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DELEUZE’S WAY<br />

Addressing the essential question of the relationship between ethics and aesthetics in<br />

Deleuze’s philosophy this book provides clear indications of the practical implications<br />

of Deleuze’s approach to the arts through detailed analyses of the ethical dimension<br />

of artistic activity in literature, music, and film.<br />

Bogue examines Deleuze’s “transverse way” of interrelating the ethical and the<br />

aesthetic, the transverse way being both a mode of thought and a practice of living.<br />

Among the issues examined are those of the relationship of music to literature, the<br />

political vocation of the arts, violence in popular music, the ethics and aesthetics<br />

of education, the use of music and sound in film, the role of the visual in literary<br />

invention, the function of the arts in cross cultural interactions, and the future of<br />

Deleuzian analysis as a means of forming an open, reciprocally self-constituting,<br />

transcultural global culture.<br />

Drawing on years of insight into the works of Gilles Deleuze, Ronald Bogue provides<br />

a careful and systematic study of Deleuze’s transverse way, the myriad diagonal paths<br />

connecting seemingly incommunicable domains: Deleuze’s immanent ethics as they<br />

correspond to the themes of the “minor” in literature and music; the construction of<br />

concepts through a pedagogy of images and the efficacy of fabulation; nomadology<br />

considered both as an expression of actual nomadic practices and as a comparative<br />

poetics for understanding globalization. Through this exploration of the Deleuzian<br />

method, Bogue reveals how these transversal connections constitute so many ways<br />

of thinking, of creating, and of multiplying variations that enliven and conjoin the<br />

arts and philosophy.<br />

Charles J. Stivale, Distinguished Professor of French,<br />

<strong>Way</strong>ne State University, USA


For my sister, Cynthia Bogue


Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

Essays in Transverse Ethics and Aesthetics<br />

RONALD BOGUE<br />

University of Georgia, USA


© Ronald Bogue 2007<br />

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system<br />

or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording<br />

or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher.<br />

Ronald Bogue has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to<br />

be identified as the author of this work.<br />

Published by<br />

Ashgate Publishing Limited Ashgate Publishing Company<br />

Gower House Suite 420<br />

Croft Road 101 Cherry Street<br />

Aldershot Burlington, VT 05401-4405<br />

Hampshire GU11 3HR USA<br />

England<br />

Ashgate website: http://www.ashgate.com<br />

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data<br />

Bogue, Ronald, 1948-<br />

Deleuze’s way : essays in transverse ethics and aesthetics<br />

1. Deleuze, Gilles 2. Deleuze, Gilles - Aesthetics<br />

3. Ethics<br />

I. Title<br />

194<br />

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data<br />

Bogue, Ronald, 1948-<br />

Deleuze’s way : essays in transverse ethics and aesthetics / Ronald Bogue.<br />

p. cm.<br />

Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index.<br />

ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-6032-3 (hardcover : alk. paper) 1. Deleuze, Gilles, 1925-1995. 2.<br />

Ethics. 3. Aesthetics. I. Title.<br />

B2430.D454B65 2007<br />

194--dc22<br />

ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-6032-3<br />

Printed and bound in Great Britain by Antony Rowe Ltd, Chippenham, Wiltshire.<br />

2006026857


Contents<br />

Acknowledgements vii<br />

List of Abbreviations ix<br />

Introduction The Transverse <strong>Way</strong>: Du côté de chez Deleuze 1<br />

1 Immanent Ethics 7<br />

2 Minority, Territory, Music 17<br />

3 Violence in Three Shades of Metal: Death, Doom and Black 35<br />

4 Search, Swim and See: Deleuze’s Apprenticeship<br />

in Signs and Pedagogy of Images 53<br />

5 Tragedy, Sight and Sound: The Birth of Godard’s<br />

Prénom Carmen from the Nietzschean Spirit of Music 69<br />

6 Bergsonian Fabulation and the People to Come 91<br />

7 Re-Viewing Deleuze’s Sacher-Masoch 107<br />

8 Apology for Nomadology 113<br />

9 Nomadism, Globalism and Cultural Studies 123<br />

10 Nomadology’s Trial by Proxy 137<br />

Bibliography 167<br />

Index 171


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Acknowledgements<br />

I am grateful to the University of Georgia’s Willson Center for Humanities and Arts<br />

and the University of Georgia Research Foundation for their generous support of<br />

this project. For their encouragement and advice, I would like to thank Constantin V.<br />

Boundas, Ian Buchanan, Hanping Chiu, David Jones, Jean Khalfa, John K. Noyes,<br />

Michael Schwartz, Inna Semetsky, Marcel Swiboda and Jason Wirth. I am also<br />

grateful for permission to publish modified versions of essays that appeared in the<br />

following:<br />

“The Immanent Ethics of Gilles Deleuze,” in A Feast of Logos: Essays in<br />

Commemoration of the Tenth Anniversary of the Georgia Continental Philosophy<br />

Circle, eds Jason Wirth, Michael Schwartz, and David Jones (Atlanta: Georgia<br />

Philosophy Series, 2005), pp. 87–99. © Georgia Philosophy Series, reprinted with<br />

permission.<br />

“Minority, Territory, Music,” in An Introduction to the Complete Work of Gilles<br />

Deleuze, ed. Jean Khalfa (London: Continuum, 2003), pp. 114–32. © Ronald<br />

Bogue, reprinted with kind permission of the publisher.<br />

“Violence in Three Shades of Metal: Death, Doom, and Black,” in Deleuze and<br />

Music, eds Ian Buchanan and Marcel Swiboda (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University<br />

Press, 2004), pp. 95–117. © Ronald Bogue, reprinted with permission of the<br />

publisher.<br />

“Search, Swim and See: Deleuze’s Apprenticeship in Signs and Pedagogy of<br />

Images,” Educational Philosophy and Theory, 36/3 (2004): 327–42. © Blackwell<br />

Publishing, reprinted with permission.<br />

“Apology for Nomadology,” Interventions, 6/2 (2004): 169–79. © Taylor and Francis<br />

, reprinted with permission.<br />

“Nomadic Flows: Globalism and the Local Absolute,” Concentric, 31/1 (2005):<br />

7–25. © Department of English, National Taiwan Normal University, reprinted<br />

with permission.<br />

“Bergsonian Fabulation and the People to Come,” in Deleuze and Philosophy, ed.<br />

Constantin V. Boundas (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006). © Ronald<br />

Bogue, reprinted with permission of the publisher.


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List of Abbreviations<br />

All translations from Deleuze, Guattari and Deleuze-Guattari are my own. For works<br />

that have appeared in English translation, citations include page numbers of the<br />

original French edition followed by the page numbers of the corresponding passages<br />

in the English translation.<br />

AO Deleuze and Guattari. L’Anti-Oedipe: Capitalisme et schizophrénie I.<br />

Paris: Minuit, 1972. Anti-Oedipus. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and<br />

Helen R. Lane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977.<br />

B Deleuze. Le Bergsonisme. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1966.<br />

Bergsonism. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. New York:<br />

Zone Books, 1991.<br />

CC Deleuze. Critique et clinique. Paris: Minuit, 1993. Essays Critical and<br />

Clinical. Trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco. Minneapolis:<br />

University of Minnesota Press, 1997.<br />

D Deleuze and Claire Parnet. Dialogues. Paris: Flammarion, 1977. Dialogues.<br />

Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. New York: Columbia<br />

University Press, 1987.<br />

DR Deleuze. Différence et répétition. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France,<br />

1968. Difference and Repetition. Trans. Paul Patton. New York: Columbia<br />

University Press, 1994.<br />

DRF Deleuze. Deux régimes de foux: textes et entretiens 1975–1995. Ed. David<br />

Lapoujade. Paris: Minuit, 2003. Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and<br />

Interviews 1975–1995. Trans. Ames Hodges and Mike Taormina. New<br />

York: Semiotext(e), 2006.<br />

E Deleuze. L’Épuisé (published with Samuel Beckett’s Quad). Paris: Minuit,<br />

1992. “The Exhausted,” in Essays Critical and Clinical. Trans. Daniel W.<br />

Smith and Michael A. Greco. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,<br />

1997, pp. 152–74.<br />

FB Deleuze. Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Vol. 1. Paris: Editions de<br />

la différence, 1981. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Trans. Daniel<br />

W. Smith. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.


x<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

ID Deleuze. L’Île déserte et autres textes: textes et entretiens 1953–1974. Ed.<br />

David Lapoujade. Paris: Minuit, 2002. Desert Islands and Other Texts<br />

1953–1974. Trans. Michael Taormina. New York: Semiotext(e), 2004.<br />

IT Deleuze. Cinéma 2: L’image-temps. Paris, Minuit, 1985. Cinema 2: The<br />

Time-Image. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. Minneapolis:<br />

University of Minnesota Press, 1989.<br />

K Deleuze and Guattari. Kafka: pour une littérature mineure. Paris: Minuit,<br />

1975. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Trans. Dana Polan. Minneapolis:<br />

University of Minnesota Press, 1986.<br />

LP Deleuze. Le Pli. Leibniz et la baroque. Paris: Minuit, 1988. The Fold.<br />

Leibniz and the Baroque. Trans. Tom Conley. Minneapolis: University of<br />

Minnesota Press, 1993.<br />

LS Deleuze. Logique du sens. Paris: Minuit, 1969. The Logic of Sense. Trans.<br />

Mark Lester, with Charles Stivale. Ed. Constantin V. Boundas. New York:<br />

Columbia University Press, 1990.<br />

MP Deleuze and Guattari. Mille plateaux: Capitalisme et schizophrénie, II.<br />

Paris: Minuit, 1980. A Thousand Plateaus. Trans. Brian Massumi.<br />

Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.<br />

NP Deleuze. Nietzsche et la philosophie. Paris: Presses Universitaires de<br />

France, 1962. Nietzsche and Philosophy. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson.<br />

Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983.<br />

PP Deleuze. Pourparlers. Paris: Minuit, 1990. Negotiations. Trans. Martin<br />

Joughin. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.<br />

PS Deleuze. Proust et les signes. 3rd edn. Paris: Presses Universitaires de<br />

France, 1976. Proust and Signs. The Complete Text. Trans. Richard Howard.<br />

London: Athlone, 2000.<br />

PT Guattari. Psychanalyse et transversalité. Paris: Maspero, 1972. Selected<br />

essays published in Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics. Trans.<br />

Rosemary Sheed. London: Penguin, 1984.<br />

PV Deleuze. Périclès et Verdi. La Philosophie de François Châtelet. Paris:<br />

Minuit, 1988.<br />

QP Deleuze and Guattari. Qu’est-ce que la philosophie?. Paris: Minuit, 1991.<br />

What Is Philosophy?. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New<br />

York: Columbia University Press, 1994.


List of Abbreviations xi<br />

RM Guattari. La Révolution moléculaire. Paris: Recherches, 1977. Selected<br />

essays published in Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics. Trans.<br />

Rosemary Sheed. London: Penguin, 1984.<br />

S Deleuze. Spinoza: Philosophie pratique. 2nd edn. Paris: Minuit, 1981.<br />

Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. Trans. Robert Hurley. San Francisco, CA:<br />

City Lights, 1988.<br />

SM Deleuze. Présentation de Sacher-Masoch. Paris: Minuit, 1967. Masochism:<br />

An Interpretation of Coldness and Cruelty. Trans. Jean McNeil. New York:<br />

G. Braziller, 1971.<br />

SP Deleuze and Carmelo Bene. Superpositions. Paris: Minuit, 1979. “One<br />

Less Manifesto,” trans. in The Deleuze Reader. Ed. Constantin V. Boundas.<br />

New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.


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Introduction<br />

The Transverse <strong>Way</strong><br />

Du côté de chez Deleuze<br />

Near the end of Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu, as the narrator<br />

reflects on time and the complex interconnections among events that surge forth in<br />

involuntary memory, he considers the figure of Mlle de Saint-Loup, and asks:<br />

Was she not – are not, indeed, the majority of human beings? – like one of those starshaped<br />

cross-roads in a forest where roads converge that have come, in the forest as in our<br />

lives, from the most diverse quarter? Numerous for me were the roads which led to Mlle<br />

de Saint-Loup and which radiated around her. Firstly the two great “ways” themselves,<br />

where on many walks I had dreamed so many dreams, both led to her: through her father<br />

Robert de Saint-Loup, the Guermantes way; through Gilberte, her mother, the Méséglise<br />

way which was also “Swann’s way.” One of them took me, by way of this girl’s mother<br />

and the Champs-Elysées, to Swann, to my evenings at Combray, to Méséglise itself; the<br />

other, by way of her father, to those afternoons at Balbec where even now I saw him again<br />

near the sun-bright sea. And then between these two high roads a network of transversals<br />

was set up. 1<br />

A network of transversals, of crisscrossing diagonal paths, interconnects the two<br />

“ways” that structure the book, the Guermantes way and the Méséglise way. Yet<br />

what is striking about these transversals is not simply that they interconnect. As<br />

Deleuze points out in his Proust and Signs, they interconnect entities that are closed<br />

in upon themselves, seemingly without communication with anything outside<br />

themselves. The Guermantes way and the Méséglise way, says the narrator, were<br />

like vases clos, chemical retorts, or sealed glass vessels. The two ways existed “far<br />

apart from one another and unaware of each other’s existence, in the sealed vessels<br />

of separate afternoons” (vol. 1, p. 147, translation modified). The same is true of<br />

every experience of involuntary memory in the Recherche. As the narrator observes<br />

when he reflects on the multiple associations tied to a given sensation<br />

… the act or gesture remains immured as within a thousand sealed vessels, each one of<br />

them filled with things of a colour, a scent, a temperature that are absolutely different one<br />

from another, vessels, moreover, which being disposed over the whole range of our years,<br />

during which we have never ceased to change if only in our dreams and our thoughts, are<br />

situated at the most various moral altitudes and give us the sensation of extraordinarily<br />

diverse atmospheres. [vol. 3, p. 903]<br />

1 Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, trans. C.K. Moncrieff and Terence<br />

Kilmartin (New York, 1982), vol. 3, pp. 1084–85.


2<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

Transversals provide communication among incommunicables. The multiple sealed<br />

glass vessels of the Recherche are interconnected, says Deleuze<br />

… by transversals, which make us leap from one profile of Albertine to another, from one<br />

Albertine to another, from one world to another, from one word to another, without ever<br />

gathering the multiple within the One, without ever reassembling the multiple in a whole,<br />

but affirming the very original unity of this particular multiple, affirming without uniting<br />

all [tous] these irreducible fragments within a Whole [Tout]. [PS 153/126]<br />

The function of transversals is to assemble multiplicities, yet in such a way that the<br />

differences among entities are not effaced but intensified. As Proust’s narrator says<br />

of a railway trip, “the specific attraction of a journey lies not in our being able to<br />

alight at places on the way and to stop altogether as soon as we grow tired, but in<br />

its making the difference between departure and arrival not as imperceptible but as<br />

intense as possible.” 2 Transversals, like Proust’s railway journeys, are the passages<br />

that render maximum intensity to the differences between multiple locations.<br />

Deleuze’s way is the transverse way, the diagonal path connecting<br />

incommunicable ways, a trajectory that intensifies the distances between locations.<br />

His way is also a way of doing – a practice of making transverse connections, of<br />

assembling multiplicities that affirm their differences through their connections. In<br />

Proust, Deleuze first came upon the notion of transversality, but he met it as well,<br />

in a different guise, in the early work of his frequent collaborator, Félix Guattari. In<br />

Psychoanalysis and Transversality (1972), which assembles Guattari’s papers and<br />

interventions from the 1960s, Guattari reflects on the difficulty of bringing genuine<br />

change to the structure and operation of psychiatric institutions. He identifies two<br />

dimensions in psychiatric institutions, “a verticality that you find for example in an<br />

organizational diagram with a pyramidal structure (directors, subdirectors, etc.),”<br />

and “a horizontality like that which takes form in the hospital courtyard, in the ward<br />

for the disturbed, even more so in the wards for the senile, that is, a certain state<br />

of affairs in which things and people arrange themselves as best they can in the<br />

situation in which they find themselves” (PT 79/17). The problem, as he sees it, is to<br />

change both vertical hierarchies of authority and horizontal modes of interaction, to<br />

put into effect a “maximum communication … among different levels and above all<br />

in different directions” (PT 80/18). In a hospital, “the ‘coefficient of transversality’<br />

is [measured by] the degree of blindness of the staff,” and the modification of the<br />

institution involves an intensification of transversality such that blindness decreases<br />

and there is “a structural redefinition of the role of each individual and a reorientation<br />

of the whole group [ensemble]” (PT 80/18). Transversality is “a contrary and<br />

complementary dimension to the generative structures of pyramidal hierarchization<br />

and sterilizing modes of transmitting messages” (PT 84/22). By increasing an<br />

institution’s coefficient of transversality Guattari hopes to form a “group-subject”<br />

(as opposed to a “subjected group”), one capable of shaping itself according to its<br />

own needs and desires.<br />

Proust’s transversals and Guattari’s transversality might seem distant from one<br />

another, but both may be seen as dimensions of Deleuze’s transverse way. Proust’s<br />

2 Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, vol. 1, p. 693.


The Transverse <strong>Way</strong>: Du côté de chez Deleuze 3<br />

transversals provide connections in experience, linking sensations and memories, and<br />

thereby putting in communication incommunicable worlds and durations. They also<br />

make possible the work of art that is the Recherche, itself a structuring of transversals<br />

that emphasizes the singleness of the work as a heterogeneous multiplicity. Hence<br />

Proust’s transversals concern the domain of the aesthetic in its largest sense, that<br />

is, the realm of sense experience and the realm of art. Guattari’s transversality is<br />

primarily a social and political concept, but in Deleuze’s view, and in Guattari’s,<br />

the social and the political are inseparable from sensation and creation, whether that<br />

creation takes place in the arts, the sciences, politics, or any other sphere of human<br />

endeavor.<br />

The term “transversality” does not occupy a central place in Deleuze and<br />

Guattari’s collaborative works, but it does appear in Anti-Oedipus during the<br />

authors’ exposition of the goals they foresee for “schizoanalysis.” One of these goals<br />

is the formation of a group subject, whose “libidinal investments are themselves<br />

revolutionary.” Against the stratified libidinal investments of subjected groups, it<br />

“opposes real coefficients of transversality, with neither hierarchy nor group superego”<br />

(AO 417–18/348–9). In their next book, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature,<br />

Deleuze and Guattari do not mention the group subject or transversality, but they do<br />

speak about the immediately social and collective nature of Kafka’s work and of his<br />

desire to form a “people to come.” This “people to come” clearly is a version of the<br />

group subject shaped by “real coefficients of transversality,” and in Kafka they argue<br />

that literature as a whole has as one of its primary aims that of inventing a people to<br />

come. Finally, in their last collaborative effort, What Is Philosophy? (1991), Deleuze<br />

and Guattari go even further and state that the arts, the sciences and philosophy,<br />

despite their fundamental differences, share the common task of creating a people to<br />

come (QP 206/218).<br />

The line of thought from “transversality” to the “people to come,” then, leads to a<br />

consideration of the social and political dimensions of the arts, and, ultimately, to the<br />

fundamental question of the relationship between the ethical, which I take in a broad<br />

sense as the domain of values and action, and the aesthetic. Proust’s transversals are<br />

constituents of experience and means of artistic construction, but they also are the<br />

tools for forming connections, and hence modes of thought that might be extended<br />

to any domain. One might say that the transverse way as mode of thought, finally,<br />

is the activity of forming transverse connections that intensify differences and bring<br />

forth new possibilities for life, in the arts, the sciences, politics, philosophy, and all<br />

other spheres of action. My effort in this volume is to explore Deleuze’s transverse<br />

way of thinking and some of the transverse pathways he traces within the aesthetic<br />

and between the aesthetic and the ethical.<br />

Although Deleuze does not develop a formal ethics as a discrete component of<br />

his philosophy, there is a sense in which the ethical permeates all his work. In the<br />

first essay of this volume, I trace the outlines of what might be deemed Deleuze’s<br />

immanent ethics, in which value emerges as a constituent of the unfolding real. From<br />

the vantage of this immanent ethics, I consider a series of subjects involving the arts<br />

and social practice. In “Minority, Territory, Music,” I examine the concept of “the<br />

minor” in literature and music, using “territory” as a means of connecting the two.<br />

Deleuze is an advocate of minor literature, whose ethical dimension lies in its effort


4<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

to invent a new collectivity, an as yet nonexistent “people to come.” I argue that for<br />

Deleuze music shares minor literature’s basic ends, and that both have as their project<br />

the deterritorialization of territories and the invention of a future collectivity that<br />

only coheres to the extent that it remains a force of deterritorialization. The ethical<br />

concern of the second essay, “Violence in Three Shades of Metal: Death, Doom<br />

and Black,” is that of violence in popular culture, specifically that of violence in<br />

three forms of heavy metal music: “death metal,” “doom metal” and “black metal.”<br />

My argument here is that Deleuze’s approach to music and deterritorialization helps<br />

clarify the relationship between violent action and artistic practice, and that death,<br />

doom and black metal are not direct forms of violence, but, like all modes of artistic<br />

practice, ways of shaping materials that can be appropriated for any number of social<br />

ends.<br />

In “Search, Swim and See: Deleuze’s Apprenticeship in Signs and Pedagogy<br />

of Images,” I approach the ethics of art through a consideration of Deleuze’s<br />

scattered remarks on education. In Proust and Signs, Deleuze follows the course<br />

of the narrator’s apprenticeship in signs, which Deleuze regards as a training in<br />

the art of “thinking otherwise.” That apprenticeship, I show, resembles the process<br />

whereby one learns to swim, as Deleuze describes it in Difference and Repetition.<br />

Learning to think and to swim, I then argue, may be connected to Deleuze’s cinema<br />

theory, in which learning to think otherwise is a matter of learning to see in a new<br />

way. And it is in Godard’s “pedagogy of images,” I conclude, that Deleuze finds an<br />

especially effective method of inducing new modes of vision that function as new<br />

modes of thought. Godard’s pedagogy of images involves both sight and sound, and<br />

in “Tragedy, Sight and Sound,” I offer a Deleuzian analysis of the interrelationship<br />

of the visual and the aural in Godard’s Prénom Carmen (1983). Godard’s pedagogy<br />

of visual and sonic images, I try to show, teaches us to stop seeing and hearing the<br />

clichés that clutter the world and to see and hear the new that is already there.<br />

In his later writings, Deleuze approaches the topic of the people to come via<br />

the concept of “fabulation,” a notion he takes from Bergson’s The Two Sources of<br />

Morality and Religion, in which Bergson identifies a function of fabulation, or mythmaking,<br />

that he sees as essential to the formation of the morality and religion of<br />

traditional, closed societies. In “Bergsonian Fabulation and the People to Come,” I<br />

show first how Deleuze turns what is a negative function in Bergson into a positive<br />

force by redefining fabulation as an activation of the “powers of the false,” a way of<br />

falsifying orthodox truths and fashioning new truths, with the ethical aim of fostering<br />

a people to come. I then consider the curious fact that in both Bergson and Deleuze<br />

fabulation involves no genuine fabula, or story, concluding that for Bergson, music<br />

is the paradigmatic creative art, since it has no ties to the myth-making function<br />

of fabulation, whereas for Deleuze, the visual arts have a special privilege, since<br />

they render the new visible without structuring it through any pre-existing stories.<br />

In “Re-viewing Deleuze’s Sacher-Masoch,” I turn to Deleuze’s 1967 study of the<br />

novelist Sacher-Masoch and his brief reprise of that study in 1991, treating these<br />

texts as particularly striking examples of Deleuze’s preference for the visual over the<br />

narrative. I conclude that what attracts Deleuze to Sacher-Masoch, finally, is the antinarrative<br />

nature of Sacher-Masoch’s narratives, in which an aesthetic of suspended<br />

temporality, of perpetual deferral and frozen tableaus, proves to be an aesthetic of


The Transverse <strong>Way</strong>: Du côté de chez Deleuze 5<br />

the untimely event, and in this regard, an aesthetic that may be seen as an instance<br />

of Deleuzian fabulation.<br />

The last three essays of this volume focus on “nomadology,” the subject of an<br />

extended section of A Thousand Plateaus (1980). Deleuzian nomadism, one might<br />

say, is a version of the transverse way, a means of forming connections across the<br />

spheres of the arts, politics, the sciences, and culture in general. At first glance,<br />

nomadology seems to have little to do with actual nomads, but I argue in “Apology<br />

for Nomadology” that a proper understanding of the concept of the nomadic allows<br />

us to engage in meaningful analysis of actual nomadic practices in a number of<br />

cultural spheres. As an example, I consider gypsy music, first as the product of a<br />

wandering people, then as a component of popular and high art culture in East Central<br />

Europe, and finally as an element against which Bartók reacts in developing his own<br />

Hungarian version of European modernist music. In “Nomadism, Globalism, and<br />

Cultural Studies,” I propose nomadism as a means of approaching the phenomenon<br />

of globalization, the “nomadic” providing the model of an “open whole” that might<br />

lead to a “globalism” that stands in opposition to a Western-dominant process of<br />

globalization. I suggest a way in which this nomadic globalism might be related<br />

to cultural studies by offering a program for research in comparative poetics, one<br />

that would seek to formulate a transcultural poetics through a process of acentered<br />

cultural interaction. In my final essay, I review an essay by Christopher L. Miller, in<br />

which he offers an extended critique of nomadology that condemns nomadic thought<br />

and cultural analysis as arrogant and irresponsible. I argue that nomadology’s claims<br />

are not as arrogant as they might seem, and that nomadic thought does not entail an<br />

abandonment of rigor or ethical responsibility. Rather, it offers a mode of thought<br />

with genuine possibilities for innovative analysis of aesthetics and culture as a<br />

whole.<br />

The transverse way is the path in between, the diagonal across the grids of<br />

horizontal and vertical coordinates, the zigzag of a line of continuous variation. Its<br />

time is that of the entre-temps, the meantime or meanwhile, and its space is the<br />

middle, in medias res, always underway among things. The transverse way connects<br />

by affirming differences, constructing transversals that set the incommunicable in<br />

communication. Its transversals are agents of transversality, forces with the social<br />

and political function of bringing forth group subjects and inventing a people to<br />

come. The transverse way is a way of thinking, a way of making (poiesis), and a<br />

way of acting, and hence a pathway across the domains of philosophy, aesthetics and<br />

ethics. Deleuze’s transverse way is methodic and systematic, but open-ended in its<br />

method and system, only to be seized in its ongoing practice. In these essays, I have<br />

tried to examine that transverse way in some of its variations, to follow its paths and<br />

connections across the arts and into other fields. Each of the essays is intended to be<br />

comprehensible by itself, and as a result, some of Deleuze’s concepts are set forth<br />

more than once. My hope is that multiple passes at Deleuze’s often difficult ideas will<br />

prove more of a blessing than a burden to readers, both in comprehending the ideas<br />

themselves, and in observing the ways in which the ideas take on new dimensions in<br />

differing contexts. But above all, my object is to articulate some fundamental aspects<br />

of Deleuze’s art of thinking, his transverse practice of an immanent ethics of creation<br />

that opens new possibilities for life.


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Chapter 1<br />

Immanent Ethics<br />

By the time of his death on November 4, 1995, Deleuze had published twenty-three<br />

books touching on subjects as varied as painting, metallurgy, mathematics, geology,<br />

anthropology and cinema. As someone who valued the discipline and history of<br />

philosophy in his own idiosyncratic way, he had commented on many key figures<br />

and prominent issues in the Western philosophical tradition. Seldom, however, did<br />

he directly address the topic of ethics, despite its centrality in what is conventionally<br />

considered to be “philosophy.” Yet there is a sense in which all of Deleuze’s work<br />

is concerned with ethics, in that ethical principles inform his basic conception of<br />

thought and what it means to think.<br />

Giorgio Agamben has suggested that we may reconstruct a genealogy of modern<br />

French philosophy along two lines of descent, a “line of transcendence” from Kant<br />

through Husserl to Levinas and Derrida, and a “line of immanence” from Spinoza<br />

through Nietzsche to Deleuze and Foucault, with Heidegger participating in both<br />

lines of descent. 1 The theme of transcendence is perhaps most strikingly evident in<br />

Levinas, whose philosophy focuses on the confrontation with the radical Other. The<br />

Other is transcendent in that it is necessarily “otherwise” than Being, and hence for<br />

Levinas ethics precedes ontology. The motif of immanence, by contrast, is constant<br />

in Deleuze – indeed, he argues in What Is Philosophy? that the entire history of<br />

philosophy may be read as an effort to establish a “plane of immanence” (QP 47/46–<br />

7). Deleuze regards Spinoza as “the prince of philosophers,” since he is perhaps<br />

the sole philosopher to make “no compromise with transcendence” (QP 49/48). For<br />

Spinoza, ethics is ontology, a point Deleuze stresses when he observes that Spinoza’s<br />

magnum opus of pure ontology is titled Ethics, and when he asserts that Spinoza’s<br />

Ethics is really an “ethology,” that is, a science of the species behavior of humans<br />

in the natural lifeworld. I believe that for Deleuze, as well as for Spinoza, ethics<br />

is ontology, and that for this reason his ethics is best conceived of as an immanent<br />

ethics. 2<br />

1 Giorgio Agamben, “Absolute Immanence,” in Potentialities: Collected Essays in<br />

Philosophy, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford, CA, 1999), p. 239.<br />

2 For an extended treatment of the theme of immanence in Deleuze’s thought, see<br />

Daniel W. Smith, “Deleuze and Derrida, Immanence and Transcendence: Two Directions in<br />

Recent French Thought,” in Paul Patton and John Protevi (eds), Between Deleuze and Derrida<br />

(London, 2003), pp. 46–66.


8<br />

Past, Present, Future<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

We may first approach the ethics of Deleuze’s thought through three themes, which<br />

may somewhat artificially be associated with stances toward the past, present and<br />

future: amor fati (the past); vice-diction (the present); and belief in this world (the<br />

future).<br />

In his early book Nietzsche and Philosophy (1962), Deleuze argues that<br />

Nietzsche’s concept of amor fati, or “love of fate,” provides an ethical principle that<br />

may replace Kant’s categorical imperative: whatever you will, also will its eternal<br />

return. What Deleuze means by this dictum is made evident in his discussion of<br />

chance and the throw of the dice. Most gamblers are bad players who want to control<br />

chance. They throw the dice and only affirm the outcome that they like. If they<br />

shoot craps, they roll again in an effort to overcome the unlucky roll and erase its<br />

consequences. Nietzsche’s good players, by contrast, roll only once, and whatever<br />

the result, they affirm that result and will its eternal return. In this way, good players<br />

avoid the ressentiment of finding the world guilty of frustrating their desires, and<br />

thereby genuinely affirm the play of the world.<br />

This Nietzschean principle of amor fati takes on a specifically Deleuzian cast<br />

in The Logic of Sense (1969) when Deleuze relates the concept to a Stoic ethics of<br />

the event. Central to Deleuze’s thought is the distinction between the virtual and the<br />

actual. The actual consists of the commonsense world of discrete forms, Newtonian<br />

space and chronological time. The virtual is a dimension of self-differentiating<br />

differences, one that is real without being actual, immanent within the actual without<br />

being reducible to it. It is a domain of individuating metamorphic processes, of a<br />

disorienting “spatializing” space, and a floating time of a simultaneous before-after.<br />

The virtual perpetually passes into the actual, that is, becomes actualized, but it is not<br />

thereby exhausted or erased, for it continues to subsist or insist within the actual. The<br />

virtual eludes our commonsense understanding, but it impinges on us in moments of<br />

vertigo when rational spatiotemporal coordinates are scrambled and a pure “event”<br />

emerges.<br />

Consider the growth of a biological organism. The single-celled ovum is<br />

traversed by multiple gradients, or zones of potential division, any one of which may<br />

be actualized through fertilization. Once cell division is initiated, an individuating<br />

process occurs whereby virtual differences become actualized in specific forms (two<br />

cells, then four, then eight), but the individuating process of becoming precedes<br />

the actually individuated forms, and that process continues throughout the life of<br />

the organism as cells are formed, nourished and replaced. The virtual is a kind of<br />

structure of self-differentiating differences that unfolds itself into the actual but<br />

remains elusively “present” within the actual, hovering over its surface, as it were.<br />

The virtual is something like the “problem” of which the actual organism is a specific<br />

solution, and at every point in the ongoing emergence of the organism the problem<br />

of that structure of self-differentiating differences persists, or insists, as a set of copresent<br />

zones of oscillating variation and potential becoming. The virtual organism<br />

is a sort of verbal infinitive, “to become dog,” “to become frog,” a differential<br />

structuring immanent within the actual dog or frog, passing into the actual in a


Immanent Ethics 9<br />

dynamic becoming at every point of the creature’s emergence, yet persisting as a<br />

problematic field of differential vectors.<br />

The world is an egg, says Deleuze (DR 323/251), and everywhere the virtual<br />

is passing into the actual while remaining immanent within it. Deleuze’s version<br />

of Nietzsche’s amor fati is an ethic of willing the virtual, of willing the virtual<br />

“event,” which is immanent within the actual and which impinges on us in moments<br />

of disequilibrium and disorientation. The quintessential event, says Deleuze, is<br />

the battle, something that hovers over the battlefield like a fog, everywhere being<br />

actualized in the bodies of the soldiers, but nowhere specifically present except as<br />

a kind of unfolding “problem” of that battle (see LS 122–3/100–101). The event of<br />

the battle is an infinitive, a “to battle,” anonymous, elusive, outside conventional<br />

time, a floating immanent aura guiding the processes of actualization but becoming<br />

manifest only as a kind of secondary emanation from the bodies that actualize it.<br />

Deleuze’s ethic is one of being worthy of that which happens, in other words, of<br />

willing the event (LS 174–9/148–53). What soldiers should affirm in the battle is not<br />

so much any specific outcome as the pure event of the battle, the virtual “to battle”<br />

that plays through any of the diverse actualizations of the battle that may take place.<br />

To be worthy of what happens is to will the virtual event immanent within one’s<br />

ongoing actualization in the world.<br />

In identifying this ethic of the event with amor fati, I am stressing its orientation<br />

toward the past. To be worthy of what happens is to will the difference, multiplicity<br />

and chance of the virtual and thereby avoid ressentiment and affirm the past events<br />

that have shaped one’s present. But one must also act in the present, and Deleuze<br />

by no means advocates a passive acceptance of everything that befalls us. One’s<br />

orientation toward the present in Deleuzian ethics we might approach through his<br />

concept of “vice-diction” (DR 245–7/189–91), as opposed to contra-diction. (In<br />

The Logic of Sense [LS 176–8/150–52], the concept goes by the name of contreeffectuation,<br />

“counter-actualization.”) Vice-diction is the process whereby one<br />

identifies and engages the virtual events immanent within one’s present world,<br />

whereby one “counter-actualizes” the virtual. Deleuze divides this process into<br />

two complementary movements, “the specification of adjunct fields” and “the<br />

condensation of singularities” (DR 245–6/190), which he likens to an Empedoclean<br />

expansion and contraction of love and hate. The specification of adjunct fields requires<br />

an outward exploration of the virtual networks of multiple connections that come<br />

together in each present moment, as well as a critique of our representations of that<br />

present moment. The virtual eludes our commonsense representations of the world,<br />

and only in moments of disequilibrium and disorientation do we sense the virtual in<br />

its passage into the actual. One task of vice-diction is to respond to this moment of<br />

disequilibrium, this unsettling “event,” first by undoing conventional representations<br />

of our situation, and second by teasing out the proliferating interconnections among<br />

self-differentiating differences that are enveloped in this particular moment of<br />

disequilibrium. Each unsettling element of a disorienting experience reveals what<br />

Deleuze calls variously a “zone of indiscernibility,” a “line of continuous variation,”<br />

or a “singularity,” a singular, remarkable difference that generates the regular forms<br />

and shapes of the commonsense world. The virtual may be conceived of as an infinite<br />

plane of singular points, each point being a zone of indiscernibility or vector of


10<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

continuous variation. The process of specifying adjunct fields consists of connecting<br />

singularities and thereby exploring the expanding surface of that infinite plane.<br />

But vice-diction involves a second moment as well: a condensation of singularities<br />

whereby one experiments on the real. We might say that vice-diction’s first moment,<br />

the specification of adjunct fields, entails an assessment of the configuration of<br />

singularities in the grand dice-throw of our present situation, and that vice-diction’s<br />

second moment, the condensation of singularities, involves a reconfiguration of<br />

singularities as we make of ourselves and our situation a second dice-throw. The<br />

object of vice-diction is not simply to comprehend the virtual differences at work<br />

in our world but also to transform them, or rather to enter into the play of virtual<br />

differences and experiment with them. Such an experimentation is a condensation<br />

of singularities in that it is an effort to engage the infinite plane of singular points<br />

and contract those points into a single event, an explosive big bang that creates new,<br />

unpredictable configurations of singularities. Vice-diction thus entails both a process<br />

of exploring and hence constructing connections among differences, and a process<br />

of undoing connections in an effort to form new ones.<br />

The concept of amor fati, then, allows us to think of the virtual in terms<br />

of an attitude toward the past, an absence of ressentiment and an affirmation of<br />

the sequence of virtual events that have come to form the actualized state of the<br />

present situation. Vice-diction frames the virtual in terms of the present moment, in<br />

which one explores the connections enveloped in the event that impinges on one’s<br />

situation and then experimentally induces metamorphic alterations of that situation.<br />

Yet implicit as well in this second moment of vice-diction is an attitude toward<br />

the future, an affirmation of the possibility of creating something new. One of the<br />

controlling themes in Deleuze’s work is that of “thinking otherwise,” of finding<br />

ways of inventing new possibilities for life, and such possibilities issue not ex nihilo<br />

but from the virtual lines of continuous variation immanent in the real. The creative<br />

side of vice-diction, the experimental activation of the disruptive potential of the<br />

virtual, implies an orientation toward the future which we may label, in Deleuze’s<br />

words, a “belief in this world.”<br />

In Cinema 2: The Time-Image (1985) Deleuze argues that the classic cinema<br />

testifies to a bond between humans and the world, whereas the modern cinema does<br />

not. “The modern fact,” Deleuze remarks, “is that we no longer believe in this world.<br />

We do not even believe in the events which happen to us, love, death, as if they only<br />

half concerned us. It is not we who make cinema; it is the world which looks to us<br />

like a bad film” (IT 223/171). The “power of modern cinema,” when it ceases to be<br />

bad cinema, is to restore “our belief in the world” (IT 223/171), not “another world”<br />

or a “transformed world,” but “this world, as it is” (IT 224/172). The world as bad<br />

film is the world of clichés, of received opinion (doxa), of that which goes without<br />

saying, of static forms and institutions, of intractable facts and inevitable results – in<br />

short, a tired world devoid of possibilities. What the great modern directors restore to<br />

us is a world within which something new can emerge, and they do so by activating<br />

virtual self-differentiating differences immanent within the real. In this activity,<br />

cinema directors do as any other artists and as do any other creators – philosophers,<br />

scientists, politicians – they experiment on the real, on the virtual’s immanent lines


Immanent Ethics 11<br />

of continuous variation. And when they do so, they affirm the creative potential<br />

immanent within the real and thereby exhibit a belief in this world.<br />

Deleuze’s immanent ethics is ultimately an ethics of the virtual, and what I have<br />

called amor fati, vice-diction and belief in this world are simply three ways of looking<br />

at the virtual. Amor fati is a backward glance that affirms the virtual within the events<br />

that have culminated in the present. Vice-diction is a topical survey of proliferating<br />

virtual connections and an activation of their potential for reconfiguration through a<br />

condensation of singularities. Belief in this world is a view through the present and<br />

toward the future, one that envisions nothing specific in that future, but that trusts in<br />

the possibilities immanent within the real to produce something genuinely new.<br />

Collectivity<br />

To this point, my focus has been on the ethics of the individual, with little direct<br />

reference to the individual’s relationship with others – a decidedly odd emphasis, one<br />

might think, given Deleuze’s enduring hostility toward the notion of the autonomous<br />

subject and any subject-grounded thought. How, then, might the social implications<br />

of an immanent ethics be considered? Three Deleuzian motifs suggest themselves:<br />

the body as domain of speeds and affects; the other as disclosure of the possible; and<br />

the invention of a people to come.<br />

Throughout his writings, Deleuze returns frequently to a remark by Spinoza that<br />

we do not yet know “what a body can and cannot do,” and hence, we do not know<br />

the extent of “the body’s capabilities.” 3 In Spinoza: Practical Philosophy (1981),<br />

Deleuze offers his most succinct explanation of the significance of this remark.<br />

Deleuze points out that Spinoza defines the body in two ways: in terms of relations<br />

of slowness and speed between an infinite number of particles; and in terms of a<br />

body’s capacities for affecting and being affected. By characterizing the body in<br />

terms of differential speeds, Spinoza emphasizes the body’s participation in a single<br />

“plane of immanence” (S 164/122), a dimension of rhythms, movements, pauses,<br />

accelerations and decelerations, in which each body’s form and function emerge as<br />

secondary products of kinetic relations among particles. By approaching the body in<br />

terms of its capacities, or powers, of affecting and being affected, Spinoza imbues<br />

the plane of immanence with a pervasive affectivity generated through interactions<br />

among multiple forces.<br />

In this analysis of bodies as affective rhythms, Deleuze finds the theoretical<br />

foundations of “what is today called ethology” (S 168/125), the study of animal<br />

behavior (a notion that in Deleuze’s usage might better be labeled “ecology”). The<br />

tick, for example, has limited capacities for affecting and being affected, its world<br />

determined solely by its receptivity to light (as it climbs a stalk or branch), to heat (as<br />

it senses an approaching mammal), to butyric acid (the substance excreted from the<br />

follicles of mammals), and to limited tactile stimuli (specifically, those provided by<br />

the hair and skin of its prey). The tick’s powers select a world, picking out a highly<br />

3 Baruch Spinoza, Complete Works, trans. Samuel Shirley, ed. Michael L. Morgan<br />

(Indianapolis, IN, 2002), p. 280.


12<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

restricted set of relational elements, excluding everything else. The tick combines<br />

with its world, taking in certain substances (light, scents, blood), emitting others<br />

(anticoagulants, bacteria), connecting with some organisms, defending itself from<br />

others, and ignoring the rest. The tick’s relations with its selected world constitute a<br />

type of musical counterpoint, its diverse powers forming a point in counterpoint to<br />

each of the elements with which it is capable of forming a connection.<br />

Humans, like ticks, select a world and form contrapuntal relations with that<br />

world’s elements. In the case of humans, however, the selected world is much wider<br />

and fuller than the tick’s, and the elements with which our powers can combine are<br />

in large measure unspecified. We do not know what a body can do, what connections<br />

the powers of the body make possible. We must therefore experiment with our<br />

bodies and seek those relations that increase our capacities. What is important to<br />

note is that the ethical imperative in bodily experimentation is not that of an increase<br />

in power over a world, but an increase in powers of affecting and being affected,<br />

a responsiveness to a selected world and an openness to interaction. As Deleuze<br />

insists in his Spinozistic reading of Nietzsche (NP 97/85), will to power manifests<br />

itself as a desire for power over others only in the reactive mentality of slaves, of<br />

those who seek to restrict others’ powers and to close themselves off from competing<br />

forces. The affirmative will to power, by contrast, seeks to extend its capacities<br />

through reciprocities of forces that combine in interconnecting affirmations of one<br />

another, and this is the will that Deleuze discerns in Spinoza’s ethology of bodies as<br />

configurations of speeds and affective intensities.<br />

Deleuze argues that Spinoza’s account of the body calls us not simply to an<br />

experimentation with the individual body in its connections with a selected world<br />

but also to the formation of more complex collective bodies, social assemblages of<br />

differential speeds and affective intensities. Rather than merely testing the relations<br />

that augment the powers of individual bodies or threaten their dissolution, we must<br />

also determine the powers that may emerge in the generation of compound bodies:<br />

It is no longer a question of utilizations or captures, but of sociabilities and communities.<br />

How do individuals enter into composition with one another in order to form a higher<br />

individual, ad infinitum? How can a being take another being into its world, but while<br />

preserving or respecting the other’s own relations and its world? … It is no longer a<br />

question of point to counterpoint, or of the selection of a world, but of a symphony of<br />

Nature, of a constitution of an increasingly wide and intense world. [S 169–70/126]<br />

The ethical question for Deleuze is not “what must we do?” but “what can we<br />

do?” What assemblages allow the formation of collective bodies that expand their<br />

capacities, that open new modes of affecting and being affected? This question<br />

is not one of imposing limits from without, but of exploring potential for growth<br />

from within. In this sense, ethics is immanent to the creation of worlds, a matter<br />

more of mutual affinities and intensities among bodies than of mutual duties and<br />

obligations.<br />

Yet is there no duty to the other in an immanent ethics? Not in the sense of<br />

a necessary restriction of one’s powers, or of the other’s, but perhaps a form of<br />

duty, a certain ethic of responsiveness or attentiveness, may be seen as consistent<br />

with Deleuze’s general ethical orientation. In Difference and Repetition (DR 333–


Immanent Ethics 13<br />

5/259–61), Deleuze remarks briefly on the Other as expression of possible worlds,<br />

taking as his example that of a terrified face which I perceive without perceiving the<br />

cause of its terror. 4 That face serves as a sign, not as signifier to signified, but as the<br />

moon’s visible surface to its dark side. The face points toward possible worlds yet<br />

unspecified, and if I am to encounter that sign, rather than simply classify it (ignore<br />

it, reject it, imitate it), I must enter with it into the composition of a world enfolded<br />

in its possibilities. To do so, I must construct a plane of immanence in which I and<br />

other are no longer fixed entities, but instead residual points of emergence within<br />

an unfolding ensemble of speeds and affects. The actualization of a specific world<br />

that arises from the unfolding of the other’s possible worlds may eventuate in a<br />

discrete self and a definite other, but the encounter itself, in which possible worlds<br />

become manifest, opens up in a dimension of apersonal affects and speeds. The<br />

encounter, if it is genuinely an encounter, is a dislocating meeting of affects – the<br />

terror of a screaming face, the startled reaction to that terror. And if it is to be a<br />

productive encounter, it will be one of mutual disturbance, in which possible worlds<br />

yet unspecified in the terror and in the shocked reaction to that terror interconnect<br />

and interact to generate an actual world. 5<br />

The duty to the other (if one must speak of duty) is to affect and be affected, to<br />

suspend, as much as one can, the categorization and comprehension of the other, and<br />

then open oneself to the undetermined, hidden possible worlds that are expressed<br />

in the affective signs of the other. The practical consequences of this openness to<br />

the other may be discerned in Deleuze’s remarks in a 1985 interview on the need<br />

for “intercessors” in various domains – in philosophy, the arts, science and politics:<br />

“Intercessors are essential. Creation is all about intercessors. Without them, there<br />

is no creative work. They can be people – for a philosopher, artists or scientists;<br />

for a scientist, philosophers or artists – but also things, even plants or animals, as<br />

in Castaneda” (PP 171/125). To intercede, for Deleuze, is not simply to advocate<br />

for the other, but also to “go between” (Latin: inter + cedere), to assist the other by<br />

intervening in the other’s world and producing creative interference (in the sense<br />

of an interference between sound or light waves). Deleuze says that “Félix Guattari<br />

and I, we are intercessors of one another” (PP 171/125), and they are so in that they<br />

do not fully understand one another. Deleuze argues that the notion that truth is<br />

created is “obvious in the sciences, for instance. Even in physics, there is no truth<br />

that does not presuppose a system of symbols, be they only coordinates. There’s no<br />

truth that doesn’t ‘falsify’ established ideas” (PP 172/126). When he and Guattari<br />

interact as mutual intercessors, each falsifies the other, “which is to say that each of<br />

us understands notions put forward by the other in his own way” (PP 172/126). The<br />

generative process of their collaboration requires an openness to the other’s different<br />

understanding of a concept, and a subsequent development of understandings through<br />

4 Deleuze and Guattari also discuss the concept of the other and the screaming face in<br />

What Is Philosophy? (QP 21–3/16–19). My own analysis of the Other combines elements<br />

found in both Difference and Repetition and What Is Philosophy?.<br />

5 I am indebted to James Williams, Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition: A<br />

Critical Introduction and Guide (Edinburgh, 2003), pp. 208–10, for pointing out the ethical<br />

implications of Deleuze’s discussion of the Other.


14<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

a mutual undoing of each other’s initial understandings. Intercession is a form of<br />

positive dissonance, made possible through an openness to interferences that disturb<br />

one’s regular harmonic vibrations. Intercessors falsify one another in various ways,<br />

via divergences in concepts (philosophy), sensations (the arts), theoretical models<br />

(the sciences), strategies (politics), via interventions across boundaries delimiting<br />

conventional fields of activity, and so on: “These powers of the false [Ces puissances<br />

du faux] to produce truth, that is what intercessors are about” (PP 172/126).<br />

Deleuze relates the process of intercession not only to individual creativity in<br />

diverse domains but also to the formation of community, to “the constitution of a<br />

people” (PP 171/125–6). Deleuze frequently cites Paul Klee’s observation that the<br />

modern artist cannot simply engage “the people” since it is precisely “the people”<br />

that is missing. Hence, Deleuze sees the need to fashion a “people to come” (QP<br />

206/218), a future, yet-to-be collectivity that has a genuine cohesiveness and<br />

functionality. As we saw earlier, Spinoza’s notion of the body as a composite of<br />

differential speeds and affects invites a conception of community as a compound<br />

body, one in which the point and counterpoint of multiple organisms produce a<br />

larger “symphony of Nature.” Such a compound body is not something stable but<br />

an essentially dynamic, metamorphic process, a mutual becoming-other of multiple<br />

bodies engaged in unpredictable unshapings and reshapings of one another. A people<br />

to come “is not exactly a people called upon to dominate the world. It is a minor<br />

people, eternally minor, taken up in a becoming-revolutionary” (CC 14/4). The object<br />

of art is to fashion a people to come, and to do so artists engage in what Deleuze calls<br />

“fabulation,” an activation of the “powers of the false” that dissolves conventional<br />

social categories and codes and invents new possibilities for life. Artists cannot<br />

fabulate alone, however. They must have intercessors who help them undo their<br />

own presuppositions, intercessors who themselves enter into fabulation with artists<br />

in the formation of a collectivity as process. Nor is the creation of a people to come<br />

the responsibility of artists alone. In What Is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari<br />

distinguish philosophy from non-philosophy by emphasizing the differences among<br />

philosophy, the sciences and the arts, but they conclude that all three domains meet<br />

in the common goal of inventing a people. The three domains extract<br />

… from chaos the shadow of the “people to come,” such as that which art, but also<br />

philosophy and science, summon forth: mass-people, world-people, brain-people, chaospeople.<br />

Nonthinking thought that lodges in the three, like Klee’s nonconceptual concept<br />

or Kandinsky’s internal silence. It is here that concepts, sensations, and functions become<br />

undecidable, at the same time as philosophy, art, and science become indiscernible, as if<br />

they shared the same shadow, which extends itself across their different nature and never<br />

ceases to accompany them. [QP 206/218]<br />

Immanence<br />

Clearly, the partition of Deleuze’s immanent ethics into discrete components is<br />

artificial at best. My assignment of amor fati to the past, vice-diction to the present,<br />

and belief in this world to the future is designed only to highlight shades of emphasis<br />

in these interrelated concepts, no one of which can be understood outside a single


Immanent Ethics 15<br />

conception of time as the unfolding of the immanent event. My separation of<br />

individual from collective motifs in Deleuze’s ethical thought is likewise merely<br />

provisional, for the individual taking form in amor fati, vice-diction, and belief<br />

in this world is always merging with a multiplicity-in-formation. The body of<br />

differential speeds and affective intensities is inseparable from the world it selects,<br />

and its contrapuntal relations are always available for the constitution of compound<br />

bodies of indeterminate size. The Other is never a single other, but always the sign of<br />

many possible worlds, and, in a genuine encounter, self and other mutually dissolve<br />

in a plane of immanence from which emerges an actual world, itself a multiplicity.<br />

The invention of a people to come is the goal of philosophy, but also of thought in<br />

general, whether in the arts, sciences, politics, or any number of other domains, for<br />

the invention of a people is one with the creation of possibilities for life. To think and<br />

to act creatively is to enter into the creative unfolding of the cosmos, to participate in<br />

a metamorphic experimentation on ourselves and our world in the hopes of bringing<br />

forth something new that enhances our capacities for affecting and being affected.<br />

Deleuze’s ethics is immanent in that it is inseparable from the universe’s ongoing<br />

self-creation, from the virtual event’s perpetual actualization of possible worlds.


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Chapter 2<br />

Minority, Territory, Music<br />

Deleuze and Guattari remark that in a rhizome as opposed to an arborescence,<br />

any point “can be connected to anything other, and must be” (MP 13/7). In their<br />

own rhizomatic thought, the concepts of minority and territory in general are not<br />

intimately conjoined, yet the two points can be usefully related – and indeed, as we<br />

are told, they must be. The concept of minority engages the conventional idea of a<br />

statistically small ethnic or racial group, but extends far beyond that to the broad<br />

category of what Deleuze and Guattari call the “minor,” which includes the notions<br />

of minor literature, minor culture, and the minor usage of language. 1 The concept<br />

of territory, which Deleuze and Guattari discuss in its narrow ethological sense in<br />

A Thousand Plateaus, is inseparable from the general notions of territorialization,<br />

reterritorialization and deterritorialization, which play through their thought in a<br />

wide range of contexts. The path from minority to territory runs from literature to<br />

music and suggests some of the ways Deleuze and Guattari connect the two arts.<br />

Both literature and music, we shall find, prove to be arts capable of a minor usage,<br />

whereby lines of continuous variation and a general chromaticism are engaged in a<br />

process of deterritorialization.<br />

Minority<br />

Kafka<br />

Deleuze and Guattari’s first extended treatment of the topic of “the minor” can be<br />

found in their Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (1975). Their discussion has its point<br />

of origin in a lengthy diary entry of Kafka’s, dated December 25, 1911, in which he<br />

reflects on such minor literatures as Czech literature and Jewish literature in Warsaw,<br />

noting that the absence of dominant great writers within these traditions has certain<br />

positive consequences. No single genius silences other writers, and as a result the<br />

literary community is especially lively, competitive and active. No towering figure<br />

serves as an easily emulated model, and hence the untalented are discouraged from<br />

writing, and those with talent are able to maintain their mutual independence. When<br />

such minor traditions come to construct their literary histories, no great writers<br />

arouse multiple and changing interpretations that vary with fluctuations in taste;<br />

1 We might note as well that the French word mineur(e) bears the connotation of<br />

immaturity, as in the case of an individual who has not attained his or her majority, and hence<br />

of a lack of seriousness, whereas the substantive minorité has an immediately demographic<br />

connotation.


