Charles J. Stivale -- Deleuze & Guattari

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Magazine littéraire 406, February 2002 -- Dossier: "L'effet Deleuze"

Updated February 26, 2003

Magazine littéraire 406, February 2002 - Dossier: "L'effet Deleuze" [The Deleuze effect]

Deleuze, Pour Quoi Faire? 4 [Deleuze, What's the use?] - Didier Eribon

Comments elicited by Patrice Maniglier

"A Philosophy of the minoritaire"
by Didier Eribon

"The book that I have just published, Une morale du minoritaire, fits within work on the book I plan to write on Deleuze and which was originally called Une philosophie du minoritaire. I find that the Deleuzo-Guattarian concept of minority is a valuable instrument for reading texts, but also for political inquiry.

"The idea that the writer is a 'watch that moves forward', that literature is a collective assemblage of enunciation, giving voice to a 'people' to come, a virtual collective in the process of constitution, which is at once the recipient, the theme, and the subject of this work in which a language is transformed and reinvented, seems to me particularly useful for rereading gay writers of the twentieth century. Gide, Jouhandeau, Genet, Foucault, etc., may be located within a constitutive historical movement of a collective experience that they influenced at the same time as they anticipated it (just as much as they expressed it), the movement of a 'gay subjectivity' based on the conversion of shame into 'pride,' which will be the political jurisdiction [ressort politique] of the movements from the 1970s onward.

"We insist today on Genet's individualism, on his cult of betrayal, but we always forget that a large part of his work consists on the contrary of posing questions about belonging, about the 'us,' as shown in the parade scene of Barcelona transvestites, that I quote at the start of my book. But it is not a question of a given or fixed 'us'; in Genet, the 'us' is a process of subjectivation that carries in it its own text: always to come, oscillating between solidarity and reticence, between the logic of territory (affirming oneself together [s'affirmer ensemble]) and deterritorialization (escaping when the territory manifests as law). I think that the concept of minority allows one better to grasp Genet's specific dialectic, and thus to clarify what is instructive in this dialectic for politics today.

"It obviously is not a question of 'reducing' Genet's work 'to' his homosexuality. The entire domain of what is henceforth to be called 'gay and lesbian studies' has precisely consisted of displacing the question of identity from personal or biographical curiosity to historical and collective stakes. Hence a renewal of questions and of focus, in history, sociology, psychoanalysis, and certainly literature. And it seems to me (but Guy Hocqeunghem already said it thirty years ago!) that Deleuze's philosophy is a valuable instrument for work in this theoretical space."

* Didier Eribon, philosopher, historian of ideas, and critic for Le Nouvel Observateur, is the author of renowned works on "structuralism": the biography of Michel Foucault (1989), discussions with Lévi-Strauss (De près et de loin), Gombrich, essays on Dumézil, etc., as well as numerous articles and conversations, particularly on Deleuze (in Pourparlers). In recent years, he has distinguished himself with his contributions to the "gay and lesbian" problematic that he introduced to France while also profoundly enriching it, starting with his Réflexions sur la question gay (1999), that had a world-wide reception, to his latest book, Une morale du minoritaire, Variations sur un thème de Jean Genet (Editions Fayard).

CJ Stivale

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