January 13th, 1976
Our method -- or the method that you accept or pretend to accept, me too -- this rhizome method could have as its motto: “I hate memories. Nothing good comes of memories. Memories are actually a knot of arborescence.” But at the same time, how can we speak about the close-up without referring to specific films, which is to say filmic memories? … So we weren't being specialists -- which was a good thing -- but we replaced specialism with a conversation of the type: “Ah yes, that film...” At the same time, of course, we have to cite particular films if we want to talk about the close-up. … I would just like to ask you for the next half hour, before going back to our new research topic on the two types of delirium, to forget what wasn’t working. … What I propose we do is almost... I have some topics... but I'm not at all sure... and then I would like you to react and propose things yourselves. And then we'll stop there. And if things don’t work out again, it's no big deal, we can just say that maybe this year it's too soon to speak about the close-up. We just need a few basic notions of cinema so as not make any howling errors. It's not my case, of course. But perhaps there are some here who don't know anything. And we just need a few memories, just enough to say: “Ah yes in that film, there was something of that nature.” You could go and rewatch it.
Deleuze 1975-1876 seminars were filmed by one of his students, Marielle Burkhalter, as part of her masters project, "Filming Philosophy as it Happens." Enrico Ghezzi acquired the videos for broadcast on the RAI 3 cinema programme "Fuori Orario," after inviting Burkhalter to screen them at a festival he co-curated. Marielle Burkhalter, along with Stavroula Bellos, would eventually become the director of the L’association Siècle Deleuzien, and oversaw the French transcriptions of Deleuze's seminars at the Voix de Gilles Deleuze website at the University of Paris 8.
Links to a number of these recordings that are available on YouTube are provided below, each of which includes subtitles in Italian. We are grateful to those who have uploaded these videos.
We have ordered the video material chronologically and divided it into 3 categories, providing short titles describing the topics covered for general orientation. The first (A) refers to the seminars that were filmed at Paris-8 Vincennes in 1975-76, around the time that Deleuze and Guattari began working on what would become “Mille Plateaux”. The second (B) includes seminars from 1980-87, after the campus of Vincennes had been demolished and relocated to St. Denis. The third category (C) features miscellaneous fragments or short edits of the above material.
A. Deleuze at Paris 8-Vincennes, 1975-76
B. Deleuze at Paris 8-St.Denis, 1980-87
The personal pronoun “I” (1980) (video link only partial), transcript and translation located in the second Anti-Oedipus and Other Reflections Seminar, 3 June 1980. [New translation provided of this segment added to the 3 June 1980 lecture]
Deleuze sur Hegel (3:34), Deleuze on Hegel (1980), follows the preceding clip, transcript and translation located in the second Anti-Oedipus and Other Reflections Seminar, 3 June 1980.
On Leibniz (1986) -- Session 3 (18 Nov 1986), transcript and translation located in the Leibniz and the Baroque seminar, 1986-87
On Harmony (1987) -- Session 20 (2 June 1987), transcript and translation located in the Leibniz and the Baroque seminar
C. Various fragments (in random order, clips that are segments from longer videos included above in A)
Gilles Deleuze - Vincennes 1975-76 (compilation) Although this long cllp seems to begin at 1:28:40, the viewer can back up to the start for the full length. However, the segment begins in progress, with students seeming to debate a burning question. (3:05:57)
Deleuze et le roman (9:35)
Deleuze sur le langage (1:19)
Deleuze sur la musique (1:04)
Deleuze - Boulez - Berg (5:36)
Gilles Deleuze - Morale ed etica (Lezioni a Vincennes, 1975/76) Interview with Richard Pinhas (7:03)
Gilles Deleuze a Vincennes 1/3 (sub ita) (4:00:00)
Gilles Deleuze a Vincennes 2/3 (sub ita) (4:21:40)
In collaboration with the students in attendance, Deleuze introduces different terms under development with Guattari in their ongoing collaboration that will result, in 1980, in A Thousand Plateaus.
Deleuze & Guattari at Vincennes, 1975-76
Il Senso in Meno, Part 7 - The Close-up in Cinema, The Conditions of Study, Two Forms of Delirium
Translated by Graeme Thomson and Silvia Maglioni
We've now begun a fourth grouping of research. But we're going to suspend it for the moment, though not for long, not for the entire lesson... I'd like to suspend it because something didn’t work last time, so we need to do a collective auto-critique - personal auto-critique is a bad idea but collective auto-critique can be useful. We all agreed that it was just about time to close the chapter of faciality, that we had spoken enough about the matter. But perhaps we should be able to get something more out of the close-up in cinema. And then I had the feeling - that I imagine many of you shared - that while many interesting things were said, we had failed to get anywhere.
Something wasn't right. And it was just as well to go on because things might have become clear all of a sudden, though it was by no means certain... I'm sure I'm not the only one but I had the feeling that something wasn't working. And I asked myself why that was. How come we didn't manage to get anything out of the close-up? Seeing as how that was the case... even if we were well placed... what I mean to say is that what we have to be wary of, always and in every field, are specialists.
Specialists are a really horrible thing, because they know so much, they know too much, and they're so caught up in problems already coded in function of their speciality that, if you pose a question to a specialist, you'll discover to your astonishment that there's absolutely no chance of them giving you an answer. We could have asked someone from the cinema department, or else a critic. But in my view it was better to avoid doing so. However, we were well placed to do something, whatever that might have been. So why didn't it work last time? I think that it's because, even if it was interesting, what many of us said was linked to some kind of reminiscence: “Ah, I remember, I remember…” - and in a certain sense those memories weren't completely out of place - “I remember there was a close-up...”
It's interesting, because I said to myself afterwards, our method - or the method that you accept or pretend to accept, me too - this rhizome method could have as its motto: “I hate memories. Nothing good comes of memories. Memories are actually a knot of arborescence.” But at the same time, how can we speak about the close-up without referring to specific films, which is to say filmic memories? Nonetheless, I think that we failed somehow, because we got stuck in an exchange of memories, like old dotards... So we weren't being specialists - which was a good thing - but we replaced specialism with a conversation of the type: “Ah yes, that film...” At the same time, of course, we have to cite particular films if we want to talk about the close-up.
I don't know... I would just like to ask you for the next half hour, before going back to our new research topic on the two types of delirium, to forget what wasn’t working. Although at the same time I found everything you said quite interesting. But as I said, something didn't work. In exchange, I would like it if somebody, maybe in a week or a fortnight's time, told me that I got it completely wrong… I'll just say, on behalf of us all, that we screwed up a bit, not much, nothing serious, We could very well say that, even if the situation were different, we would have screwed up anyway or that maybe our ideas will be clearer next year.
Anyway, let's try something. What I propose we do is almost... I have some topics... but I'm not at all sure... and then I would like you to react and propose things yourselves. And then we'll stop there. And if things don’t work out again, it's no big deal, we can just say that maybe this year it's too soon to speak about the close-up. We just need a few basic notions of cinema so as not make any howling errors. It's not my case, of course. But perhaps there are some here who don't know anything. And we just need a few memories, just enough to say: “Ah yes in that film, there was something of that nature.” You could go and rewatch it. Yes, but in any case... So here is my first proposal. And sorry if I seem... no forget it, I don't need to apologize.