18<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

thus, their histories offer “an unchangeable, dependable whole that is hardly affected<br />

by the taste of the day.” 2 The end result is that literature in such minor traditions<br />

takes on a much more collective function than in major traditions. The contentions of<br />

competing schools, journals, cabals and camps become the focus of national concern,<br />

the literary and the political become intertwined as literature assumes a central role<br />

in the formation of national identity, aesthetic polemics become “a matter of life<br />

and death” (Diaries 194), and literature becomes “less a concern of literary history<br />

than of the people” (Diaries 193). Thus Kafka concludes his “character sketch of the<br />

literature of small peoples” with the following outline: “1. Liveliness: a. Conflict. b.<br />

Schools. c. Magazines. 2. Less constraint: a. Absence of principles. b. Minor themes.<br />

c. Easy formation of symbols. d. Throwing off of the untalented. 3. Popularity: a.<br />

Connection with politics. b. Literary history. c. Faith in literature, can make up their<br />

own laws” (vol. 1, p. 195).<br />

Deleuze and Guattari identify three basic characteristics of minor literature: “in<br />

it language is affected with a high coefficient of deterritorialization”; “everything in<br />

[it] is political”; and “in it everything takes on a collective value” (K 29–31/16–17).<br />

The second and third characteristics clearly echo the features delineated by Kafka<br />

in his discussion of minor literature. In a major literature, the personal, familial and<br />

conjugal can remain detached from the sociopolitical sphere, which tends to function<br />

as a mere background or environment. In a minor literature, by contrast, “its cramped<br />

space forces each individual intrigue to connect immediately to politics” (K 30/17).<br />

When Kafka identifies as one of the benefits of minor literature “the dignification<br />

of the antithesis between fathers and sons and the possibility of discussing this”<br />

(vol. 1, p. 192), he is simply stressing the inextricability of the personal and the<br />

political in such traditions. In this political treatment of the familial, relations take on<br />

a collective significance and immediately extend to other spheres – the “commercial,<br />

economic, bureaucratic, juridical” (K 30/17). The “collective value” of minor<br />

literature is closely related to its immediately political nature, but what Deleuze<br />

and Guattari emphasize in this third characteristic is not simply the interpenetration<br />

of social and personal relations, but also the possibility of a collective enunciation<br />

of a group solidarity and a “revolutionary machine-to-come” (K 32/18). As Kafka<br />

points out, in minor traditions literature can bring about “the coherence of national<br />

consciousness,” which otherwise is “often unrealized in public life and always<br />

tending to disintegrate” (vol. 1, p. 191). The marginal situation of minor writers<br />

allows them “all the more the possibility to express another possible community and<br />

to forge the means for another consciousness and another sensibility” (K 32/17). And<br />

in the absence of great stylists whose individualized, personalized voices serve as<br />

models of emulation in major literatures, minor writers tend to articulate “collective<br />

assemblages of enunciation” (K 33/18) that belong to no individual subject.<br />

It might seem that Deleuze and Guattari are simply elaborating on Kafka’s<br />

empirical observations of the features of literary traditions devoid of great writers,<br />

but what they argue is that minor literature is less a matter of specific cultural<br />

communities than of a general usage of language, a minor usage that can be found<br />

2 Franz Kafka, The Diaries of Franz Kafka, ed. Max Brod, trans. Joseph Kresh (New<br />

York, 1948), vol. 1, p. 193.


Minority, Territory, Music 19<br />

in any social group and in any language. Herein lies the importance of the first<br />

characteristic of minor literature – that “in it language is affected with a high<br />

coefficient of deterritorialization” – and it is in Kafka’s minor usage of German<br />

that Deleuze and Guattari find an exemplary instance of minor literature’s<br />

deterritorialization of language. At the turn of the century, many Prague Jews felt<br />

distanced from their peasant roots and uncomfortable with the Czech language<br />

(Kafka being an exception among his contemporaries in the latter respect). Yet the<br />

German they spoke was a “paper language,” artificial and formal, as well as being the<br />

language of an oppressive minority, itself removed from its native cultural milieu.<br />

The Prague dialect, influenced by Czech, was in many regards an impoverished<br />

German, characterized by<br />

… the incorrect use of prepositions; the abuse of the pronominal; the employment of<br />

malleable verbs (such as geben, which is used for the series ‘put, sit, place, take away’<br />

and which thereby becomes intensive); the multiplication and succession of adverbs; the<br />

use of pain-filled connotations; the importance of the accent as a tension internal to the<br />

word; and the distribution of consonants and vowels as part of an internal discordance.<br />

[K 42/23] 3<br />

Prague German, then, displayed “a high coefficient of deterritorialization” in that it<br />

was at once detached from its native context and rendered artificial through its heavy<br />

bureaucratic associations, and at the same time destabilized by the way it was used –<br />

through ungrammatical constructions, words with multiple and shifting nonstandard<br />

meanings, accents and gestures that lend an elusive aura of affective intensity to the<br />

language, and so on. Prague Jews found themselves foreigners in their own tongue,<br />

and they responded in one of two ways. Some chose “to artificially enrich this German,<br />

to swell it up through all the resources of symbolism, of oneirism, of esoteric sense,<br />

of a hidden signifier” (K 34/19). Kafka, by contrast, sought to impoverish Prague<br />

German further, to destabilize it and imbue it with affective intensity through an<br />

ascetic limitation of vocabulary, an avoidance of metaphor, symbols and esoteric<br />

allusions, and a distribution of accents and rhythms that render the language both<br />

unsettlingly irregular and fastidiously obsessive. 4 Kafka’s response, in short, was to<br />

take advantage of the tendencies already present in the minor usage of German by<br />

Prague Jews, and to manipulate, develop, modify and exaggerate those tendencies in<br />

his own minor usage of the language.<br />

3 Deleuze and Guattari base their remarks on Prague German on Klaus Wagenbach’s<br />

extended discussion of the subject in Franz Kafka: Eine Biographie Seiner Jugend 1883–1912<br />

(Bern, 1958), pp. 83–95.<br />

4 Deleuze and Guattari argue that Joyce and Beckett, as Irishmen writing in English,<br />

faced a dilemma similar to that of Prague Jews at the turn of the century, and that their<br />

differing strategies for deterritorializing English resemble those adopted by Kafka and his<br />

contemporaries, Joyce artificially enriching the language, Beckett by contrast proceeding “by<br />

dryness and sobriety, a willed poverty, pushing deterritorialization to such an extreme that<br />

nothing remains but intensities” (K 19/35).


20<br />

Language<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

In the fourth section of A Thousand Plateaus, “November 20, 1923: Postulates of<br />

Linguistics,” Deleuze and Guattari outline a general theory of language that helps<br />

clarify the notion of a minor usage of language. The primary function of language,<br />

they argue, is not to communicate information but to impose power relations. To<br />

learn a language is to learn a host of categories, classifications, binary oppositions,<br />

associations, codes, concepts, logical relations and so on, whereby the world is given<br />

a certain coherence and organization. Far from being neutral, the order imposed by<br />

a language is part of a complex network of practices, institutions, goods, tools and<br />

materials imbued with relations of force. Following the line of analysis developed by<br />

speech-act theorists, Deleuze and Guattari insist that language is a mode of action, a<br />

way of doing things, and the condition of possibility of any language is the complex<br />

network of practices and material elements that shape a given world. This complex<br />

network is made up of what Deleuze and Guattari call “assemblages” (agencements),<br />

heterogeneous collections of actions and entities that somehow function together. 5<br />

These may be divided into two broad categories that function as a level of content<br />

and a level of expression, the first consisting of nondiscursive machinic assemblages<br />

of bodies, “of actions and passions, an intermingling of bodies reacting to one<br />

another,” the second of discursive collective assemblages of enunciation, “of acts<br />

and statements, of incorporeal transformations attributed to bodies” (MP 112/88).<br />

Machinic assemblages are the various patterns of practices and elements through<br />

which a world’s bodies are formed, and collective assemblages of enunciation are the<br />

patterns of actions, institutions and entities that make possible linguistic statements.<br />

Collective assemblages of enunciation induce “incorporeal transformations” of<br />

bodies in that they transform elements and configurations of the world through<br />

speech acts. 6 When the minister says, “I thee wed,” or the judge says, “I pronounce<br />

you guilty,” a transformation takes place, a body is changed from bride to wife, from<br />

defendant to felon. Although collective assemblages of enunciation and machinic<br />

assemblages are related to one another as expression to content, they are not to be<br />

understood in terms of the Saussurean categories of signifier and signified. The two<br />

5 The term agencement, translated variously as “assemblage,” “arrangement,” or<br />

“organization,” can denote both a particular arrangement of entities and the act of assembling<br />

or combining elements in a given configuration. Particularly useful are Deleuze’s remarks<br />

about language and assemblages in Dialogues: “The minimum real unit is not the word,<br />

the idea, the concept or the signifier, but the assemblage. It is always an assemblage which<br />

produces utterances. Utterances do not have as their cause a subject which would act as a<br />

subject of enunciation, any more than they are related to subjects as subjects of utterance. The<br />

utterance is the product of an assemblage – which is always collective, which brings into play<br />

within us and outside us populations, multiplicities, territories, becomings, affects, events” (D<br />

51; 65).<br />

6 The term “incorporeal transformations” Deleuze and Guattari take from the Stoic theory<br />

of incorporeals, which Deleuze discusses at several points of The Logic of Sense, especially<br />

series two, twenty and twenty-three. Deleuze’s primary sources for his understanding of the<br />

Stoics are Emile Bréhier’s La Théorie des incorporels dans l’ancien stoïcisme (Paris, 1928),<br />

and Victor Goldschmidt’s Le Système stoïcien et l’idée de temps (Paris, 1953).


Minority, Territory, Music 21<br />

types of assemblages are independent and heterogeneous: “One can never assign<br />

the form of expression the function of simply representing, describing, or averring a<br />

corresponding content … In expressing the noncorporeal attribute, and by that token<br />

attributing it to the body, one is not representing or referring but intervening in a<br />

way; it is a speech act” (MP 109–10/86).<br />

Collective assemblages of enunciation intervene in machinic assemblages, and<br />

that which puts the two forms of assemblages in relation to one another in any<br />

given instance Deleuze and Guattari call an “abstract machine,” which consists of<br />

unformed matter and nonformalized functions that are virtual without being actual,<br />

yet are immanent within the real. One means of approaching this difficult concept<br />

is by situating it within a linguistic context, and for our purposes a specific example<br />

may suffice – that of the phrase “I swear!,” a statement with varying significance in<br />

Kafka’s work. Consider first the phonemic aspect of this statement. The word “swear”<br />

may be pronounced with diverse accents and intonations, and its acoustic attributes<br />

will differ with the physiological characteristics of each speaker. Conventionally, the<br />

phoneme is thought of as a mental constant determined by its differential relations<br />

with other phonemes. Different pronunciations of the same phoneme are merely<br />

insignificant variations of a single constant; only differences that impose meaningful<br />

distinctions are pertinent, such as those that transform “swear” into “sweat” or “sway.”<br />

Deleuze and Guattari argue, however, that the constant derives from the variations,<br />

not the reverse. The multiple, heterogeneous pronunciations of the word “swear” are<br />

so many actualizations of an immanent “line of continuous variation” that passes<br />

through all potential pronunciations of the word. This line of continuous variation<br />

is a continuum of sonic possibilities that is real but not actual; it is virtual, and each<br />

pronunciation of a given phoneme may be thought of as a concrete actualization of<br />

a specific point along the continuum. This virtual line of continuous variation is a<br />

component of an abstract machine.<br />

All elements of language must likewise be regarded as determined by immanent<br />

lines of continuous variation. Thus, grammatical and syntactical rules, which are<br />

conventionally viewed as the generative causes of a well-formed statement such as<br />

“I swear!,” must instead be seen as derivative effects of grammatical/syntactical lines<br />

of continuous variation, in this instance a continuum of forms that might include “I<br />

swear,” “I do swear,” “So do I swear,” “Swear I,” “I do so swear, do I.” But most<br />

important, the semantic dimension of language must also be understood in terms<br />

of lines of continuous variation. The statement “I swear!” has a different meaning<br />

when pronounced by a son before his father (as in Kafka’s “The Judgment”), by<br />

a reluctant fiancé before a “family tribunal” (as in Kafka’s letter describing his<br />

meeting with disappointed relatives over his indefinitely postponed marriage), or<br />

by a defendant before a judge (as in The Trial). Conventionally, a single denotative<br />

core of meaning is thought to inform various utilizations of a given semantic unit, its<br />

diverse contextualizations being simply contingent variations on a basic stable sense.<br />

Deleuze and Guattari counter that each enunciation of “I swear!” is an actualization<br />

of a line of continuous variation immanent within the real, “a continuum of ‘I swear!’<br />

with the corresponding transformations” (MP 119/94). This semantic continuum is<br />

inseparable from a wide range of practices, institutions, and entities that make up<br />

the contents of the diverse, contextually embedded speech acts distributed along


22<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

that continuum. Not only is each performance of “I swear!” an actualization of<br />

phonemic, grammatical, syntactical and semantic lines of continuous variation, but<br />

it is also an action within a situation, a means of intervening in bodies and inducing<br />

incorporeal transformations in them. Each “I swear!” presupposes patterns of actions<br />

and elements that make up a collective assemblage of enunciation as well as networks<br />

of practices and entities that constitute nondiscursive machinic assemblages. And the<br />

lines of continuous variation that play through these assemblages function together<br />

as an abstract machine.<br />

One can see then that the common notions of grammatical rules, correct<br />

pronunciations, syntactical regularities, proper meanings, standard usage, and so on,<br />

are not the essential constituents of language, but the secondary effects of power.<br />

The lines of continuous variation within a given social field can be used in two basic<br />

ways. They can be constricted, regulated, organized, controlled and disciplined, or<br />

they can be set in oscillation, intensified, amplified and ramified. The inculcation of a<br />

standard, correct, proper language instills a thorough coding of the world according<br />

to a dominant order. It also entails a stabilization of inherently unstable elements and<br />

a valorization of elements in terms of a hierarchy of norms and deviations – correct<br />

vs incorrect usage; standard speech vs dialect, patois, jargon, slang; prestigious vs<br />

unprestigious discourse, and so on. A standard language does not exist by itself as a<br />

static, self-enclosed, rule-governed system; rather, it issues from multiple patterns<br />

of actions and entities organized in such a way as to restrict variation and regularize<br />

relations of force. But lines of variation may be used in other ways as well. The<br />

“impoverished” German of Prague Jews, the creoles of Caribbean islanders, the<br />

Black English of African-Americans, are diverse usages of major languages that<br />

destabilize linguistic regularities and intensify lines of continuous variation. In a<br />

similar fashion, the experimentations of writers such as Kafka, Beckett, Céline<br />

and Gherasim Luca (to name but a few of Deleuze and Guattari’s favorite authors)<br />

make “language itself stammer” by placing “all linguistic, and even nonlinguistic,<br />

elements in variation, both variables of expression and variables of content” (MP<br />

124/98). Each of these writers invents a minor usage of language, a way of being “a<br />

foreigner, but in one’s own tongue,” of being “bilingual, multilingual, but in one and<br />

the same language, without even a dialect or patois” (MP 124–5/98).<br />

Minorities<br />

We can now see what relation there is between a minor usage of language and the<br />

notion of a minority. The opposition of majority and minority is not strictly a matter<br />

of numbers but of “a constant, of expression or content, serving as a standard measure<br />

by which to evaluate it” (MP 133/105). The majority is defined by a hierarchical<br />

set of values embedded in language. One might say that the dominant standard “is<br />

the average adult-white-heterosexual-European-male-speaking a standard language<br />

(Joyce’s or Ezra Pound’s Ulysses)” (MP 133/105). The linguistic oppositions of<br />

adult/child, white/colored, heterosexual/homosexual, European/non-European,<br />

male/female encode power relations, and the dominant term of each opposition<br />

serves as a norm against which deviations are measured. Each norm is a constant,<br />

stable and unchanging, and each is reinforced by the system of linguistic constants of


Minority, Territory, Music 23<br />

a standard language, be they semantic, syntactic, grammatical, lexical, or phonemic<br />

(in that “correct speech” or “standard usage” is always value-laden). Women may<br />

outnumber men, and blacks may outnumber whites, but the majority remains male<br />

and white: “Majority assumes a state of power and domination, not the other way<br />

around. It assumes the standard measure, not the other way around” (MP 133/105).<br />

Yet curiously the majority is like Odysseus, who tells the Cyclops he is “Nobody”<br />

[Personne], whereas the minority is “everybody” [tout le monde]. The analytic<br />

standard/norm against which deviation is measured is an abstract, unchanging<br />

ideal embodied in no individual. No one measures up, everyone falls short to some<br />

extent, but most importantly, everybody changes, and change, flux, metamorphosis,<br />

becoming are the paths of creation: “That is why we must distinguish between: the<br />

majoritarian as a constant and homogeneous system; minorities as subsystems; and<br />

the minoritarian as a potential, creative and created, becoming” (MP 134/105–106).<br />

This is not to deny that numerically small minorities are frequently oppressed by<br />

majorities, or that majorities often deem themselves worthy of the norms they<br />

represent. It means, however, that the problem of minorities is not to restore a<br />

counter-identity, to return to a long-lost pure culture and tongue, but to enter into a<br />

process of becoming whereby the constants and norms of the dominant, majoritarian<br />

order are put into continuous variation. This process of becoming is a potential open<br />

to everyone, but no one automatically enters it by virtue of his or her social position.<br />

Minorities can easily inculcate their own constants and norms. As a result, they, too,<br />

must construct their own means of becoming-other, their own lines of continuous<br />

variation:<br />

All becoming is minoritarian. Women, regardless of their numbers, are a minority, definable<br />

as a state or subset; but they create only by making possible a becoming over which they<br />

do not have ownership, into which they themselves must enter; this is a becoming-woman<br />

affecting all of humankind, men and women both. The same goes for minor languages:<br />

they are not simply sublanguages, idiolects or dialects, but potential agents of the major<br />

language’s entering into a becoming-minoritarian of all of its dimensions and elements.<br />

[MP 134/106]<br />

If we return to Deleuze and Guattari’s description of minor literature in Kafka, we may<br />

now see more fully the logical relationship between its three basic characteristics,<br />

“the deterritorialization of language, the connection of the individual to a political<br />

immediacy, and the collective assemblage of enunciation” (K 33/18). Language is a<br />

mode of action informed by relations of power. The abstract machine’s virtual lines<br />

of continuous variation are actualized in collective assemblages of enunciation and<br />

nondiscursive machinic assemblages. A major usage of language fixes, regularizes<br />

and stabilizes forms and meanings, and thereby territorializes variations. It reinforces<br />

categories and distinctions that compartmentalize existence, thereby fostering an<br />

isolation of the personal and the political. It also encourages both the reinforcement of<br />

the dominant views of the majority and the illusion of the autonomy of the individual<br />

voice. By contrast, a minor usage deterritorializes language by disturbing dominant<br />

regularities and setting them in variation. In disrupting majoritarian categories, a<br />

minor usage connects the personal and the political in proliferating networks of<br />

becoming. And in activating real (albeit virtual) lines of continuous variation, a


24<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

minor usage directly engages collective assemblages of enunciation, fashioning not<br />

an individual voice but the voice of a people to come, that is, a people in the process<br />

of becoming other. It is in this sense that in minor literature “there isn’t a subject;<br />

there are only collective assemblages of enunciation, and literatures expresses these<br />

assemblages insofar as they’re not imposed from without and insofar as they exist<br />

only as diabolical powers to come or revolutionary forces to be constructed” (K<br />

33/18).<br />

Bene<br />

In his 1979 essay “One Less Manifesto,” Deleuze elaborates on the concept of minor<br />

literature, reiterating many of the points made in Kafka and A Thousand Plateaus,<br />

but also indicating ways in which the concept may be applied to the theater. The<br />

essay appears in a volume titled Superpositions, which also includes the text of the<br />

drama Richard III, or the Horrible Night of a Man of War, by the Italian playwright<br />

and filmmaker Carmelo Bene. A significant figure in the Italian theater, Bene has<br />

written and produced a number of plays based on earlier dramas, including Arden of<br />

Feversham, Othello, Macbeth and Lorenzaccio, as well as films inspired by earlier<br />

works, such as Don Giovanni, Salome and One Less Hamlet. Bene’s Richard III<br />

takes Shakespeare’s history play as its point of departure, incorporating selected<br />

characters, scenes and lines from the original, but deforming them through extended<br />

textual additions, incongruous gestures and actions, surreal sets and props, and<br />

various devices for manipulating and denaturalizing the spoken word. In Deleuze’s<br />

analysis, Bene’s Richard III, like many of his other plays and films, has a “critical<br />

function” (SP 87/204) that is both subtractive and constitutive. What Bene subtracts<br />

from Shakespeare are “the elements of power” (SP 93/206), both those represented<br />

in the drama – history, the state, royal authority – and those inherent in drama as a<br />

mode of representation – structure, standard language, lucid text, dialogue, and so<br />

on. From what remains, Bene constitutes a different set of characters – a different<br />

Richard, Lady Anne, Duchess of York, Marguerite, Elizabeth and Jane Shore<br />

(Richard III is the only male Bene retains from Shakespeare) – none of which is a<br />

coherent and consistent “subject” but instead a line of continuous variation through<br />

which the “character” and actor pass as an unfolding field of dramatic events is<br />

constructed. Bene constitutes as well as a different language, different forms of<br />

enunciation, new patterns of gesture, and new relations between speech, setting and<br />

action. In sum, from the “subtraction of the stable elements of Power,” Bene releases<br />

“a new potentiality of theater, a nonrepresentative force forever in disequilibrium”<br />

(SP 94/207).<br />

Deleuze finds in Bene’s Italian a minor usage of language, a means of making<br />

language itself stammer. Bene manages “to impose on language, as it is perfectly<br />

and soberly spoken, this line of variation that will make you a foreigner in your<br />

own language or make a foreign language your own or make your language an<br />

immanent bilingualism for your foreignness” (SP 109/213).Bene also makes use of<br />

various possibilities for metamorphosing language in oral performance, inducing<br />

a general “aphasia” through whispers, stammers, cries, groans, barely audible<br />

lines, deafeningly amplified tirades, lip-sync playback, and so on. He abandons the


Minority, Territory, Music 25<br />

conventions of properly constructed dialogue, with its rules of opening and closure,<br />

continuity and proper sequencing of exchanges. Instead:<br />

… there is no dialogue in this theater of Bene’s; for voices, simultaneous or successive,<br />

superimposed or transposed, are caught in this spatiotemporal continuity of variation. It is<br />

a kind of Sprechgesang. In song, it is a matter of maintaining the pitch, but in Sprechgesang<br />

one always varies the pitch with a dip or a rise. [SP 105/211]<br />

Bene induces as well a transmutation of speech acts through the shifting and unstable<br />

tones and attitudes with which the actors deliver their lines. Deleuze notes that Lady<br />

Anne’s statement “You disgust me!” is a different speech act when pronounced by<br />

“a woman at war, a child facing a toad, or a young girl sensing an already consenting<br />

and loving pity” (SP 104–105/211). In her extended interaction with Richard, the<br />

actress playing Lady Anne moves through all these variables at once, managing “to<br />

stand erect like a woman warrior, regress to a childlike state, and come to life again<br />

as a young girl – on a line of continuous variation, and as quickly as possible” (SP<br />

105/211). The result is a “You disgust me!” that unfixes its social coordinates and<br />

oscillates among its diverse virtual positions, entering into multiple combinations<br />

with the other oscillating speech acts of the scene.<br />

Bene’s minor use of language necessarily affects nonlinguistic aspects of his<br />

drama, among which gesture particularly interests Deleuze. One critic notes that<br />

gestures and objects in Bene’s theater often obstruct action, the actors’ bodies<br />

impinging on one another, costumes restricting their movements, objects blocking<br />

their movements. But Deleuze argues that obstruction and opposition are not central<br />

to the gestures of this theater, for these characteristics imply relations of power, and<br />

“the relations of force and opposition are part of what is shown only that it may be<br />

subtracted, cut away, neutralized” (SP 113/215). Instead, Bene treats gesture in a<br />

musical fashion, according to relations of speed and slowness that vary in irregular<br />

and unpredictable ways. Bene admires certain Italian saints, “the saints sanctified<br />

by grace: Saint Joseph of Copertino, the imbeciles, the idiot saints, Saint Francis<br />

of Assisi dancing before the Pope” (cited in SP 97–8/208), identifying “their grace<br />

with the movement of disgrace” (SP 114/215). Bene sees these saints as sanctified<br />

by that which disgraces them in the eyes of social authority, but he also regards<br />

them as imbued with a physical grace of movement determined by their departure<br />

from conventional behavior, with its regular, prescribed habits of comportment and<br />

interaction. Likewise, Richard’s constant stumbling, falling, tottering, collapse and<br />

resuscitation (noted at several points in Bene’s text) are elements of the construction<br />

of Richard’s grace through movements of disgrace, means whereby he deforms<br />

the forms of proper behavior and discovers new gestural velocities and directions.<br />

The result is that the same gesture or word is never repeated “without obtaining<br />

different characteristics of time. This is the musical formula of continuity, or of<br />

form as transformation” (SP 113/215). The abandonment of conventional gestures<br />

entails a departure from pre-established forms, but also from socially constructed<br />

roles and identities (the gestures appropriate, say, for a king, an adult, a man). In his<br />

deformation of standard gestures, Richard replaces forms with speeds and social roles<br />

with affects and intensities unassociated with any subjective identity. In this regard,


26<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

his gestures fulfill what Deleuze regards as “two essential aims of the arts,” “the<br />

subordination of form to speed, to the variation of speed, and the subordination of<br />

the subject to intensity or to affect, to the intense variation of affects” (SP 114/215).<br />

Deleuze traces an illustrative sequence of gestures in the scene of Richard’s<br />

courtship of Lady Anne. Shakespeare’s original is not parodied by Bene, “but<br />

multiplied according to the variable speeds or developments that will be combined<br />

in a single continuity of constitution (not a unity of representation)” (SP 117/216).<br />

While Richard delivers his lines of love, the actor playing the character “begins<br />

to begin to understand” (SP 31), according to Bene’s stage directions – that is, he<br />

begins to construct the gestural trajectory of a new set of movements. He takes<br />

winding sheets from the corpse of Henry VI, whose coffin is at the back of the stage,<br />

picks up various prosthetic limbs and artificial body parts stashed in cabinet drawers<br />

and strewn across the stage, and wraps them one by one to his body with the winding<br />

sheets as he speaks with Lady Anne. The prosthetic devices, signs of deformity and<br />

corporeal subtraction, gradually become part of Richard’s gestural comportment,<br />

costumes of an action that takes him beyond his historical and political role and<br />

destiny. Lady Anne reacts with disgust to Richard as the representative of state<br />

power, but as he accrues various deformities she responds with pity, sympathy, and<br />

an increasing eroticism. Gradually she helps him find prosthetics and wrap them to<br />

his body, and she herself accelerates an eccentric sequence of gestures, “continually<br />

undressing and dressing herself in a rhythm of regression-progression that responds<br />

to Richard’s subtractions-constructions” (SP 118/217). Finally, as the characters<br />

develop their separate lines of gestural variation, the two lines enter into relation<br />

with one another and form a single continuum, itself composed of indissociably<br />

related discursive and nondiscursive elements: “And each one’s vocal variations,<br />

phonemes and tonalities, form a tighter and tighter line infringing on each one’s<br />

gestures, and vice versa,” at which point there are not “two intersecting continuities<br />

but one and the same continuum in which words and gestures play the roles of<br />

variables in transformation” (SP 118/217).<br />

The theater might seem to provide exceptional instances of minor literature,<br />

in that drama necessarily involves a wide range of nonlinguistic elements that are<br />

not a part of other literary forms. But in actuality, drama simply makes evident<br />

what is implicit in all literature. In Deleuze and Guattari’s view, the discursive and<br />

the nondiscursive are inseparable (though by no means identical). Language is a<br />

mode of action informed by the interplay of machinic assemblages and collective<br />

assemblages of enunciation. Words intervene in bodies, and all the elements of<br />

language – phonemic, syntactic, semantic – derive their function from patterns<br />

of practices, institutions and material objects. Kafka’s minor usage of German<br />

intensifies the linguistic practices of Prague Jews, but in so doing it necessarily<br />

engages all the elements inherent in varying speech situations. The continuum of “I<br />

swear!” passes through words, intonations, gestures, bodies, buildings and locales,<br />

and Kafka’s minor usage of that continuum sends reverberations through all those<br />

elements. Bene’s minor theater likewise intensifies lines of variation inherent in the<br />

Italian language, and through the actors’ delivery and diverse sonic manipulations<br />

of their speech, deformations in the performance of language are induced, while<br />

the elements of gesture, costume and setting are denaturalized, transmuted and


Minority, Territory, Music 27<br />

recombined in unexpected arrangements. Yet Richard’s stammerings and groans, his<br />

constant staggering and stumbling, his prosthetic modifications of his body and his<br />

interactions with props and stage furniture, are not fully isolable from his words. A<br />

minor usage of language engages relations of action and power, which interconnect<br />

meanings, sounds, movements, bodies and decor. Bene’s minor theater dramatizes<br />

the pragmatic nature of language. In this sense it may be viewed as the theater of<br />

minor literature, a staging of the full range of elements implicit in the minor usage of<br />

language engaged in by all minor writers in all forms of literary invention.<br />

Territory<br />

The Refrain<br />

As we have seen, the concepts of minority and territory are interrelated, in that a minor<br />

usage of language effects a deterritorialization of linguistic regularities, but what<br />

this notion of “deterritorialization” has to do with concrete geographical territories<br />

remains to be determined. Throughout their collaborative works, Deleuze and<br />

Guattari make frequent use of the terms deterritorialization and reterritorialization,<br />

but it is only in section eleven of A Thousand Plateaus, “1837: Of the Refrain,”<br />

that they address the topic of territory per se, engaging the subject via an analysis<br />

of music’s relation to animal ethology. 7 Music, they assert, “is a creative, active<br />

operation that consists in deterritorializing the refrain [la ritournelle],” whereas the<br />

refrain “is essentially territorial, territorializing, or reterritorializing” (MP 369/300).<br />

Deleuze and Guattari identify three basic aspects of the refrain, which we may label a<br />

point of order; a circle of control; and a line of flight toward the outside. An instance<br />

of a point of order is that of the tune a child sings to comfort herself when she’s<br />

alone and afraid in the dark. A circle of control is evident in the perimeter of a cat’s<br />

domain marked by his spray. And a line of flight is met with in the mass movements<br />

of lemmings, birds, or lobsters. Although the point of order, circle of control and<br />

line of flight are most easily understood in terms of diverse moments and scenarios,<br />

Deleuze and Guattari insist that they are not “successive moments in an evolution,”<br />

but “three aspects of a single thing, the Refrain” (MP 383/312). Nevertheless, these<br />

three aspects of the refrain vary in their relative importance when considered in the<br />

context of different animals and their environments. The refrain in its broadest sense<br />

is a rhythmic regularity that brings order out of chaos. All animals interact with<br />

the world to fashion environments, or milieus, and each milieu is defined by the<br />

components of which it is composed; “Every milieu is vibratory, that is, a block of<br />

space-time constituted by the periodic repetition of the component” (MP 384/313).<br />

Milieus confront chaos, and rhythm “is the milieus’ answer to chaos” (MP 385/313).<br />

The amoeba’s inner metabolic rhythms, its movements in its aqueous medium, its<br />

absorptions of nutrients and reactions to external stimuli, the fluctuating waves of<br />

7 For a more extended discussion of Deleuze and Guattari’s approach to music and<br />

territoriality, see Chapters One and Three of my Deleuze on Music, Painting, and the Arts<br />

(New York, 2003).


28<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

forces and particles that impinge on its surface – all may be seen as components of<br />

an interactive system of rhythms, or regular patterns of space-time, which together<br />

constitute the refrain that characterizes a milieu. 8<br />

All animals inhabit milieus, but only some occupy territories. A territory emerges<br />

when a milieu component ceases to be merely functional and becomes expressive.<br />

The bright coloration of the male stickleback fish, for example, is not simply a<br />

mating stimulus for the female, but it serves also as a placard signaling the male’s<br />

territorial rights. The color is “both a quality and a property, quale and proprium”<br />

(MP 387/315), the qualitative expression of the territory and the signature of its<br />

possessor. What is functional in mating behavior gains autonomy, becomes detached<br />

from its milieu context. In a similar fashion, the stagemaker bird marks its territory<br />

by pulling leaves from trees and placing them in patterns on the ground. Here, leaves<br />

cease to function as parts of a tree habitat and become signs of the bird’s domain. The<br />

territory is “an act that affects milieus and rhythms, that ‘territorializes’ rhythms”<br />

(MP 386/314). Paradoxically, the territorializing act proceeds via a detachment,<br />

decoding, or “deterritorialization” of milieu components and a reinscription,<br />

recoding, or “reterritorialization” of those components as expressive qualities<br />

within a territory. Nor is the territorial act performed exclusively by the territory’s<br />

possessors. Territorialization “is an act of rhythm that has become expressive,<br />

or of milieu components that have become qualitative” (MP 388/315). Rhythm<br />

itself territorializes, which is a somewhat enigmatic way of saying that territories<br />

are emergent features of the regular patterns of complex ecological systems. The<br />

patterns are rhythms, melodies, refrains, and though produced by animals and their<br />

environments, they are relations between elements, and hence features of the system<br />

as a whole rather than any of its separate components.<br />

The “T factor, the territorializing factor,” then is found “precisely in the becomingexpressive<br />

of rhythm or melody, in other words, in the emergence of proper qualities<br />

(color, odor, sound, silhouette … )” (MP 388/316). Rhythms that are fixed and<br />

functionally coded in milieus become detached and assume new roles as expressive,<br />

proper qualities. These qualities serve as signs of the territory and its occupant’s<br />

possession of the domain, but the rhythms of a territory also tend to take on a life<br />

of their own and become more than mere signatures of ownership. Territorial motifs<br />

“form rhythmic faces or characters,” and territorial counterpoints “form melodic<br />

landscapes,” motifs and counterpoints becoming autonomous patterns that follow<br />

“an autodevelopment, in other words, a style” (MP 391–3/318–19). Further, every<br />

territory is open to an outside, and its rhythms and patterns include “lines of flight,”<br />

unstable vectors that serve both as constituents of the territory and sources of its<br />

potential dissolution. In this regard, the long-distance migrations of spiny lobsters,<br />

Alaskan salmon and Canadian geese are simply extreme instances of a general<br />

tendency of every territory to move beyond itself toward the surrounding world.<br />

8 Deleuze’s first published book, Instincts et institutions, assembles a number of brief<br />

texts on this topic, by authors as diverse as Hume, Rousseau, Kant, Darwin, Cuvier, Bergson,<br />

Malinowski, Freud, Lévi-Strauss and Eliade. Deleuze’s short introduction on the relationship<br />

between animal instincts and social institutions (ID 24–7/19–21) inaugurates a line of<br />

speculation that reappears with some frequency throughout his thought.


Minority, Territory, Music 29<br />

One can see, then, that the three aspects of the refrain correspond to three degrees<br />

of increasing deterritorialization that are met with in the generation of a territory.<br />

The refrain as point of order is a rhythmic regularity that organizes milieus in fixed<br />

patterns. Since territories encompass milieus and possess lines of flight, the refrain<br />

appears in territories in all its guises – point of order, circle of control, line of flight,<br />

“three aspects of a single thing” (MP 383/312).<br />

Music<br />

Many birds are territorial, and birdsong is often recognized as having a territorial<br />

function. Ornithologists distinguish between calls, or communicational signals of<br />

imminent danger, presence of food, proximity of mates or foes, and so on, and songs<br />

proper, which, depending on the species, may vary in length and complexity from<br />

two-to-three-second repeated motifs to extended, multisectional, improvisatory<br />

performances. In Deleuze and Guattari’s terminology, bird calls are largely milieu<br />

components, fixed to specific functions, whereas birdsongs are territorial elements,<br />

sonic components of milieus that have been unfixed and reconfigured in a more<br />

autonomous fashion. Ethologists debate whether birds are musicians, some arguing<br />

that birds sing only in response to hormonal stimuli, others insisting that birds have<br />

an aesthetic sense, take pleasure in singing for its own sake, and in a few cases,<br />

create original sonic compositions. Deleuze and Guattari concur that birds are artists,<br />

though they do not treat the issue as one of instinctual versus free activity. Art has its<br />

origin in the emergence of qualities as expressions of a territory. The stickleback’s<br />

coloration and the stagemaker’s leaves are artworks, whether produced primarily<br />

by instinct or volition. What counts are the object and its status within the act of<br />

territorialization. Birdsongs likewise are artworks, for they are deterritorialized<br />

milieu components that express a territory and a property, and in their extended<br />

and elaborate forms they become part of autonomous “rhythmic characters” and<br />

“melodic landscapes” that tend beyond the territory toward the cosmos as a whole.<br />

The bird sings its territory, or rather, the territory as relational rhythmic act sings<br />

itself through the bird, as the refrain actualizes musical points of order, circles of<br />

control and lines of flight.<br />

What relation does birdsong have to human music? Certain compositional practices<br />

of the composer Olivier Messiaen suggest an answer. 9 In a series of works from the<br />

1940s, 1950s and 1960s, Messiaen incorporates birdsongs into his music, rendering<br />

as accurately as possible through conventional musical instruments the intervals,<br />

rhythms, articulations and timbres of the melodies of various species of birds. Yet<br />

Messiaen admits that much is changed when one transfers to human instruments<br />

the microintervals and rapid tempi of birdsongs, as well as those articulations<br />

and timbres peculiar to avian physiology. 10 Once the intervals are stretched to fit<br />

9 In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari make reference to Messiaen’s music,<br />

his use of birdsong, and his concept of “rhythmic characters.” See especially MP 299–<br />

309/367–80 and 316–20/388–94. See also Deleuze, FB 48/60.<br />

10 Messiaen says of his citations of birdsongs in his music: “Personally, I’m very proud<br />

of the exactitude of my work; perhaps I’m wrong, because even people who really know the


30<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

the chromatic scale, the tempos slowed to human speeds, and the attack and tone<br />

adapted to suit orchestral instruments, the melodies are virtually unrecognizable to<br />

the most discerning of ornithologists, and once the birdsong motifs are combined<br />

in polyphonic patterns and manipulated to become parts of a compositional whole,<br />

they are even further transformed. Despite Messiaen’s efforts to imitate birdsong, his<br />

musical practice is that of a “becoming-bird,” a passage between bird and human that<br />

produces something new and unexpected, not an imitation but a deterritorialization<br />

of birdsong.<br />

Music “is a creative, active operation that consists in deterritorializing the refrain”<br />

(MP 369/300). What might seem an idiosyncratic technique in Messiaen is actually<br />

paradigmatic of all musical composition. To the extent that they create genuine<br />

music, all musicians – even birds – deterritorialize the refrain. And they are able to<br />

do so because the refrain deterritorializes itself. In its first guise as point of order,<br />

the refrain manifests itself in various milieu rhythms, which are fixed to specific<br />

functions (eating, mating, fighting, and so on). In its second guise as territorial<br />

motif, the refrain is itself a deterritorialization of milieu rhythms, and in its third<br />

aspect as line of flight, it is a deterritorialization of territorial rhythms. Even the most<br />

rudimentary of birdsongs is a deterritorialization of the milieu refrain, an unfixing and<br />

decoding of calls with particular functions, and the most complex birdsongs further<br />

deterritorialize rhythms that have been fixed and coded within territories and open<br />

them toward an outside. The compositions of Messiaen simply extend this process of<br />

deterritorialization, taking as their material the refrains of birds and submitting them<br />

to diverse operations and procedures that produce new sonic events.<br />

Yet we must not think that Deleuze and Guattari’s point is that composers simply<br />

render human analogs of the sounds of nature. The example of Messiaen’s use of<br />

birdsong is instructive, in that it suggests a direct way in which music deterritorializes<br />

the refrain, but it is potentially misleading if we do not keep in mind that the refrain<br />

is not exclusively sonic. Refrains are rhythms, relational patterns that shape milieus<br />

and territories. 11 The rhythms of mating, feeding, reproduction, nurture, play, struggle<br />

and exploration; the periodic fluctuations of weather, seasons, tides, or currents; the<br />

recurrent flows of gestures, movements, sights, sounds, smells, tastes – all combine<br />

in refrains. The task of music is less to convert natural sounds to human sounds than<br />

to render sonorous the nonsonorous forces that play through nature, and to do so by<br />

deterritorializing the rhythmic relations of the world, transforming them, and inventing<br />

new modes for their interconnection and interaction. In his monumental orchestral<br />

work From the Canyons to the Stars ... (1974), for example, Messiaen makes use of<br />

a number of birdsongs, but he also claims to render sonorous the multiple rhythms of<br />

birds might not recognize them in my music, yet I assure you that everything is real” (Olivier<br />

Messiaen, Music and Color. Conversations with Claude Samuel, trans. E. Thomas Glasow<br />

(Portland, OR, 1994), p. 94).<br />

11 Deleuze and Guattari’s discussion of territorialization as an “act of rhythm” suggests<br />

that they take “rhythm” in its broadest sense, to include both temporal and spatial patterns (as<br />

one speaks of the rhythm of the elements of a painting, sculpture or building, for example).<br />

Hence, all the relational patterns of music may be subsumed within the general category of<br />

rhythm.


Minority, Territory, Music 31<br />

the birds’ habitats throughout the course of a day, the slow rhythms of the geological<br />

formations of the Utah canyons, and the extended rhythms of the constellations. His<br />

composition engages these various refrains not by “imitating” birds, sagebrush, rocks<br />

and stars, but by extracting from milieu components their rhythmic relations and<br />

submitting these relations to processes of creative metamorphosis, first fashioning<br />

nonmimetic analogs of those relations in the form of melodic and harmonic motifs,<br />

then combining, transforming, dividing, inverting those motifs, and finally shaping<br />

them into a structurally coherent sequence of interconnected movements. Although<br />

Messiaen provides evocative titles for each of the twelve movements of this work<br />

– for example, “The Desert,” “Orioles,” “Interstellar Call,” “Zion Park and the<br />

Celestial City” – the resulting composition is less a musical evocation of a setting<br />

than a self-organized sonic response to a set of abstract relations. And though other<br />

composers may not articulate their practice in such terms, they too manipulate and<br />

transform the rhythms that surround them and pervade them whenever they create<br />

music. 12<br />

Minority and territory<br />

What, then, is the relation between minority and territory, between literature as a minor<br />

usage of language and music as the deterritorialization of the refrain? Language is a<br />

mode of action informed by relations of power. Machinic assemblages and collective<br />

assemblages of enunciation constitute patterns of practices, institutions and material<br />

objects that organize and regulate the immanent lines of continuous variation that<br />

play through the phonemic, grammatical, syntactic and semantic elements of speech<br />

and writing. The patterns of the relations of power that infuse and shape language<br />

may also be termed refrains, periodic rhythms that compose milieus and territories<br />

(as well as other forms of social-environmental organization, which we would need<br />

to detail in a thorough analysis of this problem). A minor usage of language induces<br />

a destabilization of linguistic constants, an unfixing of semiotic regularities, and in<br />

this sense it may be seen as a deterritorialization of the refrains immanent within<br />

various speech-act events. Both literature and music are experimentations on the<br />

real, means of capturing, dissolving and transmuting existing relations of force and<br />

then reshaping and reconstructing them in new configurations. Literature works<br />

with a linguistic medium, music with a sonic medium, but both engage rhythms and<br />

forces that extend through fields that include the discursive and the nondiscursive,<br />

the sonic and the nonsonic. Writers manipulate words, but words function as<br />

components of context-specific speech-acts, which are made up of multiple linguistic<br />

12 A thorough treatment of Deleuze and Guattari’s approach to music would include a<br />

review of their differentiation of Classical, Romantic and Modern compositional practices<br />

in A Thousand Plateaus (MP 337–50; 416–33). Deleuze discusses music as well in the final<br />

Chapter of The Fold (LP 164–87/121–37), concentrating primarily on music’s relation to<br />

the other arts in the Baroque, and in Périclès et Verdi. La philosophie de François Châtelet<br />

(PV). Also of interest are Deleuze’s brief articles “Making Inaudible Forces Audible” (DRF<br />

142–6.156–60) and “Occupy Time Without Counting: Boulez, Proust and Time” (DRF 272–<br />

9/292–9).


32<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

and nonlinguistic elements. A minor usage of language affects all the components<br />

of speech-acts, and in the theater one sees an explicit demonstration of literature’s<br />

implicit deterritorialization of diction, gesture, movement and setting through the<br />

manipulation of the word. Similarly, in Messiaen’s experimentations with birdsong,<br />

he necessarily engages elements beyond those of mere sound, for each birdsong<br />

is part of a complex territorial assemblage of interrelated rhythms that constitute<br />

patterns of courtship, mating, reproduction, feeding, and so on. In this sense, music’s<br />

deterritorialization of the refrain, like literature’s minor usage of language, entails an<br />

engagement of proliferating networks of relations that stretch across heterogeneous<br />

domains, the refrain incorporating sonic and nonsonic components alike, just as<br />

speech-acts involve variables of language, gesture, action, and all the nondiscursive<br />

components of the given contexts of their performance.<br />

To a certain extent, humans are territorial animals, and works of literature and<br />

music often have specifically territorial associations. Languages arise in concrete<br />

regions; tales, myths and legends are created by peoples inhabiting their native soils.<br />

The rhythmic and melodic modes of ancient Greece belong to specific locales, as<br />

do the talas (basic rhythmic units) of traditional Indian music. (Indeed, the complex<br />

relations between a geographic area and its artistic creations are such that a territory<br />

and its literature and music may be seen as mutually defining one another.) As birds<br />

sing their territory, so do humans speak or sing theirs. But the literature and music<br />

of a given territory are transfused by relations of power, and to the extent that they<br />

are territorial arts, they reinforce the domination of the majority, that is, those who<br />

represent the standard and norm against which all deviation is measured. No matter<br />

how oppressed a given group may be, a return to its native soil, to the tales and<br />

songs of the homeland, remains a return to a major culture and a major usage of<br />

language and sound. The minor is essentially homeless, nomadic, vagabond. A<br />

minor usage of language puts constants in variation, disengages them from their<br />

territorial roots, and sets them in perpetual movement. The aim of minor literature is<br />

to set all the constants of language in such continuous variation, just as it is the aim<br />

of music to deterritorialize all aspects of the refrain. In a brief remark about Viennese<br />

atonal music, Deleuze and Guattari observe that in the works of composers like<br />

Schoenberg, twelve-tone rows may deterritorialize tonality, but the other elements<br />

of music – rhythm, dynamics, attack, timbre – receive a relatively conventional<br />

treatment. What Deleuze and Guattari call for is an experimentation on all aspects<br />

of music, a “generalized chromaticism” (MP 123/97) that puts all musical constants<br />

in variation. Likewise, they support in literary creation a parallel experimentation<br />

on all aspects of language. As Deleuze remarks in “One Less Manifesto,” “a minor<br />

language contains only minimal structural constancy and homogeneity. It is not,<br />

however, a porridge, a mixture of dialects, since it finds its rules in the construction<br />

of a continuum. Indeed, the continuous variation will apply to all the sonorous and<br />

linguistic components in a sort of generalized chromaticism” (SP 100/209). Deleuze<br />

observes that Bene’s “writing and gestures are musical,” in that Bene treats all the<br />

components of drama as variations in speed and intensity. “This is the musical<br />

formula of continuity, or of form as transformation” (SP 113/215). At a certain level<br />

of abstraction, experimentations on the lines of continuous variation immanent<br />

within language and those immanent within territorial refrains may be seen as


Minority, Territory, Music 33<br />

experimentations on speeds and intensities, on relational patterns and rhythms, on<br />

oscillations, vibrations and modulations in a spatiotemporal continuum. At that level,<br />

both literature and music have a common function as minor usages of relations of<br />

power and as deterritorializations of territorial forces.


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Chapter 3<br />

Violence in Three Shades of Metal<br />

Death, Doom and Black<br />

The role of violence in contemporary culture has often been raised in discussions<br />

of popular music, and this question is particularly germane to three closely related<br />

forms of heavy metal music known as death metal, doom metal and black metal. The<br />

music of all three forms is extremely loud, somber and modal, highly percussive, and<br />

often fast, with vocals generally delivered in guttural shouts, grunts, moans, screams,<br />

or whispers. The lyrics frequently offer images of mayhem, dismemberment, bodily<br />

decay and disease. And in the case of black metal, a few of its better-known artists<br />

have been convicted of arson and murder. Deleuze says little directly about popular<br />

music, and his analyses of music as an art are less copious than those of other arts,<br />

especially literature and cinema. Nonetheless, his thought, especially as developed<br />

with Guattari, provides an incisive means of articulating the issues surrounding the<br />

social dimension of music in general and those related to violence in these three<br />

forms of heavy metal music in particular.<br />

Deleuze and Music<br />

Deleuze’s most extended treatment of music is to be found in Plateaus 10 and 11<br />

of A Thousand Plateaus, where he and Guattari develop the concept of music as<br />

the “creative, active operation that consists in deterritorializing the refrain” (MP<br />

369/300). 1 Deleuze and Guattari’s fundamental goal is to situate music within the<br />

processes of the natural world and conceive of it as a specific mode of engaging<br />

patterns of action, relation and development. The refrain may be defined loosely<br />

as any rhythmic pattern that forms part of a network of relations among creatures<br />

and their environment within a milieu, territory, or social domain. Each organism<br />

traces a “developmental melody” as it grows, matures and eventually dies, and the<br />

regular rhythms of its activities function as so many motifs in counterpoint with the<br />

motifs produced by surrounding organisms and inorganic forces. Organisms possess<br />

varying degrees of autonomy in relation to their environment; milieu creatures are<br />

closely tied to their surrounding world, territorial animals less so, and certain species<br />

(such as humans) even less so again (in that humans, though showing territorial<br />

tendencies, finally are capable of inhabiting spaces in much more unfixed and shifting<br />

patterns than such territorial species as the stickleback fish or the Australian grass<br />

1 For a detailed discussion of Deleuze’s approach to music, see my Deleuze on Music,<br />

Painting, and the Arts (New York, 2003), pp. 13–76.


36<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

finch). Relative degrees of autonomy among organisms are made possible by the<br />

“deterritorialization” of refrains, by the uncoding or unfixing of rhythmic patterns<br />

within one context, and by their “reterritorialization” within another. The song of the<br />

stagemaker bird, for example, is a sonic pattern that has been “deterritorialized” from<br />

any single function – say, that of signaling danger – and has been “reterritorialized” as<br />

a multi-functional refrain integrated within diverse refrains traced in the activities of<br />

nest-building, mating, food-gathering, predator-signaling, territorial defense, and so<br />

on. The stagemaker’s song emerges within its territory as part of its lifeworld, and the<br />

bird’s overall degree of autonomy, its relative flexibility in the organization of a given<br />

block of space-time, is a function of the deterritorialization and reterritorialization of<br />

its multiple refrains.<br />

Human music is significantly less fixed in its function than is birdsong, and music’s<br />

greater degree of deterritorialization is inseparable from the human species’ general<br />

degree of flexibility in its relation to its lifeworld. Human music may be involved in<br />

any number of activities – courtship, war, ritual, worship, lament, labor, celebration,<br />

dance, intoxication, amusement – but music possesses no necessary relationship to<br />

any of these, and it tends toward an autonomy that is beyond any function other than<br />

its own process. Indeed, music’s reterritorialization of sound is largely a recoding of<br />

sound in terms of itself, that is, in terms of formal systems such as those of traditional<br />

harmony and counterpoint in Western tonal music. Yet human music is not simply<br />

a collection of deterritorialized refrains, for it is also a deterritorializing force that<br />

interacts with nonmusical rhythmic patterns and provides them with sonic analogs<br />

within musical works. For Deleuze and Guattari, all deterritorialization proceeds<br />

via a process of becoming-other, a passage between entities or categories that sets<br />

them in metamorphic disequilibrium. In Olivier Messiaen’s use of birdsong in his<br />

musical compositions, Deleuze and Guattari find an apt example of music’s function<br />

as a deterritorializing force interacting with refrains in a process of becoming-other. 2<br />

In many of his compositions, especially those of the 1950s and 1960s, Messiaen<br />

constructs motifs from various birdsongs, rendering them with what Messiaen<br />

regards as great accuracy. Yet Messiaen observes that the high pitches, rapid tempos<br />

and peculiar timbres of birdsongs require that he enlarge the intervals between<br />

tones, slow the tempos, and find substitute timbres among human instruments in<br />

order to provide musical counterparts to the original birdsongs. The result, Messiaen<br />

concedes, is a music filled with birdsongs that the most practiced of ornithologists<br />

seldom can recognize. For Deleuze and Guattari, Messiaen’s interaction with<br />

birdsong is a paradigmatic instance of the musical process of becoming-other, a<br />

becoming-bird in which something passes between the fixed coordinates of human<br />

music and birdsong to produce new sounds. Messiaen’s musical rendering of the<br />

bird’s refrain deterritorializes that refrain, extracts it from its territorial function, and<br />

then incorporates it within a musical composition that unfolds along its own lines of<br />

development. Messiaen does not imitate the birdsong but provides a sonic analog of<br />

2 Messiaen’s remarks on birdsong and their function in his music may be found in<br />

Claude Samuel, Conversations with Olivier Messiaen, trans. Felix Aprahamian (London,<br />

1976), especially pp. 62 and 75.


Violence in Three Shades of Metal: Death, Doom and Black 37<br />

the song, thereby giving musical embodiment to the extra-musical force of the bird’s<br />

territorial refrain.<br />

A musical becoming-other is not simply a matter of undoing fixed refrains,<br />

however, for in becoming-other one engages a dimension of reality that is qualitatively<br />

distinct from ordinary experience. Deleuze and Guattari differentiate between two<br />

domains in the real world, an actual domain of commonsense spatiotemporal entities<br />

and processes, and a virtual domain of pure becoming and self-differentiating<br />

difference. The virtual may be conceived of loosely as a field of vectors of potential<br />

development and metamorphosis, each vector a line of continuous variation along<br />

which an actual process of development and metamorphosis might unfold. The<br />

virtual is immanent within the real, and every concrete, commonsense process is an<br />

actualization of an immanent virtual line of force. As I noted in Chapter 1, the virtualactual<br />

relationship is most easily understood via the example of the genesis and<br />

growth of a biological entity. The initial single-cell ovum is crisscrossed by multiple<br />

lines of potential cleavage, only one of which is actualized upon fertilization. As the<br />

single cell divides into two cells, potential lines of further division emerge within each<br />

of the new cells, again only one of which is actualized as each new cell in turn splits<br />

in two. Rather than seeing this process of division as the mechanical implementation<br />

of a preprogrammed blueprint, Deleuze and Guattari treat it as the unfolding of an<br />

immanent vector of differentiation, whereby a virtual, self-differentiating force is<br />

continuously actualized within concrete developmental processes.<br />

“The world is an egg,” Deleuze says in Difference and Repetition (DR 323/251),<br />

in that this process of actualization of virtual lines of force is manifest throughout<br />

the real. Usually, the virtual domain of becoming and self-differentiating difference<br />

escapes us, but in moments of disequilibrium and disorientation we gain access to<br />

that realm. Then we encounter a world not of discrete objects, fixed coordinates and<br />

chronometric time, but of flows and fluxes, topological spaces and floating durations.<br />

Entities within this virtual domain may be characterized solely by “pure relations<br />

of speed and slowness between particles” and by “pure affects” (MP 270/330), or<br />

powers of affecting and being affected by other elements. The time of the virtual<br />

is not that of Chronos, or regularly measured clock time, but that of Aeon, a time<br />

like that of an infinitive, “to swim,” “to sleep,” a becoming that is unfixed and nonpulsed,<br />

unfolding in no specifiable direction and in relation to no clear coordinates.<br />

In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari designate the domain of the virtual<br />

by various names, including the body without organs, the plane of consistency, and<br />

the smooth space of the nomadic war machine. By calling it a body without organs,<br />

Deleuze and Guattari stress the affective nature of the virtual and its connection to the<br />

human body, but they caution that the body without organs is not strictly speaking an<br />

individual or human body, for the body without organs is immediately social (capital,<br />

for example, is the body without organs of the capitalist social formation) and it is<br />

always made up of flows and fluxes that include human and nonhuman elements<br />

alike. By labeling the virtual a plane of consistency, Deleuze and Guattari avoid<br />

associations with the human body entirely and highlight abstract continuities between<br />

elements, while insisting that the elements are irreducibly multiple and held together<br />

only through a loose cohesion, or glue-like consistency, emerging from relations of<br />

speed and affective intensity. And by speaking of the virtual as a smooth space (as


38<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

opposed to one that is “striated,” or graphed and gridded), which is generated by the<br />

nomadic war machine, they emphasize the fluid, ever-changing quality of the virtual,<br />

as well as its connection to forces of transformation and potential destruction.<br />

Thus, when Messiaen enters into a process of becoming-other and deterritorializes<br />

a birdsong refrain, he engages a virtual line of continuous variation that is<br />

immanent within the real, and that specific line of variation, or vector of potential<br />

development and differentiation, is interconnected with other such lines across a<br />

plane of consistency, or field of virtual vectorial forces. Messiaen’s goal (and that<br />

of all composers generally, and of modern composers especially) is to capture these<br />

virtual forces, “the forces of an immaterial, nonformal, and energetic Cosmos” (MP<br />

342–3/423), and give them sonic embodiment. He seeks to render sonorous that<br />

which is nonsonorous, to address “a problem of consistency or consolidation: How<br />

to consolidate the material, make it consistent, so that it can harness unthinkable,<br />

invisible, nonsonorous forces,” such as those of “Duration and Intensity” (MP<br />

343/423). In one sense, then, Messiaen’s compositions are directly connected<br />

to the actual material world, in that he generates thematic material through a<br />

deterritorialization of actual birdsong refrains. But in another sense, his compositions<br />

partake of a different realm – the virtual – rendering sonorous the nonsonorous<br />

forces immanent within the real. In this regard, his compositions may be seen as<br />

sonic bodies without organs, palpable planes of consistency that render perceptible<br />

what usually escapes perception – the speeds, affects and floating time of the virtual.<br />

I believe that the music of death, doom and black metal groups likewise aims at the<br />

creation of sonic bodies without organs, or palpable planes of consistency, though of<br />

a decidedly different quality than those of Messiaen.<br />

The Music of Death, Doom and Black Metal<br />

Death, doom and black metal are sub-genres of heavy metal music, a form of<br />

popular music whose origin most commentators trace to the 1969–70 release of<br />

Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin II, Deep Purple’s Deep Purple in Rock, and Black<br />

Sabbath’s Paranoid. 3 Of these three, Black Sabbath’s was the album that fostered<br />

the development of death, doom and black metal. England’s Venom produced what<br />

some regard as the first death metal album, Welcome to Hell, in 1981, with other<br />

early efforts in a death vein including those of Los Angeles’ Slayer (Show No Mercy<br />

[1983], Hell Awaits [1985], and Reign in Blood [1986]), Switzerland’s Hellhammer<br />

(Apocalyptic Raids [1985]), and Florida’s Death (Scream Bloody Gore [1987],<br />

3 The best introduction to heavy metal music as a whole is Robert Walser, Running<br />

with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Hanover, 1993). Deena<br />

Weinstein, Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology (New York, 1991) also provides useful<br />

information about heavy metal culture, but her sociological analysis pays little heed to the<br />

music per se. Neither Walser nor Weinstein explicitly discusses the sub-genres of death, doom<br />

and black metal. The portraits of heavy metal listeners in Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Metalheads:<br />

Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Alienation (Boulder, CO, 1996) are of limited interest,<br />

especially since only one of his subjects listens to music that might be remotely classified as<br />

death, doom or black metal.


