Guattari’s Ecosophy and Nature as Machinic Assemblages: In Reading Literatures and Films by Kobo Abe

In this paper I will explore Guattari’s tactical idea of ecosophy (or virtual ecology) as the integrative moment of his itinerary in both theory and practice. In the mid 1970s Deleuze began using the term “strange ecology” in the mid 1970s, in his Dialogues with Claire Parnet, much earlier than Guattari, who began to engage with the problematics of ecology in the mid 1980s. In reference to literary authors such as Woolf, Melville, and Hofmannsthal, Deleuze (and Parnet) raised the notion of “unnatural participation” or “participation (or nuptials) against nature,” which later in A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari elaborated further in their detailed conceptualisation of “becoming” (woman, animal, and imperceptible). Guattari, for his part, also proceeded with this line of thought by proposing the notion of “the production of subjectivity,” combined with concepts such as “absorbent subjectivity” or “partial or pathic subjectivity” in his late work Chaosmosis. As Deleuze in Dialogues made a remark on the equivalence between a literary author and a traitor (or trickster), one of tasks of the novelist is “to lose one’s identity and face.” By writing something, the writer has to (can) become something itself, at the same time he or she has to disappear, to become unknown (Dialogue 33). The writer can invent a kind of field, environment, and ambience by becoming objects in writing (referents). Such writing always consists of “working between the two” rather than “working together” (ibid., 13), where “we are desert but populated by tribes, flora and fauna” (ibid., 9). Guattari’s late writings on ecosophy were drawn from the earlier conceptions of Deleuze. In this context, Japanese writer Kobo Abe must be addressed. Even a cursory Guattarian-influenced reading of two of his novels (later made into films in which he collaborated), The Woman in the Dunes and The Face of Another, affords us a certain creative interpretation on Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy, and Guattari’s ecosophy especially. In the mid 1980s, Guattari and Abe met for discussions a couple of times. Inspired by Abe’s avant-garde works in his novels and films, rather than merely apply the ideas of Deleuze and Guattari to Abe’s work this paper will focus on the perspective of “Nature as machnic assemblages” in Guattari’s late works.

How to Make Oneself A Dark Precursor: Mr. Palomar’s Practiced Death and Literary Epiphanies

Through the personae of Mr. Palomar, Italo Calvino explores the resonances between things in themselves and abstract patterns. Two series—things whose particularity demands description and patterns that claims to recognise universality in things—resonate with each other in Mr. Palomar. The resonance is caused because Mr. Palomar serves as the dark precursor. Overwhelmed by experiences of things, he tries to think with a body. He manages to react by being forced to describe their particularity and to tell stories that point toward universality. As a dark precursor, Mr. Palomar makes things and patterns participate in one another and create moments of epiphanies that are beyond description and stories. He thinks by artistically reacting to what overwhelms him bodily. How is this creation possible? How can the dark precursor constantly trigger epiphanies? What does Mr. Palomar do to make himself a dark precursor? This paper analyses the practice of Mr. Palomar that makes possible creation through a dark precursor. By doing so, this paper attempts to propose an example of artistic research in literature by exploring Mr. Palomar’s moments of literary epiphany. Another of Calvino’s novels, Invisible Cities, is also discussed to present the author’s consistent project in the context of the analysis of Mr. Palomar.

The first part of the paper discusses Mr. Palomar’s deliberate death and the empty state of the dark precursor. While the two interlocutors in Invisible Cities suspend their dialogue to communicate profoundly in silence, Mr. Palomar practises death, imagining that he does not exist so as to let the heterogeneous series of which he is composed participate in one another. This practised absence can be put in dialogue with Deleuze’s description of a dark precursor as “missing” from or always “displacing” its own place. The indeterminacy of the dark precursor makes creation happen in its own discordant accord between series. In the case of Mr. Palomar, he has to suspend his formed subjectivity in order to be the empty dark precursor full of creativity.

The second part of the paper explores how the two series of things and patterns resonate with each other. Since Invisible Cities, things in themselves and their patterns have been two major aspects of Calvino’s concern. While the stories in Invisible Cities happen between the two characters representing each of the concerns, Mr. Palomar explores the resonance between two series through three literary practices: descriptions, stories, and meditation. While descriptions and stories are two aspects of his concern—particularity of things and the universality of their patterns, it is in meditative moments that the two series resonate and give rise to literary epiphanies presented by meditative words functioning between descriptions and stories. In such moments, the interactions between the two literarily express thoughts of the unthinkable and thus recreate both descriptions and stories.

