الرئيسية Deleuze’s Literary Clinic: Criticism and the Politics of Symptoms

Deleuze’s Literary Clinic: Criticism and the Politics of Symptoms

The first study of Deleuze's critical and clinical project. Aidan Tynan addresses Deleuze's assertion that 'literature is an enterprise of health' and shows how a concern of health and illness was a characteristic of his philosophy as a whole, from his earliest works to his groundbreaking collaborations with Guattari, to his final, enigmatic statements on 'life'.He explains why alcoholism, anorexia, manic depression and schizophrenia are key concepts in Deleuze's literary theory, and shows how, with the turn to schizoanalysis, literature takes on a crucial political and ethical role in helping us to diagnose our present pathologies and articulate the possibilities of a health to come.
السنة: 2012
الطبعة: 1
الناشر: Edinburgh University Press
اللغة: english
الصفحات: 200
ISBN 10: 0748650563
ISBN 13: 978-0-7486-5058-3
Series: Plateaus: New Directions in Deleuze Studies
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The first study of Deleuze's critical and clinical project

Tynan explains why alcoholism, anorexia, manic depression and schizophrenia
are key concepts in Deleuze’s literary theory. He demonstrates the ways in
which, with the turn to schizoanalysis, literature takes on a crucial political and
ethical role in helping us to diagnose our present pathologies and articulate
the possibilities of a health to come.
Aidan Tynan received his PhD from the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory
at Cardiff University. He has edited a special issue of the journal Deleuze
Studies entitled Deleuze and the Symptom.

Jacket image: © Michael Betts/Getty Images.

ISBN 978 0 7486 5055 2

ISBN 978-0-7486-5055-2


Edinburgh University Press
22 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LF


Aidan Tynan addresses Deleuze’s assertion that ‘literature is an enterprise
of health’. Tynan shows how a concern with health and illness was a
characteristic of Deleuze’s philosophy as a whole, from his early works on
Nietzsche and Masoch and ground-breaking collaborations with Guattari to
his final, enigmatic statements on the singularity of life.

Deleuze’s Literary Clinic

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Plateaus – New Directions in Deleuze Studies
‘It’s not a matter of bringing all sorts of things together under a single
concept but rather of relating each concept to variables that explain its
Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations

Series Editors
Ian Buchanan, Cardiff University
Claire Colebrook, Penn State University
Editorial Advisory Board
Keith Ansell Pearson
Ronald Bogue
Constantin V. Boundas
Rosi Braidotti
Eugene Holland
Gregg Lambert
Dorothea Olkowski
Paul Patton
Daniel Smith
James Williams
Titles available in the series
Dorothea Olkowski, The Universal (In the Realm of the Sensible):
Beyond Continental Philosophy
Christian Kerslake, Immanence and the Vertigo of Philosophy:
From Kant to Deleuze
Jean-Clet Martin, Variations: The Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, translated
by Constantin V. Boundas and Susan Dyrkton
Simone Bignall, Postcolonial Agency: Critique and Constructivism
Miguel de Beistegui, Immanence: Deleuze and Philosophy
Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Badiou and Deleuze Read Literature
Ronald Bogue, Deleuzian Fabulation and the Scars of History
Sean Bowden, The Priority of Events: Deleuze’s Logic of Sense
Craig Lundy, History and Becoming: Deleuze’s Philosophy of Creativity
Aidan Tynan, Deleuze’s Literary Clinic: Criticism and the Politics of

Visit the Plateaus website at www.euppublishing.com/series/plat

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Criticism and the Politics of Symptoms
Aidan Tynan

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For Shamima

© Aidan Tynan, 2012
Edinburgh University Press Ltd
22 George Square, Edinburgh
Typeset in Sabon
by Servis Filmsetting Ltd, Stockport, Cheshire, and
printed and bound in Great Britain by
CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon CR0 4YY
A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 978 0 7486 5055 2 (hardback)
ISBN 978 0 7486 5056 9 (webready PDF)
ISBN 978 0 7486 5057 6 (epub)
ISBN 978 0 7486 5058 3 (Amazon ebook)
The right of Aidan Tynan
to be identified as author of this work
has been asserted in accordance with
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

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Introduction: From Symptomatology to Schizoanalysis

A Case of Thought
The Paradox of the Body and the Genesis of Form and
Symptoms, Repetition and the Productive Death Instinct
The Identity of the Critical and the Clinical
The People to Come






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Thanks are first and foremost due to Ian Buchanan, without
whose undying support and encouragement this book might never
have appeared. I would also like to express my gratitude to James
Williams and Laurent Milesi for their generosity in reading and commenting on this work. The intellectual comradeship of Tim Matts,
Tom Harman and Chris Mueller kept me going and kept me sane
through much of the writing process; I am in their debt. Above all,
I wish to thank my family, especially my parents Ted and Carmel.


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Works by Gilles Deleuze





Deleuze, Gilles (1991), Bergsonism, trans. Hugh Tomlinson
and Barbara Habberjam, New York: Zone.
Deleuze, Gilles (2005), Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans.
Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta, London: Continuum.
Deleuze, Gilles (1997), Essays Critical and Clinical, trans.
Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco, Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (1980), ‘Cours Vincennes: Leibniz, 15/04/1980’,
=Leibniz&langue=2, last accessed: 14/11/2010.
Deleuze, Gilles (2004), Desert Islands and Other Texts,
1953–1974, ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Mike Taormina,
New York: Semiotext(e).
Deleuze, Gilles (1994), Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul
Patton, London: Athlone.
Deleuze, Gilles (1992), Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza,
trans. Martin Joughin, New York: Zone.
Deleuze, Gilles (2005), Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation,
trans. Daniel W. Smith, London: Continuum.
Deleuze, Gilles (2006), The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque,
trans. Tom Conley, London: Continuum.
Deleuze, Gilles (1984), Kant’s Critical Philosophy: The
Doctrine of the Faculties, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and
Barbara Habberjam, London: Athlone.
Deleuze, Gilles (2004), The Logic of Sense, trans. Mark
Lester and Charles Stivale, London: Continuum.
Deleuze, Gilles (1991), Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty,
trans. Jean McNeil, New York: Zone.
Deleuze, Gilles (1995), Negotiations 1972–1990, trans.
Martin Joughin, New York: Columbia University Press.


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deleuze’s literary clinic

Deleuze, Gilles (1983), Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans.
Hugh Tomlinson, London: Continuum.
OLM Deleuze, Gilles (1997), ‘One Less Manifesto’, trans. Eliane
dal Molin and Timothy Murray, in Murray (ed.), Mimesis,
Masochism, and Mime: The Politics of Theatricality in
Contemporary French Thought, Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan Press, pp. 239–58.
Deleuze, Gilles (2001), Pure Immanence: Essays on A Life,
trans. Anne Boyman, New York: Zone.
Deleuze, Gilles (2000), Proust and Signs: The Complete
Text, trans. Richard Howard, Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (2004), ‘From Sacher-Masoch to Masochism’,
trans. Christian Kerslake, Angelaki, 9:1, pp. 125–33.
TRM Deleuze, Gilles (2006), Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and
Interviews 1975–1995, ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Ames
Hodges and Mike Taormina, New York: Semiotext(e).

Works by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari




Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (2004) [new edition], AntiOedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. R. Hurley, M.
Seem and H. R. Lane, London: Continuum.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (2004) [new edition], A
Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans.
Brian Massumi, London: Continuum.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1986), Kafka: Toward a
Minor Literature, trans. Dana Polan, Minneapolis: University
of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1994), What Is
Philosophy?, trans. Graham Burchill and Hugh Tomlinson,
London: Verso.

Works by Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet

Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet (2002) [new edition],
Dialogues II, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam,
London: Continuum.


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Introduction: From Symptomatology to

This book centres on Deleuze’s understanding of literature as ‘an
enterprise of health’ and of literary criticism’s links to aspects of
pathology and clinical practice, especially as these latter come under
scrutiny in Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘schizoanalysis’ project (CC 3). The
relation between literature and health is argued for most explicitly by
Deleuze in his last published book, Essays Critical and Clinical. It is
here that he lays out the principal hypothesis of a clinical criticism:
certain authors have a weak health, but literature, by gaining a perspective on sickness, is capable of transforming this weakness into a
creative power. Literary activity is capable of charting a passage from
weakness to strength, and this is a living, vital process as much as an
aesthetic or semiotic one, which is why Deleuze titles his preface to
Essays Critical and Clinical ‘Literature and Life’. ‘Life’, here, is to be
distinguished sharply from the personal domain of biographical and
psychological contents as well as from organic biology, being what
Deleuze defines in terms of the inorganic, the socio-political and the
world-historical. He proposes that if great authors often suffer sicknesses this is not because they have shut themselves off from life, or
choose literature as an escape from life, but because, on the contrary,
they have borne witness to and experienced a form of life in excess
of their own personhood and biological and psychological integrity.
The author may document his or her own sickness but what is thus
diagnosed is far less a personal affair than something with impersonal, even inhuman, dimensions.
While Essays Critical and Clinical argues directly for the possibility, even necessity, of a clinical criticism in this sense, it raises many
more questions than it answers, and we may even say that it does no
more than pose, in the most tantalising of ways, the problem of the
relation between literary creativity and health. This is by no means
because Deleuze came to the notion late in his life – on the contrary,
his early book on Nietzsche emphasises the latter’s idea that both