Violence in Three Shades of Metal: Death, Doom and Black 39<br />

Leprosy [1988]). By the early 1990s, death had become established as a prominent<br />

form of heavy metal music, leading performers during the 1990s including Morbid<br />

Angel, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Monstrosity, Cryptopsy, Suffocation,<br />

Dying Fetus and Vader. At present, several hundred death bands are performing and<br />

recording worldwide.<br />

Devotees of doom metal often cite as early instances of the sub-genre mid-<br />

1980s albums by Saint Vitus and Candlemass, the title of Candlemass’ 1986 Epicus<br />

Doomicus Metallicus perhaps inspiring the sub-genre’s eventual designation. But<br />

only in the early 1990s did doom become firmly established as an important form<br />

of heavy metal music, as groups such as Paradise Lost (Lost Paradise [1990]), My<br />

Dying Bride (As the Flower Withers [1992], Turn Loose the Swans [1993]), and<br />

Anathema (Serenade [1993], Enigma [1995]) fused elements of death metal with the<br />

somber, slow-paced strains of groups such as Saint Vitus and Candlemass. Though<br />

perhaps less popular than death metal, doom continues to thrive, with at least two<br />

hundred groups active in the Americas and Europe.<br />

Black metal is often said to have arisen alongside death metal, Sweden’s Bathory<br />

showing characteristics of the sub-genre in such releases as The Return … (1985),<br />

Under the Sign of the Black Mark (1987) and Blood Fire Death (1988), but the<br />

groups most closely associated with the establishment of black metal as a distinct<br />

category, Norway’s Mayhem, Burzum, Darkthrone and Emperor, developed their<br />

music in direct response to death metal. These groups’ releases from the early 1990s<br />

inspired the formation of hundreds of black metal bands in the next decade, black<br />

metal now perhaps rivaling death in popularity among metal audiences. In addition<br />

to Darkthrone, Emperor and Mayhem, important black metal groups active in the last<br />

decade include Dark Funeral, Enslaved, Gorgoroth, Immortal, Impaled Nazarene,<br />

Marduk, Rotting Christ and Satyricon. 4<br />

4 The categories of death, doom and black are somewhat fluid, and classification of<br />

individual groups within these categories is often disputed by listeners. Nor are these the only<br />

divisions of heavy metal music that might be brought to bear on a study of the three sub-genres;<br />

thrash, grindcore, stoner rock, and speed metal, for example, are other classifications often<br />

invoked in heavy metal discussions. Assessments of the popularity of death, doom and black<br />

metal are difficult to make. The sub-genres receive virtually no television or radio airplay.<br />

CDs are produced and distributed not by major manufacturers but by a number of small labels<br />

in various countries, and in many instances by the groups themselves. Communication about<br />

the music is carried on among musicians and listeners through a few glossy publications,<br />

numerous ‘fanzines’ produced by enthusiasts of the sub-genres, several websites devoted<br />

to the music, and personal correspondence among band members and their audiences.<br />

Especially useful websites include Dark Legions Archive (www.anus.com/metal), Doommetal.com<br />

(www.doom-metal.com), American Black Metal List (www.usbmlist.cjb.net) and<br />

DarkLyrics.com (www.darklyics.com). Perhaps some rough measure of the popularity of the<br />

sub-genres may be gathered from the following data: Doom-metal.com offers detailed profiles<br />

and discographies of 291 doom metal groups, over 200 of which are currently active; the<br />

American Black Metal List includes entries for 490 black metal groups from the United States<br />

alone; and DarkLyrics archives lyrics by over 1,100 bands, at least 60 per cent of which are<br />

death, doom or black metal bands.


40<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

Fundamental to death, doom and black metal, as to all heavy metal music, is<br />

the highly amplified sound of electric guitars, electric basses and drums. The basic<br />

sound is aptly named “heavy metal,” for both words convey something essential<br />

about the music. It is heavy in that it is emphatically percussive, “thick” in texture,<br />

and highly amplified in the lower registers. It is metal in that its sound is dominated<br />

by a particular gamut of high-distortion, low-frequency “grinding,” “crunching”<br />

timbres produced by amplified solid-body electric guitars. The language of timbres,<br />

of course, like the language of tastes or smells, is crude at best, but whether one can<br />

precisely name the sound or not, one can easily discriminate a basic “feel” to the<br />

sound of all death, doom and black metal. What is crucial is that the sub-genres’<br />

core sound bears little relation to any sounds produced by conventional acoustic<br />

instruments, including the guitar. It is decidedly “unnatural,” non-organic, metallic.<br />

If rock ’n’ roll generally depends for its existence on electric industrial technology,<br />

death, doom and black metal take as their fundamental sound that of the electric<br />

guitar treated as an electric industrial machine.<br />

Death, doom and black metal do not imitate the sounds of industrial machines,<br />

but they produce sonic analogs of the sounds, rhythms and patterns of the modern<br />

technological lifeworld. In this sense, death, doom and black metal may be seen as<br />

music that attempts a deterritorialization of the diverse refrains of contemporary<br />

industrial machine culture. But such an observation, besides being rather clichéd<br />

(though nonetheless true, I believe), says little about the music beyond its basic<br />

timbral qualities. If music deterritorializes non-musical refrains, it also reterritorializes<br />

sounds within conventional systems of relations: “it is through a system of melodic<br />

and harmonic coordinates by means of which music reterritorializes upon itself, qua<br />

music” (MP 372/303). Deleuze and Guattari argue that genuine creativity in music<br />

requires not simply a deterritorialization of refrains in the outside world, but also<br />

a deterritorialization of the conventions of standard musical practice, which in the<br />

case of metal music, are those of traditional seventeenth–nineteenth-century Western<br />

tonal harmony and counterpoint. Deleuze and Guattari advocate what they call a<br />

“generalized chromaticism,” a deterritorialization<br />

… affecting not only pitches but all sound components – durations, intensities, timbre,<br />

attacks … By placing all its components in continuous variation, music itself becomes<br />

a superlinear system, a rhizome instead of a tree, and enters the service of a virtual<br />

cosmic continuum of which even holes, silences, ruptures, and breaks are a part. [MP<br />

120–21/95]<br />

Yet they recognize as well that a deterritorialization of all musical components at the<br />

same time leads only to a muddled chaos of white noise: “Sometimes one overdoes it,<br />

puts too much in, works with a jumble of lines and sounds; then instead of producing<br />

a cosmic machine capable of ‘rendering sonorous,’ one lapses back to a machine of<br />

reproduction that ends up reproducing nothing but a scribble effacing all lines, a<br />

scramble effacing all sounds” (MP 424/343–4). All elements of music must be open<br />

to experimentation, but only a selected few may be worked with at a time. What is<br />

needed is “a maximum of calculated sobriety in relation to the disparate elements<br />

and the parameters,” a “sober gesture, an act of consistency, capture, or extraction


Violence in Three Shades of Metal: Death, Doom and Black 41<br />

that works in a material that is not meager but prodigiously simplified, creatively<br />

limited, selected” (MP 425–6/344–5). And as Deleuze and Guattari observe of<br />

literary experimentation in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, innovation may<br />

proceed through proliferation (as in Joyce) but also through ascetic impoverishment<br />

(as in Beckett). Hence, in musical as in literary experimentation, not only does<br />

innovation require a limitation of the elements to be subjected to deterritorialization,<br />

but it also may operate through a deliberately ascetic impoverishment of elements,<br />

an intensification of musical components through their simplification.<br />

Death, doom and black metal explore a deliberately restricted range of possibilities<br />

within heavy metal music, each in its own way. Although the relationship among the<br />

three sub-genres is complex and shifting, perhaps the easiest means of characterizing<br />

them is first to delineate death metal practices and then to approach doom and black<br />

metal as responses to death. 5 One finds in death metal a concerted effort to eliminate<br />

all sweetness, tenderness and niceness from popular music – witness the repeated<br />

description of the sub-genre by its performers and listeners as “extreme” and “brutal”<br />

– and to fashion a music of frenetic speed and constant intensity. The intensity of the<br />

music is conveyed through the sheer volume of the sound, variations in volume level<br />

arising almost exclusively through brief antiphonal exchanges of solo power chords<br />

between guitarists or shifts from chord sections to monophonic sections played in<br />

unison by bass and guitars. The bass generally doubles the guitar motifs, providing<br />

a full low-frequency reinforcement of the guitars’ deep sounds, while the “bite” of<br />

the guitar attack ensures a relatively clear articulation of the rapid figures executed<br />

by the guitarists. The drums emphasize virtually every subdivision within each highspeed<br />

rhythmic motif, the highly amplified double kick-drums frequently delivering<br />

a near sub-sonic punch to each note of the prestissimo bass-guitar figures. The sound<br />

is not simply processed by the ears but also felt in the body (especially the chest), and<br />

though the ears might subordinate elements of a rhythmic motif into accented and<br />

unaccented components, the body feels each element as a distinct percussive event.<br />

The result is a music that is experienced as an unrelenting, high-speed assault of lowfrequency<br />

and mid-range pulses grouped in massive blocks or slabs of sound.<br />

Death’s harmonic palette is quite limited. Major triads are avoided, and even<br />

minor triads tend to be replaced by the open fourths and fifths of power chords.<br />

Motifs generally are based on the intervals of the blues pentatonic scale (E-G-A-<br />

B-D in the key of E), with frequent emphasis given as well to the intervals of the<br />

minor second (E-F) and augmented fourth (E-A#) characteristic of the “exotic”<br />

Phrygian and Locrian modes. There is little genuine harmonic movement in death<br />

compositions; standard blues progressions and even common metal progressions<br />

(for example, C-D-Em in E) give way to tonic-centered sections of monophony or<br />

polyphonic sections based on a single chord or on a repeated alternation of two or<br />

three open fifths that reinforce the tonic within each phrase unit. Death compositions<br />

5 I discuss death metal music at greater length in “Becoming Metal, Becoming Death<br />

…” in Deleuze’s Wake: Tributes and Tributaries (Albany, NY, 2004). Other helpful treatments<br />

of death metal music include Jack Harrell, “The Poetics of Destruction: Death Metal Rock,”<br />

Popular Music and Society, 18 (1994): 91–104, and Harris M. Berger, “Death Metal Tonality<br />

and the Act of Listening,” Popular Music, 18/2 (1999): 161–76.


42<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

are usually organized in discrete sections, each section based on a complex rhythmic<br />

motif. And if a shift in tonality occurs, it coincides with a sectional break, such that<br />

the shift provides little sense of a movement linking one tonal area to another, instead<br />

merely signaling an abrupt break between tonal blocks. The sectional organization<br />

seldom conforms to the standard verse-chorus-bridge structure of popular songs;<br />

rather, section follows section in a paratactic sequence of multiple, loosely related<br />

units, one unit simply being added on to the next. The result of these harmonic and<br />

structural practices is that in death songs a curious stasis pervades the ubiquitous<br />

high-speed motifs. Each section is like a plateau of intense constant energy, with<br />

its own mood (generally minor-modal, sometimes vaguely non-Western), full of<br />

motion but going nowhere in particular, section following section in a series of<br />

discontinuous shifts from one plateau to another, those shifts themselves possessing<br />

no identifiable developmental drive or direction.<br />

Ultimately, this interplay of speed and stasis points toward the presence of two<br />

different kinds of time in death metal, the time of Chronos and that of Aeon, as well<br />

as two different ways of understanding the concept of speed. In A Thousand Plateaus,<br />

Deleuze and Guattari cite Pierre Boulez’s distinction between pulsed and nonpulsed<br />

time in music (MP 320/262), pulsed time being the time of conventional meters and<br />

regular beats, nonpulsed time being the floating, unmarked time exhibited in certain<br />

modern compositions (Boulez’s among them) in which, for example, performers<br />

freely execute motifs within a given duration (say, fifteen seconds) at their own pace,<br />

with no pulse provided by the conductor. Deleuze and Guattari link this distinction<br />

to one drawn often by Messiaen between meter and rhythm. 6 Meter, for Messiaen,<br />

denotes a regular, measured repetition of equal pulses, whereas rhythm is a matter<br />

of incommensurable durations, irregular sequences of unequally spaced pulses. In<br />

Messiaen’s judgment, a march is the least rhythmic form of music, and it is rhythm,<br />

not meter, that he regards as the vital force of musical time. What Deleuze and<br />

Guattari call Chronos, the time of the commonsense, actual world, is a pulsed,<br />

metrical time of regular repeated intervals, whereas Aeon, the time of the virtual, is<br />

a nonpulsed rhythmic time of irregular, incommensurable intervals.<br />

It is on the basis of this distinction between pulsed, metrical Chronos and<br />

nonpulsed, rhythmic Aeon that Deleuze and Guattari make what might at first seem a<br />

paradoxical opposition of movement and speed. Speed, they argue, is not necessarily<br />

a matter of a quantitative measure of movement. Indeed, “a movement may be very<br />

fast, but that does not give it speed; a speed may be very slow, or even immobile,<br />

yet it is still speed. Movement is extensive; speed is intensive” (MP 473/381). To<br />

phrase the distinction somewhat differently, we might say that there is a quantitative<br />

speed of measurable velocities germane to the actual (an “extensive” speed, in that<br />

it belongs to the realm of Cartesian spatiotemporal extension), but that there is also<br />

a qualitative speed that defies measure and opens us to the intensive dimension of<br />

the virtual. Qualitative speed is movement out of control, and it may be encountered<br />

in extremes of mobility and immobility. Deleuze and Guattari suggest the nature<br />

of those extremes in their remarks on Kleist, who gives “time a new rhythm” in<br />

6 For more on Messiaen’s distinction between meter and rhythm, see Bogue, Deleuze<br />

on Music, Painting, and the Arts, p. 25.


Violence in Three Shades of Metal: Death, Doom and Black 43<br />

literature. His fiction and drama present “an endless succession of catatonic episodes<br />

or fainting spells, and flashes or rushes. Catatonia is: ‘This affect is too strong for<br />

me,’ and a flash is: ‘The power of this affect sweeps me away,’ so that the Self [Moi]<br />

is now nothing more than a character whose actions and emotions are desubjectified,<br />

perhaps even to the point of death” (MP 440/356). A rush is an acceleration that<br />

runs out of control, catatonia a vertiginous suspension of time, and the two extremes<br />

ultimately shade into one another. Just as the spokes of a wheel, moving faster and<br />

faster as the velocity of the wheel’s rotation increases, at a certain point begin to blur<br />

and form a single, still shape; so acceleration beyond commonsense perception at a<br />

certain point is transformed into a constant, vibrating hum that paradoxically seems<br />

to freeze duration while still participating in a dimension of becoming. In this sense,<br />

every intensive moment of temporal disequilibrium, even a frozen, catatonic stupor,<br />

is a moment of qualitative speed.<br />

Nearly all music involves both meter and rhythm, both pulsed and nonpulsed<br />

time; few compositions dispense entirely with evenly repeated beats and regular<br />

measures. In Deleuze and Guattari’s analysis, this is not surprising, for Chronos<br />

and Aeon, though qualitatively distinct from one another, are only experienced as<br />

tendencies within an inextricable mixture of the two. There is no experience of<br />

chronometric time that does not have at least a tincture of vertiginous becoming<br />

within it, and no experience of a floating, suspended time that does not retain at<br />

least a hint of some regular measure. What varies in music is the handling of meter<br />

and rhythm, pulsed and nonpulsed time, and the relative emphasis placed on each<br />

factor. All rock ’n’ roll has its roots in the regular meters of dance music, and death<br />

metal is no exception. The “givens” of rock ’n’ roll are the standard meters (2/4, 3/4,<br />

4/4, 6/8, 9/8, 12/8) and four-, eight-, twelve-, and sixteen-bar rhythmic groupings of<br />

Western dance forms, and death musicians accept these conventions, attempting in<br />

individual sections of their compositions to exploit a specific rhythmic motif within<br />

a standard meter, imbue it with an emphatic “heaviness,” and render it at a high rate<br />

of quantitative speed. But they also manage to create effects of qualitative speed, and<br />

through several techniques and practices.<br />

As we have already seen, one method is to avoid virtually all harmonic movement<br />

and any developmental organization of sectional units, thereby imparting to each highspeed<br />

unit a concomitant aura of atemporal stasis. A second, less common, technique<br />

is to repeat a hyper-regular figure until it becomes a hypnotic, trance-like drone (a<br />

strategy one meets in minimalists like Philip Glass, as in any number of jam bands).<br />

More important is a third technique of structuring songs in discrete rhythmic blocks<br />

that are connected by no common measure but simply placed in abrupt juxtaposition<br />

to one another. Rather than gradually accelerating or decelerating between sections,<br />

or doubling (or tripling, or halving) the pulse from one section to another, or using a<br />

common pulse to move, say, from a duple to a triple meter – all standard techniques<br />

for relating one metrical unit to another – death musicians frequently change tempo<br />

or meter from brief section to brief section (each section generally lasting between<br />

fifteen and thirty seconds) in such a way that there is no logical relation between<br />

sections, each coexisting with the others as an autonomous temporal unit. What one<br />

encounters in compositions of this sort is a series of self-contained, intensely pulsed<br />

rhythmic units punctuated by a sequence of erratic, spasmodic jolts, fits and starts. If,


44<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

in each discrete section a hyper-Chronos of quantitative speed is manifest, the time<br />

between each section is that of an Aeon of qualitative speed and incommensurable<br />

rhythm. And yet a fourth device, used sparingly but to telling effect, is to accelerate a<br />

rapid duple figure until the individually distinct rhythmic elements of the bass, guitar<br />

and drum parts merge in a nonpulsed tremolo of whirring chaos. In these moments,<br />

quantitative turns into qualitative speed, the previously pulsed units blurring in a<br />

tremolo rush that is at the same time a catatonic skid.<br />

The music of doom metal might be characterized as death metal on Quaaludes,<br />

death slowed to a funereal pace and stretched out in songs lasting sometimes as<br />

long as twenty-five or thirty minutes. The same minor-modal harmonies prevail<br />

in both, as do static chord relations within sections and loose paratactic structures<br />

linking sections to one another. The basic timbres of doom resemble those of death,<br />

and most doom metal, despite its slow pace, is insistently “heavy.” 7 But doom has<br />

a melodic component that is largely absent in death. Even monophonic motifs in<br />

death, despite their linearity, tend to function less as melodies than as percussive<br />

bass lines, whereas in doom the guitars and bass frequently articulate extended<br />

legato lines that conform to standard notions of “tunefulness.” Often the legato lines<br />

are doubled by a violin, flute or female vocalist, instruments and sounds almost<br />

never used in death. The melodies of doom, however, exploit a narrow range of<br />

expressivity, their function being primarily to establish a somber, modal exotic mood<br />

and provide continuity within sections. Doom seeks above all to create atmospheric<br />

auras, to imbue each section with its own “feel” while at the same time maintaining<br />

the heaviness of an emphatically pulsed sound. 8 Doom melodies serve to meld<br />

components within a section and give them a floating, hazy continuity, thereby<br />

creating what Deleuze and Guattari call a “haecceity,” a “thisness,” an atmosphere<br />

like a “season, a winter, a summer, an hour, a date,” with an identity that partakes of<br />

the time of Aeon, “the indefinite time of the event, the floating line that knows only<br />

speeds” (MP 318, 320/261–2). The atmospheric speed sought by doom, ultimately,<br />

7 There is some question among doom listeners as to whether some forms of socalled<br />

“atmospheric doom,” less “heavy” than the norm, even qualify as genuine doom.<br />

John Del Russi of Heirophant, when asked to define doom, comments: “I stand firmly in<br />

my resolution that doom should always maintain the earth-shattering heaviness the likes of<br />

diSEMBOWELMENT, Evoken, Thergothon etc. While there are those who strive to achieve<br />

a more ‘serene’ form of doom, attempting to express purely the sorrowful side, I find it most<br />

lacking in power in the absence of the pulverizing heaviness of the afore-mentioned pioneers<br />

of doom. … While I have no qualms with ‘calmer’ moments throughout the journey of doom,<br />

which genuinely add to the atmospheres of doom, I believe there should be a quality of<br />

‘brutality’ to its composition” .<br />

8 All music, of course, creates some sort of atmosphere, but doom (and black) metal<br />

exploit specific techniques of late-Romantic chromatic programme music and tone poems that<br />

have heavily influenced film scores and become standard elements of suspense and horror<br />

movies. The atmospheres they evoke are hence those typically associated with cinematic<br />

images of foggy landscapes, dark, mysterious spaces, graveyards, haunted houses, and so on,<br />

all conveyed musically through passages with relatively little temporal drive.


Violence in Three Shades of Metal: Death, Doom and Black 45<br />

is the qualitative speed of catatonia, the immobile speed of a paradoxically intense<br />

suspended animation.<br />

Black metal comes in two varieties, one fairly close to death, the other with<br />

some similarities to doom. Like doom, black metal shares the timbres, harmonies,<br />

sectional construction and overall organizational structure of death. Much of black<br />

metal, like death, is fast paced, although the range of tempos in black tends to be<br />

broader than that in death. What many black metal bands reject is death’s emphasis<br />

on virtuosity and musicianship. They strive for a messier, grungier sound, something<br />

more chaotic and raw than the precise and intricate percussive complexities of death.<br />

Such groups tend to emphasize a rhythmic figure at greater length and change tempo<br />

less frequently than do death bands, and they often replace death’s quick monophonic<br />

lines with rapid flat-pick reiterations of massive, muddy triads. One extreme of black<br />

metal, then, might be very loosely designated grunge death (Burzum and Mayhem<br />

being examples of this strain). The other extreme might be thought of as fast doom.<br />

In this form of black metal, legato melodies executed by a violin, flute or organ<br />

often lend continuity to a high-tempo section, and at times synthesizers are used to<br />

provide a vaguely choral, sustained harmonic “wash” to a section (early Emperor<br />

provides numerous examples of this latter practice). But what is common to all black<br />

metal is a concentration on mood and atmosphere. Many black metal musicians<br />

dress in black robes and wear exaggerated white-and-black “corpsepaint” on their<br />

faces, and though such practices are strictly extra-musical, they point to the basically<br />

ritual and theatrical conception of black metal music, which is meant to evoke vague<br />

auras, climates and affective settings. Like doom, black metal seeks to elicit the<br />

floating time of a catatonic Aeon, while simultaneously, like death, it pursues both<br />

quantitative speed and the qualitative speed of a hyper-accelerated rush.<br />

Voice, Words and Action<br />

In a special issue of Guitar Presents, Marc Shapiro characterizes death metal with<br />

what he calls a fairly simple equation: “It’s guitar tuned down so low that only dogs<br />

can hear it. It’s songs about the Devil, revenge from the grave, death by garden tools<br />

and other tales from the dark side delivered, for the most part, in a Linda Blair/<br />

Exorcist-like satanic growl.” 9 The satanic growl is indeed a distinctive feature of<br />

much death metal, and many doom and black vocalists adopt the same low-pitched,<br />

guttural, raspy, bark of death. Some black metal vocalists opt for incessant fullvoiced<br />

or high-pitched screams over the death growl, and doom performers often<br />

combine growls, screams and grunts with deep murmurs and slow whispers. But<br />

what is common to most death, doom and black metal is the anti-melodic, nonnatural<br />

treatment of the voice (though so-called “clean” vocals have been gradually<br />

showing up in a few groups over the last decade). If, as Deleuze and Guattari assert,<br />

“the first musical operation” is “to machine the voice” (MP 373/303), that is, to<br />

deterritorialize the voice from its ordinary, “natural” speaking function, then death,<br />

9 Marc Shapiro, “The Birth of Death: A Speed Demonology,” Guitar Presents: Speed<br />

Demons of Metal (1993), p. 8.


46<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

doom and black vocalists are fundamentally – indeed, primally – musical in their<br />

anti-lyrical non-singing, in that their growls, screams and grunts simply push music’s<br />

de-naturalization of the speaking voice to extremes (which most listeners hostile to<br />

the sub-genres would deem beyond the limits of the musical).<br />

Though death, doom and black vocalists articulate words, seldom are the words<br />

readily understandable, especially in live performance, and even in the slowest<br />

tempos of doom. The most important function of the vocals is to provide a broadly<br />

affective, percussive reinforcement of accents and phrases, to fuse vocal noises with<br />

the instrumental sounds and create semi-human, semi-machine, blocks of sound.<br />

Nonetheless, lyrics do exist (most groups provide lyrics sheets with their CDs),<br />

and they have an important musical purpose. As Shapiro suggests, death lyrics tend<br />

to focus on the dark side, the grave, corporeal decay and physical violence. These<br />

staples of horror films are common in black metal as well, with satanic themes being<br />

somewhat more prevalent in black than in death. Doom lyrics often offer sepulchral<br />

expressions of Poe-esque Liebestod (My Dying Bride’s lyrics read largely as an<br />

extended explication of the group’s name), though frequently doom bands simply<br />

voice melancholy sentiments of vague despair and hopelessness (November’s Doom<br />

is one such group). Although the lyrics of the three sub-genres often summon up<br />

dramatic tableaus, they seldom offer plots or stories, for their main purpose is to<br />

evoke emotions, moods and attitudes through highly charged images, raw, profane<br />

diction, and diverse first-person expressions of anti-social desire. In Section Four<br />

of A Thousand Plateaus, “Postulates of Linguistics,” Deleuze and Guattari argue<br />

that words do not represent things so much as they intervene in things, performing<br />

“incorporeal transformations” of bodies through speech-actions (MP 110/86).<br />

Similarly, death, doom and black lyrics intervene in the music, providing an<br />

affective specificity to what is only vaguely generated by the music. There is no<br />

inherently evil, violent, or even aggressive music (loud, yes, assertive, perhaps, but<br />

not inherently aggressive), and what the lyrics attempt is to narrow the sound’s range<br />

of affective associations, imbue the music with more precisely delineated moods<br />

grounded in concrete situations – situations, it happens, that frequently involve evil,<br />

violence and aggression.<br />

Not all songs dwell on violence and mayhem, however. Doom lyrics as a whole<br />

tend to involve violence less than do those of death and black, and even within death<br />

and black there are wide variations in the frequency and intensity of violence in the<br />

lyrics. Satanic motifs are not uncommon in death and black lyrics, but they are far<br />

from ubiquitous, and often such motifs evidence less an obsession with evil than<br />

a fascination with non-Christian, broadly pagan sensibilities, a fascination shared<br />

with bands that draw themes and imagery for their songs from Norse mythology<br />

(Emperor, among many Scandinavian groups), Babylonian mythology (Morbid<br />

Angel), or Egyptian mythology (Nile). It is clear, then, that there is no inherent<br />

relation between the music and the lyrics, that the manifest continuities in musical<br />

practices across the sub-genres do not have equally consistent continuities in the<br />

handling of lyrics. Yet when lyricists do choose to focus on violence and mayhem,<br />

one may well ask why. In such cases, if the music is not inherently violent or<br />

evil, has it been co-opted for violent or evil purposes? The difficulties of relating<br />

representations of violence (especially in film, fiction, or art) to actual violence are


Violence in Three Shades of Metal: Death, Doom and Black 47<br />

well-known, and they are no less problematic in the case of death, doom and black<br />

metal music. Clearly, much of the impetus behind the sub-genres’ lyrics is to shock<br />

and offend – to offend fundamentalist Christians with Satanic hymns, to offend<br />

liberals with sexist profanities, to offend just about everyone with descriptions of<br />

putrefying flesh, evisceration, blood and gore. Often, the lyrics seem to function<br />

merely as the expression of a defiant anarchistic hedonism or the cathartic release<br />

of strong emotion. Occasionally, the performers adopt a mimetic stance and argue<br />

that they are not advocating violence but simply reflecting the violence around them<br />

in their songs. And frequently one detects an ironic, and at times parodic, sense of<br />

humor in the excesses of the imagery and the exaggerated postures of the songs’<br />

personas (not unlike the humor one finds in many horror films).<br />

All of which suggests, not that art is separate from life, but that the connection<br />

between the two is complex and determinable only in specific circumstances.<br />

Representations of violence need have no relation to violent actions, but they may,<br />

though specifying causal relations must be approached with great caution and may<br />

well prove impossible. Consider the notorious case of the Norwegian black metal<br />

scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, documented at length in Moynihan and<br />

Søderlind’s sometimes lurid Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal<br />

Underground. 10 Here are the facts. On April 8, 1991, the lead singer of Mayhem,<br />

“Dead” (Per Ohlin), committed suicide with a shotgun blast to the head. Before<br />

the police arrived, “Euronymous” (Øystein Aarseth), Mayhem’s founder and lead<br />

guitarist, photographed Dead’s corpse, later bragging that he also ate pieces of<br />

Dead’s brain and gathered scraps of Dead’s skull to use as necklace decorations. In<br />

May 1992, the first of some forty-five to sixty church burnings took place, most of<br />

the subsequent incidents occurring over a three-year period, at least one-third with<br />

documented connections to the black metal scene. On August 21, 1992, “Faust”<br />

(Bård Eithun), then drummer of Emperor, murdered Magne Andreassen, a gay man<br />

who, according to Faust, approached him for sex. On August 10, 1993, “Count<br />

Grishnackh” (Varg Vikernes), guitarist of Burzum, murdered Euronymous. Later<br />

that month, Grishnackh and Faust were arrested for their respective murders. In<br />

September 1994, both were found guilty; Grishnackh was sentenced to twenty-one<br />

years in prison, Faust to a fourteen-year term. In subsequent trials, other black metal<br />

scene members were convicted of arson, including Samoth, Emperor’s lead guitarist,<br />

who received a two-year sentence.<br />

10 I am not able to address here the question of Norwegian black metal’s connection<br />

to Nazism. Since his incarceration in 1994, Varg Vikernes (Count Grishnackh) has issued<br />

statements of an increasingly racist, white-supremacist nature that have led some to associate<br />

Norwegian black metal and black metal as a whole with Nazism. In the liner notes to their<br />

1995 release, Panzerfaust, Darkthrone felt compelled to add a postscript that “Darkthrone<br />

is certainly not a Nazi-band nor a political band.” Although black metal bands with Nazi<br />

leanings do exist, they are relatively few, and many black metal fans resent the assumption<br />

among some critics that the music has an inherent tie to Nazism. For a critique of black<br />

metal as a racist form of music (an attack based largely on Vikernes’ remarks in Moynihan<br />

and Søderlind, it should be noted), see Karl Beckwith, “‘Black Metal Music is for White<br />

People’: Constructs of Colour and Identity with the Extreme Metal Scene,” M/C Journal,<br />

(2002).


48<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

What is evident from Moynihan and Søderlind’s account is that during this<br />

period in Oslo, black metal music was an important part of a genuine “scene,” a<br />

multidimensional social milieu in which musicians lived with one another, performers<br />

and fans socialized with one another at concerts and especially at Euronymous’<br />

record store, Helvet, and participants embraced modes of dress, discourse and<br />

interaction commonly associated with evil, death, the demonic and other dark<br />

forces. Euronymous was a charismatic promoter, recording and distributing CDs<br />

of various black metal bands, cleverly boosting Norwegian black metal in fanzine<br />

interviews that stressed the evil, dangerous nature of the music and of the performers<br />

(especially himself). Grishnackh, Euronymous’s junior by six years, was an equally<br />

charismatic, forceful individual, and the two of them became friends for awhile,<br />

eventually assembling around themselves a conspiratorial group of arsonists intent<br />

on demonstrating to each other how evil they could be. Grishnackh clearly resented<br />

Euronymous’s popularity and eventually came to regard Euronymous as a poseur<br />

(as well as a dishonest business associate). When Grishnackh learned that Faust<br />

had killed someone, he seemed to envy Faust’s status as a murderer, and some of<br />

Grishnackh’s associates attribute his slaying of Euronymous as much to a desire for<br />

renown among his peers as to personal and professional animosities.<br />

To deny that black metal music had any connection with the Norwegian black<br />

metal scene and its incidents of arson and murder would be foolish. But to claim<br />

that the music or the lyrics somehow caused the crimes would be equally absurd. A<br />

unique culture involving a shifting network of individuals with a host of interests,<br />

motives and desires took shape in a particular place and time, and music was an<br />

inextricable component of that culture. In Deleuze and Guattari’s ethological terms,<br />

black metal functioned as a complex of refrains in counterpoint with numerous extramusical<br />

refrains in a specific social and natural lifeworld. Just as a bird’s song may<br />

combine with postures, actions and surrounding materials (trees, twigs, worms, and<br />

so on) in patterns involved in mating, nesting, or foraging, so black metal combined<br />

with other elements to form patterns of interaction that eventually involved, among<br />

other things, arson and murder.<br />

That music can be a powerful accompaniment to violent behavior is undeniable,<br />

but the range of forms of musical expression capable of fulfilling such a role seems<br />

unlimited. (One thinks, for example, of “Helter Skelter” among the Manson family,<br />

but also of Schubert in the Nazi death camps.) Conversely, there seems to be no hard<br />

evidence that any form of music is more closely associated with violent action than<br />

any other. Black metal music was an important part of the lives of Norway’s black<br />

metal arsonists and murderers, but neither black metal as a whole, nor the related<br />

forms of death and doom metal, have been shown to have a higher incidence of<br />

suicide, assault or murder among the sub-genres’ performers or listeners than other<br />

forms of popular music. Still, one may ask, why do death, doom and black metal<br />

lyrics focus so often on gore, decay, corpses and destruction? Why this pervasive<br />

fascination with death?<br />

The answer, I believe, is that the lyrics are designed to evoke what the music<br />

seeks to create: the experience of the body without organs. In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze<br />

and Guattari describe the body without organs as a decentered body that has ceased<br />

to function as a coherently regulated organism, one that is sensed as an ecstatic,


Violence in Three Shades of Metal: Death, Doom and Black 49<br />

catatonic, apersonal zero-degree of intensity that is in no way negative but has a<br />

positive existence. They argue that “the body without organs is the model of death”<br />

(AO 393/329), by which they mean that the ecstatic trance-like state of this zerodegree<br />

of intensity is the experiential analog of what is never truly experienced, at<br />

least as part of one’s ongoing being, but is sensed only as the disappearing edge of<br />

existence. Hence the human fascination with death, so widespread and multifarious in<br />

its manifestations, may be seen from this vantage as an affirmation of a fundamental<br />

dimension of experience, that of the virtual, which is encountered as a paradoxical<br />

catatonic rush or immobile whir of differential speeds and intensive affects. But<br />

Deleuze and Guattari recognize as well that there are great risks and perils in the<br />

pursuit of a body without organs, and thus in A Thousand Plateaus they speak of<br />

both a suicidal and a cancerous body without organs, each with its specific dangers.<br />

Individuals produce a body without organs by becoming-other, by deterritorializing<br />

all the ossified, sedimented strata of regular codes and structures, but if “you free<br />

[the body without organs] with too violent an action, if you blow apart the strata<br />

without taking precautions, then instead of drawing the plane [of consistency] you<br />

will be killed, plunged into a black hole, or even dragged toward catastrophe” (MP<br />

199/161). In short, the fascination with the “model of death,” the body without<br />

organs, may become a fascination with real death, a suicidal dive into an all-absorbent<br />

black hole. The cancerous body without organs, by contrast, is produced not by an<br />

incautious, precipitous deterritorialization of all coordinates, but by a fostering of<br />

partial, “totalitarian,” or “fascist” deterritorializations that are “terrifying caricatures<br />

of the plane of consistency” (MP 201/163). The virtual is immanent and everywhere<br />

manifest within the real, and hence the plane of consistency, or the body without<br />

organs, is immanent within even the most rigid and oppressive of institutions. There<br />

is thus a “BwO [body without organs] of money (inflation), but also a BwO of the<br />

State, army, factory, city, Party, etc.” (MP 201/163), and each of these bodies without<br />

organs may become an object of fascination for the individual, a kind of tumor that<br />

may proliferate and eventually take over. Deleuze and Guattari see the production of<br />

a body without organs as the only means of genuine creation, but they ask, “How can<br />

we fabricate a BwO for ourselves without its being the cancerous BwO of a fascist<br />

inside us, or the empty BwO of a drug addict, paranoiac, or hypochondriac? How<br />

can we tell the three Bodies apart?” (MP 202/163).<br />

Death, doom and black metal’s fascination with death, one might say, is a<br />

fascination with the problem of the three bodies without organs, with the liminal<br />

areas where the three shade into one another. “The BwO is desire,” say Deleuze and<br />

Guattari:<br />

Even when it falls into the void of too-sudden destratification, or into the proliferation<br />

of a cancerous stratum, it is still desire. Desire stretches that far: desiring one’s own<br />

annihilation, or desiring the power to annihilate. Money, army, police, and State desire,<br />

fascist desire, even fascism is desire. [And the problem is] to distinguish the BwO from<br />

its doubles: empty vitreous bodies, cancerous bodies, totalitarian and fascist. [MP 203–<br />

204/165]


50<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

The pursuit of an ecstatic, apersonal affective intensity can all too easily turn into a<br />

thirst for self-annihilation or a will to annihilate, and death, doom and black metal<br />

lyrics explore those moments when such desires interpenetrate.<br />

Deleuze and Guattari also say that the body without organs may function as<br />

a “war machine,” and here especially we see highlighted the dangerous relation<br />

deterritorialization may have with violence. Deleuze and Guattari posit a fundamental<br />

opposition between nomadic and sedentary modes of social life, to which correspond<br />

respectively the institutions of the war machine and the apparatus of the state.<br />

Commonly, war is taken to be a state function, but Deleuze and Guattari argue that<br />

the informing principle of war, that of a mutative, chaotic force of transformation<br />

(and this is what they mean by the term “war machine”), is antithetical to the state,<br />

and that the history of state-sponsored violence is one of an uneasy and perpetually<br />

unstable capture of this force of transformation. They note that in Indo-European<br />

mythology the warrior frequently is contrasted with such state figures as the king,<br />

lawgiver, or priest, the warrior often betraying social alliances and operating<br />

as an anarchic locus of unpredictable action. They see this mythic opposition of<br />

warrior versus king/lawgiver/priest as symptomatic of an opposition of two modes<br />

of existence, each with its own means of creating, inhabiting and propagating a<br />

specific “space,” one “smooth,” the other “striated.” Smooth space is essentially<br />

fluid, heterogeneous, without center or dimensional coordinates, whereas striated<br />

space is stable, homogeneous and crisscrossed with organizational grids. The<br />

nomads’ smooth habitat of shifting desert sands, for example, differs qualitatively<br />

from the striated fields of the sedentary state dwellers. Yet this contrast of smooth<br />

and striated spaces, though initially framed in geographic terms, Deleuze and<br />

Guattari extend in a number of ways, to include different artifacts (felt vs fabric),<br />

different kinds of time (unpulsed rhythm vs pulsed meter), different forms of thought<br />

(nomad science vs royal science, fractal geometry vs Euclidean geometry), different<br />

approaches to the arts (Egyptian, Gothic or Byzantine art vs Greco-Roman art) and<br />

so on. Ultimately, the “war machine” is simply a term for the metamorphic force of<br />

deterritorialization, and “smooth space” the name of the body without organs, or<br />

plane of consistency, created and permeated by that metamorphic force. As Deleuze<br />

explains in an interview on A Thousand Plateaus:<br />

We define the “war machine” as a linear assemblage which constructs itself on lines of<br />

flight. In this sense, the war machine does not at all have war as its object; it has as its<br />

object a very special space, smooth space, which it composes, occupies and propagates.<br />

Nomadism is precisely this combination “war machine-smooth space.” We try to show<br />

how and in what case the war machine takes war for its object (when the apparatuses of<br />

the State appropriate the war machine which does not initially belong to them). A war<br />

machine tends to be revolutionary, or artistic, much more so than military. [PP 50–51/33]<br />

The war machine does not have war as its object, yet still it is called the war machine,<br />

and though its function is primarily revolutionary or artistic, its name is inseparable<br />

from a military domain. What Deleuze and Guattari reinforce through this term is<br />

the problematic relation between deterritorializing metamorphosis and violence,<br />

which, as we have seen, they also frame in terms of the body without organs and its<br />

dangerous doubles, the suicidal and cancerous bodies without organs. The dangers


Violence in Three Shades of Metal: Death, Doom and Black 51<br />

of constructing a body without organs are dangers of violence, risks that a creative,<br />

metamorphic war machine will turn into a veritable machine of war, a negative force<br />

bent solely on destruction. It is striking how frequently images of war, especially of<br />

an apocalyptic sort, appear in the lyrics of death and black metal (and occasionally<br />

doom as well). Often the persona in death and black metal songs adopts the pose of<br />

a warrior and espouses an ethos of unrestrained destruction. The warriors imagined<br />

in these songs, however, are not representatives of an organized military regime<br />

but embodiments of an anarchic force of chaos. They inhabit a space outside the<br />

regular order of any state apparatus and serve as mythic figures of a dimension of<br />

unrestrained social upheaval. What this recurring imagery of warriors, battlefields<br />

and Armageddon suggests, finally, is that the music of death, doom and black metal<br />

is a war machine ever becoming machine of war, a machine of war perpetually<br />

turning back into a war machine, a music focused on the perilous relation between<br />

ecstatic deterritorialization and suicidal or fascistic annihilation.<br />

Music “is never tragic, music is joy,” Deleuze and Guattari claim, yet there are<br />

times when music “necessarily gives us a taste for death … Music has a thirst for<br />

destruction, every kind of destruction, extinction, breakage, dislocation. Is that not<br />

its potential ‘fascism’?” (MP 367–68/299). This thirst for destruction Deleuze and<br />

Guattari tie to music’s power as a deterritorializing force. Compared to painting,<br />

music “seems to have a much stronger deterritorializing force, at once more intense<br />

and much more collective,” which perhaps explains “the collective fascination<br />

exerted by music, and even the potentiality of the ‘fascist’ danger we mentioned<br />

a little earlier: music (drums, trumpets) draws people and armies into a race that<br />

can go all the way to the abyss” (MP 371/302). Music, one might say, is at once<br />

more abstract and more elemental than painting. As Deleuze remarks in Francis<br />

Bacon, music indeed “deeply traverses our bodies, and puts an ear in our belly, in our<br />

lungs, etc.,” but ultimately it “rids bodies of their inertia, of the materiality of their<br />

presence. It disincarnates bodies” (FB 38/47). In turn, through the manipulation<br />

of its sonic matter, it “gives the most mental [spirituelles] entities a disincarnated,<br />

dematerialized body” (FB 38/47). Music, in short, through its heightened and yet<br />

somehow dispersed, intangible sensuality, has the power of undoing the coordinates<br />

of the commonsense world and creating a sonic body of speeds and affective<br />

intensities, that sonic body traversing listeners and turning their organized, material<br />

bodies into dematerialized vectors spread out across an apersonal, trans-individual<br />

body without organs. But in music’s great power as a deterritorializing force lies its<br />

danger. Its dissolution of codes, structures and conventions can expand, accelerate<br />

and form part of an undifferentiated will to annihilation and destruction. And its<br />

abstract, dematerializing affectivity can be channeled into any number of violent,<br />

repressive and reactionary circuits of power.<br />

Like all forms of music, death, doom and black metal are modes of<br />

experimentation on the real. Their timbres, rhythms and textures are sonic analogs of<br />

the patterns and processes of contemporary electronic, industrial, machine culture.<br />

Their deterritorialization of such extra-musical refrains, however, takes place within<br />

a musical deterritorialization of popular music conventions, those conventions<br />

themselves functioning as refrains within the real. By deliberately adopting a limited<br />

musical idiom and pushing its elements to an extreme, death, doom and black metal


52<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

develop inventive deformations of standard popular music practices, concentrating<br />

especially on timbre and rhythm rather than melody and harmony. Death metal seeks<br />

a music of intensity and speed, both a quantitative speed of emphatic rapid pulses<br />

and a qualitative speed of rushes and catatonic whirs. Doom pursues a music of<br />

atmospheric auras, at once immobile and yet heavily pulsed, whereas black combines<br />

elements of death and doom to fashion raw blocks of atmospheric speed. The lyrics<br />

of death, doom and black metal intervene in the music, suggesting specific moods,<br />

emotions and attitudes as correlates of the broad and underdetermined affective<br />

dimension of the sounds. The lyrics in various ways evoke the experience of the body<br />

without organs, especially in its liminal forms in which the positive, creative body<br />

without organs merges with its violent suicidal or cancerous caricatures. The songs<br />

of death, doom and black metal are composed, performed, recorded, circulated and<br />

enjoyed within complex, multidimensional social situations, and those songs may<br />

or may not serve as refrains in counterpoint with extra-musical refrains involving<br />

violent action.<br />

The final ethical measure of any music is its ability to create new possibilities<br />

for life, and such is the measure that must be applied to an assessment of the social<br />

practices within which death, doom and black metal music and lyrics are given<br />

concrete actualization. Neither wholesale condemnation nor blanket approval of the<br />

sub-genres is called for, but instead a careful delineation of their musical, verbal and<br />

pragmatic methods and purposes, as well as an appraisal of their function within<br />

particular contexts. Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of the refrain, deterritorialization<br />

and reterritorialization, the body without organs, speeds and intensities, haecceities,<br />

and so on, provide us with significant tools for undertaking such an analysis.


Chapter 4<br />

Search, Swim and See<br />

Deleuze’s Apprenticeship in Signs<br />

and Pedagogy of Images<br />

Deleuze was a remarkable polymath, capable of bringing penetrating insights to a<br />

wide variety of disciplines. The number of topics addressed during his career was<br />

considerable, ranging from mathematics, biology, psychology, political science and<br />

anthropology to logic, ethics, painting, literature, metallurgy and the decorative<br />

arts. One might assume that as a lifelong academic Deleuze would have turned his<br />

attention to the subject of education with some frequency, but in fact he dedicated<br />

only a small portion of his energies to this field. He did, however, devote a few<br />

passages of Difference and Repetition (1969) to the relationship between thought<br />

and learning that are especially suggestive. These passages summarize the salient<br />

points he had developed in his 1964 study Proust and Signs, in which he approached<br />

Proust’s massive A la recherche du temps perdu as an extended apprenticeship in the<br />

explication of signs. The question of teaching and its relationship to learning he left<br />

largely unexamined in these two works, but in Cinema 2: The Time-Image (1985),<br />

Deleuze spoke briefly of a “pedagogy” of images in the films of Godard, and from<br />

these remarks on Godard’s treatment of sound and sight one can discern the outlines<br />

of what might constitute a Deleuzian theory of teaching. Taken together, Deleuze’s<br />

studies of learning in Proust and teaching in Godard provide a map of directions one<br />

might pursue in developing a Deleuzian philosophy of education.<br />

Searching<br />

Proust’s Recherche, as its French title indicates, is a search for lost time, but Deleuze<br />

insists that this search is oriented toward the future rather than the past. Marcel, the<br />

hero of the Recherche, indeed explores memories of the past, but only as part of an<br />

apprenticeship that eventuates in his becoming an artist. His exploration of lost time<br />

is merely part of a search for the truth of time, which is one with the truth of signs.<br />

Signs for Deleuze are not transparent media for the communication of information.<br />

Rather, they are hieroglyphs, enigmas that point beyond themselves to something<br />

hidden. In this sense, the moon as sign is a bright surface gesturing toward its dark<br />

side. Every sign has something enfolded within it, something “other,” that must be<br />

unfolded if it is to be understood. The interpretation of signs, then, is a matter of<br />

“explicating,” or unfolding (from Latin plicare: to fold), that which is “implicated,”<br />

or enfolded.


54<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

Deleuze identifies four kinds of signs in the Recherche: the worldly signs of<br />

polite society, the amorous signs of passion and jealousy, the evanescent sensual<br />

signs of involuntary memory, and the immaterial signs of art. Worldly signs are<br />

vacuous, with no genuine content, but they force Marcel to unfold their mysteries,<br />

to determine why one person is admitted to a given social circle, why another is<br />

snubbed, who belongs to which milieu, what constitutes the tone and relative prestige<br />

of a particular coterie, and so on. Amorous signs point toward the worlds hidden in<br />

the beloved, toward all those places the beloved inhabits when the lover is absent.<br />

The truth of these signs is revealed through jealousy, which compels the lover to<br />

unfold the mysteries of the worlds which are enfolded in the beloved and from which<br />

the lover is forever excluded. The sensual signs of involuntary memory are like<br />

the madeleine, whose taste suddenly fills Marcel with great joy as the unexpected<br />

presence of the Combray of his childhood comes over him. Such signs Marcel<br />

compares to tiny pieces of Japanese paper that, when placed in water, unfold and<br />

expand to reveal hidden landscapes imprinted on their surfaces. As Marcel observes<br />

of the savor of the madeleine he has just dipped in his lime tea, “in a moment all the<br />

flowers in our garden and in M. Swann’s park, and the water-lilies on the Vivonne<br />

and the good folk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and<br />

the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into<br />

being, towns and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.” 1 The signs of art, finally, are<br />

signs of essences, manifestations of originary worlds that unfold within the material<br />

form of a given artwork but transcend that matter and reveal the truth of the cosmos<br />

as a dynamic process of self-differentiation.<br />

Deleuze reads the Recherche as the record of an apprenticeship (apprentissage<br />

in French), or process of learning (French apprendre: to learn), and all learning, he<br />

asserts, proceeds via the interpretation of signs: “Everything that teaches us something<br />

emits signs; every act of learning is an interpretation of signs or hieroglyphs. Proust’s<br />

work is based not on the exposition of memory, but on the apprenticeship in signs”<br />

(PS 11/4). By “learning” Deleuze clearly does not mean the mere acquisition of any<br />

new skill or bit of information, but instead the accession to a new way of perceiving<br />

and understanding the world. To interpret signs is to overcome “stock notions,”<br />

“natural” or “habitual” modes of comprehending reality (PS 37/27). What often<br />

passes for learning is simply the reinforcement of commonsense notions, standard<br />

codes and orthodox beliefs. But the commonsense, conventional, orthodox world is<br />

ultimately illusory. Genuine learning, the learning through signs, takes us beyond the<br />

illusions of habit and common sense to the truths of what Proust calls “essences” and<br />

Deleuze labels “differences.”<br />

The usual assumption is that thought voluntarily seeks truth through the exercise<br />

of “good will,” but what Proust shows is that the search for truth always commences<br />

with a disruptive event that compels thought into action. Philosophy’s mistake, says<br />

Deleuze, “is to presuppose within us a benevolence of thought [une bonne volonté de<br />

penser], a natural love of truth” (PS 24/16). The ideas of the philosophical intelligence<br />

“are valid only because of their explicit, hence, conventional, signification,” and<br />

1 Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, trans. C.K. Moncrieff and Terence<br />

Kilmartin (New York, 1982), vol. 1, p. 51.


Search, Swim and See 55<br />

“explicit and conventional significations are never profound; the only profound<br />

meaning is the one that is enveloped, implicated in an external sign” (PS 24/16).<br />

Philosophy’s intellectual truths are “abstract and conventional” (PS 41/30) whereas<br />

the truths of signs are “fortuitous and inevitable” (PS 25/16). Only through a chance<br />

encounter with an unsettling sign can thought be jolted from its routine patterns,<br />

and only through such an encounter will the object of thought cease to be arbitrarily<br />

selected and attain the necessity of something that itself chooses thought, that<br />

constrains thought and sets it in motion.<br />

Common sense organizes the world according to fixed identities and stable<br />

spatial and temporal coordinates, but for Proust and Deleuze the dynamic unfolding<br />

of the world is a process that escapes common sense and defies its set categories.<br />

That process is a ceaseless becoming in which things perpetually metamorphose<br />

into something else and thereby elude identification and specification, but it is also<br />

one informed by a virtual domain of “essences” or “differences” that are, in Proust’s<br />

words, “real without being actual, ideal without being abstract.” 2 It is through signs<br />

that Marcel learns the truth of essences, and that truth is disclosed initially through<br />

revelations of the different forms of time related to each kind of sign.<br />

Worldly signs exhibit the “lost time” of frivolous activity, inevitable decline and<br />

universal alteration and annihilation. Amorous signs reveal another type of “lost<br />

time,” that of “wasted time” [le temps qu’on perd, literally, “the time one loses”]<br />

(PS 30/21), a time of deception and disappointment which can only be absorbed in<br />

retrospect, after the love relationship has come to an end. To an extent, such forms<br />

of “lost time” may be accommodated within traditional temporal schemas, but not so<br />

the time that emerges in the sensual signs of involuntary memory. The time evoked<br />

through the madeleine, the uneven paving stones of Venice, and other such sensual<br />

signs is “time regained” [le temps qu’on retrouve, literally “the time one finds again”],<br />

which in Deleuze’s reading is a version of the time of Henri Bergson’s virtual past. 3<br />

Bergson argues that a memory is not simply a faded or less complex version of an<br />

experience that once was present, but something that is qualitatively distinct from<br />

any present experience. The past is a single domain in which all past events coexist<br />

with one another. This domain is real, though it is virtual rather than actual. At each<br />

present moment, time splits in two, into a dynamic actual present thrusting toward<br />

a future, and a “memory of the present,” a virtual double of the present moment<br />

(something like a virtual mirror image of the present) that immediately forms part of<br />

the single domain of all past events. According to Bergson, when we try to remember<br />

something we leap into the virtual past as if entering a different medium. Once we<br />

find the memory we are seeking, we bring it back into the present, but usually in<br />

such a way that the memory is made to fit in with our actual, commonsense purposes<br />

and activities. As a result, the virtual character of the memory tends to escape our<br />

awareness. Only in dreams, moments of déjà-vu and other unusual experiences are<br />

we able to perceive the virtual past as it exists in itself.<br />

2 Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, vol. 3, pp. 905–906.<br />

3 For a detailed discussion of Bergson’s virtual past, see Chapter Three of Deleuze’s<br />

Bergsonism (B 45–70/51–72).