First proposal: as a theorem, a general proposition regarding the close-up as I found it... because I was so unhappy... though I liked some things that were said… I wasn't happy with the way we failed to really get anywhere. So I did some research.
And I'm sure that you know this great director, who boasted about having literally created Marlene Dietrich from nothing, and perhaps worse than nothing - and it's with great bitterness that he says that – this director called Josef Von Sternberg.
Josef Von Sternberg published a memoir, which is translated in French as Souvenirs d'un montreur d'ombres (Fun in a Chinese Laundry) with Lafont. In this book, I found a lovely passage that seems to me perfect for our purposes. Because considering where we are, and all that we have said so far about the face, this text completely confirms our theory of the machine of faciality to the point that we could say: “We can take it as our general proposition regarding the close-up.” And I quote, it's page 342-343...
“The camera has been used to explore the human figure and to concentrate upon its face as being its most precious essence.” This works for us, there's no need to comment on it. We have tried to say the same thing using other terms. We wouldn't have said “its most precious essence” but that's okay.
“Monstrously enlarged as it is on the screen, the human face should be treated like a landscape.” It's getting better and better!
So for Sternberg, the close-up contains not only what appeared to us to be a fundamental correlation – the correlation face-landscape - without which there wouldn't be a close-up, exactly in the sense that we developed it previously. But also, the close-up consists in the very treatment of the face as a landscape. If you want to treat a face like a landscape – Sternberg seems to be saying here - you can only do it by using the close-up in cinema.
“... the human face should be treated like a landscape, as if the eyes were lakes, the nose a hill, the cheeks broad meadows, the mouth a flower patch” - he's obviously thinking about Marlene - “the forehead sky, and the hair clouds. Values must be altered as in an actual landscape by investing it with lights and shadows, controlled with gauze and graded filters and by domination of all that surrounds the face. Just as I spray trees with aluminum to give life to the absorbent green, just as the sky is filtered to graduate its glare, just as the camera is pointed to catch a reflection on the surface of a lake, even so the face and it's framing values must be viewed objectively as if it were an inanimate surface. The skin should reflect and not blot the lights, and light must be used to caress, not flatten and wipe out that which it strikes.”
“The skin should reflect...” So what Sternberg is telling us is that the close-up's function is to treat the face like a landscape in conditions in which the surface of the face reflects the light. So, there we have the first major characteristic of the close-up. There are already so many observations we could make at this point, but let's stifle them for the moment and try to put things in order. He continues and here the text gets a bit bizarre:
“If it is impossible to otherwise improve the quality of the face...” - here he's speaking about the second aspect of the close-up, as a kind of alternative - if it's impossible to do what he was talking about before, that is to say, transform the face into a landscape that is able to reflect the light, we see that he has a preference: he prefers the first aspect, but says that there is a second aspect, and I don't see why other filmmakers might not prefer this... He says that if you can't manage to attain the first solution, there are other approaches you can take... Is there a dog here? I heard a dog? First of all I hate dogs and secondly I'm afraid of them. Is there really a dog? At least it's better than a cat, that's all I can say...
“If it is impossible to otherwise improve the quality of the face, deep shadows must add intelligence to the eyes, and should that not be enough then it is best to shroud the countenance in merciful darkness and have it take its place as an active pattern in the photographic scale. Before I allow light to strike a face, I light its background to fill the frame with light values, for included in its photographic impact is everything that is visible in the same frame. This principle of containing all values within a frame of values applies also to the human body and its movement through space is to be as a dramatic encounter with light. But whether face, body, a letter, a toy balloon or street, the problem is always the same: lifeless surfaces must be made responsive to light and over-brilliant and flaring surfaces reduced to order...”
You see the two aspects? Make light reflect through the face-landscape, or else if the surfaces are over-brilliant, attenuate and, if need be, darken it. Okay… If we decide to select this as our main proposition regarding the close-up it's obviously because it works for us. Here we find everything we need...
To sum up: the close-up either makes the face reflect the light or else resorts to deep shadows, up to and including “merciful darkness.” So that suits us, since we find our white wall-black hole system. And if we might dare to correct Sternberg's text, we could say that choosing the first aspect over the second is merely his own technical preference. We must recognize that there are also many directors who privilege the second aspect.
So I ask myself, couldn't we say the following... making some rapid comparisons? The screen is for sure, a white wall. The camera is for sure a black hole. So, couldn't we say that there is a close-up when… – and here I'm moving towards a more abstract definition, but maybe it's stupid, I don't know – when the face tends to merge with the whole or part of the screen? Which leads us to suppose that there are also partial close-ups that don't occupy the entire screen. I'm pretty sure of this, but I don't know, we'll see... when the face tends to merge with the whole or part of the screen considered as a white wall. So it's the face itself that functions as a white wall and is therefore identified with the whole or part of the screen. And similarly when the face on the screen tends to be identified with or to function as the black hole of the camera. So here we have a first very general proposition regarding the close-up based on Sternberg's meticulously precise text.
Second proposition: summing up quickly, I'd like to say that there are close-ups of things other than the face. In what conditions? We already have the answer but we can verify it in the case of cinema since for the moment we've only considered faciality at a very general level. Naturally, we can have close-ups of all kinds of things. Though perhaps not everything… perhaps not just any old thing.
We can have close-ups of all kinds of things on the condition that the thing in question is caught up in a process of facialization. And this is the reason cinema is a modern art form and that the power of cinema requires the production of faciality, even if this faciality is abstract. I'm not saying that its production of faciality condemns cinema to a kind of realism or representation. We have already seen how facialization goes far beyond actual faces. However, in order for there to be a close-up on something other than the face, that thing has to undergo a process of facialization.
And regarding this point I've been given a very nice text by Eisenstein, where he says, again in relation to Griffith of whom we've already spoken a little... Eisenstein's text begins like this, speaking about Griffith's close-ups:
“The kettle began it . . . Thus Dickens opens his Cricket on the Hearth. The kettle began it…” So immediately there are new aspects to the question that emerge, when Dickens writes at the beginning of ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’... “The kettle began it.” Is he making a close-up here? Which leads us to ask: are there equivalents to the close-up before the cinema? Can we speak of an equivalent to the close-up in painting? Or in writing? And Eisenstein employs Dickens to comment upon all of Griffith's close-ups.
And he says: “What could be further from films! Trains, cowboys, chases... and ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’? The kettle began it! But, strange as it may seem, movies also were boiling in that kettle. From here, from Dickens, from the Victorian novel, stem the “first shoots of American film aesthetic, forever linked with the name of Griffith.”
Here we would already have some guidelines, if we could show that in fact the novel typically performs processes of facialization that concern use objects, which in a certain sense it contains like a precursor to the cinema close-up – if it's true that the close-up either concerns faciality or produces facialization. The close-up could be of a knife. We'll see... or of a kettle. Provided that in a certain sense the kettle looks at me. There, the kettle is looking at me, not in the grotesque sense of having two eyes, or maybe also in this sense, why not – the black hole of the kettle spout. Not surprisingly, Griffith's interiors always look at us. They look at me in the sense that I'm caught up in these interiors, they regard me. Even if it's not my kettle, it's someone's kettle. At the same time we can ask ourselves if there are things that resist the process of facialization. And here too our theory will be confirmed. We can say that something that resists the process of facialization cannot be the object of a close-up.
