Thoughts on Deleuze and heroes

I’ve always found the tics and jumps of the prose stylistics in the collaborations of the writers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari somewhat irritating, with their tendency to waver off their already intentionally hazy paths and maps, with their habit of throwing off references with little to no explication of their relevance (“and of course you understand how this relates to Melville…”). There are real moments of joy and philosophy in them, but I generally think of this style of punctuation as the thicket in the way of those meatier aspects.

That said, I have just finished Logic of Sense, a book written just by Deleuze, and its concluding paragraph unites so much of what I find confusing about his collaborations with Guattari in a way that I just totally love. It’s quite dense and confusing even with the preceding 247 pages, but it’s truly worth reading as one of the best moments of prose poetry in any philosophical work I’ve ever read, moving from the densest threshing of disjunctions into syntheses, through the obscene humor of the Stoic/Zen/Carrolian hero, into a beautiful grin of a shrug at inevitable sagging of those heroics when the event meets the daily world. It is so hard to be a hero for more than a moment. Han-Shan wept daily at the top of Cold Mountain, even after he’d found his ‘one idea’, a failure of the pure stoic. Robespierre worked himself to total bodily collapse, leaving his movements prey to reaction. Hannibal could never (will never) quite pull away from Will Graham. Even in this year of the centenary of the Russian revolution, so few of us truly stand faithful to the blinding flares of egalitarian justice that shine from that sequence. I certainly don’t.

Deleuze, and the stoic heroes he traces in this endlessly fascinating text, are not the model needed in this political moment (perhaps the first failing being their analyses of the character of the Little Girl, Alice, in terms not far from those of Humber Humbert) they are not the proper guiding lights to keep us on the tracks, BUT – they are heroes nonetheless.

Apologies for the excessive gesticulation, here’s the passage:

“The univocity of sense grasps language in its complete system, as the total expresser of a unique expressed – the event. The values of humor are distinguished from those of irony: humor is the art of surfaces and of the complex relation between the two surfaces. Beginning with one excessive equivocation, humor constructs all univocity; beginning with the properly sexual equivocation which ends all equivocity, humor releases a desexualized Univocity – a speculative univocity of Being and language – the entire secondary organization in one word. It is necessary to imagine someone, one-third Stoic, one-third Zen, and one-third Carroll: with one hand, he masturbates in an excessive gesture, with the other, he writes in the sand the magic words of the pure event open to the univocal: “Mind – I believe – is Essence – Ent – Abstract -that is – an Accident – which we – that is to say – I meant – .” Thus, he makes the energy of sexuality pass into the pure asexual, without, however, ceasing to ask “What is a little girl?” – even if this question must be replaced with the problem of a work of art yet to come, which alone would give an answer. See, for example, Bloom on the beach….Equivocity, analogy, and eminence will no doubt recover their rights with the tertiary order, in the denotations, significations, and manifestations of everyday language submitted to the rules of good sense and common sense. As we then consider the perpetual entwining which constitutes the logic of sense, it seems that this final ordering recovers the voice of the heights of the primary process, but also that the secondary organization at the surface recovers something of the most profound noises, blocks, and elements for the Univocity of sense – a brief instant for a poem without figures. What can the work of art do but follow again the path which goes from noise to the voice, from voice to speech, and from speech to the verb, constructing this Musik für ein Hause, in order always to recover the independence of sounds and to fix the thunderbolt of the univocal. This event is, of course, quickly covered over by everyday banality or, on the contrary, by the sufferings of madness.”
(Logic of Sense, Deleuze, trans. Boundas, 248-9)

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