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deleuze’s literary clinic
artists and philosophers operate in their separate ways as physicians
of civilisation, diagnosing the values of which cultural products and
institutions are the symptoms. Philosophers and artists are united
by a shared interest in ‘symptomatology’, the practice of arranging
symptoms creatively in order to diagnose new diseases. In a work
published five years after the Nietzsche book, Deleuze applies this
idea directly to the novels and stories of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch,
whose name was famously introduced into medical terminology when
Krafft-Ebing categorised masochism as a sexual perversion. Deleuze
is critical of the ways in which masochism has been classified in terms
of an inversion of sadism, and calls the concept of sadomasochism,
as it appears in the psychoanalytic literature from Freud to Theodor
Reik, a ‘crude syndrome’ (M 40). He seeks instead to account for
masochism’s symptomatological specificity through an analysis of
Masoch’s literary techniques, highlighting the importance of the link
between the formal features of an author’s style and the symptoms
of illness. The specificity of an author’s style is to be understood
in the same way the proper name of a clinician becomes attached
to certain disorders, as in Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease and
so on. The symptomatologist, in the literary sense, does not simply
suffer his or her illness but gains a rigorous perspective on it through
the formal innovations of his or her writing, and thus manages to be
both doctor and patient at once. This identity of doctor and patient,
health and illness, strength and weakness, forms the central intuition
of Deleuze’s critical and clinical project.
What can be called the ‘literary clinic’ is, I argue, present from
Deleuze’s earliest works and persists throughout his career, although,
for various reasons which we shall touch upon in a moment, it is
often discovered in incomplete forms, half submerged in other concerns. Gregg Lambert describes the literary clinic in terms of three
First, certain writers have invented concrete semiotic practices that may
prove more effective than psychoanalytic discourse in diagnosing the constellation of mute forces that both accompany life and threaten it from
within. Second, as a result of this diagnostic and critical function, certain
literary works can be understood to produce a kind of ‘symptomatology’
that may prove to be more effective than political or ideological critique
in discerning the signs that correspond to the new arrangements of ‘language, labour, and life’ to employ Foucault’s abbreviated formula for the
grand institutions of instinct and habit . . . Finally, third, certain modern
writers can offer us a manner of diagramming the potential forms of

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resistance, or ‘lines of flight’, which may be virtual to these new arrangements. (Lambert 2000a: 135)

The origin of literary practice lies not in the ‘textual’ or ‘literary’
domains of constituted forms, but within some ‘formless’ (or mute)
element which both accompanies life and threatens its creations.
Thus, diagnosis appears not in terms of subjects and objects of
desire, as psychoanalysis has it, but in a series of formal procedures
– of which symptomatology is one – in which the relation between
those formless ‘mute forces’ and the forms which give them voice
can be evaluated. Procedures are the semiotic foundation of these
evaluations, and are, for this reason, both literary and non-literary at
once. What this leads to is the potential of literature to ‘diagram’ the
emergence of new and, perhaps, ‘healthier’ social and physiological
arrangements or assemblages. The trajectory this book attempts to
track, then, is one which follows the literary clinic from its origins
in Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche and the methodological principles
of immanent criticism, to his subsequent, more directly literary writings, in which the semiotic and formal features of various authors
are given special emphasis, and, finally, to the ways in which these
elements come together in, or are transformed by, schizoanalysis,
which Deleuze and Guattari propose as a ‘universal clinical theory’
(AO 311). This trajectory is only loosely chronological, and does not
at all attempt to chart a history. While Chapter 1 focuses mainly on
Deleuze’s early work on Nietzsche, and Chapter 5 on A Thousand
Plateaus, much of my reconstruction of the genesis of the concepts
involved moves in a necessarily non-linear manner across different
phases of Deleuze’s career. My goal is to isolate the literary clinic as
a conceptually coherent entity.
It is thus necessary to follow the development of the literary
clinic in conjunction with other developments in Deleuze’s thought.
Following the publication of the study of Masoch, Deleuze suggested
that the concept of literary symptomatology had a potentially wide
scope and that he wished to write a series of books in that vein on
various literary authors, including Beckett, Robbe-Grillet and Pierre
Klossowski (DI 133). That these books never appeared does not
warrant the conclusion that Deleuze dropped the idea altogether.
His two major philosophical treatises of the late 1960s are strewn
with passages suggesting that symptoms and illnesses are illustrative of the ways in which living processes and aesthetic processes
interact. Difference and Repetition suggests that we can consider the

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deleuze’s literary clinic
symptoms of hysteria and schizophrenia as masks or disguises which,
rather than concealing some repressed ‘uncovered’ content (as psychoanalytic approaches generally maintain), are the modes by which
the drives are lived or acted out as veritable theatrical performances. The Logic of Sense, similarly, develops Deleuze’s theory of
subjectivity through the concepts of the ‘wound’ and the ‘crack’: the
latter offers a means for Deleuze to espouse a theory of alcoholism
through an analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Malcolm Lowry, and
the former to explore Nietzschean concepts of eternal return through
the work of the paralysed surrealist poet Joë Bousquet. The articles
published as appendices to the English translation of The Logic of
Sense, initially published in French in the mid to late 1960s, discuss
Klossowski and Michel Tournier in ways resonant of the study of
If we put the development of the literary clinic in the context of
Deleuze’s career, then, it becomes apparent that one of the main
reasons it never emerged as a completed project is because of its
many links to other conceptual and practical concerns.1 Thus, much
of this book involves a twofold reconstruction, excavating the literary clinic from its conceptual interconnectedness in order to isolate it
as a distinct entity, but also highlighting this very same interconnectedness in order to show its relations to the progressive unfolding of
Deleuze’s philosophical project. One of the most pressing concerns,
in this respect, is to explain how the early conception of literature as
symptomatology relates to the later schizoanalytical work developed
with Guattari. The schizoanalysis project is in many ways a literary
one, with Deleuze and Guattari even claiming that the problem of
Oedipus ‘is in fact literary before being psychoanalytic’, and that
‘there is no longer even any need for applying psychoanalysis to the
work of art, since the work itself constitutes a successful psychoanalysis, a sublime “transference” with exemplary collective virtualities’ (AO 145). Why do Deleuze and Guattari here deny the efficacy
of psychoanalytic criticism while insisting on the therapeutic effects
of the psychoanalytical concept of transference? In what sense is this
literary transference a collective concern, and what is meant by the
assertion that ‘literature is like schizophrenia: a process and not a
goal, a production and not an expression’ (AO 144)? These are questions which the concepts of the literary clinic are capable of addressing. As a result one of the fundamental concerns of this book is the
explication of the links between the literary clinic and schizoanalysis.
My goal, then, will be to show how the literary clinic as an unre4

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solved and incomplete presence persists into Deleuze’s work with
Guattari while being transformed and renewed, both conceptually
and pragmatically, by that collaboration.
The literary clinic functions as a distinct part of the schizoanalytic
conceptual assemblage; however, we need to be careful in how we
understand this. Daniel W. Smith has suggested that schizoanalysis
involves a continuation and development of Deleuze’s early conception of symptomatology, suggesting, even, that the critical and clinical project is reducible to symptomatology (Smith 2005). But this
does not at all appear to be the case. By the time of the publication of
Anti-Oedipus, symptomatology, I argue, has ceased to be the central
motivation of the literary clinic. Deleuze and Guattari do not attempt
to provide a symptomatology of schizophrenia, nor do they argue
with its diagnosis as an illness. Instead, they argue that schizophrenia
is first of all a life process which, for reasons we shall explore in much
detail, turns into a pathology or is turned into one. Attempts at unifying or ordering symptoms into a ‘clinical picture’ get us nowhere
with schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari insist. The way in which
life processes are blocked, repressed and turned back on themselves is
a clinical matter, certainly, but it is not just that. It is also a question
of how to produce, how to create and experiment. With regard to
this experimentation, what criteria can we use to avoid pathological
breakdowns? The problem, then, is both clinical and critical at once.
The focus of schizoanalysis is far less diagnostic than experimental
and pragmatic. This is not to say that the concern with the clinical
aspect is left aside, far from it. Deleuze and Guattari in fact suggest
that the discourse of Anti-Oedipus stems from a practical engagement with therapeutics, and maintain quite bluntly that ‘the problem
is first of all practical . . . it concerns above all else the practice of the
cure’ (AO 64). If therapy is invoked here, it is done so not to posit a
final or static model of ‘being cured’ in opposition to ‘being ill’, but
in order to bring to light some immanently curative process. This is
where the importance of literature and the role of the literary clinic
come to the fore. Literature involves the capacity to help the life
process to evade the worst effects of pathological breakdown (hospitalisation, catatonia and so on), and is thus implicated in a form of
therapeutic becoming which is no longer ‘personological’ or individualist, i.e. oedipal, but which is related to the creation of ‘collective
virtualities’, new modes of collective life, new ways of populating the
earth. This move from diagnostics to therapeutics has to do with the
problem of political engagement as well as the status of the creative

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deleuze’s literary clinic
process in relation to the life process. But to understand this shift it is
necessary first to understand the underlying concerns motivating the
notion of the literary clinic. This involves a careful examination of
Deleuze’s pre-schizoanalytical work.

Vitalism, Formalism and the Two Dangers
While Deleuze is drawn to certain illnesses and disorders, he is less
interested in the nature of specific conditions than the fact that these
are privileged sites for a more general merging of vital and formal
processes. While not being a ‘formalist’ in any traditional sense of
that word, form is for him an important philosophical and literary
problem. He suggests that the techniques of certain authors, such as
Joyce, Roussel and Lewis Carroll, embody ‘an exemplary formalism’
(LS 46). Ian Buchanan argues, in this respect, that ‘Deleuze speaks of
permutations in the plane of composition, and while form and plane
of composition are not exactly analogous they do serve a similar
purpose in that both condition art’ (Buchanan 2001: 29). Buchanan
argues that more explicitly formalist critical approaches, such as
Jameson’s, owe much to Deleuze’s commitment to the methodology
of immanent criticism, in that the latter, in purging the world of its
actualised contents, gives us a viewpoint on the genesis of the forms
by which our world is given body. The immanence of living and
aesthetic or semiotic processes constitutes a plane of artistic composition and ethico-political experimentation. In this sense, there is an
understanding of the concept of form in which it is neither linguistic, social nor organic, but all of these at once. Thus, while Deleuze
would never accept the label ‘formalist’, we can nevertheless use his
interest in processes of formalisation to take him ‘from behind’.
The literary clinic, then, can contribute to the conceptualisation
of a certain Deleuzian formalism by showing how there is something common to the ways in which life produces illnesses and signs
produce meanings. Here we again come across the paradoxical identity of weakness and strength at the basis of the literary clinic. Signs
produce meanings by causing us to encounter a threshold or barrier
which limits our capacity to know: a love affair, as Deleuze says in
his discussion of Proust, is meaningful precisely because the essence
of the beloved is blocked from us, and the truth of love is discovered
much as a jealous lover interprets the signs of infidelity (PS 9). We
become sensitive to signs, in other words, precisely because they stem
from an existential limit-point, a threshold which is, as it were, both

