Magazine littéraire 406, February 2002 - Dossier: "L'effet Deleuze" [The Deleuze effect]
Deleuze, Pour Quoi Faire? 6 [Deleuze, What's the use?] - Sylvère Lotringer
Comments elicited by Elie During
"The First Performance of the Rhizome"
by Sylvère Lotringer
"Gilles Deleuze at Reid Hall in 1972, the year of Anti-Oedipus. Reid Hall, a small American enclave near Montparnasse [a Paris classroom building owned by Columbia, shared by many American study abroad programs]. I organized summer sessions there for Columbia University, and Denis Hollier, Catherine Clément, Serge Leclaire and also Félix Guattari visited there. This was the birth in Paris of what would be called in the USA "French Theory." One day, Félix arrived accompanied by Deleuze, intense, courteous, brilliant.
"The history of philosophy, he said, was created to prevent young people from talking. Since American students like to talk, things worked out quite well.
"Deleuze knew what he was talking about since behind philosophy's back he created children that philosophy refuses to recognize. Alerted by Leclaire, Jacques Lacan showed up next, crooked cigar, gleaming jacket. He flirted with our female students in the gardens of the former stables now ennobled by French thought. He spoke about the "pure subject of the signifier," being caught up in language and deriving its existence from the Master-Signifier. In the seats, the talking subjects sat silently. The royal Lacan then took his leave. Two different styles: the Emperor's message and the line of flight. Two regimes of madness.
"Deleuze at the 'Schizo-Culture' colloquium in 1975, invited to Columbia by the journal Semiotext(e), his only visit to New York. A huge, boisterous meeting room. Deleuze sitting silently (he did not speak English) but terribly persuasive. He confronted the audience, drawing roots and crab grass off to one side. The blackboard is green, the tree changes into grass. Patiently he explained himself briefly, connecting it to the drawings. This was the first performance of the 'rhizome', the American dentist's song: 'Don't look for the root, follow the canal.' Everyone followed.
"Columbia yet again, many years later. Lacan at the Casa Italiana, on Amsterdam Avenue. Roman architecture, a gift from Mussolini. The great oracular master, the meeting hall completely flabbergasted [salle bouche bée]. Lacan turns to draw one of his famous graphs. 'Look for the root." When he turns back around, half of the audience has left. This is the word [verbe] and the grass."
* Sylvère Lotringer is Professor in
the Department of French Studies at Columbia University (New York),
director of the journal Semiotext(e). He is the author
of Antonin Artaud (New York, 1990) and of several works
on contemporary art.
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