56<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

Deleuze insists that Proust’s moments of involuntary memory are not mere<br />

reminiscences but experiences that disclose such a Bergsonian virtual past. In the case<br />

of the madeleine, a common quality – the taste of the madeleine – links a present and<br />

a past moment, but in such a way that an “essence of Combray” is released, a virtual<br />

Combray that has never been present, save as a virtual “memory of the present.” The<br />

great joy that fills Marcel comes from this sudden chance encounter with what Proust<br />

calls “a fragment of time in the pure state,” 4 time outside the ordinary coordinates<br />

of temporal succession. Yet Marcel’s accession to the virtual past teaches more than<br />

a simple lesson about time, Deleuze insists, for in the experience of the madeleine<br />

Marcel encounters “internalized difference, which becomes immanent” (PS 75/60).<br />

The virtual Combray is embodied in the taste of the madeleine, made internal to that<br />

taste, immanent within it, and in this sense the madeleine internalizes something<br />

different, but that virtual Combray itself is an unfolding difference, an entity whose<br />

paradoxical kind of time is merely one aspect of its being as essence.<br />

It is only in the signs of art that Marcel learns the full truth of essences and<br />

their relationship to time. The time of art is “recovered time” [le temps retrouvé,<br />

literally “time found again,” the title of the last volume of the Recherche] (PS 34/24).<br />

Recovered time is the pure form of time, an unspecified temporal medium within<br />

which various temporal experiences may be actualized. Its time is like that of the<br />

verbal infinitive – “to work,” “to sleep,” “to dream” – a floating time unmoored<br />

from any tense, person, mood, or direction, an essence of temporality that serves<br />

as a generative medium from which different specific temporal configurations may<br />

issue (“I had worked,” “she was to have slept,” “we will have been dreaming,” etc.).<br />

Such time, says Deleuze, is “complicated” (PS 58/45), a term he takes from certain<br />

Neoplatonic philosophers who speak of the cosmos as an enfolded, implicated One<br />

that unfolds, or explicates itself in the multiple, the originary state of which, before<br />

any explication, is a “complication, which envelops the many in the One and affirms<br />

the unity of the multiple” (PS 58/45). The time of art is a pure essence of time,<br />

a perpetual origin of time, as if with each work of art the world were once again<br />

coming into being for the first time.<br />

The time of art, however, is only one dimension of essences, which are enfolded<br />

virtual differences that unfold themselves in the actual world. To a certain extent<br />

Proust is Leibnizian, Deleuze claims, in that “essences are veritable monads, each<br />

defined by the viewpoint to which it expresses the world” (PS 55/41). Leibniz’s logic<br />

of “expression” is one of explication and implication, the whole expressing itself by<br />

unfolding itself in individual monads, each monad in turn expressing the whole by<br />

enfolding the whole as a specific vantage on that totality. In this sense, the world<br />

is like a city (to take a Leibnizian figure), which unfolds itself in particular places,<br />

each place enfolding the city from a given point of view. Yet in Proust there is no<br />

pre-established harmony coordinating all points of view, and hence each monad-site<br />

reveals a different city. And each such city is the expression of “difference itself, the<br />

absolute internal difference” (PS 55/42). What Deleuze means by absolute internal<br />

difference is perhaps best understood through the example of a single-cell ovum,<br />

which I presented in Chapter 1. Before fertilization, the ovum is crisscrossed by<br />

4 Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, vol. 3, p. 905.


Search, Swim and See 57<br />

multiple gradients, zones of surface tension and lines of possible division. Of these<br />

virtual lines of potential division only one becomes actualized upon fertilization.<br />

At that point, a process of differentiation begins, whereby the one cell splits into<br />

two. Rather than regarding this process of meiosis as the mechanical construction<br />

of a preformed whole, Deleuze sees it as the unfolding of an internal difference that<br />

differentiates itself in an ongoing cascade of divisions. As the one cell divides into<br />

two, a process of individuation takes place, but the individuals formed – the two<br />

cells – are the result of the process, not its cause. Individuation precedes individuals,<br />

and individuation is a process of metamorphosis and becoming, one that produces<br />

individuated entities but always continues in further metamorphic activity.<br />

“The world is an egg” (DR 279/216) in that the world is a dynamic process<br />

of metamorphosis through which virtual difference differentiates itself into actual<br />

multiple entities while itself remaining immanent within each of those entities.<br />

Everywhere difference explicates itself in multiple entities, and difference remains<br />

immanent within each entity, implicated within it. Hence, if the world is a city, it is<br />

also an egg, not a static collection of edifices but a living entity in formation. Further,<br />

it is neither a single city nor a single egg. Each locus looks out on a different city in<br />

formation, and there is no single originary ovum from which the city-organism arises.<br />

Differentiation proceeds in all directions at once, and wherever one finds oneself,<br />

there a different city is in a process of dynamic emergence. What Marcel ultimately<br />

learns through art is that the world is a city-egg in metamorphosis, each locus of which<br />

enfolds a difference that is actively unfolding itself. Common sense grasps the world<br />

in terms of stable entities and fixed relations, thereby misunderstanding difference<br />

in two ways, both as it manifests itself in the metamorphic process of becoming (the<br />

passage of the virtual into the actual) and as it exists in itself, as a virtual immanent<br />

within the actual. What art reveals is that immanent virtual domain, the domain of<br />

difference in itself, something that is “real without being actual, ideal without being<br />

abstract,” something that exists outside temporal markers, in a perpetual infinitive of<br />

multiple potential temporal unfoldings.<br />

Marcel’s apprenticeship in signs proceeds in two stages and two directions, the<br />

first stage leading him from worldly through amorous and sensual signs to the signs<br />

of art, the second following a reverse order as he learns to interpret all signs as<br />

varying manifestations of internal absolute difference. In the first stage, Marcel must<br />

overcome two illusions, those of objectivism and subjectivism. The first is the illusion<br />

that the object emitting the sign holds the secret of the sign, as if, for example, the<br />

madeleine itself somehow possessed the virtual Combray within its physical being.<br />

To make such an illusory attribution is unavoidable, for “Everything encourages us<br />

to do so: perception, passion, intelligence, even self-esteem … We think that the<br />

‘object’ itself has the secret of the signs it emits. We scrutinize the object, we return<br />

to it in order to decipher the sign” (PS 37/27). Yet once Marcel overcomes this<br />

illusion, he falls into a second, the belief that the secret of the sign is merely a matter<br />

of subjective association. The problem here is that with subjective associations,<br />

anything goes. Any object may be associated with any other object, in which case<br />

signs are merely symptoms of their interpreters. What Marcel must finally learn is<br />

that the truth of signs is neither in the objects that emit them nor in the subjects who<br />

interpret them but in the differences that are immanent in objects and subjects alike.


58<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

Art leads Marcel to this truth since in each great art work a unique world is disclosed<br />

from a specific point of view, but in such a way that the artist-subject is produced<br />

by the point of view rather than himself or herself bringing the point of view into<br />

existence. Hence, if the world revealed by the great art work is a city, its revealing<br />

point of view is like a tower from which an anonymous and apersonal “one” views<br />

the dynamic unfolding of the city and the artist-subject below, and that “one” is<br />

difference itself in a process of self-differentiation.<br />

Once art has taught Marcel the truth of signs, he is able to reinterpret the signs<br />

of sensual experience, love and the world and see that all are manifestations of<br />

differences, though in varying degrees of materiality and generality. The signs of<br />

involuntary memory, such as the madeleine, are close to the signs of art, in that<br />

they unfold a world (such as the virtual Combray) and a non-chronological time<br />

(the virtual past of the madeleine being a subset of the “complicated” pure form<br />

of time of difference). Yet such signs are contingent on circumstances for their<br />

emergence, since they are thoroughly enmeshed in the matter in which they appear,<br />

unlike the signs of art, which manage to “dematerialize” the medium – the physical<br />

paint, sounds, words – in which they are embodied. The signs of love and the world<br />

are likewise contingent and embedded in intractable matter, while the worlds they<br />

disclose are even less specific than those brought forth in sensual signs. Marcel’s love<br />

of Albertine forms a series with his love of his mother, Swann’s love of Odette, and<br />

other loves, such that Marcel comes to see all these loves as the general unfolding of a<br />

“theme,” an anonymous structure of love that plays through the various heterosexual<br />

and homosexual liaisons of the Recherche. The signs of the world, finally, disclose<br />

social laws, broad regularities of thought and behavior that the sophisticates of the<br />

Recherche unconsciously reproduce as they themselves are structured and produced<br />

by these regularities.<br />

Swimming<br />

Proust’s Recherche traces the path of a very specific apprenticeship, that of a young<br />

man discovering his vocation as a writer. His training proceeds via dinners and<br />

receptions, unhappy loves, unsettling recollections, and performances of powerful<br />

works of art – hardly the standard curriculum of what is generally thought of as<br />

an education. Yet in this aesthetic apprenticeship Deleuze finds the essence of<br />

learning, which “is essentially concerned with signs” (PS 10/4). Signs are enfolded<br />

differences that impinge on thought and force thought to unfold those differences.<br />

Encounters with such signs are fortuitous yet necessary, chance moments that<br />

defy common sense and choose the interpreter rather than themselves being freely<br />

chosen as objects of interpretation. In the course of explicating signs, the interpreter<br />

necessarily passes through two illusions, that objects possess the truth of signs, and<br />

that their truth arises from subjective associations. Once beyond these illusions, the<br />

interpreter discovers the virtual domain of differences, which unfold themselves<br />

within the actual through a process of metamorphic self-differentiation, while at the<br />

same time remaining immanent within the actual.


Search, Swim and See 59<br />

In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze incorporates many of the points raised<br />

in Proust and Signs within an extended treatment of what he calls the orthodox<br />

“image of thought,” or the unstated preconceptions of thought implicit in traditional<br />

philosophy, and what might be called an “imageless,” genuine thought. As in his<br />

earlier study of Proust, Deleuze here observes that the standard assumption in<br />

philosophy is that thought voluntarily, with a free and good will, pursues truth. Good<br />

sense protects thought from nonsense and leads thought in the proper direction<br />

(sens in French having a possible meaning of “direction”), while common sense<br />

provides for a common functioning of the faculties, a sensus communis whereby the<br />

senses and mental processes are coordinated in their mutual apprehensions (as when,<br />

for example, the sight, touch, sound, memory and analysis of a given experience<br />

confirm that they are related to a single and same object of experience). Implicit<br />

in this notion of common sense is the model of thought as a form of recognition,<br />

recognition being defined through “the harmonious exercise of all the faculties upon<br />

a supposed same object” (DR 174/133). Recognition in turn grounds the notion of<br />

thought as representation, every representation presuming a unified perspective<br />

and stable objects governed by the complementary principles of “the Same and<br />

the Similar, the Analogous and the Opposed” (DR 217/167). Thought’s goal in a<br />

world of recognition and representation is to eliminate problems and find solutions,<br />

to pass from non-knowledge to knowledge. Learning in such a world is simply the<br />

passage from non-knowledge to knowledge, a process with a definite beginning and<br />

ending, in which thought, like a dutiful pupil, responds to preformulated questions<br />

and eventually arrives at pre-existing answers.<br />

What escapes orthodox thought is difference, or the genuinely “new,” which<br />

can only be engaged through an “imageless thought.” Rather than arising from a<br />

conscious exercise of good will, genuine thought must be forced into action through<br />

the disruption of ordinary habits and notions. That which is new is not orthodox<br />

but paradoxical, and hence its sense seems nonsense, not good sense. Its paradoxes<br />

include those of becoming, the virtual past, and the pure form of time, in which time’s<br />

arrow is reversed or destroyed and thought as a result proceeds not in a single, right<br />

direction but in all directions at once. Rather than reinforcing the common functioning<br />

of the senses and faculties, difference splits them apart and pushes each sense or<br />

faculty to its limits, no single and selfsame object confirming the unified operation<br />

of a sensus communis. The object of an imageless thought defies recognition, for<br />

“the new – in other words, difference – calls forth forces in thought which are not<br />

the forces of recognition, today or tomorrow, but the powers of a completely other<br />

model, from an unrecognized and unrecognizable terra incognita” (DR 177/136).<br />

Such an object is understood not through representation but through explication, for<br />

the object is a sign, an internalized difference pointing toward something other than<br />

itself. Rather than eliminating problems, the thought of difference is itself a thought<br />

of problems, and learning, rather than occupying the gap between non-knowledge<br />

and knowledge, is the process whereby thought explores the domain of problems.<br />

We have already encountered many of the characteristics of such an imageless<br />

thought in our examination of Marcel’s experience of the madeleine. Marcel<br />

is jolted from his routines by the taste of the madeleine. Its savor paradoxically<br />

enfolds a virtual Combray, whose time is an a-directional coexisting past. That


60<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

virtual Combray is something different within the madeleine, and itself a difference<br />

engaged in a process of self-unfolding. The virtual Combray differs from any seen,<br />

heard, or touched Combray, for it is a pure object of memory, one that memory<br />

alone can grasp and that divides memory from the other faculties as the object is<br />

apprehended. The madeleine defies ready recognition and representation, signifying<br />

only by pointing beyond itself to something other and without resemblance to itself.<br />

But in what regard does the madeleine disclose a domain of problems, and how is<br />

learning related to such a domain? This we can determine by looking a little further<br />

at Deleuze’s discussion of problems in Difference and Repetition.<br />

Often philosophers act as if “problems are given ready-made, and that they<br />

disappear in the responses or the solution” (DR 205/158), which perhaps accounts<br />

for dogmatic philosophy’s frequent “puerile examples taken out of context and<br />

arbitrarily erected into models” and its “infantile” proceedings in which “the master<br />

sets a problem, our task is to solve it, and the result is accredited true or false by a<br />

powerful authority” (DR 205/158). Deleuze contends, however, that problems must<br />

be both invented and discovered, and that they produce the conditions under which<br />

solutions may be judged true or false. Hence, each problem is “at once both the site<br />

of an originary truth and the genesis of a derived truth” (DR 207/159). Problems must<br />

be evaluated not according to their “resolvability,” as often happens in philosophy,<br />

but according to their importance, their ability to generate new questions and the<br />

solutions related to those questions.<br />

But problems for Deleuze are more than mere Kuhnean paradigms, for they are<br />

differential events that “do not exist only in our heads but occur here and there in<br />

the production of an actual historical world” (DR 246/190). Problems exist in a<br />

virtual domain of difference, and each problem may be characterized in terms of its<br />

“differential elements and relations along with the singular points which correspond<br />

to them” (DR 271–2/209). Deleuze draws this vocabulary of differential relations<br />

and singular points from the language of differential calculus. He notes that the basic<br />

formula for the derivative of a function, dy / dx, allows one to describe a relation<br />

between elements without determining their separate identities or specifying their<br />

values: “In relation to x, dx is completely undetermined, as dy is to y, but they are<br />

perfectly determinable in relation to one another … Each term exists absolutely only<br />

in its relation to the other” (DR 223/172). The elements of a given problem are<br />

like the x and y of the formula dy / dx, undetermined elements that become capable<br />

of determination (though still without having any specified values) through their<br />

differential relation with one another. Hence, each problem delineates “a system<br />

of ideal connections – in other words, a system of differential relations between<br />

reciprocally determined genetic elements” (DR 225/173–4). Deleuze also observes<br />

that in the geometric interpretation of the theory of differential equations one may<br />

characterize different equations in terms of their singular points, the focus of a given<br />

parabola, for example, being the singular point of the parabola generated by that<br />

equation. What is crucial for Deleuze is that one may determine the existence of such<br />

singular points and their distribution within a field of vectors without specifying<br />

their precise values or even what figures they might determine – whether a parabola,<br />

a curve, an ellipse, and so on.


Search, Swim and See 61<br />

A problem, then, is not an amorphous muddle, nor a kind of shadowy double<br />

of its eventual resolution within a specific solution, but a structured field of<br />

potential actualizations, a system of differentially related elements and their<br />

corresponding singular points. The system of reciprocally determinable relations<br />

of a given problem establishes its fundamental elements, and the singular points<br />

demarcate various zones of potential actualization. The problem is virtual – real<br />

without being actual – yet it is always engaged in a process of actualization, and it<br />

is immanent within its various actualizations. The problem of differential calculus<br />

consists of its elements (at the most rudimentary level, x and y as related through<br />

the formula for the derivative, dy / dx) and the singular points distributed within<br />

a field of vectors. The elements and singular points only have an actual existence<br />

in specific equations and solutions, which may be mapped in particular figures (a<br />

given parabola or curve, say) with precise values. But the problematic domain of<br />

differentially related elements and singular zones of potential actualization remains<br />

immanent within actual equations and solutions, each equation being a concrete<br />

manifestation of a generative zone of potential differentiation. If one considers<br />

the phonemic dimension of language, one may characterize its problem in terms<br />

of the broad field of reciprocally determinable phonemic oppositions that belong<br />

to all languages, and the particular set of pertinent differences, or singular points,<br />

that find actualization in a given language. Each enunciation of a given phoneme<br />

is a concrete and specific sonic manifestation of a zone of potential enunciations<br />

delimited by a given pertinent difference, such that variations in timbre, pitch and<br />

pronunciation of a given phoneme by different speakers “count” as enunciations of<br />

the same phoneme. One may also regard the development of a biological organism<br />

as an actualization of a problem, the reciprocally determinable elements being the<br />

differential relations common to animals in general, the singular points being zones<br />

of potential differentiation that may be actualized in the components of a dog or a<br />

cat, and that have actual embodiment in this dog or that cat. 5<br />

As should be clear from these examples, problems are not simply mental,<br />

subjective entities, at least in the common sense of those terms. They are ideal, in<br />

that they are virtual, but they are manifest in human and nonhuman, organic and<br />

even inorganic, systems alike. 6 Problems are “ideal ‘objecticities’ possessing their<br />

own sufficiency and implying acts of constitution and investment in their respective<br />

symbolic fields” (DR 206/159). Human thought obviously involves human subjects,<br />

5 In some regards, Deleuze’s concept of the problem may be related to that of “structure”<br />

in some forms of structuralism. In “How Do We Recognize Structuralism?” (ID 238–69/170–<br />

92), Deleuze characterizes structures in terms of differential relations and singular points, and<br />

he argues that the structural analyses of Lévi-Strauss, Althusser, Lacan, Foucault and others<br />

may be understood in terms of this model. One should be cautious in assimilating Deleuze to<br />

this tradition, however, for he departs from most structuralists in his emphasis on the virtual,<br />

the positive nature of difference, and the generative force of self-differentiating difference<br />

within structures.<br />

6 It should be evident that Deleuze uses the term “Idea” in an unconventional way,<br />

drawing his concept of ideas from what he identifies as Kant’s “profound theory of Ideas as<br />

problematizing and problematic” (DR 209/161). Ideas for Deleuze are in no sense transcendent,<br />

essential or eternal entities, but instead virtual problems immanent within the real.


62<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

yet, though problems do not come ready-made, and hence must be created, at the<br />

same time they are not mere fabrications of the mind, for they have a real, albeit<br />

virtual, existence as “objecticities” that manifest themselves throughout the world.<br />

Thus, when Deleuze turns to the subject of learning, he says that “Learning is the<br />

appropriate name for the subjective acts carried out when one is confronted with the<br />

objecticity of a problem (Idea), whereas knowledge designates only the generality<br />

of concepts or the calm possession of a rule enabling solutions” (DR 213–14/164).<br />

Learning and problems belong to the domain of the virtual, whereas knowledge and<br />

solutions belong to the separate domain of the actual; and learning is a matter of<br />

opening thought to the virtual domain of problems, which has its own autonomous<br />

existence, not a matter of solving specific questions and securing a permanent body<br />

of knowledge.<br />

At three different points in Difference and Repetition, Deleuze offers as an<br />

example of learning that of learning to swim. 7 In the most extended treatment of<br />

this example, Deleuze remarks first that “to learn is to enter into the universal of the<br />

relations which constitute the Idea, and into their corresponding singularities” (DR<br />

214/165). In other words, one must immerse oneself in a problem, with its system of<br />

differential relations (“the universal of the relations which constitute the Idea”) and<br />

their corresponding singular points. The sea may be considered one such problem:<br />

“The idea of the sea, for example, as Leibniz showed, is a system of liaisons or<br />

differential relations between particles, and singularities corresponding to the degrees<br />

of variation among these relations – the totality of the system being incarnated in<br />

the real movement of the waves” (DR 214/165). 8 One may say that the problem of<br />

the sea in general, its universal problem, is that of differential relations between<br />

dynamically interacting water particles, and that the problem’s singular points are<br />

the nadir and apex of diverse potential wave functions. Each concrete, physical wave<br />

is an actualization of one particular set of singular points, and the whole of the sea<br />

is an embodiment of the system of differential relations that constitute the problem<br />

of the sea. “To learn to swim,” continues Deleuze, “is to conjugate the distinctive<br />

points [points remarquables, a synonym for singular points] of our bodies with<br />

the singular points of the objective Idea in order to form a problematic field” (DR<br />

214/165). Through contact with the sea, then, the singular points which are incarnate<br />

in the swimmer’s body are conjoined with the singular points embodied in the sea,<br />

and the complex of singular points belonging to swimmer and sea together form a<br />

virtual, problematic field. The swimmer, of course, possesses an actual body, the<br />

sea has an actual material existence, and the swimmer learns to interact with actual<br />

waves. But it is this conjugation of singular points that “determines for us a threshold<br />

7 Although Deleuze nowhere says as much, it seems likely that he draws the example of<br />

swimming from Henri Bergson, who in Creative Evolution, trans. Arthur Mitchell (New York,<br />

1911), pp. 192–4, describes the effort to think something new in terms of learning to swim.<br />

8 Deleuze’s identification of the sea as a Leibnizian problem hinges on a rather<br />

unconventional reading of Leibniz’s remarks about the sound of the ocean (as, for example,<br />

in Leibniz’s Preface to New Essays on Human Understanding, trans. Peter Remnant and<br />

Jonathan Bennett (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 54–5). Deleuze develops this reading of Leibniz in<br />

Difference and Repetition (DR 275–6/213–14).


Search, Swim and See 63<br />

of consciousness at which our real acts are adjusted to our perceptions of the real<br />

relations, thereby providing a solution to the problem” (DR 214/165).<br />

Consciousness, however, does not afford us direct access to problems and their<br />

singular points. Consciousness operates via good-will, good sense and common sense,<br />

all of which distort difference and reinforce an interpretation of the world in terms<br />

of ready-made questions and pre-existing solutions. Only through an involuntary<br />

confrontation with something other does thought engage difference, and that which<br />

provokes the thought of difference is a sign (as we saw earlier in our examination<br />

of Proust). Hence, “problems and their symbolic fields stand in a relationship with<br />

signs,” for signs are those entities “which ‘cause problems’ and are developed in a<br />

symbolic field” (DR 213/164). If to learn is to conjugate singular points “in order to<br />

form a problematic field” (DR 214/165), then we may say as well that “to learn is<br />

indeed to constitute this space of an encounter with signs” (DR 35/23). In the case of<br />

swimming, the encounter with signs leads to the discovery of singular points in both<br />

the swimmer and the sea. The singular points immanent within the swimmer’s body<br />

become manifest through the body’s disorienting, subliminal micro-perceptions of<br />

an alien element. Through that body’s attempts to adjust its motions with those of<br />

the sea, thought unfolds the singular points that are enfolded in the sign-particles of<br />

the sea, and as the body and the sea together form an interactive system of motions,<br />

a problematic field emerges, one of differential relations and singular points that<br />

extend across swimmer and sea. Thus, though learning to swim entails a passage to<br />

“a threshold of consciousness at which our real acts are adjusted to our perceptions<br />

of the real relations [of the sea]” (DR 214/165), problems are:<br />

… the ultimate elements of nature [those of the sea, in the swimming example] and the<br />

subliminal objects of little perceptions [that is, micro-perceptions below the threshold of<br />

consciousness]. As a result, “learning” always takes place in and through the unconscious,<br />

thereby establishing the bond of a profound complicity between nature and mind. [DR<br />

214/165]<br />

To learn, then, is to immerse oneself within an alien element and thereby open oneself<br />

to an encounter with signs. (Think here of Marcel’s taste of the madeleine as analogous<br />

to the neophyte swimmer’s initial dive into the sea.) Signs “cause problems” through<br />

their disorienting shock, forcing thought to deal with experiences that disrupt the<br />

common, coordinated functioning of the senses and faculties (Marcel’s strange<br />

gustatory sensations resembling the swimmer’s initial unorganized tactile microperceptions).<br />

Through this encounter with signs, thought discovers a problematic<br />

field of differential relations and singular points that exists both within and without<br />

(the reminiscence field of Marcel-madeleine-virtual Combray being like the fluid<br />

sensori-motor field of swimmer-sea). Though it is within the actual that thought<br />

participates in the dynamic unfolding of the differential relations and singular points<br />

of the virtual domain of problems, that virtual domain remains apersonal and preindividual,<br />

an ideal structure of potential zones of individuation that establishes “the<br />

bond of a profound complicity between nature and mind” (DR 214/165).


64<br />

Seeing<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

In Proust and Signs, Deleuze notes that Marcel learns little from his teachers – indeed,<br />

in the encounter with the madeleine, he has no teacher other than the madeleine<br />

itself. In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze assigns the swimming teacher a rather<br />

limited role, for “the movements of the swimming instructor which we reproduce<br />

on the sand bear no relation to the movements of the wave, which we learn to deal<br />

with only by grasping the former in practice as signs” (DR 35/23). It would seem<br />

that for Deleuze the best that teachers can do is to invite their students to participate<br />

along with them in an activity rather than show them what to do or how to do it. “We<br />

learn nothing from those who say: ‘Do as I do,’” says Deleuze. “Our only teachers<br />

are those who tell us to ‘do with me,’ and are able to emit signs to be developed in<br />

heterogeneity rather than propose gestures for us to reproduce” (DR 35/23). There is<br />

finally a basic mystery to learning, in that “We never know in advance how someone<br />

will learn: by means of what loves someone becomes good at Latin, what encounters<br />

make them a philosopher, or in what dictionaries they learn to think” (DR 215/165).<br />

Still, although we cannot know in advance what paths learning will take, nor can we<br />

induce genuine learning through precept and example, there is perhaps a function<br />

for the teacher in this form of education, one that Deleuze hints at when he says<br />

that our only teachers are those who “are able to emit signs” (DR 35/23). Deleuze<br />

does not develop this insight any further in Difference and Repetition, but we might<br />

be able to discern the outlines of a pedagogy of sign emission by looking briefly at<br />

his treatment of modern film in Cinema 2: The Time-Image, and specifically at the<br />

practice of one of Deleuze’s favorite directors, Jean-Luc Godard.<br />

Deleuze divides the history of film into two basic phases, the classic cinema<br />

and modern cinema. Classic cinema is dominated by an organization of space and<br />

time according to a rational, commonsense, Newtonian/Cartesian “sensory-motor<br />

schema” (IT 40/26). Modern cinema, by contrast, is marked by the breakdown of<br />

the sensory-motor schema and the creation of images that no longer conform to a<br />

single unified spatio-temporal structure. In the classic cinema, images are linked<br />

through their ordinary, “natural” connections with one another, “according to laws<br />

of association, of continuity, resemblance, contrast or opposition” (IT 361/276),<br />

whereas in the modern cinema images are juxtaposed in such a way that the gap<br />

between images becomes primary, “the interval is set free, the interstice becomes<br />

irreducible and stands on its own” (IT 362/277). Modern directors, however, do not<br />

simply disconnect images from their orthodox, commonsense chains of association;<br />

they also re-link images, yet in such a way that a productive difference emerges<br />

between images. Godard is for Deleuze an exemplary director in this regard:<br />

For in Godard’s method, it is not a question of association. Given one image, another<br />

image has to be chosen which will induce an interstice between the two. This is not an<br />

operation of association, but of differentiation, as mathematicians say, or of disparation,<br />

as physicists say: given one potential, another one has to be chosen, not any whatever, but<br />

in such a way that a difference of potential is established between the two, which will be<br />

productive of a third or of something new. [IT 234/179–80]


Search, Swim and See 65<br />

The modern cinematic re-linking of images, then, is not arbitrary, but guided by<br />

a principle of maximum interaction, whereby the interstice between images is<br />

emphasized while at the same time the juxtaposed images are themselves altered<br />

and something new emerges in each “image-interstice-image” unit as a whole. For<br />

audiences, such differentially related “image-interstice-image” sequences pose<br />

problems, since the sequences are not readily assimilable within standard interpretive<br />

schemas. Modern cinematic images must be “read,” in the sense that they must<br />

be construed through an active interrogation of the forces connecting the images.<br />

For each sequence, the audience must ask, What specific difference motivates this<br />

connection? What new movement is created through this juxtaposition? How does<br />

this sequence interact with other sequences? How do the sequences form part of<br />

an assemblage of multiple “image-interstice-image” units that maintain a certain<br />

consistency, a specific cohesiveness of multiple parts in dynamic interaction? Such<br />

a “reading” of images is complicated by the fact that modern directors emphasize<br />

not only the gaps between images, but also the gaps of silence between sounds, the<br />

gaps separating sound effects, music and dialogue from each other, as well as the gap<br />

between the visual and audio elements of film (such that there is in modern films a<br />

constant back-and-forth of the visual and the sonic in dynamic disequilibrium rather<br />

than a mutual doubling or reinforcement of sight and sound). As a result, “a whole<br />

pedagogy is required here, because we have to read the visual image as well as hear<br />

the speech-act in a new way” (IT 322/247) and interrelate sight and sound through<br />

their differential relations with one another.<br />

Deleuze observes that over the course of his career, Godard develops “his<br />

own pedagogy, his own didacticism” (IT 323/248), one that combines a method<br />

of differentially juxtaposing images and sounds and a self-conscious reflection on<br />

that method within the film itself: “Godard’s strength is not just in using this mode<br />

of construction in all his work (constructivism) but in making it a method which<br />

cinema must ponder at the same time as it uses it” (IT 234/179). The film that “marks<br />

a first peak in this reflection” (IT 234/179) for Deleuze is Here and Elsewhere (Ici et<br />

ailleurs), a collaborative effort directed by Godard, Anne-Marie Miéville and Jean-<br />

Pierre Gorin that began in 1970 as a documentary about the Palestinian struggle and<br />

ended in 1974 as a meditation on images, sounds and what the film’s narrator calls<br />

the “uninterrupted chains of images enslaving one another,” a chain that assigns us<br />

our place “in the chain of events in which we have lost all power.”<br />

Here and Elsewhere is a film about “and,” about the links that combine images<br />

and sounds in associative chains. (The French word “chaîne,” besides denoting<br />

various kinds of physical and mental links, has associations as well with consumer<br />

and media culture – travail à la chaîne: assembly-line work; chaîne: [TV] channel.)<br />

The film moves back and forth between images of the Palestinian camps and a French<br />

family watching TV, with interspersed sections presenting a complex of sights and<br />

sounds in various formats – blank screens, screens with nothing but words (key<br />

words flashing), montages of stills (documents of the workers’ movement, photos<br />

of Nixon, Brezhnev, Hitler, Golda Meir, the Holocaust, advertisements, and so on),<br />

shots of one, four or nine television screen broadcasts, an extended shot of three<br />

slides side by side with a disembodied hand replacing one slide after another, comic<br />

didactic sequences demonstrating the nature of filmmaking, and so on. The film’s


66<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

sequences in some ways confirm well-worn chains of association, many of which<br />

are dominated by the binary oppositions recited by the narrator (victory and defeat,<br />

foreign and national, order and disorder, black and white, here and elsewhere). But<br />

the narrator’s insistent enunciation of “and,” the repeated flashing of “and” and<br />

“+” in the intertitle messages, and the several prolonged shots of two wood blocks<br />

forming the word “et” (“and”) that fill the screen, all call into question such links<br />

while raising the possibility of other connections, other uses of “and,” connections<br />

of one thing after another in an additive, non-totalizing fashion, x and p, and b,<br />

and y … . The juxtaposition of Palestinian fighters and the French family watching<br />

TV invites a propagandistic reading of this relation as one of an authentic, active<br />

and natural culture versus a media-saturated, passive, consumerist culture, just as<br />

the alternating stills of Hitler and Golda Meir suggest a facile equation of the two<br />

figures. But as the narrator states, it is “too simple and too easy to simply divide the<br />

world in two,” “too easy or too simple to say simply that the wealthy are wrong and<br />

the poor are right,” for “there are no simple images, only simple people, who will be<br />

forced to stay quiet, like an image.”<br />

Midway through the film, the narrator offers an analysis of the “enchaining” of<br />

images whereby one image displaces another in a constant flow, and consumers of<br />

the images are invited to find their place in the flow. He also remarks on sounds –<br />

how one sound dominates another, and how sounds gain power by being represented<br />

by images. The film’s critique of images, however, is not restricted to mass media<br />

images, for in the film’s final section, a female narrator subjects the directors’ own<br />

Palestinian footage to a critical interrogation. As a close-up sequence of a Palestinian<br />

woman occupies the screen, the female narrator points out that the woman is a young,<br />

beautiful actress chosen by the directors to play a pregnant woman, though she is not<br />

pregnant herself. Footage of another woman haltingly reciting lines fed to her by an<br />

off-screen prompter is accompanied by the narrator’s remarks on the woman’s initial<br />

enthusiasm at participating in the Palestinian cause and her evident boredom and<br />

unease as the recitation continues and she seemingly longs for a humbler, less elitist<br />

role in the struggle. As we watch a young girl loudly declaim a patriotic poem, the<br />

narrator comments that the girl may be innocent but her theatrical manner is not, for<br />

it echoes the poses of a revolutionary theater whose images are tired and clichéd.<br />

Besides providing a direct verbal critique of images, though, the film also offers<br />

an implicit rethinking of images through their isolation, their disconnection from<br />

conventional chains, and their reconnection in unorthodox series. The sequences of<br />

the “pregnant” actress, the stuttering reciter, and the histrionic young girl cease to<br />

function within some revolutionary saga. Isolated from narrative chains of association,<br />

the sequences function as singular points, loci of potential development that are<br />

not pre-judged and pre-viewed. The stills and documentary footage of Palestinian<br />

corpses, workers’ demonstrations and Holocaust victims interjected in unexpected<br />

patterns throughout the film finally block ready assimilation within an ideological<br />

framework, but instead force a rethinking of the meaningful differences that pertain<br />

to the violence that extends from the Russian Revolution to the present. By the close<br />

of the film, the juxtaposition of a circle of soldiers in quiet conversation and the<br />

French family watching TV has lost its clear ideological bearings. The insistent long<br />

takes of the two groups provide no new pre-digested information about the images,


Search, Swim and See 67<br />

the undercoded shots asking the audience to make its own connections between the<br />

images. The male narrator finally comments that the filmmakers were unable truly<br />

to see and hear the Palestinians when they shot their footage because they sought<br />

elsewhere the revolutionary solution to problems they could not see and hear at<br />

home. The challenge, he concludes, is “to learn to see in order to hear elsewhere. To<br />

learn to hear oneself speaking, in order to see what the others are doing. The others,<br />

the elsewhere [ailleurs] of our here [ici].”<br />

Learning to Think<br />

Learning for Deleuze is a subset of what we usually mean by learning, just as thought<br />

for him is a subset of what generally passes for thinking. What Deleuze deems<br />

genuine learning and genuine thought belong to the domain of signs, problems and<br />

the virtual, a domain that is, in Proust’s words, “real without being actual, ideal<br />

without being abstract.” To learn is to encounter signs, to undergo the disorienting<br />

jolt of something new, different, truly other, and then to explicate those signs, to<br />

unfold the differences they enfold. As one does so, one passes through objective and<br />

subjective interpretative illusions until one grasps difference itself in its immanent<br />

differentiation within the actual. Then one sees the world as an a-centered city-egg<br />

engaged in metamorphic becoming in all directions at once, but one sees as well<br />

the virtual domain of difference in itself, which is not an amorphous chaos, but an<br />

infinite collection of structured problems. Each problem consists of a general set<br />

of differentially related elements and their corresponding singular points, or zones<br />

of potential actualization. Genuine learning involves an engagement with such<br />

problems, a re-orientation of thought following its initial disorientation, such that<br />

thought may comprehend something new in its newness, as a structured field of<br />

potential metamorphic forces rather than a pre-formed body of knowledge to be<br />

mastered. One cannot teach the truly new in its newness, but one can attempt to<br />

induce an encounter with the new by emitting signs, by creating problematic objects,<br />

experiences, or concepts. Hence, the pedagogy of signs entails first a critique of<br />

codes and conventions, an undoing of orthodox connections, and then a reconnection<br />

of elements such that the gaps between them generate problems, fields of differential<br />

relations and singular points. Such teaching, however, is itself a form of learning,<br />

for it proceeds via an encounter with signs and an engagement with problems. To<br />

teach is to learn, finally, since for Deleuze genuine teaching and learning are simply<br />

names for genuine thought. The goal of teaching and learning is to think otherwise,<br />

to engage the force of that which is other, different and new. What Deleuze details in<br />

his accounts of learning and teaching is that dimension of education that inspires all<br />

true students and teachers – the dimension of discovery and creation within the everunfolding<br />

domain of the new. It is also the dimension of freedom, in which thought<br />

escapes its preconceptions and explores new possibilities for life.


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Chapter 5<br />

Tragedy, Sight and Sound<br />

The Birth of Godard’s Prénom Carmen<br />

from the Nietzschean Spirit of Music<br />

In Chapter Nine of Cinema 2: The Time-Image, “The Components of the Image,”<br />

Deleuze offers a provocative account of the relationship between sonic and visual<br />

elements in silent film, classic sound film and modern film. The silent cinema is not so<br />

much silent as it is mute, says Deleuze. Certain images suggest sounds (steam coming<br />

from a whistle), other suggest speech (an actor’s moving lips). But ultimately, the<br />

visual images of silent film retain a certain naturalness through their separation from<br />

actual sound, especially from speech. Speech itself is presented through intertitles,<br />

the result being that all speech becomes indirect speech. For even when the title says<br />

“I love you!,” Deleuze argues, the audience reads it as “he says that he loves her.”<br />

With the advent of sound, the visual image loses something of its naturalness. Voices<br />

of characters, both on and off camera, affect the postures of the characters, the angles<br />

from which they are shot, the movements of the camera, the rhythms of the editing,<br />

such that the sounds of speech interact with the visual images, thereby shaping,<br />

modifying and reshaping the visual images. Verbal innuendos, lies, ironic asides,<br />

deceptive phrases, all force a suspicious reading of visual images, a questioning<br />

of appearances, and in this sense words denaturalize visual images. Speech now<br />

becomes direct, and at the same time speech itself takes on a degree of autonomy,<br />

in that a logic of pure sociability is made possible through conversation, that loose,<br />

free-form, sometimes randomly assembled discourse that tends to take on a life of<br />

its own, passing among characters as if they were simply vehicles of its production.<br />

And in the modern cinema, finally, the visual and the sonic become autonomous.<br />

Cinema, at this point, says Deleuze, is truly audio-visual. Speech in the modern<br />

cinema is neither indirect (as in silent films) nor direct (as in classic films) but free<br />

indirect. 1 What this amounts to in cinematic terms is that in the modern cinema<br />

the speech of the characters becomes denaturalized, no longer fully belonging to<br />

the characters who speak or the fictional context in which they act. Actors recite<br />

lines as if spoken by a third person. They adopt literary tones or artificial modes of<br />

enunciation. Their lines switch registers from high formality to low slang to a flat<br />

recitation of impersonal data. They mingle speech about themselves as actors or as<br />

1 Deleuze takes the term “free indirect speech” from literary criticism, in which it refers<br />

to discourse in which one cannot tell whether the words are the narrator’s or a character’s,<br />

such as in the sentences, “He felt great pain, what suffering! How could she do this? What<br />

would come next?”


70<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

real personages within their fictional exchanges. The effect of all these strategies is<br />

to create a free-floating, separate aural-verbal element that interacts with the visual<br />

images without surrendering its autonomy.<br />

It is within the context of this discussion that Deleuze speaks about the role of<br />

music in film. My concern here is to consider the practical implications of his analysis<br />

by examining from a Deleuzian perspective the use of music as a sonic element in<br />

a single film – Jean-Luc Godard’s Prénom Carmen (1983). Deleuze’s account of<br />

music’s role in the classic sound cinema hinges on an observation of Nietzsche’s from<br />

The Birth of Tragedy, in which Nietzsche appropriates Schopenhauer’s conception<br />

of music for his own theory of tragedy. It happens that Godard’s film, besides being<br />

a profound meditation on music, may also be regarded as an insightful reflection on<br />

tragedy. And that understanding of tragedy proves to be intertwined with Godard’s<br />

approach to sight and sound in cinema, and especially to his handling of music.<br />

Hence, my Deleuzian examination of music in Godard entails as well a reflection on<br />

the possibilities of a Nietzschean tragic sensibility in the modern cinema.<br />

Music, Tragedy, Images<br />

What Nietzsche means by his 1872 title “The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of<br />

Music” is perhaps nowhere more clearly indicated than in sections 16 and 17 of The<br />

Birth of Tragedy. Here, Nietzsche cites at length a passage from Schopenhauer, in<br />

which music is described as the direct expression of the will (by which Schopenhauer<br />

means something like “universal force”). Music is “an expression of the world,” a<br />

“universal language,” 2 in some regards like the language of concepts, yet one that is<br />

not abstract. Music “resembles geometrical figures and numbers, which are universal<br />

forms of all possible experience … and yet are not abstract but perceptible and<br />

thoroughly determinate” (p. 101). Music expresses the “inmost soul” of phenomena,<br />

for it is “an immediate copy of the will itself, and therefore complements everything<br />

physical in the world and every phenomenon by representing what is metaphysical,<br />

the thing in itself.” For this reason, says Schopenhauer, “we might just as well call the<br />

world embodied music as embodied will” (p. 102). Melodies, like concepts, are to a<br />

certain extent abstractions of the actual, but whereas concepts are universals derived<br />

from experience, and hence abstractions that come after phenomena, melodies give<br />

us the universal before phenomena, “the inmost kernel which precedes all forms, or<br />

the heart of things” (p. 102).<br />

According to Schopenhauer, then, will is the universal, undifferentiated force<br />

that expresses itself in the embodied, individuated forms of phenomena, and music<br />

is the direct representation of that universal will. Nietzsche concludes from this that<br />

music not only expresses “the immediate language of the will” (p. 103) but also<br />

stimulates the creative faculties to fashion individuated concepts and images that<br />

embody the will. The Dionysian medium of music stimulates the Apollonian creation<br />

of individuated forms, just as the universal will generates and plays through the<br />

2 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner, trans. Walter<br />

Kauffman (New York, 1967), p. 101.


Tragedy, Sight and Sound 71<br />

individuated things of the phenomenal world. The highest Apollonian manifestation<br />

of the Dionysian will is in the tragic myth of the annihilation of the hero. Music gives<br />

birth to tragic myth, “the myth which expresses Dionysian knowledge in symbols”<br />

(p. 103). Hence, “it is only through the spirit of music that we can understand the joy<br />

involved in the annihilation of the individual. … The metaphysical joy in the tragic<br />

is a translation of the instinctive unconscious Dionysian wisdom into the language<br />

of images: the hero, the highest manifestation of the will, is negated for our pleasure,<br />

because he is only phenomenon, and because the eternal life of the will is not affected<br />

by his annihilation” (p. 104). Through tragedy, “we are forced to look into the terrors<br />

[in die Schrecken] of the individual existence – yet we are not to become rigid with<br />

fear,” since by way of the drama “we are really for a brief moment primordial being<br />

itself” (p. 104).<br />

In Cinema 2, Deleuze argues that Nietzsche’s Schopenhauerian approach<br />

to music holds the key to an understanding of music’s function in classic sound<br />

cinema. Deleuze notes that some cinema critics treat music as a component of a<br />

“sonic continuum,” made up of sounds, words and music, that is interfused with and<br />

inseparable from visual images, whereas others regard music as a kind of “‘foreign<br />

body’ in the visual image, a little like dust in the eye” (IT 311/239). Deleuze argues<br />

that both views are true, but that they are often imperfectly articulated. For Deleuze,<br />

the “moving pictures,” or “movement-images,” on the screen are merely mobile<br />

“slices” or “chunks” of a moving, open Whole of fluctuating, metamorphosing<br />

time-space. Each actual movement-image on the screen extends into an off-screen<br />

world continuous with the on-screen space (for example, the character looks offcamera<br />

to her interlocutor across the room), and that continuous off-screen world<br />

Deleuze calls a “relative out of frame.” But each on-screen movement-image also<br />

is part of the open Whole, which in the classic cinema is never directly presented,<br />

but only indirectly expressed through the images on the screen. Unlike the space of<br />

the “relative-out-of-frame,” which may be revealed in the next shot, what Deleuze<br />

calls the “absolute-out-of-frame” of the open Whole remains undisclosed on the<br />

screen in any direct fashion. Sounds, words and music may be part of the relativeout-of-frame,<br />

as when the off-camera noise of a breaking glass, the curse of an angry<br />

sailor, or the strum of a guitar, is shown in the next shot to issue from an actual<br />

glass, sailor or guitar inhabiting the same space as the preceding shot. But words<br />

may also issue from some unspecified realm outside the screen-space, as in the case<br />

of a voice-over narration, or a character’s flashback reminiscence. Likewise, music<br />

may accompany images without ever being “justified” by an off-screen source that<br />

belongs to the screen-world. In these cases, words and music are part of the absoluteout-of-frame,<br />

inhabiting the fluctuating time-space of the open Whole. Within the<br />

relative-out-of-frame space, music is part of a sonic continuum. Music may also<br />

remain within a sonic continuum in the absolute-out-of-frame space (as in a voiceover<br />

with accompanying music), yet music has the capacity as well to function as<br />

a “foreign body” within the visual image. Eisenstein argues that music and visual<br />

images should express a harmonious totality, but Eisner and others object that music<br />

often is most effective when it contrasts with the screen images, as when a soft lullaby<br />

accompanies a battle scene. Deleuze argues that the range of musical effects, from<br />

a unifying reinforcement and “echoing” of visual images to a disruptive contrast


72<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

and “irritation” of images, is made possible by music’s relation to the open Whole.<br />

In the classic cinema, music is capable of presenting a direct image of the open<br />

Whole, what Deleuze calls a direct “time-image,” which is incommensurable with<br />

the open Whole indirectly expressed by the visual images. Just as Nietzsche regards<br />

music as the immediate expression of the Dionysian will, so Deleuze treats it as the<br />

immediate expression of the open Whole. “In [Nietzschean] tragedy,” says Deleuze,<br />

“the immediate musical image is like the kernel of fire that surrounds the Apollonian<br />

visual images, and which cannot do without their unfolding parade. In the case of<br />

cinema, which is first a visual art, one may say that music adds the immediate image<br />

to the mediate images that represent the Whole indirectly” (IT 311/239). There is<br />

a relation between music and visual images, but it is not one of correspondence,<br />

for the direct expression (music) and the indirect expression (visual images) of the<br />

Whole are incommensurable.<br />

With the advent of modern cinema, however, Deleuze sees music taking on<br />

a different role. Modern directors create direct visual images of the open Whole<br />

– “time-images” – by disrupting the coordinates of commonsense time-space. Our<br />

experience is organized by a “sensory-motor schema” that allows us to function<br />

in a predictable, manageable world, yet that schema hides from us the paradoxical<br />

reality of the universe as an open time-space flux. Modern directors create images<br />

of “sheets of the past,” in which pasts coexist in a single, virtual plane; images of<br />

“peaks of the present,” in which incommensurable present moments simultaneously<br />

occur; and images of “series of time,” in which past, present and future interpenetrate<br />

in single images of becoming. They do so by disarticulating and disconnecting<br />

the continuities and regularities of the commonsense world and rearticulating and<br />

reconnecting images in non-rational assemblages, such that the gap between images,<br />

the difference between images, serves as the principle of their connection. The<br />

sequences of images in modern films force viewers to comprehend the relations<br />

produced by the non-rational juxtaposition of images. In this fashion, viewers<br />

encounter images unassimilated within conventional codes, standard narratives, or<br />

commonsense coordinates, and are thereby able to see direct images of time. As part<br />

of their effort to undo the sensory-motor schema, modern directors tend to emphasize<br />

the difference between sound and sight. They approach the sonic continuum and the<br />

visual continuum as autonomous materials, which they juxtapose in non-rational<br />

configurations within each continuum and in non-rational relations between the two<br />

continuums. Hence music in the modern cinema, though still capable of directly<br />

expressing the open Whole as it did in the classic cinema, takes on new relations<br />

to other elements of the sonic continuum as well as to the images of the visual<br />

continuum.<br />

Godard and Beethoven<br />

Jean-Luc Godard is among the modern directors Deleuze most admires, and Godard’s<br />

Prénom Carmen (1983) is perhaps Godard’s most extended meditation on music


Tragedy, Sight and Sound 73<br />

and its role in film. 3 Prénom Carmen also provides an apt occasion for a reflection<br />

on Nietzschean tragedy in modern cinema, for in many ways the film is a parodic<br />

disarticulation of the Carmen myth and the tragedy of fate. We recall, of course, that<br />

when Nietzsche renounces his early Wagnerism in The Case of Wagner (1888), it is<br />

Bizet’s Carmen he salutes as the antidote to the “damp north” and “the steam of the<br />

Wagnerian ideal.” 4 Of Bizet’s opera, Nietzsche remarks, “I know no case where the<br />

tragic joke that constitutes the essence of love is expressed so strictly, translated with<br />

equal terror into a formula, as in Don José’s last cry, which concludes the work: ‘Yes,<br />

I have killed her, / I – my adored Carmen!’” (p. 159). Godard’s film mocks the terror<br />

and tragedy of fatal love, but through its handling of images and sounds, I believe,<br />

it ultimately creates a certain terror and ecstatic joy that accord in some ways with<br />

the Nietzschean ideal of The Birth of Tragedy. And that terrifying, ecstatic joy is one<br />

with the experience of the separation and defamiliarization of sight and sound that<br />

Deleuze regards as central to the modern cinema.<br />

If, for the Nietzsche of The Birth of Tragedy, it is myth that is missing in modern<br />

art (indeed, in art from Euripides on), for Godard myth is all too present in the<br />

world around us. Early in Prénom Carmen, Godard, in the role of Carmen’s Uncle<br />

Jean, a washed-up film director, types the words “mal vu mal dit” (AS 22) on his<br />

asylum typewriter, these Beckettian phrases succinctly summing up the modern<br />

filmmaker’s problem. The world is “ill seen” and “ill said,” saturated with visual and<br />

verbal clichés, with ready-made, prepackaged images and formulas that structure<br />

and organize experience in ideological patterns. And the world is often “ill seen”<br />

because “ill said,” visual clichés arising from the narrative myths that script daily<br />

life. Godard undermines the Carmen myth of tragic love and the femme fatale<br />

through various parodic Verfremdungseffekten, including multiple visual and verbal<br />

citations, sudden shifts from high seriousness to pop informality or blunt profanity, a<br />

deliberately amateurish handling of action sequences, incongruous elements within<br />

scenes (such as the unperturbed bank customers surrounded by a raging gun battle),<br />

de-realizing references to the filmmaking process itself, and so on. Godard’s object,<br />

however, is not simply to parody myth, but also to create something new. As Godard<br />

is wont to say, he seeks not “une image juste,” but “juste une image,” an image cut<br />

off from myth and cliché, one granted a certain elemental nakedness and purity. At<br />

one point Carmen asks Joseph, “what comes before the name [le nom],” to which he<br />

responds, “Le prénom.” “No, before” she replies, “before you’re called anything”<br />

[avant qu’on vous appelle] (AS 56). Beyond the dismantling of the Carmen myth,<br />

3 A splendid shot-by-shot description of the film is available in a special 1984 issue<br />

of L’Avant scène cinema, 323/324 (1984): 19–64, and all citations, abbreviated as AS, are<br />

from this edition (translations my own). Although I speak of the film as essentially a work by<br />

Godard, it is important to note that the “scenario and adaptation” are credited to Anne-Marie<br />

Miéville, his collaborator on a number of important films. This fact, I believe, is especially<br />

important if one is to consider the implications of gender in the film, an issue that I do not<br />

address directly. See Verena Andermatt Conley, “A Fraying of Voices: Jean-Luc Godard’s<br />

Prénom Carmen,” L’esprit créateur, 30/2 (1990): 68–80, and Phil Powrie, “Godard’s Prénom<br />

Carmen (1984), Masochism, and the Male Gaze,” Forum for Modern Language Studies, 31/1<br />

(1995): 64–73, for discussion of this question.<br />

4 Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner, p. 158.


74<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

Prénom Carmen is above all an effort to extract simple, direct images from a coded<br />

network of “ill-seen” and “ill-said” visual clichés, to fashion images before names,<br />

pré-noms.<br />

Yet Prénom Carmen is also a film about sight and sound, about visual images<br />

and their relationship to what might loosely be called, after Deleuze, “sonic images,”<br />

or discrete sonic elements. One might expect Godard’s parody of Carmen to focus<br />

on Bizet’s score, but aside from two fleeting citations of the Habañera, whistled and<br />

hummed by minor characters, the opera’s music is absent from the film. Instead,<br />

Godard uses portions of Beethoven’s 9th, 10th, 14th, 15th and 16th String Quartets<br />

as the primary musical elements of his soundtrack. In a broad sense, Prénom Carmen<br />

is two films: a film of the Carmen story, and a film of a string quartet rehearsing<br />

several passages from Beethoven. The fiction that holds the two plots together is that<br />

Carmen’s lover Joseph is also the boyfriend of Claire, a member of the quartet. The<br />

film intercuts between the quartet’s rehearsals and the Carmen plot, with an early<br />

scene after a rehearsal establishing the relationship between Claire and Joseph. The<br />

two plots converge when the quartet performs in the same Intercontinental Hotel<br />

restaurant in which Carmen’s gang attempts its ill-fated kidnapping of a Polish<br />

ambassador. With only one exception, the visual images of the quartet match up with<br />

the soundtrack of the Beethoven quartets. 5 The musicians on screen, save Claire, are<br />

professional musicians (members of the Prat Quartet, as the opening credits of the<br />

film indicate) actually performing the Quartets, and the soundtrack is a live recording<br />

of their performance. (Claire’s bowing is obviously the unskilled imitations of a<br />

violinist’s actions, typical of a non-musician actor playing the role of a musician.<br />

Godard calls attention to this fact by having the first violinist chide Claire for making<br />

too many mistakes during the rehearsals.) The music, however, also accompanies the<br />

Carmen-plot images for extended stretches of the film. Clearly, Godard is playing<br />

with the notion of “sound-in” and “sound-off” camera, Beethoven now functioning<br />

as “sound-in” when the quartet is seen playing, now as “sound-off” when, for<br />

example, the music accompanies the bank heist. The ambiguity of the “sound-off”<br />

element emerges in the interplay of the images of the rehearsal and the images of the<br />

Carmen plot, the Beethoven accompaniment to the bank heist functioning both as a<br />

constituent of the “absolute-out-of-field” of a standard cinematic score and as a sonic<br />

element of the “relative-out-of-field” of the rehearsal space improbably “leaking”<br />

into the space of the bank heist.<br />

Why Beethoven?, one might ask. Pure chance, Godard suggests in one interview,<br />

since the story takes place by the sea and it was “at the seashore that I discovered, at<br />

age twenty, the quartets of Beethoven.” 6 But he also says that he sought “a fundamental<br />

5 The exception occurs midway through the film, when for eight seconds the soundtrack<br />

is dead while images of the performing quartet fill the screen. The effect is jarring, whereas at<br />

other points in the film when the visual ambient sound is missing and music accompanies the<br />

images, the effect is unremarkable because normalized within cinematic conventions. Clearly,<br />

Godard in this eight-second sequence is calling attention to the arbitrary nature of these sonic<br />

conventions in representational narrative cinema.<br />

6 Jean-Luc Godard, “Les signes du mal à vivre,” L’avant scène cinema, 323/324<br />

(1984), p. 5.


