The word “affect” gets thrown around a lot these days.

At least, in my department it does. I feel like I’ve spent most of the last six months trying to solve the mystery of what “affect” is, exactly. It’s more than just an emotional response.

Last week Jesse was reading Sarah Ahmed, and happened upon what’s probably the clearest, and most definite definition of the word. Affect involves both the mind’s power to think and the body’s ability to act. Mind and body develop in parallel but autonomous ways. Affect “indicates at once the current state of the mind and body.” [That’s a haphazard paraphrase. I don’t know, really, if those quotation marks are in the right spot. Or if there should be italics. Or who the original source of that quote is (Ahmed is drawing upon someone — I supect Heidegger).  I’ll have to ask Jesse for verification.]

If someone offers you food to eat, your body is nourished. At the same time, you experience a host of mental and emotional responses: pleasure at the food’s taste and smell, gratefulness that someone cares enough to provide you with food, love and amicability. (Then again, the food might be poisoned, which probably instigates an entirely different affective response.)

So now we’re clear what affect is. Remember the word. It’s going to be very useful in the near future.

5 March 2010 ~ Hamilton


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