3 Jan 2009

The Marriage of Sound and Sense: Language Born in Stuttered Script (Deleuze's 'He Stuttered,' 'Bégaya-t-il')

The Marriage of Sound and Sense:

Language Born in Stuttered Script

(Deleuze's "He Stuttered" in Essays Critical and Clinical,

"Bégaya-t-il" in Crique et Clinique)

“So a painting of violent action, many crossed, colliding, and

broken forms, even among the stable accessories, and in a

scene of rest, mainly horizontal shapes and considerable voids.

It is the poetic ideal of a marriage of sound and sense.”[1]

In “He Stuttered,” Deleuze explains that Artaud’s breath-words mark the limit that language must reach without breaching. To walk its edge is to make language stutter, that is, to make it affective and intensive, yet primarily by means of its denotative function.[2] Language stutters when its usual homogenous system of equilibrium is thrown off-balance into perpetual disequilibrium or bifurcation, which is accomplished by passing the terms through a “zone of continuous variation,” by means of a “heterogenesis and modulation” that causes language to “vibrate and stutter.”[3] Through an “incessant modulation” that bifurcates and varies the terms, stuttering makes the language “take flight.” Stuttering writers create a minorized use of language by remaining a foreigner in their native tongue, continually using it in partly “incorrect” or alien ways by modulating its repetitions.[4]

Deleuze explains that language can be made to stutter by altering the way its terms are disjoined and combined. When a writer considers the system of language in a state of equilibrium, 1) the disjunctions are exclusive; thus, when she has a choice of words, for example, ‘passion’ or ‘ration,’ she cannot use them both at once, but must choose one or the other for each instance; and 2) the connections are progressive, with one following another, and none folding backwards onto the previous words in a “stop-start or forward-backward” jerking motion. However, when language is thought to be in disequilibrium, 1) the disjunctions become inclusive, as with a portmanteau word like “pas-rats,which smuggles-in both passions and rations by disjoining a part from each and combining them into a new word; and 2) when words are combined, they join reflexively back with themselves, as with pas-passe-passion, which creates a retrogressive movement as it proceeds.[5] Thus, language can stutter when it stumbles either over itself (non-exclusive disjunction) or over-backward unto itself (reflexive conjunction). He further describes the stuttering of Péguy who proceeds from one word to its synonym, although adding each time a slight variation to its meaning; his technique, then, combines disjointed and decomposed terms, yielding a “superhuman stuttering.”[6] Roussel connects the different denotations of the same homonym by repeating a story spanning between them, so to inscribe a maximum difference between these repetitions of the same term.[7] As well, he continually inserts parenthetical propositions within the middle of sentences, each time again in the middle of the previously parenthesized proposition, causing the writing to be so overfilled as to stutter.[8]

In Difference & Repetition, Deleuze uses the examples of Péguy and Roussel to illustrate his explanation of asymmetrical rhythms. We might wonder then how it is that these stuttering techniques intensify language and bring it to the limits set by Artaud’s schizophrenic speech, and thus also, if there is a rhythm to stuttering that is still a rhythm of sensation while remaining on the surface of sense.

[1] Meyer Shapiro, “On Perfection, Coherence, and Unity of Form and Content,” Theory and Philosophy of Art, (New York: Braziller, 1994), p.41.

[2] Gilles Deleuze, “He Stuttered,” in Essays Critical and Clinical, Transl. Daniel W. Smith & Michael A. Greco, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), p.112; p.107. Critique et Clinique, (Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1993), p. p.141; p.135-136.

[3] Essays Critical and Clinical, p.108-109. Critique et Clinique, p.136-137.

[4] Essays Critical and Clinical, p.109. Critique et Clinique, p.137-138.

[5] Essays Critical and Clinical, p.110. Critique et Clinique, p.138-139.

[6] Essays Critical and Clinical, p.111. Critique et Clinique, p.140.

[7] Difference & Repetition, Transl. Paul Patton, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), p.22. Différence et répétition, Différence et répétition, (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1968), p.34.

[8] Essays Critical and Clinical, p.111-112. Critique et Clinique, p.140.

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