Monday, August 10, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 16.4 (Gilles Deleuze)

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Deleuze, Gilles

Purchased at Talking Leaves Books. I have no idea when, or why, or for what purpose -- could have been pleasure, curiosity, interest, or for a class. I am sure I have not read it. Or if I have, I don't remember it. I am surprised I didn't read this book. I read a lot of Deleuze in graduate school. I also read a lot of Foucault. But I did not read Deleuze on Foucault.

It's amazing to think of how much French theory I read in graduate school, given that I was not there to study philosophy, but literature. I wonder if there is an example in any other discipline within the humanities or sciences wherein the work of a handful or writers from a different discipline came to such prominence within that other discipline. I can't think of one.

Personally, I always like reading philosophers as philosophers and not as critical theorists, but I very much like to read them alongside everything else I am reading. I find reading Deleuze very much like reading good poetry. His work has a density to it that is at once opaque and tantalizing. It always seems to be pointing towards some beautiful concept just out of reach. You can just see the outlines of his thought, but you can't ever quite see the whole architecture, and yet somehow that's not the most important part anyhow. It's enough to know it might be there and that you might someday get to see it.

The last thing I'd ever want to do is apply it to literature.

from A New Archivist:

A new archivist has been appointed. But has anyone actually appointed him? Is he not rather acting on his own instructions? Certain malevolent people say that he is the new representative of a structural technology or technocracy. Others, mistaking their insults for wit, claim that he is a supporter of hitler, or at least that he offends the rights of man (they will not forgive him for having proclaimed the 'death of man'). Some say that he is a shammer who cannot back himself up with reference to the sacred texts, and who seldom quotes the great philosophers. Others, though, claim that something radically new has appeared in philosophy, and that this work is as beautiful as those it challenges. It celebrates the dawn of a new age.


Joseph Mailander said...

My opinion: you did read the literature of the times: French theorists had wrestled literature away from the fiction writers. What you were reading was creative, literate, and, yes, occasionally an elaborate fiction. The people who were working with the concepts in pure conventional fiction--say, Eco--weren't quite as interesting. You gravitated to the true literature of the times at the end of the century.

I think since 1999 pure fiction writers have done a good job of wrestling literature back from academics.

Have you read Francois de Cusset's book French Theory? It's a marvelous compendium of the subject especially as seen through the smudged American lens.

Michael Kelleher, Buffalo, NY said...

Hi Joseph,

Thanks for the comment. I think that is a pretty succinct way to put it. For me, it was always about reading the books written by Deleuze and Co.. It was never about using their ideas to read someone else's books. I'll have to look at Cusset's book sometime. I have been reading a lot of fiction lately, espcially by Spanish and Spanish language novelists like Roberto Bolaño and Javier Marias, both of whom would fall into the category of fiction writers you mention that have wrestled narrative back from academics.