Deleuze and American Literature: Affect and Virtuality in by A. Bourassa

By A. Bourassa

Bourassa demonstrates what occurs whilst the set of techniques built through Deleuze come into touch with the advanced and philosophically tricky worlds of William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, Edith Wharton and Ralph Ellison.

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Additional info for Deleuze and American Literature: Affect and Virtuality in Faulkner, Wharton, Ellison, and McCarthy

Example text

And for literature the question is, what diagrams are enclosed by and enclose the text? And can the text itself be a diagram, a distribution of powers to be affected, of singularities, of unformed matters? Apart from the ideological presumptions that literary theory often loves to tease out of texts, apart from the ref lected images of the human, apart from the recognizable complexes of the unconscious, what else subsists in and with the text, the story, the poem, and the novel? And when we discover meaning in a text, when, as I have said, we find a match between the world of the novel and the world of powers, relationships, and movements, what are we doing but diagramming forces?

The animal; pure semiotics. Language as a system of recognizable signs. As Agamben tells us, “Animals do not enter language, they are already inside it” (Infancy 52). Semiotics is grounded in recognition rather than understanding. The animal recognizes a certain sign—the beaver’s tail-slap on the water, the honeybee’s signal indicating the presence of pollen—because the sign is repeated, either genetically in the animal’s inborn responses or experientially in its ability to learn. Our own response to language, our ability to make sense of it, depends upon our semantic skills, the ability to figure meanings in sentences we have never encountered.

Certainly language and the human have their roles in many formations—plastic arts, war, law. But surely literature most directly takes language as both its medium and its matrix. And it can be argued that it is in the novel that language and the human form their strongest alliance (since poetry so often concerns itself with the other-thanhuman, and film has made its mark by raising physical objects to a new level of expressiveness). Literature, Character, and the Human 39 The question that remains for us is not whether or not the modalities of the nonhuman have something to contribute to criticism but what new affects can we find mapped out in our most familiar masterpieces, what new forces will we finally see shooting across the whiteness of the page, what great and singular events will be hovering in the infinitive spaces of the most classic stories, what free-f loating crystals of exteriority shall we find in the characters whose worlds seem so closed, what virtualities await us, unactualized and, even so, haunting the familiar forest paths, the elegant parlors, the dark mansions that we dream of together?

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