P|eìn So|eì| (Purplc Noon) (Clc-
mcnL), ii:n=, iiinio
ploLs rcducc Lhc world, ioi–i
P|ottìng and wrìtìng oj Suspense
Fìctìon (HighsmiLh), n:,
Po|ìtìca| Physìcs (ProLcvi), i=ini
poliLics, idcnLiLy, ¬o
Po||ock (Harris), :=o
Polo, Tcrry, :j8
“Tc Polygamy oí Ianguagc”
(Fvcnson), =o
posiLion Laking, problcm oí,
Postmodernìsm (1amcson),
posLmodcrnism, clichcs abouL, =o
posL-sLrucLuralism, :=
Post-Teory (Carroll), ii8n¬
“PosL-Wall RcalLy” (Abcl), i=jn:6
Powcrs, Richard, io8
Te Prìce oj Sa|t (HighsmiLh), nn,
Princc, SLcphcn, x, ii8n¬, ij6ni
problcm and soluLion, n:
prob|ematìques, :6i–6j, :6=;
mulLiplc soluLions oí, :¬o; oí
pcdagogy, :8:; pracLicc oí, n8;
oí violcncc, :ji, :no
producLion codc, 6i
producLion oí íuLurc cvcnLs, ii:
Prosthetìc Memory (Iandsbcrg),
ProLcvi, 1ohn, i=ini
ProusL, Marccl, 66
proximiLy, zonc oí, :o¬
Pub|ìc Fnemy (Wcllman), :8j
Pu|p Fìctìon (TaranLino), ::,
punishmcnL as moral conccpL,
Pursuìts oj Happìness (Cavcll),
!ndex i88
Pynchon, Tomas, i==nii
radical ncgaLiviLy, iii
Ragìng Pu|| (Scorscsc), :¬:,
i=on:8, i=:nii; box offi cc
succcss oí, i=oni:; 1akc Ia-
MoLLa in, :=8; obcsc body in,
:¬i, :¬=; violcncc in, :jn,
:6=, :6¬
Ragìng Pu||. My Story (book) (Ia-
MoLLa), i=on:8
Rajchman, 1ohn, :6n
Rambo, i=on:6
rapc, causcs and cffccLs oí, :8n
rapporL, audicncc, :6=
RavcLLo, Kriss, i:8
Rayns, Tony, j:
Readìng ajter Teory (Cunning-
ham), :n=–n6
rcalism, ij6ni, ii8n:o; abso-
luLc, i=inj; cxprcssionisLic,
iinn:j; scamlcss, :i6
rcd as imagc oí blood, in–jo
Red Harvest (HammcLL), :8j
Regeneratìon through vìo|ence
(SloLkin), ii=ni=
rcgimc oí judgmcnL, jj
“rcgulaLory rcgimc,” 6i
Reìnventìng Fì|m Studìes (Clcdhill
and Williams), ij=n:
rclaLivism, moral, i==nj:
rclcvancc: oí ficLion, i=in:; oí
prcscnL sLudy, :88
rcpcLiLion, :8:; acL oí, :o:–i; in
Amerìcan Psycho (book) (Fllis),
i=–=6; and bccoming, :¬n;
in HighsmiLh’s work, n¬–n8,
:i6–i¬; proccss oí, :6n
rcprcscnLaLion, ¬:, ¬i, ¬8; con-
ccpL oí, i8; confincs oí, ¬o;
cosLs oí, =¬–=n; domain oí,
8i; and how iL works, i:i;
languagc oí, io8, iii; logic oí,
¬=; poliLical, ij8n:i; problcm
oí, iii; proccss oí, :==; qucs-
Lion oí, i¬; as a qucsLion oí
judgmcnL, i¬; symbolism in, =
rcprcscnLaLionalism, ¬¬, 8i; ovcr-
Lurning oí, ij:n¬
rcscarch, social scicnLific, xi
rcscarching a characLcr, :6o–6:
rcscmblancc, iij
Rcsnais, Alain, ii8n=
rcsponsc: ncccssary íor masocriLi-
cism, i=; Lo violcncc, :8i–8¬
rcsponsc-abiliLy, :o, :i–:i, :8,
ij; and cvaluaLion, :no; Lo
n/:: aLLacks, :8=–86, io8;
sliding scalc oí, j=
rcsponsibiliLy as rcsponsc-abiliLy,
RiboL, Tcodulc, :i8
Rich, Frank, 8¬, 8n, iijn:6
Riplcy, Tom, :j¬, :io, iiin¬;
and acLing, :oi–:i; as amoral
characLcr, n¬; and borcdom,
::8; and criminal acLiviLics,
:oj; lack oí punishmcnL oí,
8n, n:; as a man oí rcsponsc,
Riplcy novcls (HighsmiLh),
Rìp|ey’s Came (book) (HighsmiLh),
:in, ii:ni
Rìp|ey’s Came (film) (Cavani),
Rìp|ey 0nder Cround (HighsmiLh),
::n, :in, :jo, ii:ni
!ndex i8n
Rìp|ey 0nder water (HighsmiLh),
:in, ii:ni
Rìtes oj Rea|ìsm. Fssays on Cor-
porea| Cìnema (Margulics),
Robinson, David, ijjnij
Rodowick, D. N., ij8n:j
Rodrigucz, RobcrL, 6
Ronìn (Frankcnhcimcr), :¬j
RoscnblaLL, Rogcr, io, ijjnio
Rosscllini, RobcrLo, :n:
RoLhman, William, :jj–ji
Ru|es oj Attractìon (book) (Fllis),
io, ii8n6
Ru|es oj Attractìon (film) (Avary),
Sachcr-Masoch, Icopold von, :¬
sadomasochism, i¬. See a|so mas-
SainL, Fvc Maric, :==
Salonas, Valcric, i:
SarLrc, 1can-Paul, ii¬njj
saLirc: in Amerìcan Psycho (book)
(Fllis), ¬i; and violcncc, ijonj
Saturday Nìght Lìve, :¬=
Savìng Prìvate Ryan (Spiclbcrg),
8=, :jo, i:i, iiinii
ScharrcLL, ChrisLophcr, x
Schìnd|er’s Lìst (Spiclbcrg), 8=,
:jo, i:i
Schncidcr, SLcphcn 1ay, x
Schomp, Carolinc, :io
Schoonmakcr, Tclma, :6=
Schubert’s Last Serenade (Bo-
vasso), :=n
Te Score (Oz), :¬j
Scorscsc, MarLin, :j=, :jn, :¬i,
:¬n, i=oni:; and influcncc oí
Mean Streets, :=i
ScoLus, Duns, :=, iioni8
scrcam: painLing oí Lhc, =–6; vis-
ibiliLy oí Lhc, 8
sccing: modcs oí, :ni; as a nar-
raLivc modc, :n=; ncorcalisL
conccpLion oí, :ni; and pcr-
ccpLion, :n:, i=ini; as a rhc-
Lorical acLualizaLion, :ni
Te Se|ected Storìes oj Patrìcìa
Hìghsmìth (HighsmiLh), 88
“Scmiology and RhcLoric” (dc
Man), 6i, 6=
scnsaLionalism, :i
scrialiLy, iiin¬
Scvigny, Chloc, ij
ScxLon, Ann, n=
Shaviro, SLcvcn, 8i, iinn:j,
Shìne (Hicks), :=o
Shorc, RobcrL, ii¬nj:
signs, asigniíying íorcc oí, ij:nn
Silvcrman, Kaja, iii, iinn:j,
simulacrum: conccpLs oí, ¬n–8:;
primacy oí, 8i; problcms oí,
“Tc Simulacrum and AncicnL
Philosophy” (Dclcuzc), ¬¬,
Sìmu|atìons (Baudrilliard), ijnn:8
Sìn Cìty (Rodrigucz), 6
Sirk, Douglas, ::j
Slack, 1cnniícr Daryl, ij8n:j
Slocum, 1. David, x, ijonj, ij¬n6
SloLkin, Richard, ii=ni=
Te S|uts (Coopcr), =o
Sma|| g. a Summer !dy|| (High-
smiLh), :oo, iiin¬, iijn:6
SmiLh, Danicl W., i=ini
!ndex ino
SmiLh, Cavin, j8
soluLion and problcm, n:
SophisLs, ¬8, ijnn:¬
South Park, iiinii
Te Space oj Lìterature (BlanchoL),
spccch, haLc, :
spccd and rcprcscnLaLion, iii
Spcnccr, Nicholas, i=jn:o
Spicgclman, ArL, :n=, i=jn:j
Spiclbcrg, SLcvcn, 8=, :jo,
Spinoza, Baruch, ii, ji
spiriLualiLy, i:6
spousal abusc, :8n
SLanislavski, KonsLanLin, :i¬,
:i8, :in, :=o
sLar sysLcm, Hollywood, :i¬
Star wars, i=on:6
SLcin, Michacl, ii:nj
SLillcr, Bcn, :j8
SLivalc, Charlcs, ij8n:j
SLonc, Olivcr, 6, i:, ioi–j, ioj,
ijonj, ii8n¬
Te Story-Te||er (HighsmiLh), ::i
sLoryLclling, noLion oí, i=
Strangers on a Traìn (book) (High-
smiLh), 88, nn–:oo, :oo, ::=,
iiin¬, iijn:6
Strangers on a Traìn (film) (HiLch-
cock), ii:n=
SLrasbcrg, Icc, :i¬, :i8, :in, :=o
SLraus, Frwin, i=ini
SLrohcim, Frich von, i:o
SLudlar, Caylyn, iinn:j
Lhc sublimc, iii, i=6nji
Sub|ìme Obìect oj !deo|ogy (Žižck),
subLracLion, proccss oí, :¬i
suspcnsion, logic oí, i:n, iii
Symons, 1ulian, ::8
sympLomaLology, j6, j8, i8; dcfi-
niLion oí, j¬
sympLoms, diagnosing arL in
Lcrms oí, j=–j6
Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey (book)
(HighsmiLh), ¬j, 8j, 8¬; and
criminal acLiviLics, :oj; as
inLcrrupLion in work, ::¬; and
lack oí moral cnding, nn, :oo;
significancc oí, :j:; Lhc solu-
Lion in, ::=; Limclincss oí, 88;
LransíormaLion in, ::j
Te Ta|ented Mr. Rìp|ey (film)
(Minghclla), 8¬; acclaim oí,
ii:n:; and problcms wiLh
cnding, 8n; and Riplcy’s
amoral characLcr, :oj
TaranLino, OucnLin, ::, :jo,
ijonj, ii¬nj6
Taubin, Amy, iinn:=
Taxì Lrìver (Scorscsc), :j=, :jn,
:6¬; and bccoming-violcnL,
iinn:=; body as íramc oí
rcícrcncc in, :¬:; box offi cc
succcss oí, i=oni:; DcNiro’s
walking sLylc in, :6o, :¬i;
mirror sccnc in, :¬=
Taylorism, 6j
Lcaching liLcraLurc and film, valuc
oí, :88
TcachouL, Tcrry, io, ijjnio
Lcchniquc, acLing, :6:
TclccommunicaLions AcL oí :nn6,
Lclcvision, and public’s affccLivc
rcsponscs, :n=
!ndex in:
Termìnator, i=on:6
Lcrrorism: causcs and cffccLs oí,
:8n; in DcIillo’s novcls, :no;
as a viral war machinc, io:
LcrrorisL, usc oí Lcrm, ii¬ni
LcrrorisLs as “us” noL “Lhcm,” io:
Lhinking as a roll oí Lhc dicc, :o¬
Tìs Sweet Sìckness (HighsmiLh),
::j, ::i
Tompson, 1im, ¬j, ii=ni6
Tomson, David, 88, 8n
Tose who wa|k Away (High-
smiLh), ::=
A Tousand P|ateaus (Dclcuzc and
CuaLLari), :o6, :6o, ij:nn
Limc-imagc, i:
“To Havc Donc wiLh 1udgmcnL”
(Dclcuzc), ji
Lragcdy, Lhcory oí, ii=ni=
Lransccndcncc: íorccs oí, ii6njo;
rcign oí, :ii
“Transparcncics oí Film”
(Adorno), i:o
“Trauma, Abscncc, Ioss”
(IaCapra), ii8n=
Te Tremor oj Forgery (High-
smiLh), ::=–:¬, :i6
“Truc Iics” (Princc), ij6ni
TruffauL, Francois, :nj
LruLh: dcsirc íor, ¬:; dcLccLion
oí, :oo
Turncr, Cuinivcrc, j:
Te Two Faces oj 1anuary (High-
smiLh), ::j
Ulmcr, Crcgory, :i6–i¬
Te 0nbe|ìevab|e Truth (HarLlcy),
unccrLainLy: as rcsponsc Lo n/::
aLLacks, :8j–8i; scnsc oí, :8=
undcrdogs, glorificaLion oí,
0nderwor|d (DcIillo), i=jnn,
Te 0ntouchab|es (DcPalma), :jn,
:=8, :¬:
“Tc VicLory oí CulLurc” (Cross-
bcrg), ¬o
vì||age voìce, ij¬n8
violcncc: acLing ouL, :ij, :=¬–6j;
affccLivc qualiLy oí, ii=ni6;
as allcgorical, io; oí borcdom,
i=–=6; and comcdy, ijonj;
criLicism oí, ji; DcNiro as íacc
oí, :6j; diffcrcnL, i; cmpirical,
::i–:n; cngagcmcnL wiLh,
i:n; oí cLhics, :j; cLhics as
acccpLablc jusLificaLion íor,
:j; íacializaLion oí, :¬6, :8:;
íascinaLion wiLh, :6=; film
criLicism oí, :¬8; as a íronLicr,
=6; glorificaLion oí, ii; in
HighsmiLh’s work, :i6; imagc
oí, :=i; inLcnsiíying Lhrough
scrializaLion, :ii–ji; lan-
guagc as an acL oí, ij:n:o; in
liLcraLurc, ii8n¬; and making
iL visiblc, :=6; in Lhc mcdia,
ii8n¬; pop iconography oí,
:¬:–¬6; as purc íorcc, 8i–86;
rangc oí, xiii–xiv; rcal-world,
:8n; rcassuring and comíorL-
ing, =¬; rcprcscnLaLions oí,
iiinii; oí Lhc rcprcscnLcd
(Lhc scnsaLional, Lhc clichc),
ix, =; rcsponsc Lo, :8j–8i; and
saLirc, ijonj; on scrccn,
!ndex ini
violcncc (cont.)
:jj–8:, ii8n¬; oí scnsaLion,
ix, :–i8, :8i–8=; scrializing,
8¬–:ji; singular momcnL
oí, :j=; and “slowing down,”
ii8n=; oí unccrLainLy, :8=;
undcrsLandablc moLivc oí,
:jo, :6=; as an undcrLhco-
rizcd conccpL, :jj; vcrsions
oí, :8j; wiLhouL blood, :¬i;
wiLhouL judgmcnL, :i8
violcnL imagcs: cLhical valuc oí, j;
pcdagogical cngagcmcnL wiLh,
xvi; rcprcscnLaLional approach
Lo, xvi; as rcprcscnLaLions,
x–xi, xii; in Lcrms oí affccLs
and íorcc, x
Virilio, Paul, i=6nji; and Lhcory
oí pcrccpLion, i=jn:o
VisconLi, Iuchino, :n:
waiLing, purc, i:
“Wallpapcr Mao” (Karnicky),
war, causcs and cffccLs oí, :8n
Ward, VicLor, no, :io
Warhol, Andy, i=:nii
war on Lcrror, :
Wcbb, Tcrcsa, xi
“Wclcomc Lo Lhc DcscrL oí Lhc
Rcal” (Žižck), iij
Wcllman, William, :8j
Wcndcrs, Wim, :nn, ii:n=
Wcschlcr, Iawrcncc, :n=
what !s Phì|osophy? (Dclcuzc and
CuaLLari), 8
whìte Noìse (DcIillo), :no, i=jnn
Te wì|d Punch (Pcckinpah), ::
Wilson, Andrcws, 88
Wisc, 1. Macgrcgor, ij8n:j
working Lhrough, :io, :ii–i=,
:=¬–6j, :66; and acLing ouL,
:¬n; McLhod modc oí, :¬:;
mirror sccnc shows, iinn:=;
moral qualiLy oí, :6¬; and rcp-
cLiLion, :6n, :¬o
wor|d Spectators (Silvcrman),
wriLcr-LcrrorisL rclaLionship,
wriLing, cLhics oí, n8
YcaLs, William BuLlcr, 66
Young, FlizabcLh, ijin:i
Zacharck, SLcphanic, i=:nii
Žižck, Slavoj, xv, iii–ij, iij,
iinn:j, ijin:j, i==njj;
and chariLy, :ii–ij; and Lhc
ícLish, j6

Violent Affect

rsity o f Neb Linco raska ln and Press Londo n


Chapter  is based on the author’s critical essay “Judgment Is Not an Exit: Toward an Affective Criticism of Violence with American Psycho,” which appeared in Angelaki . (): –. A Taylor & Francis publication, Chapter  is based on the author’s critical essay “Don DeLillo’s ‘In the Ruins of the Future’: Literature, Images, and the Rhetoric of Seeing /,” which appeared in pmla . (): –. ©  by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska All rights reserved Manufactured in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Abel, Marco. Violent affect : literature, cinema, and critique after representation / Marco Abel. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index. isbn-: ---- (alk. cloth) isbn-: ---x (alk. cloth) . American fiction—th century—History and criticism. . Violence in literature.   . Violence in motion pictures. I.Title. ps.va '.—dc

Set in Chaparral Pro by Bob Reitz. Designed by Ashley Johnston.

For Magda and Richard Abel In memory of Magda Löhr (–)


Are We All Arnoldians? A Conceptual Genealogy of Judgment  . and American Psycho  . Don DeLillo’s “In the Ruins of the Future” Violence. and the Rhetoric of Seeing /  Notes  Bibliography Index   . Pedagogy. Judgment Is Not an Exit Representation. Becoming-Violent. The Violence of Sensation Miller’s Crossing. Affect.Preface ix Acknowledgments xvii . and Masocriticism  . Serializing Violence Patricia Highsmith’s “Empirical” Pedagogy of Violence  . Becoming-DeNiro Rendering Violence Visible on Screen  . Affect.


let alone “radical” novelty. Despite my awareness of the danger inherent to what is at least in part a marketing trap—the seductive force of novelty. “The Masked Philosopher” Any project that lays claim to the attribute of novelty. images of violence . deserves to be received with immediate suspicion. the cliché). [Violence] is not what one believes it to be. the domains it traverses: being itself a Figure. Francis Bacon I can’t help but dream about a kind of criticism that would not try to judge. however superficial. the levels through which it passes. —Michel Foucault. and depends less and less on what is represented. it must have nothing of the nature of the represented object. The former is inseparable from its direct action on the nervous system. More often than not. has long functioned as the sales engine of capitalism—I nonetheless proceed by submitting that the following study has indeed something new to offer with regard to its chosen subject matter. —Gilles Deleuze.ix The violence of sensation is opposed to the violence of the represented (the sensational. such works turn out to be merely minor (albeit at times important) modifications of familiar arguments (how many more “radical” social constructivist arguments does one have to endure?).