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the constrainer and the producer of meanings. Deleuze here appropriates some psychoanalytical ideas to develop his theories. The
symptom is conceived as a pathological repetition which is productive of novel disguises or masks, and as such it must be interpreted.
Beneath the masks, however, there is no fundamental content which
would satisfy us with a final meaning, but simply more masks, more
signs to be interpreted. If, according to psychoanalysis, the repressed
is always repeated in the symptom, there is, in Deleuze’s view, no
fundamental repressed content but only ever new substitutions of
contents by which the symptom can be endlessly ‘acted out’ in new
scenarios. What is repressed, then, relates not to any content but to
the principle of creative substitutability, or productive repetition, by
which new contents appear, new disguises are donned.
This provides Deleuze with a way to think about creativity and
the production of the new. But if his is a philosophy of creation, as
critics such as Peter Hallward (2006) insist, we nevertheless need to
take account of an element of struggle and resistance at the heart
of creation.2 Hence, the notion of ‘blockage’ is vital. The creative
process always involves a struggle against something that thwarts
and resists it, and Deleuze often conceives of this along subjective
and existential, though never personal or psychological, lines. The
idea of a ‘pathic subjectivity’ is thus central to Deleuze’s concept
of the subject in relation to creative and experimental practices. If
signs imply a transcendental threshold, a limit which blocks access
to any fundamental content or meaning, this is directly related to
how subjectivity is constituted via a struggle or antagonism internal
to it. It is precisely this ‘pathic’ element that needs to be accounted
for. As subjects, we experience the passage of time as an action of
the self upon the self – a self-affection, as Deleuze says – and to this
extent the personal ‘I’ is inseparable from an impersonal ‘other’
acting on it and through it, and which is experienced as a kind of
blockage or limit experience embodied ultimately in the relation to
one’s own finitude and death. Deleuze proposes a novel rereading of
Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle in this respect. He takes from
Freud the idea that death is the source of symptomatic repetitions,
but argues that the death instinct can be viewed as a positive, productive principle and not simply a destructive or entropic one. The
paradox of death, which is also necessarily the paradox of embodied
life, is that while it may destroy particular differences it is nevertheless the very condition of difference in general. Death is related to
certain irreducible genetic or productive processes which need to be

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deleuze’s literary clinic
considered if we are to understand life in the impersonal and inorganic sense.
The literary clinic can function here as a means to conceive of
what Deleuze calls the ‘two dangers’ facing subjectivity. If death has
two sides or two faces, then embodied experience is faced with a
double danger: the petrifaction or rigidity of forms, on the one hand,
and, on the other, the bottomless abyss in which all forms dissolve
(D 49). Subjectivity, for Deleuze, is always constituted between these
two poles. This idea of two dangers or two poles orients much of
Deleuze’s thought, and, though the terminology changes, it persists
into his collaborative works and beyond, and is essential in order to
understand why his political theory is connected to his theories of
health and sickness. When Deleuze and Guattari speak of the two
poles of legitimacy and illegitimacy, or of the schizophrenic and paranoid uses of desire, it is essentially the idea of the two dangers that
is invoked. The legitimate, schizophrenic path is as much a danger
here as the illegitimate, paranoid one, in that the abyss of psychotic
breakdown is precisely a means by which the legitimate path, and the
breakthrough it promises, is policed by social and political forces.
These are particularly important notions for the literary clinic in
that they suggest what Deleuze believes to be at stake in the relation
between literature and health. For Deleuze, all formal and semiotic
processes, the creation of meanings, signs and symbols, are based
on something irreducibly formless and unformalisable. If forms and
meanings enable us to think by providing a ground for our thought,
this ground is itself grounded on a kind of ‘ground-less’ or abyss in
which all meanings and forms dissolve (M 114). We are thus always
in danger of either becoming overly invested in the rigidity of forms,
or else dissolving the consistency that binds them together.
The genesis of forms, then, is inseparable from something which
threatens processes of formalisation with dissolution. Deleuze reads
Melanie Klein’s work on psychosexual development in this way: the
processes which generate a subject position within language, allowing us to identify with the grammatical position of the ‘I’, are one
with the genesis of impersonal libidinal forces which the nursing
infant experiences directly as the passions and actions of his or her
body. What interests Deleuze in the dual genesis of bodily affect and
linguistic propositions is the possibility that the two processes may
merge, that the libidinal forces assailing the body, most powerfully
present in the ‘pre-oedipal’ phase of infancy, may pass over into the
realm of aesthetic agency. There is a point at which bodily passivity

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and disembodied (formal aesthetic) activity overlap in a shared zone.
The invocation of the concept of the body without organs first occurs
here, within the literary clinical problematic of the two dangers (LS
102). Deleuze asks how the passion of a fragmented organism can
be made to pass into the inorganic affects of linguistic forms, how
embodied suffering and subjection can give way to disembodied
aesthetic activity. These are not simply theoretical questions for
Deleuze; they relate to real experimentations and real dangers facing
those who try them. His analysis of the writings of Louis Wolfson,
which appears in both The Logic of Sense and in greater depth in
Essays Critical and Clinical, confronts these issues. Wolfson was an
American schizophrenic author who formulated complex linguistic
procedures in which he would take a given phrase of English spoken
to him by his mother, the sounds of which he finds an unbearable
torment, and transform it into different languages according to rules
and strictures of his own devising. In translating English phrases into
new ones made of multiple languages he thus finds a means of escaping what he experiences as the unbearable presence of his ‘maternal’
While Deleuze admires Wolfson’s work, he maintains that it
remains a kind of coping device and does not accede to an autonomous poetic. This is because Wolfson fell prey to the dual danger,
remaining trapped within an abyssal embodied suffering, in which he
felt his maternal language attacking and dissolving the consistency of
his own fragmented body, while succumbing to the formal sterility
of his own linguistic methods. In other words, Wolfson’s work never
leaves the level of the pathological or the clinical per se. What this
means, crucially, is that there are criteria on the basis of which literary experiments can be said to succeed or fail. While symptomatology understands literature in terms of diagnosis alone, we may detect
something of a new departure here for the literary clinic, occurring
around the time Deleuze first met Guattari, in which the question of
therapy and therapeutic effects begins to play a role. The question
then becomes whether literature, in giving us a viewpoint on sickness, also discerns paths leading to new and unprecedented modes
of health, or, as Buchanan has put it, ‘a repolarizing of the notion of
the symptom itself because now instead of indicating a lack of health,
one finds in it the lineaments of a new way of conceiving health . . .
With the change in valency of symptoms, so “health” too is made to
evolve in a new direction’ (Buchanan 2001: 33).


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deleuze’s literary clinic

The Method of Immanence
Deleuze’s model of health is never an oppositional one in which
good and bad health are opposed as mutually exclusive elements.
The model is, rather, immanent. Sickness and health are in a relation
of inclusive disjunction: sickness is always a kind of health we are
not yet healthy enough to embody, while health is always a kind of
morbid regime of normality repressing the emergence of new forms
of health. Deleuze takes this notion directly from Nietzsche, and
he refers to the latter’s remarks that he possessed the philosophical
ability to move ‘from the perspective of the sick towards healthier
concepts and values, and conversely . . . from the fullness and selfassuredness of rich life into the décadence instinct’ (Nietzsche 2007:
8). This way of ‘inverting perspectives’, writes Deleuze, involves ‘no
reciprocity between the two points of view, the two evaluations.
Thus, movement from health to sickness, from sickness to health,
if only as an idea, this very mobility is the sign of superior health’
(PI 58). The path to ‘great health’ is a matter of neither sickness nor
health but rather a special kind of movement between these categories. This movement is neither conceptual nor physical, but occurs
in a space in which the two kinds of movement – the ‘formal’ movement of the concept, on the one hand, and the ‘real’ movement of the
body, on the other – are transferred from one to the other. Deleuze
and Guattari suggest there is a special type of ‘athleticism’ peculiar to
artists (WP 172–3). It is this movement, bridging the two dangers of
the libidinal abyss of the body and the formal rigidity of signs, which
is at issue in the literary clinical conception of health.
The method of the literary clinic is inspired in large part by
Nietzschean immanent critique, which lends a certain rigour to the
Artaudian inspiration that the weakness of thought is its greatest
strength. Immanent critique poses the problem of how new values
can emerge from existing ones; how the morbidity of our current
values can generate criteria for the production of the new. This
relates to an important metaphilosophical problem regarding how
we evaluate the activity of thought itself. If philosophy is the creation
of concepts, Deleuze denies that true creativity is ever freely chosen,
maintaining that any conscious decision to create would be necessarily reliant on pre-existing ideas. Deleuze addresses this problem
by relating thought to what does not think, to a kind of unthought
inhabiting the libidinal body itself. It is only by encountering this
unthought that thought can ever acquire the criteria by which it may

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evaluate its own process of creation and determine whether it is being
truly creative, truly philosophical. Deleuze thus defines criticism, in
both its philosophical and aesthetic registers, in terms of an access to
an immanent zone in which bodily unthought, or pathos, becomes
involved in the formal activity of creation, or logos.
The problem of thinking logos and pathos at once, then, is what
unites the literary clinic to Deleuze’s broader philosophical themes
concerning judgment and evaluation. Deleuze’s account of judgment
is highly complex and goes far beyond the scope of this book, but
because the concept of evaluation is so important for the literary
clinic we will need to consider the problem of judgment to some
extent. The operation of judgment, as Deleuze argues in his book
on Kant, involves the ways the general and the particular are related
to one another (KCP 58–60). How are particular ‘cases’ subsumed
under generalities, and how does the appearance of a new case force
us to consider its place with regard to the generality to which it may
belong, or force us to create a new generality? This problem, Deleuze
suggests, is one which structures the relationship between patients
and doctors. With regard to his and Guattari’s collaboration in AntiOedipus, Deleuze suggests that one of their aims was to change the
ways in which people think about ‘cases’ in this medical sense:
One thing is rather shocking about books of psychiatry or even psychoanalysis, and this is the pervasive duality between what an alleged
mental patient says and what the doctor reports – between the ‘case’ and
the commentary on the case, the analysis of the case. It’s logos against
pathos: the mental patient is supposed to say something, and the doctor
says what it means in terms of symptoms or sense . . . Now, we didn’t
think for a minute of writing a madman’s book, but we did write a
book in which you no longer know who is speaking: there is no basis for
knowing whether it’s a doctor, a patient, or some present, past, or future
madman speaking . . . This is precisely why we used so many writers and
poets: you would have to be really clever to decide whether they speak as
mental patients or doctors – mental patients and doctors of civilization.
(DI 218–19)

A writer, in the literary clinical sense, is defined by neither the
pathos of the patient nor the logos of the doctor, but by both at
once, and it is for this reason that he or she is neither a generality
nor a particularity, but what Deleuze calls a singularity. The writer
in this sense represents a very special kind of case determined by
its ‘problematic’ nature. Being neither general nor particular, but
both at once, the author, as an ‘exemplary’ case, renders operations

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deleuze’s literary clinic
of judgment problematic. The significance of authors is neither the
fact that they embody simply collective concerns, nor that they are
remarkable as individuals alone, but that they demonstrate the forces
of impersonality which efface the collective/individual opposition
altogether: the singular and the problematic are ‘neither private
nor public, neither collective nor individual’ (LS 41). It is for these
reasons that the author, in diagnosing his or her own particular
illness, also diagnoses the condition of civilisation more generally:
‘the writer makes a diagnosis, but what he diagnoses is the world; he
follows the illness step by step, but it is the generic illness of man; he
assesses the chances of health, but it is the possible birth of the new
man’ (CC 53). Health in this sense always involves the mobility by
which an author shifts viewpoints between his or her own particular
case and the condition of humankind in general. This mobility is in
itself the practice of health as Deleuze imagines it.

