Post-Romance Problematic of Romance: Complex

So re-posting this because I sent off and received back the essay and made the changes as per reviewers’ suggestions, and sent it off again. Nothing was wrong with the essay, one reviewer just wanted more about what I call the ‘materiality’ of romance.

I follow Badiou’s definition of love (“What is Love?” essay) and then shift the focus to what I call the material process of romance. Badiou says there is an absolute disjunction between the (nominal) Two. I say hullabaloo to that and point out that the Two shares the contingency of the event of love. From this contingency Badiou argues that love is a process, which I agree with, but I call this heterogeneous material process ‘romance’ and save ‘love’ for the event itself. Romance is an “aleatory enquiry” (45) of “the world from the point of view of the Two, and not an enquiry of each term of the Two about the other” (49). The event of love itself is differentially repeated, and thus the wonder at the heart of love is also repeated. Differential repetition from Deleuze, etc, so repeating the conditions of wonder; that is, the problematic conditions of the event of love. The ‘complex’ side of things comes in due to the attention to contingency and the problematic conditions of the event. I also posit that romance is evidence of a creative material time of systems (ie duration).

I do all this through an exploration of the film Punch-Drunk Love (and this works surprisingly well, but I also introduce the other major transformative plot arc involving Barry Egan [Adam Sandler]) and I open the essay with the opening lines from Snow Patrol’s song which captures exactly what I am talking about:

For once I want to be the car crash,
Not always just the traffic jam.
Hit me hard enough to wake me,
And lead me wild to your dark roads.

My implicit goal is to provide the basis for a non-heteronormative reading of Badiou’s philosophy of love. To do this first I slip in a litte line about how the ‘Two’ is what Deleuze would call the quasi-cause (LoS, 33) of the event of love, for Badiou it is the “noemenal possibility [virtualite]” (51). It does not pre-exist the event, but is immanent to itself. Therefore, redefined as quasi-cause, the possibility of the Two opens up. Secondly, the main focus shifts from the post-evental turth procedure (of the truth of the Two encountering the world), to the differential repetition of the event by way of the maintenance of contingency and the wonder of this contingency. The wonder may be experienced as subjective, but the contingency itself is purely cosmic.

To expand on the materiality of romance I have added some of Badiou’s ideas from the Handbook of Inaesthetics regarding dance and theatre — to make a distinction between love (dance, virtual movement) and romance (theatre, assemblage) — and Deleuze’s The Fold regarding harmony — to draw a similar distinction regarding melody and harmony in light of the function harmonium in the film to reference the ‘infinite’ through the coalescence of the diegetic and nondiegetic soundtracks.

8 thoughts on “Post-Romance Problematic of Romance: Complex”

  1. “the Two”

    So, I’ve never read Badiou, but I’m taking it from this that he doesn’t — nor you? I can’t really tell from this synopsis — think much (in all senses of the phrase) of, ahem, threesomes, or, to put it a little less scandalously, of polyamoury/polyamory?

    I’m being (fairly) serious here. Does the form(ul)ation of “the Two”, or even of the event as the quasi-cause and possibility of “the Two”, not perhaps mark the return of a heteronormative philosophy of romance — a fortiori of love (as the name, perhaps, for “some” “thing” that exceeds, or is produced in and as excess of, “the material process of romance”)? To put it another way:: is “the Two” (even recounted in the form of an event-structure) all that complex?

    I’d always heard that Deleuze was a bit more, um, “experimental” and “open-minded” than all that….

  2. ha, well Badiou’s philosphy is militantly heteronormative. He makes little excuse for this.

    By introducing the notion of the Two as quasi-cause (rather than truth), and the event of love as differentially repeated (rather than merely of the initial encounter) by focusing on the contingency I am trying to move away from the heteronormative. Badiou’s focus is actually the encounter with sexual difference, while I am saying the event is not merely sexual difference but the contingency of this encounter, including the ‘difference’ itself (so difference is also contingent). Of course, he means heteronormative difference. Attention to contingency is what makes it ‘complex’ because the temporality of romance therefore is dependent on the material heterogeneity of (paradoxical) repeated contingency and the differential events of love.

    However, also Badiou is talking only about amorous love (not pure sex, and not other forms of love), so there is only a finite number of (im)possibilities. The empirical conditions of the ‘poly’ would have to be investigated. For example, from my reckoning a ‘group love’ would still be the Two of the individual and the rest of the group, if these assemblage faced the contingencies of their own repeated encounter together (which they may or may not do). So the consistency of the ‘poly’ is itself contingent not unlike the disposition of (the assemblage of) a single person.