J. that is. Put differently. that signaletic materials of any kind are not representations of something but. Specifically. the conceptual gambit of this project is that we do not even know what violent images are. unlike other critical studies of violence in literature and film. Stephen Jay Schneider ().” As a result. the existing body of scholarship on violent images tends to assume that it already knows what an (violent) image is and how it works. let alone how they work and thus what they can do— and this despite the ever-growing body of intellectual labor expended on the subject matter (albeit with greater frequency and systematicity in film and media studies than in literary studies. however. or James R. in terms of affects and force— that is. just like any other image.x Preface in literature and film. instead. namely. Christopher Scharrett (). It simply assumes that violent images. mine does not frame the encounter with violent images in terms of signification and meaning (mediation) but. for instance. the generally illuminating monographs or collections by Stephen Prince (. In contrast to this Spinozist provocation. instead. immaterial traces of absent presences— these studies sooner rather than later turn their attention away from their alleged focus (the violence of images) in favor of analyses of what they “represent” or “mean. what differentiates this book from existing studies of imaged violence such as. these studies neglect important aspects of these violent images—aspects so crucial that they may at least partially negate the very conclusions representationally based . Giles () pertains to its basic methodological—indeed ontological—assumption. ). as evidenced by the fields’ respective bibliographies on this subject). Operating on the representationalist assumption that (violent) images are representations—reflections of something prior to their emergence. represent. Why does this methodological—and ontological—difference make a difference? To evoke Baruch Spinoza’s well-known claim that we do not even know what bodies can do. David Slocum (). constitute the reality of representations (or the real forces at work in what are often deemed representations). asignifying intensities.

not be a small matter.” heroes of the big screen never feel lasting pain and certainly never die. it seems to me that the results produced by social scientific research can be assumed to be valid only if the basic assumption underlying their approach to the object they study is actually valid—and I suggest it may not be. studies such as the one by Browne and Webb end up not only producing rather underwhelming results but also promoting conclusions that are questionable precisely because of their neglect to theorize their object of study: images and how they work and what they do. Thus. study the extent to which bodies in Hollywood films can sustain the violence with which they are confronted. so the researchers conclude. In general. Who would have thought? Any fan of the great British Invasion group The Kinks would have certainly known this without counting instances of violence in these films. for instance. As they sing in their hit “Celluloid Heroes. Hollywood violence is just not realistic. In turn. throwing into relief how problematic the basic assumptions of such studies are may. since the social sciences undoubtedly operate their investigations of violent media images by assuming that those images are indeed representational (see Prince. my Spinozist provocation that we do not yet know . we indeed do not yet know what violent images are and how they work because they are not first and foremost representations. Nick Browne and Theresa Webb. in the end. And yet. “Film Scholars”). In what I take to be a rather typical social scientific approach to violent images in Hollywood films.Preface xi studies of violent images tend to promote. Clearly. for instance. Their data shows that fictional cinematic characters’ ability to experience pain far exceeds the violence any real human body could possibly endure. If. Not even differentiating between instances of violence in animated films and photographic realist films. social policy is made—and institutional relevance established—on the basis of such findings. then. then we may have to question the “post-theorist” assertion that the social sciences and their “hard findings” are superior to the “mere interpretations” of traditional film (or literary or cultural) studies.

laying claim to what they believe to be a well-founded position of judgment. faces the problem of irrelevancy.xii Preface what violent images are and how they work also troubles more traditional “interpretative” studies (humanist or not) of (violent) images.” The difference between the social sciences and interpretative studies is that the former accept the representational hypothesis and make claims about these representations’ social (behavioral) effects. such judgment always serves the implied purpose of drawing a line between the judging subject (the critic) and the judged object (the image. however. Like those of the social sciences. Because of the assumption of established studies—social scientific and interpretative alike—that (violent) images are representations of something else. According to these studies. if these images’ work is not primarily representational—then whatever political advocacy is offered. Indeed. But if these images do not primarily represent anything to begin with—or. That is. for the purpose of such representational studies is ultimately always Platonic in nature. since it grounds its political stance in something that simply does not exist as such. critical practice ends up. as well as on the context within which the depicted violence occurs. That these existing studies of (violent) images ultimately are about judgment is. in one form or another. But in so doing. here lies the crux of my intervention. whereas the latter are more interested in debating the political (ideological) effects of such representations. they may undermine the very conclusions they offer in the name of an identity politics–driven version of justice. even if the . no matter how admirable. Their goal is precisely to distinguish between good (just) and bad (unjust) copies and to maintain the ability to judge bad images (of violence) as a necessary and effective means to curb them and their alleged negative effects (behavioral or ideological). (violent) images are good or bad depending on how accurately they reflect the world they are supposed to represent. no accident. these studies ultimately tend to skirt the real issue (how violent images operate and what they do) in order to get to the level of what such images “represent. in any case. violent or otherwise).

the following study of violent images offers the view that the hope to escape violence as such is an impossible one—because ontologically violences are everywhere and inescapable. The plane of encounter with these images is. is that representationally based critical encounters with violent images are based on a potential conceptual error and that this error directly derives from commonly accepted assumptions about (violent) images—to wit. however. are often deemed too unfashionable for them to be expressed directly.” Such a mode of engagement with violent images begins. If taken seriously. I will call what is ultimately a thoroughly subjunctive encounter with violence “masocriticism. what would happen if we began with the ontological assumption that violences are everywhere and under- .) The very ability to judge images based on their representational quality is considered a necessary (though perhaps not sufficient) tool in the fight against violence. today. and do things with. in other words.e. Moreover. not that of judgment but that of ethics (response-ability). suggesting that a nonviolated phenomenological whole exists prior to the onset of violence.. I will argue that the very recourse to images qua representations is itself a form of violence. and continues to pursue. My hypothesis. I purposefully offer this proposition with some polemical force in hopes that it will ultimately be welcomed as my attempt to provoke a different trajectory of thought about the subject at hand. (I. rather than constituting the assumed antidote. however. To (re)establish this state of affairs is the (implied) hope of representational criticism and characterizes its politics and moral view. the distancing. this claim demands that the questions we ask of violent images are not what they mean and whether they are justified but how they configure our ability to respond to.Preface xiii language of judgment is not explicitly used. them. In fact. analytic language characteristic of representationally based academic discourse functions as a rhetorical device to direct attention away from the very moralizing judgments that actually are at work but. its inquiry by asking. that they are reflections of something else. Representational studies of violence always insinuate the existence of a nonviolent space.

xiv Preface

stood it as the engine of an experimental endeavor rather than a dubious claim to truth? Though this study limits itself to a discussion of violent images, its implications transcend the primary subject matter, for it is very much concerned with the practice and pedagogical force of literary, film, and cultural criticism. Specifically, although my study is not designed to function as an extended engagement with the critical reception and de facto application of post-structuralist thought to the study of literary and cinematic images, it can nevertheless be read as proposing that post-structuralist critical practice has not yet been post-structural enough. Notwithstanding the many excellent engagements with post-structural thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, or Gilles Deleuze, I, for one, tend to think that most of the time these encounters do not go far enough precisely because they continue to conceive of signaletic material in representational terms. Hence, Derrida becomes the high priest of undecidability, Foucault the sage of subversion, and Deleuze the guru of minoritarianism. While it is understandable that these thinkers are often received in such ways—after all, Derrida is concerned with undecidability, Foucault with resistance, and Deleuze with the minor—what often gets crucially omitted from their thought is that all three conceptualize language and images in terms of force, that is, arepresentationally. Hence, to my mind, as long as critical practice continues to produce work in the name of post-structuralist thought without heeding what I take to be its key provocation, it will continue to perpetuate claims about its object of study that, to use Theodor Adorno’s phrase, do not heed the primacy of the object. In addition to this book’s relevance for the general discourse on (violent) images and its attempt to put a specific understanding of theory (especially Deleuze but also Foucault, Adorno, and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri) to work, this study also brings together a number of key texts in Deleuze’s oeuvre that have thus far received relatively little attention in literary, film, and cultural studies: Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty and Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. In fact, in conjunction with Deleuze’s (and De-

Preface xv

leuze and Félix Guattari’s) work in general, much of my conceptual toolbox will be developed from these two key monographs— both of which specifically engage violent subject matters. Thus, as a potentially added benefit, the present book invites the reader to (re)consider Deleuze’s work in light of the (new) connections I forge through considering these books together. Given the above, I therefore ask the reader to read the following study as an attempt to do otherwise—that is, as an experiment. This book should not be read as a history of violent images, and although all of my primary sites come from post–World War II American fiction and cinema, this book makes no claims about the particular nationality of these violent images. Of course, in the age of “post-theory,” one of the central tenets of scholarship is that one must contextualize a work of art if one wants to understand it. In response to this historicist commonplace, I agree with Slavoj Žižek that the proper Deleuzean counterclaim is to suggest that “too much of a historical context can blur the proper contact with a work of art (i.e., that to enact this contact one should abstract from the work’s context), but also that it is, rather, the work of art itself that provides a context enabling us to understand properly a given historical situation” (Organs without Bodies ). Or, as Derrida has taught us long ago, while context—social, historical, psychic, political, and so on—matters, “il n’y a pas de hors-texte.” However, I take Derrida’s statement less as a directive for critics to fetishize textuality than as an articulation of a sense of a network of exteriority within which no one term is privileged. Just as no meaning can be determined out of context, so no context allows for the total saturation of a text’s meaning. In fact, one of the more crucial lessons offered to us by post-structuralism is that context is never really “outside” the text precisely because context and text are the result of the same network of forces, or, to use Deleuze and Guattari’s key concept, plane of immanence. That is, it is impossible both to escape context by turning to a more or less hermetically sealed-off hermeneutic conception of the text (close analysis) and to escape excessive textuality by pointing to the outside of a text, the context. Either move is

xvi Preface

impossible because it necessarily would occur merely in response to the engendering play of asignifying forces (what Derrida, for instance, calls, among other terms, “différance”) without which there would be neither text nor context. While historical and contextual approaches undoubtedly have much to offer, they are nevertheless specific examples of the very representational approach to violent images that this book wants to put into suspension, at least momentarily. Hence, articulating in greater detail the costs of such representational approaches to violent images and offering, alternatively, an encounter with such images as asignifying intensities or affects, this study will gradually work itself through a number of literary and filmic sites—a few moments in the films of the Coen Brothers, the discursive relationship between Bret Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho and its film adaptation by feminist director Mary Harron, Patricia Highsmith’s fiction, the acting work of Robert DeNiro, and Don DeLillo’s essay on /. This choice of primary sites, while undoubtedly based on personal preferences, actually embodies a two-fold logic: on one hand, it articulates a specific instantiation of an affective smearing of violence across a sliding scale of intensities; on the other, it reflects this work’s process of generation as such. Each encounter with one specific site ended up provoking a new question with which the site itself was not concerned as such and thus necessitated my turning elsewhere as a means to find a site that tackles the very question the previous site provoked but did not address. Thus, the argumentative logic of this book performatively offers a pedagogical engagement with violent images that derives its ethical impetus directly from the sites themselves, from how the imaged violence itself calls forth critical response-ability—not “for” these objects but before them. In the end, I will suggest that while such response-ability can never escape the moment of judgment, suspending its occurrence is a question of habit(uation)— of pedagogical repetition embodied by a masochistic practice of inhabiting the moment before subjective interpretation, that is, the moment of the event of violence itself.


In the summer of , I read for the first time Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. For better or for worse, the physical experience of reading this novel had a profound impact on me. At various moments in my encounter with this text, I felt the urge to set the book aside to go out for a walk in the unbearable summer heat of Atlanta, Georgia. Exposing myself to temperatures around one hundred degrees Fahrenheit and near  percent humidity seemed a more sensible thing to do than sitting in silence in my chair pondering some of the most nausea-inducing passages in Ellis’s infamous novel. Being less morally outraged by the book’s content than physically affected by the experience of reading this text, I could not help but sense my fascination with this novel and what it was capable of doing to me. In hindsight I think it was this capacity of Ellis’s novel to affect me that initially pointed me in a direction of research of which this book is the end result. For this reason alone, my first expression of gratitude must go out to Bret Easton Ellis. But for ultimately channeling what was initially not much more than a feeling of being intrigued (and confused) into what I hope is now an intellectually coherent and stimulating argument, I am indebted to many others whom I encountered over the years, be it in person or through their work. It would be impossible to provide a complete list of all the names of those who inspired my own thinking. I am grateful to all of you. Still, I must single out some people whose intellectual labor left indelible marks on the



shape this project has taken. First of all, I am particularly grateful to Kathryn Hume, Jeffrey T. Nealon, and John Muckelbauer, without whose invaluable advice and astonishing intellectual generosity I could never have finished this book. My countless discussions with them allowed me to generate and test out a sustained theoretical version of what started out as merely a vaguely sensed theoretical inclination toward my object of research. So thank you for never tiring of reading what were at times excruciatingly long rough drafts of individual chapters! As well, I feel blessed to have been able to profit from a series of incredibly smart and sharing interlocutors: Richard Doyle, Evan Watkins, Steven Shaviro, Charles Stivale, Philip Jenkins, Dan Smith, Jeffrey Karnicky, Jim Roberts, Ryan Netzley, Megan Brown, Christine Harold, Kevin DeLuca, Pat Gehrke, Gina Ercolini, Debbie Hawhee, and Elizabeth Mazzolini all offered me friendship and good counsel over the years that sustained my interest in this project and gave me energy to bring it to a finish. I also want to thank my colleagues in the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, which serves as my institutional home: the warm, welcoming atmosphere that awaited me upon my arrival in Lincoln in  enabled me to finish my book in a relaxed and intellectually stimulating environment. I want to express my gratitude especially to Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, who have been more than forthcoming in sharing their knowledge of academic publishing. Likewise, thank you to Linda Ray Pratt, who gave me my first tenure-track job here at unl, for putting such faith in me, as well as Joy Ritchie, who in her capacity as my department chair showed continuing support of my work. Furthermore, I must thank Nick Spencer, not merely for reading parts of the manuscript, but also for the countless discussions of all things theory and, importantly, football! Let’s go Reds! And, of course, many thanks to Ladette Randolph and everyone else at the University of Nebraska Press who worked so diligently on the final production of this book, as well as to Alexandra Jenkins for her swift and diligent fact checking. I am also grateful to Rainer Smolinski and Thomas McHaney, who



both counseled me to consider going to graduate school and, in the case of the latter, helped me get my first publication, without which I probably would not be in this country right now. But such a book is not written without also receiving much support from people who belong to a different, nonacademic part of one’s life. Having moved from Germany to the United States in , I feel especially grateful for the enduring friendship of some of my oldest friends from Germany, including but not limited to Marc Donay, Christian Weisz, Joachim Milkowski, Daniela Heirich, Utz Farber, and, from Atlanta, my first “home away from home,” T. Scott Barrett. Whenever I hit a rough spot during the writing of this book over the years, I felt comforted by the knowledge of your friendship. Last, but certainly not least, my warmest gratitude goes to Robyn Gay for her support, kindness, and integrity. In the end, however, this book would have simply been impossible for me to write without the never-ending support of my parents, Richard and Magda Abel. Though they will not be able to read this book (barring the case of a future translation into German), I nevertheless take great pleasure in knowing that they will be able to have this book at home on a bookshelf as a material trace of my intellectual labor that they supported so generously over the years.


caused by voyeuristic drivers seduced by the image of others’ pain. and it is hard to see how it will not surround us in the future. But violence is not just everywhere in imaged form. perhaps. battery. are only going to emerge in a yet to come time and space. Can anyone remember a single moment when there was not some violent conflict somewhere around the world or a day without murder. not to mention that they submit themselves to random . violence surrounds us. And what about the perversely luring image of violence in form of a car crash on the New Jersey turnpike? This event of real violence inevitably produces traffic jams—in the other direction. or other acts of violence? Or what about the war on terror. are actually available in the here and now. or. rape. Most would be happy if they never had to experience it. notwithstanding the all-pervasive privileging of the nonviolent over the violent. whether they existed only in the past and elsewhere. And yet. and many are convinced of the existence of nonviolent spaces. subsequently renamed “global struggle against violent extremism”: does anyone really believe that this specific violence can ever be completely eliminated? What about the violence of hate speech or all-pervasive economic exploitation? What about the violence entailed by the demand that passengers take off their shoes when going through airport security. the history of literature and the arts in general would be unthinkable without them. has surrounded us. Affect. Violent images are the lifeblood of tv and abound in the history of cinema. and Masocriticism Violence.The Violence of Sensation  Miller’s Crossing.

it seems—into a multiplicity of practices whose violence is admittedly less recognizable than that of a plane explosion. to say that these examples of real and imaged violence are not the same. only when its occurrence is easily recognizable? Of course. or rhythms. airport security personnel getting too close for my personal comfort at least partially derives from the fact that I simply have no way to prevent this violation of personal space from happening: if I objected in any way. part of my argument throughout this book will be that one of the drawbacks of representational criticism of violence is that it tends to eradicate this very difference by configuring the event of violence as always being about something other than its constitutive forces. or civil wars that have been and still are fought all over the world—and are often more or less covertly sponsored by the very countries that are the staunchest practitioners of a rhetoric of democratic nonviolence. as we are getting ahead of ourselves. even if I believe that he has no other motive than ensuring the safety of all passengers (but how exactly do I know this?). is not the same as the spectacular violence involved in blowing up the World Trade Center. that they are different. Soviet gulags. Indeed. London. Nor is the violence of / of the same kind as the violence perpetrated against the millions who died in German concentration camps. But why assume that violence exists. The Violence of Sensation body searches? The violence of the attacks of / has now mutated—permanently. the violence involved in another person entering my private space. and consequently would be violated even more. or Iraq. One . The violence that is part of the routine practices of U. and that there is a problem with considering them as examples of Violence instead of regarding them as a series of different violences—this is the first gambit of the present study. But let us slow down. irrevocably. and is real. though this does not make it any less real or significant. Egypt.S. I would instantaneously undergo an incorporeal transformation. from private citizen of another country to suspect.1 In fact. This violence is not of the same kind as the violence of the bombs in Madrid. intensities.

in this introductory chapter I hope to build a conceptual toolbox that may be productive for a critical engagement with violent images that desires to encounter them on the level of their own reality rather than on the level of their “meaning.The Violence of Sensation  thing that I think is uncontroversial—unlike. to others.2 To some. an American independent film by the Coen Brothers that explicitly foregrounds the question of ethics as the central driving engine of the film’s violent narrative. for instance.” Just before the final declaration. As we see ice cubes being dropped into an empty glass of whiskey. And to others still. some of my statements in the previous paragraphs—is that violent images tend to be controversial. Instead.” The Violence of Sensation Take. Indeed. we hear an Italian American voice declare: “I’m talkin’ about friendship. violent images themselves constitutively raise the question of ethics. Whatever differences critics may display in their critical engagement with violent images in film and literature. we may argue that violent images’ provocation of the ethical moment is neither limited to nor randomly mobilized by institutionalized habits of critical reflection. I’m talkin’ about character. responsible for provoking uncomfortable questions and powerful truths about “normative” society. as the remainder of this chapter will argue in greater detail. Leo. I’m not embarrassed to use the word—I’m talkin’ about ethics. maybe not Beavis) seems to agree on is that a key attribute of such images is their ability to raise the question of their ethical value. I’m talkin’ about—hell. the one thing everyone (okay. they are excitingly subversive. they are maddeningly repulsive and responsible for the decline of Western civilization. The film opens with a remarkable scene that cinematically dramatizes the focus of the study ahead. however.” to evoke the brilliantly limited rhetorical capacities of those two great practitioners of all things un-PC: Beavis and Butt-Head. violence just “rules. perhaps. the camera cuts to a long shot of the . Miller’s Crossing (). That is.

” In Caspar’s view. before I know it the odds is even up. But every time I lay a bet with that son of a bitch Bernie Bernbaum. With chance in play. As the camera slowly zooms in onto the speaker’s face. He’s selling the info that I fixed a fight. so he argues as the camera intercuts his lines with shots of Leo and two other gangsters present in the room—Tom .” Believing that Leo not only has understood but also agrees with his position. “Public Enemy” (as played by James Cagney in William Wellman’s  film of the same name). After a brief silence. Caspar. I like to lay an occasional bet. The man sports a thin mustache that concurrently indicates the care he puts into his physical appearance and the rather ridiculous character of what he believes to be the look of a sophisticated gangster of the late s. you can’t trust no fix. The Violence of Sensation speaker. Viewers familiar with the violent gangster film cycles of the late s and early s that led to the implementation of the Hayes Code will immediately sense that this guy is no “Little Caesar” (as played by Edgar G. When I fix a fight. coldly responding: “As mud. ethics means first and foremost the elimination of chance. a close-up of Caspar highlights his mouth making smacking noises. again indicating that he is anything but a man of sophistication. sitting in his chair behind an impressive desk. I figure I got the right to expect that fight to go off on  to . say I pay a  to  to throw a goddamn fight. again shown in a close-up. But I ain’t that sporting. the man who will later be identified as Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) continues his speech: You know I’m a sporting man. it’s clear what I’m saying?” Cut back to Leo (Albert Finney). carries on: “It’s getting so a business man can’t expect no return from a fixed fight. Now. or worse. Robinson in Mervyn LeRoy’s Little Caesar []). what can you trust? For a good return you gotta go betting on chance. or “Scarface” (as played by Paul Muni in Howard Hawks’s  film). showing us a pudgy. then. I’m betting on the short money. Then he forces the issue: “So. The sheeny knows I like sure things. round-faced man sitting in a chair on the guest side of a desk.

