Sunday, May 29, 2005

Deleuze and the Literary Machine

[1] I would like to offer a review of a particular construction in Deleuze’s encounter with literature. This is very much in response to Joseph’s recent postings and the issues of literary production they raise. Literature that is a production of the ‘outside’ is something that Deleuze works hard to understand and to rid of illusions. This is very much an anti-Hegelian endeavour of critique through connection with differential production. Yet – we must be careful here - it cannot be anti-Hegel because in contradicting the dialectic we can become integrated into its movements. There has to be self-sufficiency about Critique that avoids the threat of Hegel. Deleuze has to make connections only upon the basis of a production that is self-sufficient in each particular case and where each part cannot be united with its opposite. What is production without an Other? One answer is that it is Nietzsche’s will to power. Here I take a different approach to the question by considering Deleuze’s writings upon the specific production functioning in Sacher-Masoch’s literature. We will then come back to Hegel and ask whether Brusseau’s book ‘Isolated Experiences’ helps us further to think articulate non-dialectical difference through the his elaboration of the sovereignty of isolation. Of course this will be isolated from thinking against Hegel if it is to avoid the dialectic. We will of course find that Hegel haunts us if we don’t base our practice upon its own production, from within it, and do not oppose it to the dialectic. Production links to an excess over concepts but the problem for us is whether it avoids opposition and contradiction such that it has no need to oppose itself to the dialectic: it is already beyond it. This clean air is what I think Joseph seems to breath in his postings – he is already beyond the dialectic despite its apparent haunting. Rather than react we must be Dionysian, unable to oppose because of our humour and light feet – I know that Joseph is a dancer.

[2] Deleuze writes in ‘Coldness and Cruelty’ of taking ‘the literary approach’ because both sadism and masochism were originally defined from this practice (CC14). In pursuing this he makes symptomatology a question of art. Instead of pursuing a dialectical attempt to link opposites the need is to form a connection with the particular production of each symptom of sought. This leads us to pursue the logic of sense that is articulated through the practice. The differential mechanisms reveal the particular production going on in each case and this is neglected if symptoms are covered over by generalising concepts. My previous posting upon Spinoza seems to articulate a different view when it argues that ‘everything connects.’ Yet this is the key to Deleuze’s anti-Hegelian practice. He wants to connect everything to its production but this production must be differential and therefore specific so that it isn’t integrated by a dialectic. Symptoms must express a greater specificity than would be the case if more and more general concepts could account for production. If we envisage a virtual production then we exceed the actual in thought. With actual terms alone there would only be greater generality found in the finite set of combinations. Through the excessive potential of the virtual we find that in each production and its performance (for example, sadism and masochism) the actual is exceeded through a production that only differentiates. To generalise is to suppress the full expression of production in thought. We need not rely upon what is given as actual – habit, common sense, prediction – to account for what is produced. Therefore Deleuze can argue in ‘Coldness and Cruelty’ that Masochism need not be explained in terms of Sadism, which has been already analysed and written on at great length. There is no common sense to these two practices that must be extended but the particular and unpredictable symptoms of a specific production in each case. An orientation to the production of the artwork and to experience in all its forms must therefore seek to understand Masochism through itself. Production is both about connection and limitation or specification through difference, a point that we will explore further.

