Life-Destroying Diagrams

Life-Destroying Diagrams

Book Pages: 512 Illustrations: 60 illustrations, incl. 17 in color Published: November 2021

Art and Visual Culture, Media Studies > Film, Theory and Philosophy > Critical Theory

In Life-Destroying Diagrams, Eugenie Brinkema brings the insights of her radical formalism to bear on supremely risky terrain: the ethical extremes of horror and love. Through close readings of works of film, literature, and philosophy, she explores how diagrams, grids, charts, lists, abecedaria, toroids, tempos, patterns, colors, negative space, lengths, increments, and thresholds attest to formal logics of torture and cruelty, violence and finitude, friendship and eros, debt and care. Beginning with a wholesale rethinking of the affect of horror, orienting it away from entrenched models of feeling towards impersonal schemes and structures, Brinkema moves outwards to consider the relation between objects and affects, humiliation and metaphysics, genre and the general, bodily destruction and aesthetic generation, geometry and scenography, hatred and value, love and measurement, and, ultimately, the tensions, hazards, and speculative promise of formalism itself. Replete with etymological meditations, performative typography, and lyrical digressions, Life-Destroying Diagrams is at once a model of reading without guarantee and a series of generative experiments in the writing of aesthetic theory.


“Eugenie Brinkema's unbounded erudition is matched only by her creativity, startling capacity for thought, and her inimitable writing. In Life-Destroying Diagrams she mobilizes the history of philosophy while providing breathtaking and entirely unanticipated readings of individual films. Her virtuosity is on full display, resulting in a book that is itself as literary as it is scholarly. Standing to reshape the possibilities of film studies as a field and suggest new and thrilling ways in which one can practice it, Life-Destroying Diagrams is an event.” — Akira Mizuta Lippit, author of Cinema without Reflection: Jacques Derrida’s Echopoiesis and Narcissism Adrift


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Eugenie Brinkema is Associate Professor of Contemporary Literature and Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author of The Forms of the Affects, also published by Duke University Press.

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Table of Contents Forthcoming
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1434-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1343-3