To segue, my dictionary tells me, is to move smoothly, and I’m not sure that this segue is going to be all that smooth. But here goes anyway.
I’ve been writing about The Queen’s Journey story. In one of my meditations, I played with the idea that stories like this say something about the drives that are built into our DNA, or into our systems. It’s something along the lines (I think) of what Spinoza was meaning by the term conatus, or Schopenhauer meant by the term will, or Nietzsche was thinking when he talked about the ‘will to overcome’. It’s what I’ve called, in other posts (following folk like Freud and Jung) unconscious desires and fears that animate.
Well, I’ve recently been trying to get my head around the writings of Deleuze and Guattari. At the moment I’m slowly reading Anti-Oedipus, and at the same time I’ve reading a commentary on the book, as well as a book on Deleuze and educational methodology. It’s slow, slow work. A colleague once told me that you’re meant to read Deleuze like you read mythology or poetry, not trying to pin down the meaning but letting the prose have an affect, letting it do its work. I guess that’s what I’m experiencing, though this doesn’t mean just opening myself up to it. Like some poetry, it means really working hard. I’m not sure exactly how this work should be done, but I’m guessing that the reading (and re-reading) that I’m doing, the highlighting (and the continual going back to the highlights to try to see threads) and the thinking I’m trying to do, are all a part of ‘letting the prose have an effect’.
I’m also thinking that writing something might help, even if I risk exposing my inability to grasp essential Deleuzian concepts. So I’m going to try here, and I’m going to try by relating what I’m reading to what I was writing about ‘the drives that are inbuilt into our DNA’.
Not all that smooth a segue, I suspect, but it was an attempt!
Deleuze and Guattari write about desiring machines, part objects that (I think I am right) are formed or characterized by three functions (which they call synthesis, a term I’m assuming they use because the functions are a collection of drives brought together to form a recognizable single function or process). First there is the connective synthesis of production. Then there is the disjunctive synthesis of recording. (There is a third – the conjunctive synthesis of consumption/consummation, which I’ve yet to get my head even close to being around, so I’ll leave that out here.)
Here’s the leap I’m making: I’m assuming that these two functions or characteristics of part objects (a cell, a mouth, a leaf, even a person, a forest) are related to what I’ve called above ‘the unconscious desires and fears that animate’. If I’m understanding D & G correctly (or even roughly), they’re saying that what animates a part object (an organism, but ‘part’ because it’s always needing to be joined up to another organ or organ-ism) has three stages, the first two being (1) the drive to produce (to create or direct flows of energy by joining up with other organs/organisms), and (2) the business of recording (or registering, thinking about, noticing, having the drive somehow imprinted). They are saying (I think) that each of these stages (and presumably the third as well, but perhaps I’ll get to that in another post) are beyond the control of the subject, and that indeed they create the subject (rather than the subject creating, for example, the recording). The subject does not create the syntheses and a sense of identity; the syntheses create the subject and the identity.
I know that what D&G are saying is much more complex and subtle than this, but I’m trying to relate it to things I’ve thought and things I’ve experienced. I’m hoping that my reading and my understanding will become more refined from this attempt.
Before finishing, though, I want to try to relate this to what I think happens in a classroom. A part-object (a student) is animated by the part objects of which he/she is made. These part-objects of which the student is made animate the student, produce in the student flows which the student part-object then unconsciously directs as it comes into contact with other part-objects (words, teachers, other students, ideas). As these flows of energy are produced, and as they come into contact with other part-objects involved in the business of production (they are all, after all, desiring machines attempting to channel their desires in pleasurable ways) the impulses/experiences are recorded in some way, and the recording has an effect or effects: flows are redirected, shut off, increased, provided with connections which are excited, rebuffed, ignored or whatever.
I’m struggling to see what this theoretical lens offers me, though I’m sure it is offering me something important. Obviously I must first become clearer about what D&G are actually saying.
I’ll keep reading & thinking & writing.