19 Mar 2009

Deleuze's Language Disorders: Speaking Schizophrenically – Writing Nonsensically

by Corry Shores
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[The following is taken from my master's thesis, The Rhythm of Sensation on the Surface of Sense: Communication in Deleuze as NonSensed and Intense, pages 51-58. Completed, defended, and archived June 2008]

Deleuze's Language Disorders

Speaking Schizophrenically – Writing Nonsensically

Artaud explains in For the Theater and Its Double, that “pure theatre” replaces traditional denotative language with gestures, cries and gyrations that make “symbols” rather than signifiers, and they impress themselves upon us intuitively with such a violence as to render discursive and logical language useless.[1] This analogical language of the body is more like music than discourse, performed by making use of musical elements such as rhythm and harmony.[2] Here, the actor’s speech is anterior to words, in a preverbal state.[3] Artaud’s theatre ideas will correspond to what Deleuze considers his schizophrenic speech, but to better grasp this concept, we will need to examine Deleuze’s notion of surface sense.

Sensation occurs in the depths of the body. Language, contrarily, is found on the surface, because its series do not flow through the body without organs. It is true that our bodies make the noises of expression, and also that all language refers to bodies or objects of some sort; however, the sounds we make in language no longer inhere in our bodies, and are instead elevated to a surface level that allows them to denote the states of affairs of other bodies. Deleuze writes that “it is always a mouth which speaks; but the sound is no longer the noise of a body which eats,” (c’est toujours une bouche qui parle ; mais le son a cessé d’être le bruit d’un corps qui mange).[4] Francis Bacon records the matter of fact, and communicates it through the analogical “language” of aesthetic analogy; however, language as propositions expresses a state of affairs by conveying its event as a sense and by denoting its objects. (Although Deleuze never says so, it would seem plausible that the matter of fact and the state of affairs are both largely the same thing: an event of becoming. However, we are dealing more in the first case with our concrete sensation of its matter or material properties, and in the second case with its status or abstract properties). The sense of a proposition, then, is no different from the incorporeal event occurring in the state of affairs; it is the expressed of a sentence, making up the surface level.[5] The objects of the denotation, however, exist below the surface on the level of bodies. The coded element of a proposition, that is, its actual symbolic make-up, refers doubly to the surface level of sense, which is also the event of the state of affairs of objects, and as well to the deeper level of denoted bodies (objects) involved in that state of affairs. Between these two levels is a line frontier separating the two series, allowing for the divergent series of the discrete levels to come into contact.[6] However, this convergence is an affirmative synthetic disjunction, because the series do not merge; rather, they converge around a paradoxical element, which is a point that runs along the line and circulates throughout the series.[7] This point contains a paradox, because the denotation expresses a sense; but, if that sense were to be denoted, then a different sense would take its place. We might draw an analogy with the relationship between connotation and denotation. A term’s definition will have an explicit description, which itself will have connotations. If we were to explicate those connotations, then we merely obtain another sentence with its own new connotations, and so on without end. This is because the implicated sense of a proposition “changes nature as it climbs to the surface” (change de nature en montant à la surface), as it is explicated into a denotation.[8] This paradox remains implicit in sense except in cases of overt absurdity and nonsense. An absurdity is an impossible object that nonetheless has sense; for example, ‘square circle’ contains contradictory objects, yet still has sense, because it may take a meaningful position within a context of other words, as here demonstrated in this very sentence.[9] Nonsense, however, denotes its very own sense. To explain this, Deleuze introduces the notion of the esoteric word, the paradoxical element or point, which is both a thing = x and a word = x,[10] a sort of empty category that is continually fulfilled by words the same way Kant’s object = x is continually fulfilled by synthesized objects. And, it is both a thing = x and a word = x, because it converges together both the denoted object and the sense of its state of affairs: “it is both word and object at once: esoteric word and exoteric object,” (Il est à fois mot et objet: mot ésotérique, objet exotérique).[11] This is the implied nonsense in all sense; for, the movement of the something = x is prerequisite for language to function. Moreover, because it causes a continual displacement (as we saw with the denoting of connotations), Deleuze characterizes it as the empty square, the occupant without a place,[12] which he illustrates with the empty shelf story in Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass: Alice views a grid of divided shelves on the wall. The one she presently sees is empty, but all those in the periphery are full. As soon as she moves her eyes to a nearby shelf to see what is in it, the items it once held disappear, while the previously-empty one, now in the periphery, becomes filled.[13]