So the last time we weren't too happy with what we did regarding the close-up. And it's by no means certain that we'll be any happier today, it might not go any better. At the end of the lesson a number of you stayed behind and Matthieu Carrière told us about a text he remembered by André Bazin on animals, that now becomes very interesting for us. It 's a text where Bazin explains how we cannot make a close-up of an animal. But there's a problem with the text. Carrière lent me the book which I read but I didn't see the same thing he saw in it. I don't think Bazin said anything of the sort... and in a way I'm happy. Although it seemed like a nice idea, it's even better if it's not in the book. Or at least I didn't find it. But let's suppose he says that: We can't make close-ups of animals. What does that mean? There are some...
The answer we gave the other time at the end of the lesson was this: that if you make a close-up of an animal in cinema it's a way of suppressing the animal, of facializing it, of attributing certain things to it and therefore introducing a dimension of anthropomorphism. We often see a big lion's head. But the great animal films don't include, or include very few, close-ups. Which doesn't mean that there aren't worse techniques. What normally replaces the close-up for animals, for example, is the use of slow motion. In Rossif's last film there is a terrible use of slow motion in which the animal is no less destroyed than it would be by close-ups. It's unbearable. The use of slow-motion applied to animals might work a little but now it's completely overused. So why would it be useful for us to say. “Okay… no close-ups of animals, it's not possible.”
As we have seen, the animal is defined by a certain state – which by no means implies that it lacks spirituality, however its spirituality involves a system where the head is strictly part of the body and therefore is not organized through a face that overcodes the body. On the contrary, the head is part of an entire corporeal code. So there can't be any close-up of the animal if it's true that the close-up is either faciality or process of facialization. That suits us. But we would also need to demonstrate that each time we have a close-up of an object, as in the case of Griffith's kettle, there is facialization.
Third problem: The way to obtain – and here we might finally need a specialist who is able to tell us... no, it's out of the question! – I ask, would it be inconvenient, and here I'm asking a question... would it be inconvenient to say that, as far as we're concerned, we use the word close-up in a very general sense to account for effects that are produced by very different means? Because in the discussion that followed the last lesson, there was something that disturbed me. Among those who stayed behind, there were some who, if I've understood correctly, went as far as to suggest that the close-up doesn't require or doesn't necessarily require enlargement, that one could conceive of something that functioned as a close-up without any relative enlargement. I didn't fully understand this... and then we stopped there. So as to orient ourselves a bit better, might we not propose certain tools and means? Unless someone more competent in the matter tells us: no, this isn't what we call a close-up.
All we know for the moment is that the close-up doesn't necessarily imply immobility. A close-up can perfectly well be part of a tracking shot. Nor it does imply occupying the whole of the screen. For example a face in close-up might occupy only one side of the screen. But doesn't it imply a relative enlargement with respect to the other elements in the shot? I would say: yes it does, but this is obviously just a question of means, it doesn't help us to define its function. But I recall some of you saying that it doesn't necessarily imply enlargement...
Let's try to imagine some different means. The first, the most famous, for which the word close-up is normally reserved refers to a mobile camera approaching a character or object. Another means is the reverse procedure. And the reverse procedure is, I think, frequently employed by the expressionists.
The close-up considered as a scale of intensity has a completely different function. It implies introducing in the two-dimensional space of the screen something which is not reducible to two dimensions but which in this case is no longer time but intensity. Basically speaking, this allows us to say that the close-up has nothing to do with either depth of field or perspective. The question of how to add a third dimension to the two dimensions is a completely different one. The same goes for painting: if we find close-ups in painting, they shouldn't be confused with problems of perspective. Otherwise we'll get everything mixed up. And Eistenstein talks about his own intensive close-ups. Except that there's something bizarre – I don't know if it’s the English translation or the political constraints to which Eisenstein was subjected... Eistenstein says: my intensive close-up is a signifying close-up, it's a close-up that has a meaning whereas Griffith's close-ups are purely descriptive. It's funny the way Eisenstein defends himself, as though he were talking to Stalin or Zdanov, when he says: “I haven't forgotten, I'm not simply showing things, I mean something by them, I haven't forgotten the imperatives of the Party!” - whereas in actual fact one would have to say the opposite. If there's a signifying close-up it's that of Griffith, in its anticipatory values.
Contrariwise, the close-up as scale of intensity is absolutely non-signifying, a-signifying. And Eistenstein proposes examples from his own films such as The Battleship Potemkin, where there is what he himself calls “the line of mounting despair” which passes through several faces. You see this has nothing to do with anticipation, it's very different... The mounting suffering or rage that passes through numerous faces, whether simultaneous or successive, creates a scale of intensity on the screen but we have no idea what it concerns. It doesn't signal something which is about to happen. Here the process of mounting intensity is completely immanent. Are soldiers going to appear who will fire into the crowd? Or will something else happen? It's very different from the close-up of the knife, where the close-up's function is to anticipate what will happen. At this point we know that Lulu will die and that nothing will prevent it. In the intensive close-up there is a sort of interiorization of the intensive scale that leaves what is going to happen off-screen.
So, accepting these two functions of the close-up - that would be fine for me, these two would be sufficient – because they would respond perfectly to our two types of faciality as we have distinguished them: the despotic face and the passional face. So that would work well. The passional face is essentially caught up in an intensive scale while the despotic face is anticipatory. On the despotic face I read my destiny: “I'm going to die.” But let's imagine that between these two functions of the close-up there are multiple combinations.
And on that point I'd like to conclude with a quotation from Lotte Eisner, who speaks about an extraordinary scene that unfortunately I have no memory of. I saw it just once in my life, as usual at midnight at the Cinematheque. It's in Pabst's film, Lulu. And you will immediately see how useful Eisner's expressions are for us.
“Many times Pabst films Lulu's features on a slant. Her face is so voluptuous that it seems almost deprived of individuality...” This works well for us. We've seen how individualization is an extremely secondary function of the face. It's a distant consequence of facialization and faciality. And here I skipped a phrase because it didn't really fit our needs. In fact, here she got it wrong, it's obvious... To be honest what she actually writes is “Her face is so voluptuously animal.” What a clanger. This is false. Lulu is not... it's completely stupid. Well, everyone makes mistakes... Especially as the next part shows that she's not at all an animal.
In the scene with Jack, she's inhuman which is completely different from being an animal: “In the scene with Jack the Ripper, this face, a smooth mirror-like disc slanting across the screen” - that's much better... - “a smooth mirror-like disc slanting across the screen is so shaded out...” – remember, that's Sternberg's second method - “and toned down...” - that's exactly the second type of close-up Sternberg describes - “that the camera seems to be looking down at some lunar landscape.”
And here I'm skipping another phrase where she gets it wrong: “Pabst just shows, at the edge of the screen…” - if I'm not wrong, this is the edge of the screen following the slant. And what we have here is a partial close-up that doesn't occupy the whole of the screen. So he shows this lunar landscape from awry. “Pabst just shows at the edge of the screen the chin and a fragment of cheek belonging...” - Oh, no, it was me who was wrong there, he's on the other side of the screen - “belonging to the man next to her” - Jack the Ripper - and then she says: “with whom the audience automatically identifies.” Here she makes a personal and rather forced observation, employing an abject concept of “identification”, which is completely pointless.