Deleuzian Literary Criticism
One of the aims of this book is to present the literary clinic as a means
of conceiving of a Deleuzian literary criticism in a manner attuned to
the philosophical issues on which his work is fundamentally based.
While there has been some excellent work done on the relation
between Deleuze and literature,3 no distinctively Deleuzian literary criticism has appeared to the same degree as have Althusserian,
Derridean and Foucauldian variants. To some extent this has to do
with the role literature plays within Deleuze’s philosophical project.
He does not isolate literature from his own enterprise to the same
degree as he does cinema, for example. One can hardly imagine him
writing books titled Literature 1 and Literature 2. This is because the
very concept of ‘literature’ or ‘writing’ is itself thrown into doubt by
his understanding of philosophical activity as a pure creative practice
(Lecercle 2002: 220–1). This uncertainty regarding the distinction
between the literary and the philosophical is no doubt one of the
reasons why the field of Deleuzian literary criticism, such as it is, is
dwarfed by the body of work, best exemplified by the recent pedagogical volume Deleuze Reframed (Sutton and Martin-Jones 2008),
pursuing Deleuzian approaches to cinema and visual culture. I have
deliberately chosen not to consider authors Deleuze himself did not
write on, the reason being that I wish to emphasise how the point
where Deleuze’s own philosophical agenda ends and the literary texts
he is analysing begin is often obscure, but that this is a necessary and

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fruitful obscurity. If Deleuze is drawn to authors such as Beckett,
Masoch, Wolfson, Kafka and Melville, then we must understand that
the reasons for this are connected to Deleuze’s broader theoretical
concerns. This is why the literary clinic is presented here not simply
as a way to understand Deleuze’s literary theory, but also as a means
to conceive of how literature and his overall project are in a relation
of mutual implication and becoming.
It may be useful very briefly to reflect on Deleuze’s position within
anglophone literary studies.4 Claire Colebrook states that there
has been a tendency to read post-structuralist theory in terms of a
Derridean ‘textualism’, on the one hand, and a Deleuzian ‘vitalism’,
on the other, the former positing an infinite play of signs within an
intertextual universe, the latter, a series of relations connecting the
literary work to ‘the real forces of the non-textual, the forces of
politics, life and bodies’ (Colebrook 2007: 25, 29). The perceived
textualism of Derrida has been charged with reinstituting the apolitical bias of New Criticism and with reproducing the latter’s fetishism
for the work of literature as a ‘closed formalism’ detached from
material life and non-literary language use. Sociologically aware,
historicist, culturalist and ideology critique-based approaches have
emerged in response to this. For Deleuze, however, a literary work
is not a by-product of its social or cultural environment – or, rather,
it is so only from the ‘majoritarian’ perspective. Literature’s political
importance is the perspective its very untimeliness gives us on our
own times. Likewise, literature marks a distinct break with habitual
modes of language use. The very literariness of literary language
is that it appears as a kind of foreign language or non-language
from within the native or maternal tongue of the author. If more
traditional formalisms determine this break in terms of an ascent of
everyday speech towards the poetic register, then Deleuze does so in
the opposite direction, discerning the origins of literary language in
illiteracy, silence and bestial noise.5 The literariness of literary language, then, is precisely not its linguistic eloquence or communicative
efficacy but, rather, the very non-communication it renders through
its stuttering and stammering, inarticulate breaths and cries. In other
words, there is a zone of immanence, available to criticism, in which
the mute illiteracy of the living body is joined to the pure impersonal
formalism of the work.
Thus, the opposition of the textual or formal and the vital is, from
a Deleuzian point of view, entirely spurious. The relation between life
and literature needs to be rethought along the lines suggested by the

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deleuze’s literary clinic
immanence of the one to the other. Our constituted organic, linguistic
and social forms give expression to a life which is at their origin. To
the extent that the production and actualisation of these forms is the
everyday activity of life, literature thwarts this process, drawing on a
distinct power of life to resist any and all formalisation or actualisation
of it. It is only by making contact with this mute, formless power of
life as a kind of ‘antiproduction’ that literary creativity becomes possible at all. Deleuze, then, relates the literary work back to its origins
in life, but this is not in order to endorse the continuity of the life of
the text and the non-textual life of organisms, persons and societies.
Rather, it is the radical, sometimes violent disjunction between these
two categories that gives us the immanent principle of the genesis of
literary form. For this reason, Deleuze often conceives of authors as
having been damaged or injured by a life which is too much for them
or for the constituted and consensual forms to which they have access.
The idea that the author is in touch with something essentially at
odds with his or her culture and its symbolic and formal resources
is one of the main legacies of Freudian criticism. The question as
to whether this ‘something’ offers an escape from culture through
an appeal to an unchanging biology is one which continues to
animate discussions of Freudian literary theory (Meisel 2007: 21).
However, for Deleuze the question does not arise: the author’s case
is singular and problematic precisely because he or she stands within
culture while also standing outside it. This is the only way in which
the author could possibly be said to diagnose, at once, both his or
her own case and also humanity in general, as Deleuze argues. For
Deleuze, psychoanalytic criticism makes the central deductive error
of believing that it is the ‘complex’ which tells us about Oedipus or
Hamlet rather than the other way around (LS 273). Thus, the literary clinic must be seen in terms of immanent diagnosis: the author’s
case is his or her own, but also that of his or her species, language
and society. And it is because the literary clinic is based around this
immanent problematic of the case6 that it can argue that the author
maintains such a privileged position with regard to the articulation of
new forms of embodied collective life promising a people to come.

Three Core Aspects of the Literary Clinic
This book is concerned essentially with three main groups of concepts which converge in and together constitute Deleuze’s literary

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1. Deleuze’s concern with literary style and technique means that
we must consider Deleuzian criticism as a type of formalism, as
an engagement with authorial practice which is seen to be neither
socially nor linguistically determined, but which nevertheless
can be evaluated on the basis of certain criteria. The only way
literature should be judged is on the basis of criteria internal to
literary activity itself. Deleuze searches for these criteria not in
any concept of what literature or writing is, but at the intersection
of pathological, libidinal bodily depth and the surface dimension
of signs. This is what spurs his interest in psychoanalysis in the
early period of his career. Literature can be evaluated only on the
basis of this intersection of pathos and logos, of the unthinking
body and the thinking brain. Deleuze, in his work on Masoch,
Wolfson, Beckett and Kafka, focuses on the specificity of authorial
technique. The notion of a literary ‘procedure’ (which is used to
translate the terms procédé, procès and processus in the original
French) is meant to suggest how authors work on language at a
practical level in order to achieve certain effects. What this generally comes down to is separating out the purely formal aspects of
signs from the meanings or contents with which they have become
associated. Kafka is for Deleuze and Guattari the exemplary figure
in this regard: in disengaging the pathological guilt feelings from
the signs which expressed them, Kafka was able to discover a way
of moving from the personal and pathological levels, in which
he found himself trapped, towards the impersonal and worldhistorical levels in which he could exist as a pure singularity,
marked only by the initial ‘K’. This is ultimately what Deleuze and
Guattari understand as the healing process of transference.
2. Deleuze takes from Nietzsche the principles of immanent criticism.
The values or objects to be critiqued must themselves render up
the criteria which would allow for their overcoming. Nietzsche’s
view of health here is vital to Deleuze’s approach: the sick body is
sick because there is a life within it that is too strong to be lived.
We are sick because we are not yet capable of embodying a life
too strong for our current organic, linguistic and socio-political
forms of existence. What this means is that the very morbidity
and decadence of our current values contains the principles by
which new and vital values may be determined. The process of
formal renewal, the generation of new forms capable of expressing a new health, must begin with the pathological contents it
would supplant. This is why at the heart of the literary clinic is

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deleuze’s literary clinic
Artaud’s contention that the fundamental incapacity or weakness
of thought to find a definitive form is also, simultaneously, the
means of expressing thought’s most profound power. In AntiOedipus, Deleuze and Guattari do not oppose psychoanalysis
from a non-psychoanalytic position, from, say, the position of
Marxism or Nietzscheanism. Though both Marx and Nietzsche
played major roles, Deleuze and Guattari’s approach was always
to generate from within psychoanalysis a form of discourse
capable of exposing and overcoming the political conservatism of
oedipal psychotherapeutic practice. In other words, schizoanalysis
must be understood not in opposition to psychoanalysis, but as
psychoanalysis as immanent criticism.
3. Deleuze understands literature as a health, or as a promise of a
health to come. The author is a special ‘case’ because he or she
is both sick and healthy at the same time: sick because there is
a life which is too strong and powerful for our current organic,
linguistic and socio-political forms to give body to or express,
but healthy in that he or she possesses the ability to articulate
and formulate new modes of health beyond the present state of
things. In this sense, the author is both a collective and an individual: he or she is an individual instantiation of a more general
malaise, but also a virtual case of solution to this malaise. The
author, then, embodies a ‘problematic’ intersection of the general
and the particular, the collective and the individual. The author
is solitary, cut off from society, but also embodies virtually the
very principles of new potential forms of society. As we chart the
evolution of the literary clinic from its early diagnostic and symptomatological phase to its later therapeutic and schizoanalytic
phase, then, this question becomes more important. Ultimately,
Deleuze’s concept of the ‘people to come’ will be presented as the
culmination of the concept of literature as health. This is already
prefigured in Deleuze’s work on Masoch, where he identifies as
an aspect of masochism the promise of a ‘new man’ who would
be a harbinger of new forms of collective life. We will see how,
with Kafka, Deleuze and Guattari delineate the transference of
the pathological elements of individual, oedipal subjectivity onto
an impersonal, world-historical plane. The role of schizoanalysis
here is very important, as we will see, in that the concept of a
pure schizophrenic process, distinct from schizophrenic illness, is
deemed by Deleuze and Guattari to be the means by which such a
transference can be achieved.