Deleuze uses this allusion to illustrate a point similar to the one we make regarding the way that denoted connotations always evermore produce new undenoted connotations. Although this esoteric function itself is not usually explicated, it can be denoted through a special variety of portmanteau words, which in general are single words made-up of other words shuffled together; for example, ‘mimsy’ is both ‘flimsy and miserable.’ These words denote other words which are found in separate divergent series. Yet, they do not denote the esoteric word itself, because in order to do so, they would need to denote the divergence of the series, and not just the terms in divergent series; for, the paradoxical operator is not an object but a movement. Deleuze quotes Lewis Carroll’s description of his portmanteau word ‘frumious’ to illustrate:

For instance, take the two words “fuming” and “furious.” Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first. Now open your mouth and speak. If your thoughts incline ever so little towards “fuming,” you will say “fuming-furious;” if they turn, by even a hair’s breadth, towards “furious,” you will say “furious-fuming;” but if you have the rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say “frumious.”[14]

Where in the case of ‘mimsy,’ the denotation was only of two words in divergent series. In this example however, the disjunction of ‘frumious’ is not between ‘fuming’ and ‘furious,’ but between ‘fuming-furious’ and ‘furious-fuming.’ Thus it denotes not just two series, but also it denotes the disjunction of those two series, their ramification into other possibilities. In such a case, the word denotes its own sense, it denotes the very word = x that made its sense initially possible. And, all terms in each series derive their sense through their relative position in their respective series, which is oriented according to the circulating esoteric word, the something = x. This paradoxical operator remains both in motion and in disequilibrium; hence, the terms of language-series are differential and indeterminate, in the same way as are the terms in facultative series. In other words, the terms in language series are not full self-same objects lined up in sequence, but are points or boundaries of differences, oriented by an operation that connects the differences of one series to the differences of another.[15] (Exactly how to imagine this is not evident; yet perhaps our following efforts to elaborate facultative terms will supply some clarity).

Hence, the logic of sense is not a logic of identity and contradiction, but a logic of the paradoxical and nonsensical connection between the surface and the body’s depth, between expression and denotation. And in a way, the logic of sense is inspired by empiricism, namely transcendental empiricism, because both operate according to a non-sense function.[16] Deleuze claims that his empiricism is transcendental, because when the faculties are pushed to their limits in cases of extreme intensity, the differences between the faculties “exceeds” every one of them. We feel the intensity, which can come-about no other way than through disorganized empirical faculties; however, it is not found within any one of them, and hence, intensity is transcendental. In a similar way, we detect the “non-sense” of the paradoxical operator in language when the esoteric word emerges on the surface; yet, it is not found within any of the divergent series, but is rather what forces them together. But while the logic of sensation is based on the irrationality and mad-becoming of rhythm in the depths of the disorganized body, the logic of sense is based on a different irrationality and mad-becoming of the empty square, remaining always above the body on the surface of language.[17] In both cases, the something = x is never fulfilled entirely, as the series continually proliferate.

We might also wonder if language transmits intensity; for, it communicates differences between series. Yet, it is not clear whether or not Deleuze considers the communicated differences between the sense and denotation series to be intensities; however, his comparison of Artaud’s schizophrenic speech and Carroll’s nonsense reveals that paradoxical language alone fails to communicate the disorganization of the faculties.

In a letter composed while still in the Rodez psychiatric hospital, Artaud explains to his friend that he ceased translating Lewis Carroll’s gibberish poem “Jabberwocky” out of his disgust for it. Artaud thinks that real poetry is felt as anguish in the soul, heart, and body, and that it makes us smell “the caca of existence.” “Jabberwocky,” for him, evades the deeper bodily sensations and remains entirely on the surface.[18]

For Artaud, in his schizophrenic state, there is no dividing line marking the boundary of a surface; there is no difference between things and propositions, because the schizophrenic body is without surface, it is pure depth. Anything can grow in the body; bodies can merge with other bodies. Words are not representations, but things that merge with – and enter into – the body.[19] Without surface, then, the entire world loses its meaning and its sense.[20] This schizophrenic body may become the BwO by speaking in Artaud’s sort of theatre language, using “breath-words” and “howl-words” whose value resides in their non-lingual sound properties.[21] It is a language without articulation, a series of vocal modulations fused together into a wave, setting the word aflame, and melting it into a liquefied “sign of fire.” By doing so, the words instead become the actions of a BwO, rather than the passions of a “fragmented organism.”[22] Artaud’s schizophrenic words lack sense, but are not Carroll’s surface nonsense; rather, they are a-sense or sub-sense, because for the schizophrenic body, there are no discrete series of senses and denotations, only the depths of the disorganized faculties.[23]

Artaud offers an example of this form of speech in the following poem included in the letter, which “can only be read rhythmically, in a tempo which the reader himself must find,

ratara ratara ratara
atara tatara rana
otara otara katara...

