Parables for the Virtual

Parables for the Virtual : Movement, Affect, Sensation

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Although the body has been the focus of much contemporary cultural theory, the models that are typically applied neglect the most salient characteristics of embodied existence-movement, affect, and sensation-in favor of concepts derived from linguistic theory. In Parables for the Virtual Brian Massumi views the body and media such as television, film, and the Internet, as cultural formations that operate on multiple registers of sensation beyond the reach of the reading techniques founded on the standard rhetorical and semiotic models. Renewing and assessing William James' radical empiricism and Henri Bergson's philosophy of perception through the filter of the post-war French philosophy of Deleuze, Guattari, and Foucault, Massumi links a cultural logic of variation to questions of movement, affect, and sensation. If such concepts are as fundamental as signs and significations, he argues, then a new set of theoretical issues appear, and with them potential new paths for the wedding of scientific and cultural theory. Replacing the traditional opposition of literal and figural with new distinctions between stasis and motion and between actual and virtual, Parables for the Virtual tackles related theoretical issues by applying them to cultural mediums as diverse as architecture, body art, the digital art of Stelarc, and Ronald Reagan's acting career. The result is an intriguing combination of cultural theory, science, and philosophy that asserts itself in a crystalline and multi-faceted argument. Parables for the Virtual will interest students and scholars of continental and Anglo-American philosophy, cultural studies, cognitive science, electronic art, digital culture, and chaos theory, as well as those concerned with the "science wars" and the relation between the humanities and the sciences in general.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 336 pages
  • 157.48 x 226.06 x 43.18mm | 975.22g
  • Duke University Press
  • North Carolina, United States
  • English
  • 0822328976
  • 9780822328971
  • 53,361

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Review quote

"This is an extraordinary work of scholarship and thought, the most thorough-going critique and reformulation of the culture doctrine that I have read in years. Massumi's prose has a dazzling and sometimes cutting clarity and yet he bites into very big issues. People will be reading and talking about Parables for the Virtual for a long time to come."- Meaghan Morris, author of Too Soon Too Late: History in Popular Culture "What you did subtract in order to get cozy definitions you will never get again starting from those definitions! After Bergson, Whitehead, Deleuze and Guattari, the great radical empiricist protest against both naive objectivism and naive subjectivism resonates again. Right or wrong is not the issue, but bringing back wonder into the most common day experiences, vitualizing any common-day experience through a 'free and savage creation of concepts': Anglo-American philosophy the killing of which Gilles Deleuze mourned is born again! After reading Brian Massumi you should never be able to listen to Sinatra or watch a football game the same way."-Isabelle Stengers, Free University of Brussels

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Back cover copy

"It is not enough to describe Massumi's book as a brilliant achievement. Seldom do we see a political thinker develop his or her ideas with such scrupulous attention to everyday human existence, creating a marvelously fluid architecture of thought around the fundamental question of what the fact of human embodiment does to the activity of thinking. Massumi's vigorous critique of both social-constructionist and essentialist theorizations of embodied practices renews the Deleuzian tradition of philosophy for our times."--Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago

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About Brian Massumi

Brian Massumi is Associate Professor of Communications at the Universite de Montreal. He is the author of "User s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari" and "First and Last Emperors: The Absolute State and the Body of the Despot.""

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