Painting the cause would be analogous to the depicted violence . It is a violence rendered visible through the intensities of the coloration of the mise-en-scène. What separates us from the animals. or pulp fiction/crime novels but also because the film’s narrative itself is constructed in linear fashion: we are privy to a present conversation in which we learn why past grievances demand future resolution. “So you want him killed?” to which the Dane. beasts of prey—ethics. and Caspar’s hit man. the film’s exposition seems traditional and predictable enough. Freeman)—“you’re back with anarchy. E. As in ‘he ain’t got any.’” After a moment. Viewers are allowed to observe the wheelings and dealings of underworld characters and are led to expect violent conflict to emerge before the film is over. on another level this scene also confronts viewers with a different kind of violence. Bacon’s creative—indeed ethical—formula is “to paint the scream more than the horror” (Francis Bacon ).3 In other words. ethics-wise. According to Deleuze.” On one level. representation. it is extremely likely that at least one of the characters will be dead before the end credits roll across the big screen. That is. or of probability: given the narrative information. Whereas Bernie Bernbaum is a horse of a different color. That’s why ethics is important. Leo asks Caspar.The Violence of Sensation  (Gabriel Byrne). It is the violence of sensation rather than the violence of representation. beasts of burden. to use the distinction that Gilles Deleuze introduces in his study of the violent works of British painter Francis Bacon. other gangster films. We expect this not only because of any potential prior exposure to the filmmakers’ work. the man we initially saw only in a blurred image. This violence confronts spectators on the level of affect before it is made available to them on the level of narrative or symbolism. “For starters. rather than Caspar. answers. Yet. the film provides us with the cause for the violence that is yet to come. Right back in the jungle. “the Dane” (J. Violence on this level is a function of narrative. that is. Bacon is more interested in painting an affect that sustains the intensity of violence than the cause (the horror) that produced the effect (the scream).

the “task of painting is defined as the attempt to render visible forces that are not themselves visible” (). . they tell us very little in the end about the violence of sensation or the sensation of violence precisely because “sensation is that which is transmitted directly. Whereas phenomenology’s conception of sensation or affect is tied too much to the living organism (affect qua emotion). Remaining on the level of familiar images of violence that have long become clichés in the history of cinema. and avoids the detour and boredom of conveying a story” (Deleuze. But the lived body is still a paltry thing in comparison with a more profound and almost unlivable Power” (). Accounting for affect. the affect Deleuze has in mind is the affect of the body without organs whose enemy is organization. sensation has nothing to do with a viewing subject’s feelings: “there are no feelings in Bacon: there are nothing but affects. the reductive force of representation. While they do not get rid of narrative (or what Deleuze also calls “figuration”). The Violence of Sensation in films such as Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers () or Robert Rodriguez’ Sin City () in which the causes of violence and their effects tend to be copresent through traditional two-shot or shot-reverse-shot figures.5 If we replace “cinema” for “painting” we have here an articulation of an artistic imperative that the Coens put into practice in the opening sequence of Miller’s Crossing. that is. Francis Bacon ) rather than representing them. As such. that is ‘sensations’ and ‘instincts’” (). in phenomenological terms would simply be “insufficient because [phenomenology] merely invokes the lived body. Francis Bacon ). Sensation—affect—is presubjective: it is what constitutes the subject rather than being a synonym for an already constituted subject’s emotions or feelings. regardless of our level of (moral) disgust with them. No matter how brutal and aesthetically compelling the images. or the “rhythmic unity of the senses” (). they remain thoroughly narrativized (logical) and thus rational.4 Differently put. they intensify the level of figuration through their color scheme to the point where the equivalent of Bacon’s “Figure” emerges in the form of Caspar. As Deleuze writes. “to paint the scream” is a matter of “capturing forces” (Deleuze.

. and the Coens. the Coens do not appear to oppose figuration but. What we witness in this scene. it avoids “the figurative. does not signify: being isolated. . Why is this important from an artist’s. This is why “Bacon creates the painting of . and narrative character the Figure would necessarily have if it were not isolated” (). the question for Bacon. almost like a fish out of water. sensation.’ ‘what takes place is . intensify figuration to produce the Figure. is not the actual force that is exerted upon Caspar’s body. forces that impinge on the body. Hence. since the sensation ‘gives’ something completely different from the forces that condition it” (Deleuze. it is nonetheless not the force that is sensed. The Figure. In the Coen Brothers’ film. . they go through narrative in order to get to the level of pure affect. point of view? Simply put. This immanent strategy crucially differs from standard avant-garde filmmaking practices that reject figuration/ narrative wholesale—thus immediately reintroducing narrative through their very act of dialectical rejection. “the round area or parallelepiped” () within which it exists. however. are not privy to the actual. with his mouth. as well as critical.’” (). or how to actualize what is merely virtual in the frame? Merely depicting these forces will not do.The Violence of Sensation  In Bacon’s work. As Deleuze puts it.. the problem is that we. For although force may be the “condition of sensation. is how to make us sense these invisible forces. as that would at best position viewers in a representational framework in which we would be able to perceive these forces while nevertheless remaining unable to sense their intensity. Jon Polito’s character appears isolated by the intensity of the brown mise-enscène. that is. Like Bacon. be it that of one of Bacon’s screaming popes or that of Miller’s Crossing’s seething Caspar. the Figure is an icon or image that emerges out of a painterly process of isolating it from the field. as indicated by the sweat on Caspar’s bald head and upper lip and further emphasized visually through Polito’s brilliant portrayal. all doom and gloom and claustrophobically suffocating. in other words. gasping for air. the “relation of the Figure to its isolating place defines a ‘fact’: ‘the fact is . Francis Bacon ). lips pursed side to side. but to us invisible. as spectators. rather. . illustrative.

narrative. For Martin Heidegger. and declares that the first must be renounced to reach the second. which are nothing other than the forces of the future” (. Francis Bacon ). my emphasis).” Bacon manages to paint the violence of sensation—as embodied in the scream—rather than the violence of representation. however—by suspending it—we are confronted with the future qua future. For Deleuze. What is to the side? We do not know—and only a future moment could reveal this as of yet invisible force. horrified by invisible forces—which are nothing else but the forces of the future. As a result. What Is Philosophy? (). the ethical task is once again to be able to believe “in this world. that is. life is to be judged from the horizon of possibility—that is. According to Deleuze. death.” as he and Félix Guattari put it in their final collaboration. the time-image theorized in Deleuze’s second book on the cinema that is responsible for making this belief once again available to . symbolism. it is a kind of declaration of faith in life” (). made sensible to us rather than represented for us in “the unity of the sensing and the sensed” (Deleuze. when “Bacon distinguishes between two violences. It is. The violence of sensation—embodied in the Figure (as opposed to the violence of the spectacle. By keeping the cause of the horrific scream “offscreen. What we see is a “living” body. or the task of a mode of existence still to be discovered. and not the reverse. By withholding this future moment. allowing us to sense the sensation of the scream and thus to be affected by the affect inhering in the scream. The Violence of Sensation the scream [in which] he establishes a relationship between the visibility of the scream (the open mouth as a shadowy abyss) and invisible forces. representation)—is an affirmation of the encounter with futurity in the present. we are exposed to the scream as an assemblage of intensities. As a result. this life. in life. in contrast. that of the spectacle and that of sensation. Deleuze argues that a reversal of Heideggerian phenomenology occurs: “Death is judged from the point of view of life. as would be the case if he represented whatever is just to the side of the frame. [which] becomes our most difficult task. of course. as we like to believe” (–).

as an effect of the pictorial act” ()—or as a result of the mise-en-scène. my emphasis). For this reason no art is figurative. sensation is in the body. it still represents someone (a screaming man.” So. Paul Klee’s famous formula—‘Not to render the visible. how are spectators made to enter the object? Continuing his explanation of Bacon’s use of color. what matters is that in art “it is not a matter of reproducing or inventing forms. [for] we never cease to trip over the objection of fact: the Figure is still figurative. a seated man). Of course. Francis Bacon . but insofar as it is experienced as sustaining this sensation” (). After all. I suggest that if we replace “filmed” for “painted” and “screen” for “canvas” then we have a pretty accurate description of what goes on in the Coen Brothers’ film: sensation is what . “the first figuration [representation. we are already exposed to the Figure of violence. representational (figurative) violence eventually ensues. something of it is always conserved” (). not insofar as it is represented as an object. there is “a second figuration. “Color is the body.The Violence of Sensation  us. “it is easy to oppose the figural to the figurative in an abstract manner. What is painted on the canvas is the body. a film. more precisely. it is the concept of the Figure that accomplishes the same task. a smiling man. it still narrates something” ()—even if it is a typically quirky tale so characteristic of the Coen Brothers’ oeuvre. but of capturing forces. narrative] cannot completely be eliminated.” which “the painter obtains. Francis Bacon ). Yet. however. and not in the air. As spectators. before the inevitable figuration of violence occurs in Miller’s Crossing. we “experience the sensation only by entering the painting” (Deleuze. in Francis Bacon. this is what happens in Miller’s Crossing. by reaching the unity of the sensing and the sensed. Indeed. this time as a result of the Figure. the cinematic staging of the scene. How does this happen? How do spectators enter a painting. Deleuze argues. but to render visible’—means nothing else” (Deleuze. and it could not be any other way. As Deleuze argues. the “how” that gives rise to a representational “what. the violence of sensation. or any (art) object in general? Or. Either way. Sensation is what is painted.

at least if this responsibility is to be an affirmation of alterity. ‘I’ am nothing but this responsibility” (Alterity Politics ). I am already response-able. the ethics of performative subjectivity is enacted precisely in and as a response to the always already exterior. The point is not that I need always to remember to act ‘as if I was already responsible’. The Violence of Ethics In fact. and what they film and is subsequently projected on screen is the body—not insofar as it is represented as an object. The Violence of Sensation they film.6 And. response-ability. These forces produce effects prior to their inevitable narrativization. importantly. at the precise moment when Caspar proselytizes about his sense of ethics. something that impinges on the body from outside. ] Rather. not the zero-sum game of deciding what an identity or movement really or authentically ‘means’” (). but insofar as it is experienced as sustaining this sensation. . With my responsibility always already being response-ability—my constitutive ability to respond before these images represent—what counts in such a conception of performative ethics is to examine “the production of effects. as for Bacon. or better yet. their eventual territorialization onto the plane of representation—and because these forces affect me before the narrative apparatus of capture organizes them for me. to the other that is the ground of the same. literary theorist Jeffrey Nealon posits that “responsibility is not merely choosing to respond. rather. Theorizing ethics qua performative subjectivity. as is the case. [ . this sensation is frequently violent. for ethics is a question of responsibility. The affective or intensive forces inhering in the violence of sensation constitute such an exteriority. for instance. . A critical encounter with violent images would therefore have to attend to these images’ affective intensities—their effects rather . that does not depend on rational choice. that the question of ethics is raised at and through the very moment when the audience can sense the violence of sensation is no coincidence.

But let us be even more precise with regard to Miller’s Crossing and what it offers us with regard to the intersection of violence . Sam Peckinpah. Affect. or any shoot-’em-up blockbuster. ) or Pulp Fiction (dir. This. in other words. affect is a “state of passional suspension in which [the body] exists more outside of itself.” however. The question of the ethics of violence. Hence. to use Brian Massumi’s words. ) not so much in terms of their represented violence but in terms of the intensities that percolate within the clichéd violence of representation. To do so. it is indeed necessary to think of these images in affective terms rather than addressing them on the level of their representational quality. affects—of violence). Sam Peckinpah. we essentially remain oblivious to their constitutive intensities—notwithstanding that such accounts cannot help but be affected by them. we might want to think about films such as The Wild Bunch (dir. as is commonly done in the major studies of the subject matter. Quentin Tarantino. more in the abstracted action of the impinging thing and the abstracted context of that action.The Violence of Sensation  than their representational “meanings. is not so much a matter of cause and effect resulting from action or movement. than within itself” (). rather. rather. that is. any film that merely renders violence visible (as opposed to rendering visible the invisible forces—intensities. is indeed what Miller’s Crossing provokes us to consider in greater detail. in other words. emerges prior to any representation of violence. as it wages the question of ethics precisely at the moment when it confronts us with the violence of sensation that occurs before any figuration of violence results. If nothing else. as long as we engage the imaging process of violence based on representationalist assumptions.7 By “affect. Or. attending to the violence of sensation would require us at least partially to redirect our attention away from films by Quentin Tarantino. I suggest.” Attending to the effects provoked by the reality of violent images in film and literature is the aim of this study. “a suspension of action-reaction circuits” (). I do not mean what a given subject is phenomenologically made to feel (feeling is merely affect territorialized onto the subject) but.

However. Leo violates his contract with Caspar. for the film playfully engages two different conceptions of ethics. To him. On the level of narrative. Caspar pays Leo so that Leo will protect him against his enemies. or response-ability. we have already been made privy to the experience of violence in the very absence of this “excessive” type of violence. The Violence of Sensation and ethics. In the film’s opening scene. or. and who is to say that one is more ethical than the other? As long as his set of rules are being adhered to. Rather. Differently put. Caspar’s rules simply carry less force than his. Leo’s refusal to help is yet another example of a lack of ethics that demands. then. however.8 This inability makes Caspar insist that “ethics” are supposed to be a safe and sound contract written in stone that he can trust so that he will not have to worry about any unwelcome surprises. Of course. From Caspar’s point of view. Leo has no cause to take action. we witness how a (violent) character desires to sidestep chance. we witness his inability to deal with chance. in upholding his contract with Bernie. as Tom repeatedly reminds Leo throughout the film. he tries to kill Leo and take over his position as the underworld leader. and since he is the ultimate boss. is simply that he cannot fathom that his sense of ethics is not only unconventional and questionable in and of itself (since when does fixing games count as ethical behavior?) but also contrary to that of the other characters in the film who do not share his enthusiasm for “ethics. for them Caspar’s ethics are not a means to prevent violence but instead an inspiration—however unintentional—for becomingviolent. drastic response: to wit. as viewers we are not invited just to accept Caspar’s definition of ethics and wait for the kill-’em-all type of violence to occur. ethics is a matter of keeping the outside—exteriority. a dues-paying customer and hence protected wise guy. Or. The film’s cinematography has rendered visible a body—not Cas- . chance—at bay. the problem with Caspar’s suggestion that violence can be avoided as long as everyone heeds the contract’s terms.”9 Indeed. Leo suggests that his contract with Bernie is as good as Caspar’s. he sees no reason to get rid of Bernie. as Leo explains his refusal to grant Caspar’s request to kill Bernie. in his view. perhaps better.

intense presence of the thick layers of brown that fill every frame lends Caspar’s sweating a different force: more than just perceiving it. that it will take another ninety minutes of screen time or so before he will actually be killed is in this regard rather incidental. we are indeed not meant to take seriously Caspar’s sense of ethics as an acceptable justification for violence. claustrophobic. we. sense Caspar’s sensation. we nevertheless sense Caspar’s (body) time literally expiring. he is cinematically made to subsist in. Miller’s Crossing’s discourse on ethics nevertheless fascinates because of the way it affectively lends Caspar’s proprietary definition of ethics an ominous sense of violence. the viewer encounters the violence of sensation. and thus ethics. Response. we are made to respond. As such. And since sensing is a matter of style. is always already constitutive of it. while being isolated from. this moment of violence already calls forth our response. their style of filming provides us with a different sense of violence and thus ethics. in fact. at the moment of Caspar’s static exposition of ethics. we are meant to sense the violence of ethics itself. Challenging the audience with an absurd definition of ethics out of the mouth of what would appear to be a rather unethical man. the audience is asked viscerally to immerse itself in the mise-en-scène. That is. unmoving contract permeates many of the Coens’ films including Blood Simple and Fargo. although the . But this violence is not simply sensational. simply cannot be reduced to a moment of representational recognition and. Even though nothing is happening (yet).The Violence of Sensation  par’s but the brown filling every frame—that sustains the sensation of violence through its purely affective force. its intensity. which renders visible Caspar’s ultimate ineptitude as both an ethicist and a gangster. Concurrently. like the characters bathed in the surreal brown light. While Caspar’s sense of ethics as a static. By entering the thickness of the mise-en-scène. The overbearing. instead. Regardless of whether we recognize the violence inhering this moment. our response-ability. as spectators. the brown mise-en-scène.10 So saturated is the scene with brown overtones that the goings-on can hardly be taken as naturalistic or realistic.

to respond to it—and thus be response-able before it—by heeding the primacy of the event? . what critical and conceptual tools are available to us that might accomplish the task given us by Miller’s Crossing: to heed the singularity (ethics) of violence. the impingement abstracted from the actual action that caused it and actual context of that action” (Massumi –). the ending of Blood Simple or the parking garage and woodchipper scenes in Fargo. and. e. Yet this occurrence itself must be considered the logical working out of Caspar’s definition of ethics—that is. in Miller’s Crossing the “body infolds the effect of the [violent] impingement—it conserves the impingement minus the impinging thing. do these images call forth our response-ability? And importantly for the present study. Recall. How. In the very absence of what we commonsensically think of as violence. But what we see in the scene at hand is a direct image of violence. Caspar’s ethical declarations make all too obvious where the film is heading. then. Whereas in the latter film violence occurs in the (visual) presence of the action causing the violation of bodies (people are killed by gun shooting. The Violence of Sensation Coens’ films are not free of a certain level of sensationalism. not one that is mediated through movement as in Natural Born Killers. not “for” these images or their consequences but before them. rather. where the kinetic aspect of the film dominates our sense of violence to such a degree that we cannot help but feel violated by it. how can a critical encounter with such images articulate this response-ability in such a manner that it does not abdicate its response-ability by territorializing this ethical question onto the representational plane of judgment? In other words. for instance.). Likewise. Miller’s Crossing clarifies with admirable rigor that we are always already response-able. The film makes clear that when it comes to violent images the question is never whether or not one should respond to them (by criticizing or affirming them according to their representational value). sure enough.g. ethics as a static contract. violence occurs to the film’s bodies in front of our eyes and thus affects us. we do not have to wait too long for a sensationally violent shoot-out to transpire.

he invents a technique of manually produced. Francis Bacon ). If Being “is” always already becoming. and prudence: it is a task perpetually renewed with every painting. Fighting the cliché is not a matter of random subversion but of carefully planned. thought-through. Note that Deleuze is far from advocating an “anything goes” relativist ethics. Only that which has this capacity is capable of returning. and repeated practice that in its repetitiveness varies to itself. which operates as the driving force of Deleuze’s work. being confronted with a canvas that is always already filled with (cliché) images. Furthermore. What returns. In fact. Deleuze suggests that one “can only fight against the cliché with much ruse. for instance. rather. Being. accidental. that is. from narrativization that is a priori inscribed into . free marks that helps him to “extract the improbable Figure from the set of figurative probabilities” (Deleuze. Unlike many of his post-structuralist fellow travelers who labored over the problem of metaphysical presence. or presence. In contrast to the traditional (existentialist) understanding of the Eternal Return. Just recall. perhaps the key text for any understanding of Deleuze’s oeuvre. perseverance. the philosopher brings this understanding to bear on medieval theologian Duns Scotus’s univocity of being thesis.The Violence of Sensation  The Violence of Masochism In Francis Bacon. Deleuze emphasizes how difficult it is for the painter not to relapse into the cliché. is difference itself or. In the case of Francis Bacon’s painterly practice. thus. say. in Difference and Repetition. Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche’s concept of the Eternal Return. Derrida’s work suggests it is. Deleuze was never really too bothered by this problem because to him Being can always be said only of becoming. the force of differentiation. Deleuze proposes in Nietzsche and Philosophy that the Eternal Return ought not be understood as an infinite returning of the same but as an eternal recurrence of that which has the capacity to differ from itself. is not quite the problem as. with every moment of every painting” (). as opponents of post-structuralism in general often allege.

we have to affirm the roll of the dice. whereas a Nietzschean affirmation of a single roll of the dice treats chance as independent . but what saves him is the fact that he does not know how to get there. getting out of probability (the pictorial task). he does not know how to do what to do” (Deleuze.11 He creates what Deleuze calls a “diagram” that can be called “‘nonrepresentative. Bacon uses this technique as a means to hack into the already existing (clichéd) order of the canvas. well. The Violence of Sensation the canvas. into probability. It is the chance manual marks that will give him a chance. Making these chancedependent marks is a prepictorial act. Crucially. this encounter with the canvas allows Bacon to enter “into the cliché. a practice that is intended to allow the painter himself to enter the painting before beginning the act of painting as such. even though we cannot but respond to (violent) images. thus immediately transcending the event of response as such. Deleuze suggests that the painter will only get to where he wants to be “by getting out of the canvas. is this not what we are faced with when dealing with violent images: finding means that afford us a chance to escape the cliché? But in order to have any chance of escaping the cliché we need to affirm. Francis Bacon ). thereby getting out of the cliché. Continuing his description of Bacon’s strategies for combating the cliché. He enters into it precisely because he knows what he wants to do. And is this not the very problem we encounter when confronting the question of violent images: that we simply do not know how to do it and because of this uncertainty end up having immediate recourse to the clichés of representation? That is. though not a certitude” (Francis Bacon ). The painter’s problem is not how to enter into the canvas. The latter encounters chance and futurity in terms of probability. which is opposed to the doubling up practice of the “bad” gambler. since he is already there (the prepictorial task). but how to get out of it. Again. this response is all too quickly articulated on the plane of representation. That is. chance as such—something that is easier said than done.’ precisely because [it] depends on the act of chance and [expresses] nothing regarding the visual image” ().