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Over the course of this book we will see how, in the convergence of
these three interlinked sets of concerns, Deleuze’s most explicitly literary clinical concepts – symptomatology, the procedure, the proper
name, the people to come, delirium – emerge and change. We will
also of necessity need to discuss concepts which belong to Deleuze’s
more general philosophical project, concepts such as difference,
repetition, memory, the death instinct, larval subjectivity and so on.
However, this will only be done in order to trace the outlines of the
three groups of concepts adduced above.

Overview of Chapters
The first chapter argues that the literary clinic has its origin in
Deleuze’s early work Nietzsche and Philosophy. I argue that the
place of literature in Deleuze’s work as a whole is related in important ways to his conceptualisation of philosophical method, which
remains more or less constant throughout his career, namely a certain
‘ethic’ of thought which demands that thought engage with its other.
Deleuze and Guattari argue in What Is Philosophy? that philosophical
creativity must proceed on the basis that thought enters into contact
with some ‘unthought’, with madness, intoxication and the unthinking body. These elements are defined in terms of what they call the
‘pathic’ dimension. This is why Deleuze’s approach to literature is
necessarily a clinical one. The author discovers a kind of foreign
language, illiteracy or non-language within language; he or she in
this way puts language into contact with its outside, with that point
at which language can be said to occupy the same zone as silence or
formlessness, and at which the differences language creates dissolve
into indifference. It is in this sense that Deleuze understands literary
technique as a kind of formalism: the author disarticulates the forms
which actualise our experience in order to find new forms capable of
expressing new modes of life. This link between literary activity and
the pathic dimension makes it necessary to explore certain aspects of
how Deleuze understands subjectivity, specifically the roles played
by the body, death and the temporal constitution of experience. I do
this through an analysis of Malcolm Lowry and F. Scott Fitzgerald,
and the part, as Deleuze sees it, that alcoholism plays in their writing.
What will become clear from this is not only the formal specificity
by which Deleuze regards literary practice, but the way in which he
regards the formless or abyssal body as both a constant threat to subjective coherence and the necessary source of creativity.

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deleuze’s literary clinic
The second chapter deals in a more detailed manner with how
Deleuze regards the specificity of literary technique. This involves
a careful analysis of the symptomatology of Masoch, in which it is
possible to discern the origin of the concept of the literary procedure. Masoch’s symptomatology involved taking an existing set of
symptoms, namely the guilt feelings attaching to sexual prohibitions,
expressed primarily through the paternal law, and re-ordering them,
causing them to express a new sense. For Deleuze, a symptomatology is a highly formal entity, being a set of ‘disjunctions’ distributed
on the immaterial plane of sense. We will see how Deleuze develops
the central paradox of his theory of embodied subjectivity, namely
that the materiality at stake in embodiment is expressed only at the
immaterial and surface level of pure form. We will in this way see
how his formalism stems from a concern with the body and with the
existential problems generated in lived experience. If his approach
to the study of literature is based around the distinction of form and
content, this is because there is a kind of immateriality expressive of
the materiality of embodiment. This paradoxical coming together of
materiality and immateriality is what allows for a creative mobility,
a kind of ‘athleticism’, by which forms and contents can be separated
and the processes of formalisation become amenable to experimentation.
We will explore this mobility through notions of the phantasm
and affect, and emphasise Deleuze’s debt to psychoanalysis while
also acknowledging his distance from it. We will also note how
the concept of the people to come is first broached in the study of
Masoch via the figure of the ‘new man’ which, as Deleuze notes,
appears repeatedly in Masoch’s novels as a symbol of sexual and
political liberation. Chapter 2 concludes by looking at Beckett and
Wolfson’s procedures, and by arguing that the latter’s procedure
was, in Deleuze’s estimation, a creative failure precisely because
it signalled an existential failure to negotiate the dual dangers of
a purely linguistic formalism and an abyssal bodily depth. I thus
argue that Deleuze bases the criteria by which we can evaluate literature on the possibility of an immanence of pathos and logos, of
the unformed materiality of the body and the formal immateriality
of signs. What this implies, however, is that the scope of the literary clinic goes beyond the purely diagnostic and symptomatological
levels towards a vision of some sort of healing process. In Difference
and Repetition, Deleuze defines this in terms of the psychotherapeutic notion of transference, but he severs this concept from any per18

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sonological conceptions of the self, arguing that transference may be
reconceived as a means for a purely impersonal life to express itself
through experimental subjective modes. Deleuze determines these
modes through the themes of difference and repetition, and from this
will emerge the concept of desiring production.
Chapter 3 will continue the first chapter’s discussion of the death
instinct and argue that death, for Deleuze, has a capacity both to save
and to fail to save, depending on the mode of repetition embodied
in it. The analysis of Deleuze’s conception of death is necessary in
order to understand to what extent he regards embodiment as the
immanent principle both of liberation and of enslavement, of good
health as well as sickness. This aspect of immanence is at the heart
of Deleuze’s methodological conception of the body. The body both
blocks and enables, limits and liberates. The concept of blockage will
be elaborated on these grounds through a close reading of certain
passages from Difference and Repetition, and aspects of Deleuze’s
relationship to Freud will be explored through Freud’s ‘Dora’ case
Additionally, the turn to pragmatism signalled by Anti-Oedipus,
I argue, must be understood in terms of the therapeutic and prescriptive value given to the concept of production. I argue that the
shift from the formalism of symptomatology to the pragmatism of
schizoanalysis is not to be regarded as a reversal or contradiction
but as the logical development of Deleuze’s conception of semiosis.
This will be argued through a reading of key passages from both
parts of Proust and Signs, and will be pursued through Deleuze
and Guattari’s book on Kafka. It will be seen how Kafka emerges
as an exemplary figure to the extent that he develops the formalist
specificity of the procedure alongside the therapeutic capacities of
transference. The importance of Kafka’s writing for Deleuze and
Guattari is that it constitutes a means to transmute the personal and
pathological contents of oedipal subjectivity into a purely impersonal
experience at the level of the socio-political and the world-historical.
The significance of the proper name will be explored in terms of
what Deleuze and Guattari call the ‘order-word’. The proper name,
as the order-word of literature, is the principle by which subjectivity
is caused, simultaneously, to be trapped within personal dimensions
and to be transformed into an impersonal machine of expression.
Chapter 4 explores the complex links between the literary clinic
and schizoanalysis, and, in many ways, is the heart of the book. I
argue that some of the key aspects of the literary clinic – formalism

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deleuze’s literary clinic
and vitalism, pathic subjectivity, the immanent conception of the
body – are significantly developed by Deleuze and Guattari’s collaboration. Schizoanalysis in this way takes the literary clinic beyond
the diagnostic and symptomatological domains, in which Deleuze
had originally envisaged it, towards the dimension of therapy and
the problematic of the cure. The emphasis on schizophrenia is not
merely a descriptive but a prescriptive one: Deleuze and Guattari
invest their concepts with an unabashed universal and absolute
significance, allowing them to distinguish between illegitimate and
legitimate uses of desire in a strictly formal sense, that is, prior to
any actualisation of subjective or objective contents. Schizoanalysis
is thus proposed as a ‘universal clinical theory’. The emphasis on
cure here has nothing to do with curing people of schizophrenia but,
rather, with counteracting the paralysing neurosis endemic to capitalist society. Psychoanalysis is deemed singularly incapable of curing
neurosis because it expresses, in practice if not in theory, the fact that
under the conditions of capitalism, neurotic illness is increasingly
normalised and propagated. If schizophrenia is no less endemic to
capitalism, this is because schizophrenic breakdown is, for Deleuze
and Guattari, the effect of how the paths beyond neurotic normality
are rendered impassable. The curative dimension of schizoanalysis,
then, is twofold: to treat the paralysing identity of normality and
neurosis, and to enable us to experiment within the pure process of
desiring production without collapsing into clinical schizophrenia.
The immanence of this approach is plain: Deleuze and Guattari
distinguish between schizophrenia as process and as breakdown,
but in both cases it is desiring production which is at issue. Desiring
production occupies the clinical zones of breakdown as well as the
experimental zones of breakthrough. Schizoanalysis thus argues
that the legitimate uses of the syntheses of desire can be deduced
from the clinical entity of schizophrenia, once the latter is seen in its
positivity and independently of any conception of ‘normal’ subjectivity. Conceived independently of subjective and objective contents,
desire as pure process can be ‘mapped’ or ‘diagrammed’ according
to immanent criteria. This is what connects the formalism of the
literary clinic to the pragmatism of schizoanalysis. The two dangers
of abyssal bodily depth and rigid formalism are translated into the
schizoanalytic terminology of the legitimate and illegitimate uses
of the syntheses of desire. However, schizoanalysis does not conceive of a material domain of the body and an immaterial domain
of signs but, rather, one universal process of desiring production