[3] Configuring symptoms and signs – this is the practice of Sade and Masoch (CC16). New forms of expression thus arise from the ‘literary machines’ that must work if they are to be works of art. This resonates in Deleuze ‘Proust and Signs’ where the temporal apprenticeship is oriented to the future and not the past, to different worlds of signs (PS4). ‘In Search of Lost Time’ time regained is a multiplication of signs – Madeleine, steeples, trees, cobblestones, napkin, noise of a spoon, pipe (PS11). This veritable production is differential and does not tie parts together – instead difference is expressed as the principle of production. These have difference intensities, different levels of profundity depending upon whether or not the translation of the sign is a failure. It might be that it goes no further than memory, which is an orientation towards the past. Combray rises up not as it once was but absolutely, in a form that was never experienced, in its essence or its eternity (PS12). This profound level of production is common to both moments such that they manifest their specificity in each case. This takes us beyond the resemblances or memories to the common production of what is new and different in each concentrated case. The product of difference is expressed with profundity in each case not by resemblance – repetition of the same – but through difference. Translation is the practice that stages the intense expression of what is otherwise covered over by habit and common sense (good example of this is worldly signs that build up or assemble through imitation and habit into great geological edifices). It is potentially the involuntary animation of the faculties, which have a higher function, a free state of pure expression. This is a connection with production because it is pure and orientated to a future unencumbered by the past. The past is to be reinscribed by the production we find in it as the past and present moment both express a potential future, which is production through difference itself. According to Deleuze Proust denies man a will to truth since it is searched for only when we are forced to do so in terms of a concrete situation (PS15). This makes the involuntary ‘encounter’ with signs the mark of their purity, the unfettered production that cannot be given in experience. Absolute original time is this production, the creative whole only encountered through its own autonomy. A different practice is highly specific; it expresses a common production and not a common concept (just as Spinoza’s infinite substance does not deny but works through difference so that concepts must follow this production and not limit it from the start). There is no reaction between the two moments (past and present) but only the expression of this production in different ways. Its future is not one of bringing together through concepts but further differentiating in a production that exceeds and continually overcome or overtakes what concepts present.

[4] The second part of ‘Proust and Signs’ was added in 1972 (the first part having been published in 1964) and reflects complex developments in Deleuze’s thought in between these two dates. Significantly, the second part is titled ‘The Literary Machine.’ It moves from the translation of signs to their production. The Search is a machine because the modern work of art, according to Deleuze, is anything we like as long as we make the whole thing work (PS146). This brings us again to differential production, which must be connected with but doesn’t dictate a common sense of possible experience. This is ‘Antilogos’ and according to Deleuze this means that the machine depends upon the functioning of its separate parts (ibid). This substitutes the problem of meaning for that of involuntary use, the animation of the artwork by the forces of production. The involuntary machine of interpretation (PS 148) relies upon this affirmation of production in itself, whatever its effects may be. The singular essence must not be generalised through other signs – this pluralism preserves the role and purity of expression of difference in its production. The unity is that of the search, of the orientation to what is plural so that only the different returns (to refer unavoidably to Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche’s Eternal Return). Only difference can express production but only an apprenticeship can express the necessary affirmation and openness adequate to constructing the literary machine.

[5] To return to ‘Coldness of Cruelty’, we are now armed with ‘the literary machine’ as a concept created later in Deleuze’s thought but a tool that helps us to grasp the workings of his reading of Masochism. Deleuze writes that the sadist demonstrates through thought or reason (a higher functioning of this faculty) whilst the Masochist educates through the imagination. Both rise to an impersonal element. Notice the Kantian dimension to this. Deleuze does find a higher functioning of a particular faculty that expresses the formal and grounding production that is precisely ungrounding. Production is powered by negation through dialectic but freer and pure functioning from which the new and different emerges in concrete situations. Transformation follows from this higher, purer and freer function. The sadist’s institution, and the masochist’s contract, instantiate a practice that aims for pure production and thus to overcoming of what is given and established. Deleuze in this way builds up the case that symptoms indicate different productions in terms of literary machines that function. Making Sadism and Masochism the two parts of one conceptual entity (Sado-Masochism) is the formation of ‘a badly analysed composite’ (a term used in his ‘Bergsonism’ book of 1966). It is a transcendental illusion where symptoms are suppressed by syndromes that generalise whilst ignoring the gaps in the unities they propose. It does not allow them to function as literature does, allowing them to work in their specific and autonomous ways. Where such a syndrome breaks down we find production is expressing itself as differential, as irreducibly specific in each case. The gap is the mark of production, which is Antilogos and thus opposed in principle and in its workings to a common sense. Therefore any talk of a common production must be that of difference itself, of a groundless ground where only the difference returns or is repeated. The challenge is to affirm difference as the principle of production when this makes the mechanisms irreducibly singular, divided by their production. Any dialectical aim will deny the production, which exceeds what can be expressed by concepts.

