Empowering Signs: Writing and e-motions in Michel Houellebecq’s Platform

  • 1 School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, University of Leeds,, Leeds, UK


This article explores the working of the cultural literacy concepts of rhetoricity and textuality in Michel Houellebecq’s third novel Platform through the lens of French philosopher Frederic Lordon’s affect theory, with a view to understanding 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. As such, it contributes to the current reassessment of the role played by emotions in human interactions. By exploring the specific layered textuality of Platform, which purposefully recycles a series of discursive cliches and tropes, I show how Houellebecq’s writing style demands to be considered not only for its literary value but also for its potent, and perhaps unexpected, moving effects, or rhetoricity, which invite readers to reconsider their perception of alterity-i.e. the world and the other-but also of the performative power of art and literature. In order to demonstrate this, the article looks first at the failure of travel writing orchestrated in the novel; it then analyses alternative textual modalities of affect mediation trialed in the text; and finally, it considers the strategies used in Platform to “empowerise” signs and, as a result, those who read them.

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Open Cultural Studies is a peer-reviewed journal exploring the fields of Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts. It interprets culture in an inclusive sense and promotes new research perspectives in cultural studies. The journal aims to enhance international collaboration among scholars from the Global North and the Global South and help early-career researchers. It is also committed to increasing public access to scholarship on cultural studies.