Boundaries are often considered permeable in affect theory, and such is the case with the border between mood as an internal state and as an external ambience. These two sides of mood not only coexist but mutually interact through the affective processes of transmission and contagion.
According to some affect theorists, one site where the mood of the exterior world interacts with that of the interior is the face. In his discussion of Wordsworth’s poem “Michael,” Pfau speaks of a face that appears within the ballad as a place where mood shifts. This “proud face” belongs to Michael’s son Luke who has lost the inheritance of his father’s land. Luke’s visage in its pride both reveals his internal mood and conceals it. He has been shut out of the pastoral landscape through his family’s losses, and he, in turn, shuts out the reader and his father through the bold expression he wears. Pfau writes: “All that Michael ever knows of Luke is his ‘face,’” which, while powerful and memorable, is not present at the poem’s end. Luke must leave the pastoral land where he had expected to spend his life. Anna Gibbs touches upon the power of the face to convey mood in her essay “After Affect.” She claims that faces appear in highly communicative nonhuman forms within media images. These forms include “landscapes, houses, food, animals, skin and choreographed bodies,” whose faces “conjure more complex representations of mood” (Gregg and Seigworth 191).
The boundary between external and internal is markedly permeable in Brian Massumi’s discussion of mood and its function within a neoliberal political environment. Massumi speaks of how the events of September 11, 2001, brought an affective shift that disrupted our conceptions of the future. Usually, projections about the future are based on the events of the past. “But the mood has changed,” he writes. “It may be hoped that the future can be induced as a linear extension from the past, it is feared that it may not” (Gregg and Seigworth 4). For Massumi, the change in mood after 9/11 ushered in a state of pervasive fear.
Gregg, Melissa and Gregory Seigworth, eds. The Affect Theory Reader. Durham: Duke UP, 2010.
Pfau, Thomas. Romantic Moods: Paranoia, Trauma, and Melancholy, 1790-1840. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2005.