[6] In Sade’s work the omnipotence of demonstrative reason leads to the dream of a universal and impersonal crime. This is a transcendental form that cannot be experienced but only thought in the practice of sadism (CC28). This coldness of demonstrative reason must have its pure logic of sense, an apathy that allows no impulse or enthusiasm (CC29). This is because for such a production to be a transcendental form the Sadist must envisage a pure production without interference from that which is personal or material. Otherwise nothing new can be produced, no pure and infinitive ‘sense- events’ (to put this in the terms of Deleuze’s ‘The Logic of Sense’ of 1969). Without this only the combination and reactions of actual elements can go on – a logos, a law and a predictability establishing a common sense that denies the excess manifested in Sadistic practice. According to Deleuze, the Sadist must think out the Death Instinct such that production is expressed through itself. This is pure negation, the totalising of what he can achieve in experience only through partial negations (CC31). The latter are the demonstrative form oriented to the Idea of pure negation, developed through this orientation. Against Sadism’s negativity and negation there is Masochism’s disavowal and suspense. The latter is an Ideal of pure imagination (CC35). Deleuze writes that both Sade and Masoch want to define the ‘counterpart of the world capable of containing its violence and excesses’ (CC37). This means drawing out its violence and giving it a ‘spiritual’ quality as purified and self-conscious. This is a reconstruction of the world, which finds the pure sensible reality underlying forces of nature and tradition. It is the ‘being of sensation’ that the artwork produces without the baggage of what is given. The ‘blocs of sensation’ form literary machines. This means extracting the ‘logic of sense’ operative in what otherwise can simply be generalised if it does not have the specificity of the artwork (or of other forms of creation). Masochistic practice comes in this way to define itself when it isn’t limited by comparisons with other practices. Thus Deleuze speaks of the ‘specific universe’ of masochism (CC42) and this brings us to role of the artwork in capturing production precisely because it is singular, limited and cannot be generalised to the exclusion of the autonomous differentiation that exceed what is actual and captured by concepts.

[7] The orientation of the artist towards the being of sensation must be one of affirmation, of openness to the involuntary shock of thought. The emergence of the infinitive, the sense-event, cannot be limited by the conceptual practices of generalization. Otherwise the purity of production is lost because it cannot be separated in each case and thus thought through itself. A symptom becomes for the artist something to be expressed rather than something to be compared with, with and so limited by, what is already given. For Deleuze this is necessary to capture a production, to express the event rather than the given. If a painting is supposed to add to opinions or insights into the ‘nature’ of humanity it can never expand or overcome humanity. It can never capture becoming but only being. It can never be inhuman or over-human. Expression is infinite because it expresses a groundless ground. This leads us to find that production can only be found within the limits of a particular practice or expression and not across general similarities. What ‘is’ is produced and always already overcome by what can become, by the future. This makes what is given the burden that Nietzsche complained about, the baggage that leads thought to connect up with other givens in order to limit and impose responsibilities to tradition and to what people believe. Thus we have the separate dramas that are complete in themselves if they are not to be burdened (CC45). Deleuze’s Kantian dimension is at work here (so often his silent partner in his early studies). The transcendental conditions must be established if any sense is to be found, if generalisations are not to deny us production and its affirmation in practice.

[8] We have seen that Deleuze finds production in evidence in the purity of thought and imagination and within Masochism this leads to the birth of a ‘new man’ (CC52). Through the great primary nature of the mother – impersonal, cold, serve – there is overcoming (CC54). Contract has established that the woman overcomes the father figure in a theatre for which her victim educates her. The Ideal is cruel and there is a specific freezing point at which idealism is realised (CC55). Deleuze is keen to avoid seeing the father punishing the son through the mother. This would generalise and so deny the specificity of this production. The concrete situation that is expressed by symptoms demands a translation that is open rather than closed by a preconceived etiology (CC58). Deleuze finds that the Mother generates the symbolism through which the masochist expresses himself (CC63). This is the Ideal as opposed to the order of the Real and so liberates in preparation for a rebirth in which the Father has no part (CC66). This production and the overcoming it instantiates require the specific conditions of masochism. The Mother is idealised through the torture and the father invalidated through disavowal (CC68). Both are positive because they produce an overcoming through the Ideal rigor of supersensualism. The Ideal is contained within fantasy whose temporality is waiting, the neutralisation of the Real (CC73). Within stasis and suspension the real and ideal are absorbed.