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together with the breakdowns and breakthroughs which attend it.
Schizoanalysis in this way signals what Deleuze calls an identity of
the critical and the clinical, of the critical domain of formalism and
semiosis, and the clinical domain of the pathic body and its blockages. The role of the body without organs is crucial here, in that
it exists simultaneously in pathological and healthy modes. This is
because the body without organs is the zone of immanence of breakthrough and breakdown, of logos and pathos, in which blockages
are both erected and dissolved. The body without organs in this way
develops the methodological role of the body.
Desiring production is the means by which Deleuze and Guattari
conceptualise transference. But transference here is inseparable from
a type of semiosis in which the subjective ‘I’ becomes capable of
expressing purely impersonal and world-historical contents. This is
what Deleuze and Guattari call delirium. In delirium, the ‘I’ becomes
capable of expressing the sense of the proper names of history. It is
thus no longer the name of the clinician which is at issue, but the
names of races, tribes and religions – in a word, the names of peoples.
In the final chapter, it is the notion of a people to come which, I
argue, constitutes the culmination of the literary clinical conception of literature as health. The author writes on behalf of collective
forces, instantiated in a zone of immanence or body without organs.
Deleuze argues that the processes by which collectives actualise
themselves are one with the processes of art, in that both share in the
same pathos or struggle for self-creation. The point is not that literature can help peoples to become actualised, but that it can articulate
or map purely virtual forces of peopling.
I show how Deleuze and Guattari distinguish two different ways
of conceptualising groups in this respect: one can regard groups as
identical to their actualised and fully constituted forms, but one can
also regard them in terms of virtual processes, only some of which
may be actualised. The author, to the extent that he or she expresses
the forces of a people to come, is engaged with the virtual processes
of group formation and with those ‘collective virtualities’ which do
not have a recognisable actual form. Literature, then, exists in this
zone of immanence of the pathos of a people. This is why Deleuze
repeatedly argues that the exemplary author writes on behalf of
a people to come. This, ultimately, is the meaning of literature as
health. The insights of schizoanalysis, however, are necessary to
understand this, since delirium is the semiotic medium by which the
solitary author and the virtual community are united. The health

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deleuze’s literary clinic
which the author manifests is the ability to move between the two
poles governing the legitimacy of the uses of desire, which means that
the author moves between the two poles of group subjectivity itself.
This is the collective and political dimension of health as mobility,
and this will be explored through an analysis of Deleuze’s writings
on T. E. Lawrence and Melville. I will argue that the author occupies a position between the individual and the group which Deleuze
and Guattari define in terms of the ‘anomalous’. The processes of
peopling are described in terms of epidemic, virus and contagion,
and I will in this way conclude by emphasising how the identity of
sickness and health at the heart of the literary clinic are borne out by
these schizoanalytic concepts.
This book presents a reconstruction of the genesis of the literary
clinic as an incomplete concept, or cluster of concepts, within the
context of Deleuze’s overall project. We will see how the literary clinic’s connection to other aspects of Deleuze’s work tends to obscure
it, but we will also see how these same connections help us render
the literary clinic with a certain distinctness and coherence. We will
see how the literary clinic, as an obscure yet quite distinct conceptual
entity, allows us to understand Deleuze’s interest in literature in a
way that accounts for aspects of his work which do not immediately
appear to have any relevance to literary studies. The intended and
hoped-for outcome of this reconstruction, then, is ultimately that it
may help open paths towards a properly Deleuzian critical theory
and practice.

1. This interconnectedness and incompleteness may very well be the
reasons why the copious secondary literature on Deleuze features very
little work on the literary clinic or on Deleuze’s interest in the clinical generally. The most sustained anglophone discussion of the topic
is still Daniel W. Smith’s introduction to the English translation of
Essays Critical and Clinical: see Smith 1997; see also Smith 2005 for a
slightly different account. Other important contributions include Ansell
Pearson 1999; Buchanan 2000 and 2001; Bogue 2003: 9–30; Colombat
2000; Holland 2000; Kaufman 2001: 84–110; Kerslake 2007: 5–48;
Lambert 2000a and 2000b; Williams 2008: 158–62; Zourabichvili
1996; Zepke 2005: 12–28; Tynan 2010. Eugene Holland’s Baudelaire
and Schizoanalysis (1993) draws on clinical data relating to borderline
personality syndrome and masochism, but the debt tends to be more to
Lacan than to Deleuze, and despite Holland’s praise for Deleuze’s work

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on Masoch his reading of masochism is essentially Freudo-Lacanian
(195–6). Lecercle’s excellent Philosophy through the Looking Glass
(1985) explicates, using the original texts of Wolfson, Artaud, Roussel,
Brisset and others, the concepts of delirium central to Deleuze’s understanding of literature, though Lecercle does not discuss Deleuze’s critical
and clinical project directly. In French, see Birman 1998; David-Ménard
2005; Sibertin-Blanc 2006. It must be noted that Deleuze’s interest in
clinical phenomena does not end with literature: the notion of a general
‘aesthetic clinic’ was suggested by him in his work on Francis Bacon (FB
38) and in his second cinema book Antonioni is defined as a ‘symptomatologist’ (C2 8). Unfortunately the scope of this book does not allow me
to pursue the topic any further than the literary field.
Hallward (2006), in characterising Deleuze’s philosophy as one of
pure creation, acknowledges that creation must be tempered by practical ‘rules’ of caution derived from criteria deduced within the creative
process itself (99), but fails to see that creative processes are conditional
upon what Deleuze and Guattari call the ‘unengendered’ or the ‘uncreated’ element, and that it is analytically impossible, from the point of
view of Deleuze’s system, to identify this element with creation, in that
the latter presupposes it (see, for example, WP 40–1). Hallward’s discussion of the body without organs is illustrative here, in that he sees
it purely in terms of a creative flight or line of escape (98) rather than,
as Deleuze and Guattari present it, simultaneously a kind of stasis or
antiproduction (whose supreme example is the catatonic schizophrenic)
which thwarts creative or productive functioning. When Hallward
argues that ‘readers who search through Deleuze’s work for some more
primordial concept beneath the creation of difference, some sort of enabling or transcendental condition of creation, will not find it’ (13), he is
simply wrong: as I explain at the beginning of Chapter 1, creation, for
Deleuze, is only possible on the condition of some ‘uncreated’ or ‘indifferent’ element – often dramatised by the images of a barren desert or
depopulated Earth, or the pathos of indifference – lying at the heart of
every difference and every act of creation. Hallward actually cites examples of Deleuze’s use of the desert image (23), but completely misses their
Some of the key volumes here include Bogue 2003 and 2010; Bryden
2007; Buchanan 2000; Buchanan and Marks 2000; Hughes 1997;
Lambert 2002; Zamberlin 2006.
For a full discussion of this topic within the American context, see
Lambert 2006: 1–12.
This is true even of a writer such as Kafka, whose High German lexicon
appropriates the ‘official’ language of bureaucracy and government
administration. Deleuze and Guattari describe Kafka’s style in terms
of how an asignifying sense emerges from within the significations of

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everyday meaning. For a discussion of this, see Bogue 2003: 100–8. As
Alan Bourassa writes, the familiar conception of literature as a way of
understanding and experiencing what it means to be human is unsettled
by Deleuze’s insistence on the role of the non-literary within literary
language use:
Language shatters the easy equivalence of literary and human by opening up a
dimension of the non-literary in language (that is, everything that lies outside
the scope of the literary but on which the literary depends) and of the nonhuman (that is, all that lies outside the scope of the human, but nonetheless
makes it up). (Bourassa 2002: 61)

6. Deleuze has a contribution to make to the understanding of cases and
casuistics. As Lauren Berlant writes: ‘a case represents a problem-event
that has animated some kind of judgment. Any enigma could do – a
symptom, a crime, a causal variable, a situation, a stranger, or any irritating obstacle to clarity. What matters is the idiom of the judgment’
(2007: 663). For a specifically literary approach to the case study, see
Tougaw 2006. For a Deleuzian, but also Bergsonian, discussion of issues
surrounding law and jurisprudence, see Lefebvre 2008.


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A Case of Thought

For Deleuze, all thinking begins in a kind of pathos. This is because
thinking must be distinguished from knowledge or mental activity in
general: remembering, sensing, imagining and so on. These modes of
cognition remain at the purely empirical level of recognisable objects.
Thought, however, goes beyond the limits of the recognisable and
thus needs to be grasped in a way which distinguishes it from our
day-to-day cognition of the world.1 In other words, thought goes
beyond the given differences which allow us to recognise the objects
of our experience, and in turn leads towards a realm in which differences are not yet distributed in objects. Thought emerges only
through this attempt to think the indifferent. As Deleuze writes, ‘difference is the true logos . . . indifference is its pathos’ (DI 159).2 This
is why Deleuze and Guattari, in defining the practice of philosophy as
the creation of concepts, write that philosophy demands a ‘nonphilosophical’ or ‘prephilosophical’ plane, a ‘moving desert that concepts
come to populate’. Thought does not begin with the creation of concepts, as this is only made possible by a series of measures that ‘institutes’ or ‘lays out’ the plane: ‘these measures belong to the order of
dreams, of pathological processes, esoteric experiences, drunkenness,
and excess’ (WP 40–1). It is only through such a pathos that thinking
can properly be called creative, otherwise it would be indistinguishable from mental activity in general.
Thought does not begin by recognising itself in the objects given
to consciousness, but by encountering something unrecognisable
which presents itself as an impassable obstacle. This is why we must
reject the Platonic-Aristotelian notion of a ‘propitious moment’
locating thought in an accord with those objects falling between the
categories of the ‘too large’ and the ‘too small’ (DR 29). For Deleuze,
thought encounters something unintelligible as such, and which it
cannot cognise without suffering a crisis or ‘catastrophe’ (DR 35).3
This catastrophic moment is foundational for the creation of concepts, but it is also transcendentally prior to, and thus distinct from,
creation. The ‘desert’ which thought institutes is, precisely, uncreated

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deleuze’s literary clinic
or unengendered; it is always already there, as it were, functioning
as thought’s unthought.4 Thinking attains specificity, its distinction
from cognition in general, from the fact that it is driven or forced to
think this unthought. As Deleuze and Guattari write, this leads to a
conception of the one who thinks as someone suffering a loss or crisis
of cognition:
There are pathic features: the Idiot, the one which wants to think for
himself . . . But also a Madman, a kind of madman, a cataleptic thinker
or ‘mummy’ who discovers in thought an inability to think; or a great
maniac, someone frenzied, who is in search of that which precedes
thought, an Already-there, but at the very heart of thought itself. (WP 70)