    I’ll send you Badiou’s essay. It was available online for ages from the Umbr(a) website but has been taken down for some reason.

    This may seem a little glib, but I take all this stuff very seriously. lol

  3. Oh, I take it all seriously too, glen, which, for me, is all the more reason to slip in as many jokes as possible while attending to its seriousness.

    I have no qualms about you point about or focus on the contingency of the event, and I reckon you’re very likely to have put together a very interesting and cogent argument and analysis. I was just hoping to throw in a firecracker (as distinct from a starfish) in order to see what kind of venues you would take it out to.

    The “philosophical” prompts for raising the point are (ironically) twofold: the first is that I’ve recently had a few bloggasions to reflect on the implications of Derrida’s work for the question of loving the Other; the second is that I’ve always thought (and I won’t be surprised to find out that I’m mistaken or massively oversipmplifying on the point) that Deleuze would recoil in horror at any thought of reducing something to a form of the diad, a form of diadic difference.

    Of course, your emphasis on contingency, complex and event, etc., follows an anti-reductive trajectory, such that “the Two” becomes only an “element” of something else. But still, I was surprised to see “the Two” as remaining (to my eyes) a nevertheless largely uncomplicated element within the complex. So I guess I could put the question another way: do you continue to refer to “the Two” simply because it forms part of the language you’re working “out of”? After all, it seems that your last comments about the contingency of the “poly” ought further to complicate or complexify the apparently elemental nature of “the Two”, even understood as “the individual and the rest of the group”.

  4. to finally reply to your question i want to maintain some sort of fidelity to Badiou’s position (re the Two) by demonstrating how close it is to Deleuze’s and thus highlighting their maximal differences. The stuff on the harmonium in the new version is brilliant for this because both talk about the infinite (according to D. referenced by the ‘high unity’ of harmony). It is almost as if the final scene of the film was tailor made to argue this point.

  5. Glen,

    sorry but it seems that you have accepted the basic fallacy of Badiou’s logic, unless I’m missing something, which is that love is a Truth-Event. The question is not about Romance or Love but rather whether these deeply social concepts, that cannot be considered as universals, but something more locally specific cannot be accepted as related to Truth at all…

    humm… could be clearer but the line of thought is there i think

    best wishes

  6. steve,

    I am addressing a specific problem in the essay regarding the possibility of romance in a post-romance world. So it is very specific.

    “to love” is an event in the Deleuzian sense. There is a mixing of bodies and passions of bodies and the eternal event of love that is ‘problematic’ and actualised in a number of ways. I assume that.

    Badiou is useful for introducing the basis for a problematic of love, to explore the event. I agree with Badiou that it is not love of one for another, or a fusional concept of the Two into the One, or even an ideological question of the libindinal base of love’s superstructure (which may be what you are getting at with the notion of them being social concepts). Love is a way of the Two engaging with the world. This is a product of the confrontation of sexuated difference for Badiou. For me the contingency of contingency in part is evident in the contingency of sexuated difference as a power relation or capacity for a power relation (affect).

    Firstly, Badiou’s reconfiguration of this event as produced from a declaration is a problem for situations where there is no declaration. Is there no truth here? I don’t agree with Badiou to the extent that truth-events are atomistic, rather they are necessarily a process. In effect I agree with his position on Deleuze in _Theoretical Writings_. It is a confrontation of different Spinozas.

    Secondly, part of this event-process when it is romance are elements of the pure virtual movement of love (romance is an incorporeal materialism). I argue that instead of being produced as an expression of truth derived from a declaration, the event is arrayed through contingencies. Sure this demands a certain dimension of eternal truth of the event of love, as part of the process, but the important part of the process is the processing of singular-multiplcities and the openings produced between the Two and the world.

    The real problem with Badiou’s whole philosophical edifice is his assumption of the nature of ‘thought’. This tension is evident between the Deleuzian spinoza and the spinoza of Badiou.

  7. Glen, I’m going to have to think about this because I don’t recognize the deleuzian logic you are using here. Perhaps the problem is in the idea of post-romance, and the sense of the eternal event of love, or perhaps the problem is with the restricted understanding of the concept, concentrated in the ‘Two’ . As much as with the idea of love as truth event…

    very interesting thought…

Comments are closed.