[9] Reference is made to Kant’s second Critique (as in the Nietzsche book he is set up to be knocked down despite having done much silent work already). The Good is made dependent on the law, which is self grounded solely by virtue of its own form (CC82 – this is powerfully expressed as the third Poetic Formula which might Summarise the Kantian philosophy in the 1978 preface to Deleuze’s 1963 Kant book). Deleuze sees in this an essential dimension of modern thought. We have seen it at work already because pure form is production through its purity, as a logic of sense. Deleuze finds that Sade uses irony to transcend the law towards a higher principle (CC86). However, humour is the downward movement from the law to its consequences. The law can be twisted by excess of zeal and this leads to absurdity, to disorder and so the law is reduced to its furthest consequences (CC88). Masochism practices this when the law denies pleasure and establishes guilt from the start. Yet it provides what it denies through its punishment. Masochism is therefore the theatre of absurdity that overcomes the father and the law through its own logic. Sadism makes the father a higher principle than the law whilst Masochism invests the law in the mother who expels it (CC90). The overcoming displaces the father to enable a second birth as parthenogenesis, i.e. without the father having a role (CC93). There is guilt and law but also the possibility of contract with the mother that stages the absurdity of father and law. We find that Deleuze emphasises the specific formalism of Masochism (CC109) in order that his literature is a machine and not simply a colony of generalisations about what is actual.

[10] When we talk about production - about transcendental principles and conditions – Deleuze finds this to be involuntary. The condition or ground of an actual principle of experience – Freud’s pleasure principle being an example of the latter, which is discussed in ‘Coldness and Cruelty’ – leads us to be ‘hurled headlong’ beyond it to the absolutely unconditioned (CC114). This sets up the qualitative dualism of union (Eros) and destruction (Thanatos) in Freud. These are different rhythms that cannot be given in experience but their expression in through and sensation makes it profound at certain moments (CC115). The higher functioning the faculties is the expression of such production. Combinations of both Eros and Thanatos are given in experience and so that what is given becomes inadequate, the production being given only in the specific and non-generalised practice. We have found that Deleuze approaches the symptoms of Sadism and Masochism in order to make the claim for a neglected side of medicine. Etiology is the privileged scientific or experimental practice that is one part of medicine. The other is symptomatology as literary and artistic practice of medicine. For the later literary machines must be allowed to function such that an actual and empirical principle finds its conditions and not merely is not burdened by concepts.

[11] James Brusseau takes us to the heart of Deleuzianism in describing how the particular distinguishes itself without distinguishing itself from other things. Beyond difference from something else to self-differentiation. This is produced within something and so limited (IE9) by its self-expression. The implication for Brusseau is no contrast or challenge between what is specific – this is something that dialectic uses in order to understand difference. Instead differential ontology has overtaken the dialectic, not acknowledging it as an Other because it is engaged in its production. The event is the production of a particular verb itself: the physical things and settings obscure this infinitive as that which is proposed by difference without limitation (IE10). The given is given by difference, pure and not effected by material conditions. The key point for us is that the need for reaction, opposition and negation is being denied. The circuit of actual and virtual – of problem and its solution – is self-contained in each case. Production must express itself absolutely fully and without interference if a sense-event is to be incarnated. Other terms are already actual and so must not affect the event in producing what is new and born of difference by generalising it away. The implication is that localising ensures that difference can make the world without generality limiting or burdening difference (IE11). Brusseau gives the example of different pieces of music, which are all the singular definition of beauty. Each occasion is singular because difference operates within it and it cannot be generalised or compared. This takes away the need to balance opposites since the conditions of experience are the unilateral action requisite to pure production (IE25). The challenge for Deleuze is that the virtual, which is productive of the actual, mustn’t be something that can be contained within the dialectic. It has to be powerfully non-conceptual and be that through which the production of concepts is to be animated. Brusseau believes that Deleuze avoids prolonged engagement with Hegel in order to create a non-dialectical thought fully and through itself. It is the demands of a sufficient account of production that invokes the virtual, limiting actual cases of production in order to concentrate its full energy without limitation.