At the origin of thought, there is the pathology of the thinker. The
compromise of cognition in ‘aphasia’, ‘agnosia’ and ‘amnesia’, the
general catastrophe of the faculties, testifies to thought’s specific
foundation, its quintessential power, which is less a capacity than
an incapacity (DR 147). Everything profound in thought takes place
at the point where our faculties are forced into compromised states;
writing thus occurs ‘at the frontiers of our knowledge, at the border
which separates our knowledge from our ignorance and transforms
the one into the other’ (DR xxi).
It was Kant who identified thought’s unique ability with the
‘power of judgment’ (Urteilskraft). Both thought and judgment,
for Kant, testify to the same ability or capacity (Vermögen).5 For
Deleuze, however, the thinker is less one possessed of an ability
to judge and cognise than one suffering from an inability which is
nevertheless inextricable from thought’s greatest power.6 This is
what gives philosophy its kinship with pathological states, animals
and the natural world. It is not human consciousness but, rather, its
compromise which ensures that philosophy involves a participation
in some absolute process which is irreducible to the categories of
human perception and knowledge. This too is what ensures the link
between philosophy and literature, for the author is precisely one
who encounters, in language, not the certitude of articulated speech,
but the constant presence and threat of engulfing nonsense. One
writes ‘for’, on behalf of, a power, embodied in the pathos of dying
animals and excluded or ‘minor’ peoples, which escapes cognisable
difference (CC 2–4). This is why, for Deleuze, literary technique
involves experiments with agrammaticality and illiteracy, the discovery, as Proust put it, of a kind of foreign language within language.
Literature, then, for Deleuze, is ‘syntactic creation’ only because it is

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A Case of Thought
invested in the discovery of something ‘beyond all syntax’, and in this
sense involves not simply the creation of a ‘new language’, but also a
destruction or disarticulation of the given ‘maternal’, which is to say
native, language (CC 5–6).7
Thought does not begin in a ‘will to truth’ or any sort of conscious
intellectual effort which would presuppose the ability to think or
to judge. Rather, genuine thought is necessarily ‘forced’ into existence through an encounter with that which remains unthought and
unthinkable and which thus constrains the free exercise of the cognitive faculties. The pathos of thought is that there belongs to it, by
right, something which is inimical to its exercise. Similarly, one does
not experiment with language without having first sensed something
inimical to linguistic articulation or formulation. It is thus possible to
see at the origin of thought a fundamental and singular ‘case’, pathological as much as it is philosophical and literary. In order to begin its
creative endeavours, thought must acquire a power whose source lies
beyond it. But it is only via this beyond, which acts as a constraining
limit, that thought discovers the legitimate criteria capable of facilitating it. As Alain Badiou writes in his book on Deleuze, ‘thought is
evaluated according to its capacity to go right to the end, to the limit,
of the power that is proper to it and that is forcibly set into motion
by the instance of a case-of-thought’ (Badiou 2000: 33). As Deleuze
writes, we acquire the criteria for an adequate assessment of literature only if we understand literary technique as a ‘delirium’ which
pushes language ‘to a limit, to an outside or reverse side’ (CC 5).

Libidinal Stupidity and Formal Renewal
Deleuze suggests that in order to write, ‘it may perhaps be necessary
for the maternal language to be odious’ (CC 5). A necessary part of
literary technique is a pre-literary disgust for one’s native language
and the rules of communication governing it. As Gregg Lambert
observes, ‘the act of writing and the figure of the writer always entertain a relationship with a fundamental stupidity (bêtise)’ (Lambert
2000a: 143). It is perhaps the American schizophrenic writer Louis
Wolfson who, for Deleuze, embodies this sense of disgust most
profoundly, as we shall see more clearly in Chapter 2, for, in equating the words of his maternal language with poisons and harmful
microbes hidden in his food, Wolfson discovered a means to write by
way of an anorexic technique: a disgust for eating cultivated a disgust
for speaking and vice versa, allowing for the establishment of a zone

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deleuze’s literary clinic
of immanence encompassing both gustatory and linguistic functions.
We must note that the honing of a sense of disgust is necessary for
Deleuze’s philosophical project as a whole. As Deleuze and Guattari
write in What Is Philosophy?, the philosopher must cultivate a ‘taste’
for ‘repulsive concepts’ (WP 76–7). In his foundational early work,
Nietzsche and Philosophy, Deleuze can be seen to be doing just this
when he identifies the ‘negative’ of thought not as falsity or error, but
as stupidity and baseness:
Stupidity is a structure of thought as such . . . it expresses the non-sense
in thought by right . . . There are imbecile thoughts, imbecile discourses,
that are made up entirely of truths; but these truths are base . . . The state
of mind dominated by reactive forces, by right, expresses stupidity and,
more profoundly, that which it is a symptom of: a base way of thinking.
(NP 105)

What Deleuze in this early work wishes to define is what he will later
describe, in an Artaudian mode, as thought’s ‘de jure structure’, the
weakness or incapacity which belong to thought by right and not
because of the contingency of error (DR 147). We might call this,
using a phrase of Lyotard’s, ‘libidinal stupidity’ (Lyotard 2004: 56).8
There is a great ambiguity in this concept, since if stupidity and baseness constitute the mode of thinking to be critiqued, this same mode
of thinking is what forces us to go beyond it; it gives us the criteria
for overcoming it. We are forced to think anew by something profound within us which does not think but languishes in stupidity. It
is only by understanding thought on the basis of a central incapacity,
weakness or baseness that we come into contact with something that
promises a total disarticulation of the present forms of our knowledge which trap us within conventional ways of thinking. This is how
thought’s unique power should be understood.
In terms of Deleuze’s method of philosophical criticism, then, we
need to understand that the object of critique – the stupidity or baseness of thought – has intimate and important links to the overcoming
and vanquishing of this object. If Nietzsche, for example, aimed his
critique at the nihilism of European culture and Christian morality, defining these in terms of a transhistorical sickness of humanity
which modernity brings to a point of crisis, then Nietzsche’s solution,
in Deleuze’s reading at any rate, is to bring this situation to completion in order that nihilism may defeat itself (NP 172). The ‘transmutation’ of nihilism into a future free of it takes the form of a sickness
which, having run its course, gives rise to the possibility of a new

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A Case of Thought
health. In order to understand how Deleuze makes this argument,
we must examine some of the conceptual intricacies of his reading
of Nietzsche. This will clarify the importance Deleuze attaches to the
critical method of immanence, but it will also allow us to understand
the capacity for formal renewal that Deleuze sees at the heart of the
conception of literature as health.
Nihilism emerges when a certain quality, or ‘tonality’, of force
forges a bond with a certain quality of the will. Thus, there is an
important distinction between two different qualities of force, active
and reactive, and two different qualities of the will, affirmation and
negation (CC 100; NP 54). The crucial difference, or ‘differential’, is
precisely the relation between these two differences, the way one is
expressed by, appropriated by, the other (NP 51). The will to power,
the will to affirm or negate, is expressed in a quality of force which,
as it were, appropriates the will. Active and reactive forces are distinguished at the level of strength and weakness, or, more correctly,
dominant and dominated (NP 40). Now, Deleuze asks, given that a
stronger force always triumphs over a weaker one as a physical or
mechanical law of nature, how is it possible for nihilism – in which
weak forces dominate – to triumph, as Nietzsche alleges it has? The
answer lies in the imaginative faculties. Nihilism emerges when the
will to negate forges a bond with dominated forces, when negation
discovers, as its complementary component, the reactive desire to be
dominated. The negative will projects, via the faculty of the imagination, an ‘inverted image’ amounting to a ‘mystification or falsification’ of the relation between active and reactive, so that reactive
forces trump active ones via a ‘fiction’ which serves to ‘entice active
force into a trap’, causing it to become reactive (NP 57–8). Under
the influence of the imagination, reactive forces are signified, fallaciously, as a desirable object of the will. Hence, Nietzsche’s reading
of the origin of Christian morality posits an inversion of values in
which weakness and slavishness were revalued, at the expense of
strength and nobility, as virtues to be strived towards. A very real
triumph of reactive over active takes place by dint of an imaginary
agency. We must, consequently, be able to read every phenomenon
in terms of a thing which is taken possession of by a certain quality
of force ‘which appropriates the thing, which exploits it, which takes
possession of it or is expressed in it. A phenomenon is not an appearance or even an apparition but a sign, a symptom which finds its
meaning in an existing force’ (NP 3).
If nihilism is the bond between reactive force and negative will,

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deleuze’s literary clinic
then, the completion of nihilism, its ultimate self-overcoming,
involves disengaging from the will the objects which cause it to be
expressed as reaction and replacing them with ones which express it
as action. But this can only be done if reaction itself can become an
object of affirmation. This ‘conversion’ of nihilism then heralds the
doubling of affirmation: ‘Affirmation must divide in two so that it can
redouble’ (CC 103). There is a double affirmation that affirms both
action and reaction. What we are thus left with is not an abstract
opposition of active and reactive or of affirmation and negation, as
a set of static valuations, but with a becoming active of the reactive,
on the one hand, and, on the other, a superior sense of negation no
longer dependent on the objects expressing via reactive force.9 Now,
this double affirmation or double becoming is, as Deleuze says, ‘a
clinical matter, a question of health and healing’ since it is the transmutation of the sickness of humanity into the promise of great health
(CC 105). We can schematise the process as follows: a force which
takes hold of a thing, and causes it to be signified in a certain way,
can be disengaged from the thing the latter replaced with another
which then heralds a transformation of the force and a concomitant
(redoubled) transformation of the processes of signification by which
force is expressed.
This is a process which recurs, throughout Deleuze’s conceptualisation of the literary clinic, as the central principle by which a
pathological state may itself give rise to processes of creativity indicating new directions for a health to come: we are subjected to given
organic, social and linguistic forms but this subjection itself contains
the criteria for formal renewal. This is something which we will look
at in depth in the next chapter. Here, however, I merely wish to
suggest its links to Deleuze’s philosophical method of immanent criticism. We can discern this method also in Deleuze’s understanding
of Spinoza. For Deleuze, the project of Spinozan ethics involves the
passage from a state of ignorance, in which we experience nothing
but passivity and sadness, to a state of greater knowledge, in which
we attain ever-greater degrees of joyful affections. We experience
sadness due to a lack of knowledge of the causes of the various
objects that affect us, and thus we remain, from the point of view of
our knowledge, in a state of separation from these objects. This state
of separation means we have only inadequate ideas of the objects
and bodies we come into contact with. But it is precisely the fact that
we experience a very real, embodied suffering – what Buchanan has
called ‘an existential paralysis’ (2000: 32) – over this lack of knowl30

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A Case of Thought
edge which gives us the criteria for overcoming our ignorance and
hence our suffering or subjection.
In the passive state, we experience what Deleuze calls ‘a power of
being acted on or suffering action’ in contrast to ‘a power of acting’.
However, both suffering and acting here correspond to the same
‘capacity to be affected’ (EP 93). Thus, ‘passive affections do, it is
true, testify to our impotence, and cut us off from that of which we
are capable; but it is also true that they involve some degree, however
low, of our power of action’ (EP 231). A power of suffering testifies to the persistence within it of a power of action which allows
us to overcome our suffering and our subjection through a creative
engagement with that suffering. We can regard inadequate ideas in
the same sense as the inverted images or fictions which trap us and
separate us from our power of acting, since an inadequate idea can
be defined, as Simon Duffy explains, as an ‘imaginary representation
. . . [which] betrays only a partial degree of understanding’ (2006:
30). Deleuze, however, does not so much oppose the fictions of the
imagination to a demystifying rationality as he conceives of a profound immanence of reason and imagination, amounting to a kind
of demystifying delirium:
Imagination is subject to a law according to which it always initially
asserts the presence of its object, is then affected by causes that exclude
such a presence, and enters into a kind of ‘vacillation,’ thinking of its
object only as possible, or even contingent. The process of imagining an
object thus contains within it the principle of its own dissipation over
time. (EP 295)

It is not that we are trapped by images, but that these images tie us to
an erroneous objectivity to which we are then subjected. However,
Deleuze suggests that the imagination can, with the help of reason,
be disengaged from these objects and operate independently of them,
the practical result of which would be twofold: freedom from the
pernicious influence of the imagination itself, and the autonomous
functioning of the imagination independent of its objects.