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of probability. The ethical task is to affirm the multiplicity immanent to this single throw: “It is not a matter of several dicethrows which, because of their number, finally reproduce the same combination. On the contrary, it is a matter of a single dicethrow which, due to the number of the combination produced, comes to reproduce itself” (Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy ). What I am suggesting here is, simply, that Deleuze’s description of Bacon’s painterly practice offers us a specific set of tools that may allow us to develop a criticism of violence that escapes the critical clichés precisely because it works by affirming chance. The tools I have in mind pertain to the formal practice of masochism that underlies Deleuze’s analysis of Bacon’s paintings as well as his subsequent work on the cinema.12 Consider, for instance, the Coen Brothers’ Fargo, a film of interest here because it cinematically establishes, and dramatizes, a “masochistic contract.” Such a contract, as Deleuze explains in his study of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s writings, “implies in principle certain conditions like the free acceptance of the parties, a limited duration and the preservation of inalienable rights” (Masochism –). Yet, the ultimate purpose of this contract is to derive a law from it: “the masochist aims not to mitigate the law but on the contrary to emphasize its extreme severity” (). To emphasize this severity (and to derive the law from the contract), the masochistic contract is written in a very precise language, rhetorically constructed as tightly as the bounds that the masochist’s mistress will apply to his body.13 This tight construction of the contract might, however, result in the problem that “the law it generates always tends to forget its own origins and annul these restrictive conditions” (). That is, the law that might emerge from the contract, once in place, begins to violate “the contract in that it can apply to a third party, is valid for an indeterminate period and recognizes no inalienable rights” (). Whereas the contract stipulated, indeed presupposed and depended on, the specific relation between the masochist and his mistress—with this mistress rather than another—the ensuing transformation of the contractual exigency into a legal apparatus issues forth an


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incorporeal transformation of the mistress herself: she is now other to her contracted self, assuming a different, “legal,” subject position. This new subject position places new demands on her that exceed those of the original contract. In fact, the nature of these demands is such that others can accomplish them as well. Consequently, the law, because it is the law, allows someone else to be substituted for the mistress. With this replacement, however, the singularity of the initial ethical commitment of the mistress to the masochist vanishes. In other words, the transformation from contract into law is a transformation from singularity (ethics) into generality (morality). Yet, as Deleuze points out, “as a general rule, [ . . . ] in masochism the contract is caricatured in order to emphasize its ambiguous destination. [It implicitly challenges], by excess of zeal, a humorous acceleration of the clauses and a complete reversal of the respective contractual status of [the signatories]” (). This is precisely what happens in Fargo. In the first twenty seconds of the film, an epigraph scrolls across the screen, asserting that the story we are about to see is based on true incidents. It is here where the film first sets up a rigid contract with its audience—a contract that is characterized by a humorous acceleration of clauses. Subsequently, it plays out this contract’s logic in the rest of the film, gradually undermining this very contract precisely so that it will not ever be applied as a generality to all films.14 Fargo sets up a masochistic contract as a means to affect viewers so that they become and remain response-able to the film’s violent subject matter, regardless of how absurd or unrealistic the violent events may appear. Yet, this response-ability is one of singularity, since it does not require that I must recall that I am responsible as a viewer “for” these images when I watch them but that I am always nothing but this response-ability before the singularity of an event (of violence). In other words, contrary to Caspar’s sense of ethics as a static, written in stone contract, the Coens’ cold and clinical cinematic style repeatedly invokes a contractual relationship between film and audience in which the implied signatories of the contract agree to a mode of engagement

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that sets specific rules for the encounter without determining its outcome. Chance, or the future, remains necessarily an integral part of the game. Rather than viewing Fargo’s cinematic rendering of the masochistic contract as an occurrence limited to this film, however, I want to suggest that a critical affirmation of this contract might serve as a productive methodological algorithm for a critical engagement with violent images—an algorithm that is grounded in Deleuze’s ontological view of images. This pedagogical algorithm is not, however, a transcendental critical law; instead, it is “grounded” in the singularity of the encounter with an event as such—an encounter that, being initiated from within the event itself, heeds the irreducible specificity of that which calls forth response and thus response-ability. Such singularity ethically requires that one heed the event’s primacy—that is, the affective intensities constitutive of (violent) images—which is precisely what blocks the application of the outcome of one encounter to the context of a different event. One could say that this kind of pedagogical algorithm is in no small way affected by a certain kind of forgetting—the forgetting of the (illusory) sense that one already knows what the object with which one is confronted is. Whereas the application of transcendental critical laws necessarily presupposes a priori knowledge of the object that allows one to apply a law with certainty, the masochistic pedagogy I am describing here is, as such, not applicable precisely because it is characterized by a style of encounter rather than a set of rules constituting a law. Whereas the latter is always a generality, the question of style is always one of singularity. In this context, I should point to the masochist’s desire to educate, a desire that might appear to be counterintuitive, given that one might be inclined to argue that the repeated pain to which the masochist exposes himself suggests that he does not learn at all (how else to explain the essentially incomprehensible repetition of pain?). However, rather than conceiving of forgetting as that which allows for the return of pain and memory as that which would prevent pain from occurring, Deleuze suggests


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that “forgetting is the impossibility of return, and memory is the necessity of renewal” (Foucault ). Hence, the masochist’s “forgetting” of his prior pain should not be read as negative—as his failure to learn. The masochist is not a Hegelian subject who somehow fails to learn from his failures. Rather, forgetting is the enabling mechanism that, in conjunction with memory (configured as memory of the future), enables the masochist to becomeotherwise. Education, in the masochistic economy, is therefore not based on imitation but on the concept of alliance, of response or encounter. Or, as Deleuze writes, “we learn nothing from those who say: ‘Do as I do.’ Our only teachers are those who tell us to ‘do with me,’ and are able to emit signs to be developed in heterogeneity rather than propose gestures for us to reproduce” (Difference and Repetition ). Crucially, the formal practice of masochism might be useful for a criticism of violent images not just because masochism is a pedagogical practice but especially because it is a pedagogy of violence—a practice of response to violence that insists on an encounter with violence on its own terms. Masochism carefully regulates its economy of violence. Masochism is a critical and clinical pedagogy that creatively establishes a belief in this world through disavowal. As Deleuze explains, “Disavowal should perhaps be understood as the point of departure of an operation that consists neither in negating nor even destroying, but rather in radically contesting the validity of that which is: it suspends belief in and neutralizes the given in such a way that a new horizon opens up beyond the given and in place of it” (Masochism ). Contesting the validity of that which is—is not this Nietzschean provocation precisely what must be affirmed if one wants to escape the cliché, if one wants to avoid an immediate reduction of the event inhering the violence of sensation to the clichés embodied in the violence of representation? How, then, does the masochist manage to contest the status quo? First and foremost, he contests the validity of that which is by having recourse to the fetish, but, as Deleuze insists against psychoanalytic dogma, the fetish is “not a symbol at all, but as

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it were a frozen, arrested, two-dimensional image, a photograph to which one returns repeatedly to exorcise the dangerous consequences of movement, the harmful discoveries that result from exploration; it represents the last point at which it was still possible to believe” (Masochism ). This freezing of movement—the production of the time-image—is akin to slowing down, indeed arresting, the movement inherent to representation that proceeds always with too much speed from that which is (the reality of an image) to that which is characterized by the logic of lack (the representation of reality). Just as the time-image slows down the logic of the movement-image, which, according to Deleuze, largely dominated cinema history before the end of World War II, so the masochistic act of fetishizing (or obsessively lingering on and returning to) the same image is a critical and clinical practice mobilized to open up the given—what is—to the future. Indeed, this is a practice that traverses all of the central personae of this study: the Coen Brothers, Bret Easton Ellis, Patricia Highsmith, Robert DeNiro, Don DeLillo, and, indeed, Gilles Deleuze. Obsessively lingering with the object—and thus forging an alliance, indeed a friendship, with it—allows that existence to become other to itself; through this specific practice of encountering the other, existence becomes available to the masochist as a moment of pure differentiation, of futurity. Or, to put this same argument in formal terms, masochism is, according to Deleuze, “a state of waiting; the masochist experiences waiting in its pure form. Pure waiting divides naturally into two simultaneous currents, the first representing what is awaited, something essentially tardy, always late and always postponed, the second representing something that is expected and on which depends the speeding up of the awaited object” (Masochism ). The masochist, however, creates this state actively with the help of the masochistic contract. It is the contract that stipulates the precise rules by which the masochistic economy—consisting of the mistress and the masochist—is to proceed. Doing so, the carefully regulated masochistic practice actualizes varying configurations of image forces that allow something new—namely,


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the future—to emerge. Through this actualization of virtual forces resulting from a process of giving oneself over to the other by suspending movement, the masochistic contract positions the masochist in such a way that he encounters himself as different from himself: “I is another” (Deleuze, Cinema  ). This is why the masochist literally suspends his body with the help of his mistress: to engage in a practice that continually alters the parameters of his body and thus his subjectivity. He expands his capacity to be affected by difference. Bound in chains, stretched to the limits of what the body can take, frozen in a moment of time, the masochist becomes the one who takes seriously and responds to Spinoza’s contention that we do not even know what a body can do (finding out is by definition a question of experimentation and thus the future).15 And the masochist affirms this experience precisely as a means to encounter difference, the new—the future. He is both the subject of and the audience for violence. He bears witness to it while he is also being cast as the person presumed guilty. But it is only in the practice itself that the masochist enters this double-becoming. He is thus never in the present but always of the future—a yet to come, a subject yet to be produced through and in the practice itself, in and through its performative force. As Deleuze writes, the masochist “waits for pleasure as something that is bound to be late, and expects pain as the condition that will finally ensure (both physically and morally) the advent of pleasure. He therefore postpones pleasure in expectation of the pain which will make gratification possible. The anxiety of the masochist divides therefore into an indefinite awaiting of pleasure and an intense expectation of pain” (Masochism ). Actualized as a pedagogical algorithm for a critical engagement with violence, the task would then be to defer the advent of pleasure that criticism clearly derives from the arrival of the moment at which the critic gets to articulate his judgment of violence, or certainty (even if it comes in form of the assertion that the representational meaning remains undecidable). This is possible only if the critic gives him- or herself over to the expectation of pain resulting from the intensity of the encounter with violent images.

is precisely the intensity of this speed. as his body will be reconfigured only through his engagement with his mistress that is regulated through their contract. which is affirmed all the more precisely because it allows us to escape the speed inhering the violence of sensation. of slowing down the speed of judgment. one . a matter of speed modulation. the masochist is forced to give himself over to the yet to come. visceral side of language and images rather than through their second order level—representation. of producing a symptomatology instead of a history of syndromes. of diagnosing instead of judging images. the rush felt by quickly arriving at the meaning. is. critical—body is inevitably altered by the encounter with the future rather than with the past or present. present us with a limit case for this masochistic pedagogy that the following chapters intend to hold up to the test of actual critical practice. of violent images. because of their special discursive status. the significance. violent images. configured masochistically as response-ability. of judgment. In other words. Conceptualized this way. on prior knowledge. Masocriticism Given the masochistic practice of the yet to come. slowly rather than quickly. remaining momentarily frozen rather than instantaneously moving elsewhere. yet. The attraction of representation. one that moves intensively rather than extensively. a criticism of violence must engage in a rigorous practice of deferrals. rather. the masochistic—read. masochistic practice can never be based on prediction.The Violence of Sensation  Ethics. the register of re-presentation becomes meaningless—or in any case its usefulness is put into question—as the yet to come is a question of production. therefore.16 Clearly. The masochist is thus engaged in a perpetual production of subjectivity. or representation. the future. I submit that this masochistic pedagogy—itself a practice of violence—would be productive for an encounter with all images. of responding through the affective.

I borrow the term “masocriticism” from Paul Mann’s essay of the same title. The Violence of Sensation that shifts and permeates as it comes into contact with specific machines or gets disconnected from others. the relation itself.17 Masochism—and its critical practice. Masochism is a practice—one that is not about the hope to overcome enslavement but about regulating the moment of enslavement. The masochist needs his mistress. through its sheer existence as a specifically configured object. so the critical act seeks out. the in-between. even though his essay provides an interesting metacommentary on the practice of criticism. so the latter seeks out his subjection to the other (the contracted mistress). I hold against Mann’s reading that masochism is not a theater but a factory. And the same characterizes the critical practice of masocriticism: just as the text to be responded to. However. for the masochist must experiment—“do it”—before he can find out. Via Deleuze (and Guattari). the suspense and what it does. what I propose to call “masocriticism”—is thus not an epistemology but a pragmatics. through . And the question of what it does necessarily belongs to the future. Masochism is a theater in which one submits to enslavement and thereby hopes to overcome enslavement” (–). The masochist needs someone else and must thus act with the other rather than imitate a preexisting set of actions or states. since generated by. Rather than either pleasure or pain. This relation is a priori configured in terms of an ethical alliance that is characterized by a double movement: just as the mistress must heed her contracted obligation to the other (the masochist). This double movement describes a double-becoming. not about representation but about production. the masochist is interested in the affective experience of the moment. arrives before me with a set of expectations derived from its process of generation (which is irreducible to the concept of intentionality and exceeds the explanatory force of context). I strongly disagree with his view of masochism as being about lack and representation: “The Hegelian system is masochism writ large (or masochism is shrunken Hegelianism). a becoming-otherwise that is specific to.

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subjection, an encounter with this other (the text) in such fashion that the singularity of this other, of its process of generation and the inhering affective force, is aided in its effectivity, in realizing itself, rather than being reterritorialized onto a plane where its virtual potential is weakened or simply blocked. In short, masocriticism—conceived of as the immanent condition of possibility for an encounter with violence—necessitates response, and the latter requires a giving over of oneself to the Other, to becoming-other, to the process of being affected and effectuated by and from the future—to the experiment. Consequently, a masochistic practice strongly resonates with Deleuze’s notion of storytelling. As he writes in his analysis of cinema, “story-telling is not an impersonal myth, but neither is it a personal fiction: it is a word in act, a speech-act through which the character continually crosses the boundary which would separate his private business from politics, and which itself produces collective utterances. [ . . . ] Not the myth of a past people, but the story-telling of a people to come. The speech-act must create itself as a foreign language in a dominant language, precisely in order to express an impossibility of living under domination” (Cinema  –). A critical speech act must produce itself as foreign to the clichés of a critical discourse steeped in representationalism. Importantly, however, doing so is not a matter of subversion, which is a thoroughly representational concept and practice. Nor is storytelling a question of self-expression, just as the masochist is not interested in expressing himself. Rather, both storytelling and masochism are practices of collective production, machines for the production of the future. They both work as a means to articulate the impossibility of living under domination or to contest what exists. And this strikes me as the task of masocritical practice as well: being in the business of producing speech acts, masocritical practice is a priori configured as a collective utterance. Being engendered only by an affirmation of an alliance with the other qua the other’s engendering force and thus its mutability, masocriticism participates in the collective production of futurity as an event that is always to come; in this


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production, in this immanent reconfiguration, the forces of that which “exists” (representation) are intensified and redirected for them to become-otherwise. Masochistic practice, of course, entails more than just speech acts, but it is nonetheless crucially governed by one specific speech act—the contract. Through this contract, the masochistic practice is tightly regulated, yet it is through this regulation that the future arrives in the form of pure difference. With the help of the contract, the masochist gives himself over to his mistress under the precise regulations upon which they agreed, thus setting in motion their mutual process of becoming-otherwise (a process that Caspar’s definition of ethics blocks—with fatal consequences for his ability to exist). Again, this practice of giving over introduces the moment of the future, the creation of future stories, of people yet to come, as the masochist has merely provided parameters of and for his experiences, but by no means has he determined the action, its time, or location. Instead, he enters an alliance with the other, a life in domination, but this domination simultaneously consists of a refusal to be dominated by dominant culture. The masochist tweaks domination into something else, an encounter with the violence of sensation in which the future, alterity, emerges, becomes actualized—but only with the help of the other. Importantly, masochism as a practice/pragmatics of violence violently pushes the concept of alterity to its own limit. If an encounter with alterity is taken seriously in ethical terms, violence seems to constitute the extreme limit: do I give myself over to the other even though I will be violated? The masochist answers this question in the affirmative, even though the affirmation necessitates, and is thus limited by, the masochistic contract. Nonetheless, the masochist’s response to alterity reveals the liberal humanist rhetoric of communicative reason and its desire for consent (“let us acknowledge our difference and agree to disagree, so we all can get along”) for what it is: an obliteration of difference (and as such violence writ large) rather than an affirmation of difference.

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In short, masochism—masocriticism—is a rigorous practice of experimentation that, to borrow from Deleuze’s description of the time-image, “carries out a suspension of the world or affects the visible with a disturbance, which, far from making thought visible [is] on the contrary directed to what does not let itself be thought in thought, and equally to what does not let itself be seen in vision” (Cinema  ). The masochist suspends the world by creating a new one with the help of the other (a person, an object, an image). Being (literally) suspended, the masochist becomesother, just as the other is affected by the masochist and becomesmasochist (pace an entire tradition of criticism influenced by Sigmund Freud who considered masochism and sadism as one coherent entity: sadomasochism). Together, they create a world, stories, and thought that do not refer to systems of judgment. Their world, stories, and thought, though real, are more akin to what Deleuze calls falsifying narration, which “frees itself from [and] shatters the system of judgment because the power of the false (not error or doubt) affects the investigator and the witness as much as the person presumed guilty” (Cinema  ). The following chapters aim at developing and performing this shattering of judgment in their repeated encounters with violence. Chapter  focuses on the novel and film American Psycho in order to delineate more carefully what it may cost critical practice to approach violent images through the lens of representation; chapter  provides a theoretical genealogy that explains why representation is always already a question of judgment; chapter  engages the fiction of Patricia Highsmith—especially her Ripley novels—in order to investigate how a fiction writer creatively works through the problem of representation as a problem of judgment in the context of violence; chapter  focuses on the acting work of Robert DeNiro in order to complicate the key distinction of working through and acting out that structures much of the moral discourse on (media) violence; and chapter  turns to Don DeLillo’s essay on / in order to show in conclusion what the payoff of masocriticism may be for the so-called real world. Throughout this book, I will pursue a double focus: on one


The Violence of Sensation

hand, I will repeatedly attend to the critical work done by the concept of representation in the context of violent images; on the other, I put in motion masocritical practice. Or, more precisely, the trajectory of my argument demands that I move through the work that representation does in the context of violent images in order to arrive at a practice of masocriticism. The latter may perhaps best be thought of as the preconscious of representational criticism—representational criticism operating at a different speed or on a different level of intensity. My hope, in the end, is to offer a way of thinking about both violent images and critical practice that, at the very least, provokes the reader to consider the critical habits he or she has recourse to when confronted with (violent) images. I would consider this project a small success if it somehow were to do not just some work for the reader (“aha, a new methodology we can teach!”) but, perhaps, also on him or her.