[12] We seem to find that Hegel’s shadow is not so total as we might suspect – Nietzsche’s will to power seem to force itself upon thought again and again and in new ways the undermining dialectic. Who hasn’t been rudely awakened by aphorism 36 of ‘Beyond Good and Evil’. In the course of a habitual thought we find all overturned through the purity of the production. A great machine is expressed in every case only if every case is sovereign, the über-instance that does not rely upon an Other. It must have the purity of the logic of sense – the infinitive, the ideal reached only through coldness and cruelty in Masoch’s production. It might seem that to use concepts is to summon up Hegel’s dialectic, which integrates this excess. Yet what are concepts without Ideas – that which exceeds the terms of the dialectic without considering it, without such a negative logic even occurring? One innocent of the dialectic because its feet are so light, its production sufficient unto itself in each instance. Affirmation thinks through its production and so never opposes or challenges what it leaves far behind. Cézanne’s father is overcome through Masochistic practice and his possible illegitimacy made a liberation. We see Deleuze trying to make the machine works through its parts such that the future animates each part intensely through itself. Each affirms itself and is a sufficient and full machine only through this, through production grounded in difference itself. This I find to be what is so striking about Joseph’s correspondence – an overcoming that isn’t haunted by Hegel because it has left him behind. This must be intensely singular and so overcome reactions of what is actual in the sovereignty of what is differential. Is this the ‘maelstrom’ of the overcoming Joseph heralds like a manifesto that performs rather than simply representing.

[13] I invite full condemnation for the treatment of Hegel given here. It is limited and needs more development to do him justice. My only defence is that which Brusseau offers of Deleuze’s Hegel: that he leaves him behind in his thinking of pure difference and must avoid the dialectic becoming an Other through a self-sufficient production.

It may be of interest to members of this blog that Deleuze in ‘Coldness and Cruelty’ offers a quotation from Musil’s ‘Man Without Qualities’:
‘What fearful power, what awesome divinity is repetition! It is the pull of the void that drags us deeper and deeper down like the ever-widening gullet of a whirlpool… For we know it all along: it was none other than the deep and sinful fall into a world where repetition drags one down lower and lower at each step.’ (CC114)
Of further interest is the footnote at which the translator states that the passage does not seem to be included in the English translation of the work. I wonder if anyone can shed any light on this. It might I suppose be in the second volume that I have not myself read but I seem to remember Brian having a library copy.


James Brusseau (1998) Isolated Experience: Gilles Deleuze and the Solitudes of Reversed Platonism (IE), New York: SUNY Press.

Gilles Deleuze (2000) Proust and Signs (PS), London: Athlone. Translated by Richard Howard.
- (1995) Kant’s Critical Philosophy, London: Athlone. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam.
- (1991) Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty (CC), New York: Zone Books. Translated by Jean McNeil.
- (1991) Bergsonism, New York: Zone Books. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam.
- (1983) Nietzsche and Philosophy, London: Athlone Press. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson.


Blogger Joe said...

Very interesting reading your piece here on the "literary machine" not least because I actually understood half of it! Which is a feat of communication in itself! What engenders or configures a work to make it such that it is... and how do we understand this logic of sense in its uniqueness... certainly food for thought to put it mildly! But I just wanted to thank you for contributing it, a most welcome read!

11:35 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Having just read Coldness and Cruelty I found this a stimulating accompaniment, thank you Ed.

[1] Firstly, I have a simple question to ask with respect of your elaboration (which perhaps stems from a failure to connect up dew to my utter lack of understanding of Bergson). You speak in [2] of the anti-Hegelian practice of differential production in terms of the relation between the virtual and the actual. The actual here appears to be conceived in terms of generality, whereas the virtual with excess, singularity, and repetition. Where one establishes a limit (presumably conditioned by the situation/habitude) the other, in the form of the affirmation of the eternal return, as pure unconditioned possibility. The text then moves on to a discussion of [CC] and here takes up the language of the ideal and the real [8]. I suppose my basic, untutored question is to ask how one is to think the relation between the virtual and the actual on the one hand and the ideal and the real on the other? The application of these terms seems to have a similar resonance here. Are they after all here in some sense interchangable?

