Here, I must explain something to you. I have never considered Deleuze an esoteric, cold, abstract or ultra-academic writer. When I was 17, one of the first â€˜intellectualâ€™ books I bought was a collection of essays (many translated from French and Italian) edited by several renegade Australians, called Language, Sexuality and Subversion. Could any 17 year old, precocious intellectual resist a book with a title like that? One of the editors, Meaghan Morris, went on to become one of the best and most inspiring film critics in my country, and she was literally â€˜schooled in Franceâ€™, in the textual techniques of Barthes and Genette, the â€˜urbanismâ€™ of De Certeau, the feminism of Le Doeuff, and the political analyses of Foucault. She brought all of this, and more â€“ Deleuze included – into her work as a columnist for a newspaper that was mainly devoted to financial speculation! She was (and remains) an absolute model for me (you can read some of her great texts in Rouge). So Deleuze was never, for me, inaccessible: he was the great â€˜tool boxâ€™ as he called himself, he encouraged his readers to take his ideas in any direction they wished. He proposed abstract ideas â€“ all ideas are abstractions, after all! â€“ which were designed to inspire concrete applications, experiments in every kind of domain (including film criticism). So, as a young guy, I connected immediately to his powerful ideas about desire, assemblages, the rhizome, multiplicity, etc, well before the project of his cinema books began in the â€˜80s. I would have to say that, even at his most dense, Deleuze is always clear, in fact heâ€™s the standard for limpid, logical, step-by-step reasoning that takes you from the everyday to the stars â€“ read the transcripts of his class lectures on the Internet, what a great teacher he was! I have always thought: if you are a young person and you read Deleuze mocking and expanding the writings of classic psychoanalysts, as he does in the great text â€œInterpretation of Childrenâ€™s Utterancesâ€, or you read Guattari describing what it is to face the line of police with shields and batons charging you to bash your skull in (see Garrelâ€™s magnificent Les Amants rÃ©guliers) â€“ then you can never be the same again! (There are certain artists and thinkers that are especially important and fateful for the young to encounter: Deleuze, Godard, Hawks, Cioran, De Palma.) Reading Deleuze truly changed my life â€“ so I will not stand to hear him denigrated as cryptic or academic or cut off from the real world!
To make a general point of this: what did I really find in Deleuze, beyond the substance of certain ideas, certain models? This goes to the very heart of the investigation into criticism that you are making at Miradas. There is something in criticism I value perhaps above everything else: it is what I can call the â€˜personal voiceâ€™. I do not mean the autobiographical or confessional content of writing, which often bores and irritates me â€“ and, in fact, most writers â€˜in personâ€™ are absolutely nothing like what you imagine them to be from their writing! No, I mean the way in which an individual writer can communicate and draw you into his or her own â€˜systemâ€™, their way of seeing, feeling and processing films, as well as the world. In this sense, no critic is either right or wrong in their judgements; they can only succeed (or fail) to be convincing or persuasive, to let you experience a new or specific way of looking and thinking. Writing is rhetorical, in this sense, but it is also creative, imaginative, poetic: this is the point where criticism approaches art (although it never supplants art!), and all the best critics (like Jonathan Rosenbaum, Nicole Brenez, Judith Williamson or Roger Tailleur) reach it. The Surrealists (who have been a big influence on me) always upheld this principle of the â€˜personal voiceâ€™ above all else, and I find a more recent statement of this principle from Jean Baudrillard in The Perfect Crime (1995): â€œAs for ideas, everyone has them. What counts is the poetic singularity of the analysis. That alone can justify writing, not the wretched critical objectivity of ideas. There will never be any resolving the contradictoriness of ideas, except in the energy and felicity of language.â€
This reminds me that I found another one of these publications that Martin refers to in a second hand bookshop on Friday. The first one I found was on Post-Marxism and this new one is on Foucault. I like the covers. (Excuse me while I apply some nerd.) The aethsetic is very Transformers.
The “Beyond Marxism?: Interventions After Marx” was edited by Judith Allen and Paul Patton published in 1983 by Intervention Publications. The “Michel Foucault: POwer, Truth, Strategy” was edited by Meaghan Morris and Paul Patton published 1979 by Feral Publications. The Post-Marxism one is interesting because it introduces the problematic of difference for Marxism throiugh esays written by familiar names (Gross, Gatens, Allen, Patton). I haven’t finished the Foucault volume yet. So far the exposition of the post-war ‘French scene’ by Francois Chatelet and translated by Morris in fantastic. Also I have read some of Patton’s comments on the (non)transition of Foucault’s work from archaeology to genealogy. Also Patton and Morris provide several pages of corrections to translations of Foucault’s work.
Some sort of history of these texts may be worth compiling. Perhaps post-PhD…
Oh this other comment by Martin is interesting, that is, if you were trying to conceive of a biopolitics of the image, for example…:
AM: To use a sports metaphor, youâ€™ve got to keep your eye not only on the ball, but on the crowd, too! I think it is a mistake to think you are ever, as a film critic, only looking â€˜at the objectâ€™ in pristine isolation, like some experiment in chemical separation. Remember, the critic, no matter what he or she might think, is always already some reflection, some symptom, of a larger audience. As I mentioned before, writing about film is always about capturing fugitive sensibilities as they form and die, at a very rapid rate, within the cultural sphere. A sensibility is a â€˜moodâ€™ or obsession that suddenly coalesces before your eyes, bringing together and charging up very banal, everyday things with very lofty, mythic ones. And all these things, banal or lofty, are naturally funneled through the structures and media of our daily lives, everything from the shape of architecture around us to the technological tools we learn to use and then eventually discard.