Judgment Is Not an Exit 

Representation, Affect, and American Psycho

Comparison, Representation, Judgment
Mary Harron opens her generally well received film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s infamous  novel American Psycho as if she consciously wanted to heed Jean-Luc Godard’s well-known antirepresentational adage “not blood, red,” with which he matterof-factly responded to a Cahiers du Cinéma interviewer who suggested that Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou was banned for children under eighteen because “there is a good deal of blood in Pierrot” (Godard, “Let’s Talk about Pierrot” ). Against a sterile backdrop of pure white, small red blotches slowly drip down the screen, one by one, without further (contextual) commentary or explanation except for the nondiegetic, eerie violin sounds that accentuate the dripping. Conditioned by numerous horror movies, countless articles on the making of the film, prerelease reviews evaluating Harron’s adaptation, and, potentially, the memory evoked by the book itself and the public controversy it spawned, the audience probably expects Harron to cut to the chase right from the outset and show Patrick Bateman—psychotic Wall Street broker extraordinaire—committing one of his grisly deeds. Given that Ellis’s novel has gained the questionable reputation of being one of the most scandalously gory American novels ever to be published by a mainstream publishing house, it makes only sense for Harron to mark from the first scene what the novel is all about: violence.1


Judgment Is Not an Exit

The slow dripping of the red gradually mutates into a slow drizzle, perhaps suggesting a gaping wound waiting off-screen to be revealed by one of the next shots. The audience readies itself for some potentially discomforting images—perhaps a close-up of a slain woman with her breasts cut off, a homeless beggar with his eyes gouged out, or a well-dressed yuppie put out of his misery by one swift blow to the head with a designer ax.2 After all, we have seen many horror flicks before, and thus we know that the red we see must be blood. Yet, to our surprise—articulated by audible sighs of relief conveyed through chuckling or outright laughter by the audiences with whom I watched the film the day of its theatrical release—the next shot reveals the red running down the white screen as nothing more ghastly than a decorative condiment being drizzled around the circumference of an expensive looking nouvelle cuisine dessert. What once was blood now appears to be raspberry sauce. With this wonderfully Godardian opening moment, the film performatively introduces the novel’s singular asignifying, affective force. Or so it seems, for almost instantaneously Harron abandons her attempt at rendering cinematically Ellis’s violent text as a question of affects and forces rather than significations and meanings. As this chapter will argue in greater detail, the film substitutes the latter question for the former by extracting and reshaping the novel’s forces in such a manner that the film quickly turns into a relatively traditional satire—in this case of Wall Street capitalism in the s as exemplified by Patrick Bateman, the psychotically violent yuppie protagonist of Ellis’s novel. In cinematically instantiating the critical reception of American Psycho that obsessively judged Ellis’s alleged satirical representation of Reaganomics, Harron’s film symptomatically embodies the tendency of cultural criticism to conceive of violence as a matter of representation and, in turn, to mark as judgment the inevitable violence it does to a (violent) text.3 Remarkably, Harron’s film received considerably more praise than scorn, and none of the negative critical responses have even come close to approaching the level of hostility launched against

In fact. can we explain that the film has generally been well received when the textual basis for it has been so widely and forcefully reviled? Why has Harron’s film adaptation avoided the anger and outrage that Ellis has been fighting off since the book’s publication? This question emerges as being even more pertinent if we consider that many critics (from both the left and the right) who are concerned about the effects that art might have on a given audience maintain that film tends to be a medium that through its visceral immediacy has the power to affect an audience more violently than a book. for instance. those who consider the film a failure blame the book for it. that. ] [T]hey have sensibly junked a huge amount” (). Unlike most instances of cinematic adaptations of literary blueprints. namely. Mary Harron and Guinivere Turner have succeeded in extracting a viable narrative screenplay from this plotless blank. . it is still seen as an improvement over the book. with many noir films of the s and s (especially . I suggest that we have to attend to one of the film’s main effects. He goes on to argue. Tony Rayns claims in Sight and Sound that overall “the film doesn’t work” (). its indexing the practice of critiquing both Bret Easton Ellis’s novel and (violent) texts in general. This indexing occurs. For instance. namely. To begin answering these questions. . This is not simply turning a poorly written book into a respectable film. however. however. then.Judgment Is Not an Exit  Ellis’s novel. This chapter is not interested in uncovering the meaning of either text but rather in mapping out the relationship between them as it manifests itself on and through the surface level of critical practices and discourse. How. that it does not provide a sustained interpretation of either the novel or the film. I maintain that American Psycho is a special case because of the role played by the critical discourse surrounding the novel. precisely because the film deploys (a response to) the critical discourse surrounding what I call the event “American Psycho” as one of its key narrative engines. as may have been the case. [ .4 Even when the film is reviewed unfavorably. “against the odds. Taking seriously this suggestion results in an important methodological consequence for this chapter.

In doing so we will begin to develop a different pedagogical network that offers a mode of response to violence that. Cain). It is because such “common sense” wisdom has coagulated to a stale dogma that our critical and ethical task is to abstract clichés from the existing mise-en-scène of critical discourse in order to articulate what violence does and how it works. or at least predominantly. supposedly. Again. always heeding the primacy of a specific articulation of violence as a multiplicity of forces. Platonists. authors. it would be overly simplistic to claim that today’s critics are exclusively.5 An example of performativity in the Derridean sense. What. and it would be equally problematic to suggest that cultural criticism has not moved beyond Mat- . Judgment Is Not an Exit those not based on the works by Dashiell Hammett. criticism compares. this comparative statement has achieved the false wisdom of “common sense. one of the most dominant habits of cultural criticism from Plato to the present has been to compare a work of art to reality.6 And. does criticism of violence do? One answer is that it compares. at least since Plato. Notwithstanding the theoretical interventions of post-structuralist philosophers (or artistic practices such a L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poetry).7 The closer art resembles life. criticism’s ultimate interest tends to be a comparison of a different yet related kind: that between the text and the reality it is said to represent. Raymond Chandler. Just consider that one of the most repeated statements about media violence is that. or directors. video games) than ever before. the less accurate its representation—the more dissimilar the copy is from the original—the more questionable its merit. across decades or within a given year. while always constituting a form of violence itself. perhaps most importantly. commits its violence immanently. further. such a cliché is part of the target of my project. then. this comparison has been inscribed with the tendency to judge the work of art in terms of its truth value. today we have more mediated violence (tv. whether themes and styles. then. movies.” as it has been produced by having been repeated ad nauseum for the last three decades. the higher its value. or James M.8 Obviously. In fact.

9 Given that criticism is about comparing. or have recourse to. the mode of judgment as a crucial component of critical practice. and the film as part of the latter violently articulate the problematic at hand: the way critical discourse habitually translates the asignifying forces of (literary and cinematic) images—affective intensities—into a signifying regime of judgment.Judgment Is Not an Exit  thew Arnold’s practice of moral criticism. by diagnosing the discourse spawned by American Psycho. demands a judgment of it. I want to show that the particular style of contemporary engagement with violent cultural texts continues to perpetuate that which has emerged with Platonism’s denunciation of simulacra as dangerously inferior artifacts compared to “true” copies: that is. cuts into the object and thus extracts). I am interested in it precisely because the novel. Rather. the question emerges whether we can imagine ways of comparison that do not rely on. given the inevitability of violence that criticism does to that which it encounters (i. is it possible for criticism to mark its violence not immediately as judgment?10 The task here is neither to get rid of comparison as a critical tool nor to deny the inevitable violence of one’s critical practice. is not a neutral choice. the critical habit to respond to violent art as a matter of representation that inevitably. paraphrases and thus changes. thus allowing us to formulate a series of problems that subsequent chapters will reframe. Attending to the event “American Psycho.e. Rather. translates and thus alters. to put a different spin on this question. and respond to. will hopefully help us work out what is at stake in the question of imaged violence. as well as whether we possess alternative tools that .” then. any criticism is selective and thus omits. However. This regime consistently questions the value of violence as if we already knew what violence in the realm of aesthetics is or can do. develop. Focusing on the event “American Psycho. however subtly.” of course. all the while ignoring in its sheer selfassurance the Nietzschean provocation to investigate the value of value itself. it is to ask why this violence tends to be marked as judgment and what the cost of this is.. its critical reception. Or.

through the forces it is able to harness. nonrelativist. In contrast. in any case. has been the most venerated way of reacting to an (artistic) event—Gilles Deleuze provides one answer to this question and. It is important to stress Deleuze’s assertion that “not everything is of equal value. then. for which value has to be produced. perhaps. to whom the nihilist was the enemy. Herein. Evoking Friedrich Nietzsche. offers us a way of responding to events without judgment or. judgment reproduces value based on a preexisting (moral) ground. thus perpetuating the same modes of existence rather than helping the new/difference to emerge. without immediately having recourse to it. as the antitheory crowd often alleges. but on the contrary because what has value can be made or distinguished only by defying judgment” (. and is valid in and of itself inasmuch as it brings the new combination into existence. neither Deleuze nor fellow post-structuralists such as Jacques Derrida or Michel Foucault are relativists or nihilists. this can be news only to those who falsely believe that the German philosopher holds mass at the altar of nihilism. it is not because everything is of equal value.” In other words. and Antonin Artaud. lies the secret: to bring into existence and not to judge. Nietzschean genealogy. that is. my emphasis). If it is so disgusting to judge.11 Deleuze suggests we take Spinoza’s claim that we do not even . in turn. from Kant on. Given the genealogical connection to Nietzsche. not reproduced. Deleuze’s Symptomatology What. Judgment Is Not an Exit might allow us to engage in comparative criticism without accepting its invitation to judge. Deleuze argues in “To Have Done with Judgment” that the problem with judgment is a pragmatic one: “Judgment prevents the emergence of any new mode of existence. Baruch Spinoza. I see my argument in friendship with this nonnihilistic. For the latter creates itself through its own forces. might be the problem with judgment? Considering criticism’s potential to be something other than critique—which.

it allows for the production of new modes of existence. the judgmental mode of comparison seems only to perpetuate the status quo. Deleuze engages in comparative criticism because it allows connections to be drawn. ] because any work in a field is itself imbricated within other fields” (“Brain Is the Screen” ). the critical task of comparing is not a question of judging any given term of the comparison as superior or inferior. are fundamentally different modes of intensity than judgment. linkages to be foregrounded. notwithstanding the important fact that all three affective modalities are part of the same sliding scale of responsiveness and thus response-ability. comparative criticism as conceived and practiced by Deleuze is capable of diagnosing art in terms of symptoms rather than syndromes. I should stress. for Deleuze. . for diagnosing which responses work and which do not. of becoming-affected otherwise. affects—instead of judgment that provide the impetus for writing critically on literature or film. Love and hate. it is love and hate—forces. From Deleuze’s point of view for whom “the only true criticism is comparative [ . that is.Judgment Is Not an Exit  know what a body can do more seriously. It continues to affirm a given moral ground based on which judgment is passed. For Deleuze the crucial question is not how to judge a body but to find out what else a body is capable of and how it can exist differently: how else can a body enter relationships with other bodies whose operative engine is affective force—with the vector of this force (its weight and direction. thus remaining incapable of inventing a new mode of response or line of flight. . Perhaps most importantly. differences to be articulated—in short. its intensity) determining the capacity of a body both to be affected by and affect other bodies? Hence. active and reactive forces) that make up the syndrome: he asks what symptoms do. good or evil. as this chapter will show in the next sections. Against this. Seen in this light. whose critical eye always searches for that which has the capacity to produce new lines of flight productive of new modes of existence. . He does not ask what the disease (syndrome) “is” in order to cure it but investigates the symptomatic forces (in Nietzschean terms.

. symptomatology fights and experiments with the multiplicity of forces immanent to something like cancer (or. for instance. Deleuzean symptomatology diagnoses which forces of the virus’s makeup can be harnessed productively. rather than debating whether something is bad or not. Of course. Deleuze’s use of symptoms. how can these forces be deployed differently? As Paul Patton. into multiplicity. ] A classification is always a symptomatology” (“Brain Is the Screen” ). crucially differs from Deleuze’s in that for Žižek everything begins and ends with the Lacanian notion of constitutive Lack—the impossible nonobject of desire that. The question is always. because of their effects.12 He argues that a “classification always involves bringing together things with very different appearances and separating those that are very similar. its value depends on the nature of the subject and how it responds to the illness which acts upon it. Hence. not because of some moral understanding of what the syndrome is. Instead of blaming a virus and trying to get rid of it because of what it is. [ . as will be seen throughout. comparison is always a sort of classification. Put differently. symptomatology harnesses the varying forces immanent to modes of existence as a way into human relationships. however. His notion of symptom. For example. Slavoj Žižek proposes for psychoanalysis to focus on the fetish rather than symptoms because today “ideology functions in a way that is much closer to the notion of [the former]” (“Philosopher” ). Judgment Is Not an Exit how they work. not all psychoanalysis is hung up on uncovering symptoms. explains. ought not to be confused with hermeneutic psychoanalytic practices where symptoms are ultimately something to be uncovered and cured. . for . something Deleuze was particularly fond of throughout his life. however. “While [illness] is clearly a reactive force. one of Deleuze’s most lucid commentators. violence). Rather than conflating syndromes with symptoms and thus overlooking the way illness is always multiple. The same physiological state may weaken some powers but also open new possibilities of feeling or bring about new capacities for acting and being acted upon” (). but because of what the symptoms do—that is.

Judgment Is Not an Exit  Lacanian psychoanalysis in its best form.13 For Deleuze. symptomatology diagnoses the differences between objects in order to emphasize the differences without eradicating them. It is precisely this conceptual aporia between Deleuze and Jacques Lacan that. To compare something with something else. as close as possible to a singular case and to the movement of thought” (). prominent Marxist cultural theorists Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri concur with Deleuze’s philosophy of immanence and contend that “we should be done once and for all with the search for an outside. including the central Lacanian concept of Lack that is supposed to govern the entirety of our sociopsychic economy. as a response to it.] multitude” (). Immanence. Lack—representation—plays no such role in Deleuze’s thought. defines the process of subject. in an attempt to describe what the differences are. . where they come from. and thus social. Hence. In contrast. the only way out is through. a standpoint that imagines a purity for our politics. grounding our analysis in the power of the [. immanent criticism does not desire an (unattainable and thus always lacking) outside from which to judge safely the morality of the event. It is better both theoretically and practically to enter the terrain [. despite their thoughts’ many seeming convergences. Further. . as Alain Badiou puts it. Commenting on the political and ethical inefficacy of cultural and political criticism’s desire for an outside. is always a matter of diagnosing one object through the other. formation. therefore.] and confront its homogenizing and heterogenizing flows in all their complexity. then. and what they suggest about the forces that have produced the difference. objects’ differences result from the same field of surface forces at work in the same culturalhistorical matrix. . what their intensities are. . Taking the basic tenets of symptomatological comparative . “requires that you place yourself where thought has already started. marks the irreducible difference between them. In other words. without reducing them to some prior original identity. it describes these differences as being produced on the same plane of immanence—that is.

let us turn to the comparison at hand: feminist director Mary Harron’s cinematic response to Ellis’s much-loathed American Psycho. immanence. as Gavin Smith puts it in his review. the exhausted “I would prefer not to” instead of the sadistic desire to transgress as a performative means to pass judgment—as the arrow of thought to be caught and redirected.” which he first introduced in Masochism: “Symptomatology is always a question of art” and is offered against dialectical sublimation in order to foster “a critical and clinical appraisal able to reveal the truly differential mechanisms as well as the artistic originalities” (). in turn. critics argue that Harron’s film captures the essence of Ellis’s novel but is better because it condensed the excesses of the book. Judgment Is Not an Exit criticism—intensity. Responding to both Deleuze’s attitude toward comparative criticism and the objects of comparison. as a satire of the immoral materialist excesses of Reaganomics or. to the novel and its discursive history—I ultimately conceive of the rest of this chapter as an attempt at articulating what it costs critical discourse consistently to read Ellis’s novel representationally. been affected by since the prepublication of selected passages of Ellis’s text in Time and Spy that introduced the public to the novel’s title character. It is against this eradication of difference between two works of artistic production—the elision of specificity in favor of ultimately collapsing the two texts as one—that I want to deploy Deleuze’s concept of “symptomatology. that is. as “a mordantly funny and agreeably blatant satire with genuine subversive bite” (). Patrick Bateman. More specifically. and a Bartlebyesque attitude toward judgment. I want to examine what it costs us in terms of our capacity to respond to a violently boring as well as boringly violent text such as American Psycho when critical discourse continues to affirm—indeed celebrate—Harron’s decision to remove . as he engages in extreme acts of violence. By symptomatologically engaging Harron’s film as a response to the event “American Psycho”—that is. All too often. I want to diagnose the differences between the novel and its movie adaptation as symptoms of the larger discourse that the novel has produced and.

and violence) in order to repeat the critical order-word “satire” that has dominated the popular and critical reception of Ellis’s novel from the very beginning. and why the differences indeed make a difference for cultural criticism’s capacity to respond to both American Psycho in particular and aesthetic violence in general. the film ends up eradicating the novel’s varying intensities as embodied by its compositional cornerstones (repetition. that it remains incapable of heeding these works’ “call for new terms for describing our responses to innovative works. boredom. “If there had been some anguished purpose behind [the novel’s] obscenities—for .Judgment Is Not an Exit  the novel’s “excess fat in a kind of cinematic liposuction” (Holden b). while I will specifically compare admittedly selective moments from Ellis’s novel and Harron’s film adaptation. let alone that one is better than the other. whether American Psycho is a successful satire or not.14 I want to foreground what happens with a type of criticism that “continually relies on and returns to older aesthetic categories [such as satire]. argues. As a result of Harron’s flattening out of Ellis’s text. from what practices these differences emerge. Harron’s Film as a Double Response From the beginning. Those who condemn the novel as immoral consistently reject its satirical component and deny Ellis any skill whatsoever. and whether the incessant repetitiveness and flatness of the book’s prose indicates a satirical purpose or mere lack of authorial skill. new directions to be used in the work of critically commenting on them” (Ngai ). even in its engagement with radically different forms of cultural production”—namely. critics have concentrated on three related questions about Ellis’s novel: whether the text’s violence is immoral or not. I instead want to examine what the texts’ differences consists of. Christopher Hudson. Precisely because the real question violent images raise is not whether violence is good or bad but what it does. I am not so much interested in simply asserting that these two texts are different. In other words. for example.

” as being concerned with whether violence is good or bad rather than with what it does. the novel’s violence itself is never conceptualized. just possibly. Terry Teachout concurs: “It’s ineptly written. the reception of American Psycho always configures the novel’s violence as allegorical or metaphorical.” because it is “so pointless. It’s sophomoric. Indicative of the general difficulties surfacing when critical discourse encounters the issue of violence. this critical violence done to the novel—one which consistently marks itself as “judgment”—does not so much constitute a problem because any of these critics are “wrong”. . often vitriolic rhetoric deployed by the critics—marks itself in terms of “judgment. Judgment Is Not an Exit instance.16 Regardless of the outcome of the critics’ judgment. tends to be determined by how they judge the overall effect of the novel: those who judge it as conservative reject his style as artless. however.15 Critics’ attitude toward Ellis’s style. those who judge the novel as a more or less good satire think of the style as at least not entirely pointless. other than to get its author back in the news after the critical and commercial failure of his second novel. have been defensible. American Psycho appears to be empty of any purpose whatsoever. in Lebeau ). it never constitutes the focus for response in and of itself.” and because the novel’s main character “has no motivation for his madness [and] is never brought to justice. most infamously. Roger Rosenblatt encourages New York Times readers to snuff Ellis’s book because of its “moronic and sadistic contents. Now. in turn. to reflect upon man or his society in extremis—they might. in the truest sense of the word. In other words. Rules of Attraction” (qtd. so everythingless. It is. rather. as being about something other than violence itself—and the success of the violence’s representational status determines the critical judgment of it. And.” Those who are willing to entertain the idea that the novel might have a moral purpose attempt to rescue the novel from its detractors by making as good of a case as possible for the text’s satirical intentions and effects. so themeless. the critical violence done to Ellis’s text—itself further highlighted by the passionate. obscene” ().

Judgment Is Not an Exit  it raises the more interesting questions of what judgment does. an example of the former would be to get drunk by con- . I Shot Andy Warhol (). rather. greatly amplifying the violence and getting away with it. revisited the biography of Valerie Salonas. In other words. Harron—who in her first feature-length film.17 Whatever her personal response to Ellis’s text might have been. by the time of shooting her film. in a sense. it is a matter of more or less in the sense of intensity. Harron’s response was inevitably bound to be a response to Ellis through the critical response that circulated in the public for the previous decade. we can easily imagine Oliver Stone. Harron hardly could ignore the vicious and well-publicized character of the critical response to Ellis’s novel. films are subject to rating systems and thus cannot always show what novels can.) However. one of the most remarkable was to have established the conditions of possibility for future responses to Ellis’s American Psycho—in this case Mary Harron’s film. Affect is not simply a matter of “more” in the purely quantitative sense of the word. (Incidentally. To avoid the potential critical outrage looming at the horizon. its satire. the infamous author of the scum (Society for Cutting Up Men) manifesto and wannabe assassin of Andy Warhol—was essentially forced to respond to the critical discourse by amplifying the element that was thought to be the solely redeeming factor of Ellis’s violent novel: namely. Of course. who had been interested in directing the film. of what its effects are. For instance. the possibilities for Harron to respond to the text without immediately setting herself up for the same kind of response that Ellis received were limited. Given the frequent attacks on the novel as dangerously immoral garbage. Harron’s film would not necessarily have been more affectively charged had she included more violence. for the specificities of the reception’s terms constituted the discursive formation by which any articulation of future responses was bound. I argue precisely that focusing on the representational quantity of cinematic gore constitutes. lest they receive an X rating. the problem with much of cultural criticism of violence. Among the many effects this specific critical judgment had.

a fact almost unanimously attested to by the film’s critical reception.18 From this symptomatological view of the event “American Psycho. as has frequently been alleged. (In fact. Ellis’s novel negatively judges its representation of Wall Street America. functions merely as a metaphor for capitalism’s cannibalistic cruelty—one that can be accepted precisely because it merely allegorizes the larger point of the novel. an example of the latter would be to get drunk on water (see Deleuze and Guattari. rather than whether more lenient codes would lead to more truthful representations. First. Thousand Plateaus ). thus.)19 Without question. in all of this. in turn. Godard’s questions—“But are these the words and images to use? Are there no others?” (Two or Three Things. is how and to what effect cinema could render American Psycho’s violence nonrepresentationally. The novel’s violence. according to the film. Can we. In other words. )—remain as relevant as ever when it comes to any attempt to image an event. Harron’s film emphasizes that Ellis’s violent novel really represents a critique of the social rather than constituting mindless glorification of violence. the film positively judges what it perceives to be the novel’s satirical representation and does its best to clarify this purpose. by magnifying the novel’s satirical aspects. it does not come as a surprise that the film embodies the critical debate that preceded it. imagine a Godardian encounter that does not depend for its affective force on representing Ellis’s violence by trying to push the boundaries of industry limits to their utmost? That is. The film does indeed mark its main interest in satirizing the shallowness and cruelty of s American capitalism.” Even the reviews expressing dissatisfaction with the film discuss it in these terms. for example. Harron splices different scenes from the book together as a means of clarifying Bateman’s motivation and psychology.” then. The question. one hardly finds any positive review of the film that does not use the word “satire. Judgment Is Not an Exit suming a bottle of Scotch. Four relatively brief examples suffice to illustrate how exactly the film modifies the novel in order to amplify and elucidate its satirical—and thus representational—quality. She thus neu- .