but this is worthless unless it gushes out all at once; pieced together one syllable at a time.”[24]

Hence, Artaud’s communication is more of an analogical language which directly communicates intensities by sending our faculties into disorder, as we are attacked by sensations suggestive of possible meanings that can never become explicated. Carroll’s nonsense is more like digital language which is constructed so that it disorganizes merely our cognitive faculties by introducing irregularities and meaningful paradoxes into language. On the one hand, Deleuze seems to favor Artaud’s critique, for Carroll’s nonsense does not bring about the BwO. But yet, he also says that “today’s task is to make the empty square circulate and to make pre-individual and nonpersonal singularities speak – in short, to produce sense” (Faire circuler la case vide, et faire parler les singularités pré-individuelles et non personnelles, bref produire le sens, est la tâche aujourd’hui).[25] We might wonder if there is a middle way, as with Bacon’s diagramming, in this case between the analogical and digital functions of language. Does Deleuze describe a way that language can both remain on the surface while communicating intensive depth?

[1] Antonin Artaud, “For the Theater and Its Double” in Selected Writings, Transl. Helen Weaver, Ed. Susan Sontag, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), p.215.

[2] Artaud, p.216-217.

[3] Artaud, p.218, p.220, p.222.

[4] Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense, Transl. Mark Lester (London: Columbia University Press, 1990, reprinted by Continuum, 2001), 208. Without the event that brings denotation and sense together in nonsense, “all of this would only be noise – and an indistinct noise,” p.209. Logique de sens, (Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1969), p.212.

[5] Logic of Sense, p.22. Logique du sens, p.30.

[6] Logic of Sense, p.209; 199. Logique du sens, p.203-204; 213-214.

[7] Logic of Sense, p.210. “The two heterogeneous series converge toward a paradoxical element, which identify their ‘differentiator.’ This is the principle of the emission of singularities. This element belongs to no series; or rather, it belongs to both series at once and never ceases to circulate throughout them,” p.60. Logique du sens, p.66.

[8] Logic of Sense, p.200. Logique du sens, p.205.

[9] Logic of Sense, p.41. Logique du sens, p.49.

[10] We explain the something = x in greater detail in the expanded 4th chapter below.

[11] Logic of Sense, p.78. Quote, p.60. Logique du sens, p.66.

[12] Logic of Sense, p.55. Logique du sens, p.61.

[13] “The shop seemed to be full of all manner of curious things – but the oddest part of it all was, that whenever she looked hard at any shelf, to make out exactly what it had on it, that particular shelf was always quite empty: though the others round it were crowded as full as they could hold. ‘Things flow about so here!’ she said at last in a plaintive tone, after she had spent a minute or so in vainly pursuing a large bright thing, that looked sometimes like a doll and sometimes like a work-box, and was always in the shelf next above the one she was looking at. ‘And this one is the most provoking of all – but I’ll tell you what – she added, as a sudden thought struck her, ‘I’ll follow it up to the very top shelf of all. It’ll puzzle it to go through the ceiling, I expect!’ But even this plan failed: the ‘thing’ went through the ceiling as quietly as possible, as if it were quite used to it.” Lewis Carroll, The Annotated Alice: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass, (New York: C.N. Potter, 1960), p.253.

[14] Carroll, p.195.

[15] Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense, p.82, p.60. Logique du sens, p.87-88; p.65-66.

[16] “The logic of sense is inspired in its entirety by empiricism. Only empiricism knows how to transcend the experiential dimensions of the visible without falling into Ideas, and how to track down, invoke, and perhaps produce a phantom at the limit of a lengthened or unfolded experience,” Logic of Sense p.23. Logique du sens, p.31-32.

[17] Logic of Sense, p.39. Logique du sens, p.46.

[18] Antonin Artaud, “Letter to Henri Pariscot, September 22, 1945,” in Selected Writings, p.448-449.

[19] Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense, p.99-100. Logique du sens, p.106-107.

[20] Logic of Sense, p.100. Logique du sens, p.107-108.

[21] Logic of Sense, p.101. Logique du sens, p.108-109.

[22] Logic of Sense, p.101-102. Logique du sens, p.109.

[23] Logic of Sense p.103. Logique du sens, p.111.

[24] The rest of the poem: “otara retara kana / ortura ortura konara / kokona kokona koma / kurbura kurbura kurbura / kurbata kurbata keyna / pesti anti pestantum putara / pest anti pestantum putra,” Artaud, p.449.

[25] Logic of Sense, p.84. Logique du sens, p.91.

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1 comment:

  1. Would luv to read your thesis in full

    If you can, I will quid pro quo you mine and some other goodies....