Signs, Motions and Emotions in Michel Houellebecq’s Platform
A Blog Post by Pablo Markin.
In her paper, Claire Lozier has explored the rhetoricity and textuality aspects of Michel Houellebecq’s novel Platform (2001), in order to understand “the way emotions and motion operate jointly through writing in this post-travel literature text dealing with the contemporary travel industry, sex tourism, and emotional alienation” (668). As one of the better-known internationally French writers, Houellebecq is highly popular, which could be due to his “polemical literary perspective” (668), as Lozier argues. To analyse this novel, Lozier takes recourse to the theories of affect of Frédéric Lordon, in order to approach literature as “a powerful tool that can have an effect on individuals and society as a result of its capacity to produce what Lordon calls “signes empuissantisés” [empowerised signs] (Lordon, Les Affects de la politique, 170-175)” (669).
According to Lozier, “Platform appears to be a book whose stirring power stems from a narration ruled by endless and unsolved contradictions. It is as much about love as about sex-tourism, it both rejects and sanctifies emotions, exposes and recycles clichés and stereotypes, and overlays popular culture with highbrow references” (673). In this context, the author indicates that “[w]hile, for Lordon, “ideas as ideas are innately powerless” (Les Affects de la politique, 171), empowerised signs are ideas that have been equipped with “an emotional prosthesis” (170)” (674). From this perspective, “Houellebecq’s third novel casts an uncompromising light on the current debate about the inflation of emotions in the public sphere by highlighting some of its ramifications on a global scale” (674).
In her concluding remarks, Lozier proposes that “[r]eading Houellebecq through Frédéric Lordon’s theory of affects has also allowed us, in turn, to consider the emotional characteristics of the equivocal signs produced in Platform” (674). In this context, this author also argues that “[w]hile Houellebecq’s work is commonly read as an acerbic commentary on the post-human condition or as a vitriolic criticism of contemporary western societies, the emphasis on its cynical nature tends to overlook the crucial role that is also played by emotions in his writing and thought” (675).
By Pablo Markin
Featured Image Credits: Michel Houellebecq in Tel Aviv, April 17, 2011 | © Courtesy of Nur/Flickr.