22 In contrast. searching Bateman’s office desk after he placed a rather incoherent and desperate-sounding phone call to her. Eventually. the novel has often been criticized for sadistically luring the reader into sympathizing with Bateman only to betray and punish her by overwhelming her with descriptive onslaughts of extreme violence. The second shows his female secretary. the audience can feel superior and thus is likely to remain uninterested in identifying itself with him. In addition to lessening the likelihood for critics’ complaints that the film’s violence might be purely sensationalist and gratuitous (familiar charges against Ellis’s “plotless blank”). Harron allows actor Christian Bale to put on a rather affected performance of Patrick Bateman that clearly draws the American Psycho as one of the most ludicrous “monster” characters in film history. that he failed to provide any insight into why a human being might be inclined to such extreme violence. terminating their relationship over dinner at an upscale restaurant. desiring to discern between events that truly occurred and those that constitute mere fantasies of the protagonist. Harron downplays the explicitness of . the film helps the viewer to maintain a distance to the character. Jean (Chloë Sevigny). Confronted with this version of Bateman. Finally.21 Third. In other words. she finds a notebook in which Bateman has drawn a great number of graphic torture scenes. which allows him more easily to sneer at the ridiculousness of both Bateman as a character and the world he appears to represent.Judgment Is Not an Exit  tralizes the possibility for a recurrence of one argument levied against Ellis. the emphasis on the detective plot also encourages the audience to focus on the question of whether or not the violence we see on screen really transpired. namely. The first scene has Bateman draw the killing of a prostitute on a tablecloth as he sits across from his fiancé. The audience itself turns into detectives.20 Second. Magnifying the detective element provides the film with precisely that which the book lacked to the angry dismay of many critics: a plot. Harron adds two scenes not from the book itself in order to make the otherwise dormant detective story of Ellis’s text seem much more crucial.

the reading of it once we have concluded that the . an effect that has already manifested itself rather obviously in the film’s reviews. I just want to demarcate the cost involved in allowing the order-word “satire”—which tends to be merely another name for the even older order-word “Truth” and the regime of representation within which it functions—to dominate one’s (institutionalized) response to a text such as Ellis’s. albeit at times uneasy laughter. Crucially. Here. The fact is. that Harron’s film is a symptomatic effect of the novel and its reception.23 Spending any more time than I have already on mapping out the satirical trajectory of Harron’s film would go against the point of this chapter. critical discourse affirms Harron’s satirical strategies and praises her decisions to alter the novel so that just about everything offensive about it has disappeared. Harron succeeds at this task precisely by transforming the critical discourse on the book into the engine for the production and structuring of her cinematic images. to many critics’ consternation. Violence in Harron’s film is. Harron’s film constitutes a response to Ellis’s novel that has solicited a critical reception almost completely the reverse of that provoked by the original text: to wit. the Scream franchise. In short. whereas in the novel. in turn. Judgment Is Not an Exit the novel’s intense violence by turning it into a rather comforting and familiar slapsticklike violence that is easily recognizable to the audience from. all of these stylistic devices serve Harron to take the wind out of those critics’ sails who might otherwise have been inclined to crush her film for the same reasons that they lambasted Ellis’s book. namely. a matter of laughter. After all. by and large. say. the violence inspired nothing but pure incomprehension. what do we know once we have determined that the novel is satirical? What do we know about the force of the text—the force of language and images as such—once we know that American Psycho is a (un)successful satire? What exactly do we know about even sympathetic readers’ extreme difficulty in dealing with the novel once we have endlessly repeated and obeyed the order to confine the text on the level of satire? What precisely do we know about the obsession that effectuated and affected the writing of the text and.

The Boredom of Violence. music criticism. workout routines. Remember that one of the most annoying parts of the novel is the endless repetition of brand names. patient) readers become bored by Ellis’s narrative—despite its occasionally undeniable humor—and eventually begin to long for some action. “incomprehensible” violence—once we agree that the novel satirizes the capitalist excesses of the past? We have to ask ourselves. clothing advice. finally. and non sequitur chitchat.” unexplained. let us examine Harron’s handling of what arguably constitutes the novel’s most important dynamic: the interaction between its boringly slow passages of endlessly repeated details of Bateman’s life and the speeded-up interruptions of violent outbursts. the Violence of Boredom The main difference between Harron’s film and Ellis’s book is marked by the extent to which boredom is deployed as a major stylistic strategy. what happens in reading the novel is that (faithful. what other effects Harron’s strategic modifications of Ellis’s novel (might have) had: what does Harron’s strategy and its wholehearted embrace by critical discourse cost us with regard to our capacity to respond not only to Ellis’s extremely violent text but also to violent images in general? To find some answers. television programs.) The action. (Remember too that the first scene of graphic violence does not even occur before about one-third of the way into the book. or perhaps better. arrives—as a surprise to those readers who paid little attention to a number of hints indicating that something may be amiss with Bateman and perhaps less surprising to those who have put those hints together and at the very least were aware of Bateman’s penchant for . of course. misogynist comments. restaurant menus. Arguably. what do we know about that which upsets so many readers of American Psycho—the “excessive.Judgment Is Not an Exit  text was meant to be satirical or once we have decided whether or not Bateman really did the violent deeds just depicted (even if we decide that we cannot decide)?24 And. therefore.

that they have not desired—a position that calls for a response for which. no way out from the endless onslaught of the different but mutually resonating affective registers of violence. evidently. in the end. this question—the question of truth—arrives af- . the repulsiveness of the text decidedly exists on both levels. psychology. Readers prefer the affective quality of prosaic. However. the “tools” are not (yet) immediately available. though often comical. as shocking as the torturing of a homeless man and his dog surely is. most readers sooner or later begin to long precisely for that from which they have wanted to escape: the boring itineration of consumer goods. If nothing else. Judgment Is Not an Exit violent actions. as evidenced by the forcefulness of the critical responses to it: that of the actual physical violence committed by Bateman and that of the prose itself. there indeed exists “no exit” (Ellis ). Ellis’s abandonment of any pretense to characterization. In other words. shallow observations. Clearly.25 Hence. without ever hinting that truth itself is an affectively charged product and practice of violence as well. it is hard to believe that readers struggling just to get through the novel are all that concerned with the question of whether or not Bateman actually committed the violent deeds. then. it is only the gradual increase in repetition of exceedingly brutal mutilations of business acquaintances and former or current sex partners that through a speeded-up cumulative effect begins to affect the readers in such a manner that they find themselves in a position they have not occupied before. yet it is. Contrary to the novel. But. the exposure to the former that affects and effectuates the response to the latter. What readers discover is that. as evinced by the book’s reception. the film’s emphasis on the “realness” of Bateman’s actions—heightened by its explicit reliance on detection as a main plotting device—provides the audience with an exit by translating the question of violence and affect into that of truth and representation. boredom to that of heightened graphic aggression. of course. and senseless activities. or motivation paradoxically lures readers into longing for the very violence Ellis does to English prose.

for them to be different from the existing ones they would have to allow the affective quality of language or images intensively used by texts such as American Psycho to subsist without reducing them to the level of any other text. almost inevitably. That the question of truth. of asignification. To hate or to love as a response occurs prior to the analytic mode. but whatever arrives then has already been affected and effectuated by the particular level of intensity of the encounter with the style and content of the narrative. in fact. The only way to begin speaking about this system. Yet. as I hope to show throughout. Instead of eradicating that which is different about the intensity of the affective component inherent to these texts. the matter is one of slowing down this logic or condition of possibility. and thus claim a stance outside of. or representation indeed arrives. representational language. is from within” (Double Reading –). Jeffrey Nealon eloquently argues this point: “Simply to assume such an ‘outside’ place would be to treat as the object of my discourse that which. then.26 But since it is impossible to reject ad hoc. satire. I am not claiming that masocriticism somehow miraculously transcends the logic of representation. asking representational questions constitutes perhaps the main mechanism by which criticism has held at bay questions of affect.Judgment Is Not an Exit  terward. constitutes the very conditions of possibility for discourse in general: a representative metaphysical structure characteristic of the epoch of modern subjectivity that sets up the parameters for what can be said and the ways in which it can be said. prior to the potential concern with questions about truth. critical language would have to affirm affect as a means of articulating the new modes of existence invented in and by these artistic practices.27 Perhaps the legendary Ameri- . speaks more to the institutional power to order and train readers in “adequate” or “moral” reading habits than to what the book itself does. it is only by going through this diagram of reading (“representation”) that critical language has any chance of providing readers with new tools to encounter a book such as American Psycho. rather. then. Whatever these new critical tools will be.

how does one heed one’s affective response without immediately territorializing it onto a different level—when one of the most insistent sets of order-words has commanded us to care about whether or not a work of art accomplishes goals that are valued by critics or society. is not to be “understood” or reduced to theories of signification. is also the killer from hell. Deleuze’s symptomatology. After all. Violence. to spit at it. how does one write about affect—asignifying forces—if one has been trained to respond to literature (and film) on the level of representation. to tear it apart. and. better. in this sense. In other words.” as Bateman’s fiancé fondly calls him. meaning. even though most critics who wrote about it have been unwilling—perhaps incapable—of acknowledging this. as Nealon argues vis-à-vis the unspeakable violent horror of Auschwitz. potentially. to talk or write about it. frustrates. and even sickens. The novel solicits a pure affective response from the audience. the . thus ironically emulating all those characters populating American Psycho who have proven to be incapable of seeing that their “boy next door. instead.” The problematic of violence simply cannot be “resolved” by ascribing meaning to something that. Judgment Is Not an Exit can New Wave band Talking Heads was right in provoking us to “stop making sense.28 So. upsets. the value of the book is that it forces its audience to encounter the undeniably visceral response they have. it is this overkill that provokes readers to throw away the book. “that there is no cultural-theoretical vocabulary specific to affect” (). emerges as a valuable tool for analysis because it productively cuts into what Brian Massumi astutely locates as the central problem of cultural discourse today. it is precisely the novel’s “excessive” violence that overwhelms. if nothing else. whatever that may entail? But I immediately need to qualify the preceding paragraph’s topical claim. namely. “is an irreducible event in that it cannot be reassuringly reduced to a logic that can be said to have brought it about” (Double Reading –). and truth? How does one respond affectively—or. For it is not so much the “excessive” violence of Ellis’s American Psycho that creates its affect overload. therefore. annoys.

as attacked by an onslaught of different forms of violence.” “Date.” “Date. of comedic moments that provoke laughter—nervous laughter that only accentuates the effects the clinically precise descriptions of torture have on the reader. descriptions that sound as flat or void of “voice” as the rest of the novel.” “Pastels. Consequently. deploy the same clinical flatness of tone. Or. “Morning.” “Harry’s. at least one does hardly worry about these questions—precisely because what one has to deal with first and foremost is the deliriuminducing affective component of the book. or whether Bateman actually commits or merely imagines his terrifying deeds. however.” “Facial. of endless repetition of items and repetitive scenes of gore. Slowness is the novel’s dominant mode of speed. and the reader is confronted with the first scene of graphic violence. Sneaked into this structure is a certain amount of humor. thus once again repeating or serializing specific effects rather than satirically commenting upon the violence as such. which suggests not only their affective affinities but also that affect is not so much a result of depth (the often-evoked narrative “voice”) but of speed differentials. itinerations of events. of the accumulating processes of narrative structures.” “Video Store.” “Office. with the fact that the speed of the book configures the reader’s body as assailed.30 What I am describing here should also be read as one way of . I think. Readers are more likely to deal with getting sick of the book—literally—than with contemplating the representational quality of the novel. of whether the eighties were really like this.” “Health Club. Nowhere. almost out of nowhere.” “Harry’s.” “Tuesday”— on the very surface level of the chapters’ titles.” “Tunnel. the reading process is violently interrupted—despite the occasional hint at Bateman’s previous outbursts of violence— when Tuesday arrives.” “Business Meeting. emerges the question of truth.” “Dry Cleaners.Judgment Is Not an Exit  novel achieves this intense response through a careful modulation of slowness and speed (intensities).29 Both repetitions. both the mundane repetitiveness and the singularity of the novel’s events are marked to the effect that the reading of the book moves at times painfully slowly.” “Deck Chairs. and encounters with the flow of the narrative at large.

To return to the event “American Psycho. as well as Brian Evenson’s “The Polygamy of Language” () or The Brotherhood of Mutilation (). however. that its artistic expressions are supposed to be affectless. a critical notion that was probably first articulated by Fredric Jameson in his landmark study in which he discusses the “waning of affect in postmodern culture” (). the opposite occurs in Harron’s adaptation. to name but two additional examples. literary criticism automatically territorializes these works onto the level of judgment (since generally. Judgment Is Not an Exit contesting one of the most widespread clichés about so-called postmodernism—to wit. his crowd-pleasing sweating over other yuppies’ better look- . Or rather. his love for cash machines. the minutes leading up to the first scene of explicit violence—Bateman’s killing of a homeless black man and his dog—are able to create effects similar to the book. is anything but affectless. such works can be deemed without affect only if we reductively conceive of affect in terms of a subject’s emotions and feelings. Harron strings together a series of comedic events: serious looking waiters enumerating dinner menus. Bateman’s obsessive cleansing routine. By describing fictions such as Dennis Cooper’s Frisk () or The Sluts (). his troubles with the suspicious dry cleaner.” it seems to me that whereas Ellis’s novel solicits its readers to diagnose what the textual violence does and how it works. Instead. what appears to be without affect—due to the narrative voice’s seemingly monotonous flatness or the overall absence of psychological depth—instantiates nothing but a different degree of affective intensity. his restaurant du jour. Arguably. Bateman partying dressed in power suits. These fictions have their own affective force—one that is not defined by any lack in relation to the humanist privileging of psychological depth. as affectless. that the extremely violent yet flatly narrated fiction of writers such as Dennis Cooper or Brian Evenson. his vapid office routine. his inability to get a table at Dorsia. It seems to me. a lack of affect qua subjective emoting is deemed “bad” in one way or another) and neglects to diagnose how the violence in these texts actually works. his shallow interaction with his fiancé.

but it is clear that the film manages to solicit a rather visceral response at this stage. The violence on the screen seemed now to affect our response not only to that scene but also to the humorous moments before. As Harron tellingly comments on her technical problems to render the book cinematically. thus never slowing down the narrative so that no affects can emerge other than those solicited by standard Hollywood narratives in which chases and cheap thrills are the highpoints of affective production.Judgment Is Not an Exit  ing business cards. the violent scenes in the film become predictable. and his lecture on the state of the nation. almost out of nowhere. Ellis. “I had to kind of give it more the façade of a plot” (Harron. Now we just move from one scene of violence to the next. He stops. not having her narrative weighed down by the repetition of the novel. naked. sensing that they had been tricked by the preceding repetition of agreeable though mundane comedy. (Bateman. Bateman passes a homeless person. it turns the violence into slapstick. All of this is quite funny. and Bale). and then stabs him to death. Then. At this moment. whether it is a scene merely suggested or actually shown. consisting of a seemingly comprehensive string of catch phrases used by politicians on the campaign trail. perhaps not. as they are never again set up as a surprise moment. However. First. Hence. This frontloading of the repetition prevents her from ever retuning to it. evenly paced. the film tames the affective force of violence through a twofold trick. Harron’s strategy was to condense the repetition of the book so that she could get it out of the way. cynically teases him with a twenty-dollar bill. most of the audience with whom I watched the film went audibly quiet. whereas this sequence of scenes works well. Harron speeds up precisely that which is all about slowness in the book in order to get on with her goal of creating a swiftly moving satire. because Harron gets rid of any modulation of intensities. the rest of the film does not—if the idea was to tap into the affective force of Ellis’s novel. chasing a prostitute with a running chainsaw through the . in the first twenty minutes we essentially get the book in a nutshell. Further. Finally. Perhaps we felt betrayed by the narrative strategy.

(Bale’s performing a funny dance while pronouncing the greatness of Huey Lewis’s “Hip to Be Square” merely accentuates the absurdity of the scene. Yet. thus eradicating precisely that which gives rise to the specific affective encounters provoked by the reading of the novel: Do we feel more sickened by Bateman’s assessment of the music or by his outrageously violent torture devices? And what does the answer to this question say about the reader? The film’s strategy of having Bale read parts of the music chapters as farcical lead-ins to the ensuing violence—absurdly suggesting that the badness of the music almost inevitably leads to violence.) The fact that Harron sets all killings of prostitutes and acquaintances to Bateman’s music lectures merely heightens the comedy.) And second. The book carefully juxtaposes the music criticism chapters not only to the violent chapters but to all other events in the book. thus turning the potential for revolting. Perhaps the film is not slapstick enough. as a form of narrative violence. thus severing the music chapters from the plot. the matter remains somewhat ambig- . casting them as pure interruption. the film has Bateman rhapsodize about Genesis. By contrast. Although we (perhaps correctly) assume that it is Bateman. the film renders identical the novel’s radically different affective series of music criticism and violence. Whitney Houston. Judgment Is Not an Exit staircase of his Upper East Side apartment home must constitute one of the weirdest images of the film. and Huey Lewis and the News as a prelude to—indeed almost simultaneous with—his torturing of his victims. which is akin to claiming that reading American Psycho leads to committing homicide—not only turns different series of events that intersect with each other into one and the same moment but it also results in the audience mostly laughing at the combination of ludicrous music criticism and slapstick violence. dramatizing that narration works by breakdowns— by violence. We should note that the book does not really clarify who is speaking in the music chapters. one senses that this scene’s over-the-topness might actually provide a key to a different cinematic response to the novel. intensively sensed affects into one of comforting humor. as narrative breakdowns.

we would be forced to come to terms with the affects created by this boredom—with the potential to face violence qua violence rather than as a mediated form of satirical critique—regardless of whether or not the medium of film possesses a more immediate affective quality than literature. In any case. But that the film is perhaps not boring enough is not so much a lack inherent to the film or an expression of a desire for the film to “represent” more accurately. Ultimately. not signification.) Rather. as an exit. (Affect is a matter of doing. Whereas the book configures the question of breakdown—violence—as a question of (dis)embodied voice. the diminished level of boredom present in the film constitutes Harron’s symptomatic cinematic response to . and to whom the music criticism is narrated. then. it is oddly boring. the film posits voice. and that we are neither the perpetrators nor the victims of violence in any form. that is. and all the while remain convinced that we are living in a better world. each other as well—the former is reassuring because we are led to affirm the satirical component (and the position of judgment such a narrative mode affords us). that we have progressed. we can enjoy the film for its humor. one might say that the movie is not boring enough.Judgment Is Not an Exit  uous. eradicates the narrative breakdown by unambiguously equating the narrative voice with Bateman. Indeed. Whereas the latter is upsetting precisely because we have no capacity to respond to it in any meaningful or comforting way—because Ellis insists that boredom works as boredom only when disrupted by violence as violence. in what form. an escape route leading away from the allegedly immoral toward a moral place of judgment. as two series that exist parallel to. its ridiculing of its characters and their world. the film presupposes the untarnished existence of one point of view. For if it had been boring in the sense of the novel. the satirist’s point of view. But this boredom is of a different kind than the one produced by Ellis’s novel. Ellis’s novel configures point of views as an effect of narrative violence. The film. and yet affect.31 The film is evenly paced. and vice versa. on the other hand. it is unclear at what moment. with very few up and downs. Hence.

