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TitleViolent Affect: Literature, Cinema, and Critique after Representation
PublisherUniversity of Nebraska Press
ISBN 139780803211186
CategoryArts - Film
File Size5.0 MB
Total Pages314
Document Text Contents
Page 2

Violent A� ect

Page 157

Becoming-Violent, Becoming-DeNiro

Why fascination? Because it expresses a particular attraction to
a kind of image that cannot be circumscribed by the standard
psychoanalytic concepts of the voyeuristic gaze and its sadomas-
ochistic implications. For, as Maurice Blanchot argues in his re-
sponse to the question “Why fascination?” that he posits in the
context of � e Space of Literature, “when what you see, although
at a distance, seems to touch you with a gripping contact, [ . . . ]
when what is seen imposes itself upon the gaze, as if the gaze
were seized [then what] is given us by this contact at a distance is
the image, and fascination is passion for the image” (, my empha-
sis). Blanchot encourages us here to heed fascination as a passion,
a degree of intensity, a becoming-aff ected by something or some-
one else. Th is becoming-aff ected has not necessarily anything at
all to do with a desire to dominate or be dominated (which, for
psychoanalytic fi lm theory, are desires that tend to come as an
inseparable pair). Attending to this fascination—most often reg-
istered on and expressed through a face (think of a child’s aston-
ished, dumbfounded gaze triggered by something unfamiliar, or
her gaping mouth in response to, e.g., a magician’s trick)—I sug-
gest with literary critic Jeff rey Karnicky that fascination’s value
lies in preventing “interpretation of a certain kind” (Contempo-
rary Fiction ), one that always turns too quickly to the desire
to “understand” and “judge” the image rather than encounter its
operative force on its own terms.

Diagnosing the process of DeNiro’s becoming-violent through
his facialization of violence, thus, is meant to attend to the
force we call fascination and that we most often witness on and
through the face of someone else. However, faces, as Deleuze and
Guattari argue, cannot be assumed “to come ready-made. Th ey
are engendered by an abstract machine of faciality” (� ousand
Plateaus ).3 Faces are maps, or surfaces. Th us, our diagnosis
of DeNiro’s becoming-violent must delineate the development
of his faciality—his giving face to images of violence—over the
course of his career. But because “you don’t so much have a face
as slide into one” (), we must do more than just map DeNiro’s
changing “face.” If a face is not to be had, then a specifi c pro-

Page 158

Becoming-Violent, Becoming-DeNiro 

cess—Deleuze and Guattari call it “faciality”—must produce it.
“Faciality” diagrams processes of territorialization of multiple
forces that include those of the entire body that “comes to be fa-
cialized as part of an inevitable process” (). Our masocritical
diagnosis must therefore also heed the discourse most closely
associated with DeNiro as an actor: that of so-called Method
acting with its attendant psychological concepts of acting out
and working through.

Th e prominence of what is commonly called “the Method”
in American cinema of the post–World War II era has led to an
(popularized) association of acting with mimesis (imitation, rep-
resentation). However, I will show that DeNiro’s method is of a
diff erent kind, one that has emerged out of the history of Method
acting but that has made some crucial alterations. Attending to
this diff erence, I think, will result in a conceptualizing of enacted
violence that questions and ultimately bypasses any psychoana-
lytic understanding of it. Th e latter reads violence and its multiple
occurrences (practices) as immoral acting out of repressed desires
or memories that are triggered through the process of mimesis
(which is how critics tend to read Tom Ripley). Psychoanalytic
discourses respond to the “disease” of acting out by advocating
the rational, therapeutic process of working through (theory) as
the necessary (and only) “cure.” Based thoroughly on a represen-
tational understanding of acting that has emerged from the pop-
ularization of the Method, psychoanalytic fi lm criticism tends
to hold as superior theory to practice, working through to act-
ing out, mourning to melancholia. In contrast, DeNiro’s practice
theorizes a diff erent conceptualization of violence—one that de-
ploys acting out and working through as fundamentally aff ective,
and thus immanent, processes. If working through and acting out
stand in an immanent relation to each other, however, then the
standard judgment levied against violence as a “bad” acting out
becomes impossibly useless, indeed self-defeating, precisely be-
cause working through always and necessarily turns out to be an
acting out.

Page 313


violence (cont.)
–, n; of sensation,
ix, –, –; serializing,
–; singular moment
of, ; and “slowing down,”
n; of uncertainty, ;
understandable motive of,
, ; as an undertheo-
rized concept, ; versions
of, ; without blood, ;
without judgment, 

violent images: ethical value of, ;
pedagogical engagement with,
xvi; representational approach
to, xvi; as representations,
x–xi, xii; in terms of aff ects
and force, x

Virilio, Paul, n; and theory
of perception, n

Visconti, Luchino, 

waiting, pure, 
“Wallpaper Mao” (Karnicky),

war, causes and eff ects of, 
Ward, Victor, , 
Warhol, Andy, n
war on terror, 
Webb, Th eresa, xi
“Welcome to the Desert of the

Real” (Žižek), 

Wellman, William, 
Wenders, Wim, , n
Weschler, Lawrence, 
What Is Philosophy? (Deleuze and

Guattari), 
White Noise (DeLillo), , n
� e Wild Bunch (Peckinpah), 
Wilson, Andrews, 
Wise, J. Macgregor, n
working through, , –,

–, ; and acting out,
; Method mode of, ;
mirror scene shows, n;
moral quality of, ; and rep-
etition, , 

World Spectators (Silverman),

writer-terrorist relationship,

writing, ethics of, 

Yeats, William Butler, 
Young, Elizabeth, n

Zacharek, Stephanie, n
Žižek, Slavoj, xv, –, ,

n, n, n;
and charity, –; and the
fetish, 

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