So we have everything we need. There are the two functions of the close-up. The anticipatory close-up: the knife. And the intensive close-up: the face of Lulu consumed, aged, falling apart, and Jack the Ripper walking towards her with what is in this case a reverse close-up of Jack the Ripper's face which traverses a scale of intensity. Everything happens as though Lulu is the zero intensity. The zero intensity is the matrix. It's negative, it's not nothing. The zero intensity is the pure white wall. And with the black silhouette or the reverse close-up of Jack the Ripper's face, you have the other function of the close-up. The close-up as intensive scale is no longer the element of anticipation. What's more, you have the two modalities of the close-up that respond more or less to Sternberg's text. Which is to say: one in treating Lulu's face as a landscape, which means making it reflect the light. Or contrariwise, attenuating over-brilliant surfaces by plunging them into merciful darkness. So in this sense everything is here.
To conclude, here is the last proposition, which I've already mentioned. We would need to see to what extent the other arts have their own equivalents to the close-up. This would allow us to objectively define these equivalents in terms of both anticipatory-temporal and intensive values. In a text... And then we would perhaps have to consider – I'm again speaking at random – both the novel and painting. You shouldn't be surprised at my saying this. I'm regrouping some notions here. In all we have said so far regarding faciality and facialization, we have seen that painting had a fundamental role in its use of face-landscape complementarity and correlation. And that the courtly novel had a no less fundamental role in the white wall-black hole system of the face-landscape.
So perhaps we could... I don't know whether I've already mentioned this but I'm going to go back to it. I'm thinking about some relatively modern painters. Irrespective of problems of perspective, which are of a completely different nature, I have the impression that often in what we call... when we have a still life that doesn't occupy the whole of the canvas but which intervenes in the painting, very often it is oddly facialized. We are at the level of the kettle that looks at me.
There's a painter I really admire, Bonnard… If you look at Bonnard's paintings you'll see that many of them are of his wife. There are many Bonnard paintings depicting his wife having breakfast. Bonnard's cups are something extraordinary. There is a kind of facialization of the cup. Which doesn't mean – and I hope you will grant me that we've never done this – to attribute a human head to the cup. Facialization is an abstract function. Just as there is an abstract machine of faciality. Facialization doesn't consist in transforming the cup into a man or woman but in making a white wall-black hole system. Or you even have dogs in Bonnard's paintings, or cats, which are facialized in a quite bizarre way, and without a trace of anthropomorphism. I'm pretty sure of it. Or as Eisenstien wrote, we should take the example of Dickens, which is quite exemplary in literature.
– If we 're going to go on working like this, I'm leaving.
– What do you want to do?
– Six months it's been like this. I've made some concrete proposals!
– It's more like three years...
– You're wasting your time. It would take only a couple of minutes to sort it out. His problem is moving his ass!
– If we remove the tables, 50 more people will come in and we'll be back where we started.
– It will create a problem. But maybe you know how to organize the space better than me.
– But at least 50 people have already left.
– Please, allow me to respond. I'm not in a hurry… I'm not trying to censor you. I think everyone has something to say on the matter although we've already discussed it a lot. You're right to raise the question again but we have spoken a lot about it. So if someone... he's right about one thing. The whole class has something to say, I too would like to say something...
– But what cannot be denied is that most days this room is almost empty! There isn't even a table normally. There are tons of chairs stacked up.
– You think you're in South America?
– It's true, that's how it is... We could at least organize the seating a bit better.
– But the more places there are, the more people there will be!
– Yes but that's not a good reason.
– Instead of going on about it, why don't we turn the seats around? Now I'll play Lagardère seeing as we're talking about cinema. It's completely stupid. These are our working conditions. It really is cinema, its like Lagardère...
– Why are you getting so het up about it?
–It's three minutes I've been trying to move. Hey you there in the corner, aren't you pissed off too?
I don't want a chair. If a fire breaks out, I'm dead. Let's not take pointless risks.
– What an actor!
– We have a real clown in our midst.
– You would do the same if there was a fire. You'd leap for the door.
– It's not true. There's also a window... I'd prefer to break a leg!
– You'd die before you got anywhere near it...
–I know there's someone who has another solution, but they don't want to say it... If we pass through the window we can get into the other part of the room.
– No longer. It's closed. Even today we couldn't manage. The room's full. He's already tried twice.
– Instead of arguing the toss, couldn't we just push all the tables against the wall? There are three walls, three sides, which equate to as many as 100 places!
– So that way we'll really die!
– So what we have is exclusion, selection... Anyone who's late can't get in. In these conditions if there are 200 or even 3000 guys who want to get in we'll have to queue up like at the Opera. Like the theatre. We come here at 7.30 and whoever isn't here by 7.45 doesn't get in. And you won't see Deleuze. He won't get in himself because he'll be stuck in the crowd...
– That's my dream… I just want to say something, because it's my turn, to respond to you, my point of view independent of the room, seeing as how you've raised a question we've already discussed many times. In any case, there is something which I would say he's absolutely right about: the tables crept back in very recently. Before, there weren't any. Now we'll move on to other questions but it's true that these tables occupy a lot of space... It's not normal for the conditions we have in this room that there are tables. Up until this week, you permitted me a small table because I need books, but it was really tiny. All those tables and this big one weren't here... I think that the first to arrive at the lesson should be so kind as to remove the tables, if there are any.
– But we need to keep two, one is for the tape recorders.
– Yes, of course. But more in general, the problem of this room is already clear. I've already said I don't want a lecture theatre. And not at all for the reasons that you impute to me, meaning lack of space to breathe, even if I do have certain problems in that regard, but that's not the reason. It's because I believe, and please don't laugh, that trying to do what we do here in a lecture theatre would radically change the nature of the work. And no matter how uncomfortable things are here, everyone is free to intervene, anyone can interrupt me to speak about something else - and here we have the perfect example - none of which would be possible in a lecture hall. Because if we go to a lecture hall, I'll be attached to a microphone – here' it's even worse, I'm connected to lots of other things and I can't even move - but the lecture hall would change everything. Because I would be in the situation of giving a lecture. Of course you might say: “But what is it you're doing here if its not lecturing?” That opens another question but in my view that's not what I'm doing. And if according to me I'm not giving a lecture it's partly thanks to this room, which I cling to more than practically anything else.
If you tell me that things are bad, especially for those who get here after a certain hour, that conditions are unbearable and yet we have to bear them for three or two and a half hours... please believe me that I'm not trying to be funny when I say: I'm perfectly aware of this. I know everyone feels more or less uncomfortable, starting with myself, and I assure you it's no picnic – I remember the good old days when I had a small corridor where I could walk. I like speaking when I'm walking, that's how ideas come to me... But that's all over now. I know, I'm not stupid... I know conditions here are pretty unbearable. Still, they seem to me better than the conditions of a lecture hall for what we're trying to do. And I know some of you are suffering more than others, but I also know that everyone, me included, is terribly uncomfortable in this room.
I just want to say that I think there are advantages to it, and that a certain number of you here find it advantageous enough to want the situation to go on like this. So I respond, without rancor or provocation, that if someone finds that the advantages this room offers – meaning the possibility of a certain kind of intervention, avoiding what would befall me in a lecture hall, avoiding the form of a lecture, all of that, being able to say anything... It's clear that we wouldn't have the same rapport in a lecture hall as we do in a room like this. Here the rapport may pass by way of discomfort, but in a lecture hall it would no doubt pass by way of a horrible embarrassment, even if we would be physically better off. Or even despair: “My God, we've ended up in a lecture hall!”, “Shit, what is this?”