This is not to deny that such emotions are important (see Shaviro or Sobchack for excellent arguments in this direction). or is made to do nothing but appeal to emotions. but if affect is configured as nothing but emotion. It furthers that which we are trained in throughout high school and college. standards. In the process of “humanizing” Ellis’s work along the lines configured by the critical language used in response to his novel— that is. of course. (Note that the clinical rendering of it in American Psycho merely repeats the same violent scene with the similarly repeated addition of some extra spice. by creating a way out that depends on the individual.) The agreeable pace of the film caters to our existing capacity to read or watch—react to—a text. Judgment Is Not an Exit the critical discourse on American Psycho. Harron—maybe out of recognition of the violent scenes’ inherent boredom that nonetheless so force- . formed the basis for the most violent reactions to Ellis’s text. thus inviting him or her to activate judgment as the primary mode of response. academic and popular alike. as well as through an endless exposure to the majority of Hollywood narratives that thrive on at times outrageous but mostly tame. in turn. affect is configured and produced by the text’s simultaneous potential for boring and horrifying its readers. That is. for one of the two main complaints against the novel was precisely that it was too boring and thus could not sustain any readerly interest. and violence. is boring. truthful human agent—everything that the novel is almost too self-evidently about is eliminated: affective intensity. then the (position of the) subject itself is never put at stake. a potential that the novel achieves precisely because it proves that horror and boredom are not contradictory terms but instead exist as affects next to each other on the same plane of immanence. bodies. Boredom violates expectations. fully psychologized. cliché-ridden solicitations of affective viewer responses. In the novel. physical emotions. in turn. mutually producing and thus modifying each other. through film (and literary) criticism. in such narratives affect itself turns into a cliché at the very moment it is territorialized onto merely visceral. also the perception that the novel’s boredom accentuates the novel’s violence that. (It was.

’ and the desensitizing we associate with ‘boredom. and representation. of shock and boredom so obviously missing from Harron’s response to Ellis’s text. even indiscernibility. in any case. readers who are yet to come. privileges judgment as a particular modulation of affect. Harron’s representational reading of Ellis’s novel turns a text that so obviously has affected readers on a visceral level through its alternating speeds—the boring slowness of the endless lists and so on and the fast-paced action of the often surprising violence—into a text that wants its audience to have a mostly cerebral response that is encouraged precisely by a rather evenkeeled. rationality. who are of the future that must be produced. cognition. It coerces them to respond judgmentally rather than affectively.’ though diametrically opposed and seemingly mutually exclusive. To put the last point in Nietzschean terms. and justifies to the audience the few moments it affords them of truly affective encounters with the images in front of them. Harron’s film. the novel produces untimely readers. or. affects our capacity to respond. readers who first have to develop the capacity to be affected without desiring to turn their affective response immediately into a question of logos. the film focuses on what the book allegedly means—a critique of the capitalist excesses of the eighties—and thus somehow never gets around to articulate what the book does. As Sianne Ngai writes in a different context.) The differences between these two forms of violence can only be determined in their effects. are both responses that confront us with the limitations of our capacity for responding in general” (). not in their intrinsic meaningfulness. is symptomatic of the common critical prac- .32 The film explains. delimits. the “sudden excitation of ‘shock. namely. thus. Like the critical reception that preceded it. The simultaneity. predictable narrative pace that has rid itself of the novel’s differentiating engine: repetition and violence.Judgment Is Not an Exit  fully affect readers—resists this narrative strategy by slapsticking all but the first violent scene. that it produces readers apparently incapable of responding to the text’s affective force in any way other than judging it.

in experimenting with that which is “unknown” to us. knowledge. as Deleuze argues about the possibility of and for writing. as a continuation—indeed. an instantiation— of the critical discourse on Ellis’s novel. however. But. as that which can be encountered merely through its forces that produce specific affective effects. one that does not make sense of the frontier but inhabits it without reducing it to something other than what it is: the ultimate other. (And this value might very well not have emerged as forcefully had it not been for Harron’s film and the differences it symptomatically indexes. Although we claim that we know violence when we see or experience it. Judgment Is Not an Exit tice to pass judgment based on the representational quality of images and words. violence has remained one of the great incomprehensible events of life—even more so in light of the fact that countless explanatory apparatuses have been mobilized to explain its causes. that which is unknown. American Psycho’s value appears to be precisely in presenting us with a practice of writing at this frontier. to do away with it: “Affect as immanent evaluation. It seems to me that violence is precisely such a frontier. . at the border which separates our knowledge from our ignorance and transforms the one into the other” (Difference and Repetition xxi). eradicates those forces of the novel that have the capacity for producing difference.33 Hence. including Harron’s. We write only at the frontiers of our knowledge. instead of judgment as transcendent value: ‘I love or I hate’ instead of ‘I judge’” (Cinema  ). the film. albeit horrifying. Consequently.) In refusing to provide a premade explanation. the novel invents a new. would require criticism to heed Deleuze’s encouragement to defer judgment. “How else can one write but of those things which one doesn’t know. Responding to the other (violence) as other. or knows badly? It is precisely there that we imagine having something to say. pace just about all responses to Ellis’s novel. as that which does not signify anything. It solicits responses that reproduce the very regime of pedagogical discipline that has instilled in audiences the tendency to read and view texts representationally.

is our capacity to ex- . its critical reception. then. Rather. In other words. and the film as part of the latter is not a matter of who is right or wrong. one that indicates that regardless of the supposed proliferation and amplification of violent images in contemporary American culture it is not so much violence as such but the state of not knowing what violence is that constitutes the experience of horror. what is finally problematic with the critical violence—including the film’s—done to Bret Easton Ellis’s novel is not the critical violence exerted (as if it could be otherwise) but what this specific form of violence does. What the critical responses to American Psycho symptomatically cost us. long-established critical patterns—dare I say clichés—that allow us either to rescue a seemingly unredeemable text for “progressive” political purposes (“look.34 And. It would be pointless to deride this as a “bad” thing. it emphasizes that Harron’s cinematic response to Ellis’s novel is symptomatic of the critical discourse American Psycho has solicited and articulates what it costs critical discourse—including the film— to render the book as a (successful) satirical representation of the s. what do we know once we have decided? Not much other than that we have found traditional. using a cliché of my own. Instead.Judgment Is Not an Exit  Representation(al) Costs Symptomatologically comparing the novel. affect—sets of forces that critical language has not yet been able to encounter on their own terms without reducing them to the more familiar discourse of representation and judgment—is the proper name for that which largely remains unknown. this particular critical violence symptomatically marks an interesting domesticating response to violence. Again. of whose reading is better or worse. the eighties were really bad!”) or. as it turns out. that this violence is ultimately reassuring and comforting in that it makes American Psycho’s violence recognizable in a familiar critical and ethical register. namely. man. to dump it for good into the dust bin of literary history where it should rot away with similar immoral (conservative or not) trash.


Judgment Is Not an Exit

periment with, and articulate something about, affect in regard to a text so clearly productive of affective responses.35 Criticism will continue to Other the capacity and knowledge provided by, and immanent to, affect as long as it persists to rely almost exclusively on an Enlightenment discourse of rationality, understanding, logos, and judgment (the possibility of which depending on a clear-cut distinction between a subject’s preexisting point of view and the perceived object). By perpetuating the order-word “representation” (a syndrome), criticism continues to ignore that representations are made up of forces (symptoms), just as subjects are constituted by their point of views rather than the other way around. (Not coincidentally, the novel relentlessly shows us that identity is nothing but a series of masks, which are not defined by originary Lack but by their specific, nonlacking, effective reality. In contrast, the film insists that underneath the [beauty] mask we see Bateman peel off in front of his bathroom mirror there exists a “true,” stable identity—even if this identity is described as nothingness, as Bateman’s recognition that “There is no real me. [. . .] I simply am not there.”) I want to suggest that cultural criticism must heed these surface forces if it wants to explain anything about language or images. Accordingly, any political project formulated in response to occurrences of violence in film or literature that might be interested in the question of resistance or subversion is, I think, trapped as soon as it focuses on the question of representation and judgment. It has no tools to account for the emergence of representations and is thus bound to ignore that representations are simply not “about” representations but always about forces—about doing, not meaning. Judgment—a critical practice immanent to the concept of representation in that the latter conceives of signs as reproductive and thus encourages a judgment of them in terms of their more or less accurate resemblance to reality and truth (the twin pillars for our conception of morality)—turns out to be part of the problem, not the solution, as I will argue in more detail in chapter . Critically insisting on the superiority of the film costs us a lot, namely, a serious attempt to provoke questions about affect, to

Judgment Is Not an Exit 

think about what affect can tell us about art, to ponder what happens to the alleged rarity of resistance once we give affect a bit more credit. To paraphrase Deleuze, once we focus on affect, the question is no more how we can resist (answer: by critique) but how we can tap into the affective forces—lines of flight—that constitute the social.36 The social is always already in flight, according to Deleuze and Guattari; if fleeing constitutes an immanent component of the social, then affect does as well, as fleeing is a form of affect. Flight, then, is a question of intensities or affects: How fast or slow is this fleeing? In what direction and with what force does it proceed? And with what acceleration and pressure does it move? Hence, the political and pedagogical question to ask—one that, I think, Ellis’s novel provokes but perhaps could be actualized only through Harron’s cinematic response—is how we can become capable of becoming-affected by forces without immediately turning their affect into a critical discourse of logos. Masochism and its economy of boredom and contractual violence might have to say some interesting things in response, as I suggested in chapter . In terms of cinema, we might want to think about how film—as one of the more privileged affect producing machines thanks to the viscerally immediate quality of visuality—could teach us how to respond on the level of affect to a text such as American Psycho.37


Are We All Arnoldians?

A Conceptual Genealogy of Judgment

But perhaps the preceding chapter has moved too quickly. In claiming that the practice of contemporary criticism continually expresses its desire to judge, I might have given the impression that all of contemporary criticism merely consists of an extension of Matthew Arnold, that well-known figure of Victorianism whose critical project is, rightly or wrongly, often understood to be synonymous with exercising value judgments. Well-known reference books such as C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon’s A Handbook to Literature describe Arnold’s project as “seeking to judge literature by high standards” (), a sentiment seconded by the Norton Anthology’s introduction to Arnold (“culture represents for Arnold the most effective way of curing the ills of a sick society” []), manifesting the reception and subsequent canonization of his thought as a moral, judgmental endeavor. Although the case may be more complicated than the entries on Arnold make it out to be, his own words lend much support to the idea that literary or, more generally, cultural criticism ought to contribute to the production of a civilized—read, moral—society. So he tirelessly went to bat for the critical study of the humanities—especially literature—to cure culture from its ills. In what can be considered his critical manifesto, the widely anthologized essay “The Function of Criticism” (), for instance, Arnold writes of the purpose of criticism that its business is “to see the object as in itself it really is [. . .] to make the best ideas prevail” (Norton ). Positioning himself against the popular belief in utilitarianism, Arnold instead advocated a criti-

Are We All Arnoldians? 

cism that remains “disinterested” (), by which he meant an independence and objectivity of the critical consciousness rather than a lack of interest as such. Hence, he writes in one of his bestknown formulas, “By steadily refusing to lend itself to any of those ulterior, political, practical considerations about ideas [the task of criticism is] to know the best that is known and thought in the world, and by in its turn making this known, to create a current of true and fresh ideas” (). Arnold never tired of repeating this formula—his basic definition of critical practice. He therefore tries to distinguish this description—or, rather, prescription—of critical practice from that of passing “mere” judgment. Arguing that “mere judgment and application of principles is, in itself, not the most satisfactory work to the critic” (Norton ), he promotes a more nuanced deployment of critical judgment: “it is by communicating fresh knowledge, and letting his own judgment pass along with it—but insensibly and in the second place, not the first, as a sort of companion and clue, not as an abstract lawgiver—that the critic will generally do most good to his readers” (). Yet, despite his reticence to come across as too much of a moralizer, it is quite clear that Arnold is indeed invested in the ability of literary criticism to better its readers’ “sense of conduct.” Arnold believes that the education in proper conduct makes the study of literature superior to that of the natural sciences, as he argues in “Literature and Science,” his response to Thomas Henry Huxley’s claim that the study of literary works does not provide sufficient knowledge of the world in light of the enormous developments in the natural sciences since the medieval ages. Arnold counters Huxley’s claims by arguing that science produces “knowledge [that is] not put for us into relation with our sense of conduct” ()—that is, scientific knowledge, while undeniably important, has nothing to say about the moral questions faced by individual and society. In short, despite Arnold’s complicating his view of criticism as not being directly a judgmental discourse, he ultimately conceives of his practice as precisely that—and thus confirms his subsequent reception in the field of literary studies.


Are We All Arnoldians?

Are contemporary critics, then, still Arnoldians? Yes and no. Clearly, as illustrated in the previous chapter, public criticism as published in popular culture magazines or daily newspapers knows almost no other mode of operation—particularly when it encounters the issue of violence. In that sense, magazines such as Entertainment Weekly, newspapers such as the New York Times, or tv shows such as Ebert and Roper at the Movies do not so much function as objective distributors of information than as filter mechanisms that regulate what their audience will read, listen to, and watch. The sheer abundance of information is thus channeled in certain directions. The frequent occurrence of moral judgment passed by these sites operates simply as one of the most powerful tools to direct, indeed produce, cultural knowledge. Cultural studies scholar Lawrence Grossberg calls this mechanism a “regulatory regime” (We Gotta Get Out ). The same regime has, of course, been operating on many other registers for a long time. For instance, the production code of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (mppda), “written in  but not effectively enforced until ” (Schatz ), regulated Hollywood’s film productions until it was replaced by the mpaa rating system in , which introduced the letter rating system that, in modified form, is still in place today. Likewise, the tv ratings mandated by the Telecommunications Act of  codify images for the small screen based on the same “niche market” principle that Hollywood uses. What both the “wholesale” and “retail” principles of governing images have in common, however, is the media corporations’ desire to keep the government at arm’s length. Lest the government enforce a law that would regulate the entire industry from outside, media companies have always been savvy enough to avoid such external regulations by couching their internal regulating mechanisms in moral terms. For instance, the production code was dominated by a rhetoric to protect the “uneducated”; likewise, contemporary rating systems are justified as a means to preserve the innocence of children, who may be corrupted by being exposed to violent or sexually explicit images.

Are We All Arnoldians? 

Conveniently for media corporations, this moral justification goes perfectly in hand with a larger transformation of capitalism. It is not a coincidence that the rating system emerged at the very moment Hollywood was in serious financial difficulties. One of the solutions to its insolvency was to heed a lesson learned from Madison Avenue two decades earlier. As Thomas Frank persuasively shows in The Conquest of Cool, corporations discovered niche marketing in the s. A sales principle based on a retail rather than wholesale approach, niche marketing targets only a small segment of the population. As a result of this key shift in corporate sales strategy, American capitalism began to work much more efficiently: instead of worrying about producing a product that appeals to the largest common denominator, corporations can produce many products targeted at specific, different consumer groups. Even better, corporations are now capable of selling lifestyles rather than mere products; as a result, many more products can be sold, as long as they are all marketed to a certain niche group desiring to participate in a certain lifestyle. With this transformation, the speed of capital began to accelerate, just as it did with the invention of Taylorism before and then again with the shift to stock market–driven capitalism some decades later. In the case of Hollywood in the post- era, it became possible for studios to produce films made for certain age groups. Consequently, it managed to regain some of the relevancy it had lost since the end of World War II. With images of real violence broadcast live on tv (i.e., Vietnam, the assassination of JFK, or the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald) and the sexual revolution in full bloom, the rating system allowed Hollywood films to provide viewers with images that expressed more closely the zeitgeist than the overly generic images that it was condemned to make due to the regulations of the code (notwithstanding that Hollywood had already been pushing hard to expand the code’s boundaries). Though Hollywood never regained the power and popularity it enjoyed in its golden age, it began to recover financially in the early s and remains a more or less potent and healthy industry to this day, notwithstanding the cyclic complaints heard

as the infamous example of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ () illustrated. Allegories of Reading. or so-called serious. Are We All Arnoldians? about ticket sales decline. Indeed. de Man shows that literary criticism’s supposed progression away from the world of Arnoldian value judgments turns out to be less clearcut than the discipline might have imagined. Yet. Hence. it is not at all clear that critical disciplines—especially literary criticism—have escaped the realm of judgment altogether. media corporations make more profit from secondary and tertiary market exploitation than from theatrical runs of movies. saleswise. This is also why a forceful negative judgment based on explicitly moral grounds is. de Man’s complication of the concept of literary judgment—and his subsequent instantiation of a “solution” to what he perceives to be the problem of literary criticism—can be considered symptomatic of the discipline at large. of course. not at all undesirable to these corporations. But what about academic.2 While it may seem that the heyday of American deconstruction has long passed—undoubtedly to the great relief of its countless opponents—turning our attention to de Man’s landmark essay “Semiology and Rhetoric” might nonetheless allow us to complicate the question of judgment as it operates in literary and film studies. criticism? In my view.1 In fact. it can certainly be said to have moved away from Arnold’s type of moral criticism during the century following the publication of Arnold’s critical salvos. by turning immediately to what he saw as the continuing deployment of judgment in literary criticism. one of the most influential theorists of the s and s. Paul de Man. and popular criticism’s judgments play an important role in this. As such. begins his perhaps best known and most influential collection of essays. While his work shows why the realm of . Today. my interest in turning to de Man lies less in his institutional importance (or lack thereof today) than in his ability to engage Arnold’s imperative and the discipline’s response on a conceptual level. not least because they belong to the same media corporations that produce and distribute the vast majority of Hollywood films. supposedly caused by parasitical inventions such as vhs or dvd.

Are We All Arnoldians?  judgment constitutes a serious problem for literary criticism. which is worth quoting at length: With the internal law and order of literature well policed. de Man begins his seminal deconstructive endeavor as a response to a moral imperative that he perceives to be permeating contemporary critical practice. Behind the assurance that valid interpretation is possible. that criticism must heed the positive and negative effects literature may or may not have on the external world. referential. the external politics of literature. the inside/outside opposition that ultimately allows for judgments to be made about the text from a place outside of it. Not only do we feel able to do so. private structures of literary language with their external. stands a highly respectable moral imperative that strives to reconcile the internal. de Man sets out to undo: to wit. This moral imperative is simultaneously produced and perpetuated by a fundamental binary relation that. in by now familiar deconstructive practice. we can now confidently devote ourselves to the foreign affairs. Paul de Man: Debunking Meaning De Man responds in “Semiology and Rhetoric”—a paradigmatic essay illustrating American deconstruction in a nutshell—to what he perceives as the disciplinary rejection of formalist and intrinsic criticism (New Criticism) in favor of a critical practice that is interested in the “nonverbal ‘outside’ to which language refers” (). . emphases mine) In other words. but we owe it to ourselves to take this step: our moral conscience would not allow us to do otherwise. (. de Man’s “solution” ultimately remains within the gravitational pull of the very problem he diagnoses.3 He quickly arrives at the heart of his concern. behind the recent interest in writing and reading as potentially effective public speech acts. and public effects. namely. formal.

de Man begins his deconstructive investigation of critical practice by claiming that. we do not have to discuss in detail how. and the outer form has become intrinsic structure” (). the “polarities of inside and outside have been reversed. William Butler Yeats. or discourse community’s. As de Man writes. he shows that the understanding of literary language as metaphorical leads to a referential criticism that wants to have it both ways: “of being. is important. to paraphrase Marx in the German Ideology. Whereas New Criticism. Hence. then. He finds that .. reading/understanding. de Man discusses Archie Bunker. but they are still the same polarities that are at play: internal meaning has become outside reference. for example. this could not occur precisely because the inside/outside binary continued to affect various modes of criticism as a constitutive force. de Man counters the dominant assumption that literary language is metaphorical by delineating how it is metonymical. theory/practice. For our purposes. Deploying insights gained from semiology that shift the question from what something means to how it means. a formalist critic in the morning and a communal moralist in the afternoon” (). and metaphor/metonymy. activity.4 The rest of de Man’s essay deconstructs the “inside/outside metaphor that is never being seriously questioned” () by first flipping the binary to emphasize the deprivileged term and then replacing it with a new conceptual pair as a means to examine relations such as rhetoric/grammar. subsequent developments in criticism posited form to be merely a trapping of literary meaning and content and then found the text’s meaning in its referential quality. contrary to what many may have thought. however. one of the responses to a New Critical hermeneutic was reader response criticism that relocated the nexus for textual meaning from the author or text to that of the reader’s. reduced “meaning” to the formal structures of the text. In the process. specifically.e. and Marcel Proust to establish that literary language is governed by a metonymical rather than metaphorical logic (i. Are We All Arnoldians? Clearly. What de Man concludes. criticism has not moved outside the realm of judgment. by contiguity and chance rather than analogy and identity). In fact.