Tragedy, Sight and Sound 75<br />

music, a music that had marked the history of music. A music that is both practice<br />

and theory of music. That was the case of Beethoven.” 7 In this regard, the Beethoven<br />

Quartets provide Godard with instances of “Music” writ large, paradigmatic<br />

compositions fit for an exploration of the theoretical relationship between visual<br />

images and music in general. The Quartets are also quintessential chamber-pieces,<br />

and one might argue that Prénom Carmen is itself a kind of cinematic chamber<br />

music, a work composed of a limited set of materials – created, as the film’s closing<br />

title card states, “IN MEMORIAM SMALL MOVIES” (AS 64). Yet perhaps the<br />

primary reason the Beethoven Quartets are chosen is that they are not associated<br />

with the Carmen story. And most important, they lack any relation to Bizet’s musical<br />

blending of exoticism and eroticism, instead exploiting a strictly Western art music<br />

idiom largely devoid of extra-musical associations. 8 Hence, the juxtaposition of the<br />

Beethoven Quartets and the Carmen images forces a confrontation of differences,<br />

creating unexpected resonances and frequent incongruities between sound and sight,<br />

while instigating a reflection on the relation between “pure,” self-referential, nonprogrammatic<br />

art music and the realm of the visual.<br />

Still, if there is no pre-existing relation between the Beethoven Quartets and the<br />

Carmen story, such a relation may be created after the fact, as it were, and Godard<br />

not only proceeds to fashion such a relation between sounds and images but also<br />

offers a verbal commentary on the process of that formation through the remarks<br />

of Claire and the other musicians. The quartet leader’s first comment, as the group<br />

begins its rehearsal, is “With the body” [Avec le corps] (AS 21), which suggests that<br />

the body is the medium through which image and music may be related. Shortly<br />

after the leader asks that the music be performed “avec le corps,” “Uncle Jean”<br />

Godard appears on the screen, tapping the window of his room, the metal bars of<br />

his bed, the table, the walls, the keys of his typewriter, his own chest, his head, the<br />

table again, the bars of the bed, and the mattress. With each distinctly audible tap,<br />

Godard demonstrates the corporeal dimension of sound, indicating that it is from<br />

bodies that sounds issue, and that it is with and from the body that music is produced.<br />

To underline the relation between bodies, sounds and music, Godard repeats the<br />

tapping movements near the close of the film, this time lightly striking four wine<br />

glasses with a fork in the hotel dining room. 9 The first violinist also makes musical<br />

comments that have relevance for the action unfolding in the Carmen plot. At one<br />

point, for example, he tells the other players, “It has to be more violent” (AS 26),<br />

7 Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard, ed. Alain Bergala (Paris,<br />

1985), p. 576.<br />

8 The only exception might be the third movement of the 15th Quartet, the “Song of<br />

Thanksgiving of a Convalescence, in the Lydian Mode.” Although the movement is decidedly<br />

modal, I doubt that few listeners would describe it as exotic or non-Western. At most, listeners<br />

might possibly characterize it as monastic and typically Renaissance in its handling of<br />

harmony.<br />

9 Deleuze argues that there is a strictly visual link between the bodies of the musicians<br />

and the bodies of the Carmen plot actors. Indeed, he claims that the film repeatedly forces<br />

viewers to ask such questions as, what is the relation between the violinist’s bowing and<br />

Joseph’s embrace of Carmen?, the arch of the cellist’s fingers and the posture of the banks<br />

guard? and so on. See Deleuze, IM 253–4; 194–5.


76<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

and in the ensuing shots the bank heist escalates into a gun battle. At another, he calls<br />

for more passion, exhorting the quartet, “Push … one, two … rise … nothing more<br />

… pull … and vibrate” (that is, play with vibrato, but also literally, “vibrate”) (AS<br />

31), and in the following sequences the sensual relationship between Carmen and<br />

Joseph intensifies.<br />

But perhaps the most complex verbal links between the music and the Carmen<br />

plot issue from Beethoven’s Tagebuch of 1812–18, which Godard cites seven<br />

times in the film (see the Appendix to this Chapter). One such citation is the rather<br />

innocuous interjection of the first violinist as he stops the rehearsal, “No, no.<br />

Take the best phrase built on the harmony” (AS 29; notebook entry no. 37). Other<br />

citations, however, are more significant, and all but one are delivered by Claire (the<br />

obvious counterpart to Bizet’s Micaëla, the virginal opposite of the femme fatale<br />

Carmen). The film’s first citation from the Tagebuch occurs after the leader observes<br />

that “Claire makes too many mistakes” [Claire fait trop de fautes], to which she<br />

responds, “This I know well. I recognize it clearly. Life is not the supreme good.<br />

Among evils, the supreme evil is the mistake [la faute]” (AS 25; notebook entry no.<br />

118). Here, Godard playfully emphasizes the importance of art, as Claire indirectly<br />

suggests that artistic perfection is the supreme good, and hence superior to life. 10<br />

Yet Claire’s observation also bears on the Carmen story, for the supreme evil, as we<br />

shall see later, may be said to be “guilt,” or “culpability,” both possible translations<br />

of faute (and closer to the Tagebuch’s original Schuld). 11<br />

Claire’s next Tagebuch citation comes from an obscure 1802 “Fate tragedy” by<br />

Zacharias Werner, in which one character implores another to act and fulfill his being.<br />

Claire’s interjection, “Act instead of asking,” cleverly meshes with the rehearsal<br />

discussion of a passage from the 10th Quartet, and her continuation of the Werner<br />

citation functions neatly as a comment on the marvels of the creative imagination<br />

and its centrality in the artist’s life: “Do miracles first, if you want to unveil them,<br />

thus alone will you fulfill all your destiny” (AS 27). 12 Claire’s most extended<br />

citation reiterates the theme of destiny, in this case with a comment that enunciates<br />

the traditional theme of the Carmen myth: “Show your power, Destiny. We are not<br />

masters of ourselves. That which has been decided … let it be so” (AS 31–2). Here<br />

10 In several entries that Godard does not cite, Beethoven expresses his devotion to his<br />

art and laments the sacrifices his art demands of his personal life. “You must not be a human<br />

being, not for yourself, but only for others: for you there is no longer any happiness except<br />

within yourself, in your art” (no. 1). “Everything that is called life should be sacrificed to the<br />

sublime and be a sanctuary of art” (no. 40). “Sacrifice once and for all the trivialities of social<br />

life to your art” (no. 169).<br />

11 Actually, the lines Godard cites from Tagebuch, entry no. 118, are Beethoven’s<br />

transcription of the closing lines of Schiller’s The Bride of Messina. In the context of the play,<br />

Schuld clearly means “guilt” rather than “mistake.”<br />

12 It is worth noting that in Werner (and in the Tagebuch citation), the character is<br />

implored to fulfill his “Daseyn,” his “existence,” not his “destiny,” as the French translation<br />

has it. Claire’s reference here to “toute ta destinée” echoes her pronouncement later from<br />

entry no. 73, “Montre ta puissance, Destin,” “Zeige deine Gewalt Schicksal!” (Show your<br />

power, Fate!), a significant echo given the standard reading of the Carmen story as a tragedy<br />

of fate and destiny.


Tragedy, Sight and Sound 77<br />

Godard suggests that Beethoven, at least in his Tagebuch, shares Merimée’s and<br />

Bizet’s sentiments about fate, and to the extent that the Quartets express Beethoven’s<br />

sense of the power of destiny, we have articulated in this phrase a direct connection<br />

between the film’s music and its central plot.<br />

Claire’s final two citations are pronounced in close succession as she pencils<br />

notations into her part. She first intones the Tagebuch’s cryptic fourth entry, “Verify<br />

all in the evening” (AS 32), and as she finishes the phrase a shot of the ocean shore<br />

at night comes on the screen. In the following shot, Claire is seen writing in her<br />

part, as she comments to herself, “And the clouds … the clouds, would they reveal<br />

torrents of life? [feraient-ils voir des torrents de vie, literally, ‘would they make<br />

seen torrents of life?’]” (AS 32; notebook entry no. 6). Here Godard is playfully<br />

mapping a line of association that proceeds from Beethoven’s Quartets to the film’s<br />

visual motifs. Godard inserts two shots of a cloud-filled sky in the film (shots 8 and<br />

116), in both cases in close proximity to a shot of the ocean shore. The first sky shot<br />

follows the opening shot of the sea, itself preceded by Carmen’s voiceover comment<br />

(accompanied by the sound of waves and gulls), “It’s in me, in you that it produces<br />

terrible waves [des vagues terribles]” (AS 21). A complex of verbal and visual<br />

associations, it would seem, brings together “torrents of life,” “terrible waves,”<br />

and images of the ocean and the sky, with the implication that Beethoven’s musical<br />

nighttime clouds motivate the appearance of the visual clouds. Implicit as well is<br />

that the torrents of life in Beethoven’s Quartets communicate with the terrible waves<br />

of passion that course through Carmen and Joseph – Joseph tells Claire midway<br />

through the film that “there is something taboo, a sort of force that pushes me … the<br />

tide swells [la marée monte]” (AS 53) – those waves taking on literal embodiment<br />

in the film’s twenty shots of the sea.<br />

Music and the Sonic Continuum<br />

For the most part, Godard does not directly tamper with Beethoven’s music. He<br />

does briefly allow the Beethoven score to play over Tom Waits’s ballad “Ruby’s<br />

Arms,” and at the moment that the Claire plot and the Carmen plot converge, for a<br />

few seconds two dissonant passages from the 16th Quartet are superimposed. 13 (The<br />

13 The Beethoven Quartets are the primary musical components of the film, but the<br />

importance of Waits’s ballad is not to be discounted. Clearly, the primary function of “Ruby’s<br />

Arms” is to provide a contrast to the quartets – in Deleuze’s terms, to serve as a productive<br />

difference. The Waits–Beethoven opposition is one of popular to classical music, but Waits’s<br />

ballad is hardly a prototypical piece of pop music. Waits occupies an odd niche in the popular<br />

music landscape, his work having strong ties to traditional blues as well as basic rock, while<br />

his vocal style must by any standards be deemed idiosyncratic. “Ruby’s Arms” utilizes a<br />

simple tonal harmony, somewhat more complex than the basic three-chord vocabulary of roots<br />

rock, but not especially adventurous in its harmonic idiom. Though clearly in the ballad style<br />

– slow tempo, expressive lyrics and emotional delivery – the song does not make reference to<br />

the harmonies typical of popular ballads from the 1930s and 1940s or those found in musicals.<br />

Despite its obvious differences from the Quartet scores, the ballad shares some characteristics<br />

with them. Its slow pace and straightforward progressions are compatible with the tempo


78<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

opening of the fourth movement overlaps the close of the third.) Occasionally, there<br />

are shifts in the volume levels of the recording, which also affect Beethoven’s music.<br />

Otherwise, however, the Quartets are presented as if they were being played by a<br />

conventional ensemble in rehearsal. The Quartet selections proceed in chronological<br />

order, from the 9th to the 10th Quartet, and then from the 14th through the 16th.<br />

Changes in lighting in the shots of the musicians suggest that we are viewing a series<br />

of rehearsals in which the players work their way through the corpus of the Quartets,<br />

movement by movement. The continuities in the musical passages tend to unify<br />

sections of the film, and the changes from one Quartet to another coincide with the<br />

broad structural divisions of the plot. 14<br />

and harmonies of the third movement of Beethoven’s 15th Quartet, and Waits’s use of an<br />

orchestral score links it broadly to the classical tradition. The ballad accompanies the action<br />

without interruption for 4 minutes 15 seconds. Godard denaturalizes the ballad somewhat<br />

by abruptly dropping the volume level at two points and alternating sections of relatively<br />

normal soundtrack reproduction with sections of hollow, low-bass, high-reverb reproduction,<br />

thereby calling attention to the sonic element of the film. He also superimposes a brief motif<br />

from the first movement of the 16th Quartet on the ballad. The ballad is introduced as one<br />

of the film’s most arresting and bizarre images fills the screen, that of a hand outline on a<br />

flickering blue background. The hand proves to be that of Joseph, and when the close-up of<br />

the screen (a thirty second shot) gives way to a medium shot, the blue field is shown to be a<br />

television screen. (The flickering blue screen of the television is visible in the background of<br />

the preceding hotel scenes, but the shots do not call attention to the television. I personally<br />

did not consciously note the television on a first viewing of the film, and I confess to thorough<br />

confusion when the hand/blue field image initially appeared on the screen.) Joseph is draped<br />

over the television set, his hand stroking the screen, as if he were caressing Carmen, who<br />

has left him alone in the hotel room overnight. The ballad continues to play after Carmen<br />

returns and the couple quarrel as Carmen rebuffs Joseph’s advances. The ballad is obviously<br />

associated with Joseph and expressive of his unrequited passion for Carmen, and in this regard<br />

the song has a prototypical pop-music social function. Joseph’s embrace of the television<br />

suggests that he is enamored by images and that his passion for Carmen is informed by<br />

simulacral media stereotypes. The hand-television juxtaposition might also suggest a broad<br />

association of Joseph and the domain of hand-tool “techne,” instrumental rationality and the<br />

dominance of the visible by the pragmatic. We might conclude, then, that Waits’s ballad and<br />

Beethoven’s Quartets represent a polar opposition of Joseph/popular culture/mediated images/<br />

technology and Carmen/art culture/unmediated images/nature. But such a schematization is<br />

too crude, especially in terms of its polarization of values. Godard does not mock the Waits<br />

ballad; indeed, the song seems to express genuine emotion. Conversely, though Godard treats<br />

Beethoven’s music with respect, his thoroughgoing irony makes it difficult to take anything in<br />

the film with absolute seriousness, including Beethoven.<br />

14 The sequence of quartet passages and corresponding plot elements is as follows: 9th<br />

Quartet, second movement (Andante con molto quasi Allegretto): opening rehearsal, hospital<br />

scenes with Godard and Carmen; 9th Quartet, fourth movement (Trio) coda, moving directly<br />

into the fifth movement (Allegro molto): transitional scenes, conclusion of Godard-Carmen<br />

conversation and Carmen leaving the hospital; 10th Quartet, first movement, second section<br />

(Allegro): bank heist (up to the first embrace of Carmen and Joseph); 10th Quartet, second<br />

movement (Adagio ma non troppo): Carmen and Joseph embrace on bank floor, scenes in<br />

the getaway car; 14th Quartet, fifth movement (Presto), final three notes: brief punctuation of<br />

restroom scene; 14th Quartet, sixth movement (Adagio quasi un poco andante): Carmen and


Tragedy, Sight and Sound 79<br />

But often the musical accompaniment to the Carmen story abruptly stops and<br />

then resumes without clear motivation from the plot, such discontinuities in the<br />

score calling attention to the music as an arbitrary, “foreign body” intervening in<br />

the visual image. At the same time, the frequent intermingling of the Quartets and<br />

sound effects forces recognition of music’s participation in a sonic continuum.<br />

The primary non-musical sound effects – ocean waves, traffic noises and seagull<br />

cries – are themselves treated like elements of a musical composition, the ocean<br />

and traffic sounds occasionally merging; ocean waves now surging over the music,<br />

now subsiding to form a background motif; seagull cries appearing sporadically,<br />

sometimes along with wave sounds, sometimes with traffic sounds, sometimes<br />

alone. 15 Visual images of waves and cars occasionally occupy the screen, but the<br />

sounds of ocean, traffic and gulls often are not aligned with their standard visual<br />

counterparts – indeed, in the case of the gull cries, perhaps the most intrusive of<br />

the film’s sound effects, no visual images of seagulls ever appear on screen. 16 As a<br />

result, one becomes aware of the soundtrack as an autonomous sonic milieu, whose<br />

compositional elements are ocean, traffic and gull sounds, dialogue sounds, ambient<br />

sounds of various settings, and passages from the Beethoven Quartets. 17<br />

The ocean, traffic and gull sounds serve as aural punctuation marks, discrete<br />

elements, with little relationship to the plot, that draw attention to the formal<br />

Joseph on the way to the beach apartment; 15th Quartet, third movement (Heiliger Dankgesang<br />

eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der lydischen Tonart/ Neue kraft fühlend): Carmen and<br />

Joseph’s romance in the beach apartment, with a reprise of the movement when the two<br />

meet again in Paris; 16th Quartet, first movement (Allegretto): brief passages during hotelroom<br />

quarrel (over Waits ballad); 16th Quartet, second movement (Vivace): Joseph pursuing<br />

Carmen, shower scene; 16th Quartet, third movement (Lento assai, cantante e tranquillo):<br />

quartet performance in hotel dining room; 16th Quartet, fourth movement (Grave ma non<br />

troppo tratto – dramatic tremolo chords): Carmen’s death; 16th Quartet, fourth movement<br />

(Grave ma non troppo tratto): Valet’s closing lines, ocean shot, final credits.<br />

15 Shortly following the last burst of seagull cries, which abruptly and improbably is<br />

heard during a scene in the gang’s Paris hotel room, Joseph transgresses the narrative frame<br />

as he comments, “There wasn’t any sea sound with it” [il y avait pas le bruit de la mer avec]<br />

(AS 60).<br />

16 In an intriguing interview, “Les Mouettes d’Austerlitz: Entretien avec François Musy,”<br />

Cahiers du cinema, 355 (January 1984): 12–17, François Musy, the sound engineer for Prénom<br />

Carmen, says that the seagull sounds were recorded two years before the film was made. He<br />

notes that seagulls cry most distinctly when they are near cliffs, and there was no provision for<br />

sea cliffs in Prénom Carmen. Fortunately, he already had a recording of gulls near sea cliffs<br />

which he used in the film. Of the film’s soundtrack in general, he remarks, “It’s a musical<br />

score in which all the sounds intervene on the same level, like instruments: the dialogue, a sea<br />

ambience, the music … The seagulls, moreover, there it’s already a composition of songs: you<br />

have some that cry louder, you have a sort of movement. The sea as well, even if it’s a little<br />

more linear. The seagulls are already more musical, closer to dialogue” (Musy 14).<br />

17 A full analysis of the sonic elements of the film would require an inventory of the<br />

ambient sounds of the various milieus, which are treated in a very self-conscious fashion.<br />

Especially noteworthy are the exaggerated clankings, thunks and echoing conversations of<br />

the asylum, as well as the traffic sounds outside the room at the Intercontinental Hotel. In both<br />

cases, ambient sounds appear, disappear, swell and subside in improbable fashion.


80<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

patterning of the sonic continuum. In a similar fashion, a discrete set of recurring<br />

images punctuates the visual continuum – images of the ocean, of the sky, of<br />

the headlight patterns of cars on a freeway, of the lighted windows of two metro<br />

trains as they cross one another over the Pont d’Austerlitz, of chandeliers in the<br />

Intercontinental Hotel. These visual punctuation marks, like their aural counterparts,<br />

have a limited relationship to the plot, and the extended duration of the shots of the<br />

waves, clouds, car headlights and metro window lights emphasizes their status as<br />

abstract geometrical forms. Such extra-narrative, geometrically patterned images,<br />

when interjected at unpredictable intervals into the stream of narrative images,<br />

emphasize the formal nature of the visual continuum as a composition of images, a<br />

composition in the process of divesting itself of conventional coding and narrative<br />

organization while becoming a patterning of images “before names.”<br />

Tragedy<br />

Through a series of allusions, Godard suggests a complex relationship between the<br />

use of images, visual and sonic, and the function of tragedy. Late in the film, Godard<br />

cites (without attribution) a line from Rilke’s first Duino Elegy: “You know, beauty<br />

is the beginning of the terror we are capable of enduring [Vous savez, la beauté, c’est<br />

le commencement de la terreur que nous sommes capables de supporter]” (AS 61). 18<br />

As he delivers this line, a close-up of Carmen’s face fills the screen. This shot is one<br />

of eighteen close-ups of Carmen that appear regularly throughout the film, some<br />

for a few seconds, others for extended periods, ranging from thirty to ninety-six<br />

seconds. (The Carmen close-ups constitute a little over eight of the film’s eighty-four<br />

minutes of running time, or about ten per cent of the film.) Several of these close-<br />

18 In her insightful essay on Prénom Carmen, “A Fraying of Voices,” Verena Conley<br />

observes that Godard’s citation of Rilke should read “La beauté n’est que le commencement<br />

de la terreur que nous sommes encore capables de supporter,” given that Rilke’s original<br />

reads: “Denn das Schöne ist nichts/ als des Schrecklichen Anfang, den wir noch gerade<br />

ertragen.” She comments that “the quotation is ‘ill said,’ since through suppression of the<br />

‘encore’ the sentence insists less on a limit, becomes more declarative, but is also stripped of<br />

its possibility of contemplative value by being introduced in a lower mimetic mode. In Rilke,<br />

it refers to the world of absolute beauty or to angels, contrasted with earthen beauty. Terror in<br />

Rilke is of a more absolute kind, that belongs to something celestial … In Godard, the same<br />

values are taken out of context and reversed. The quotation may seem funny, even pompous<br />

in the final, operatic – but also parodic – scene at the Hotel Intercontinental. The terror of<br />

beauty is attributed to the dark, hence diabolical Carmen – who, somewhat comically, is also<br />

said to have been working at a Prisunic – rather than to the angelic Claire (Myriem Roussel)<br />

who rightfully bears her name” (pp. 77–8). I concur that Godard’s citation makes Rilke’s<br />

pronouncement more absolute, but I read the reference differently. Carmen, I argue, is no<br />

longer diabolical when divested of her narrative encoding. I might add that the Carmen–Claire<br />

opposition, while clearly modeled on the Micaëla–Carmen opposition of Bizet, and hence<br />

assimilable within codes of dark/diabolical and light/angelic (reinforced by Godard by the<br />

names of the two women and the association of Carmen with a red rose and Claire with a<br />

white rose), is not reinforced particularly in the visual presentation of the two women, both of<br />

whom have fair skin and dark hair.


Tragedy, Sight and Sound 81<br />

ups mark key meditative moments in the film, some of them accompanied by slow,<br />

lyrical passages from the Quartets. By following the verbal associations that are<br />

aligned with the close-ups, one can see what relation terror has to beauty, and what<br />

relation that terror might have to the terror traditionally associated with tragedy.<br />

During her initial meeting with her Uncle Jean in the asylum, Carmen is shown<br />

in close-up for thirty-seven seconds (shot 28) as Godard speaks off-camera of her<br />

mother:<br />

The shore of the sea [Le bord de la mer], with your mother [avec ta mère], like little<br />

Electra. You’re the one who doesn’t remember. I’ve always said that you had a talent for<br />

misfortune [que tu étais douée pour le malheur]. How did that end, “when there’s,” you<br />

know, “all the guilty [les coupables] in one corner, and then, and then, the innocent [les<br />

innocents] in another”? [AS 24]<br />

The reference to Electra, besides adding a second sexual and mythic dimension to the<br />

figure of Carmen, 19 proves primarily to be an allusion to Giraudoux’s Électre, a fact<br />

that becomes evident in the film’s closing shots when the final lines of Giraudoux’s<br />

play are quoted. The pun on mer and mère might invite psychoanalytic associations<br />

of the mother and primal oceanic forces (the linking of the mother and the feminine<br />

here complicated by the murderous hostility Electra exhibits toward Clytemnestra<br />

in the myth), but the pun’s main purpose is to bring together Carmen, the sea, and<br />

Uncle Jean’s reference to the apocalyptic judgment of the guilty and the innocent.<br />

Uncle Jean’s words also recall Carmen’s opening voiceover, when she speaks of<br />

“terrible waves” within (followed by a shot of the sea), and then adds, “I haven’t<br />

been to college, but I also know that the world doesn’t belong to the innocent … [le<br />

monde n’appartient pas aux innocents]” (AS 21). The world she inhabits is not the<br />

beatific realm of the Sermon on the Mount, she suggests, but as we shall see, she is<br />

not necessarily implying that the guilty, or those with a talent for “le malheur,” in the<br />

sense of “evil,” will inherit the earth.<br />

Midway through the film, Carmen recalls her Uncle Jean’s apocalyptic reference.<br />

For fifty-four seconds her face is shown in close-up (shot 119), while the Molto<br />

adagio strains of the 15th Quartet accompany her question to Joseph: “What is it<br />

called? [Comment ça s’appelle?] … There’s something about innocents there … and<br />

then the guilty, over there …” (AS 33). Later, during a forty second close-up (shot<br />

151), she asks Joseph what comes before the name, “avant qu’on vous appelle” (AS<br />

56). At this point, an association of the motifs of the prénom and the division of<br />

guilty and innocent is suggested through the verb appeler, an association whose full<br />

significance only emerges at the close of the film. There, as Carmen is dying, she<br />

asks a waiter, “What is it called [Comment ça s’appelle] when there are the innocents<br />

in one corner and the guilty ones in the other?” (AS 63). The waiter answers, “Je<br />

ne sais pas, mademoiselle” (AS 63). She then elaborates on her question, citing<br />

19 Powrie sees the Electra allusion as a means whereby Carmen is “remythified twice<br />

over” (“Godard’s Prénom Carmen,” p. 72). He gives a Lacanian reading to the sexual<br />

dimension of this allusion, reading the Giraudoux citation at the film’s close both as a<br />

distancing theatricalization of the action and a confirmation of the identity of the mother with<br />

dawn and the prelinguistic Imaginary.


82<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

portions of the penultimate lines of Giraudoux’s Électre: “But if when everyone has<br />

ruined everything, and everything is lost, but the day rises, and the air nonetheless<br />

breathes,” to which the waiter responds with Giraudoux’s final line (and the final line<br />

of Prénom Carmen), “Cela s’appelle l’aurore, Mademoiselle,” “That’s called dawn,<br />

Mademoiselle” (AS 64).<br />

Giraudoux’s play is about a judgmental Électre, an idealist who refuses to<br />

compromise. For her, the world consists of the guilty and the innocent, and she refuses<br />

to taint herself by allowing the crime of Clytemnestre and Égisthe to go unpunished,<br />

even though the circumstances of the murder are uncertain and the future of Thebes<br />

depends on Égisthe’s leadership in the impending battle with the city’s enemies. But<br />

the world is not so neatly divided into guilty and innocent, as La Femme Narsès<br />

implies in the lines Carmen partially cites: “What is it called, when the day rises,<br />

like today, and everything is ruined, everything is pillaged, and nonetheless the air<br />

breathes, and one has lost everything, the city burns, the innocents kill each other [les<br />

innocents s’entre-tuent], but the guilty are in agony [les coupables agonisent], in a<br />

corner of the day that is rising?” 20 When Le Mendiant replies, “That has a very pretty<br />

name [Cela a un très beau nom], Femme Narsès. It’s called dawn,” he suggests that<br />

“dawn” is the name of a world beyond simplistic judgments, a name for possibilities<br />

in the face of universal destruction and ruin. The innocent and guilty alike suffer in<br />

such a world, yet still the day rises, the air breathes, and something new begins.<br />

Unlike Électre, Carmen is no idealist, but she does reinforce the distinct<br />

categories of “innocent” and “guilty” in her discourse. She knows that the world<br />

does not belong to the innocent, and she is obsessed by an apocalyptic separation of<br />

sheep and goats, the innocent in one corner, the guilty in another. Hers is the milieu<br />

of crime, of course, and the cops-and-robbers drama of bank heists and kidnappings<br />

is all about verdicts of innocence and guilt. Indeed, the question of verdicts and<br />

judgments is directly raised in the film’s parodic Tribunal section, in which Joseph<br />

stands trial for his participation in the bank heist. His lawyer indicts capitalism as<br />

the true criminal, stating that his offense is not against “la société” but against “la<br />

Sociéte Générale,” large corporations and “the money of the big banks” (AS 34).<br />

The police, the prosecutor and the judge all support their actions with supposed<br />

aphorisms from Proverbs, and even Joseph counters by citing a reputed passage<br />

from Proverbs.(None of the film’s references to chapter and verse is accurate, and<br />

in fact, the aphorisms are not from Proverbs at all.) The judgments of law and the<br />

judgments of religion coincide, and the question of a Last Judgment raises the<br />

issue of justice and categorization in general. The division of the world into neat<br />

compartments brings with it an ideological classification of reality – in sum, one that<br />

masks the relationship between “la société” and “la Société Générale” and supports<br />

a simplistic differentiation of the innocent from the guilty.<br />

Carmen asks two questions: What does one call the separation of the innocent<br />

and guilty?, and What comes before the name? The two are related, but they are not<br />

the same question. When she is dying, she initially asks the Valet the first question,<br />

which he cannot answer. She then rephrases her query, and in so doing she transforms<br />

20 Jean Giraudoux, Théâtre complet, ed. Jacques Body (Paris, 1982), p. 685<br />

(translation mine).


Tragedy, Sight and Sound 83<br />

the first question into the second. When all is ruined, when categories of innocence<br />

and guilt have been abandoned, when all the judgmental categorizations of the<br />

world have been left behind, then something before categories becomes possible, an<br />

unnamed, unclassified, stark image. The Valet’s answer “cela s’appelle l’aurore” is<br />

a response to the question, “what comes before the name?” The pre-name is called<br />

“dawn,” but its name is merely a designation for the space between, the gap between<br />

night and day, the undecidable moment between dark and light. It is a name for that<br />

which cannot be named. And it is this unnamed, uncategorized world that is the<br />

source of the terrifying beauty Rilke speaks of, beauty that is “the beginning of the<br />

terror we are capable of enduring” (AS 61).<br />

It is important to note that in the film “terror” is not the same as “fear.” In her<br />

opening voiceover, Carmen says “I’m not afraid [Je n’ai pas peur], but that’s because<br />

I have never been able to, known how to, become attached [je n’ai jamais pu, su,<br />

m’attacher]” (AS 21). Throughout the script, there is a play on the words “attacher”<br />

and “détacher,” Joseph’s literal tying and untying of Carmen being related to his<br />

emotional attachment to her and her refusal to be permanently attached to anything.<br />

(A parallel play on the phrases “attirez-moi,” attract me, and “tirez-vous,” go<br />

away, reinforces this motif – see Conley, p. 70.) Carmen has no fear, for she has<br />

no attachments. Joseph, by contrast, does have fear, as Carmen insists. He claims<br />

that the reason he took so long in returning to her after his trial was shame, “j’avais<br />

honte,” “I was ashamed.” But Carmen counters, “Fear, not shame, fear [Peur, pas<br />

honte, peur].” She then asks the Valet, “Are you afraid at times? [Vous avez peur<br />

des fois, vous],” to which he replies, “Never, Mademoiselle” (AS 58). This same<br />

Valet who knows no fear is the one who answers Carmen’s question at the end of the<br />

film. He, like Carmen, it seems, forms no attachments. He can detach himself from<br />

the codes of the world and name the unnamable. He can free himself from fear and<br />

thereby open himself to the terror of beauty.<br />

The unnamable is called “aurore,” but in a sense its name is also “Carmen.” At the<br />

end of her initial voiceover, Carmen adds the phrases, “Got to hurry. Later. The one<br />

who should not be called Carmen [Celle qui ne devrait pas s’appeler Carmen]” (AS<br />

21). When “Uncle Jean” Godard enunciates Rilke’s line that “beauty is the beginning<br />

of the terror we are capable of enduring,” Carmen’s face is in close-up on the screen.<br />

She is the unattached and unattachable, that which cannot be controlled or possessed,<br />

but also that which cannot be categorized. The eighteen close-ups of Carmen spaced<br />

throughout the film are images assimilable within cinematic codes, as well as within<br />

cultural codes of feminine beauty and desirability. The slightly hazy filters and soft<br />

lighting of the close-ups echo faintly the conventions of fashion photography, but<br />

finally Godard’s aim is to detach these images from their conventional moorings,<br />

while at the same time detaching the narrative figure of Carmen from her mythical<br />

coordinates, and to make visible on the screen the pure image of her face. The pure<br />

image in its terrifying beauty “should not be called Carmen” or anything else, but if<br />

it must be given a name, a name before the name, its pre-name would be Carmen.<br />

One way of detaching an image from its codes is to strip it of its name, to divest<br />

it of its associated words, but Godard suggests as well that sounds in general impinge<br />

on images, and hence must be separated from them in order to transform them into<br />

pure images. In Carmen’s initial meeting with Uncle Jean in the asylum, he offers


84<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

to lend her his “new camera” (AS 24), which turns out to be a boom box. He holds<br />

the boom box on his shoulder as if it were a camera and plays a tape recording of<br />

“Frère Jacques” and “Au clair de la lune,” accompanied by background sounds of<br />

breaking crockery, and then sounds of an aerial bombardment. The nursery songs<br />

are performed in a primitive fashion, the melody alone pecked out spasmodically in<br />

shifting registers on an out-of-tune piano. The erratic sounds of the piano keyboard<br />

and Godard’s punching of the boom-box play and stop buttons recall Godard’s earlier<br />

strokes on the typewriter keys, which spell out “mal vu, mal dit” at the bottom of a<br />

page of garbled random letters and symbols. When Carmen asks Uncle Jean if he<br />

would like to start making films again, he replies, “Il faut fermer les yeux au lieu<br />

de les ouvrir,” “You must close the eyes rather than open them” (AS 24). As the<br />

sounds of aerial bombardment increasingly dominate the soundtrack, the boom box<br />

on Godard’s shoulder comes to resemble both a camera and a rocket launcher, and<br />

his haggard, scruffy face resembles that of a shellshock victim who has seen too<br />

much and needs to learn to close his eyes. The implication is that the camera can<br />

be a weapon, as can the tape recorder, and that the violence of visual representation<br />

is reinforced by sonic representations. The world is “mal vu, mal dit,” a page of<br />

meaningless babble, but it is also “mal entendu,” ill heard and ill understood, a tape<br />

of disintegrating nursery songs, breaking dishes and dive-bombing planes. To create<br />

“juste une image,” the image must be detached not only from visual clichés and<br />

verbal codes, but also from its sonic counterparts, and sounds themselves need to<br />

be detached from their conventional associations if they are no longer to be “mal<br />

entendus.”<br />

Music and the Spirit of Tragedy<br />

Godard does indeed separate sight and sound in Prénom Carmen, thereby creating<br />

what Deleuze would call a truly audio-visual modern film. But the status of music<br />

in the film is not simply that of a constituent of the sonic continuum. The sounds of<br />

waves, traffic and seagulls, the ambient noises of the hospital, gas station and hotel,<br />

the dialogue on-camera and off – all are treated as elements of a musical composition.<br />

But if noises and sounds attain to the level of music within a single continuum, the<br />

Beethoven Quartets are not thereby rendered mere noises within an undifferentiated<br />

sonic mix. Godard plays with the conventions of film scores, often undercutting<br />

the narrative by providing the action with incongruent accompaniment from the<br />

Quartets. The juxtaposition of the ebullient 10th Quartet’s Allegro and the bank heist,<br />

for instance, heightens the absurdity of the sequence, and the intensely dramatic<br />

cadences of the 15th Quartet’s third movement render melodramatic Carmen and<br />

Joseph’s reunion in the garage (shots 147 and 148). Yet in neither of these nor in any<br />

of the other instances of an ironic pairing of music and action is the music mocked.<br />

Rather, it is always the image that is not adequate to the music. Godard clearly has<br />

deep affection for the Beethoven Quartets, and though he interrupts the ensemble’s<br />

performance at several points, he also allows the music to continue undisturbed for<br />

extended stretches of time.


Tragedy, Sight and Sound 85<br />

There are also a number of sequences in which the music and the images are<br />

not ironically juxtaposed. Throughout the film, when music accompanies shots of<br />

the ocean or close-ups of Carmen, lyrical, slow, highly emotive passages from the<br />

Quartets are used, and at no point does the music undercut the image. Particularly<br />

striking is the use of the third movement of the 15th Quartet during Carmen and<br />

Joseph’s romantic interlude at the beach apartment (shots 92–122). The beginning<br />

of the third movement coincides with the cut to shot 92, a thirty-eight second view<br />

of sea swells shot from above, the calm ebb and flow of the foam-flecked water<br />

gently washing over a small rock as the serene strains of the Molto adagio movement<br />

unfold. Passages from this movement accompany nearly half of the fourteen minutes<br />

of images set at the beach. Three-fourths of the time, the score is matched with shots<br />

of the ocean or close-ups of Carmen. Godard is certainly exploiting conventional<br />

associations of the feminine and the ocean – be it as a figure of the maternal womb<br />

or as a symbol of erotic passion – but the conjunction of Carmen’s face and the sea<br />

to the accompaniment of Beethoven is meant to undo those associations. Godard is<br />

engaged in a pedagogy of images, teaching us to see the images for themselves, and<br />

the score guides us in that lesson. Beethoven titled the opening section of the third<br />

movement “Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der lydischen<br />

Tonart” (Sacred Song of Thanksgiving to the Godhead on a Convalescence, in the<br />

Lydian Mode), and its mood of quiet, meditative tranquility suffuses the entire<br />

beach sequence. Its modal tonality, as one commentator observes, produces “an<br />

atmosphere of mysterious and other-worldly remoteness,” an “atmosphere of<br />

Olympian contemplation” as well as an “extraordinary feeling of timelessness.” 21<br />

For the thirty-eight seconds of shot 92, we watch the wash of waves and listen to<br />

the Quartet, as if we were being instructed, “learn to see this image itself, learn<br />

to see it with the calm, serenity and harmony of the music that accompanies it.”<br />

When Carmen’s face comes on screen, the same score reinforces a similar lesson:<br />

“learn to see this face as you saw the ocean, not as a maternal or an erotic object<br />

but as a simple image.” The music does not illustrate or represent the images, but it<br />

establishes a mood and imbues the images with an affective intensity. The music’s<br />

slow tempo and the extended duration of the shots of Carmen and the ocean – shots<br />

in which visually nothing happens – together encourage contemplation. Narrative is<br />

suspended, and a timeless time allows images to emerge as forms of a visual music.<br />

To render visible the image itself requires a detachment of the image from its<br />

usual coordinates and an invention of new relationships with other images. The<br />

principle of this practice is indirectly suggested by Godard toward the close of the<br />

film, when Uncle Jean’s Nurse reads to him a phrase from Beethoven’s Tagebuch:<br />

“The perfect union of several voices entirely impedes the progress of one toward<br />

the other” (AS 62, Notebook entry no. 2). In music as in cinema, the strict unison of<br />

elements impedes the movement of elements toward one another. Only by undoing<br />

the unities and uniformities of conventional relations can new relations be forged.<br />

The separation and recombination of voices is a principle governing images, words,<br />

sounds and music in Prénom Carmen, one that makes of the film a stratigraphic<br />

layering of visual and sonic elements. Yet music still has a privileged position within<br />

21 Philip Radcliffe, Beethoven’s String Quartets (London, 1965), pp. 116–17.


86<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

these elements. What Schopenhauer finds in music is a strange sensual abstraction,<br />

a direct presentation of an affective geometry of forms immanent within things. A<br />

similar intuition informs Nietzsche’s approach to tragedy as the outgrowth of the<br />

spirit of music. And Deleuze’s sense of music in the classic cinema as the direct<br />

presentation of the open Whole likewise springs from this intuition. For Deleuze, the<br />

modern cinema gives sound a new function as the visual and the sonic are detached<br />

from one another and recombined in new relations, but it seems that music – even<br />

traditional tonal art music – already has within it a force of affective detachment and<br />

rearticulation present in the most conventional of films. Godard subverts codes and<br />

narratives, undermines visual and sonic conventions, but he accepts Beethoven and<br />

allows the Quartets to serve as the milieu within which the film takes shape. If there<br />

is a dominant spirit to Prénom Carmen, it is that of the Beethoven score.<br />

In Nietzsche’s view, tragedy makes bearable our terror at the destruction and<br />

dissolution of all material forms. In music, we are able to embrace the incessant<br />

forces of creation that give rise to forms, break them apart, and then refashion them<br />

in new configurations. Ultimately, the spirit of music for Nietzsche is the spirit of<br />

the artist-god, the “world-child Zeus” at play in his world-making, now building,<br />

now destroying, with an equally serene joy in his activity. 22 It is difficult to decide<br />

whether Godard finally subscribes to Rilke’s view that beauty is the commencement<br />

of the terror we can endure, since little in Godard is offered without ironic distance<br />

and qualification. I have argued that the revelation of the pure image brings with<br />

it the terror of disequilibrium and disorientation, but one might argue as well that<br />

Godard’s Rilkean reference is to the terroristic violence of conventional aesthetic<br />

codes. The creative spirit of the artist-god, however, seems to me to be undeniably<br />

present in Prénom Carmen. The Olympian serenity of the 15th Quartet’s Molto<br />

adagio movement suffuses the film, as does the poised playfulness that surfaces<br />

from time to time in the late Quartets. The coda of Beethoven’s last Quartet, with<br />

its pizzicato chords and light, gay tune, brings Godard’s film to its conclusion, as<br />

a final shot of the sea comes on the screen. The cheerful seriousness of the playful<br />

creator, that expansive spirit of deep feeling and distant reflection so evident in the<br />

late Quartets (as in The Tempest, I would argue), is ultimately the controlling mood<br />

of Godard’s film. Prénom Carmen is no tragedy, but if Nietzsche’s spirit of tragedy<br />

is that of the artist-creator, and if that spirit is also the spirit of music, then this film,<br />

like tragedy, is born of the spirit of music.<br />

22 I take this phrase from Nietzsche’s account of Heraclitus’s cosmos in Philosophy in<br />

the Tragic Age of the Greeks, trans. Marianne Cowan (Chicago, 1962), p. 67. In Heraclitus’s<br />

view of the universe, “only play, play as artists and children engage in it, exhibits coming-tobe<br />

and passing away, structuring and destroying, without any moral additive, in forever equal<br />

innocence. And as children and artists play, so plays the ever-living fire … Such is the game<br />

that the aeon plays with itself. Transforming itself into water and earth, it builds towers of<br />

sand like a child at the seashore, piles them up and tramples them down … The child throws<br />

its toys away from time to time – and starts again, in innocent caprice. But when it does build,<br />

it combines and joins and forms its structures regularly, conforming to inner laws” (p. 62).


Music and Modernity<br />

Deleuze says of Prénom Carmen that it<br />

Tragedy, Sight and Sound 87<br />

… uses musical movements, acts of speech, noises of doors, sounds of the sea or the<br />

metro, cries of gulls, pluckings of strings and revolver shots, slidings of bows and<br />

bursts of machine-gun fire, the “attack” of music and the “attack” in the bank, the<br />

correspondences between these elements, and above all their displacements, their cuts, in<br />

such a way as to form the power [puissance] of a single and self-same sonic continuum.<br />

[IT 305/234–5]<br />

That continuum becomes a fourth dimension of the visual image, in which the sonic<br />

elements “rival one another, cover one another, traverse each other, cut into each<br />

other,” while they simultaneously “trace a path full of obstacles in the visual space,<br />

and they do not make themselves heard without also being seen, for themselves,<br />

independently of their sources, at the same time that they make the image readable,<br />

a little like a musical score” (IT 305/235). Yet Prénom Carmen also makes use of<br />

Western tonal art music in a way that links the film to the classic cinema, its quartet<br />

score functioning as does music in Nietzsche’s conception of tragedy – as Deleuze<br />

phrases it, “like the kernel of fire that surrounds the Apollonian visual images,<br />

and which cannot do without their unfolding parade.” In Godard’s film, as in the<br />

classic cinema, “one may say that music adds the immediate image [of the Whole]<br />

to the mediate images that represent the Whole indirectly” (IT 311/239). What this<br />

suggests, finally, is that music provides common ground for the classic and modern<br />

cinema. Perhaps cinema as a whole, like tragedy, has one of its points of origin in the<br />

spirit of music – the generative ear latent in the eye.<br />

Appendix Prénom Carmen Citations from Beethoven’s Tagebuch of 1812–18<br />

Ceci, je le sens bien. Je le reconnais clairement. La vie n’est pas le bien suprême.<br />

Parmi les maux, le mal suprême c’est la faute. [spoken by Claire]<br />

#118: Dieß Eine fühl’ ich und erkenn’ es klar:<br />

Das Leben ist der Güter höchstes nicht,<br />

Der Uibel größtes aber ist die Schuld.<br />

This one thing I feel and clearly perceive:<br />

Life is not the sovereign good,<br />

But the greatest evil is guilt.<br />

[Schiller, Die Braut von Messina, closing lines]


88<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

Agis au lieu de demander. [spoken by Claire]<br />

Fais d’abord des miracles, si tu veux les dévoiler, ainsi seulement tu accompliras<br />

toute ta destinée. [spoken by Claire]<br />

#60: Nicht Fragen, Thaten sollst du spenden, [;] dich selber opfern<br />

[,] ohne Ruhm und Lohn? [!] –Erst übe Wunder, willst du sie enthüllen; und [nur]<br />

so kannst du dein Daseyn nur [ganz] erfüllen.<br />

[Robert] You shall dispense not questions but deeds,<br />

Sacrifice yourself without fame and reward!<br />

If you wish to unveil miracles, first practice them;<br />

Only thus can you fulfill your existence.<br />

[excerpt from Zacharias Werner, Die Söhne des Thals, I. Theil: Die Templer auf<br />

Cypern (Berlin, 1802), Act IV, scene i.]<br />

Prendre la première phrase venue construite sur l’harmonie. [spoken by First<br />

Violinist]<br />

#37: Den ersten besten Satz in Canons erfunden auf Harmonie gebaut. [The<br />

words “in Canons” are crossed out, with dots underneath to signify “stet.”]<br />

The best opening phrases in canons are built around harmonies.<br />

Montre ta puissance, Destin. Nous ne sommes pas nos propres maîtres. Ce qui est<br />

décidé … qu’il en soit ainsi. [spoken by Claire]<br />

#73: Zeige deine Gewalt Schicksal! Wir sind nicht Herrn über uns selbst; was<br />

beschlossen ist, muß seyn, und so sey es dann [?denn]! – –<br />

Show your power, Fate! We are not masters of ourselves; what has been decided<br />

must be, and so be it!<br />

[Possibly a quotation (source unknown)]<br />

Tout vérifier le soir. [spoken by Claire]<br />

#4: alle Abends durchsehn.<br />

Look through them all in the evening.<br />

Et les nuages … les nuages feraient-ils voir des torrents de vie? [spoken by Claire]<br />

#6: Und regneten die Wolken Lebensbäche, nie wird der Weidenbaum dir<br />

Datteln tragen.


Tragedy, Sight and Sound 89<br />

And even if the clouds were to rain rivers of life<br />

Never will the willow tree bear dates.<br />

[Herder, “Verschwendete Mühe,” Zerstreute Blätter. 4th ed. (Gotha, 1792), p. 27]<br />

L’union parfaite de plusieurs voix empêche somme toute le progrès de l’une vers<br />

l’autre. [spoken by Godard’s Nurse]<br />

#2: Die genaue Zusammenhaltung mehrerer Stimmen hindert im Großen das<br />

Fortschreiten einer zur andern.<br />

The precise coinciding of several musical voices generally hinders the progression<br />

from one to the other.<br />

German citations of the Tagebuch from Maynard Solomon, “Beethoven’s Tagebuch<br />

of 1812–1818,” in Beethoven Studies 3, ed. Alan Tyson (Cambridge: Cambridge<br />

University Press, 1982), pp. 193–293. English translations and commentary by<br />

Solomon.


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Chapter 6<br />

Bergsonian Fabulation<br />

and the People to Come<br />

In a 1990 interview, Deleuze addresses the question of the relationship of politics<br />

to art via a reflection on the modern problem of the “creation of a people.” The<br />

artists Deleuze admires (he names here Mallarmé, Rimbaud, Klee, Berg, Huillet<br />

and Straub) have a deep need of a people, but the collectivity they invoke does<br />

not yet exist – the “people are missing [le peuple manque]” (PP 235/174). Artists<br />

cannot themselves create a people, and the people in their struggles cannot concern<br />

themselves directly with art, but when a people begins to take form, an interactive<br />

process emerges that connects art and the people:<br />

When a people is created [se crée: literally, “creates itself”], it does so through its own<br />

means, but in a way that rejoins something in art … or in such a way that art rejoins that<br />

which it lacks. Utopia is not a good concept: rather, there is a “fabulation” common to the<br />

people and to art. We should take up again the Bergsonian notion of fabulation and give it<br />

a political sense. [PP 235/174]<br />

Deleuze nowhere elaborates at length on the idea of fabulation, but it forms part of<br />

a rich complex of concepts central to his approach to the ethics and politics of art.<br />

It also is a rather elusive concept, which is Bergsonian only in a special sense that<br />

deserves some investigation.<br />

Closed and Open Societies<br />

On initial consideration, Bergson’s fabulation must seem antithetical to Deleuze’s,<br />

for its Bergsonian associations are basically negative, its Deleuzian largely positive.<br />

Bergson first makes use of the concept in his late The Two Sources of Morality and<br />

Religion (1932), fabulation serving a key function in what Bergson labels closed<br />

societies. 1 Ethical theory commonly assumes a continuum of values from love of<br />

family, to love of society, and eventually to a love of mankind, but Bergson argues for<br />

a qualitative difference in nature (not degree) between a love of family and society,<br />

1 The French “fabulation” is a rather uncommon word of recent provenance. Its first<br />

use documented in Robert’s Dictionnaire is from Balzac’s 1839 Curé de village, its sense<br />

being that of an “imaginary representation, fanciful [romanesque, that is, novel-like] version<br />

of a set of facts.” By 1905, psychologists had adopted the word to denote the production of<br />

imaginary or false stories, associating it with mythomania and pathological lying. Robert cites<br />

Bergson’s Two Sources as the first philosophical use of the word, its meaning being “activity<br />

of the imagination.”


92<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

manifest in closed societies, and a love of mankind, which only appears upon the<br />

envisioning of an alternative social order, that of an open society. The essence of any<br />

social organization resides in the coordinated functioning of individuals in relation<br />

to a whole, a functioning roughly analogous to that of cells within a single organism.<br />

Social organization is widespread in nature, with two evolutionary tendencies in<br />

social life represented by the extremes of hymenoptera (bees, wasps, ants) and<br />

Homo sapiens. The coordinated functioning of individuals within insect societies<br />

is regulated primarily by instinct, whereas intelligence largely guides individuals’<br />

co-functioning within human societies. Instinct and intelligence, however, are<br />

not entirely separate from one another in their social function, a certain degree of<br />

intelligence being present in insect instinct, a degree of instinct permeating human<br />

intelligence. And both instinct and intelligence serve a fundamental social purpose:<br />

“Social life is thus immanent, like a vague ideal, in instinct as well as in intelligence;<br />

this ideal finds its most complete realization in the hive or the anthill on one hand,<br />

and in human societies on the other.” 2<br />

Insect societies are relatively fixed in their structure, the configuration of relations<br />

among individuals being dictated by instinct, whereas human societies vary in their<br />

mode of organization, that variation stemming from the utilization of intelligence<br />

in the development and perpetuation of social structures. Individual insects have<br />

a minimal autonomy in relation to society, the result being that insect societies<br />

are highly stable but extremely limited in their mode of organization. Conversely,<br />

individual humans have a great deal of social autonomy, and as a result humans can<br />

use their intelligence to construct a wide range of divergent social systems. The cost<br />

of such flexibility in social organization, however, is one of instability. The autonomy<br />

of individuals in human societies, made possible by the development of intelligence,<br />

threatens to dissolve social bonds entirely. That which counters the tendency toward<br />

social dissolution in humans is what Bergson calls a “virtual instinct” (p. 998/28),<br />

a basic sense of moral obligation that individuals feel towards others. This virtual<br />

instinct dictates no specific behavior; rather, it serves as an unspecified force guiding<br />

intelligence in its social operation. Hence, the moral “ought” has its source in no<br />

rational or transcendent principle, but in the natural evolution of humans as a social<br />

species.<br />

A general sense of obligation towards others ensures social cohesion, but the<br />

extension of that sense is naturally limited, for one of the basic functions of a<br />

society is that of collective self-defense: “Who does not see that social cohesion is<br />

due, in large part, to the necessity for a society to defend itself against others, and<br />

that it is first against all other men that one loves the men with whom one lives?”<br />

(p. 1002/32–3). Although intelligence allows flexibility in the formation of social<br />

structures, it tends to fashion “closed societies,” whose essential characteristic is<br />

“to include at each moment a certain number of individuals, and to exclude others”<br />

2 Henri Bergson, Oeuvres, Edition du Centenaire, ed. André Robinet (Paris, 1959), p.<br />

997, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, trans. R. Ashley Audra and Cloudsley Brereton<br />

(Garden City, NY, 1954), p. 27. Translations from Bergson are my own. Page references are<br />

to the French text, followed by the corresponding pages in Audra and Brereton’s English<br />

translation.