Perversion in Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty

To understand the way Deleuze thinks about perversion is to understand the specificity he sees in masochism—its difference from sadism. It is to understand how he reads Masoch from the critical point of view, showing that Masoch takes the phantasm as a genuine double of the world and how literature therefore arises as its ideal realisation. Sade creates a literature of reason, of the cold thought where rigorous demonstrations show that reasoning itself is violence, that demonstration itself is violence. Obscene descriptions give the sadistic the power of showing themselves apathetically all-powerful. Masoch is the inventor of the phantasm, the author of the imagination that multiplies the denials as a proceeding of his art of suspense. He denies reality in order to incarnate, in suspense, the dialectic ideal phantasmé. He proceeds by multiplication of the denial as an ascending path towards the intelligible. He creates pedagogical trials of initiation to this path in order to reach his ideal. Sade’s obscene language and detailed description, on the one hand, and Masoch’s suspense and suggestive setting, on the other, both serve to conjugate literature and sexuality—this is, both clinical and critical plans.

Among Deleuze’s work, Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty has perhaps the most clinical literary approach, in which critical aspects cannot be understood without their clinical mirror. This book is an experience of reading the art of the novel as a perverse affair. Deleuze always considers Sade and Masoch to be major writers, so literature becomes a thought on the world’s epiphanies and novelistic configurations. In this book, for the first time, Deleuze gives a clinical function to artistic creation and takes a writer as an example of the intrinsic link between literature and life, of what he will say lately: literature as a health affair. And all the analysis of Masoch’s and Sade’s literature is done within a conception of the phantasm as dark precursor.

The Politics of Intimate Grammar: A Literary Symptomatology of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

This presentation is part of an emergent, larger research project of founding an experimental “literary clinic,” which studies a diverse body of literary works as both clinical symptoms of and critical interventions in the ongoing experience of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The project takes its cue from Deleuze’s approach to literature, and offers a dynamic theoretical practice that constantly revises and invents the concepts it employs to read literature. By attending both to specific effects and lived contexts of the literary work, the literary clinic strives to engender critical readings that question and explore the uses of literature for life and of theory for literature in the reality of the Israeli Occupation.

Deleuze states that “literature begins only when a third person is born in us that strips us of the power to say ‘I’” (1997, 3), and that “narcissism in authors is odious” (1995, 134). Should we assume that Deleuze precludes the possibility that the “I” could function as a means of political resistance and express the revolutionary demand of the people to come? This paper argues that we may conclude otherwise once Deleuze’s approach to literature is plugged into the literary machine of David Grossman, a contemporary Israeli author, whose works will be presented here as both symptomatic maps of the illnesses of the Occupation and critical minoritarian experimentations that resist the majoritarian Israeli “state grammar”—the current dominant expressive mechanism of Israeli culture whose constructions of reality function as means for legitimising and justifying the Occupation.

In the framework of the literary clinic, the aim of this paper is therefore twofold: (1) to delineate a form of writing the “I” as a strategy of resistance to state grammar, hence as an artistic research practice that both critically rethinks the Israeli oppression and creatively fabricates (through language) an alternative vision of life. By reading Deleuze with Grossman’s novel The Book of Intimate Grammar (first published 1991), this paper will show how the intimate grammar of writing the “I”—effected by the becoming-child of the author and the becoming-imperceptible of the character—not only undermines the negative logic of enmity that dominates the Israeli state grammar but also transforms and politicises the expressive power of the literary first person, with its newly discovered capabilities of seeing and knowing reality. (2) To offer a preliminary conceptualisation of “reading-with” as a creative practice (and in this sense “artistic”), in contrast to “reading-through” as a practice of interpretation that subjects the literary work to already established criteria and values. By outlining three aspects of “reading with”—onto-methodological, ethical, and political—this paper will describe the potential uses of Deleuze’s philosophy for a dynamic literary theory; one that is committed to critically evaluating its concepts and procedures, as well as to constantly experimenting with its capacity to produce diverse practices of reading in changing contexts.

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. Negotiations 1972–1990. Translated by Martin Joughin. New York: Columbia University Press.

—. 1997. Essays Critical and Clinical. Translated by Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Grossman, David. 2010. The Book of Intimate Grammar. Translated by Betsy Rosenberg. London: Vintage Books.