There are many different ways of being uncomfortable and I want you to know that I don't ignore the fact that the conditions for the people at the back are extreme. I fully understand. There are some stop-gap measures we can take. Getting rid of the tables seems an obvious solution. Make sure that those of you who are late getting here can move freely. I can even stop, if someone needs to pass this way. I'm perfectly okay with that...
But I cling to the conditions of this room for reasons linked to the nature of what we're trying to do, which would completely change in a lecture hall. And quite simply, if someone says to me, you're being selective, I would respond in the same way as Matthieu: if we create 50 more places here, there will be another 70 people who arrive and we won't resolve anything that way.
We gave ourselves a relatively small room for a working environment, not at all out of masochism or because we like to be uncomfortable, but because, and I'll say it once again, what I want to say and what others want to say can only pass by way of these bad conditions. I don't see any way we can avoid that. If someone tells me that the working conditions here are so unbearable that they can't stand them any more, once again my answer, without the least provocation is: too bad it means we can't work together. Too bad, in any case I'm staying here. And I would stay here even if it meant being alone. Which would be a dream!
Sorry if I answer you in this way, but I really don't think you could say: “Thing would be the same in a lecture hall. We would be more comfortable and you could do the same as you're doing here”. I said it. Things are as bad for me here as they are for you. I know it's not a good argument but I'm not here to enjoy myself.
The last question you raised, and that we've already discussed, is that of cigarettes... They don't solve anything, actually they make things worse. I've always said that if at a certain point we decide it's better to ban cigarettes, I would abstain from doing it, as long as it was possible. Obviously, if I had an asthma attack it would be worse for me and I wouldn't smoke that day. And I would ask you not to smoke, but if you didn't agree I would just go out. It's simple, it's not hard to understand.
Allowing or banning cigarettes from the room has to be a collective decision. So it's not up to me. Except when I have physical problems. Of course anyone could have physical difficulties and say no, you have to stop. Or they could go out. Anyway, that's what I wanted to say. But I insist on the fact that – I would almost like to strive to convince you, even if for me it’s clear – I assure you that if we go to a lecture hall everything will change. Everything. In the name of enhanced physical wellbeing, which I'm not even sure about - because lecture halls here are like coffins and they're not so comfortable - everything would change including and especially the nature of what we're doing here.
– So if I want to go over there, how do I go about it? I have to start the same rigmarole as before, it might be amusing, but I'm no longer amused, I can tell you. For what I can understand the problem remains. I raised it fifteen minutes ago and Deleuze gave his view. And there's always very few people at the front while here there's a big crowd. There's always people smoking and there's always a climate of competition. I'm not trying to seize power… I was just making suggestions. You said: “even if I end up alone”, my real fear is that that's what might happen... I asked myself whether I should go or not. It would be ideal if you found yourself alone. Maybe only then would we really do something. If students say: “working conditions here are no good, we'll go and do something else”, perhaps the situation would change.
[Student, Robert Albouker]
– For me what counts are people's motivations.
– You think I'm an idiot?
– You're sitting there comfortably.
– You're the privileged and we're the excluded.
– It's thirteen and a half minutes now that we've been talking about chairs. Thirteen and a half minutes. I've counted them. And where are we going with this? But you guys are sitting there smoking... Can we just do something?
– Let's get rid of the tables if that's the problem, but let's not take two hours about it.
– Anyway, it's clear this lesson is over!
– What is this Vincennes mystique anyway? Is it a new church? I don't know... what is it?
– There's no mystique of Vincennes, there's just the reality of Vincennes
– So what is it?
– There's the real problem. A while ago you could have had a seat.
– There's a chair there. Why don't you take it?
– In the morning I like to sleep…
– What, do you think we don't?
– I come here and I want it to be pleasurable, not this pain in the ass.
– There are those who like to sleep and those who get up at 6 to have a chair.
– But you arrived at 10!
– So you can just stand…
– It's completely stupid what you're saying. It's the struggle for life.
– Don't be an idiot!
– We don't have 400 seats in this room. There is one single chair and 100 people who want it. Only one's going to get it…
– When there are 400 people here piled up to the ceiling, nobody will be able to get in any more. That's the way it is.
– I don't follow your logic.
– Too bad!
– We have to divide the space.
– Can I have a cigarette?
– And what about the workers who get here late?
– In any case, I agree with Deleuze... let's stay here!
– There are people standing who don't say anything!
– Can't we all move a little bit over towards the window there, so we can stop with this? Can't we move a little bit to the left? The ones here... Let's try to squeeze up a bit. You too, over there! So we can get this over with. Don't be stupid. There are still another 50 people outside the door. So let's squeeze up!
– We can swap places! Those who are now sitting can stand.
– I remind you that one thing is true about what you've been saying. Before, the tables weren't there. No. But if possible next time... it's the first time the tables have reappeared.
– It's sabotage!
– Yes, this is a sabotage of the classroom. Maybe it was you who put them there. So, now, I don't think it's a good idea to try to get rid of the tables now because... there's no way we can make a rotary movement that will allow us to push them...
– We can break off for 5 minutes to move the tables outside!
– Are you crazy? It's already 12.10. Once we've got all these tables out it will be 2.00 before we finish. I'm hungry!
– We could put them...
– You guys who are sitting there, move your chairs!
– Why don't we have a 10-minute pause?
– It's not possible!
– Are we having a pause or not?
– The lesson finishes at 1.
– Forget the pause. Let's just stop here!
– Everyone goes home at 1.
– But we've been arguing like this for half an hour already…
– If we go out, it will take until Tuesday to get back in!
– Woof woof!
– It's all the dog's fault! I told you.
– I'd like to ask Deleuze if we could go to a lecture hall and take out the chairs. There would be much more space.
– Enough of this shit! Let's talk about something else.
– No, if there are no chairs it becomes a room like any other...
– No, it's the same thing.
– Let's stay here!
I think at least in part, following what you said… I listen to things and I can't even think any more. I listen and I think: “My God! I feel worse and worse…” So you arrive here for the first time and you say what is this, what's going on? How horrible this is. How bad you must be feeling. Poor chumps. What's the matter with you? Why do you want to feel like this? So someone says this. And I listen and I answer: “You're right, it's true, we feel so bad…” But – and in saying this I'm not saying that you're exaggerating – there are cases in which I'm sure that even over there in that abominable corner, when things are working… - I'm not saying for everyone, or for everyone at the same time – we forget our discomfort, we don't think about it any more. Because, at that moment, things are really working. We feel uncomfortable but we forget about it.
– Simply it seems to me that... what's more I couldn't hear... I just want us all to be able to work in an egalitarian way, all of us seated in the same conditions. If the group doesn't agree that we should work in an egalitarian way, with everyone having a seat, and putting the tables against the wall so people can sit on top of them, if would only take 5 minutes to do that, instead of half an hour of arguments… if the group doesn't agree to that, then I'm leaving.
– So what do you do with all those who can't get in when the others are all seated?
– We'll see about that later, that's in the future!
– The future has already been going on for years!
