Monday, August 23, 2010

Deleuze and Langauge

Lecercle, Jean-Jacques. Deleuze and Language. New York, NY: Palgrave-MacMillan, 2002.

On the most general level, Lecercle's monograph on the philosophy of Deleuze and its engagement with language as a discourse treats “language...not as a theme, but as a problem” (2). Of course, the author employs the term “problem” in the Deleuzian sense, which refers to a process of creating concepts that offers contingent solutions, wherein the problem remains always immanent to that particular solution and there is no definitive or final “answer” (38). As such, Lecercle does not claim his study is a mastery, nor a complete comprehension of Deleuze's use of language, but, instead, offers several philosophical variations on how one can conceptualize its use. For starters, the author maps Deleuze and Guattari's displeasure for linguistics, particularly the strain that begins with Saussaure and culminates in Chomsky's systematic overview of language. While their list of grievances is both expansive and nuanced, there are four, main postulates which they disagree with: the first is that “Language is informational and communicational”; the second is that “There is an abstract machine of language that does not appeal to any 'extrinisic' factor,” meaning that “languge is immune go worldly influences”; the third posits that “There are constants or universals that enable us to define [language] as a homogeneous system”; and, finally, that “Language can be scientifically studied only the conditions of a standard or major language” (86-7). Not surprisingly, then, Deleuze and Guattari counter Chomskian linguistics with a model that formulates language as 1) less a transmission of messages, and more as an utterance that “exerts force,” and as such, 2) is “a social act” that is “immersed,” or immanent “to the world” (88), 3) a “site of continuous variation, or heterogeneous currents,” and 4) due to such variations, one needs to study the “infinite variety of dialects, registers and jargons” (89) within a language, as opposed to a standardized model of that language. These four counter-claims form the base of what Lecercle calls a “new pragmatics” (“new,” in that it differs from the pragmatics of analytic philosophy championed by Wittengenstein and his followers) that celebrates “rule-breaking creativity of literary texts” as the center “of their philosophy of language” (156). Moreover, the literary utterances are never individualized within a specific author-subject, but “collective assemblages of enunciation” (156) predicated upon “a renewed concept of style” (157). Additionally, the new pragmatic model focuses on language as “a historical construct” (157) deeply enmeshed in material realities. After addressing a “new” pragmatics, the author mobilizes Deleuze and Guattari's concepts of machines, assemblages, and the minor and their relation to language. The first term, machine, is “dynamic and diachronic” as well as overtly “political” (181), and “characterised by a flow of energy and a series of cuts, or breaks, or ruptures that give the flow form by coding it” (183). Furthermore, there are two specific types of machines: the desiring machine and the social machine (183). Assemblages, on the other hand, are “ontologically mixed” and comprised of “the abstract materiality of utterances and institutions and the concrete materiality of objects” (185). Similar to machines, the assemblage “is always dual”: both a “machinic assemblage of desire, and a collective assemblage of enunciation” (186). It must be noted, though, that an “assemblage never refers to a subject” (188); the assemblage is always collective. This is not to say that Deleuze and Guattari negate the fact that there are such things as subjects, but they are only “end products of processes of subjectivation,” wherein “the most important aspect is the process, not the result” (189). Finally, while the use of the term “minor” is rather widespread within academic and literary communities, Lecercle stresses several important aspects of the concept: 1) “minor literature” is “an asignifying use of language”; 2) “directly and entirely political”; 3) collective; (195) 4) “is linked to becoming, a combination of active forces, or forces for change” (194); and, while perhaps surprising, 5) “keeps that major language alive” through the “multiplication of dialects and registers with the standard dialect” (197). The monograph closes with an examination of Deleuze's concepts of style and stuttering. Style, for Deleuze, is “the discord, the disequilibrium...that affects language at its most alive” (221) and manifests itself in “an original syntactic treatment of language” in order to take it “to its frontiers with silence” (222). Again, Deleuze highlights “the impersonality of style,” in that “that subject is not the origin, but the effect of style” (223). Stuttering, then, relates to style because it “introduces slippage or subversion within systematic langue” (232) through a “dynamic line worming its way through the plane of immanence of language” developing a syntax that produces a “tension toward silence, towards the ineffable, towards the limits of language” (233). The final chapter closes with eleven points that constitute “style-as-stuttering”; while Lecercle expounds upon each of these points, their nominal designations are: 1) disequilibrium, 2) variation, 3) vibration, 4) line, 5) minority, 6) inclusive disjunctions and reflexive connections, 7) repetition, 8) digression, 9) the intensive line of syntax, 10) rhythm, and 11) limit (243-4).

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