Badiou and Deleuze Read Literature (Plateaus -- New Directions in Deleuze Studies)

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Badiou and Deleuze Read Literature

And nobody will accuse Badiou of neglecting the importance of literature. For him, it is a practice before it is an object of analysis. His first published books were two novels, Almagestes and Portulans. And several of his plays were staged in France in the late s: they come complete with a theory of drama, in which, unexpectedly, the essence of drama is comedy. Have I said that Badiou has a sense of humour? Now that we know which literary texts Badiou and Deleuze read, the time has come to watch them reading. It is devoted to a poem by Mandelstam, of which this is the title, and which Badiou uses as a point of entry into the thought of the century: access to the century does not occur by way of history or sociol- ogy, and only by way of philosophy in so far as it is conditioned by poetry.

Mandelstam is. The outcome of the reading is the formulation of a number of philosophical theses on the century, the last and perhaps the most important of which is that the century was a century of the poetics of the wait and of the threshold: what the poem does achieve is that it enables us to think the century anew, by being a source of further theses. The second thesis is that literature has an impersonal quality: it is a site for welcoming pre-individual haecceities rather than the expression of a self, the self of the author or of the character.

The last thesis is that literature implies a minorisation of the major use of language. And here, the reference is, of course, Kafka, a Jewish author writing in German in the Czech environment of the city of Prague — the concept of minority is attributed to him, as it is said to come from a passage of his diaries.

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The problem is that Kafka specialists strongly deny it originates in Kafka. Hence we find the twin illusions that Kafka is the author of a text on minor literature and that his is a deterritorialising text. Yet the efficacy and creativity of what appears to be a gross misreading is not in doubt:. Violence is needed, Deleuze keeps saying, in order for us to think. The question remains, of course, of the limits of such violence, of whether anything goes in the matter of intervention as of interpretation. Does it produce interesting results? Deleuze reads Dickens The last words of a great philosopher have a duly touching quality.

In that title we note the colon of equivalence how can immanence, an abstract concept, be equivalent not even to life but to a life? And we note the interplay between the zero article, which refers to a notion or concept, and the indefinite article, which refers to a singularity. At this point in the essay, before the chain goes on to the event, to becoming, to singularities to the virtual the essay is a fragment of a projected longer text on the concept of the virtual , a literary illustration is introduced, and Deleuze reads Dickens.

Chapter 3 of the third book of Our Mutual Friend is a strange chapter, as it seems to be a moment of stasis in the plot its only relation to the main thread of the narrative is that it anticipates the death by drowning of the main villain who, in this chapter, almost drowns but is saved, which causes him to entertain the illusion, based on proverbial stupidity, that he can never drown.

So Riderhood, the scoundrel, almost drowns when his small boat is sunk by a steamer on the Thames: he is brought ashore and, with difficulty, revived. For this is indeed an in-between moment: before, Riderhood was a villain, considered as such by the community he had been forbidden to enter the pub where he is now lying in the hands of the doctor ; after, when he has been revived, he is again a villain and behaves as such: he insults the people who have just saved his life and goes on with his life of nefarious deeds.

In this in-between moment, we are no longer in space and time, even fictional ones: we are in a tran- scendental field, marked by the indefinite pronoun — not the life of Riderhood , but a life: an indeterminate person but a determinate singularity. Suddenly, in this in-between moment, a life has emerged, and that is what is worth struggling for, that is why the people in the pub fight to save someone who does not deserve to live.

But that would be a mistake, as the philosopher who ignores such trivial reading is aware of aspects of the text no one has noticed before and which, once noticed, become as obvious as a finally understood joke, when the quilting point of achieved meaning has been reached — aspects of the text that account for the apparent irrelevance of the chapter with regard to the narrative as a whole for my trivial reading is not merely trivial, it is also rather unconvincing. This is how Dickens describes the scene:. The doctor-seeking messenger meets the doctor halfway, coming under a convoy of police.

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Doctor examines the dank carcase, and pronounces, not hopefully, that it is worth while trying to reanimate the same. All the best means are at once in action, and everybody present lends a hand, and heart and soul. No one has the least regard for the man; with them all, he has been an object of avoidance, suspicion, and aversion; but the spark of life within him is curiously separable from himself now, and they have a deep interest in it, probably because it is life, and they are living and must die.

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There is a contrast between the usual sarcastic tone of the beginning of the passage and the last sentence, where the text acquires a form of ethical seriousness. I believe that this type of reading, although it is more of a transla- tion and an intervention than an interpretation, is deeply faithful to the text.

All we have to do to understand this is to compare it with another famous reading of Our Mutual Friend, by Henry James, a famous assassination of Dickens in general and this novel in particu- lar, in the shape of a review of the novel. And it is poor with the poverty not of momentary embarrassment, but of permanent exhaustion. As a result of this, Dickens appears as a superficial writer p.

Against the novel as a canonical form of representation of Nature, of Man , with its consequent generalisa- tions the italicised man , Dickens appears to be a philosopher of singularities, one who captures haecceities and events, an explorer of surfaces, not of the depths of human nature. And the objection that Deleuze is reading a short passage, not even a whole chapter, whereas James is reading the whole novel is not valid, as the page chosen by Deleuze is an excellent point of entry to the novel, and it enables us to perceive the grandeur of the text which Henry James has missed: the novel is not a matter of grotesque caricature and satire as James claims p.

Only from this point of view can we understand the grandeur of the celebrated opening of the novel, where the river, the Thames, that impersonal flow of life, is more important than the human characters that are caught in its current. Conclusion Reading those three readings may have given the impression that the contrast expressed in my last correlation is somewhat blurred.

31 Best Deleuze and Guattari's Readings images in | Playlists, Reading lists, Critical theory

For there are similarities in the ways Badiou and Deleuze read literature. In both cases, they read for the content of the text, and show no interest in the signifiers: what we have in both cases is a philosophi- cal, not a literary, reading. But there are differences as well in which the contrast is maintained. Contrary to expectations, treating litera- ture as a condition for philosophy rather than a machine how does it work? On the one hand we are closer to traditional literary analysis, and Badiou believes in syntax as the guarantee of.

There is something of a paradox here, which will be developed in Chapter 4. But perhaps the time has come to watch the reading practices of our two philosophers in much more detail. Badiou, The Century, London: Polity, On this, see S.

Alliez ed. Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, London: Continuum, , p. Badiou, Conditions, Paris: Seuil, , p. Cressole, Deleuze, Paris: Editions Universitaires, For a brief portrait of Michel Cressole, see F. Deleuze, Negotiations, op.


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Gelas and H. Deleuze, Proust and Signs, London: Continuum, , p. Badiou, Theoretical Writings, London: Continuum, , pp. Bosteels, quoted in S. Stivale ed. Key Concepts, Stocksfield: Acumen, , p. See P. Macherey, Marx , Paris: Amsterdam, The English translation, in A. Badiou, On Beckett, eds N. Power and A. Badiou, Beckett, Paris: Hachette, , pp. Badiou, Beckett, op.


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