Are We All Arnoldians?  precisely when the highest claims are being made for the unifying power of metaphor. most notably. de Man hastens to assert that at the moment of staking a claim for deconstruction as a superior textual engagement (“deconstruction is not something we have added to the text but it constituted the text in the first place” []) it is also necessary to debunk the “critic-philosopher” () as the owner of truth. The implications of this claim are at least twofold. As de Man argues. of genetic history. and.] seems to reach a truth” (). or personification that use resemblance as a way to disguise differences. . de Man suggests that (metonymically governed) deconstruction as exemplified in his essay arrives at a decision. The upshot of de Man’s argument is that a “rhetorization of grammar (as in the rhetorical question)” based on a metaphorical understanding of language leads to “indetermination. takes us back to the impersonal precision of grammar and of a semiology derived from grammatical patterns. paronomasia. (. these very images rely in fact on the deceptive use of semi-automatic grammatical patterns. Such a reading puts into question a whole series of concepts that underlie the value judgments of our critical discourse: the metaphors of primacy. are always already metonymies. Yet.” whereas what he calls a “grammatization of rhetoric [. emphasis mine) Metaphors. in a suspended uncertainty that was unable to choose between two modes of reading. deconstruction is a form of antihumanism. in other words. in “true” Nietzschean fashion. albeit a negative one (). . First. of the autonomous power to will of the self. “if truth is the recognition of the systemic character of a certain kind of error [the poetic belief in the primacy of metaphor over metonymy]. for “the distinction . at a truth. Whereas a metaphorical encounter with literary language merely leads to more interpretations that are ultimately unable to determine any meaning of the text. then it would be fully dependent on the prior existence of this error” (). The deconstruction of metaphor and of all rhetorical patterns such as mimesis.

This. if the truth of criticism is its ignorance or inevitable failure and. because “one reading is precisely the error denounced by the other and has to be undone by it [we cannot] in any way make a valid decision as to which of the readings can be given priority over the other. Yet.” Second. had enormous consequences for the way criticism was practiced throughout much of the s and s. as popularized by de Man’s critical writings. “the demonstrable necessity of totalization’s failure” (Alterity Politics )—constituting literary practice. At the very moment he pulls the rug from underneath the inside/outside distinction that gives critics a purchase on a critical position outside the text that allows for the production of moral value judgments. symptomatic of American deconstruction—and. He has indeed drastically complicated some of the basic assumptions of contemporary literary practice that continue to produce a criticism not all that far away from Arnold’s. however. other than further complicating the concept of judg- . due to the influence of his work. Are We All Arnoldians? between author and reader is one of the false distinctions that reading makes evident” (). critical and poetic alike. means nothing less than that deconstruction. none can exist in the other’s absence” (). it has to deconstruct itself. its necessary deferral of judgment. After all. deconstruction is ethically obliged to deconstruct the very truth it finds. thus. and for our purposes more important. then it is not at all clear what de Man’s elaborate procedure has gained him in the end. That is. For if we follow his own logic that began with his deconstructing the inside/outside binary. practices a mode of criticism characterized by a “state of suspended ignorance” (). If this is the case. Here de Man has arrived at a peculiar place—one that. Neither readers nor authors control “meaning. the dominant tendency of literary criticism at large—de Man’s approach ultimately does not escape the economy of judgment either. then we have to be suspicious of what he posits as the necessary “state of suspended ignorance”—or. then its truth exists only in relation to a prior error—that of judgment itself. in Jeffrey Nealon’s terms. indeed. however. de Man’s logic also reaffirms judgment in itself.

casts itself in opposition to deconstruction. so Grossberg seems to think. for it is the same dead end that traps de Man’s project in the realm of judgment: to wit. in all that. just like New Historicism and New Materialism. Just like de Man’s efforts remain intri- . when all is said and done. they are governed by constitutive absences) and instead posits impossibility itself as the meaning of a text: the very fact that we can never conclusively decide what a text really means is the text’s meaning. a new dead end has been produced. de Man’s efforts do not provide a way out of the economy of judgment.5 Regardless of the validity of this critique. the very discipline he helped shape in significant ways. de Man delineates the necessary failure of this project (it fails precisely because representations are never present as such. Whereas criticism used to find meaning in a text that it then proceeded to judge. and sites altogether different from what was perceived as the privileged location of literature. the economy of representation itself now emerges as the problem. perceiving it to be too textual and too ahistorical. that is hardly new at all. then we may have to ask why this is the case: why is it that. these newer critical paradigms tried to shift critical attention to history. Lawrence Grossberg: Affecting Cultural Studies But if even de Man’s enormously sophisticated critical response to literature does not and cannot escape judgment. In this sense.Are We All Arnoldians?  ment and how it operates (by necessity?) in criticism. Cultural studies.6 Yet. material practices. the two most popular theoretical paradigms before it. even though they clearly and helpfully display how the dominant practice of literary criticism (referential criticism) continues to function in a neo-Arnoldian fashion. one. American deconstruction “merely” intensifies the logic of judgment without reaching a breaking point at which a fundamental transformation might occur? It seems that one way of answering this question is hinted at by Lawrence Grossberg in his critique of cultural studies. I might add.

7 If Grossberg is right. Are We All Arnoldians? cately tied to a representational economy (the never-ending flipping of the binary undoes taken for granted hierarchies but does not displace the system of signification and meaning itself). Grossberg argues. e. Directing his prolegomenon—a genre that “defines a project and the conditions which make such a project both necessary and possible”—specifically at the discipline of cultural studies. both theoretically and politically. the unmappable (e. given that identity politics is a politics of mediation and representation. Specifically. whether understood as the material. which has remained dominant to this day. In “The Victory of Culture. might not be able to provide the impetus that it promises. as desire or creativity). .” Grossberg’s main target consists of the logic of mediation (as opposed to the existence of mediating processes). for one. Yet. so Grossberg argues that cultural studies—that which supposedly negates deconstruction and its emphasis on reading texts—also remains within the familiar confines of representation.g. Of course. theorized the asignifying throughout his oeuvre (see. of the asignifying. it appears that the allegedly new paradigm.g. “cultural studies has to respond to the increasing importance. I think it is worth quoting Grossberg at length on this issue. he asks whether “it is reasonable to continue following the same path” of identity politics that has obsessed cultural studies (). Friedrich Nietzsche. the unstructured.. for he succinctly expresses a historical point that affects contemporary thought precisely because it has largely gone uncontested. Grossberg is not the first to recognize the importance of the asignifying. especially in cultural studies: North Atlantic Modernity has always recognized that there is something else to human existence beyond the epistemological but it always assigns this excess to the domain of the irrational. thus producing a thought arrow that was later picked up and redirected by the likes of Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault. Thus when they are talked about.. the body or affect” (). “On Truth and Lying in the Extra-Moral Sense”).

or they are treated as the concrete. materiality and the concrete on the one side. necessity—for judgment: “art as morality” (). Similarly. subjectivity. the particular. emphasis mine). One of the key concepts emerging in relation to the logic of mediation is that of culture as a “descriptive and normative” concept (). and ideology. that the asignifying forces of violence in American Psycho are turned into a question of representation that in turn allows and. As a result. in Grossberg ). whether by denigrating them as irrational and personalized experiences or by translating them into a different regime that it is more familiar and comfortable with: that of representation. indeed. Referring to Arnold’s belief that “culture is the best that has been thought and said” (qtd. culture as a concept produces the possibility—or. the atheoretical. or lying—into the sphere of the irrational and. thus. In the previous chapter I showed one of the consequences of this latter operation—namely. how it functioned. necessitates a moral judgment of these forces. consciousness and theory on the other. () Nietzsche explained the human desire for truth by linking it to moral and rational reasons that subsequently turned the constitutive force of language—which for him is the power of the false. much of contemporary cultural theory and criticism assumes a binary opposition between affect.” The main part of Grossberg’s essay attempts to map out how the logic of mediation emerged. That is. so Grossberg argues. Grossberg suggests that contemporary thought continually bypasses forces of asignification. the body. Crucially. “the very act of producing the concept of culture involves the construction of a place which allows one to both describe and judge the changes in everyday life” (. The point to mark here is that Grossberg locates the same operation that I located in a rather textual manner to be operating at the heart of the very discipline that casts itself against textual “readings. immoral. better.Are We All Arnoldians?  they are either immediately reconfigured into the realm of representation. and what it produced. Grossberg shows how cultural studies and its concerns are not .

even in light of the fact that American Psycho itself was hardly perceived as deserving of this attribution.8 The fact that the concept of culture—so crucial to the field of cultural studies that more or less opposes literature and its apparent fetishizing of the text—is intricately linked to an Arnoldian sense of morality helps explain why. the cultural response (and I take this term in its largest sense) to Bret Easton Ellis occurred in the manner it did. “immoral” texts are marke(te)d not as fiction or literature but as mystery. as such. constitutes a familiar concept and can in turn be mobilized to articulate a judgment about the text and what it is said to satirize—thus perpetuating the idea that culture is the best that has been thought and said by mankind. After all. the shock of American Psycho was all the more intense: if art/culture embodies the best of mankind and if Ellis is somehow part of culture in this sense. Ellis was clearly marked and marketed as “culture” ever since his first novel Less Than Zero () turned him into the nom du jour in the mid-eighties. though. is that many of these brutal. That is. then criticism has no problem to justify commenting on him. The difference. precisely because Ellis had been marke(te)d as “culture. for instance.” judgment was demanded. and its attendant event. Precisely because there was scant questioning of Ellis’s high cultural position. but this very ease with which it could embrace Ellis also made it singularly unprepared for dealing with American Psycho. horror. thus faintly resembling the moral . Are We All Arnoldians? far at all from a seemingly outmoded operation of criticism. because cultural criticism assumed itself to be capable of addressing one of its own. and so on. at least. it found itself unable to encounter a text that marks itself in terms radically unfamiliar to it—hence the need to address Ellis’s text in terms of “satire” for those who wanted to defend it. Satire. suspense. allowing him to frequent circles otherwise reserved for the cultural elite of the East and West Coast establishment. where fiction is separated from all of the other categories. This ought to be noted simply because of the existence of many other texts that arguably did what Ellis’s did long before.9 So. The reality of this distinction should be clear to anyone who frequents bookstores.

10 But it is this constitutive operation that allows criticism—literary. It is not at all established that. Crucially. say. Ripley () or Thompson’s Killer Inside Me () is worthy of our collective critical efforts. for instance. film.Are We All Arnoldians?  segregation between “immoral” pornographic material and allegedly morally uplifting or instructive ones. the fact that criticism’s main modus operandi is not—or just barely—in action with regard to these writers paradoxically precludes it from attending to some of the more interesting operations someone like Highsmith engages in. and often rather bourgeois literary practices of African American writers such as Ralph Ellison. whose oeuvre came to an explosive end with his last Harlem novel. in fact. cult authors categorized as crime/mystery/suspense writers. Patricia Highsmith or Jim Thompson’s fictions do not lend themselves to the same critical operation precisely because it is far from clear that the critical apparatus of high culture should be brought to them. If this relationship between the application of critical efforts and the perceived institutional merit of texts is as described here. it becomes the moral imperative to do so. So. then judgment itself becomes a rather impotent mode of response (because that which requires response is not perceived as being worthy of response to begin with). the same operation of criticism appears to become impossible at the very moment it is confronted with texts not marke(te)d as culture. James Baldwin. authored more than thirty. as I will argue in the next chapter. The same holds true for the great African American crime writer Chester Himes. or Toni Morrison to the brutal pulp style of Himes. Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Literary studies “proper” prefers the canonized. Plan B (). Grossberg’s analysis of the logic of mediation with its at- . So. This unfinished novel reached a limit point of explosive violence on the level of content that the novel’s style was barely able to contain. In fact. whereas both Highsmith and Thompson. and cultural studies—to judge a specific set of texts. both Highsmith and Thompson have received barely more critical attention in scholarly outlets than Ellis has—despite the fact that the latter has written only six books to date. In contrast.

for instance. Specifically. is his effort to take affect more seriously by diagnosing how nonrepresentational forces are always at work—forces that may produce representations but that cannot be explained by that logic. for instance. I think Grossberg’s argument must nevertheless be taken seriously as an intervention into the field that oftentimes pretends that it . Grossberg attends. And if this is indeed the case. an affective regime that creates “spaces of non-Kantianism [time. mediation. What is of interest in Grossberg’s work. of subjectivities and identities” (). to the sonority of rock music. Grossberg’s analysis suggests that this reliance does not provide a political or ethical tactic that would be capable of living up to the promises it makes in cultural studies work. Thus. representational terms. for it might be the case that “the emerging formations of power may no longer find this logic [of mediation] useful” (). then. judgment] and such spaces operate on the surface for all to enter. it operates with a kind of economy of place-making where the logic of mediation does not and cannot operate” (). the concept of culture as currently deployed by cultural studies not only reduces everything to meaning but also does so as a means to combat a mode of power that might be outmoded by now. Considering affect a main force deployed by texts to generate intensities. In the context of his concern— cultural studies—Grossberg therefore urges us to question its reliance on identifying “mediation with communication” () that sees all cultural practices as involving “the production of meanings and representations. not the least because of Foucault’s rather powerful arguments to this extent. he theorizes rock music as a mode of affect rather than conceiving it in ideological. While Brian Massumi astutely criticizes Grossberg for having muddled the important distinction between emotion and affect. So. as I am inclined to agree. then representation as a locus for politics and criticism no longer offers a promising mode of engagement.11 Grossberg’s own work has long attempted to account for this shift in power formations. Are We All Arnoldians? tendant cultural “logic of lack” () helps us explain the larger operation of cultural criticism.

problem: that of representation. mostly on the margins. which leads them to ask. Rather. “Signification and representation are merely two modes—and not necessarily the most important ones—in the regime of mediation. Or. ambiguously in front of the process of (the) production (of signs) and (the) anti-production (of the body-without organs). and not the most important one at that. we cannot accept endless deferral as a satisfying solution to the functioning of judgment as the operative force of criticism. representation. mediation] unchallenged. From a Grossbergian cultural studies perspective. . so Grossberg conceptually shows that de Man’s solution to the problem of judgment merely turned that concept into a new. as well as literary and film studies. What we consider “representations” are themselves produced by asignifying forces. a thinker whose work inhabits cultural studies. Constantin Boundas’s critique of what he calls dominant deconstruction strikes a similar note: “Positioning itself. Both Grossberg and Boundas are making the same point with regard to their disciplines (cultural studies and philosophy. as he puts it. And it is this unchallenged metaphysical primacy of reproductive forces [ . yet related. “with what else [other than representations] does a text generate intensities” ()? To address this question. respectively).Are We All Arnoldians?  has successfully eliminated the pitfalls of literary studies. as [deconstruction] did. he urges cultural studies to appreciate the possibility that representation might not be “about” representation—that the production of “meaning” is merely one effect “representations” produce. does not deny that representation/mediation exists. from this perspective we begin to see now that the logic of representation itself is the problem. . both Boundas and Grossberg turn for their answers to the strictly arepresentational thought of Gilles Deleuze. ] that accounts for ‘turning everything into a drama’ in the deployment of (major) deconstructive strategies” (). of course. further.12 Just as de Man was able to show that literary studies is far from having escaped Arnold’s shadow. Grossberg.13 . it left the metaphysical primacy of reproduction [viz. in Boundas’s words. or even of discursive mediation” (–).

The critical question remains “what does this mean?” even though the oft-repeated response is that we cannot decide or that the textual meaning assumes a plurality of forms. identity. New Historicism. it might not be overstating the case that much of cultural studies has no interest at all in questioning representationalism. Any quick mla database search using the term “Deleuze” will produce considerably fewer entries than “cultural studies. Deleuze’s thought has had considerably less influence on literary and film criticism than deconstruction. generally speaking. That is. and thus representation and judgment.” or “Derrida”/“Deconstruction. or cultural studies. despite its attack on the privileging of texts. In its attempt to politicize the act of criticism. Likewise. as Grossberg has nicely parceled out. a perusal of the main cinema journals will not bring forth a vast array of scholarly work that deals with or deploys Deleuzean thought—despite the fact that he wrote two books on cinema.” “Foucault”/ “New Historicism. In fact. Are We All Arnoldians? That Grossberg points to Deleuze’s thought as a way to problematize some of the more dominant critical paradigms—be it the still lingering deconstructive vein or the cultural studies response to it—is even more remarkable in that he thus marks an interesting and telling dynamic inherent to any discipline invested in interpretation. just as he wrote extensively on literature. since much of its politics are tied to notions of recognition.15 What then is going . the attractiveness of cultural studies.” Similarly. de Man’s critique of literary criticism’s continuing judgmental mode of operation might have been able to produce some initial shock waves.14 This helps explain why. is of little surprise considering that it too has much investment in the concept of representation (albeit in a much more political sense). cultural studies has (partially) turned away from the literary (or cinematic) text but has never really questioned representation as such. yet the very nature of de Man’s own practice ultimately allowed the discipline to welcome his critique and make it its own precisely because de Manean criticism (American deconstruction) remains solidly within the realm of representation and interpretation.

I suggest.Are We All Arnoldians?  on? Why is one not entirely mistaken in suggesting that the academic critical apparatus has largely kept Deleuze at bay? While there may be all kinds of explanations (such as his difficult and constantly changing terminology. “The Simulacrum and Ancient Philosophy”—an essay that in its very clarity and concision shatters many well-cherished and naturalized presuppositions of contemporary critical practice. and judgment—as I have begun to argue in chapter . the seeming—but only seeming—lack of systematicity of his writing. then. perhaps more to the point. the laser beam of Western metaphysics went from Plato all the way to contemporary philosophers such as Martin Heidegger. let us turn to one of Deleuze’s earlier essays. it was Plato who powerfully introduced representationalism into Western thought. Gilles Deleuze: Overcoming Platonism Taking up Nietzsche’s claim that the task of modern philosophy is “to reverse Platonism. interpretation. an overturning of .” Deleuze wants to diagnose what this overturning means and how it could be accomplished (“Simulacrum” ). As Jacques Derrida has frequently suggested. following Grossberg. It is of course hardly a coincidence that Deleuze becomes interested in the question of Platonism. not least because it runs a hard line on the key insight that “modernity is defined by the power of the simulacrum” ().16 To further this argument. that Deleuze’s insistence on the asignifying force of language lies at the root of criticism’s reluctance to engage his thought. and I want to add that Plato’s arrow of thought has also been caught by the modern practice of literary and film criticism as practiced in academia and popular culture. disciplines such as literary or film criticism might be reluctant to take Deleuze’s arepresentationalism more seriously because following Deleuze on this point pulls the rug from underneath the disciplines’ cherished trinity—representation. the sheer breadth of his interest that makes his arguments often rather difficult to follow for readers). After all. As such. Or.

Perhaps the best-known example of this procedure is Plato’s attempt to track down the Sophist. to distinguish the impure from the pure. More specifically. Deleuze. his theory of Ideas—as expressed in the myth of the pure souls—“permits the construction of a model according to which the different pretenders can be judged” (). happens in and with Plato’s thought according to Deleuze? It is well known that Plato’s arguments worked by his division of genus into species. then it follows that there are a number of dif- . becomes this ground. That is. What. But for our purposes even more crucial is that an overturning of Platonism would also show why judgment. If the method of Platonic division is a “dialectic of rivalry” (). more profoundly. That is. especially. if de Man has shown that literary criticism continues to rely on judgment and argues for a deconstructive criticism suspended in representational ignorance and if Grossberg has shown that representation itself might be the problem.17 And it is in this context. however. ultimately depends on some a priori ground that allows a subject to make these divisions. to select lineages: to distinguish pretenders. so Deleuze suggests. in its extreme case: that of violence. but. then Deleuze gives us the tool to see how judgment is the operation of representation. then. the ability to distinguish between the authentic and inauthentic. So. no matter how subtle. cannot be considered a helpful response to a literary (or filmic) text. symptomatologically reading Deleuze’s essay on Plato and the simulacrum allows us to understand why the discipline of criticism cannot escape the realm of judgment as long as it continues to base itself on the economy of representationalism. a successful overturning would seriously question the validity of the entire critical enterprise—or at least criticism in its representational mode. the authentic from the inauthentic” (“Simulacrum” ). And myth. If the realm of Ideas is the highest good to be aspired to. in Plato. contends that the real purpose of Platonic division “is not at all to divide a genus into species. the true and the false. Are We All Arnoldians? Platonism is not a small task. though not exclusively. that we have to understand the function of myth in Plato’s thought.

sim- . One of the upshots of Deleuze’s argument here is that the popular postmodern language of simulation does not make much sense. The pretender conforms to the object only insofar as he is modeled (internally and spiritually) on the Idea. it is the superior identity of the Idea. Plato’s theory of Ideas “constructs the immanent model or the foundation-test according to which the pretenders should be judged and their pretensions measured” (). for the Platonic motivation to differentiate between good and bad copies or. In Platonism. that there are participants who faithfully copy these ideas and participants who do not. built upon a dissimilarity. He merits the quality (the quality of being just. says Deleuze. r