Bergsonian Fabulation and the People to Come 93<br />

(p. 1000/30). Hence, “the social instinct that we have perceived at the foundation of<br />

social obligation always aims – instinct being relatively unchangeable – at a closed<br />

society, however large it may be” (p. 1001/32). A love of all humanity, therefore,<br />

cannot develop directly out of a love of family and city (or nation), for such a<br />

universal love presumes the existence of an “open society,” one whose constitutive<br />

principle would be qualitatively different from that of closed societies.<br />

Closed societies are basically static. They are regulated by habit and custom, by<br />

those timeworn assumptions, practices and institutions that function like instincts,<br />

rendering social life automatic and somnambulistic. Language is a repository of such<br />

habits, customs, and their attendant social obligations, and religion in closed societies<br />

serves to reinforce static patterns of behavior. A central component of religion<br />

in closed societies is “fabulation” (rendered by Bergson’s English translators as<br />

“myth-making”), which Bergson characterizes as the act whereby the “fantasmatic<br />

representations” (p. 1066/108) of spirits, forces and gods are brought forth. Bergson<br />

insists that fabulation is not related to religion as cause to effect – in other words,<br />

that religion is not simply the product of humankind’s heated imagination. Rather,<br />

he sees religion as the “raison d’être of the fabulative function” (p. 1067/108–109),<br />

and both religion and fabulation as means of reinforcing social cohesion in closed<br />

societies.<br />

Fabulation is an action of the intelligence, yet its basic function is to counteract<br />

tendencies that are inherent in intelligence itself. On its own, intelligence does not<br />

necessarily conclude that the individual’s actions should support the common good;<br />

indeed, intelligence often reasons that self-interest should prevail over collective<br />

interests, and hence intelligence tends to undermine social obligations. Intelligence<br />

also establishes cause-and-effect relations, and thereby gives the individual a limited<br />

vision of the future. As a result, intelligence inevitably leads humans to foresee their<br />

own death, which has the unfortunate consequence of inducing despair. Finally,<br />

intelligence brings awareness of the limitations of human powers, for the same<br />

faculty that guides purposive rational action recognizes as well that means do not<br />

always fulfill their ends, that the hunter’s arrow, though intended to kill the deer,<br />

does not always find its mark. Religion counters intelligence’s anti-social tendency,<br />

as well as its tendency to induce despair through its recognition of the individual’s<br />

mortality and powerlessness. Fabulation is an operation of the intelligence that<br />

supports religion’s function. The role of the fabulative function, “which belongs to<br />

intelligence yet nonetheless is not pure intelligence,” is “to elaborate that religion<br />

… which we call static.” Such a religion is “a defensive reaction of nature against<br />

that which might be depressing for the individual, and dissolvent for society, in the<br />

exercise of intelligence” (p. 1150/205).<br />

Static religion instills social obligation through divinely sanctioned actions and<br />

enforced taboos. It counters the despair created through an awareness of one’s death<br />

by inducing belief in immortal spirits, and it checks the depressing recognition of<br />

one’s impotence by positing supernatural intentions in nature that individuals can<br />

attempt to utilize, placate, defer, overcome, and so on. Fabulation goes hand in<br />

hand with religion in creating the myths of forces, spirits and deities that foster<br />

social cohesion and individual contentment (the social and individual functions of<br />

religion, finally, being inseparable and mutually reinforcing, since stable societies


94<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

require stable, relatively content individuals [p. 1144/198–9]). The myths created<br />

through fabulation are products of an “intellectual instinct,” in that such myths are<br />

“representations formed naturally by intelligence, in order to protect itself, through<br />

certain beliefs, from certain dangers of knowledge” (p. 1112/162).<br />

Hallucination and Emotion<br />

At this point, we might wonder what Deleuze could find appealing in the concept of<br />

fabulation, if fabulation’s primary function is to produce closed, static societies in<br />

which habit, custom and common sense enforce somnambulistic rounds of repetitive<br />

behavior. A partial response lies in fabulation’s associations with hallucinations and<br />

vertiginous disruptions in experience. Bergson offers two intriguing anecdotes to<br />

delve into the workings of fabulation. The first concerns a woman who approached<br />

her apartment elevator with the intention of descending to the ground floor. Normally,<br />

the outer gate to the elevator shaft would not open if the car had not stopped at that<br />

floor, but the elevator was not functioning properly, and the gate was open even<br />

though the car was stationed on a flight below. As she walked toward the gate,<br />

she suddenly felt herself thrust backward; she confusedly sensed that the elevator<br />

operator had appeared before her and pushed her away. When she emerged from<br />

her startled state, she found that neither guard nor elevator car were there: “She had<br />

been about to throw herself into the void: a miraculous hallucination had saved her<br />

life” (pp. 1076–77/120). Fabulation, says Bergson, is something like the woman’s<br />

hallucination, a protective illusion that saves us from the void of social dissolution<br />

and individual despair.<br />

The second anecdote comes from William James, who tells of his experience<br />

during the San Francisco earthquake of April 1906. James reports that in the<br />

preceding December, as he left Harvard for Stanford, his friend B. had joked that<br />

he hoped James would “get a touch of earthquake” at Stanford so that he might<br />

“also become acquainted with that Californian institution” (p. 1105/154). 3 When<br />

the earthquake struck, James says, “my first consciousness was one of gleeful<br />

recognition of the nature of the movement. ‘By Jove,’ I said to myself, ‘here’s B.’s<br />

old earthquake, after all!’ And then, as it went crescendo, ‘And a jolly good one it<br />

is, too!’ I said” (p. 1105/154). Throughout the earthquake, James felt no fear, only<br />

“glee and admiration” (p. 1106/154). He experienced the earthquake as an individual<br />

entity, “B.’s old earthquake,” and as one that had come directly to him personally:<br />

“Animus and intent were never more present in any human action, nor did any<br />

human activity ever more definitely point back to a living agent as its source and<br />

origin” (p. 1106/155). Bergson argues that James’s response to the earthquake was<br />

a manifestation of the fabulative function, which, far from being present only in a<br />

“primitive mentality,” persists as a basic component of human thought. The shock<br />

of the event induces awe, elation and a spontaneous, natural attribution of intention<br />

and personhood to the earthquake. Yet, Bergson insists, this intentional entity is not<br />

3 Throughout my discussion of James’s anecdote, I cite the English translation of Two<br />

Sources, which directly quotes James’s original text.


Bergsonian Fabulation and the People to Come 95<br />

a fully formed personality; rather, “the living agent is here the earthquake itself”<br />

(p. 1107/156), this particular event, no more and no less. It is an individual event,<br />

to which have been added intention and a basic humanness that provide a bond<br />

between the event and the individual experiencing it. In James’s anecdote, we see<br />

fabulation in its barest, simplest form. Intelligence, “impelled by instinct, transforms<br />

the situation. It brings forth the image that reassures. It gives to the Event a unity<br />

and an individuality which make of the event a being that is malicious or perhaps<br />

mischievous, but a being similar to us, with something of the sociable and human<br />

about it” (p. 1109/158).<br />

Bergson observes that when fiction moves us, it is “like a nascent hallucination:<br />

it can counteract judgment and reasoning, which are the properly intellectual<br />

faculties” (p. 1067/109). A fiction, “if its image is vivid and haunting [obsédante],<br />

may precisely imitate perception, and thereby prevent or modify action” (p.<br />

1067/109). The function of fabulation is to support religion in fashioning a closed<br />

society, and thereby overcome those tendencies inherent in intelligence that dissolve<br />

social bonds. Religion’s proper sphere is action (unlike philosophy, whose primary<br />

domain is thought [p. 1148/203]), and the purpose of fabulation is to impel humans<br />

to act in accordance with religious dictates, which themselves come into existence in<br />

order to ensure socially cohesive action. Fabulation thus fulfills its ends by creating<br />

hallucinatory fictions – vivid, haunting images that imitate perception and induce<br />

action, and thereby counteract the operations of judgment and reason.<br />

Fabulation, then, emerges in the shock of an event, a vertiginous moment of<br />

disorientation in which images bypass reason and work directly on the senses to induce<br />

action. All these aspects of fabulation Deleuze takes up in his own appropriation of<br />

the concept. But in his approach to fabulation he also echoes Bergsonian motifs<br />

associated with fabulation’s opposite: creative emotion. Bergson argues that the<br />

traditional concept of imagination can be misleading, for it encourages the attribution<br />

of fabulation and genuine artistic creation to the same faculty, whereas the two stem<br />

from qualitatively different processes. To delve into the nature of true creativity,<br />

Bergson notes first that writers, for example, most often adopt ready-made concepts<br />

and words, which have been supplied by society, combine them perhaps in new<br />

configurations, but largely add nothing new to the stock of language or its expressive<br />

possibilities. Those rare writers who genuinely create, by contrast, work from a<br />

generative, unique emotion that impels the expression of the ineffable, that pushes<br />

the writer “to forge words, to create ideas,” “to do violence to words, to strain the<br />

elements of language,” and if successful, to fashion “a thought capable of taking on<br />

a new aspect for each new generation” (p. 1191/254).<br />

Emotions are involved in both ordinary composition and genuine creation, but they<br />

are of two qualitatively different types, “infra-intellectual” and “supra-intellectual.”<br />

An infra-intellectual emotion is “a consequence of an idea or a represented image” (p.<br />

1011/43); it is a conventionally coded feeling stirred by an independent intellectual<br />

representation. By contrast, a supra-intellectual emotion “is not determined by a<br />

representation which it follows and from which it is distinct”; rather, it is “pregnant<br />

with representations, no one of which is actually formed, but which it draws or might<br />

draw from its substance by an organic development” (p. 1012/43–44). In short,<br />

“alongside the emotion which is the effect of a representation and which is added to


96<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

it, there is the emotion which precedes representation, which contains it virtually and<br />

which to a certain point is its cause” (p. 1014/47). Every great artist invents a new<br />

emotion in producing an artwork, and, indeed, a new emotion is “at the origin of the<br />

great creations of art, science and civilization in general” (p. 1011/43).<br />

Each inventive, supra-intellectual emotion ultimately is a manifestation of<br />

élan vital, the force of natura naturans that creates the new. Creative emotion’s<br />

basic principles are joy, liberation and movement, and the great mystics are those<br />

who most fully engage that élan vital. Mystics, Bergson insists, are not passive<br />

and contemplative, but active proponents of a religion and a society qualitatively<br />

different from those associated with fabulation. The great mystics embrace a religion<br />

of universal love among all humanity and all creation, and that love serves as the<br />

basis of an open society that is dynamic and liberating.<br />

There are thus two sources of morality and religion, as Bergson’s title indicates,<br />

one, the “virtual instinct” associated with fabulation that leads to a morality of<br />

obligation and a closed society, the other, the creative emotion of élan vital that<br />

points toward a morality of love and an open society. The first is a means by which<br />

nature overcomes itself, in that the virtual instinct counteracts intelligence’s natural<br />

tendency to engender individual despair and social dissolution. Yet the second is also<br />

a means by which nature overcomes itself, in that creative emotion is a manifestation<br />

of nature’s own creative impulse, which breaks the hold of the virtual instinct and<br />

makes possible a new social and moral order. The fundamental principle of élan vital<br />

is creation, the dynamic inventive becoming of the new, and through mystics that<br />

principle finds expression in the vision of a creative self-formation of human society.<br />

There is no gradual transformation from a closed to an open society, for they stem<br />

from qualitatively different principles. Rather, the possibility of an open society only<br />

emerges as “a leap forward [un bond en avant]” (p. 1038/74), a break from the<br />

closed circle of what seems possible and a disconcerting jump into the apparently<br />

impossible, which, however, brings forth its own possibility in its very movement.<br />

Deleuze, like Bergson, sees artistic invention as a manifestation of a general<br />

process of cosmic creation, and he also views genuine artistic creativity as an<br />

affective activity, “desire” and “desiring production” functioning in Deleuze’s<br />

treatments of the arts as rough counterparts of Bergson’s “creative emotion.” 4<br />

Echoes of Deleuze’s notion of a minor use of language are especially evident in<br />

Bergson’s account of the writer’s effort to do violence to words and strain them in<br />

order to forge new concepts and new modes of sensibility. For Bergson, genuine<br />

creativity leads toward an open, liberating, dynamically ever-becoming society, and<br />

the future collectivity Deleuze hopes to engender might be characterized in the same<br />

terms. Yet Bergson subordinates art to religion, using artistic invention to explain<br />

the process whereby the mystic creatively envisions an open society; and he regards<br />

mystics as rare individuals who foster the formation of an open society by serving<br />

as models for emulation by others. Deleuze, by contrast, has no particular interest in<br />

religion, though he is deeply concerned with art’s social and political function; and<br />

4 The association of artistic creation and cosmic creation is especially evident in A<br />

Thousand Plateaus, Plateau 11: Of the Refrain. For a discussion of this matter, see Chapters<br />

One and Three of my Deleuze on Music, Painting, and the Arts (New York, 2003).


Bergsonian Fabulation and the People to Come 97<br />

if he is interested in the individual artist, it is primarily as a vehicle for the formation<br />

of a people – that is, an active collectivity that shapes itself and thereby fashions<br />

new modes of social existence. Bergson also separates fabulation from genuine<br />

creation, whereas Deleuze conjoins the two. When Bergson relates the anecdotes of<br />

the woman approaching the elevator shaft and of James experiencing the earthquake,<br />

his primary aim is to show that such moments of disequilibrium reveal, beneath the<br />

veneer of modern rationality, an automatic, virtually instinctual, fabulative function<br />

that is evident in the belief systems of what are often called “primitive” peoples.<br />

For Bergson, the “leap forward” of genuine creation is unrelated to the shock of the<br />

event which induces fabulation. For Deleuze, however, the leap forward is the shock<br />

of the event, and fabulation is part of the genuinely creative process that makes of<br />

the event the occasion for the invention of a people to come.<br />

The People to Come<br />

Although Deleuze mentions fabulation in his early writings on Bergson, he only<br />

makes the concept part of his own work around 1985. In his seminal 1956 article<br />

“The Concept of Difference in Bergson,” he devotes just one sentence to fabulation<br />

(ID 58/41), and in Bergsonism (1966), though he offers a lucid description of<br />

fabulation, it is only as part of a brief account of creative emotion as the means<br />

whereby intuition comes to full awareness of the workings of élan vital (B 111–<br />

19/106–13). Nonetheless, the broad concerns Deleuze later takes up in the concept<br />

of fabulation are of long standing in his thought, dating at least to the inception of<br />

his collaboration with Guattari. Two motifs from Anti-Oedipus (1972) are especially<br />

germane, both of which are initially articulated by Guattari in the 1960s. The first is<br />

the irreducibly social nature of desire, which manifests itself in the desiring subject’s<br />

hallucination of history: “beyond the Ego,” writes Guattari in 1966, “the subject finds<br />

itself exploded to the four corners of the historical universe; the delirious subject [le<br />

délirant] begins to speak foreign languages, it hallucinates history: class conflict,<br />

wars become its instruments of expression” (PT 155/27–8). The second motif is<br />

that of the group-subject, as opposed to the subjected group, a concern voiced by<br />

Guattari as early as 1962 (PT 42) and prominent throughout his activist engagement<br />

with institutional psychiatry. Unlike the subjected group, which receives its identity<br />

from outside, struggles against “any possible inscription of non-sense” (PT 53), and<br />

imposes hierarchical, fixed roles on its members, the group-subject forms itself from<br />

within, keeps itself open to other groups, and offers fluid and shifting roles for its<br />

members.<br />

In Anti-Oedipus, the desiring subject is said to pass through a series of intensive<br />

states and to identify “the names of history with those states: all the names of history<br />

are me” (AO 28/21). All investment of desire, Deleuze and Guattari insist, “is<br />

social, and in every regard concerns a social historical field” (AO 409/342). When<br />

the desiring subject “hallucinates and raves universal history, and proliferates the<br />

races” (AO 101/85), not only does desire reveal its social nature, but it also shows<br />

itself to be inseparable from the formation of a collectivity. “All delirium is racial”<br />

(AO 101/85), in that all desire concerns social groups, either the cursed races, in


98<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

Rimbaud’s phrase, “inferior for all eternity” (AO 102/86), or the superior races of<br />

racist fantasy. The delirium of the cursed races is a manifestation of revolutionary,<br />

“schizo” desire, a desire to “become other” and form a new collectivity, whereas the<br />

delirium of the superior races is an expression of paranoid desire, which seeks to<br />

construct and perpetuate social structures of privilege and oppression. Revolutionary<br />

desire fosters the creation of group-subjects, whose internal relational patterns are<br />

shifting and “transverse,” “forever mortal,” “without hierarchy or group super-ego”<br />

(AO 417–18/348–9) whereas paranoid desire permeates the subjected groups of<br />

control and domination.<br />

When Deleuze and Guattari cite Nietzsche’s delirious remark in his letter to<br />

Burckhardt that “every name in history is I,” 5 or when they refer to Schreber’s mad<br />

ramblings about Germans, Aryans, Jews, Catholics, Slavs, Jesuits and Mongols<br />

(AO 106–107/89), they do so to stress both desire’s sociopolitical dimension and<br />

its irreducible non-rationality. The language of psychosis offers them a vocabulary<br />

of affective engagement with the social, yet one that affords a certain lucidity, in<br />

that it provides diagnostic tools for discerning historical and political investments of<br />

collective desire. The phantasmagoric talk of races, superior or accursed, finally is<br />

a means of discussing the primary task of schizoanalytic politics, that of forming an<br />

active, self-determining collective – in short, that of inventing a people.<br />

In Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (1975) Deleuze and Guattari directly take<br />

up the topic of “the people” and relate it specifically to the arts. In a diary entry<br />

dated 25 December 1911, Kafka states that in the literature of a small group, such as<br />

that of the Czechs or Yiddish-speaking Jews, “literature is less a concern of literary<br />

history than of the people.” 6 Deleuze and Guattari argue that such is the case of all<br />

“minor literature,” and that one of Kafka’s chief goals as a minor writer is to foster<br />

the invention of a people. The collective consciousness of a minor people, in Kafka’s<br />

words, is “often unrealized in public life and always tending to disintegrate” (vol.<br />

1, p. 193), yet for that very reason literature has an “enunciative function” that is<br />

“collective, and even revolutionary” (K 31/17). And should the writer be “on the<br />

margins or outside of his fragile community, this situation gives him all the more<br />

opportunity to express another potential community, to forge the means for another<br />

consciousness and another sensibility” (K 31–2/17).<br />

In a minor literature, there is no speaking subject, only “collective assemblages<br />

of enunciation,” and a minor literature expresses these assemblages “as diabolic<br />

powers to come or as revolutionary forces to be constructed” (K 33/18). In the<br />

absence of a fully formed and functional community, the artist can only disclose<br />

the lines of potential collective development that are immanent within the present<br />

social field. In Kafka’s case, especially in The Trial, he presents the power relations<br />

of juridical, economic, political, religious and libidinal existence in the Austro-<br />

Hungarian empire, and then sets them in disequilibrium, warping them and mutating<br />

them in order to reveal the “diabolical powers to come” (those manifest later in<br />

5 Friedrich Nietzsche, Selected Letters of Friedrich Nietzsche, trans. Christopher<br />

Middleton (Chicago, IL, 1969), p. 347.<br />

6 Franz Kafka, The Diaries of Franz Kafka, ed. Max Brod, trans. Joseph Kresh (New<br />

York, 1948), vol. 1, p. 193.


Bergsonian Fabulation and the People to Come 99<br />

the bureaucratic regimes of Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany and capitalist America),<br />

while at the same time suggesting potential developmental lines for positive, fluid<br />

modes of social interaction. In Deleuze and Guattari’s analysis, Kafka, the lone<br />

artist, is not the speaking subject of The Trial, nor is the future community somehow<br />

the speaking subject; rather, “the actual [writer] and the virtual community – both<br />

of them real – are pieces of a collective assemblage” (K 150/84). The Trial is a<br />

machine, whose parts include the actual writer and the virtual community, and K in<br />

the novel is the function that brings these parts together. K is the<br />

… general functioning of a polyvocal assemblage of which the solitary individual is one<br />

part, the approaching collectivity another part, another cog – without our knowing yet<br />

what kind of assemblage it is: fascist? revolutionary? socialist? capitalist? or perhaps all at<br />

the same time, connected in the most repugnant or most diabolical fashion? [K 152/85] 7<br />

In A Thousand Plateaus (1980) Deleuze and Guattari reiterate their analysis of<br />

the problem facing the modern artist, noting that in the modern era “never has the<br />

artist had a greater need of the people, while declaring most firmly that the people<br />

is lacking – the people is what is most lacking [le peuple, c’est ce qui manque le<br />

plus]” (MP 427/346). Fabulation, however, only becomes a part of this analysis in<br />

Cinema 2: The Time-Image (1985), when Deleuze examines the “powers of the false<br />

[puissances du faux]” displayed in Pierre Perrault’s cinéma du vécu and in Jean<br />

Rouch’s cinéma vérité. Perrault and Rouch both produce what might be deemed<br />

documentary films, but they do so, not by providing an “objective” recording of<br />

an external reality, but by entering into a collaborative process of invention with<br />

their subjects. 8 In Pour la suite du monde (1963), for example, Perrault proposes<br />

that a group of Québecois islanders revive a long-abandoned communal practice of<br />

erecting a weir barrier in the St. Lawrence River to snare white dolphins, and then he<br />

films the fishermen in this enterprise. As the islanders plan and carry out their tasks,<br />

they share distant memories and ancestral lore of the hunt for the white dolphin,<br />

but they also begin to form a new community. And as they speak of the collective<br />

past, the camera captures them, in Perrault’s words, “in a state of legending,” “of<br />

legending in flagrante delicto [en flagrant délit de légender],” 9 that is, in the process<br />

of fashioning a new communal lore.<br />

This “legending” Deleuze labels “fabulation,” and he sees it as the practice of<br />

a minor people engaged in a process of self-invention. The Québécois islanders are<br />

marginalized within Anglophone Canadian society, but also within official French<br />

culture, as speakers of a non-standard dialect. Though himself Québécois, Perrault<br />

sees that he, like other well-educated Québécois, has been colonized by the images<br />

and discourse of the once-glorious French empire, for he has absorbed and been<br />

7 I discuss Deleuze and Guattari’s analysis of Kafka’s minor literature in greater detail<br />

in Chapters Three and Four of Deleuze on Literature (New York, 2003).<br />

8 For a discussion of Deleuze and Rouch’s films, see pp. 150–54 of my Deleuze on<br />

Cinema (New York, 2003).<br />

9 Pierre Perrault, “Cinéma du reel et cinema du fiction: vraie ou fausse distinction?<br />

Dialogue entre Pierre Perrault et René Allio,” in Ecritures de Pierre Perrault: Actes du<br />

colloque “gens de paroles” (Québec, 1983), p. 54.


100<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

shaped by the written forms, standard pronunciation, and orthodox values of “correct<br />

French.” As he observes:<br />

The famous Age of Enlightenment never spoke of the people of the 17th century. That<br />

century produced princely images. A princely imaginary. And a writing and a language<br />

were imposed on people who had a language and did not have writing … Each epoch<br />

produces royal images, images that normalize … My soul was conditioned by centuries<br />

of the French Academy. Through writing I became a stranger to my own surroundings.<br />

Superior. [p. 56]<br />

In Pour la suite du monde, he tries to give voice to the popular oral speech of the<br />

Québécois, and to make that speech an integral part of the project of collective selfinvention<br />

which he initiates through the film. In Deleuze’s analysis, Perrault’s effort<br />

is to counter the orthodoxies of Anglophone and high French culture whose truth<br />

“is always that of the masters or the colonizers” through “the fabulative function of<br />

the poor” (IT 196/150). In Perrault’s film, we see “the becoming of the real person<br />

as he sets himself to ‘fictioning,’ when he begins ‘legending in flagrante delicto,’<br />

and thus contributes to the invention of his people.” The real Québécois fisherman<br />

“himself becomes an other, when he sets himself to fabulating without being fictive”<br />

(IT 196/150).<br />

Fabulation challenges the received truths of the dominant social order, and in<br />

this regard it “falsifies,” but it also produces its own truths through its inventions,<br />

and in this sense it manifests the creative “power of the false.” In Perrault’s cinema,<br />

the falsifying power of fabulation is set in motion through a collaborative process<br />

involving the director and his subjects. Perrault insists that by himself he cannot<br />

escape his literate, classical French mentality. When one of his well-educated<br />

interview interlocutors suggests that in Perrault’s films “the peasant that you are<br />

[le paysan que tu es] could always speak,” Perrault counters, “No, because I have<br />

been colonized by the peasant that you are not [le paysan que vous n’êtes pas], by<br />

Le Nôtre [the seventeenth-century architect of the formal gardens of Versailles].<br />

I have learned to read by reading in the books that obeyed the geometry of Le<br />

Nôtre in order to be elected to the Academy of Richelieu” 10 (Perrault 56). He needs<br />

the Québécois islanders to serve as intercessors, for they still have contact with a<br />

living oral tradition. Yet the islanders also have need of Perrault as the initiator of<br />

a communal task that revives group memory and instigates the invention of a new<br />

collectivity: “I do not want to help give birth yet again to myths, but to allow people<br />

to give birth to themselves, to avoid myths, to escape customs, to elude Writings. I<br />

would like people to write themselves while liberating themselves from Writings”<br />

(p. 56). Perrault and the islanders are mutual intercessors, together engaged in the<br />

falsification of received truths and the “legending” of a people to come: “Thus it is<br />

that I am interceded by Alexis, and Grand-Louis and Léopold and Joachim and all of<br />

the Ile-aux-Coudres [the island community of Pour la suite du monde] and little by<br />

little by all of Québec. So that I might know what I am outside writing” (p. 56).<br />

Perrault’s relationship to his subjects might seem peculiar to his own cinematic<br />

undertakings, but Deleuze sees his films simply as particularly clear manifestations<br />

10 Ibid., p. 56.


Bergsonian Fabulation and the People to Come 101<br />

of the artist’s proper relationship to the people in all genuine creation. As in The<br />

Trial, the actual artist and the virtual community are parts of a single machine,<br />

and the work of art is the generative conjunction of those forces in their mutual<br />

intercession. Fabulation is the name for the process whereby the artwork initiates the<br />

invention of a people to come, and in the case of Perrault’s films, the lived speech of<br />

the Québécois engaged in “legending” is central to the fabulative process.<br />

Fabulation and Narration<br />

Fabulation, then, is closely associated with fiction, invention and the “power of the<br />

false.” But at a certain point, one must ask, what has fabulation to do with narration?<br />

Fabulation, after all, comes from the Latin fabula, which may be rendered as “talk,”<br />

“conversation,” or “small talk,” but also as “story,” “tale,” “myth,” or “legend.” In<br />

this regard, fabula resembles its Greek counterpart, mythos, which may be translated<br />

as “word,” “speech,” “story,” or “legend.” And the French fable, besides denoting the<br />

literary form of the fable, has as one of its older meanings that of “story,” “fiction,”<br />

“legend,” while La Fable, according to the Robert dictionary, may refer to “the set<br />

of mythological stories as a whole.” Surely, it would seem, fabulation must have<br />

something to do with the creation of fabulae, just as “legending” must bear some<br />

relation to the enunciation of legends.<br />

Curiously, Deleuze says little about narration per se in his remarks on fabulation,<br />

and in this he is a dutiful follower of Bergson. Bergson regards the mythologies of<br />

the world’s religions as products of fabulation, but he says very little about myths<br />

themselves. His accounts of the fabulative function’s basic operation focus on the<br />

invention of the personae of myths and legends – supernatural forces, local spirits,<br />

and fully-formed gods – but he virtually ignores the actions and interactions of<br />

these eternal beings once their origins have been explained, as if the stories of the<br />

gods were merely secondary and insignificant elaborations of their fundamental<br />

being. Such an emphasis seems odd, when one considers that Bergson is above all<br />

a philosopher of time, and narrative takes as its subject the irreducibly temporal<br />

dimension of experience. Bergson’s central concern, however, is not with myth itself<br />

but with religion as a force that shapes closed societies. The stories of the gods are<br />

merely complex means whereby basic social obligations may be enforced, and hence<br />

they are of little significance in themselves.<br />

Yet there also seems to be an anti-narrative bias in Bergson, one that surfaces in<br />

his occasional references to the arts. The art that Bergson appears to appreciate most is<br />

music, and though he speaks well of writers upon occasion, his highest accolades are<br />

reserved for composers. When he first introduces the notion of “supra-intellectual,”<br />

creative emotion in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, he comments:<br />

[W]hat is more systematic, more conceptually elaborate, than a Beethoven symphony? But<br />

throughout his long labor of arrangement, rearrangement and choice of material, which<br />

he was pursuing on the intellectual plane, the composer was ascending back to a point<br />

situated outside the plane, there to seek acceptance or refusal, direction, inspiration: in this<br />

point resided an indivisible emotion that no doubt aided intelligence in unfolding itself in<br />

music, but which was itself more than music and more than intelligence. [p. 1190/252]


102<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

Bergson does attribute a similar creative process to the writer, yet he seems to regard<br />

the efforts of genuinely creative writers as in some regards antithetical to their<br />

medium, for narrative has a natural affinity with fabulation and closed societies.<br />

Indeed, language itself bears such an affinity, since “the soul of society is immanent<br />

in the language it speaks” (p. 987/15), and the social obligations of closed societies,<br />

which are everywhere the first forms of human society, permeate the languages of<br />

the world.<br />

As Deleuze astutely remarks in Bergsonism:<br />

[A]rt, according to Bergson, itself has two sources. There is a fabulative art [un art<br />

fabulateur], sometimes collective, sometimes individual … And there is an emotive or<br />

creative art … Perhaps every art presents these two aspects, but in variable proportion.<br />

Bergson does not hide the fact that the fabulation aspect seems to him to be inferior in art;<br />

the novel would above all be fabulation, music, on the contrary, emotion and creation. [B<br />

117/134–5]<br />

If narrative is a temporal art, so too is music, and music has the advantage of being<br />

a directly emotive art, beyond words and all the restrictive habits, conventions,<br />

assumptions and prejudices that haunt natural languages. Perhaps, then, Bergson’s<br />

inattention to narrative simply reflects his low regard for fabulation in general and<br />

his sense of genuine art as an essentially supra-linguistic enterprise.<br />

A similar disregard for narrative can be found in Deleuze as well, despite the<br />

fact that he wrote three books on novelists. True, in Proust and Signs (1964),<br />

Deleuze does make reference to various episodes in the plot of the Recherche, but<br />

the story Deleuze unfolds in Proust is that of Marcel’s apprenticeship in signs, which<br />

eventuates in a philosophical understanding of essences that transcends the sequence<br />

of events leading to that understanding. Marcel’s final discovery of “time regained”<br />

sets him free from chronological time, which is the time of conventional narrative,<br />

and Deleuze’s interest is in the emergence of that redeemed time and the atemporal<br />

vision it afford of the world. In Présentation de Sacher-Masoch (1967), Deleuze’s<br />

extended preface to Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, Deleuze argues that Sacher-<br />

Masoch’s fantasies are essentially static and that his fiction consists of a sequence<br />

of frozen tableaus. Again, as in his analysis of Proust, Deleuze makes reference to<br />

diverse plot details in Sacher-Masoch, but he pays little attention to the narratives<br />

of the novels themselves, regarding them as mere devices for linking timeless<br />

masochistic tableaus (see Chapter 7). In Kafka, finally, he and Guattari discuss a<br />

number of Kafka’s short stories, but primarily as illustrations of concepts, such as the<br />

“schizo-incest” revealed in “The Metamorphosis,” or the “becoming-animal” evident<br />

in “Report to an Academy.” Deleuze and Guattari see Kafka’s unfinished novels as<br />

the fulfillment of his project, the novels’ supposedly defective plots actually being<br />

central aspects of their functioning as open-ended, perpetually moving machines.<br />

Perhaps most telling in this regard is Deleuze and Guattari’s argument that The Trial<br />

does not really have an ending – that the execution of K is actually a dream sequence,<br />

and that the novel has a loose, paratactic structure that allows an endless wandering<br />

from episode to episode. Once again, narrative itself seems a minor consideration.<br />

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, an opposition to traditional narrative<br />

recurs as an important theme in Deleuze’s work. In Francis Bacon: The Logic of


Bergsonian Fabulation and the People to Come 103<br />

Sensation (1981), Deleuze seizes on Bacon’s disdain for narrative “illustration”<br />

in painting, arguing that Bacon’s fundamental object is to free images from their<br />

conventional associations with their attendant stories and make visible “the brutality<br />

of fact” (see FB 9–10/6–7). In his two-volume study of cinema, Deleuze challenges<br />

narrative-based theories of film, giving priority instead to different conceptions of<br />

time. Film directors in his view are not master story-tellers so much as they are<br />

sculptors of time-space. Narratives are the secondary products of structures of<br />

time, the conventional narratives of classic film emerging from movement-images<br />

regulated by the sensory-motor schema, the fragmented and confusing narratives<br />

of modern film serving as indexes of non-chronological time that has been freed<br />

of the sensory-motor schema’s regulation (see especially IT 38–40/25–7). And in<br />

his 1992 study of Beckett’s television plays, “The Exhausted,” Deleuze shows how<br />

Beckett grows impatient with words and attempts to silence his characters’ voices<br />

and their interminable stories. Beckett’s effort, explains Deleuze, is to bore holes in<br />

words and extract a non-linguistic “something” beneath or between the words, and<br />

his problem “is not that words are liars; rather, they are so laden with calculations<br />

and significations, and also with intentions and personal memories, with old habits<br />

that cement them together, that scarcely has their surface been broached when it<br />

closes over again” (E 103/CC 173). Each of Beckett’s characters reveals a “possible<br />

world,” an “Other,” and “the Others – that is, the possible worlds, with their objects,<br />

with their voices that bestow on them the only reality to which they can lay claim<br />

– constitute ‘stories’” (E 67/CC 157), and it is the incessant babble of such stories<br />

that Beckett tries to bring to an end in his television plays. 11<br />

In Deleuze’s analysis, Beckett’s goal is to produce “pure images,” images stripped<br />

of all of their associations with human intentions, calculations, intentions, memories<br />

and stories, and it is the visual image finally that Deleuze himself privileges in<br />

his approach to the arts and his conceptualization of fabulation. In the late essay<br />

“Literature and Life” (in Critique et clinique, 1993), Deleuze states that literature<br />

always engages “becomings” and “powers [puissances],” metamorphic processes<br />

of becoming-other, and that such becomings and powers have nothing to do with<br />

the authors’ or the characters’ personal emotions, memories, dreams, or fantasies.<br />

Literary characters may be individuated, “but all their individual traits elevate them<br />

to a vision that carries them into an indefinite, like a becoming too powerful for<br />

them: Ahab and the vision of Moby Dick.” There is no literature without fabulation,<br />

Deleuze adds, “but, as Bergson saw, fabulation, the fabulative function, consists<br />

neither in imagining nor projecting a self [un moi]. Rather, it attains to these visions,<br />

it rises to these becomings and powers” (CC 13/3).<br />

In another late essay, devoted to T.E. Lawrence, Deleuze remarks on the reputed<br />

“mythomania” of Lawrence of Arabia in his portrayal of himself and his band of<br />

Arab guerillas, arguing that Lawrence’s effort is not to aggrandize himself and his<br />

comrades but “to project into things, into reality, into the future and even into the<br />

sky, an image of himself and of others intense enough that it lives its own life … It<br />

11 For more on Beckett’s television plays and his attitude toward language, see my<br />

Deleuze on Literature, pp. 176–86, and Deleuze’s Wake: Tributes and Tributaries (Albany,<br />

NY, 2004), pp. 127–42.


104<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

is a machine for fabricating giants, what Bergson called a fabulative function” (CC<br />

147/118). In a note to this passage, Deleuze refers the reader to Genet’s analysis in<br />

Prisoner of Love (1986) of the Palestinian fighters’ heroic postures and poses, which<br />

Genet regards as efforts to create an image of oneself that is separate from the self<br />

and that one projects into the future. Mythomania, says Genet, is merely the name<br />

for an unsuccessfully projected image, which should “live its own life” and allow<br />

the individual “to become legendary [fabuleux],” “to become an eponymous hero,<br />

projected into the world.” 12<br />

Deleuze here is clearly taking up Bergson’s association of fabulation with<br />

hallucination. Bergson, we recall, says that a fiction, “if its image is vivid and<br />

haunting [obsédante], may precisely imitate perception, and thereby prevent or<br />

modify action” (p. 1067/109). Fabulation for Bergson has the power of forcing<br />

its images on reality and countering the operations of reason and intelligence, but<br />

only in the service of a restrictive morality and a closed society. For Deleuze, the<br />

fabulative function is the function proper to art, which projects into the world images<br />

so intense that they take on a life of their own. For this reason Deleuze describes<br />

great cinema directors as “voyants,” “seers,” “clairvoyants” (DRF 200/217). For the<br />

same reason he says that one of literature’s chief ends is to push language “toward an<br />

outside or a reverse side consisting of Visions and Auditions” (CC 16/5), “Visions”<br />

and “Auditions” here denoting hallucinatory images and sounds that haunt language<br />

and manage somehow to force themselves onto the world.<br />

Fabulation, then, is a hallucinatory power that creates “visions and auditions,”<br />

“becomings,” “powers,” “giants.” If it is a myth-making power, it is one that creates<br />

a mythology not of stories but of images – images of the becoming-other of the<br />

collectivity as it fashions itself by falsifying received truths and fabricating new<br />

ones. And if there is a relationship between Deleuzian fabulation and narration, it<br />

is that of the disruption of conventional narratives and the disclosure of the time of<br />

the event.<br />

In a brief reflection on May 1968, co-written with Guattari in 1984, Deleuze<br />

observes that in every social revolution “there is always something of the event,<br />

irreducible to social determinisms, to causal series.” Historians study causal relations,<br />

“but the event is out of sync or in rupture with causalities: it is a bifurcation, a<br />

deviation in relation to laws, an unstable state that opens a new field of possibilities.”<br />

May 1968 was such an event, and most importantly, “it was a phenomenon of<br />

voyance [‘seeing,’ ‘clairvoyance’], as if a society suddenly saw what was intolerable<br />

and also saw the possibility of something else” (DRF 215–16/234). The time of the<br />

event is, in Nietzsche’s terminology, “untimely – that is to say, acting counter to<br />

our time and thereby acting on our time and, let us hope, for the benefit of a time to<br />

come.” 13 It is a time set free from the narrative causality of history and undetermined<br />

in its relation to the future.<br />

This association of seeing, the intolerable, and the disruptive event is especially<br />

evident in Deleuze’s reading of Foucault. In a 1986 interview, while reflecting on<br />

12 Jean Genet, Un captif amoureux (Paris, 1986), p. 354 (translation mine).<br />

13 Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, ed. Daniel Breazeale, trans. R.J.<br />

Hollingdale (Cambridge, 1997), p. 60.


Bergsonian Fabulation and the People to Come 105<br />

the thought of his recently deceased friend, Deleuze comments that Foucault “was<br />

an extraordinary seer/clairvoyant [voyant],” with “a power of seeing equal to his<br />

power of writing.” Deleuze explains that when one sees something “and sees it<br />

very profoundly, what one sees is intolerable.” Part of Foucault’s genius was his<br />

ability to see the intolerable, and in his works we discover “thought as vision, as the<br />

seizure of the intolerable” (DRF 256–7/274–5). In a 1988 interview, Deleuze notes<br />

further that Foucault was a writer of histories, but above all a philosopher who “used<br />

history for something else: as Nietzsche said, to act against the times, and hence<br />

on time, in favor, I hope, of a time to come” (DRF 323/346). Foucault’s attempt<br />

was to make possible something new, and to do so by separating us from the causal<br />

determinations of the past. “The new,” says Deleuze, “is the actual [l’actuel bearing<br />

both the meaning of ‘that which is real’ and ‘that which is contemporary, of the<br />

present moment’]. The actual is not what we are, but what we are becoming, what we<br />

are in the process of becoming, that is, the Other, our becoming.” In any situation, it<br />

is essential to distinguish “what we are (what we no longer are), and what we are in<br />

the process of becoming: the part of history, and the part of the actual. History is the<br />

archive, the design of that which we are and are ceasing to be, whereas the actual is<br />

the rough sketch of what we are becoming” (DRF 322–3/345).<br />

To see deeply is to see the intolerable, that is, to engage in a critique of the<br />

received truths and realities of the present. A moment of hallucinatory, clairvoyant<br />

vision is one in which the intolerable becomes suddenly visible, but one also that<br />

makes visible new possibilities unencumbered by the past. The hold of history, of the<br />

forces that have shaped our present, is broken, and the actual of what we are becoming<br />

surges forth. History, story, narrative continuity, yield to the event, a disruption<br />

in causality, a gap in the orderly and regular sequence of world occurrences. The<br />

event is like James’s earthquake, or the woman’s vertiginous moment at the brink<br />

of the elevator shaft, a breach in ordinary experience that instigates unexpected,<br />

hallucinatory images. Fabulation, we might say, is one with the event, fabulation’s<br />

visions emerging within the event, and those visions themselves constituting<br />

events. Fabulation creates visions that falsify received truths by rendering visible<br />

the intolerable, thereby critiquing the present, while those same visions loom like<br />

giant mythic figures of yet to be explored possibilities. The visions of fabulation<br />

break historical continuities and disrupt conventional narratives. They are untimely<br />

visions, becomings and powers that are dynamic but unspecified in their narrative<br />

possibilities, and hence temporal forces that may generate stories, but not themselves<br />

properly narrative elements.<br />

The Two Sources of Fabulation<br />

Bergson’s fabulation has its source in the virtual instinct that creates moral obligation<br />

and enforces the cohesion of a closed society. Intelligence naturally and inevitably<br />

tends to dissolve social bonds, as it pursues self-centered lines of reasoning, while<br />

engendering individual despair, as it deduces the facts of the individual’s mortality<br />

and limited powers. Fabulation is a function of the intelligence that counters these<br />

tendencies by creating images that imitate perception and stimulate action, those


106<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

images assuming the form of the various forces, spirits and gods that populate<br />

the mythologies and sacred writings of the world’s religions. The spontaneous<br />

fashioning of such hallucinatory images is revealed in moments of disorientation<br />

or sudden danger, such as James’s earthquake or the woman’s near-mishap with the<br />

elevator shaft. But the jolt that stimulates fabulation differs from the leap forward<br />

that accompanies genuine invention, for the fabulative function is qualitatively<br />

distinct from the creative function that inspires every advance into the new, whether<br />

that advance be in the arts, the sciences, politics, or religion. The creative emotion<br />

from which the new issues forth is a manifestation of nature’s élan vital, which is<br />

simply the name for the natural world’s dynamic, open-ended process of inventive<br />

becoming. The qualitative break evident in human creativity’s leap forward is but<br />

a specialized instance of the general cosmic discontinuity that accompanies any<br />

genuine advance into the new.<br />

Deleuze’s fabulation has its source in the event, which is both a disorienting shock<br />

and a leap toward the future. His fabulation resembles Bergson’s creative emotion<br />

in its internally generative unfolding of new possibilities, but it shares Bergsonian<br />

fabulation’s characteristics of giving rise to hallucinatory images that short-circuit<br />

the operations of common sense. Bergsonian fabulation has the political function<br />

of perpetuating a closed, static society, whereas Deleuzian fabulation promotes the<br />

invention of a people and the formation of new modes of social interaction. Deleuzian<br />

fabulation thus fulfills a function that is part of the general politics articulated in<br />

Anti-Oedipus, a politics in which the desiring subject hallucinates history, and the<br />

subject’s desiring-production in its positive function contributes to the formation<br />

of a group-subject, a self-determining, fluid and open collectivity. Fabulation is<br />

also central to the function of art outlined in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, the<br />

artist’s desiring-production conjoining the actual artist and the virtual community<br />

in a collective assemblage of enunciation that aims at the invention of a people to<br />

come. Fabulation engages the powers of the false, falsifying received truths and<br />

fashioning new truths by “legending.” The artist and the emergent community<br />

serve as mutual intercessors, each aiding the other in a process of metamorphic<br />

departure from received categories and simultaneous approach toward only partially<br />

specified possibilities. Fabulation’s political dimension is explicit in images such as<br />

those Lawrence offers of himself and his guerilla band, but the political aspect of<br />

art is present in every projected image that takes on a life of its own. The goal of<br />

fabulation is to break the continuities of received stories and deterministic histories,<br />

and at the same time to fashion images that are free of the entangling associations of<br />

conventional narratives and open to unspecified elaboration in the construction of a<br />

new mode of collective agency.<br />

“Utopia is not a good concept” (PP 235/174), says Deleuze, for it is too fixed,<br />

too programmatic. Better is the notion of “a ‘fabulation’ common to the people and<br />

to art” (PP 235/174). It is in developing this concept that Deleuze may be said to<br />

“take up again the Bergsonian notion of fabulation and give it a political sense” (PP<br />

235/174).


Chapter 7<br />

Re-Viewing Deleuze’s Sacher-Masoch<br />

In his last book, Critique et clinique, published two years before his death in 1995,<br />

Deleuze seemed at long last to have fulfilled the promise he had made many years<br />

earlier of writing a book on literature, one that would pursue the relationship between<br />

critique in its literary sense and clinique in its medical sense. 1 His object, he had<br />

indicated, would be to examine symptomatology as the area common to the literary<br />

and medical enterprises, the writer serving as a symptomatologist of civilization, the<br />

physician as the artist-analyst disassembling syndromes (or erroneous concatenations<br />

of symptoms) and reassembling them in veridical associations. 2 By 1993, the medical<br />

component of the project seemed to have gone by the wayside, for when he initially<br />

conceived of the project in 1967, Deleuze was intensely interested in the medical<br />

areas of psychiatry and psychoanalysis, but after Anti-Oedipus in 1972, he largely<br />

abandoned those areas of investigation. Instead, he concentrated simply on the<br />

notions of the artist as healer and literature as a means of promoting life and health.<br />

It appears that Deleuze conceived of the 1993 Critique et clinique both as a<br />

formulation of his mature theory of literature and as an overview of his previous<br />

literary analyses, for in addition to the studies of Melville, Whitman, D.H. Lawrence<br />

and T.E. Lawrence, authors with whom he had not previously dealt in detail, the<br />

volume includes a brief analysis of Lewis Carroll, whom Deleuze had discussed at<br />

length in The Logic of Sense (1969), and a short essay on Leopold Sacher-Masoch,<br />

the subject of Deleuze’s 1967 book Présentation de Sacher-Masoch. Unfortunately,<br />

Deleuze was in poor health during the last decade of his life, and it appears that he<br />

did not have the physical strength to complete the design of the book as he might<br />

have intended. Several of the essays in the collection are revised versions of studies<br />

published earlier, and some of them – the essays on Kant, Spinoza, Nietzsche and<br />

Plato, for example – are literary only in a very broad sense, suggesting that the<br />

planned systematic analysis of literature had to give way to a more casually assembled<br />

collection of essays. A number of the selections are quite short – the essay on Carroll<br />

1 In a 1988 interview, when asked about his views on literature, Deleuze responded, “I<br />

have dreamed of a group of studies under the general title ‘Critique et clinique’” (PP 195/142).<br />

The idea for such a book, however, seems to date at least to 1967, when in an interview<br />

Deleuze mentions several writers in the context of critique and clinique and remarks, “What<br />

I would like to study (and that book [Présentation de Sacher-Masoch] would be only a first<br />

example) is an articulable relation between literature and clinical psychiatry” (ID 184/133).<br />

2 “Masoch is a great symptomatologist. In Proust, it is not memory he is exploring,<br />

but all sorts of signs, whose nature must be discovered according to their milieus, mode of<br />

emission, matter, regime. The Recherche is a general semiology, a symptomatology of worlds.<br />

The work of Kafka is the diagnostic of all the diabolical powers that await us. Nietzsche said<br />

it best, the artist and the philosopher are the physicians of civilization” (PP 195/142–3).


108<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

is only two pages long, the study of Sacher-Masoch, titled “Re-presentation of<br />

Sacher-Masoch,” runs about three pages – which in my view indicates not so much a<br />

sudden proclivity for aphoristic expression in Deleuze as a limited supply of physical<br />

energy that had to be carefully marshaled and selectively applied. Yet in Critique et<br />

clinique there are hints of the book Deleuze might have wanted to write, and they<br />

show up in an intriguing way in his essay on Sacher-Masoch.<br />

In the collection’s opening essay, “Literature and Life,” Deleuze formulates a<br />

conception of literature that brings together ideas that had occupied him at various<br />

points during his career. Literature is a mode of non-organic life that promotes a<br />

kind of incorporeal health, he argues, and it has four basic components: becomings,<br />

stutterings, the invention of peoples, and the creation of visions and auditions. The<br />

notion of literature as health one finds as early as Deleuze’s 1962 study of Nietzsche;<br />

the concept of stuttering in one’s own language is evident in his 1964 book on Proust;<br />

becomings and the invention of peoples are motifs associated with the concept of<br />

“minor literature,” which Deleuze and Guattari developed in Kafka (1975) and A<br />

Thousand Plateaus (1980); and the idea of visions and auditions seems to have been<br />

one of the last notions Deleuze was working on before his death.<br />

Deleuze’s “Re-presentation of Sacher-Masoch” basically provides a selective<br />

rereading of his earlier book on Sacher-Masoch in terms of the four components<br />

outlined in “Literature and Life.” After cautioning that Sacher-Masoch is not a<br />

neurotic but a symptomatologist of civilization’s ills, and noting that Sacher-<br />

Masoch’s diagnosis is focused on the concept of “waiting or suspense as plenitude”<br />

(CC 71/53–4), Deleuze comments that Sacher-Masoch’s fascination with fur and the<br />

figure of the suffering animal – horse, bull and bear, most often – is part of a general<br />

becoming-animal that permeates his work. This motif, only recognized in passing<br />

in his 1967 book, is now treated as a central feature of Sacher-Masoch’s fiction, part<br />

of a general process of becoming-other, or undoing social codes and practices, that<br />

Deleuze sees as a chief goal of literature as health. Deleuze then emphasizes the<br />

historical dimension of Sacher-Masoch’s novels and tales, especially the portrayal of<br />

the lives of minorities of the Austro-Hungarian empire – Gypsies, Jews and various<br />

Slavic groups – and what was only a virtual footnote in 1967 is now taken to be a<br />

major feature of Sacher-Masoch’s project, an effort to engage the struggles of minor<br />

peoples and thereby invent a future “people to come,” a revolutionary collectivity<br />

capable of opening up new possibilities for life. Sacher-Masoch’s style, only alluded<br />

to in a few very general remarks in 1967, is in 1993 stressed as one of the key elements<br />

of his fiction. Sacher-Masoch invents a means of stuttering in his own language,<br />

says Deleuze, a way of making German stammer and hesitate, “as if language were<br />

becoming animal” (CC 73/55). Finally, Deleuze asserts that in Sacher-Masoch’s<br />

stylistic inventions “it is language as a whole that is carried to its limit: music or<br />

silence” (CC 74/55) – a clear invocation of the notion of “auditions,” which Deleuze<br />

pairs with “visions” as the elements that constitute the limit of language. That limit,<br />

Deleuze says in the introduction to Critique et clinique, “is not outside language, it<br />

is language’s outside: the limit is made of non-linguistic visions and auditions, but<br />

which language alone makes possible” (CC 9/lv).<br />

It is curious that Deleuze alludes only to auditions in “Re-presentation of Sacher-<br />

Masoch,” given the stress Deleuze elsewhere places on visions when developing this


Re-Viewing Deleuze’s Sacher-Masoch 109<br />

obscure concept of “visions and auditions.” There is “a painting and a music proper<br />

to writing,” Deleuze comments, “as effects of colors and sonorities that rise above<br />

the words. It is across the words, between the words, that one sees and that one hears<br />

… Of each writer one must say: here’s a seer, a hearer, ‘ill seen ill said,’ a colorist, a<br />

musician” (CC 9/lv). Yet, though the writer may be both a colorist and a musician at<br />

the moment that language is pushed to its limit, in Critique et clinique when Deleuze<br />

offers specific examples of such effects in words, invariably they are visual rather<br />

than sonic, as in his brilliant essay on T.E. Lawrence (CC 144–57/115–25). In the<br />

case of Sacher-Masoch, it would have been quite simple for Deleuze to have cited<br />

instances of visions at the limit of language, for they abound in the Sacher-Masoch<br />

Deleuze presents in his 1967 book. Indeed, of all of the features of literature stressed<br />

in Critique et clinique, this alone is pervasive in Deleuze’s earlier study, albeit in a<br />

form that is not explicitly articulated as such.<br />

Deleuze’s goal in Présentation de Sacher-Masoch is to dissolve the false<br />

syndrome of sadomasochism and argue that Sade and Sacher-Masoch are each<br />

symptomatologists disclosing a separate “universe” (SM 11/13), a separate “world”<br />

or “Umwelt” (SM 37/37). Sade seeks a rational delirium of pure negation. Following<br />

Kossowski’s analysis, Deleuze distinguishes two natures in Sade: a secondary nature<br />

of destruction and creation, in which birth, metamorphosis and death are confusedly<br />

mixed together; and a primary nature of pure negation, an “original delirium, a<br />

primordial chaos made solely of furious and lacerating molecules” (SM 25/25). 3<br />

That primary nature is never given in reality; it is an Idea, delirious to be sure, but “a<br />

delirium proper to reason” (SM 25/25). Sade’s goal is to create a world of primary<br />

nature, in which a cruel order is imposed with the implacable rationality of a violent<br />

logical demonstration. The mother as procreator is associated with secondary nature,<br />

the father with primary nature – hence the central phantasy of the “father, destroyer<br />

of his own family, impelling the daughter to torture and murder the mother” (SM 52–<br />

3/52). Sacher-Masoch, by contrast, seeks an imaginary disavowal of reality. Deleuze<br />

finds two natures in Sacher-Masoch as well, but incommensurable with those in<br />

Sade. Sacher-Masoch’s secondary nature is a cruel, sensual world of perpetual war<br />

between the sexes, represented by the female figures of the ritual prostitute and the<br />

sadistic torturer. His primary nature is revealed in the figure of the oral mother, who<br />

is “cold, maternal, severe” (SML 45/45). Sacher-Masoch’s dream is of a nature free<br />

of the heat of sensuality, filled with a cool, suprasensual sentimentality and a strict,<br />

cathartic order that purifies and makes possible the miraculous parthenogenesis of a<br />

new man. If the father dominates in Sade, the mother rules in Sacher-Masoch. In the<br />

masochistic phantasy, it is the image of the father that the mother beats, humiliates<br />

and destroys when she disciplines the son, thereby enabling a reconciliation of man<br />

and woman in the triumphant moment when the son is reborn as a transformed being<br />

and united with the mother. Unlike Sadean apathy, which proceeds from a delirious<br />

rational negation, Sacher-Masoch’s coldness reflects the imagination’s disavowal of<br />

reality – a simultaneous denial and acceptance of the real, an imaginary “suspension”<br />

3 Klossowski’s primary text on Sade, and Deleuze’s source for this analysis, is Sade,<br />

mon prochain (Paris, 1947).


110<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

of the disorderly violence of secondary nature that neutralizes the real and allows the<br />

unfolding of a new, ideal world of primary nature. 4<br />

The sadist and the masochist stage and perform their own dramas, each “sufficient<br />

and complete drama, with different characters, with nothing that can make them<br />

communicate with one another, neither from the inside nor from the outside” (SM<br />

40/40). What is striking, however, is how little drama there is in these perversions,<br />

how little action in these theaters. Deleuze contrasts Sadean movement and Masochian<br />

stasis, arguing that in Sade sensuality is movement and the staging of sensuality entails<br />

“a quantitative process of accumulation and acceleration,” a “reiteration of scenes,<br />

multiplication in each scene, precipitation, overdetermination (at once, ‘I committed<br />

parricide, I committed incest, I killed, I prostituted, I sodomized’)” (SM 62/62).<br />

By contrast, in Sacher-Masoch sensuality is suspended and phantasy scenes tend to<br />

resemble frozen tableaus, paintings, groupings of statues, photographs. Yet even in<br />

Sade, the scenes of desire incorporate only a minimal development or change. They<br />

consist of simple actions – I killed, I prostituted, I sodomized – each of which might<br />

be represented in a single film clip, or even a paradigmatic photograph, the Sadean<br />

movement consisting of an insistent repetition of these micro-units of perversion.<br />

The erasure of dramatic action, or genuine development and transformation, is even<br />

more evident in Sacher-Masoch. In masochism, the real is disavowed, “suspended”<br />

in every way. Not only are individuals literally hanged, crucified, trussed and tied,<br />

but they are also subjected to a complex time of suspense and waiting, in which two<br />

temporal streams coexist, one promising an awaited pleasure, the other holding forth<br />

an expected punishment, both maintained in a perpetual state of suspension. The<br />

female objects of desire are likened to marble statues, the scenes of punishment to<br />

paintings. Everywhere there is an assimilation of the vibrant human world within the<br />

cold, still world of the plastic arts.<br />

To be sure, a certain amount of action persists in Sacher-Masoch’s world, but like<br />

that of Sade’s, it is minimal. Here is what Deleuze says would be the ideal masochistic<br />

phantasy: “a woman in shorts is on a stationary bicycle, pedaling vigorously; the<br />

subject is lying down under the bicycle, almost brushed by the vertiginous pedals,<br />

his palms pressed to her calves. All the determinations are united here, from the<br />

fetishism of the calf to the double waiting incarnated by the movement of the pedals<br />

and the immobility of the bicycle” (SM 64/63). What we have is a scene of perpetual<br />

movement, but one that goes nowhere, a staging of a situation rather than an unfolding<br />

of actions that result from decisions, consequences, counteractions, external events,<br />

and so on. Deleuze argues that the contract is central to masochism, and in this<br />

element, too, stasis is emphasized. The contract drawn up between the masochist and<br />

his dominatrix specifies a fixed relationship, a set of unchanging roles and rules for<br />

4 Jean Laplanche and Jean-Baptiste Pontalis, The Language of Psycho-Analysis, trans.<br />

Donald Nicholson-Smith (New York, 1973), define disavowal as “a mode of defence which<br />

consists in the subject’s refusing to recognize the reality of a traumatic perception – most<br />

especially the perception of the absence of the woman’s penis” (p. 118). They also note that<br />

in Freud’s study of fetishism, Freud “shows how the fetishist perpetuates an infantile attitude<br />

by holding two incompatible positions at the same time: he simultaneously disavows and<br />

acknowledges the fact of feminine castration” (p. 119).