Immanent Criticism and the Role of Redundancy
Deleuze identifies in Nietzsche a form of immanent criticism, the
deduction of a set of immanent criteria heralding a conversion of
nihilism into its other. If the case of Nietzsche is so important for
Deleuze, it is because it signals the ability to move between the two

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deleuze’s literary clinic
poles of this conversion, to move from a point of view on sickness
from a position of health to a point of view on health from a position of sickness, or as Nietzsche himself put it, ‘from the perspective
of the sick towards healthier concepts and values, and conversely . . .
from the fullness and self-assuredness of rich life into the décadence
instinct’ (Nietzsche 2007: 8). This way of ‘inverting perspectives’,
writes Deleuze, involves ‘no reciprocity between the two points of
view, the two evaluations. Thus, movement from health to sickness,
from sickness to health, if only as an idea, this very mobility is the
sign of superior health’ (PI 58). It was, in Deleuze’s view, Nietzsche’s
inability any longer to shift perspectives in this way which precipitated the latter’s ultimate decline.10
Immanent criticism is ‘total’, meaning that it evaluates not by
singling out one value and judging all others by it, but by evaluating value itself. This can only be achieved via a ‘pathos’ which is
the ‘differential element’ giving us the genesis of all values (NP 2).
The ‘object’ of critique, then, to the extent that it induces pathos,
plays a productive role in this process. As Joe Hughes puts it, ‘a
truly radical critique is not one that leaves the hollowed out remains
of the object of critique lying in the past. A radical critique demonstrates the genesis of that which has been criticized’ (Hughes 2009:
3). Immanent criticism does not begin by presupposing its object as
already constituted, nor does it end by leaving this object behind,
but rather attempts to produce in thought a genesis of that object
in order to discover a productive principle capable of overcoming
it. ‘Critique,’ as Deleuze writes, ‘is a constitution’ (OLM 239). It
is only through such a genesis or constitution that we can deduce
legitimate criteria.11 We shall see this quite clearly in Chapter 2 with
respect to literature and the problem of form and content, and we
will see it again in Chapter 4 in our discussion of the schizoanalytic
critique of psychoanalysis. The pathos involved in criticism is what
joins Deleuze’s understanding of literature to his political and social
theory, and it is this which explains the predominance in both of
notions of health and sickness.
The method of immanent criticism, as we have suggested, has
important links to literary practices of formal renewal as Deleuze
understands it. We have already seen in Deleuze’s reading of
Nietzsche the introduction of a series of evaluative dyads: action
and reaction, affirmation and negation. Deleuze’s philosophy is
constantly developing such dyads: virtual and actual, schizophrenic
and paranoid, molecular and molar, and so on. These dyads func32

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A Case of Thought
tion to replace systems of transcendent judgment, but how does this
avoid giving us new forms of transcendence which would imprison
us all over again? In other words, do Deleuze’s evaluative methods
not seem to contradict his moratorium on judgment, as Badiou, for
example, charges? (Badiou 2000: 31–2) The answer, it seems, is
that these dyads function to perform a movement of substitution or
conceptual redundancy: as soon as one dyad is developed, another
is proposed which appears to displace or replace it, as if to cling to
a single set of evaluative terms would threaten to fall back into the
kind of judgment Deleuze wishes to escape.
John Mullarkey has suggested that this method of substitution is
not merely an effort to describe some elusive fact about the world,
but involves a necessary prescriptive or normative element in which
the provisional nature of all descriptions demands their recurring
obsolescence. While Deleuze’s philosophy is no doubt descriptive
of metaphysical reality, it also prescribes to itself a type of conceptual redundancy as a vital aspect of its ‘metaphilosophical form’
(Mullarkey 2006: 46). It is not that one dyad simply replaces another,
but that the displacements this effects forces a revaluation of all terms
in the series. This means that Deleuze’s philosophy performs metaphilosophically the very movement of difference and repetition it seeks
to describe in the world, while being in an important sense autocorrecting or self-diagnostic. It seems that immanent critique could only
proceed in this manner, since the doubling and redundancy of evaluative terms effects a revaluation of the entire system. If great health,
then, plays an important role, it is not so much that this health could
be described as that it can only be prescribed in a way which links
the libidinal of ‘biopsychic’ life to the formal nature of language and
naming. This, as we shall see in the next chapter, is the principle of
what Deleuze describes in literary terms as the procedure.12
We can only give a brief example of this here (see Chapters 2 and
3 for a fuller discussion). Deleuze and Guattari begin their book on
Kafka by emphasising the predominance of certain formal figures
in the latter’s writings: the photo of the parents, and the bent head
of the child. The photo and the bent head are joined as the forms
of expression and content, respectively, which for Kafka express
the sense of a desire which wants to judge and to submit – in other
words, the libidinal problem of guilt. Desire is always captured by
forms which give it contents. Kafka treats the problem of guilt in
formal terms distinct from its embodied actualisation in the family
milieu, and his literary method is premised on the way this mode of

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deleuze’s literary clinic
capture is performed through substitutions: a form of expression
can give up its contents and take on new ones. The bent head of the
guilty child, then, can be substituted for a straightened head: ‘The
head that straightens, the head that bursts through the roof, seems an
answer to the bent head’ (K 4). Similarly, the new content demands
the emergence of a new form to express its sense, which Deleuze and
Guattari call, in Kafka’s case, ‘the musical sound’ (K 5). Kafka can
be seen as administering to himself, through his writing, a kind of
treatment or therapy via the production of new forms which substitute old, pathological contents for new ones. This does not solve
the problem of guilt, necessarily, but renders criteria for immanent
correction: the bent head calls into being the straightened head, the
family photo brings into being the musical sound, and so on. Ian
Buchanan was perhaps the first to pick up on this point: ‘the artist
empties the procedure (form of expression) of its pathological associations (form of content), which is where technique comes into the
equation’ (Buchanan 2000: 101–2).
Understood immanently, formal renewal, as literary technique,
can be seen to be premised on the expunging of pathological contents, the erroneous objectivity which ties us to certain subjected
states. By emptying the form of its contents, new contents can be
acquired which forces the form itself to change. This is precisely the
process which Deleuze and Guattari discern in Kafka’s writings, in
which an initial familial content, expressed in the form of the letters
and the diaries, is replaced by increasingly social and political contents which force the form to expand into the domains of the stories
and the novels. To put it simply: the inadequacy of our present
forms gives rise to an embodied suffering, but this suffering can
itself become the principle of the renewal of forms. This will become
clearer later in this chapter in the analysis of alcoholism in Lowry
and Fitzgerald, and also in more depth in the next chapter in which
the literary procedures of several writers of interest to Deleuze will
be considered.

The Methodological Importance of the Body
The genesis of the object of critique, then, is what renders the formal
terms of that which might overcome it. Nietzsche’s concept of will to
power, in Deleuze’s reading, amounts to the critical repudiation of all
the base and disgusting values which Nietzsche saw as characteristic
of the ‘great sickness’ at the root of modern European culture and

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A Case of Thought
Christian morality. This sickness Nietzsche described as nihilism.
But to overcome its object, critique must constitute it in thought and
must actively generate the material which signifies this object in the
same way that the sick body produces the symptoms which signify
the illness attacking it:
Our knowledge of the will to power will remain limited if we do not
grasp its manifestation in ressentiment, bad conscience, the ascetic ideal
and the nihilism which forces us to know it. The will to power is spirit,
but what would we know of spirit without the spirit of revenge which
reveals strange powers to us? The will to power is body, but what would
we know of the body without the sickness which makes it known to
us? Thus nihilism, the will to nothingness, is not only a will to power, a
quality of the will to power, but the ratio cognoscendi of the will to power
in general. All known and knowable values are, by nature, values which
derive from this ratio . . . We ‘think’ the will to power in a form distinct
from that in which we know it . . . This is a distant survival of themes
from Kant to Schopenhauer: what we in fact know of the will to power is
suffering and torture, but the will to power is still the unknown joy, the
unknown happiness, the unknown God. (NP 172)

In order to know the object of our critique, we must generate or
constitute this object in the same way sickness generates in the body
the symptoms which render it knowable. But this critical genesis or
constitution reveals to us certain powers of thought which go beyond
the categories of knowledge, and it is precisely these ‘strange powers’
which reveal to us the very processes which allow thought to move
beyond the object of its critique. This distinction between thought
and knowledge is of great methodological importance, especially
with regard to the body, for what Deleuze describes as philosophical or critical ‘reversal’ (NP 1). The body, for Deleuze, gives us the
principle of immanence because it is what allows us to transform
aspects of limitation and constriction into liberation and potentiality.
One needs a body in order to think not because ‘the body thinks, but
[because], obstinate and stubborn, it forces us to think, and forces
us to think what is concealed from thought, life’ (C2 182). Deleuze
takes great interest in phenomena of bodily suffering and limitation,
and this fact is borne out by the themes and concerns of the literary
clinic, but this needs to be understood in relation to the methodological