Editorial: Genre & Affect

Editorial: Genre & Affect

When we talk about genres in everyday conversation, these are often understood as kinds of text that can be sorted taxonomically by their contents and by formal markers. But if we seriously ask ourselves for instance why we are in the mood for a romantic comedy, a horror movie or an action film, we quickly realize that it does not come down to the represented characters and actions but rather to a specific kind of experience. That is why we deem it necessary not to start from conventions and iconographies of genres. Instead one has to address genres as generic forms of sensibility and one has to understand the choice of one’s evening’s media consumption as a choice that involves an affect-economic self-efficacy, which does not only concern one’s individual state of being but that connects us to a dimension of indeterminate collectivity.

Following this understanding of genre as a system of different expressive modalities that address their spectators affectively and that locate them in a communally shared world of sensibilities, films keep in store for us the experience of being affectively interwoven in many different ways with an undetermined plurality of others. The contributions to the third issue of mediaesthetics take this perspective of a theory of affect as a starting point to reflect on different facets of genre in specific case studies. In doing so, different approaches and lines of flight come into a productive exchange:

Is it possible to deduce a film genre in the context of auteur, world and festival cinema based on the common affective modality of the abject?

In his sweeping overview of different tendencies within contemporary European auteur cinema and their historical, economic and social-political ramifications, Thomas Elsaesser considers how a “cinema of abject affects” makes the state of uncertainty in the current global crises graspable.

Can you show how a genre evolves and updates by adding a new type of narrative situation and affective address to its affect-dramaturgical building blocks?

Robert Burgoyne examines DUNKIRK (Christopher Nolan, UK/USA/F/NL 2017) as a war film that assembles different narratives and dramaturgies of affect within the genre. What emerges from this is a new kind of aesthetic mode of experiencing audiovisual depictions of war.

Is it possible to demonstrate in film analysis how single genre films are composed out of different modalities of audiovisual staging that can themselves be assigned to a plurality of genres and how this interplay of expressive modalities produces the experience of a social, cultural and historical situatedness of the act of film-viewing?

Matthias Grotkopp attempts to establish this perspective on genre cinema based on affect theory, showing how genre films have to be conceived as ramifications and transformations of different genre patterns by using a TV-crime film by Christian Petzold as an exemplary case.

Danny Gronmaiers contribution argues that the seemingly reactionary, nostalgic world view of the Hollywood sports film genre has to be reconsidered if one does not foreground the narrated stories but a detailed analysis of the affective address of the experience of film-viewing. The history of inclusion and exclusion then becomes understood as a permanent movement and the fantasy of “everything was better in the old days” becomes graspable precisely as the cultural fantasy it is, always only realizing itself in the mode of conflict.

And finally should one not only comprehend the poetics but also the affect rhetorics of audiovisual images as generic, especially in the context of concrete interventions in the dynamic unfolding of political self-concepts?

The video of German Youtuber REZO, which created quite a big controversy in 2019, comes into view in Jasper Stratil’s detailed analysis not only as a collection of strong theses on social and environmental politics but most of all as a specific audiovisual structure of affecting speech in a concrete rhetorical situation.


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Copyright (c) 2019 Matthias Grotkopp

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ISSN 2567-9309

mediaesthetics – Journal of Poetics of Audiovisual Images

Cinepoetics – Center for Advanced Film Studies