Re-Viewing Deleuze’s Sacher-Masoch 111<br />

the execution of action-units that are to be staged repeatedly and without essential<br />

variation. Deleuze points out that Sacher-Masoch has a predilection for ritual as<br />

well as drama, and that in the staging of rites in his fiction there is a passage from<br />

the individual contractual relationship of phantasy to the collective dimension of<br />

myth. And here, too, stasis prevails. In Sacher-Masoch we find various “hunting<br />

rites, agricultural rites, rites of regeneration, of second birth” (SM 82/81), but they<br />

all tend to culminate in tableaus, as at the end of Venus in Furs, when Wanda has<br />

the narrator yoked to a cart and whipped by her black female attendants as she, in<br />

Sacher-Masoch’s words, “contemplates the scene” (cited in SM 83/82).<br />

Deleuze concludes his book on Sacher-Masoch by remarking that “masochism<br />

is a story [une histoire]” (SM 111/112), and that sadism “is itself also a story,”<br />

but “precisely, it’s an entirely different story [c’est une tout autre histoire]” (SM<br />

112/113). Yet in neither case is it much of a story. The sadist’s fundamental phantasy<br />

is that of the father forcing his daughter to murder the mother. The masochist’s is that<br />

of the mother ritually destroying the father by beating the son, with the result that<br />

the son is transformed and made a new, suprasensual man at one with the mother.<br />

In both cases, the action may be reduced to a single scene. Deleuze sees a kind<br />

of dialectic at work in Sacher-Masoch, a mythic process whereby the antithetical<br />

figures of the ritual prostitute and sadistic dominatrix are sublimated within the<br />

figure of the oral mother, yet the stress in this dialectic is not on any developmental<br />

movement from one pole to its antithesis and beyond to a synthesis, but instead on<br />

a single, momentary Aufhebung in which the oral mother transforms the son. The<br />

three female figures constitute “a symbolic order” in which the father is suppressed<br />

“for all time,” says Deleuze, and the masochist needs myth “to express this eternity<br />

of time: everything is already acted out, everything takes place between the images<br />

of the mother” (SM 56/55). The time of myth, in short, is a relatively timeless time,<br />

an already acted out event ever re-enacted anew. And ultimately, the time of myth is<br />

one with the time of phantasy, which Deleuze views as masochism’s central object.<br />

Freudian psychoanalysts define the phantasy as an “imaginary scene in which the<br />

subject is a protagonist,” 5 and Freud’s paradigmatic phantasy scene, “a child is being<br />

beaten,” is like the phantasy scenes of Sade and Sacher-Masoch, a truncated action<br />

that may be reduced to a virtually frozen tableau. Thus, when Deleuze remarks that<br />

the masochist’s mythic rite “represents the element in which reality is rendered<br />

phantasmatic” (SM 82/81), he is pointing out that Sacher-Masoch’s assimilation of<br />

personal contractual scenes of desire within collective mythic rites is a means of<br />

extending the relatively static time of phantasy from an individual or local sphere to<br />

the universal domain of the real.<br />

The logic of Deleuze’s Présentation de Sacher-Masoch is that Sacher-Masoch’s<br />

predilection for visual tableaus and suspended time derives from his particular<br />

libidinal universe and his fondness for the imaginary disavowal of phantasy. Yet the<br />

same tendency toward stasis is evident in Sade – despite Deleuze’s contention that<br />

in sadism movement is primary and rational delirium rather than phantasy produces<br />

such movement – and Sade’s stagings of desire tend to resemble visual tableaus,<br />

even though Deleuze claims that Sade is Sacher-Masoch’s antithesis in his hatred<br />

5 Laplanche and Pontalis, The Language of Psycho-Analysis, p. 314 (emphasis added).


112<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

of the plastic arts. What is evident, I believe, is that throughout his work Deleuze<br />

holds an anti-narrative conception of the arts and shows an abiding sensitivity to<br />

visual experience, and what attracts him to Sade and Sacher-Masoch in the first place<br />

is their common strategy of subverting narrative continuities through a virtually<br />

hallucinatory repetition of visual scenes, Sade’s consisting of a rapid succession<br />

of accelerating crimes, Sacher-Masoch’s of a prolonged sequence of suspended<br />

punishments. Deleuze consistently identifies conventional narratives with coercive<br />

practices and codes of power, and he sees in modernist disruptions of narrative<br />

expectations a means of inventing new possibilities for life. Thus, for Deleuze, the<br />

paradigmatic modern painter is Francis Bacon, whose obsession is to escape narrative<br />

“illustration” and render visible “the brutality of fact.” And in his books on cinema,<br />

the modern films Deleuze champions break with the “sensory-motor schema” of<br />

commonsense time and space and create direct “time-ages” that defy subsumption<br />

within the conventions of standard narratives. When, in Critique et clinique, Deleuze<br />

praises the great writers who produce “visions and auditions” at the limit of language,<br />

he does so because they make language and its concomitant codes stammer. They<br />

undo linguistic regularities and the narrative continuities imbedded within language,<br />

thereby creating hallucinatory images and sounds that seem to float above the words,<br />

like a visual and sonic aura emanating from the surface of language. In Présentation<br />

de Sacher-Masoch, Deleuze stresses the affinity between masochistic suspension and<br />

the stasis of the plastic arts, but what counts finally is less the suspension and stasis<br />

of Sacher-Masoch’s phantasies than the sensual intensity and temporal dislocation of<br />

his tableaus. The visions of Sacher-Masoch and Sade are affective emanations at the<br />

limits of language, and their purpose is not to freeze time, but to unhinge it.<br />

When Deleuze re-presents Sacher-Masoch, he emphasizes features in Sacher-<br />

Masoch he had earlier noted only in passing. Sacher-Masoch’s visions he does not<br />

mention at all. Yet perhaps those visions are in no need of being re-presented, for<br />

they are the central, if unstated, objects of Deleuze’s original analysis, and possibly<br />

important sources for the development of the concept of “visions” itself. What is<br />

needed, it may be, is not to re-present but simply to re-view Sacher-Masoch, to see<br />

what was there all along.


Chapter 8<br />

Apology for Nomadology<br />

Over the last twenty years, the notion of the “nomadic,” as developed by Deleuze<br />

and Guattari in their “Treatise on Nomadology” (Plateau 12 of A Thousand Plateaus<br />

[1980]), has been emerging as the concept of choice for theorists of various stripes,<br />

with increasing numbers of books, articles and special issues devoted to the topic. As<br />

early as 1993, Christopher Miller noted this tendency and lamented the spread of this<br />

ill-defined term, and since then, others have echoed his complaints. In his critique of<br />

nomadology, Miller faults Deleuze and Guattari for ignoring the realities of actual<br />

nomadic peoples in developing their concept, arguing that by selectively adopting<br />

elements from scattered anthropological sources they romanticize nomads and<br />

inadvertently repeat the process of colonial subjugation of the native they otherwise<br />

so clearly oppose. Miller bridles especially at the claim that Deleuze and Guattari’s<br />

“nomadic thought” offers a radical alternative to conventional philosophical<br />

approaches, deeming such an assertion unwarranted, arrogant and unhelpful. Miller’s<br />

impatience with the inflated claims of some proponents of “nomadic thought” is<br />

understandable, as is his objection to Deleuze and Guattari’s apparent disregard for<br />

the complexities of nomadic populations. These concerns deserve consideration. 1<br />

Deleuze and Guattari’s nomadism at first glance is what some would call a<br />

“bastard concept,” one that sits astride standard categories and confuses seemingly<br />

distinct classifications. In the broadest sense, Deleuze and Guattari apparently take<br />

the “nomadic” to be that which is unfixed, wandering, peripatetic, set adrift, and<br />

in this regard, their social model appears to be that of all individuals, groups and<br />

societies without fixed abode who are in a relatively constant state of movement.<br />

But several of the descriptive characteristics of the nomadic seem to be derived<br />

from particular cultural instances. The notion of the War Machine as a manifestation<br />

of the nomadic seems to have its origin in the Mongol hordes, whose prowess as<br />

mounted warriors culminated in the formation of the great empire of Genghis Khan<br />

in the thirteenth century. The concept of the “numbering number” (MP 484–6/389–<br />

90) also has its basis in Mongol culture, though Deleuze and Guattari note that this<br />

assignment of warriors into tens, hundreds and thousands, etc. has a biblical parallel<br />

in the Aaronic organization of troops that some researchers tie to the Hyksos nomads<br />

who may have traversed Central Asia to the Middle East in ancient times (MP 148,<br />

154/118, 122). The opposition of the nomadic War Machine and the sedentary State<br />

apparatus appears to have as its clearest exemplification the antagonism of Bedouins<br />

and city inhabitants, so dramatically demarcated by Ibn Khaldun (1332–1408) in<br />

the Muqaddimah (MP 453/366). The association of the warrior and nomadism<br />

obviously is consonant with the bellicose traditions of the Mongols and Bedouins,<br />

1 See Chapter 10 for a detailed response to Miller’s critique.


114<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

but Deleuze and Guattari also make reference to warriors and warrior groups in<br />

African and South American sedentary and hunter-gatherer societies, as well as<br />

to the fundamental opposition of warrior and king in Indo-European mythology<br />

exhaustively detailed by Georges Dumézil (MP 434–6/351–3). The notion of a<br />

“nomadic distribution” of elements, which Deleuze first treats in Difference and<br />

Repetition (1968), has as its model the sheep and goat pastoral nomads whose flocks<br />

occupy a territory to the extent of their capability (puissance), flowing over the land<br />

in a free-form, amorphous flux rather than demarcating the land according to fixed<br />

boundaries (DR 53–4/36–7). The “band,” “pack,” or “gang” organization of nomadic<br />

multiplicities, in which individuals are neither discrete units of a mass aggregate nor<br />

regular components of a stratified social structure, but instead “dividual” elements<br />

in an unstable collective distribution of varying group identity, is exemplified by the<br />

streets gangs of Bogotá in A Thousand Plateaus (MP 442/358), but other instances<br />

might include hunter-gatherer groups such as the Mbuti of Central Africa, whose<br />

“only effective political unit is the band,” according to Colin Turnbull, a unit whose<br />

composition “is fluid, to say the least, and does not follow any clear unilineal or<br />

cognatic descent system.” 2 The “smooth space” of nomadic wandering Deleuze and<br />

Guattari derive from Boulez’s contrast of striated, pulsed time and smooth, non-pulsed<br />

time, but the examples they offer are those of desert nomads, such as the Bedouins,<br />

Eskimo hunters who negotiate shifting arctic landscapes, and the “sea nomads” of<br />

Patagonia, who “do not grasp an itinerary as a whole, but in a fragmentary manner,<br />

by juxtaposing in order its various successive stages, from campsite to campsite in<br />

the course of a journey” (José Emperaire, cited in MP 474/557).<br />

In the literature on nomadism, there is considerable disagreement over the range<br />

of societies that should be designated as “nomadic,” but there is some consensus that<br />

at least three categories of mobile peoples should be recognized. The first category,<br />

to which many wish to restrict the term “nomadic,” is that of pastoral nomads, whose<br />

societies may be defined as “societies specializing in animal husbandry requiring<br />

periodic movements.” 3 Thomas Barfield usefully divides pastoral nomads into five<br />

groups, each of which inhabits a particular region and specializes in the raising of a<br />

specific animal: African pastoralists of the Sahel, such as the Masai, for whom cattle<br />

herding is the central and all-consuming cultural activity; the camel pastoralists of<br />

the Saharan and Arabian Deserts, the most notable example being the Bedouins; the<br />

sheep and goat pastoralists of the region running from the Mediterranean littoral<br />

through the Anatolian and Iranian Plateaus into mountainous Central Asia, such as<br />

the Iranian Basseri; the horse-riding nomads of the Eurasian steppe, such as the<br />

Mongols and the Kazaks; and the yak breeders of the Tibetan Plateau. The second<br />

broad category of nomads is that of hunter-gatherers, whose mode of subsistence<br />

sets them apart from both pastoralists and sedentary farmers. There are huntergatherers<br />

who have fixed abodes (just as there are sedentary pastoralists), but several<br />

social groups around the world have (or have had, in most cases) patterns of living<br />

roughly similar to those of the Mbuti of central Africa, who travel most of the year,<br />

2 Colin Turnbull, <strong>Way</strong>ward Servants. The Two Worlds of the African Pygmies (Garden<br />

City, NY, 1965), pp. 26–7.<br />

3 Thomas J. Barfield, The Nomadic Alternative (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1993), p. 4.


Apology for Nomadology 115<br />

breaking camp every month or so. Like the African Mbuti, several Amazonian tribes<br />

and Australian Aboriginal groups also are frequently classified as nomadic huntergatherers.<br />

The third basic category is that of Gypsies, itinerant basket-makers,<br />

tinkers, weavers, mimes, magicians, musicians, horse dealers, nostrum traders,<br />

carnival people, circus performers, and so on. Characterized variously as “service<br />

nomads,” “economic nomads,” “commercial nomads,” “craftsman nomads,” “nonfood<br />

producing nomads,” “floating industrial populations,” “peripatetic tribes,”<br />

“peripatetic peoples,” or plain “peripatetics,” these are spatially mobile peoples who<br />

primarily exploit resources in the social environment. 4 They occupy what Berland<br />

and Salo call a distinct peripatetic niche: “the regular demand for specialized goods<br />

and/or services that more sedentary or pastoral communities cannot, or will not<br />

support on a permanent basis.” 5 They are “interim masters of imperfect markets,” 6<br />

their habitat less geographical than structural, consisting of the gaps opened for<br />

itinerant entrepreneurs by unstable and incompletely formed markets for goods and<br />

services. Finally, outside these three broad categories there are vagabonds, traveling<br />

thieves, migrant workers, bi-coastal executives, “academic Gypsies” and other such<br />

groups occasionally classified as nomads, as well as the anomalous instance of the<br />

“sea nomads” of Patagonia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, who perhaps might<br />

be best described as nautical hunter-gatherers.<br />

From a conventional anthropological view, it would seem that Deleuze and<br />

Guattari make a number of serious category errors, ignoring important distinctions<br />

between various ambulatory populations and attributing characteristics to such<br />

populations that are far from universally valid. But Deleuze and Guattari’s object<br />

is not to systematize received anthropological taxonomies; rather, it is to articulate<br />

two tendencies – the nomadic and the sedentary – that have each a certain inner<br />

coherence and that manifest themselves in various mixed forms. Essential here is<br />

the differentiation of observations de facto (of fact) and de jure (of law or right), a<br />

distinction of long standing in Scholastic legal theory and the philosophy of natural<br />

law that Bergson revives at several points in his thought and that Deleuze returns<br />

to frequently in his work. According to natural law theorists, for example, a despot<br />

or usurper may exercise power de facto, but only a legitimate sovereign rules de<br />

jure, that is, by a right inherent in the nature of things. In his Bergsonism, Deleuze<br />

shows how Bergson modifies the de facto/de jure opposition to distinguish between<br />

empirical mixtures of elements (de facto; French, en fait) and differences in nature<br />

(de jure; French, en droit). 7 Bergson’s well-known dualisms – duration/space, quality/<br />

quantity, matter/memory, and so on – are introduced to reinstate differences in nature<br />

that are generally ignored by analysts who consider only the mixed and confused<br />

4 See Matthew T. Salo and Sheila Salo, “Rominchel Economic and Social Organization<br />

in Urban New England, 1850–1930,” Urban Anthropology, 11/3–4 (1982), p. 276.<br />

5 Joseph C. Berland and Matt T. Salo, “Peripatetic Communities: An Introduction,”<br />

Nomadic Peoples (special issue on Peripatetic Peoples), 21/22 (1986), p. 2.<br />

6 David Nemeth, “Service Nomads: Interim Masters of Imperfect Markets,” Nomadic<br />

Peoples, 21/22 (1986), p. 136.<br />

7 The translators of Deleuze’s Bergsonism render “différence en nature” as “difference<br />

in kind,” a choice that is perhaps understandable stylistically, but that tends to mask the<br />

ontological status of Bergson’s distinction as entailing a difference in nature.


116<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

forms in which such differences appear in concrete experience. “According to<br />

Bergson,” says Deleuze, “a composite [un mixte] must always be divided according<br />

to its natural articulations, that is, into elements which differ in nature … Bergson<br />

is aware that things are mixed together in reality, in fact; experience itself offers us<br />

nothing but composites” (B 11–12/22). When Bergson speaks of pure duration or<br />

pure memory, he is delineating differences in nature that are manifest only de jure,<br />

not de facto: “If the composite represents the fact, it must be divided into tendencies<br />

or into pure presences that only exist en droit” (B 13/23). Bergson demonstrates, for<br />

example, that time is typically conceived of in a spatialized form, as a succession<br />

of points on a line. As a result, the genuine nature of time as ongoing, indivisible<br />

flow, or duration (durée), is lost. Only by distinguishing a pure durée from a pure<br />

space can one grasp the true nature of time. It happens that in fact we never directly<br />

experience such a pure durée or a pure space, for our space is always a temporal<br />

space and our time always a time in space. Nonetheless, Bergson asserts, durée and<br />

space are qualitatively different from one another; they constitute a difference in<br />

nature that is real, even if we only experience that difference in a mixed form. 8<br />

Deleuze and Guattari’s opposition of nomadic and sedentary is one such de<br />

jure distinction of pure differences in nature. The nomadic and sedentary are pure<br />

tendencies that are real, yet that are only experienced in various mixed states. They<br />

are qualitatively different tendencies co-present across diverse social and cultural<br />

formations. This is a fundamental aspect of the concept of “nomadism,” and one<br />

generally ignored by critics of Deleuze and Guattari (and often by those who adopt<br />

Deleuze and Guattari’s terminology as well). Hence, Deleuze and Guattari would<br />

have no problem with the frequent observation that no mobile populations wander<br />

aimlessly and randomly. They would simply argue that the restricted circulation<br />

of Masai herders around a village center, the regular migratory routes of Basseri<br />

sheep herders, the improvisatory seasonal movements of Bedouin camel raisers,<br />

and the ad hoc variable circuits of South East Asian sea nomads represent so many<br />

mixtures of nomadic and sedentary tendencies, each a particular de facto composite<br />

of differences in nature.<br />

One advantage of this approach is that characteristics striking in one mobile<br />

population can be shown to be faintly present in another or perhaps manifested there<br />

in an illuminatingly modified form. Consider, for example, the opposition of nomads<br />

and the State, which plays an important role in many discussions of pastoral nomads,<br />

whose ways of life often involve complex relations of dependence, resistance and<br />

accommodation with contiguous states. Deleuze and Guattari approach the nomad/<br />

State opposition via the work of Pierre Clastres, who in Society Against the State<br />

argues that the marked differences between the cultures of the Andean high plateaus<br />

and the cultures of the Tropical Forest, so evident to early Europeans observers<br />

in South America, represent a basic opposition between State cultures and those<br />

without a State. Clastres insists that Tropical Forest cultures, unlike such Andean<br />

8 For the sake of economy and clarity in delineating the de facto/de jure distinction,<br />

I have simplified Bergson’s views on durée and its relation to space. I discuss Deleuze’s<br />

reading of Bergsonian durée at greater length in the first Chapter of Deleuze on Cinema<br />

(New York, 2003).


Apology for Nomadology 117<br />

cultures as the Incan empire, possess a political organization that is not grounded<br />

in hierarchical class distinctions. The peoples of the Tropical Forest, which include<br />

both sedentary and nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes, generally have a chief, but the<br />

chief rules by consensus rather than coercion; far from using his position to extract<br />

inordinate wealth from his followers, the chief gains prestige by giving away most<br />

of his goods. Clastres concludes that Tropical Forest chieftainships are structured<br />

to inhibit the centralization and stratification of political power. Without any direct<br />

contact with State cultures, the Tropical Forest cultures anticipate and ward off the<br />

advent of the State form; in this sense, they are societies against the State.<br />

What Deleuze and Guattari see in Clastres’s analysis of the Tropical Forest<br />

chieftainship is evidence of the existence of a non-State political structure and the<br />

immanence of two tendencies, one patent and one latent, which they identify as<br />

nomadic/anti-State and sedentary/State tendencies. This appropriation of Clastres’s<br />

distinction invites first a reconsideration of non-State Tropical Forest cultures,<br />

which include nomadic hunter-gatherer and sedentary agricultural societies alike.<br />

Clastres notes that among South American peoples, every society’s passage from<br />

a non-State to a State form of political organization has been irreversible, whereas<br />

in some instances non-State sedentarism has given way to nomadism and vice<br />

versa. 9 For Deleuze and Guattari, this would be evidence that sedentary Tropical<br />

Forest cultures possess characteristics that are more nomadic than those of Stateform<br />

sedentary cultures, and that there is a fundamental nomadic tendency across<br />

Tropical Forest cultures. Deleuze and Guattari’s appropriation of Clastres’s findings<br />

also has suggestive implications for an analysis of the political organization of<br />

pastoral nomads. Barfield, for example, concludes that pastoral nomads manifest<br />

varying degrees of stratification and centralization in social structure, ranging from<br />

acephalous segmentary lineages (the Masai) to centralized tribal states (the Mongol<br />

empires), and that centralization increases in proportion to the power and complexity<br />

of the states with which the nomadic group must interact. 10 In the light of Deleuze<br />

and Guattari’s schema, this proportional correlation of centralization and proximity<br />

to states is evidence not only of a fundamental opposition between nomadism and<br />

the State form but also of a structural relationship between non-State and State<br />

forms of organization that is more than simply contingent and accidental. By this<br />

view, a nomadic population’s contact with a state, rather than directly causing<br />

State tendencies to arise, simply activates a tendency already present within the<br />

nomadic society. According to this logic as well, one would expect to find nomadic<br />

tendencies within centralized states – and indeed, Deleuze and Guattari argue that<br />

non-State and State tendencies can be discerned both within nomadic societies<br />

and within state societies. State societies, far from being the monolithic entities<br />

they purport to be, are fissured by nomadic trajectories of various sorts, including<br />

those of diverse peripatetic groups. In this analysis, the peripatetic populations that<br />

roam state societies and escape their regulation are functional components of those<br />

societies, not extrinsic exceptions to their control. What this suggests finally is that<br />

Deleuze and Guattari’s apparent blunder of confusing primitive hunter-gatherers,<br />

9 See Pierre Clastres, La Société contre l’état (Paris, 1974), pp. 201–203.<br />

10 Barfield, The Nomadic Alternative, pp. 16–17.


118<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

pastoral nomads and peripatetics may be of some value. Perhaps the varying degrees<br />

of political centralization among pastoral nomads, when subsumed within a larger<br />

context that includes hunter-gatherer opposition to proto-State structures as well<br />

as the strategies of peripatetic populations such as Gypsies to resist assimilation<br />

within the states they traverse, may be shown to be but concrete responses to a single<br />

problem common to all ambulatory populations.<br />

Deleuze and Guattari’s analyses of pure differences in nature also make possible<br />

the isolation of inconstant experiential qualities among social groups as well as<br />

their abstraction from other seemingly heterogeneous contexts. It may well be,<br />

for instance, that no actual nomad travels, as Deleuze and Guattari seem to claim,<br />

by moving along lines without journeying from point to point, but there is an<br />

identifiable, qualitatively distinct operation of negotiating space common to Arctic<br />

hunters, Bedouin herders and Patagonian sea nomads, one that proceeds piece-bypiece,<br />

via changing, multidimensional signs, in an improvisational and experimental<br />

manner. And when one extracts general characteristics from these practices and<br />

relates them to characteristics from other practices in a broad, abstract model,<br />

such as that of Riemannian space, a potentially useful concept emerges – that of<br />

a “smooth space” of pure lines between points, directional vectors without clear<br />

dimensional determination, and distributional spaces without fixed allocation of the<br />

elements’ positions. On the basis of such an abstract configuration of systematically<br />

related qualities, one may then identify smooth spaces in a number of areas – quilt<br />

manufacture, musical compositions, naval tactics, fractals, fluid dynamics, labor<br />

practices, jewelry design, painting, and so on.<br />

The establishment of abstract, de jure oppositions, such as that of the nomadic<br />

and sedentary, is particularly advantageous in the study of aesthetic objects and<br />

social practices, since it affords a means of assessing common tendencies within<br />

various cultural spheres without reducing any of those spheres to the status of an<br />

epiphenomenal projection of another. Consider, for example, the question of Béla<br />

Bartók and Gypsy music. In his 1914 essay “Observations on Rumanian Folk<br />

Music,” Bartók remarks that “Gipsies [sic] pervert melodies, change their rhythm<br />

to ‘gipsy’ rhythm, introduce among the people melodies heard in other regions and<br />

in the country seats of the gentry – in other words, they contaminate the style of<br />

genuine folk music.” 11 Here, one finds a direct link between social movement and<br />

musical practice, with the common stigmatization of the nomadic as impure and<br />

transgressive. Gypsies literally cross borders, and in the process bring the music<br />

of separate regions in contact with one another. They also cross class boundaries,<br />

commingling peasant music and songs heard “in the country seats of the gentry.”<br />

Bartók’s sense of peasant music is that of an art intimately connected to a territory, a<br />

“product of nature,” 12 he says, and Gypsy bands pervert and contaminate that product<br />

of nature through the admixture of foreign elements.<br />

Yet Bartók also attributes the unified styles of diverse Hungarian peasant musical<br />

traditions to “the instinctive faculty of variation in a like manner of large masses<br />

11 Béla Bartók, “Observations on Rumanian Folk Music,” Essays, ed. Benjamin Suchoff<br />

(New York, 1976), p. 198.<br />

12 Bartók, Essays, p. 221.


Apology for Nomadology 119<br />

living in a spiritual kinship,” this “faculty for variation” being “nothing short of a<br />

natural force” (p. 221). Here one sees the valorization of instinct and a territorial<br />

Volkgeist, but also the recognition of a “faculty for variation,” which resonates with<br />

the notion of nomadic musical practice as the instigation of a state of what Deleuze<br />

and Guattari call “continuous variation” (MP 123/97) – and indeed, an examination<br />

of Bartók’s The Hungarian Folk Song (1924) shows that what he values in this<br />

very territorial music is an aesthetic of rich rhythmic and melodic invention that,<br />

if assimilated directly into tonal Western art music, would unsettle and disturb its<br />

regularities. Further, Bartók recognizes that “there is real gipsy music too, songs on<br />

gipsy texts, but these are known to and sung by the non-musician rural gipsies only,<br />

the regular gipsy bands never play them in public” (p. 222).<br />

The “regular gipsy bands” to which Bartók refers have an ambiguous social role,<br />

transgressive in some regards, but compromising and accommodating in others.<br />

Historically, the professional Gypsy bands served the Hungarian gentry, “who<br />

despised the peasant class and regarded it as good only for the production of labourers,<br />

indeed, for serfs for their landed properties.” 13 The Hungarian gentry embraced a pan-<br />

European aesthetic, and hence one that rejected home-grown, territorial traditions<br />

(peasant traditions being the only ones that had survived hundreds of years of Turkish<br />

occupation), but one that also maintained for the gentry associations with modern<br />

state centralization and class domination. Gypsy bands in some ways reinforced<br />

aristocratic biases through their accommodations of folk motifs to the conventions<br />

of European art music, in the process obscuring the achievements of indigenous<br />

peasant music and encouraging confusion about Hungarian sources through the<br />

introduction of Balkan and Turkish rhythms and scales into their playing – including<br />

the notorious “Gypsy interval” of the augmented second.<br />

By Bartók’s day, the Gypsy bands had taken on an even more complicated role<br />

as purveyors of an urban popular art music, which brought together a trans-regional<br />

amalgam of peasant materials and commercial, “light” classical compositions.<br />

Bartók appreciated the Gypsy bands’ resistance to what he viewed as the base,<br />

commodity music of song hits, operetta airs and jazz, but the popular art music<br />

they promulgated was itself a commodification, regularization and rigidification of<br />

already fixed and ossified material – and hence, one might argue, an anti-nomadic<br />

force that impeded continuous variation. Finally, Bartók sought through Magyar<br />

peasant music to found a truly Hungarian art music, thereby doing for his culture<br />

what Smetana had done for the Czechs and Grieg for the Norwegians, yet even in this<br />

ambiguously territorializing effort at the construction of an ethnic musical identity,<br />

Bartók introduced a decidedly nomadic element, creatively combining, altering,<br />

transmuting and deforming folk motifs in an original personal style (and hence, to a<br />

degree, in a non-collective style) that became a significant force in the development<br />

of modernist innovation and experimentation in the Western art music tradition. One<br />

might say, then, that Bartók’s introduction of faithfully preserved Magyar materials<br />

within his own art music was a form of Gypsy nomadization of the Western classical<br />

tradition.<br />

13 Ibid., p. 361.


120<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

If the nomadic and the sedentary are de jure distinctions of pure differences in<br />

nature, which manifest themselves in diverse ways in various social groups and<br />

cultural spheres, one might ask what the status of these categories may be. Are they<br />

mere mental constructions imposed on a random field of heterogeneous phenomena?<br />

Deleuze and Guattari argue that they are not. Rather, they are problems posed by<br />

the real, a given problem characterized as an abstract configuration of differences<br />

that generates multiple concrete actualizations in various spheres. Though such pure<br />

differences in nature are evident in the actual only in mixed forms, they have a<br />

real and separable existence, albeit in a virtual realm, one that is distinct from the<br />

actual yet immanent within the real. The nomadic and the sedentary are abstract<br />

problems that the real continually poses to itself in ever-changing modes, motors<br />

of actualization through which the ongoing unfolding of the world works out its<br />

experimentations and inventions. But those problems also manifest themselves in<br />

thought, and hence do have a mental counterpart. Thought, says Deleuze, is not<br />

voluntary and self-regulating, but involuntary and eccentric, the result of a violence<br />

that dislocates common sense and deregulates the senses, thereby forcing thought<br />

beyond itself to think the unthought and the previously unthinkable. Hence, though<br />

the nomadic and the sedentary have a real existence separate from a consciousness<br />

that conceives them, the categories, to the extent that they represent the products<br />

of genuine thought, are themselves generated from virtual problems that exist<br />

within the real – in this case, within the realm of thought. Yet the thought of the<br />

nomadic is itself nomadic, as is Deleuze and Guattari’s thought of pure differences in<br />

nature. If Deleuze and Guattari follow Bergson in stressing the separation of mixed<br />

elements into pure differences in nature, they do so only to instigate a metamorphic<br />

renegotiation and reconfiguration of those differences. Like Bergson, Deleuze and<br />

Guattari propose numerous binary oppositions, including that of the nomadic and<br />

the sedentary, yet their effort is not to fix categories and demarcate permanent<br />

essences, but to make something pass between the terms of a binary opposition,<br />

and thereby to foster a thought that brings into existence something new. In this<br />

regard, the categories of pure differences in nature are themselves generative forces<br />

of differentiation, which through their mutual opposition function to displace and<br />

transform one another.<br />

I have tried to suggest some of the ways in which Deleuze and Guattari’s approach<br />

to nomadism is connected to the concrete activities of actual nomadic groups, be<br />

they pastoral nomads, nomadic hunter-gatherers, or peripatetic service nomads, as<br />

well as the means whereby the concept may be extended to issues in the arts and<br />

philosophy. Since the nomadic and the sedentary always present themselves in mixed,<br />

composite forms, their delineation requires a careful discernment of fluctuating,<br />

multi-leveled tendencies that resists simplistic reduction. As I tried to demonstrate<br />

in the Bartók example, a broad contrast of nomadic Gypsy and sedentary art music<br />

is inadequate, since varying degrees of nomadism and sedentarism are evident in<br />

Magyar and Gypsy peasant music, in the music promoted by Hungarian elites, by<br />

the European popular culture industry, and by urban Gypsy bands, as well as in the<br />

ethnic-nationalist and modernist developments of the Western art music tradition.<br />

Deleuze and Guattari’s nomadic thought is inherently unstable, in that its use of<br />

binary oppositions is intended to be generative and mutative, but it is not therefore


Apology for Nomadology 121<br />

to be pursued in a haphazard and careless fashion. If the thought of the nomadic<br />

is to be adequate to the actual disclosure of the virtual problem of the nomadic as<br />

real difference in nature, it must engage empirical evidence and historical detail, as<br />

well as the disciplinary considerations of the various established fields of inquiry<br />

across which it moves. Only in that fashion can the concept of the nomadic foster<br />

something that is both useful and new.


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Chapter 9<br />

Nomadism, Globalism<br />

and Cultural Studies<br />

There is no doubt that we live in an increasingly global era. The specific configuration<br />

and interconnection of elements that might eventually characterize a truly global<br />

order are by no means certain, but that some such order will eventually emerge,<br />

I believe, is inevitable. In such a context of increasing globalization, the field<br />

of cultural studies – if indeed it is a single field – faces several issues that echo<br />

concerns expressed in widespread social, economic and political debates. Is it the<br />

job of cultural studies to counter the forces of global cultural homogenization and<br />

engage in an identity politics that reinforces local specificities? Should the discipline<br />

attempt to isolate common – or even universal – concerns among cultures at the risk<br />

of promoting the asymmetrical power relations of a multinational financial-militarygovernmental<br />

technocracy? Or should cultural studies function primarily as a force<br />

of hybridization, somehow blurring local distinctions without ever allowing the<br />

emergence of a single stable global order?<br />

Over the last decade or two, the work of Deleuze and Guattari has drawn<br />

increasing attention from scholars in cultural studies and analysts interested in<br />

globalization. In cultural studies of a continental European orientation, Deleuze and<br />

Guattari’s influence has been marked, especially in discussions of what they call<br />

“minor literature,” and in the growing literature on globalization several of Deleuze<br />

and Guattari’s concepts have made their appearance, perhaps most fully in Michael<br />

Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire, which may be seen as an extended development<br />

of the implications of Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus for a postmodern<br />

conception of sovereignty. Of the many concepts developed by Deleuze and Guattari,<br />

“nomadism” is one that has had an especial appeal to scholars in cultural studies and<br />

that has increasingly infiltrated discussions of globalization. In A Thousand Plateaus,<br />

Deleuze and Guattari develop a complex of terms around the notion of “nomadism,”<br />

and though the concept has been exploited frequently by others, it has not always<br />

been fully understood, nor has it often been articulated clearly and completely. I<br />

believe that the concept of “nomadism” might help us chart the course of cultural<br />

studies in a global era, but only if the concept is engaged in a detailed and thorough<br />

manner. My purpose, therefore, is to provide an extended exposition of the concept<br />

of “nomadism,” indicate its relevance for understanding the ongoing processes of<br />

globalization with which we must continue to contend, and suggest its potential role<br />

in the formation of a domain of cultural studies that promotes a positive, creative and<br />

non-totalizing “globalism.”


124<br />

Nomadic Distribution<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

Deleuze and Guattari apply the concept of “nomadism” to a wide range of topics,<br />

including mathematics, physics, games, cloth manufacture, metallurgy, music and art,<br />

but the core elements of the concept derive from observations about nomadic peoples.<br />

When speaking of “nomads” and “the nomadic” in this socio-anthropological sense,<br />

Deleuze and Guattari seem to play fast and free with traditional anthropological<br />

distinctions and to make sweeping assertions about nomadic populations that ignore<br />

the complexities of actual concrete groups. Anthropologists commonly differentiate<br />

among hunter-gatherers, pastoral nomads and peripatetics, reserving the label of<br />

“nomads” for the five main groups of pastoral nomads – the African pastoralists of the<br />

Sahel, such as the Masai; the camel pastoralists of the Saharan and Arabian Deserts;<br />

the sheep and goat pastoralists of the region running from the Mediterranean littoral<br />

through the Anatolian and Iranian Plateaus into mountainous central Asia; the horseriding<br />

nomads of the Eurasian steppe; and the yak breeders of the Tibetan Plateau. 1<br />

Yet Deleuze and Guattari seem indifferent to such distinctions, citing as instances<br />

of nomadism traditional hunter-gatherer tribes of Africa and South America, various<br />

pastoral nomads, such as the Mongols and the Bedouins, the sea nomads of Patagonia,<br />

as well as peripatetics of diverse sorts – itinerant craftsmen, gypsies, street gangs,<br />

and so on. And much of what they say about nomads seems applicable to one group<br />

only, or solely to a single aspect of one group’s behavior. Some critics have seen in<br />

this treatment of nomadism signs of sloppy scholarship and a romantic idealization<br />

of mobile populations, but Deleuze and Guattari are in reality developing a concept<br />

of nomadism that deliberately cuts across traditional anthropological categories and<br />

extracts characteristics from actual social groups that are at times only intermittently<br />

and indirectly evident in those populations. Their object is to identify two broad<br />

tendencies – the nomadic and the sedentary – each of which has an inner coherence<br />

yet is manifest concretely only in various mixed forms.<br />

Crucial here is the distinction between observations de facto (of fact; French: en<br />

fait) and de jure (of law or right; French: de droit), a distinction Deleuze and Guattari<br />

take from natural law theory by way of Henri Bergson (see Chapter 8). As Deleuze<br />

and Guattari indicate at several points in A Thousand Plateaus, their opposition of the<br />

nomadic and the sedentary is a de jure distinction of pure differences in nature. The<br />

nomadic and the sedentary are qualitatively distinct and real categories, but they are<br />

experienced in fact only as tendencies within various mixed states. Hence, Deleuze<br />

and Guattari would have no difficulty explaining sedentary proclivities within<br />

nomadic populations or the patent appearance of certain nomadic characteristics<br />

solely within certain groups and not within others. In each case, a de jure difference<br />

in nature is manifest only in a de facto mixture.<br />

Although Deleuze and Guattari’s most extended treatment of nomadism is to be<br />

found in A Thousand Plateaus, as early as 1969 Deleuze engages certain elements<br />

of the topic in Difference and Repetition. There, he attempts to characterize being in<br />

terms of multiplicities that are irreducible to a dialectic of the One and the Many, and<br />

1 See Thomas J. Barfield, The Nomadic Alternative (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1993), pp.<br />

1–19.


Nomadism, Globalism and Cultural Studies 125<br />

he does so through the concept of a “nomadic distribution” of elements. In reflecting<br />

on the notion of the nomadic, Deleuze finds particularly illuminating Emmanuel<br />

Laroche’s 1949 study, History of the Root “Nem-” in Ancient Greek, an exhaustive<br />

treatment of the family of ancient Greek words that includes nemo, nemao, Nemesis,<br />

nomos, nomas and other cognates.<br />

In classical Greek of the fifth century B.C.E., nomos generally means “law” or<br />

“custom,” and Nemesis refers to “Fate.” Laroche observes that scholars traditionally<br />

attribute these meanings to an archaic sense of nomos as a partitioning and assigning<br />

of lands to various parties and of Nemesis as an allocation of separate lots, or fates,<br />

to individuals. Laroche counters that the etymological history is much more complex<br />

than this account would indicate. The key to that etymological history he finds in<br />

the eighth century B.C.E. Homeric usage of the verb nemo, which he translates as<br />

“to distribute.” The actions of “dividing into parts” and “distributing” are related<br />

in the Homeric world, as when a warrior carves a roasted lamb into parts and then<br />

distributes pieces to his comrades, but nemo refers solely to the act of distributing.<br />

The Homeric sense of nemesis is not that of fate, but that of an imputation of blame,<br />

which derives from the concept of nemesis as an improper distribution of elements.<br />

The sense of nomos as law or convention Laroche sees as a late development,<br />

with the archaic sense of nomos coming from the usages associated with pasturage<br />

and nomads. In Homer, nomos designates a place where animals graze. “Pasturage<br />

in archaic times,” notes Laroche, “is in general an unlimited space; it can be a<br />

forest, meadows beside rivers, a mountain slope.” 2 Archaic nomos in no way<br />

indicates a partitioning of land. Later, after the reforms of Solon, nomos comes to<br />

mean “assigned plot of land,” but this usage reflects an extension of city sedentary<br />

divisions to the surrounding countryside. In archaic times, by contrast, if the nomos<br />

is related to the city, it is as “an expanse of habitable land around a city before being<br />

an administrative province” (p. 117). Laroche concludes then that “nomos designates<br />

nothing other than pasturage for animals or a habitat without recognized limits for<br />

men” (p. 117). The archaic term nomas, Laroche points out, designates either a<br />

nomadic herdsman or a herd animal, a nomadic herdsman being characterized as a<br />

wandering individual with no fixed domicile, and a herd animal as a creature that<br />

moves freely and randomly across an open territory (p. 122).<br />

What Deleuze takes from Laroche’s study is the notion of nomos as a distribution<br />

of multiple elements in an open, undivided and unlimited space. In Difference<br />

and Repetition, Deleuze describes being in terms of a “nomadic distribution,” a<br />

distribution of an irreducible multiplicity that “is no longer a division of that which<br />

is distributed but rather a division among those who distribute themselves in an open<br />

space – a space that is unlimited, or at least without precise limits” (DR 54/36).<br />

In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari do not attempt a description of all<br />

being as a “nomadic distribution,” as Deleuze does in Difference and Repetition, but<br />

they do make use of the archaic Greek notion of nomos in developing the concept<br />

of “nomadism.” They cite Laroche and oppose the nomadic to the sedentary as<br />

the archaic Greek nomos of open pasturage to the partitioned territory of the city<br />

2 Emmanuel Laroche, Histoire de la racine “nem-” en Grec ancient (Paris, 1949), p.<br />

116 (translation mine).


126<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

(MP 472/557). And whenever they speak of the nomadic they conceive of it as a<br />

multiplicity distributed in an open space.<br />

One model of the nomadic, then, is that of a flock of sheep occupying an<br />

undivided landscape. The flock wanders over undulating surfaces, filling the<br />

contours of valleys, plains, hillsides, or slopes, in each case occupying space to the<br />

extent of its capabilities, its puissances, or powers. The configuration of relations<br />

among individual sheep shifts and changes, and the shape of the collective flock<br />

is in constant metamorphosis, adapting itself to the variations in the topography of<br />

the landscape. As the flock roams, it continually exceeds the limits of its external<br />

outlining edges, filling new space as it leaves previously occupied territory. The<br />

flock is a flow, a flux of multiple elements engaged in an ongoing metamorphic,<br />

dynamic process of nomadic distribution across an open and undivided space.<br />

Before proceeding to Deleuze and Guattari’s definition of nomadism, we should<br />

note two important characteristics of the multiplicities involved in a nomadic<br />

distribution of elements. First, the multiplicities are qualitative multiplicities. In<br />

Bergsonism, Deleuze credits Bergson with being the first philosopher to differentiate<br />

clearly between quantitative and qualitative multiplicities. Quantitative multiplicities<br />

are collections of elements that do not change their qualities when increased or<br />

decreased through addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. Five bricks plus<br />

five bricks equal ten bricks, but whether a collection of five bricks or a collection of<br />

ten bricks, the multiplicity remains a collection of bricks. Qualitative multiplicities,<br />

by contrast, cannot be increased or decreased mathematically without being<br />

changed qualitatively. A room at a temperature of sixty degrees may be heated to<br />

a temperature of ninety degrees, but the multiplicity of the room at sixty degrees is<br />

qualitatively different from the room at ninety degrees. One cannot add sixty degrees<br />

to thirty degrees without creating a new qualitative multiplicity of ninety degrees,<br />

one that is incommensurable with any quantitative summation of sixty and thirty.<br />

All nomadic multiplicities are such qualitative multiplicities. In this regard, each<br />

nomadic multiplicity has an identity, but an identity that is irreducibly multiple and<br />

open to metamorphosis as its constituent elements increase or decrease. In that its<br />

identity is formed through its qualities, each multiplicity also possesses a certain<br />

affectivity.<br />

Second, nomadic multiplicities constitute what Deleuze and Guattari call<br />

“rhizomes.” In A Thousand Plateaus, they oppose rhizomes to “arborescences,” or<br />

root-tree structures. Unlike arborescences, which have a vertical, hierarchical and<br />

centralized configuration, rhizomes are horizontal, nonhierarchical formations with<br />

no center. Deleuze and Guattari liken rhizomes to crabgrass, which spreads in all<br />

directions and extends roots along every surface it occupies. There is no central root,<br />

no privileged locus of growth. Any patch of crabgrass, if uprooted and transplanted,<br />

may initiate a renewed process of growth and expansion. Not only is the rhizome<br />

nonhierarchical and acentered, but it also manifests what Deleuze and Guattari<br />

call “the principles of connection and heterogeneity: any point of a rhizome can be<br />

connected to any other point whatever, and must be” (MP 13/7). The rhizome, then,<br />

has no center, no hierarchical organization, and no stable patterns of interconnection<br />

among its elements. The rhizome, we might say, is a network much like the internet<br />

(which only came into being after Deleuze and Guattari developed the concept of the


Nomadism, Globalism and Cultural Studies 127<br />

rhizome), a proliferating multiplicity of terminals and circuits, in which any terminal<br />

may be connected to any other terminal, and with such rapidity that each terminal<br />

is virtually contiguous to every other terminal, no matter how far apart the various<br />

terminals may be in terms of actual spatial distance.<br />

We may thus make the following preliminary summary of the characteristics<br />

of a nomadic multiplicity: it spreads over an unlimited and undivided space as a<br />

metamorphic flux; it constitutes a qualitative multiplicity with an identity that is<br />

irreducibly plural and affective; and it forms a rhizome, without center or hierarchy,<br />

in which each element is in virtual contiguity and connection with every other<br />

element.<br />

Nomadism, Smooth Space and the War Machine<br />

In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari define nomadism through two complex<br />

concepts: the war machine and smooth space. The relationship between nomadism,<br />

the war machine and smooth space is expressed in an especially succinct (albeit<br />

cryptic) manner in the following comment made by Deleuze in a 1980 interview on<br />

A Thousand Plateaus:<br />

We define the “war machine” as a linear assemblage which constructs itself on lines of<br />

flight. In this sense, the war machine does not at all have war as its object; it has as its<br />

object a very special space, smooth space, which it composes, occupies and propagates.<br />

Nomadism is precisely this combination “war machine-smooth space.” We try to show<br />

how and in what case the war machine takes war for its object (when the apparatuses of<br />

the State appropriate the war machine which does not initially belong to them). A war<br />

machine tends to be revolutionary, or artistic, much more so than military. [PP 50–51/33]<br />

First let us examine the notion of “smooth space.” Deleuze and Guattari oppose<br />

smooth space to striated space, identifying smooth space as “nomad space … the<br />

space in which the war machine develops,” and striated space as “sedentary space<br />

… the space instituted by the State apparatus” (MP 592/474). The opposition seems<br />

quite simple: smooth space is space undivided and unmeasured, whereas striated<br />

space is crisscrossed with grids of dividing and measuring lines. But the distinction<br />

is more complicated than it might initially appear. First, it is a de jure distinction, as<br />

Deleuze and Guattari explicitly state:<br />

[T]he two spaces only exist in fact in mixtures of one another: smooth space is ceaselessly<br />

translated, transversed into striated space; striated space is constantly reversed, turned into<br />

a smooth space … and the two can happen at the same time. Yet the de facto mixtures do<br />

not impede the de jure distinction, the abstract distinction between the two spaces. [MP<br />

593/474–5]<br />

Second, the distinction is not strictly spatial. In fact, Deleuze and Guattari take the<br />

opposition of smooth space and striated space from the composer Pierre Boulez, who<br />

uses the terms to describe different forms of time in musical compositions, smooth<br />

space characterizing the nonpulsed time of free, irregular motifs, and striated space<br />

the pulsed time of regular, metrical motifs. Thus, Deleuze and Guattari describe


128<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

literal space in terms of the smooth and the striated, but they extend the concepts<br />

as well to such figurative spaces as music, art and mathematics. Third, and most<br />

important, “smooth” and “striated” describe not simply space per se, but also ways<br />

of inhabiting and using space, and in this sense, ways of creating a smooth or a<br />

striated space.<br />

In Deleuze and Guattari’s discussion of the maritime model of smooth space,<br />

the de facto mixture of smooth and striated spaces is especially evident, as is the<br />

relationship between space and its usage. They note that though “the sea is a smooth<br />

space par excellence” (MP 598/479), the history of seafaring is one of increasing<br />

striation of that paradigmatic smooth element, various inventions allowing ever more<br />

precise measurements of positions, distances, currents and depths. Yet coexistent<br />

with these discoveries are the local practices of fishermen, transporters and travelers,<br />

which constitute “a complex and empirical nomadic navigation by way of winds,<br />

noises, colors and sounds of the sea” (MP 599/479). And though such technological<br />

innovations as sonar, radar, satellites and global positioning devices might seem<br />

to have rendered the seas an absolutely striated space, Deleuze and Guattari point<br />

out that even such a heavily gridded element can function as a smooth space. The<br />

military deployment of ships, aircraft and submarines by modern superpowers aims<br />

at the creation of a virtual force, coextensive with the oceans, that may manifest itself<br />

at any place and at any time. Such a virtual naval force, in Deleuze and Guattari’s<br />

judgment, uses the striation of the seas as a means of converting the seas into a<br />

smooth surface of unlimited, acentered power, in which a submarine, a destroyer, a<br />

missile, or a squadron of aircraft may suddenly become manifest at any point of that<br />

surface. A similar military occupation extends from the sea to the air, such that “the<br />

sea, then the air and the stratosphere, become smooth spaces again, but in order to<br />

control striated space more completely, in the strangest of reversals” (MP 599/480).<br />

Smooth and striated spaces, then, are not simply givens of the natural world,<br />

but they are spaces with different modes of construction or composition. Deleuze<br />

and Guattari offer as a particularly clear example of these contrasting modes of<br />

construction the processes whereby woven fabric and felt are made. In the simplest<br />

instance, woven fabric consists of two sets of parallel threads, one horizontal, and<br />

one vertical. Each set has a prescribed function, the horizontal threads, say, serving<br />

as a fixed element, the vertical threads serving as a mobile element, passing over<br />

and under the horizontal. The fabric may be of an unlimited length, but its width<br />

must be finite (determined by the width of the loom). And the fabric has a top side<br />

and a reverse side, an outer surface and an inner surface. To weave fabric, then, is<br />

to construct a striated space, one that is crisscrossed with lines, the lines assigned<br />

prescribed functions, its production contained within set bounds, and its dimensions<br />

clearly demarcated. To create felt, by contrast, is to construct a smooth space. In felt,<br />

threads are not separated; instead, fibers are entangled by being pressed together,<br />

the microscopic variations in the fibers allowing unpredictable interconnections<br />

and adhesions. In this regard, though felt forms a smooth space, its elements are<br />

heterogeneous. Felt opposes fabric in all respects: “in principle it is infinite, open or<br />

unlimited in all directions; it has no top side, bottom side or center; it assigns no fixed<br />

or mobile functions, but rather distributes a continuous variation” (MP 594/475–6).