– Let's try it and see!
– We’ve already tried it!
– Once more responding to your proposal I can only say…
– Here we've worked without tables for years!
– There were always people standing back there!
– But there are more people this year…
– It's not true, there was the same number two years ago. It depends on the period. When the sun's out the number goes down.
– I would like to answer... Considering the hour, I wouldn't try to remove the tables now. As I said, it's the first time the tables have resurfaced and I insist on this point because...
– It's not a question of removing them… just of moving them out of the way!
– Yes but even that will take half an hour!
– Every day at 1, 4 and 7, there are other courses held here... Where do you want to put the tables?
– I want to move them so we can sit on them!
– This is what I propose we do. He made a suggestion and so here's mine. I repeat, we won't have the tables anymore just as we didn't have them before. The tables will be gone, starting from the next lesson. It won't be hard to get rid of them. There's a room next door where we can put them. Those who need them for other lessons can go and get them there. Those who don't want to remove the tables don't have to do it. Those who want them gone can do it when they arrive and can put them either in the room next door or in the middle room. Starting from next time, no tables except a small one for the books. There you have it.
– It's a question of adding some tables, not taking them away.
– It's not true. Rats don't have a problem with tables.
– I don't give a shit. You can judge my level of resentment when I'm gone.
– You should be ashamed!
– What's stopping us from putting the tables against the wall… so we can sit on them?
– Are you thick or what? It's not possible.
– The answer is simple. It would take us 20 minutes.
– We only have 20 minutes left. It's not worth it.
– It's true. We would need 20 minutes. And how do you move the tables if people don't go out first?
– 20 minutes to push the tables against the wall?
– Yes, because everyone would have to go out.
– And in 20 minutes the lesson is over.
– It ends at 1. We still have half an hour.
– Why shouldn't I be able to sit on that table?
– We have to take the tables out… We'll do it!
– But we can do it now. Why next week?
– We just explained to you that there are other courses.
– Let's leave the tables here and push them against the wall.
– Haven't you got something else you want to speak about?
– But of course!
– He's a mystic… that guy.
– He's not nice!
– Oh, you're really funny!
– The question I raise is why is it such a problem for the group to move the tables...
– Because it's impossible!
– What a mess!
– If it was possible we would have already done it.
– It's impossible!
– How about we continue?
– What were we saying?
– It's a delirium!
– Okay. So we can agree to make the tables disappear for the next time.
– Yes we're agreed on that!
– Isn't there any way you can slide over a little… along the wall?
– We can make a corridor.
– Of course they're trying to move.
– But there's space on those tables over there, or do you prefer to suffer? You can either grin and bear it in your corner or sit on those tables.
– Nobody's going to move the tables now.
– There's a lot of space on the window ledge.
– So your ass will be in our face!
– If they sit on those tables, those behind will have their noses squashed against their backs. But I'm okay with it. It's fine like this.
– It's a question of the time now. Either we go now or we continue, either you guys just grin and bear it…
– And shut your traps!
– Or you park your carcasses on the tables. For the moment there's no other solution.
– I don't feel like sitting down, I don't feel like doing anything now. It's pure delirium!
– We've understood. You're fed up. There's only one thing you can do. Get out!
– Stop breaking my balls!
– It's my decision.
– It's always the same rigmarole. You're in France… it's your country!
– You're right… I'm a fucking fascist!
– I was just about to say that.
– Thank you. I was expecting that. It took 22 minutes for it to come out. No, sorry… I'm wrong. 32 minutes. By the way, I really enjoy being a fascist!
– But there are people sitting and people standing.
– Normally one comes here alone. It's interesting you can find all these comrades so quickly. You're all standing over there when there are places here.
– Nobody wants to sit and you can't get past!
– You're breaking my balls!
– You move darling…
– After you!
– I don't understand why you're being such a ball-breaker.
– Oh… things are going badly. It's turning really nasty…
– Where do you see all these empty chairs? We would need 50 chairs to accommodate everybody. Count them. Be realistic. Count them and see if there are 50...
– Oh my God! Not again!
– Shut up!
– Some of us are standing and the others sitting… why don't they count the chairs to see if we can feasibly seat everyone… I'm just blowing smoke out of my ass...
– So stop it!
– It's okay to talk shit but you're in a delirium!
– I'm here to listen to Deleuze… I didn't imagine this.
– And that's your problem. You should have listened to Deleuze, as you said. Since you came here to hear him.
– Hey guys, stop speaking about my problem! I know what my problem is. I don't need others to speak about it. Speak about your own problems. Don't you have a problem, all of you who've been putting up with this for half an hour?
– Not at all. We're fine!
– Good for you. You don't have problems. I've read things about microfascism...
– It's not a question of reading about it, you have to live it...
– I see some connections with what's going on here... hey, fascist number two! Am I missing something?
– I myself prefer to try to be aware and exclude microfascism...
– That guy hasn't understood anything!
– We're sick of your infantile power!
– What? You think you're a responsible adult?
– What kind of power do you think you have? Do you have a solution for the 50 of us who are still standing? You and you're responsible power...
– They're having fun. Or even worse…
– Yes, it's not fair! You poor things are having to sit down and you're certainly not having the same kind of “fun” as we've been having since the beginning. You can't have everything… how unfair!
– Allow me to speak when I feel like it!
– You want to regale us with your problems? We've had it up to here with your problems!
– My problem is also yours? On that I agree. So the solution to solve everyone's problems… is that I leave.
– No, stay. Stay!
– Are you only inviting me, or the others too?
– Everyone! Don't go! Stay with us!
– So aren't you going to invite everyone? There's 40 or 50 of us here.
– Are you their spokesperson?
– No, I speak only for myself.
– Bow wow!
– But he's on a chair… for Christ's sake!
– Give it a chair!
– We can't find one.
– Deleuze said there was a dog...
– In any case, at least our lessons don't lack variety. So, listen… life goes on. All at once the chairs have become... everything's fine for me, whatever... but I have a confession to make. I feel a bit sick. Two times we've had a bit of a variety show during a lesson. The first times we spoke about the face...
– The close-up…
– And then when we spoke about the close-up. And suddenly...
– There's this unbearable cur. And suddenly these chairs have become a case of a kind of proliferation: the fewer there were, the more... but that's okay. So I propose again what I was saying regarding the chairs. Everyone will carry on in the same discomfort, if you don't mind, and I'll speak again for another five minutes and then I'm done for today...
For the moment, we've finished with the close-up unless you want to say something next time. We can always carry this incompleteness of the close-up with us. I want to end today, going back to the topic we touched upon the other day, which consisted in saying this: in the end there are two types of delirium. It wasn't at the end… we started with this. Aren't there actually two forms of delirium in the classification that concern something fundamental, which is to say forms of delirium without...
– We haven't resolved the problem, so I'm going!
– There we have it. The complicity of a group who are unable to resolve their problems…
– Enough already. It's boring.
– The man without a face.
– It's funny the way things happen, don't you think? In this group of deliriums with no intellectual impairment we identified two forms. And as we said, it wasn't by chance that psychiatrists of the 19th century tried to confront this problem and in the end were poisoned by it... I'm speaking on one hand about the group of so-called paranoid delusions, delusions of interpretation, and on the other about the group referred to as grievance delusions or passional delusions. Next time we'll look at some texts. To recap… the difference, in terms of the schema, consists in this: the paranoid delirium or delusion of interpretation is constituted around a centre, a matrix, a dominant idea and proceeds by way of circular networks, seizing upon everything - the most heterogeneous elements, a bit of this, a bit of that... the chairs, a guy passing by the window - it seizes upon everything, everywhere...
