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Masamune’s Blade

A Proposition for Dialectic Affect Research


Peter Zuurbier and Frédérik Lesage

Affect is so powerful and represents such ripe territory for study that, in its infancy, conventions of research need to be established that attend to its particular motion and shape. Masamune’s Blade: A Proposition for Dialectic Affect Research outlines an original research method for the study of affect known as affect probes, and proposes the establishment of a new knowledge project based in affect. The book begins with a call to discursively reshape research using affect, after which the authors develop a unique conceptualization of affect, one that brings it into the realm of Frankfurt School Critical Theory. The theoretical foundation sets up the affect probe method, which involves giving participants a package of small activities that require fun, easy, and creative participation. The activities are intended both to inspire affects and to mark their presence. Strategies for analysis are outlined and a series of critical interventions are woven throughout the text to situate the ideas.
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An Apparatus of Play

“In taking fright at the image in its own mirror, that thought opens to view what lies beyond it.”

—Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment

We have a confession to make. The story we told at the beginning of the book of Masamune and Muramasa did not actually occur. The competition between master and apprentice and the stringing of their blades over the stream are unlikely to have happened. Though the exact dates vary, historical records indicate that Muramasa lived at least a century after Masamune in Ancient Japan.1 So the two never met, which is unfortunate, but doesn’t really take away from the impact of the story. While the tale is captivating in the elegance of its simplicity, the lore only represents the legend of Masamune. It casts aside Muramasa as merely a naive student who was taught a lesson by his master. But Muramasa himself actually enjoys considerable mythology in Japan. His blades developed an infamy over time that is alluded to in the original legend. In the legend of Masamune and Muramasa, the lack of compassion displayed by the apprentice’s blade was seen as a mark of evil. The monk who witnessed the contest is purported to have said the following: ← 169 | 170 →

The first of the swords was by all accounts a fine sword, however it is a blood thirsty, evil blade, as it does not discriminate as to who...

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