Nomadism, Globalism and Cultural Studies 129<br />

Smooth and striated spaces also imply different modes of inhabiting space,<br />

and in this respect Deleuze and Guattari see the practices of nomadic peoples as<br />

especially illuminating. The Bedouins may follow broadly determined routes<br />

through the desert and seek out fixed landmarks, and in this sense they traverse<br />

a somewhat striated space, but the shifting sands of the landscape are in constant<br />

variation and their passage must proceed along the unpredictable sites of scattered<br />

shrubs, bushes and patches of grass that serve as pasturage for their animals. In this<br />

respect, they inhabit the desert as a smooth space. They move from oasis to oasis,<br />

but not as migrants traveling from fixed abode to fixed abode. Rather, each oasis<br />

serves as a relay in an open-ended, zigzag trajectory, a way-station in a process<br />

of continuous movement. If each oasis is seen as a point, and every path between<br />

oases as a line, one may thus say that in a smooth space points are subordinate to<br />

lines. In striated space, one moves from point to point, the line serving merely as a<br />

connection between fixed points. In smooth space, by contrast, each point is merely<br />

a pause in the ongoing movement of the line. The line in smooth space, therefore, is<br />

“a vector, a direction and not a dimension or a metric determination” (MP 597/478).<br />

The line of striated space can be measured and assigned a dimensional position,<br />

in that it always passes between fixed and clearly demarcated points. The line of<br />

smooth space, in contrast, moves through unevenly distributed points, each point<br />

functioning as an unpredictable event in the vector’s thrust. What makes possible<br />

the dimensional, metrically determined line of striated space is that “in striated<br />

space, one closes off a surface and ‘allocates’ it according to determinate intervals,<br />

following assigned breaks,” whereas the directional, vectorial line of smooth space<br />

presupposes a domain in which “one ‘distributes’ oneself over an open space,<br />

according to frequencies and along the course of one’s crossings” (MP 600/481).<br />

Thus, if we contrast smooth and striated space in terms of the three basic elements of<br />

Euclidean geometry – the one-dimensional point, the two-dimensional line and the<br />

three-dimensional volume – we may say that the smooth point is subordinate to the<br />

line, whereas the striated point dominates the line; that the smooth line is directional<br />

and vectorial, whereas the striated line is dimensional and metrical; and that the<br />

smooth volume entails a self-distribution across an open space, whereas the striated<br />

volume presumes an allocation of elements in accord with determinate intervals and<br />

assigned discontinuities.<br />

Smooth space, then, is both inhabited and created, and that which inhabits and<br />

creates such a space is the “war machine.” The concept of the “war machine” is one<br />

of the more obscure and unsettling notions of A Thousand Plateaus. Though Deleuze<br />

and Guattari talk about the war machine at length, nowhere do they provide a clear<br />

definition of the term. The name itself seems to arise from common associations of<br />

the nomadic hordes of Central Asia, such as the Golden Horde of Genghis Khan,<br />

with a pure form of terrifying violence, each horde functioning as an amorphous<br />

roaming “war machine” haphazardly encountering and destroying the sedentary<br />

settlements in its path. Deleuze and Guattari use this term in part to introduce<br />

the provocative theses that nomads invent the war machine, that the State merely<br />

appropriates and tames the war machine in the form of conventional armies, and<br />

that war in the common sense of the word is not the object of the war machine per<br />

se, but the object of the war machine as captured by the State apparatus. To grant


130<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

these arguments the detailed consideration they deserve is well beyond our scope<br />

here, but what is important to note is that the war machine is opposed to the State<br />

apparatus, and that the war machine constructs and inhabits smooth space, whereas<br />

the State apparatus constructs and inhabits striated space. Through this opposition of<br />

war machine and State apparatus, Deleuze and Guattari mean to suggest that there<br />

is a pervasive political dimension to the distinction between smooth and striated<br />

space – indeed, that every complex mixture of the smooth and the striated, whether<br />

it be social, economic, technological, scientific, mathematical, musical, literary, or<br />

philosophical, is also connected to and inseparable from the domain of the political.<br />

By identifying nomads with the war machine, Deleuze and Guattari suggest that<br />

a nomadic population may be seen as a machine, a collective entity defined by its<br />

function, which is that of creating and inhabiting a smooth space. A war machine is<br />

like a nomadic horde, a collective heterogeneous multiplicity passing through various<br />

sites, tracing vectors along which it distributes itself in open, metamorphic flows.<br />

By designating such a horde a machine, Deleuze and Guattari defamiliarize and<br />

denaturalize this anthropological example, indicating that the horde is an apersonal<br />

collective function, a force of production that does something, and that other<br />

collective entities involving both human and nonhuman components may likewise<br />

function as forces that produce smooth space. Ultimately, what Deleuze and Guattari<br />

designate by the term “war machine” is a force of transformation and metamorphosis<br />

– hence Deleuze’s remark that “A war machine tends to be revolutionary, or artistic,<br />

much more so than military” (PP 51/33). Deleuze also says that the war machine<br />

“constructs itself on lines of flight” (PP 50/33). Deleuze and Guattari frequently<br />

speak of “lines of flight,” taking the term from the French phrase for the vanishing<br />

point, or point de fuite, in a perspectival drawing (with the additional notion that a<br />

“line of flight” is a line of “leakage,” from the French usage of fuite to refer to a leak<br />

in a gas line, for example). A line of flight is a line of escape from any fixed and stable<br />

order. It is a line between things, between clearly demarcated entities and identities, a<br />

zigzag, unpredictable course that disrupts the coordinates of an organized space. The<br />

line of flight, in short, is the nomadic line of a smooth space. And what is essential<br />

is that the line of flight is a line of becoming-other, of metamorphosis and constant<br />

transformation.<br />

The war machine, says Deleuze, “composes, occupies and propagates” (PP 50/33)<br />

smooth space. As we recall, smooth space is not simply inhabited, but it is created<br />

through its usage. Hence, the “war machine,” the name by which we may refer to<br />

any nomadic multiplicity, constructs or composes the smooth space that it occupies,<br />

and as it continues to move it propagates further smooth space. The nomadic<br />

multiplicity is a wandering machine producing its own habitat and extending that<br />

habitat as it wanders. The trajectory of this wandering machine follows a line of<br />

flight, a course of constant metamorphosis, transformation and becoming-other. If<br />

we return to the model of a wandering flock of sheep, we can say that the nomadic<br />

tribe and its wandering flock together constitute a qualitative multiplicity and that<br />

the territory they inhabit is likewise a nomadic qualitative multiplicity. We must<br />

envision the nomadic tribe and flock as a dynamic, ever-changing flux, but we must<br />

also see the land they traverse as a dynamic, ever-changing flux. The nomads and<br />

their flocks constitute a rhizome of interconnected elements, and their movements


Nomadism, Globalism and Cultural Studies 131<br />

in turn convert the space they inhabit into a rhizome of interconnected elements.<br />

Smooth space, finally, is less a thing than an active process. The war machine in<br />

this sense is the dynamic force immanent to the productive engendering of smooth<br />

space – or perhaps we should say, it is the force of smooth-spacing, and this ongoing,<br />

metamorphic activity of smooth-spacing is nomadism.<br />

Globalization and Globalism<br />

What has nomadism to do with globalization? In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and<br />

Guattari frequently refer to phenomena associated with contemporary tendencies<br />

in globalization. In their discussion of the maritime model of smooth and striated<br />

space, for example, they engage the military dimension of globalization, the virtual,<br />

omni-present naval force representing the notion of a comprehensive global military<br />

order that combines the features of a smooth space of immanent, virtual force and a<br />

striated space of control and domination in the service of the states that deploy such<br />

military forces. They also relate the emergence of this military order to the formation<br />

of what Deleuze calls the “society of control” (see PP 240–47/177–82), a kind of<br />

universal social order of constant self-monitoring and self-regulation whereby<br />

individuals construct, organize, discipline and shape one another and themselves.<br />

The goal of a society of control, Deleuze and Guattari imply, is a global social order<br />

that transcends cultural divisions, one in which the very production of people – their<br />

bodies, their ways of living, their modes of subjectivity – undergoes a constant and<br />

thorough monitoring and control. Such a society of control, like the omnipresent<br />

naval force, converts the striated space of traditional social structures into a smooth<br />

space of immanent, dispersed power, but only the more effectively to control and<br />

regulate that space.<br />

But it is perhaps in their discussions of capitalism that Deleuze and Guattari most<br />

fully engage the interrelationship between nomadism and globalization. In their<br />

analysis, the basic tendency of capitalism is to undo complex social codes that limit<br />

relations of production, exchange and consumption and to convert everything into<br />

interchangeable units of capital. In traditional societies, codes determine who can<br />

produce what, which relations of exchange are permissible, which are taboo, who<br />

may consume what goods, who may not. In capitalist societies, the commodity form<br />

tends to replace all restrictive codes. Everything is converted into a quantitative unit<br />

of capital, all relations of production, exchange and consumption are commodified,<br />

and the world tends to resemble a universal machine of schizophrenic interconnecting<br />

flows that mingle commodified bits of people, places, things, processes, fantasies,<br />

ideas, and so on. Yet capitalism depends on the State apparatus for a regulation of<br />

these schizophrenic flows, and hence, though commodification tends to undo all<br />

traditional restrictive social codes, at the same time the State apparatus constantly<br />

recodes flows in newly constructed improvisatory formations. We may say, then, that<br />

capitalism is inherently globalizing in its tendency to proliferate in an unchecked<br />

decoding of flows, that in its schizophrenic interconnecting of flows it functions as a<br />

war machine in a smooth space, and that its recoding of flows via the State apparatus<br />

converts that smooth space into a striated space of control and regulation.


132<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

Deleuze and Guattari note that the uneasy relationship between the State and<br />

capitalism is suggested in the emergence of “an enormous, so-called stateless,<br />

monetary mass that circulates through foreign exchanges and across borders,<br />

escaping the control of States, forming a multinational ecumenical organization,<br />

constituting a supranational de facto power, unaffected by governmental decisions”<br />

(MP 566/453). Yet they regard the existence of such a “multinational ecumenical<br />

organization” not as a phenomenon peculiar to capitalism, but as a specific<br />

manifestation of a general feature of every State apparatus. The State, they claim,<br />

does not evolve from non-State social forms. The State apparatus is ubiquitous:<br />

“there has always been a State, and quite perfect, quite well-formed” (MP 445/360).<br />

Likewise, there has always been a non-State, a social organization outside the<br />

State form. The State is the quintessential “form of interiority” (MP 446/360), a<br />

structure of enclosure, organization and regulation – in short, a structure that creates<br />

a sedentary, striated space and an appropriately structured population to inhabit it.<br />

The non-State is manifest as a “form of exteriority” (MP 446/360), a nomadic war<br />

machine that composes, occupies and propagates a smooth space. Just as the de jure<br />

sedentary striated space and nomadic smooth space only appear in de facto mixtures,<br />

so do the State apparatus and non-State forms always appear together. Further, the<br />

State apparatus is always in a relationship with the nomadic as its “outside,” and<br />

conversely non-State forms are always in a relationship with the State apparatus.<br />

Hence, Deleuze and Guattari conclude:<br />

The outside [of the State apparatus] appears simultaneously in two directions: great<br />

worldwide machines, branched out across the ecumenon at a given moment, which enjoy<br />

a large degree of autonomy in relation to States (for example, commercial organizations<br />

of the “multinational” type, or industrial complexes, or even religious formations like<br />

Christianity, Islam, certain prophetic or messianic movements, etc.); but also local<br />

mechanisms of bands, margins, minorities, which continue to affirm the rights of<br />

segmentary societies against the organs of power of the State. The modern world offers us<br />

today particularly well developed images of these two directions, one toward worldwide<br />

ecumenical machines, but also another toward a neoprimitivism, a new tribal society such<br />

as McLuhan describes it. These directions are equally present in every social field, and in<br />

all periods. [MP 445–6/360]<br />

We may say, then, that the State is always haunted by two manifestations of the “form<br />

of exteriority,” one an outside beyond its limits, an ecumenical network extending<br />

towards unlimited horizons; the other an outside within its borders, evident in all<br />

the local pockets of nomadism, underdevelopment and deviation that escape State<br />

control and riddle it with holes. What this suggests, finally, is that the “outside” of<br />

the State is not so much literally outside as that it is an essence of the outside – a pure<br />

“form of exteriority” – that is immanent within the “form of interiority” of the State.<br />

Deleuze and Guattari are often regarded as theorists who approach globalization<br />

primarily from a Marxian economic perspective. In some respects this is true, and<br />

in Hardt and Negri’s Empire one can see the extent to which Deleuze and Guattari’s<br />

analysis of late capitalism may be applied to contemporary manifestations of<br />

globalization. However, Deleuze and Guattari recognize the degree to which noneconomic<br />

elements are inextricably bound with economic relations in modern


Nomadism, Globalism and Cultural Studies 133<br />

societies of control (as do Hardt and Negri, we might note), and their approach to<br />

the State form and its outside suggests that they would concur that sociocultural<br />

rather than exclusively economic analyses of globalization have some validity.<br />

Roland Robertson, for example, has argued that globalization has its source in broad<br />

sociocultural changes in Europe in early modernity that go beyond mere economic<br />

developments, to which Deleuze and Guattari might simply respond that indeed,<br />

globalization in early modernity tends to proceed through means more cultural than<br />

economic, but that increasingly economic means have come to dominance in this<br />

process over the last two centuries. Some, like Mihai Spariosu, have pointed out<br />

that Robertson’s account of globalization is myopic in that it ignores instances of<br />

globalization in other parts of the world at other times, such as the development of<br />

various empires – Chinese, Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian, Roman, Incan, Mayan,<br />

and so on – that had as their object an unlimited expansion into all surrounding<br />

territories. 3 Here, too, Deleuze and Guattari would concur, for they assert that the<br />

State apparatus and its outside occur “in every social field, in all periods,” and<br />

such imperial manifestations of globalization throughout history would simply be<br />

evidence of the inherently totalizing nature of the State apparatus.<br />

Ultimately, what Deleuze and Guattari are proposing in the contrasting concepts<br />

of sedentary striated space and nomadic smooth space are two models of totality, or<br />

the Whole, both of which are manifest to varying degrees and in diverse mixtures<br />

throughout history. Striated space is an englobing, containing Whole, a totality<br />

that gains its coordinates and dimensions through its delimitation of a sphere of<br />

total control. The tendency of every striated space is to encompass a Whole that<br />

grids everything within it. Hence, Deleuze and Guattari remark, “That which<br />

is at once limited and limiting is striated space, the relative global: it is limited<br />

in its parts, which are given constant directions, which are oriented in relation to<br />

one another, divisible according to borders, and capable of interconnection” (MP<br />

474/382). Smooth space, by contrast, is an open Whole, an expanse with no limits,<br />

a ceaseless process of acentered proliferation in all directions. It is, say Deleuze and<br />

Guattari, “a local absolute, an absolute that has its manifestation in the local, and its<br />

engendering in a series of local operations with varying orientations” (MP 474/382).<br />

The open Whole appears only as an uncompleted ongoing process, and always from<br />

the vantage of the local. The open Whole is a rhizomatic multiplicity without fixed<br />

center that cannot be apprehended as an enclosed totality. One can encounter the<br />

open Whole only in the local, and at whatever local site one encounters it, that site<br />

functions as the provisional, shifting center of a proliferating process of formation<br />

of the open Whole.<br />

The sedentary and the nomadic, the striated and the smooth, then, represent two<br />

different modes of globalizing, one that is relative global, the other local absolute.<br />

Many of the critics of globalization have objected to the gross injustices and<br />

inequalities that have been fostered in much of the world through the International<br />

Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, Western-dominated multinational<br />

3 See Roland Robertson, Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture (London,<br />

1992), and Mihai Spariosu, Global Intelligence and Human Development. Toward an Ecology<br />

of Global Learning (Cambridge, MA, 2004).


134<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

corporations, various international financial instruments and market networks, all<br />

supported by political, technological and military means of coercion directed by the<br />

United States and its allies. They have rightly argued that “globalization” all too often<br />

amounts to the “Americanization” and “McDonaldization” of the world and that the<br />

neoliberal model of economic development is not the only course of action open<br />

to the planet’s peoples. This form of globalization, I would argue, is an especially<br />

pernicious manifestation of the relative global, of the sedentary striated space of the<br />

State apparatus. There are alternatives to such globalization, however, ones that might<br />

foster what we could call “globalism,” reserving the term “globalization” to refer<br />

to the processes of neoliberal Western economic-based expansion and domination.<br />

Globalism, in contradistinction to globalization, would entail an ongoing, open-ended<br />

process of worldwide community formation through the interactive proliferation of<br />

multiple sites of cultural invention. Such globalism, in sum, would be a manifestation<br />

of the local absolute of nomadic smooth space, and it is this globalism that should<br />

guide us in conceptualizing the field of cultural studies.<br />

Global Poetics<br />

Deleuze and Guattari are frequently associated with advocates of hybridity and border<br />

crossing in cultural studies – and with good reason, for the motif of “becomingother”<br />

is central to their thought. Yet by no means do they celebrate all processes<br />

of hybridization and blurring of identities as inherently positive. They recognize<br />

that the dissolution of social and cultural traditions may well usher in nefarious<br />

regimes of power, and they would concur with those who criticize the prophets of<br />

unrestrained hybridity for incautiously opening themselves to manipulation by the<br />

forces of globalization (in our restricted use of the term). Yet Deleuze and Guattari<br />

would have little sympathy for cultural studies that advocate an identity politics<br />

whereby local distinctions are reinforced through a return to traditional institutions<br />

and practices. What their work suggests, I believe, is that cultural studies should avoid<br />

the twin pitfalls of unqualified hybridization and reactionary identity politics and<br />

instead cultivate the local absolute as a means of engendering a genuine globalism.<br />

What does this mean in practical terms? As an instance of cultural studies,<br />

consider for a moment the analysis of traditional Navajo poetry and the position it<br />

might occupy within the domain of comparative poetics. Traditional Navajo poetry<br />

lends itself well to study from a broad cultural perspective, for in most instances it<br />

occurs only within the context of complex rituals involving a wide range of cultural<br />

practices and media. Central to Navajo culture are the rituals and ceremonies of<br />

blessing, healing, protection, exorcism, and so on, conducted by the hatáálí, the<br />

ceremonial practitioners usually referred to as “medicine men.” Among the most<br />

important of these rituals are those called Blessingway, Lifeway, Nightway,<br />

Enemyway and Monsterway, each of which consists of several days of chanting,<br />

dancing, ceremonies, prayers and ritual actions, involving various sacred objects,


Nomadism, Globalism and Cultural Studies 135<br />

sand paintings, foods, and so on. 4 The primary instances of traditional Navajo poetry<br />

are to be found in the chants and songs performed by the medicine men during these<br />

rituals.<br />

One of the major obstacles to a global comparative poetics is that the entire<br />

conceptual apparatus of literary analysis – its vocabulary, ideas, procedures, aims,<br />

objects – is specific to the Greco-Roman tradition. The notion of the literary itself,<br />

and even that of the comparative study of an art form, are foreign to many traditions<br />

of the world. Hence, a first stage in the study of traditional Navajo poetry would be to<br />

characterize it in its own terms, avoiding as much as possible the standard language<br />

and categories of literary analysis. One would recognize that the words of the chants<br />

are inseparable from the rhythms, dance movements, vocal inflections and melodic<br />

lines of their performance; that the words are efficacious and sacred, with a direct<br />

power to affect the world; that the power of the word emanates from the gods and<br />

the land; that the elements of the Navajo cosmos are thoroughly interconnected, such<br />

that the four corner-poles of the dwelling-place correspond to the four directions, to<br />

four colors, four stones, four sacred mountains, four gods, four elements, and so on;<br />

that every song participates in a vast, loosely organized body of stories stretching<br />

from creation to the present through generations of gods, humans, animals and other<br />

beings; that the words function as a medicine whereby the singer brings the recipient<br />

of the chant into a proper alignment with the forces of the universe. Within this broad<br />

cultural context, one might then explore the sense the Navajo have of the specific<br />

virtues of language – its powers, pleasures, charms, variations, rhythms, accents<br />

– and on the basis of indigenous categories construct a Navajo poetics.<br />

But this would be only a first step in the promotion of a genuine globalism.<br />

The next would be to use such a Navajo poetics as a local absolute, as a site of<br />

proliferation toward unlimited horizons. For example, one might attempt a Navajo<br />

reading of Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey.” Best would be if a Navajo were to conduct<br />

the reading, or if one were to collaborate with a native informant in constructing it,<br />

but let us propose the outlines of a hypothetical (and perhaps somewhat fanciful)<br />

description of the poem from the vantage of Navajo chant. We might say that<br />

Wordsworth’s medicine is slow and quiet, its power fluctuating and inconstant. His<br />

gods are nameless, but they speak together as a diffused, rolling presence. His dance<br />

is unhurried and often still, marked with periods of trance and near-paralysis. The<br />

gods dwell in the sacred landscape, but he is forced to reside in a domain abandoned<br />

by the gods. His chant is condensed and barely sung, its internal rhythms and<br />

cadences replacing the usual waves of repeating phrases, meters and movements that<br />

propel and sustain chant. He has felt the power of his medicine diminish within, but<br />

4 For transcriptions of performances of Navajo ceremonies, see James C. Faris, The<br />

Nightway: A History and a History of Documentation of a Navajo Ceremonial (Albuquerque,<br />

NM, 1990); Karl W. Luckert, Coyoteway: A Navajo Healing Ceremony (Tucson, AZ, 1979);<br />

Washington Matthews, The Mountain Chant: A Navajo Ceremony (Salt Lake City, UT, 1997);<br />

Leland Clifton Wyman, Beautyway: A Navajo Ceremonial (New York, 1957); Blessingway<br />

(Tucson, AZ, 1970); and The Mountainway of the Navajo (Tucson, AZ, 1975). On Navajo<br />

chants and religious performance, see Sam D. Gill, Native American Religious Action: A<br />

Performance Approach to Religion (Columbia, SC, 1987).


136<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

he senses that it still is efficacious and may bring healing to his sister, the recipient<br />

of his chant.<br />

An analysis such as this, however, in itself is not sufficient to decenter conventional<br />

comparative poetics, for it merely reverses the relation of dominance between the<br />

center and the margin, between Western and non-Western poetics. Hence, one would<br />

need to extend this process of analysis in multiple directions across cultures of<br />

diverse sorts. One might attempt a Navajo reading of Basho’s Narrow Road of the<br />

Interior, for example, and then a Navajo reading of traditional Tamil lyric poetry,<br />

of the Aztec Cantares Mexicanos, the lyrics of Jalaloddin Rumi, and the Shadow<br />

Songs of Léopold Sédar Senghor. The selection of objects of comparison would be<br />

determined by the fruitfulness of the encounters. The goal of each analysis would not<br />

be dominance but mutual transformation of the objects under consideration and the<br />

invention of concepts that belong wholly to no given tradition.<br />

This example may seem somewhat forced and improbable, but I hope it is<br />

sufficient to suggest how Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of nomadism might help<br />

us envision the field of cultural studies as a generative force that fosters a genuine<br />

globalism. Cultural studies in this guise, what we might call a nomadic cultural<br />

studies, would first ensure that the configuration of a given site of investigation<br />

emerges from within, through an analysis of indigenous sources and their<br />

interpretative use by local inhabitants. But then it would convert that site into a local<br />

absolute, treating that site as the provisional center of a proliferating open Whole.<br />

Yet a nomadic cultural studies would have to be multiple, with a proliferation as well<br />

of interacting provisional centers. The sites of the local absolute would need to be<br />

plural, and analysts based in various sites would have to be responsive to the diverse<br />

interpretations their own site undergoes in its encounters with analysts situated<br />

in other sites. The goal, finally, would be to allow analysts to see their respective<br />

sites both as provisional centers and as constituents of other proliferating networks<br />

provisionally centered elsewhere, and hence to promote exchanges between sites and<br />

foster efforts to conceive of an open Whole that belongs to none of the sites involved<br />

in the exchanges. In the case of a nomadic comparative poetics, the aim would be to<br />

recognize diverse local poetics, but at the same time to use them to generate a global<br />

poetics that is genuinely acentered and always in the process of formation. In the<br />

case of nomadic cultural studies as a whole, the aim would be to establish multiple<br />

sites of the local absolute, but at the same time to foster the interactive creation of an<br />

open Whole whose unfolding horizons extend beyond those of any one of the sites.


Chapter 10<br />

Nomadology’s Trial by Proxy<br />

There are two basic types of commentators on Deleuze and Guattari: those who seek<br />

to extend the experimental conceptual movement of Deleuze and Guattari’s thought,<br />

adopting the authors’ language and intensifying its tendencies; and those who try<br />

to frame Deleuze and Guattari’s thought in less esoteric terms, utilizing a more<br />

orthodox, academic terminology and testing the practical limits, implications and<br />

consequences of their thought. I am decidedly of the latter group, and for that reason<br />

I am basically sympathetic to the task Christopher L. Miller sets himself in “Beyond<br />

Identity: The Postidentitarian Predicament in Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand<br />

Plateaus” (1993; 1998), one of the most detailed critiques of Deleuze and Guattari’s<br />

concept of nomadology yet to appear. 1 Miller observes that “the notes to A Thousand<br />

Plateaus are the archive of nomad thought” (Miller 177), and he proposes to assess<br />

the claims of nomad thought by examining A Thousand Plateaus’s voluminous<br />

archive of references, especially the work’s anthropological citations. Again, my<br />

sympathies are with Miller. For the last twenty-five years I have been reading in the<br />

Deleuze-Guattari archive of sources, finding the footnotes in almost every instance<br />

an invaluable guide to understanding their thought. But the conclusions Miller draws<br />

from his investigation are far different from my own.<br />

Miller frames his examination of nomadology within the debates in cultural<br />

studies, gender/sexuality studies and postcolonial studies about identity, “identity<br />

politics” and “identitarian” modes of thought. He argues ultimately that nomadology<br />

is not the answer to the dilemma posed by these debates:<br />

What I think we need to help us in our predicament is a less utopian, less contradictory, less<br />

arrogant, and less messianic theorization of movement, a nomadism that acknowledges<br />

something outside itself. We need a positive cosmopolitanism that remains meticulously<br />

aware of localities and differences: a more convincing ethic of flow than the one proposed<br />

by Deleuze and Guattari. Such a cosmopolitanism of knowledge would have to face up<br />

to the consequences of the representational authority it assumes, not pretending to have<br />

no authority at all. The delusion of “nonauthority” must be abandoned. Then, perhaps,<br />

1 Miller’s essay first appeared in Diacritics, 23/3 (1993): 6–35, under the title “The<br />

Postidentitarian Predicament in the Footnotes of A Thousand Plateaus: Nomadology,<br />

Anthropology, Authority.” A slightly modified version came out in 1998 as Chapter Six<br />

of his Nationalists and Nomads: Essays on Francophone African Literature and Culture<br />

(Chicago, IL, 1998), pp. 171–209. Miller states in the Acknowledgements to Nationalists<br />

and Nomads that “I wish the present revised versions of all these essays to supersede their<br />

previous incarnations in print” (Miller xi–xii), and in keeping with his wishes, I cite the<br />

1998 version throughout. However, I will have occasion to refer to the Diacritics version<br />

from time to time.


138<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

the translation of this cosmopolitanism into knowledge would be less prone to accidents<br />

and contradictions; it would be less at odds with the basic tenets of the project as a whole.<br />

[Miller 209]<br />

Despite the softening effect of “less” and “more” in his formulation, Miller’s<br />

assessment is clear: Deleuze and Guattari are utopian, contradictory, arrogant and<br />

messianic. They are guilty of the delusion of “nonauthority” and irresponsible<br />

in the handling of the authority they do assume. They are prone to accidents and<br />

contradictions, and their work is fundamentally at odds with the basic tenets of their<br />

project as a whole. Those of us who find value in Deleuze and Guattari’s writings<br />

on nomadology, I believe, have an obligation to take seriously Miller’s findings,<br />

examine them closely, and answer some of the challenges he poses.<br />

Miller’s approach to Deleuze and Guattari is generally measured and considerate,<br />

and his rhetoric is largely restrained, although satiric formulations emerge at key<br />

points in the argument. Such benign appearances notwithstanding, the structure<br />

of Miller’s argument follows the familiar pattern of the debunkers of high theory.<br />

We start by framing the object of investigation in stark and often extreme terms,<br />

exposing the theory’s rhetorical excesses of superlatives, absolutes and claims to<br />

novelty. (To the extent that this phase involves distortion and hyperbole, we may<br />

call it the “Straw Man” phase.) We then demonstrate that its supposed innovations<br />

are not really new, and that other, more reasonable and responsible theories already<br />

occupy the field. Next, we show that the theory’s novelties are shams, and that what<br />

seems new is merely careless, self-contradictory, misinformed, poorly researched,<br />

and substandard in its scholarship. Finally, we turn the tables, showing that the<br />

revolutionary is actually a reactionary, that the radical is a closet conservative, that<br />

the rebel is a fascist, or in this case, that the postcolonial advocates of the oppressed<br />

are latent colonialists repeating the patrician European fantasies of primitivism<br />

and exoticism. The end result is that the object of investigation is shown to be<br />

unworthy of serious attention – utopian, contradictory, arrogant, messianic, careless,<br />

irresponsible, unscholarly – and hence an object that need not be read at all, let alone<br />

read with care and sympathy.<br />

Deleuze and Guattari’s Arrogance<br />

One of Miller’s basic tactics is to substitute interpreters of Deleuze and Guattari for<br />

the authors themselves, and then to ground his critique in an analysis of the words<br />

of their surrogates. A particularly sophisticated application of this tactic is evident at<br />

the inception of his analysis. Miller’s focus is on the question of identity, and he first<br />

establishes A Thousand Plateaus as an anti-identitarian text by citing the anonymous<br />

blurb of the English-paperback translation, remarking that the book is “promoted<br />

not as a model of identity but as a way ‘to conceive of individuality free from the<br />

confines of Identity [that is, free from identitarianism (Miller’s editorial comment)],<br />

to think difference in itself, without any reference to the Same’” (Miller 137). Miller<br />

next cites the preface to A Thousand Plateaus, written by “its brilliant American<br />

translator and commentator, Brian Massumi” (Miller 173). Once Massumi is elevated<br />

through this praise to the level of Deleuze and Guattari, Miller can state that “nomad


Nomadology’s Trial by Proxy 139<br />

thought is presented by Deleuze, Guattari, and Massumi as a remedy, a cure for the<br />

ills attendant to capitalism, among which is identity” (Miller 173). Massumi, now a<br />

virtual co-author with Deleuze and Guattari, is then allowed to stand in for Deleuze<br />

and Guattari, and it is Massumi’s words that Miller cites in order to establish A<br />

Thousand Plateaus as an anti-identitarian text. Miller confirms this substitution by<br />

asserting that Massumi’s preface to A Thousand Plateaus “is an important statement<br />

about nomadology” (Miller 174), and that the publication of Massumi’s A User’s<br />

Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia in 1992 makes “Massumi an essential third<br />

collaborator for readers of English” (Miller 174).<br />

Massumi is but one of a series of surrogates for Deleuze and Guattari, others<br />

being André Pierre Colombat, Kenneth White, Eugene Holland, Paul Patton, Stephen<br />

Muecke and R. Rhadakrishnan. This substitution of interpreters for the original is<br />

a curious practice, given Miller’s condemnation of “Deleuze and Guattari and their<br />

followers” for escaping “the ethical burden of representing real, actual nomads, who<br />

might eventually have something to say in response” (Miller 178). Yet the practice<br />

might be deemed acceptable if, indeed, the interpreters faithfully represent the<br />

original. But in fact the interpreters all have their own points of view, and though<br />

their perspectives may at times be illuminating, they may also foster misleading and<br />

distorted interpretations of the original text, especially if they are read incautiously.<br />

Miller’s first job is to characterize “nomad thought.” Through a series of citations<br />

from Massumi, he establishes that nomad thought is anti-identitarian, affirmative<br />

and free from the negative. 2 Via a citation from Holland, Miller establishes that<br />

nomad thought erases “‘the last traces of humanism and even anthropocentrism’<br />

… [Holland 59]” (Miller 175). Next comes Alice Jardine, who, though opposed<br />

to Deleuze and Guattari’s enterprise, “accurately explains” (Miller 177) the nature<br />

of Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of becoming: “‘Becoming,’ for Deleuze and<br />

Guattari, means becoming caught up in a process of osmosis (not metaphor) with deanthropologized<br />

and de-identitized entities – women, infants, animals, foreigners,<br />

the insane – in order to resist the dominant mode of representation represented by<br />

any majority [52; emphasis mine (that is, Miller’s)]” (Miller 177). Paul Patton is<br />

then recruited to assure us “that nomad thought ‘lies entirely outside the domain of<br />

the reproducible, of representation [62]’” (Miller 177). And finally Miller establishes<br />

the anti-anthropological nature of nomad thought by quoting Stephen Muecke, who,<br />

says Miller, “claims that Deleuze and Guattari’s presentation of nomadology in A<br />

Thousand Plateaus ‘enables us to take on board the concept “nomad” without having<br />

recourse to anthropological definitions which would only re-integrate the concept of<br />

2 The danger of substituting spokespersons for the authors is especially evident<br />

in Miller’s cautious challenge to Deleuze and Guattari’s claim (as represented only by<br />

Massumi’s claim) that nomad thought is only apparently negative. Miller notes that “in his<br />

own book, Massumi wryly suggests that ‘molar men’ (in other words, fascists) may require<br />

Dr. Kevorkian’s treatment: ‘Their suicide may have to be assisted’ [89]” (Miller 9). Massumi’s<br />

wry suggestion may have some bearing on Deleuze and Guattari’s views, but it is formulated<br />

in terms that are considerably more extreme than one usually meets in Deleuze and Guattari’s<br />

texts, and, indeed, Massumi’s humor and style generally tend to raise the confrontational<br />

dimensions of Deleuze and Guattari’s rhetoric to a new level.


140<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

the body of anti-nomadic thinking [24; emphasis mine (that is, Miller’s)]’” (Miller<br />

177–8).<br />

Thus, without quoting Deleuze and Guattari, Miller establishes that nomad thought<br />

is anti-identitarian, free of the negative, non-anthropomorphic, “nonrepresentational<br />

and nonanthropological” (Miller 178). At one point during his opening presentation,<br />

it must be admitted, Miller does cite Deleuze and Guattari themselves – specifically,<br />

their opening statement in A Thousand Plateaus that the two authors each have<br />

plural identities, and “Since each of us was several, there was already quite a crowd”<br />

(MP 9/3). And on the basis of this remark, he argues that Deleuze and Guattari’s<br />

“nomadology in this case is, appropriately, free-floating, prescriptive, virtual, and<br />

nonreferential, untroubled by the genealogy of its sources and not accountable to<br />

the conditions of ‘tribe[s], nation[s] or race[s] having no permanent home,’ (the<br />

definition of ‘nomad’ in Webster’s New World Dictionary, college edition). It is an<br />

intellectual nomadism and a nomadism for intellectuals. We might call this case the<br />

‘free’ mode of nomadology … antithetical to the representational disciplines that<br />

have dealt with nomads until now, most notably anthropology” (Miller 177). 3<br />

There is some truth to Miller’s description of nomad thought, but that truth<br />

needs to be framed carefully within a complex of texts, primarily by Deleuze, that<br />

extend beyond A Thousand Plateaus. Deleuze indeed opposes a traditional ontology<br />

and epistemology anchored in the concept of identity, but he does so by examining<br />

in detail a number of traditional philosophical arguments and proposing complex<br />

responses to them. In The Logic of Sense, he considers at length the paradoxes<br />

associated with becoming and situates identity within a logic of the event and shows<br />

identity to be a secondary product of a process of differentiation. In Difference and<br />

Repetition, he elaborates on that analysis, insisting that the process of individuation<br />

precedes the actual individual and that a generative difference produces identities.<br />

In both books, he challenges anthropocentric and humanist philosophies, but not<br />

in some vague and impressionistic fashion. Rather, he argues that Kant’s supposed<br />

“Copernican revolution” in philosophy is no revolution at all if for God we<br />

merely substitute Man. Only if we abandon the authority of God, Man and World<br />

as grounding concepts can we begin to establish a genuinely non-foundational<br />

philosophy, and Deleuze’s effort in the two books is to do so by developing the<br />

notion of an immanent transcendental field of non-personal virtual forces of<br />

differentiation which unfold themselves in the actual entities of the cosmos. Deleuze<br />

offers a detailed critique of the logic of representation in Difference and Repetition,<br />

showing that the common sense of cognition requires a common functioning of the<br />

3 Miller’s argument seems to be that Deleuze and Guattari, in denying that they have<br />

any fixed, single identity, are freeing themselves from responsibility for their words and<br />

establishing themselves as the only nomads they are talking about. (“So Deleuze and Guattari<br />

are already a horde and a force of nature associated with the earth itself; we need seek no more<br />

nomads than them” [Miller 10].) I find Miller’s logic strained and his conclusions unsupported<br />

by the citation. That Deleuze and Guattari reject traditional notions of self-identity does not<br />

mean that they embrace a nonreferential, solipsistic and narcissistic practice. Miller may deem<br />

the remark on multiple identities an unconscious symptom of such narcissism, but Deleuze<br />

and Guattari’s purpose clearly is not to plead exemption from all referentiality and ethical<br />

responsibility, as I hope to show.


Nomadology’s Trial by Proxy 141<br />

faculties (sensibility, imagination, understanding, memory, and so on), which itself<br />

presupposes a world subject to representation, whose four elements are “identity in<br />

the form of the undetermined concept, analogy in the relation between ultimately<br />

determinable concepts, opposition in the relation between determinations within the<br />

concept, resemblances in the determined object of the concept itself” (DR 44–5/29).<br />

We need not pursue the details of Deleuze’s argument here, but suffice it to say that<br />

he is not summarily dismissing the concept of representation without subjecting it to<br />

a thorough examination, nor is he simply embracing a free-floating non-referential<br />

semiosis. Rather, he is doing as many modern philosophers of various stripes have<br />

done, and that is to reject the notion of a transparent, unproblematic representation<br />

of the real through the medium of language (what Rorty calls the “mirror of nature”<br />

model) and to seek an alternative account of the relationship between words and<br />

things.<br />

There is truth as well in Massumi’s claim that nomad thought is affirmative,<br />

despite the appearance of negation in its operations, but here again, caution and<br />

precision are in order. The topic of affirmation is central to Deleuze’s reading of<br />

Nietzsche, and in Nietzsche and Philosophy Deleuze argues that the “affirmation of<br />

affirmation” in Nietzsche’s will to power is a response to the “negation of negation”<br />

central to Hegel’s philosophy. At stake are two different senses of “affirmation” and<br />

“negation.” In The Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche reveals the two different senses<br />

of negation by contrasting the mentality of sheep and that of eagles (as figures of<br />

slaves and masters). Sheep define themselves by what they hate – the eagles that<br />

prey on them. They develop a reactive, negative sense of self, and then attempt<br />

to impose their values on the eagles, trying to make the eagles feel guilty for not<br />

being sheep. In this way, they impose purely negative, resentful values, defining<br />

good as not-eagle, and evil as not-not-eagle. The eagles, by contrast, affirm what<br />

they are, and from that affirmation they determine their differences from sheep. If<br />

they recognize the baseness of sheep, it is only as a second affirmation of what they<br />

are in contrast to what the sheep are.<br />

The two senses of affirmation derive from this differentiation of mentalities.<br />

Nietzsche argues that affirmation cannot simply be a matter of saying yes to<br />

everything, since that would entail assent to all that is generated by the resentment<br />

of the negative will to power (manifest in the sheep mentality). Genuine affirmation<br />

(as opposed to the sheep’s affirmation, which is a passive acceptance of whatever is)<br />

requires a critique of the negative mentality of resentment and a joyful destruction of<br />

reactive constructions of the negative will to power. It is in this Nietzschean sense of<br />

critique that Deleuze and Guattari see their nomad thought as essentially affirmative,<br />

and only negative in a limited sense of the word.<br />

Deleuze and Guattari’s Superficiality<br />

What precisely Miller sees as Deleuze and Guattari’s position is not easy to determine,<br />

but he seems to believe that they practice some form of deconstruction, at least one<br />

that promotes the free play of the signifier, the subversion of commonsense categories,<br />

and the celebration of an unconstrained and unspecified politics of liberation. At


142<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

one point, Miller observes that Deleuze and Guattari’s critique of anthropology<br />

is “severely limited,” offering “nothing like the wholesale discrediting of the<br />

discipline that can be discerned, for example, in Derrida’s Grammatology” (Miller<br />

181). Presuming that Deleuze and Guattari’s aim is to engage in such wholesale<br />

discrediting, Miller suggests that they would do better to emulate Stephen Tyler<br />

in his “radical, transformed ethnography,” which, in Tyler’s words, “describes no<br />

knowledge and produces no action,” and which thus, says Miller, “could be described<br />

as ‘free’ (of representation, of correspondence with referents), postidentitarian, and<br />

therefore ostensibly compatible with nomadology” (Miller 181).<br />

Deconstruction, however, has little connection with nomad thought, as Deleuze<br />

makes explicit during his response to a question following his lecture “Nomad<br />

Thought” (his first exposition of the notion, delivered in 1973):<br />

As for the method of the deconstruction of texts, I understand very well what it is, I admire<br />

it greatly, but it has nothing to do with my method. I do not in any way see myself as a<br />

textual commentator. A text for me is only a little cog in an extratextual practice. It’s not<br />

a matter of commenting on the text through a deconstructive method, or by a method of<br />

textual practice, or by other methods; it’s a matter of seeing what function the text serves<br />

in the extratextual practice that extends the text. [ID 363/260]<br />

In A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari approach language as a mode of<br />

action, situating linguistics within a general pragmatics. Words do not represent<br />

things, but they intervene in them, interact with them, thereby performing<br />

“incorporeal transformations” on things, categorizing them, classifying them,<br />

subjecting them to codes of power, regulation and domination. In no way is<br />

language “nonreferential,” in the sense of “divorced from the world.” It does not<br />

transparently and unproblematically “represent” things, but it certainly affects things<br />

and helps shape them. Language is but one component of interconnected patterns<br />

of action and structures of power relations, those patterns and structures having as<br />

their constituents heterogeneous elements, discursive and nondiscursive, all of them<br />

mutually shaping one another in a dynamic process of inter-formation.<br />

Nor do Deleuze and Guattari espouse an epistemology of infinite self-referential<br />

semiosis, in which all claims to truth and relevance are abandoned. Like Foucault, they<br />

are anti-foundational in their epistemology, but they recognize the practical effects<br />

of truths as power-functions. They know that truths are made, that configurations of<br />

words and things, which are informed by “regimes of signs,” make certain statements<br />

possible and exclude others (those truths being inseparable from the nondiscursive<br />

practices, institutions, physical objects, architectural constructions, geographical<br />

modifications, and so on, that are intermeshed with discursive signs). Deleuze and<br />

Guattari’s nomadic methodology is what Deleuze calls a “constructivism” (PP<br />

199/146), an active effort to disrupt orthodoxies and thereby “falsify” received<br />

truths, but also to construct new, provisional truths that might open unforeseeable<br />

possibilities for life. Once again, nomad thought can be described as “nonreferential”<br />

only in a very specific and limited sense, and certainly not in the sense of “making no<br />

claims to truth” or “denying thought any efficacious relation to reality.”<br />

But most essential is the distance between deconstruction and nomad thought<br />

in the two methods’ approach to the concept of difference. Derrida develops his


Nomadology’s Trial by Proxy 143<br />

notion of difference from a linguistic model, whereas Deleuze and Guattari’s stems<br />

from an ontological model of Bergsonian origin. In his seminal 1956 essay “The<br />

Conception of Difference in Bergson,” Deleuze outlines a Bergsonian approach to<br />

difference that remains a formative force throughout his thought. In an essay on the<br />

philosopher Ravaisson, Bergson observes that concepts may be developed in two<br />

different ways, and to illustrate this distinction he considers two ways of thinking<br />

about the concept “color.” One is to start with red, efface its redness, then do the<br />

same to blue, to yellow, and so on, until you arrive at the abstract notion of “color,”<br />

that is, a general “colorness” that has been emptied of any specific color content.<br />

The concept is a genus in relation to several species (the individual colors), a single<br />

concept referring to several objects. The concept is generated through a process of<br />

negation (not red, not blue); there is a gap between the object and its concept, a<br />

division between thing and mind; and the relation between the object and the concept<br />

is one of subsumption. The alternative approach is to start with a rainbow continuum<br />

of colors and send them through a convergent lens that concentrates them on the<br />

same point, thereby producing a pure clear light. The concept is that pure clear light.<br />

As Deleuze explains:<br />

[T]he colors are no longer objects under a concept, but the nuances or degrees of the<br />

concept itself. Degrees of difference itself, and not differences of degree. The relation<br />

is no longer one of subsumption, but of participation … Because things have become<br />

nuances or degrees of the concept, the concept itself has become a thing. It is a universal<br />

thing, if you will, since the objects take form within it as so many degrees, but it is a<br />

concrete thing, not a genus or a generality. [ID 60/43]<br />

To speak in strictly physical terms (only a provisional step), we may say that the pure<br />

light is a generative self-differing difference, and that each color is a manifestation of<br />

a process of differentiation (here, imagine a reversal of our original model, the clear<br />

light passing through a lens to form a rainbow spectrum). The clear light is immanent<br />

within each individual color, and we may say that the spectrum of manifest colors<br />

is an unfolding of the clear light as it differentiates itself into the diverse colors. The<br />

manifest rainbow colors have an actual existence, the immanent clear light a virtual<br />

existence, and both the actual and the virtual are real. But the physical unfolding of<br />

the light is inextricable from the unfolding of the concept – the concept is a thing.<br />

Thought and its object together unfold as part of a single process of self-differing<br />

differentiation.<br />

Bergson’s basic method, Deleuze shows, is to replace false distinctions with<br />

genuine differences, which are differences of nature, that is, real differences, but<br />

which exist in their pure state as virtual entities. Time, for example, is generally<br />

misconceived, says Bergson, because it is framed in terms that confuse the temporal<br />

and the spatial, time being construed unconsciously in spatialized terms. Time,<br />

however, differs from space in nature. In the actual world, we always experience<br />

time and space in mixtures, but a pure time and a pure space exist as virtual entities.<br />

We discern those virtual entities as tendencies within the actual, and one of the<br />

primary goals of thought is to discriminate between those tendencies and extract<br />

from them the pure virtual entities that are manifested in those tendencies. Pure<br />

virtual time, what Bergson calls durée (which has as two of its dimensions memory


144<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

and élan vital), differs in nature from pure space. What complicates this example,<br />

however, is that even the distinction between pure time and pure space is provisional.<br />

Bergson argues that in a universe of incessant becoming, of ongoing and universal<br />

metamorphosis, there are no real things at all, merely fluxes and flows, perturbations,<br />

movements, vibrations. What we call “space,” even the pure space of the virtual, is<br />

simply a contraction of the vibrational Whole, and time is the infinite dilation of that<br />

Whole. In short, pure virtual space finally is merely a manifestation of durée. The<br />

two separate entities of time and space collapse into one – durée in its dilated form,<br />

durée in its contracted form. But this collapse does not lead us to a monism, for the<br />

“one,” in this case, durée, is itself a self-differing difference, and the real distinction<br />

between pure time and pure space, at which we arrived provisionally, is generated by<br />

durée as it differentiates itself. What we have, then, is a binary opposition in which<br />

one pole generates the other, but not in any temporal priority. The generative pole,<br />

durée, does not in some sense exist prior to the other pole, space. Both coexist. And<br />

the difference between durée and pure space is not some kind of illusion – it is a real<br />

difference of nature, a real manifestation of durée unfolding itself as a self-differing<br />

difference.<br />

Bergson’s analyses of differences of nature are not always as abstruse as that<br />

of the difference between time and space, nor is the final phase of the analysis, in<br />

which one pole is shown to be the differencing of the other, always present. But<br />

throughout his work, Bergson proceeds by discerning tendencies within an actual<br />

mixture, and then isolating the virtual differences of nature that manifest themselves<br />

within the actual. This Bergsonian practice may be seen clearly in Deleuze’s<br />

thought in his early study of the novelist Sacher-Masoch. There, Deleuze argues<br />

that sadomasochism is a false category, a mixture of tendencies, and that sadism and<br />

masochism represent incommensurable worlds, the one explored by Sade, the other<br />

by Sacher-Masoch, both authors being consummate symptomatologists capable of<br />

isolating the complex of elements that make up the pure virtual worlds of sadism<br />

and masochism. Something similar takes place in Anti-Oedipus as Deleuze and<br />

Guattari first challenge the orthodox distinction between psychosis and neurosis and<br />

then differentiate the pure virtual elements of schizophrenia and paranoia from one<br />

another. And in A Thousand Plateaus, this Bergsonian method is used over and over<br />

again, the distinction between the nomadic and the sedentary being one instance of<br />

such an analysis of tendencies in an actual mixture in terms of their qualitatively<br />

different, virtual sources.<br />

Deleuze and Guattari’s Unoriginality<br />

When Miller compares Stephen Tyler’s “truly radical, transformed ethnography”<br />

to A Thousand Plateaus, he finds Deleuze and Guattari “to be quite old-fashioned”<br />

(Miller 181). In their use of the concept of “assemblages,” Miller recognizes a line<br />

of thought “more consonant with the moderate, ‘reformed’ approach to anthropology<br />

(à la James Clifford) that is now becoming commonplace than with the radically<br />

antirepresentational stance of Tyler” (Miller 186). One of Deleuze and Guattari’s<br />

statements, says Miller, “could have come out of Anthropology as Cultural Critique


Nomadology’s Trial by Proxy 145<br />

[by Marcus and Fischer] or Writing Culture [by Clifford and Marcus]” (Miller<br />

186). 4 The concept of the assemblage, Miller remarks, “is an eminently clear and<br />

reasonable one” (Miller 186), but not one that supports Deleuze and Guattari’s radical<br />

pretensions to having broken with the fundamental presuppositions of mainstream<br />

anthropology.<br />

Miller is correct that Deleuze and Guattari do not engage in the radical transformed<br />

ethnography proposed by Tyler, but they never claim to do so. He is also correct<br />

that Deleuze and Guattari’s approach to certain anthropological concerns is broadly<br />

consonant with the approach of Clifford, Marcus and Fischer, but the conceptual<br />

differences between the two are not simply a matter of rhetoric. Miller states that<br />

the moderate position of Clifford et al. is that “culture results from shared questions<br />

rather than from predetermined beliefs and exists in a state of dynamic tension with<br />

itself and its others” (Miller 186). Miller sees Deleuze and Guattari as supporting<br />

this view when they assert that a given people may exhibit “the predominance of one<br />

semiotic or another” (MP 149/119) but that “configurations change” (Miller 186). In<br />

the passage Miller cites, however, Deleuze and Guattari are saying not simply that<br />

configurations of signs change, but also that cultural practices are shaped by virtual<br />

regimes of signs that become manifest in ordinary experience only as tendencies<br />

within actual mixtures. Regimes of signs involve “assemblages,” and I would<br />

certainly agree that the latter concept is useful, but neither concept is “eminently<br />

clear and reasonable” in the sense of being straightforward and easily assimilable<br />

within standard conceptual frames.<br />

An assemblage is a heterogeneous collection of entities that somehow function<br />

together. In Deleuze’s analysis, the concept of the assemblage is similar to Foucault’s<br />

notion of the dispositif, “apparatus,” “device,” or “contrivance” (see especially<br />

Deleuze’s “Qu’est-ce qu’un dispositif?” in DRF 316–25/338–48). An assemblage<br />

in some regards is like a system in systems theory, a circuit of elements engaged in<br />

an interactive process, yet a circuit that lacks the stability, coherence and structural<br />

integrity often implied by the word “system.” In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari<br />

approach assemblages in terms of desiring-machines, various components cofunctioning<br />

like parts of a machine. But if an assemblage is a machine, it is a kind<br />

of Rube Goldberg machine, one made up of incongruous parts in ad hoc, shifting<br />

relations of widely varying degrees of efficiency and probability. 5 Desiring-machines,<br />

say Deleuze and Guattari, break down as they function, and their breakdown is<br />

constantly fed back into their functioning. Assemblages operate in the same fashion.<br />

Nor are assemblages exactly things. They are also processes of perpetual selfconstruction.<br />

The French agencement, translated as “assemblage,” can mean both an<br />

arrangement of things and the act of arranging those things. An agencement thus is<br />

not just an assemblage of things, but also a process of “agencing,” just as a circuit of<br />

4 It is worth noting that Anthropology as Cultural Critique and Writing Culture were<br />

both published in 1986, six years after the appearance of A Thousand Plateaus.<br />

5 In the Appendix to Anti-Oedipe included in a 1980 reprinting of the work, titled<br />

“Bilan-programme pour machines désirantes,” Deleuze and Guattari reproduce two Rube<br />

Goldberg cartoons as examples of desiring machines.


146<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

desiring-machines is a “machining” of machines, an active bringing-into-existence<br />

of its own circuitry.<br />

A regime of signs is a configuration of assemblages that guide the formation,<br />

circulation and perpetuation of signs, both linguistic and nonlinguistic. It is<br />

an agencing of heterogeneous elements, among which one may find practices,<br />

institutions, people, plants, animals, machines, artifacts, and so on, those elements<br />

functioning together to produce signs according to a “regime,” in the sense of a<br />

relatively stable pattern of power relations. Deleuze and Guattari delineate four<br />

regimes of signs, each of which is qualitatively different from the others. Each is a<br />

virtual configuration of differences which only become actualized in mixtures. Miller<br />

chides Deleuze and Guattari for what he deems the excessive claim that “there is no<br />

reason to identify a regime or a semiotic system with a people or historical moment”<br />

(MP 148/119), reading this statement as “the assertion of freedom, the denial of<br />

representation” (Miller 186), but Deleuze and Guattari are simply reiterating that<br />

a regime of signs is a virtual entity and that no actual social group manifests that<br />

virtual entity in a pure state. They are also denying that a regime of signs is to be<br />

understood exclusively as a force shaping societies. A regime of signs is at work<br />

in the anorexic’s relationship to food, in the psychoanalyst’s interaction with her<br />

patient, in Kant’s formulation of the self-legislating moral subject, as well as in<br />

Moses’ relationship with the Israelites. Hence, when Deleuze and Guattari talk about<br />

manipulating “maps” of regimes of signs (the term “map,” in its specific Deleuze-<br />

Guattari usage, denoting something like a “schematic diagram of abstract relations”),<br />

they are not trying to “take maps beyond representation and legibility, into a realm<br />

of pure complexity and incoherence” (Miller 186), but to apply the map of a regime<br />

of signs to varying situations (military, philosophical, medical, musical, and so<br />

on) of diverse dimensions (psychic, individual, familial, tribal, regional, national,<br />

planetary).<br />

Deleuze and Guattari delineate four regimes of signs in A Thousand Plateaus:<br />

the primitive, the despotic, the passional and the nomadic. Miller argues that a trite<br />

and tired evolutionary pattern is evident in this taxonomy, Deleuze and Guattari’s<br />

protestations to the contrary. Specifically, Deleuze and Guattari “reproduce an<br />

extremely familiar evolutionary scheme” between the despotic and the primitive<br />

regimes, in which “the people of the first regime [the despotic] are the harried<br />

tools of capitalism; those of the second regime are primitive, ‘closer’ to nature,<br />

enjoying polyvocality and ‘relative deterritorialization’” (Miller 187). Miller treats<br />

the nomadic regime as a sort of counter-cultural fantasy that Deleuze and Guattari<br />

generate in order to envision an escape from the capitalist/despotic regime. And the<br />

fourth regime, the passional regime, “evoked in one brief sentence,” according to<br />

Miller, “is not explained” (Miller 185).<br />

Miller observes that later in the plateau on regimes of signs Deleuze and<br />

Guattari “offer the tantalizing possibility” (Miller 185) of a plane of consistency<br />

and an abstract machine. “This ‘plane,’” he comments, “sounds a lot like an ethical<br />

utopia” (Miller 185). The plane of consistency and abstract machine, in fact, are not<br />

tantalizing possibilities, but essential components of Deleuze and Guattari’s model.<br />

Deleuze and Guattari distinguish two planes: a plane of consistency and a plane<br />

of organization. The plane of consistency is the domain of the virtual, whereas the


Nomadology’s Trial by Proxy 147<br />

plane of organization is the domain in which the virtual becomes actualized. The<br />

virtual, when viewed in itself, is a field of self-differentiating differences, which<br />

may be understood as shifting vectors of forces, vibrating zones of variations, or<br />

oscillating lines of possible development. It is an unfixed plane of potential processes<br />

of differentiation, which is immanent in the plane of organization and in all the actual<br />

becomings of the world. The plane of consistency unfolds itself within the plane of<br />

organization, serving a kind of “pilot” role, guiding but not dictating trajectories of<br />

development and becoming.<br />

The plane of organization is the actual world of concrete, embodied things, but<br />

it is not exactly the world of commonsense entities. The virtual is “territorialized”<br />

in actual things, fixed, stabilized, coded, organized, regulated. But territorialization<br />

is never total; there is always a counter-force of deterritorialization playing through<br />

the plane of organization, undoing its codes, unsettling its regularities, inducing<br />

metamorphosis. Dominant power configurations enforce fixed structures and codes by<br />

limiting variation and stratifying relations, whereas resistance to that dominant power<br />

seeks to undo structures and codes by intensifying the immanent virtual tendencies<br />

toward variation and destratification. But even the dominant power configurations<br />

are patterned via virtual lines of variation and vectors of potential development; they<br />

simply take form in the actual through a different use of the virtual. For this reason,<br />

the plane of consistency is not utopian. It is the virtual domain which may unfold<br />

itself in a better, different world than the one we inhabit at present, but it may well<br />

unfold in a much worse world, despotic, oppressive, barbaric.<br />

The plane of consistency functions like an “abstract machine,” guiding the<br />

combinations of entities and circuits of interaction that unfold in the actual realm<br />

of the plane of organization. In the case of regimes of signs, the abstract machine<br />

puts two basic “assemblages” together, a discursive “collective assemblage of<br />

enunciation,” and a nondiscursive “machinic assemblage of bodies.” Regimes<br />

of signs are regular patterns of power relations interconnected via discursive and<br />

nondiscursive assemblages.<br />

Miller’s characterization of the passional regime as “not explained” is hard<br />

to comprehend, since Deleuze and Guattari devote several pages to this regime.<br />

In fact, one of their chief objects is to demonstrate how the virtual despotic and<br />

passional regimes interact in specific actual mixtures. Miller’s identification of the<br />

despotic regime with capitalism is unwarranted, for capitalist societies exhibit the<br />

strong influence of both the despotic and the passional regimes, as well as certain<br />

tendencies toward a nomadic dispensation of signs. 6 Deleuze and Guattari plainly<br />

indicate at several points that the despotic regime, above all, is connected with the<br />

State apparatus, and wherever there is a state, be it an empire, a kingdom, a city-<br />

6 The relationship between capitalism and the four regimes of signs is quite complex<br />

and not fully addressed as such in A Thousand Plateaus. In Anti-Oedipus, however, Deleuze<br />

and Guattari speak at length about the capitalist social machine and its circulation of signs,<br />

which they contrast with the despotic machine and its handling of signs. The difficult task<br />

facing anyone interested in the function of regimes of signs in capitalism is that of combining,<br />

integrating, and at certain points reconciling, the analyses of Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand<br />

Plateaus with one another.


148<br />

Deleuze’s <strong>Way</strong><br />

state, a nation, or a dictatorship, the despotic regime is at work. This fact is crucial<br />

to understanding Deleuze and Guattari’s views on the relation between the primitive<br />

and the despotic regimes, as well as their claim that “we are not suggesting an<br />

evolutionism, we are not even doing history” (MP 149/119), a claim Miller regards<br />

as hyperbolic and hollow.<br />

Deleuze and Guattari find Pierre Clastres’s La Société contre l’état (1974)<br />

especially helpful in determining the relationship between primitive societies and the<br />

state form of governance. Clastres argues that many traditional tribal cultures exhibit<br />

mechanisms that prevent the formation of a permanent class hierarchy among its<br />

members. Leaders are chosen, but they lead only as long as others agree to follow, and<br />

as soon as the leader’s direction begins to prove unfavorable, the followers replace<br />

the leader. As a result, the leader functions more as a consensus builder who senses<br />

where the group wants to go and then leads them in that direction. The leader often has<br />

special privileges,