– The dog…
– The dog!
– The man without a face…
Yes, all of that... it all forms a kind of expanding circular irradiating network in which everything is captured. And paranoiacs... proceed in this way. And not only paranoiacs.
On the other hand, you have a completely different form of delirium. In this case it's as if a little packet – and here I need to use the word “packet” - a little packet of signs starts to flow along a line and then arrives at the end of a first segment and begins another segment. And after the second a third... In this case we have, in a single sector, signs that flow on a segmented line waiting for the first segment to be completed before beginning the second. It's a limited delirium, beginning from an isolated packet of signs that pour onto a segmented straight line. A succession of linear proceedings instead of an expanding, irradiating network.
I know you'd like me to quote some examples at this point… but we're not there yet. These are two very different figures. The passional is someone who has an extremely localized delirium, that doesn't seize upon everything. And what's more, they continue to be perfectly reasonable. There's just one thing, a sign. In erotomania, which forms part of the passional delusions, there's a sign that flows along its line and that has its history. After which the first proceeding comes to an end. And then a second proceeding begins. There might be a pause between the two. The passional remains calm, regains their strength and then begins over. In this case we have a linear schema. Are the two figures opposed or can they unite?
Today, I just want to say something more about these two figures. So, in the case of the first, the situation is quite simple: we have a kind of expanding spiral. Whereas in the second, we have a straight line segmented in one, two, three or four parts and so on. We began from delirium in general and we discovered two types of delusion corresponding to these figures. But we could very well have taken up other matters, like we did the other time.
Let's take an historical figure: the Hebrew and the Pharaoh. The despot of Egypt, the Pharaoh and the history of the Jewish People. What does it mean? I suppose that in terms of the despotic formation, whether Egyptian or otherwise, we find a figure similar to that of paranoid delirium. That is: an idea-matrix, a center, beginning from which, through the conjunction of the most diverse, heterogeneous signs, a kind of expanding spiral is created with either concentric circles or veritable spires. Regarding the history of the Jewish People, we discover a succession of proceedings. Once again, let's recall the basics of our method: this obviously doesn't mean that the despotic regime is paranoid and that the history of the Jewish People is passional. In our method they mean something completely different. Perhaps it's a good occasion to valorize what we have been saying from the beginning according to a rhizomatic method that implies a cartography.
This means that in maps of delirium… if we make the map of a delirium, not the structure, the map of a delirium, keeping in mind all its coordinates, this can be partially, or more or less partially, superimposed on the map of a historical proceeding, all the while bearing in mind the latter's own coordinates. Therefore, it’s not at all a method of reduction. I would just like to say at this point that next time, without the tables, we will try to frame all this in a more concrete manner, both in terms of delirium and of the history of the Jewish People.
I would just ask… and it's quite obvious that despotic-paranoid regimes with their double map paranoid delirium- despotic formation… it's quite obvious that they proceed like this. Everyone can recognize a part of themselves in it, though we will have to furnish a lot of details. They proceed through this type of expansion, of circular irradiation, which captures signs of the most diverse nature in a continually expanding network.
In fact, if we look at the Old Testament, it's striking what happens when the exodus from Egypt begins. We witness a succession of linear proceedings. Venturing into the desert, guided by Moses, there will be a succession of segments, linear proceedings marked by catastrophe. And each time he will remain sufficiently Jewish to recommence a new proceeding. And I'm happy that from the very first pages of the Old Testament we find Moses' formula: proceeding or grievance, punctuated by a number of segments. In the Old Testament there are some interesting passages that will be important for us. But we would need to know Hebrew… it's somebody who knew Hebrew who says this. And you feel it in the translation in the curious oscillation between plural and singular forms.
Here's an example: a passage from Exodus says more or less... sorry I don't know it by heart... they crossed the desert and arrived at the mountains of... I don't remember where. “There, Israel made camp.” Apparently it's a very common phrasing in the Old Testament. I think it's interesting because it could be said - and I think this would work, we could make a whole list of similar phrasings. I use the plural: they crossed, they walked, they arrived. And there, Israel made camp: all of a sudden using the singular form. It's as if this passage to the singular marked the end of a segment. And then a new segment began.
What is this linear thing? I would like to continue with a point that will be of great importance, I think, for literature, psychiatry, politics, the more of a mix the better... If I tried to qualify in a negative sense - and for the moment allow me to use whatever words I use with caution – if I tried to qualify the two systems, I would first ask: what are they doing here, what is the evil of the first system – I say the evil – how do they spend their time in the despotic system or the paranoid delirium? In a certain sense, if we were really trying to describe what they do, the best word would be: they deceive. They pass their time cheating, duping. Why do they deceive and cheat? It's well known that the interpreter or the diviner spends his time duping and maneuvering the face of god.
From ancient times, mobile masks and statues were maneuvered by priests, they had mobile statues so that the voice of god would appear to issue from one of the channels and so on... they cheat, they deceive. What's more, in the irradiating circular system, to go back to that, one passes the time jumping from one circle to another. I'll try to explain why we're in one circle and then jump into another. There is a whole system of trickery and imposture. After al,l the man of State is a deceiver, an impostor. Not in any pejorative sense, you understand. It's connected to what we are saying. We don't wish to treat anyone as an impostor. That's of no interest to us…
What we want is to arrive at a definition of deception. There's a book by Borges with an admirable title, A Universal History of Infamy. But when you read it, you can't help but be disappointed because the book is terrible, completely worthless, I'm convinced of that. He completely blew it. You expect prodigious stories of universal infamy. What might those be? Someone should rewrite it, rewrite the whole book... Or at least try. Because on the other hand, if we take our schema of linear successions, linear proceedings – we begin with one segment, we continue with another and so on and so forth. What happens? There's a completely new figure. We will have to see if something new arises with it... At the risk of using approximate words, I would say we're no longer in the field of deception. It's a completely different field we're in: the field of betrayal. So we have two notions here: deception and betrayal.
Deception is always an affair of State. But what about betrayal? Universal infamy concerns both deception and betrayal but in different ways. Why am I speaking about betrayal? It's one of the most fabulous themes of the Old Testament that I think has no equivalent.
Take for example a character from Greek epic. Ulysses… it's not hard to show that Ulysses is a great deceiver. And once again I use the word deceiver in a highly positive sense. The deceiver is perhaps the man of State. Take Shakespeare's kings... We should reread Shakespeare's great historical tragedies. They're all deceivers. They all seize power by murdering someone - whether it be a brother, a brother-in-law or someone else - and then they say, that's it. It stops here, we're no longer going to kill anyone. From here on justice begins. And then they themselves are deceived. But in this process of the conquest of power through murder and the reestablishment of justice, there is a kind of fundamental deception.
But aren't there also traitors, of a totally different nature? From the very beginning of the Old Testament, something surprising happens. Which is to say that God turns his face away both from one of his faithful and from his people. And in the same movement the figure varies: man or the people turn away from God, as in a kind of double turning away. It's interesting... What's happening here?
