Paul Patton, ed. Deleuze: A Critical Reader. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996. ISBN: 1557865655. Price: £60 (hbk) £16.99 (pbk); US$57.95 (hbk) US$28.95 (pbk).[Record]

  • Thaine Stearns

…more information

  • Thaine Stearns
    University of Washington

Published as a part of the Blackwell CriticalReader Series in 1996, the year after Gilles Deleuze's death, the essays collected in Deleuze: A Critical Reader offer a selection of analytical readings, theoretical appraisals, and reflective elaborations on the French philosopher's oeuvre by an impressive range of philosophers and scholars. This group of writings, including the introduction by the book's editor, Paul Patton, consists of thirteen essays and a thorough bibliography of Deleuze's work, including the pre-1953 texts that he repudiated. Along with Patton, its contributors are Jean-Clet Martin, Daniel W. Smith, Jean-Michel Salanskis, Constantin V. Boundas, Jean-Luc Nancy, Catherine Malabou, Pierre Macherey, Moira Gatens, Francois Zourabichvili, Brian Massumi, Eugene W. Holland, Ronald Bogue, and Timothy S. Murphy. The pieces in this collection address various Deleuzian interests and projects, covering his interpretations of Kant, Spinoza, Bergson, and Melville; his theoretical discussions of mathematics, ethics, and aesthetics; and also his best-known work, the collaborative texts written with the psychoanalyst Felix Guattari. It helps to come to this collection with a working vocabulary and knowledge of what has been called the "exuberance—and exorbitance" of Deleuze's thought. Understanding concepts occurring in his philosophy such as faciality, virtuality, haecceity, types of becoming, and rhizome, to name just a few of the terms that come up in this reader, is invaluable background to finding entry points into some of the issues under examination here. Similarly, and of particular import with at least three of these essays, it is beneficial to know that for this philosopher, "Ahab's strange relationship with Moby Dick, mixing desire with death, is, since Dialogues, the example of becoming that Deleuze most frequently provides" (Zourabichvili, p. 213 n. 2). To read Martin's essay, "The Eye of the Outside," for instance, without this knowledge would make the connections in this, the second piece in the collection, appear to be non-sequiturs. Martin's essay begins by extrapolating from Deleuze's 1983 The Movement Image an analogy to Foucault, Melville, and finally Neitzsche to construct an argument about perspective, surface, and concept that reaches such conclusions as "this rolled back eye comes up against the frontier of bone, against the empty whiteness, the deadly intermittence of visibility that it ceaselessly transgresses, as though it everywhere encountered an uncrossable border which ran between all the images" (pp. 19-20). In other words, many of the essays in this aggregation do not serve the unitiated Deleuzian reader well; as Martin's piece illustrates, some of these writings have a tendency to bewilder rather than to elucidate. On the other hand, several of the essays stand out as exemplary discussions that problematize Deleuze's work in important ways. Catherine Malabou's piece, "Who's Afraid of Hegelian Wolves," raises significant objections to Deleuze's treatment of Hegel, whose dialectics represented for Deleuze the system "what I most detested" (Patton, p. 3). Using Deleuze and Guattari's analysis of Freud's classic case of the Wolf-Man in A Thousand Plateaux as her starting point, Malabou argues that Deleuze commits the error of reducing Hegelian multiplicity to a univalent and univocal idea, the equivalent error of which Freud is accused in the first chapter of ATP. This essay avoids the easy polemic of condemning Deleuze's reading of Hegel, to come to the far more interesting conclusion of constructing "a block of becoming called Hegel-Deleuze, as unexpected yet plausible as that of the wasp and orchid, a plateau" (p. 136). In a complementary piece titled "The Deleuzian Fold of Thought," Jean-Luc Nancy begins by noting how "Deleuze's thought is so far removed from the sources, schemata and modes of conduct which, for me, are those of philosophical work" …