wow

73. What astonishment is
This surprise has great power to steer the spirits in the brain’s cavities towards the place ·in the brain· that contains the impression of the object of wonder—so much power that it sometimes it drives all the spirits to that place, and gets them to be so busy preserving this impression that none of them carry on through to the muscles. . . . The upshot is that the whole body remains as still as a statue. This is what we commonly call ‘being astonished’. Astonishment is an excess of wonder, and it is always bad because the body’s immobility means that the person can perceive only one side of the wondered-at object, namely the side first presented to him. ·If he weren’t outright astonished he could turn the object over, walk around it, or the like, thus learning more about it·.

  • René Descartes, in Les passions de l’âme (1649)

57. If some mystical art lovers who think of every criticism as a dissection and every dissection as destruction of pleasure were to think logically, then “wow” would be the best criticism of the greatest work of art. To be sure, there are critiques that say nothing more, but only take much longer to say it.

  • Friedrich Schlegel, Athenaeum fragments (1798-1800)

What if we think of these modes of being in the world–Warhol’s liking of things, his “wows” and “gees,” and O’Hara’s poetry being saturated with feelings of fun and anticipation–as a mode of utopian feeling but also hope’s methodology?

  • José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (2009)
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