Let's take a first example, almost from the beginning: Cain. I summarize the story of Cain. It's very short but I hope you will reread it: Abel and Cain each make a sacrifice to God. We shouldn't forget that Cain is God's favorite. His favorite. God has always preferred traitors. Why? In any case… the two brothers make their sacrifices and bring them to God. The text says that God accepts Abel's sacrifice but is indifferent to Cain's.
Death indefinitely postponed. What does it mean? A slow death? No, not even slow death. Survival, life suspended following a linear proceeding. What does God say to Cain? Cain comes to him and says: “My crime is too great for me.” My crime is too great for me. And God replies: “But I shall not kill you. I shall even give you a mark such that no one dare kill you. You will be kept alive. You who are my betrayer. I who have betrayed you. And you who are my favorite.”
I speak of the prophet in opposition to the diviner. The prophet is an interesting figure. He is always someone who turns away from God. Which is to say that he is a traitor and is understood as such. The finest case, even if there are many, is one of the fundamental texts of the Old Testament: the story of Jonas.
Usually prophets have no wish to be prophets. God arrives and says: “This is what you’re going to do!” And immediately there is the turning away: “Oh no, no, no!” He turns his face away. The prophet is the one who turns away from God. I run away from the face of Adonai. I run away from the face of Adonai. I say that Jonas's is the finest case because God arrives and tells him: “The city of Nineveh is in sin. They are all sinners. They live in abominable voluptuousness. Things can't go like this. You're going to save Nineveh.” And Jonas says: “I can't.” He turns away and what does he do?
Here too you have to go back and read the text, which is short and rather wonderful. The beginning of Jonas is almost a great comic text. In the Old Testament there are a lot of comic texts. And this is a great one. He goes in exactly the opposite direction. He literally does a runner. He runs in the opposite direction to Nineveh. God sends him to Nineveh and instead he boards a ship to Tarshish, which is cardinally opposite. So he flees, he traces his segment of flight. Eventually, God will catch him and there is a whole part of the story where he keeps him in suspension in the shelter of a little tree. In the text it's called the tree of Cain. The tree of Cain… a connection is forged with Cain.
We'll see there are other examples, many other examples. But you will also see that Christ, the story of Christ, can be understood only through and in function of this long history of betrayal. Why have you abandoned me? Why have you abandoned me? Meaning that God turns away from Christ just as Christ turns away from God. And what happens in this double turning away? There's a kind of long errancy, a suspension of life.
There's a film I'm sure many of you have seen - perhaps betrayal has a long history - a wonderful film called Aguirre, Wrath of God. Aguirre is the story, in a completely different epoch - his story could be considered part of universal infamy - it's the story of a traitor who wants to be the only traitor. He says: “No, I am the only traitor.” What does he mean by this? You can have as many deceivers as you want but I am the only traitor. Not surprisingly the film is very Shakespearean.
In Shakespeare's historical tragedies and those of his contemporaries there's always, or at least very often, a bizarre guy who appears denouncing all the deceivers and tricksters. And the deceivers and tricksters are always men of State or men of the Court. And there's someone who says: “Instead of ending up like that, I will go further in my infamy.” I will go further in my infamy. I will be the traitor. And he opposes betrayal to deception. And Aguirre is exactly like that. If you recall, he sets off on a linear proceeding which will be one of betrayal. How is it possible to betray everything at the same time? That's a good question. How is it possible to become the universal traitor? How do you betray everything? To found in the end a pure race with his imbecilic daughter. And you recall when he looks at one tall guy and says – it's pure Shakespeare - “He is tall, he has an extra head. I'm the only traitor here!” and his aid understands and chops the guy's head off. At every moment in the film the theme of betrayal is key.
You know Hölderlin wrote two fine essays called “Notes on Oedipus” and “Notes on Antigone”… two short texts that have been translated though I'm afraid they are out of print. And he says something much more profound than what Hegel has to say about Oedipus. Hölderlin says something magnificent. He says that Oedipus is a modern tragedy, the only modern tragedy of the Greeks. Actually in this he's not saying anything exceptional. Even Malraux said something similar. He hadn't yet honed it down that what he wanted to say precisely. But why does he say that it's a modern tragedy? Because it's the tragedy of slow or indefinitely postponed death. And in fact, usually when a Greek hero commits an act of hubris he is struck down, or condemned, by a god.
That's not the case of Oedipus. Oedipus is exactly like Cain. He's a Greek Cain. Oedipus, following the part of the story we know well, doesn't meet a violent end. He encounters a long linear proceeding, the line of flight along which he wanders, keeper of a secret. And Hölderlin defines Oedipus as the man he calls the double turning away or the categorical turning away. Hölderlin was a bit Kantian, not excessively so… but he remembered the Kantian expression we all learned in high school… the categorical imperative, which in Hölderlin's words becomes the categorical turning away: when God turns his face away from man and vice versa. And that's where betrayal begins.
What did Oedipus betray? I'm thinking about a text by Nietszche: The Birth of Tragedy, paragraph 9, in which Nietszche makes a very interesting observation which goes in a similar direction. He says that bizarrely enough the history of Oedipus is not really Greek. He says more or less that Oedipus is the most semitic of the Greek tragedies. Because there is a passion of Oedipus, a passivity of Oedipus. And he goes as far as to say that there is a femininity of Oedipus.
All I wanted to say today, to begin the analysis we shall develop next time, is that we will need both these two figures: the circular irradiating figure, whose complement is the face viewed head on, the signifying despotic face, violent death or expulsion: and the other system, that of successive linear proceedings where we have a completely different form. In the first figure we also have trickery and deceit, if you like, whereas in the second figure we have faces that turn away, passional faces, life suspended on the straight line, whether in the wandering of Oedipus or the flight of Cain. Here we have a double turning away that defines something like a system of betrayal.
To add to the mix, there's a play by Shakespeare that doesn't represent a king or a man of State who seizes power by deception. It presents something else that might pose certain problems for the mise en scene. A great tragedy: Richard III. Richard III, in spite of appearances, doesn't care about the conquest of state power. That's not what interests him. He's not a deceiver, he's a traitor, and the great scene of betrayal is at the same time a scene of complicity, as though the double turning away were complicity itself. It's the scene between Richard III and Lady Anne. Lady Anne, who completely understands Richard III, is terrified by him and says to herself: “This man has exceeded all limits.” And she already consents to the destiny that awaits her. There is a face-to-face encounter between Richard III and Lady Anne, in which the two faces never cease turning away from each other.
We will have to ask if later the Reformation, in its return to the Old Testament, didn't seize upon this figure of the double turning away, the universal betrayal. What did Luther have to say about betrayal? An abstract proposition such as “good works cannot save you” is fundamentally linked to the theme of betrayal. Meaning: even our good works betray us and we betray our works. So I say all this simply to reinforce the two forms we have studied. To repeat... On one hand: we risk encountering: signifying face, violent death or exile and trickery and deceit. On the other: the face turning away; life or death indefinitely postponed; double turning away that determines a betrayal.
I would be very happy if some of you could reread the stories of Cain and Jonas in the Old Testament. So… no more tables next time!
In collaboration with the students in attendance, Deleuze introduces different terms under development with Guattari in their ongoing collaboration that will result, in 1980, in A Thousand Plateaus.
En cours de développement