[2] A further, if unsurprising, concern is with the nature of the identifications that Deleuze makes with respect of masochism and sadism - humour and irony. Irony effectively appears here as the pure form of negation and the dream of a universal and impersonal crime. I couldn't have dreamt up something more perfect though I've always liked to think it was a more pernicious philosophy than this.

[3] Nevertheless it is peculiar to think of the ironist in terms of pure demonstrative reason, dialectic, the impersonal and so forth. Does Deleuze think of Hegel as an ironic sadist I wonder? Whether or not this is the case, it seems odd to distinguish this temper of spirit as a movement which is entirely at odds with its functioning in Kierkegaard (as both a refutation of Hegel and a reintroduction of the singular individual as an undifferentiated possibility) as well as being at odds with the rendering of the concept in German romanticism where it promotes the ideal as an infinite excess potentiating the real, and is exemplified in the form of singular, non-dialectical fragments which bear a remarkable adherence to Brusseau's account of music:

"Each occasion is singular because difference operates within it and it cannot be generalised or compared."

[4] I could say a considerable amount more here, but may I suggest that both what Deleuze says apropos of humour and irony is after all dare I say a bit of hachet job and at the same time isn't that important to the weight of his argument with respect of sadism and masochism per se?

[5] As a final point, the wonderful quotation:
‘What fearful power, what awesome divinity is repetition! It is the pull of the void that drags us deeper and deeper down like the ever-widening gullet of a whirlpool… For we know it all along: it was none other than the deep and sinful fall into a world where repetition drags one down lower and lower at each step.’ (CC114)

I am unfamiliar with this quotation and will have to peruse it in Deleuze. Nevertheless, I think it wouldn't be out of order to observe here that, with regard to Musil, the life of the novel is committed to an ironic refrain [yet it is not the work of a sadist].

[it's good to be back]

6:55 PM  
Blogger edward said...

I would say that virtual and actual form a circuit and that thought always must be a movement in-between. This is to preserve immanence and avoid 'what is?' questions (the fixed essences of things). The 'system of the dissolved self' preserves this openess that is always in-between. I wouldn't tie the actual to generality because it is the site of the incarnation of differential relation and singular points which coexist in the Idea (as problems triggering solutions). This is not about making a copy or correspendence but a producion through difference.

The real and ideal show how annoying Deleuze is in continually inventing couples that form a circuit in each case. His object, I think, is to avoid limiting the apparatus of production. Of course the virtual is real but in a different way from the actual. The advantage of talking about the ideal is that it establishes that something ideal must be produced. It is as if we are stretched between sense and nonsense, between cruel and problematic Ideas and the chaos of bodies. In this sense virtual-actual and ideal-real seem to express the same production (one expressed confusedly in every case) from the viewpoint of different productions (different cases of solution). However, it is horribly difficult to make Deleuze fit together. His thought is animated and triggered by difference and so continually responding to a production that is not limited by anyone's ability to quickly comprehend it and create concepts for it. Each of Deleuze's couples (virtual-actual, ideal-real, sense-nonsense, aion-chronos, problem-solution etc. etc.) connects again with thinking difference and it's means of production (repetition of difference). Let's leave that question open but say that this is not bad thing. For Deleuze we must always be open to problems and oreintated by this. Of course we musn't give up any hope of doing philosophy but I think Deleuze has the resources to show that philosophy still functions despite its being continually open to excess.

I don't know if Deleuze thinks of Hegel as an ironic sadist. It might fit in with his comments in 'Nietzsche and Philosophy.'

I don't think we need take Deleuze's construction of irony as its functions in the sadist machine to be his final word of the subject. He finds in this case the apparatus works in this way. I'd like to return to this soon as I am looking at 'Difference and Repetition' at the moment.

12:59 PM  

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