Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2007.
A specialist of Deleuze and the author of many renowned studies on the subject, Ronald Bogue (University of Georgia, USA) provides in his latest book an assessment of the philosopher’s positions on the relation between ethics and aesthetics. Within ten chapters successively devoted to music, literature, painting or the cinema, Deleuze’s Way offers a thorough and much documented overview of Deleuzian thought and its bearings on contemporary artistic theory.
Although never directly addressed by Deleuze, Bogue explains in his preface, “the ethical permeates all his work” . To the philosopher, the object of art is to emit the necessary disruptive signs which, in turn, will render “genuine thought” possible: freed from the familiar patterns of conscious thinking, the audience of art may encounter difference, enter a “process of becoming” and turn to new ways of feeling and perceiving. In a society regulated by codes and practices, the arts, science and philosophy thus provide “lines of continuous variation” and allow that nomadic thought which, alone, may upset the congruities of the commonsense world and, ultimately, offer freedom.
The first chapter of Deleuze’s Way is devoted to the philosopher’s immanent ethics which, Bogue remarks, “is ultimately an ethics of the virtual”  whose social implications may be considered through three recurrent motifs: “the body as domain of speeds and affects; the other as disclosure of the possible; and the invention of a people to come” . Art, says Deleuze, increases one’s openness to interaction through the common experiment of “the powers of the false.” No longer pigeonholed into definite categories, the other’s “undetermined, hidden possible worlds” become a source of enrichment and offer “new possibilities for life.”
Chapters 2 and 3 both focus on the capacity of literature and music to disrupt conventional power relations by “deterritorializing” language. The concept of a “minor literature,” itself derived from Kafka, is here associated to that of territory, such as Deleuze and Guattari developed in A Thousand Plateaus. Since the primary function of language, Bogue underlines, “is not to communicate, but to impose power relations”  which contribute to shaping the world, then language becomes a mode of action. By replacing conventional meanings and proper usage by a variety of non-linguistic elements—ranging from birdsong in Messiaen’s compositions to new forms of enunciation in Carmelo Bene’s theatre—artists may set language’s lines of continuous variation into motion and thus challenge the dominant model of “the average adult-white-heterosexual-European-male speaking a standard language” . Deleuze’s binary oppositions are further explored in the following chapter through a study of three sub-genres of heavy metal music. Here, the antagonism between nomadic and sedentary concerns both time (actual/virtual) and speed (intensive/extensive). But “in music’s great power as a deterritorializing force lies its danger” , remarks Bogue, who concludes his chapter on a possible confusion between heavy metal’s upsetting of codes and “a will to annihilation and destruction.”
The central question of education is reassessed in chapter 4, where Deleuze’s views on human thinking are carefully examined. “Learning,” says Bogue, “does not mean the mere acquisition of any new skill or bit of information, but instead the accession to a new way of perceiving and understanding the world” . Such truth and novelty, Bogue continues, can only be accessed through signs which, in a very Proustian manner, enfold “that immanent virtual domain, the domain of difference in itself” . What art offers is thus a chance confrontation with otherness which, in turn, will open new perspectives. Like Lacan—a common point Bogue does not mention—Deleuze thus sees disruption (stammering/unsettling signs) as the key to “genuine thought.”
Hence that Deleuzian preference for New Wave cinema which Bogue reports in chapter 5, entitled “Tragedy, Sight and Sound.” In Cinema 2: The Time-Image (1985), Deleuze opposes classic cinema, where visual and sonic elements combine in “conventional relations” and modern cinema, in which unexpected associations and disjointed scenes with no attempt at unity break with the conservative paradigm. In Godard’s Prénom Carmen (1983), for instance, the extra-narrative elements which the film-maker includes at unexpected moments function as so many “signs” meant to shock the viewers out of submission and make them question the overall sequence of images.
Inherited from Bergson’s The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1932), in which it is defined as a means of “reinforcing cohesion in closed societies” , the notion of fabulation, or myth-making, is “the function proper to art.” In chapter 8, where Bogue does not avoid somewhat lenghty repetitions, Deleuze’s “becoming-other” is reexamined. Through an assessment of the philosopher’s analysis of both Bacon and Beckett’s “pure images”—that is, images “stripped of all their associations with human intentions, calculations, memories or stories” —Bogue reiterates the importance for Deleuze of that undoing of traditional narratives which fabulation favours. “Untimely visions, becomings and powers that are dynamic but unspecified”  cause the audience a shock which, in turn, allows the emergence of “new modes of social interaction” . The same process, Bogue understands from Essays Critical and Clinical (1993), is at stake in Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs in which the “suspension” of phantasy scenes operates as a process of upsetting conventional “coercive” narratives.
The three final chapters of Deleuze’s Way tackle the concept of “nomadism” which Bogue exposes in chapter 8, frames within the field of cultural studies in chapter 9 and finally defends in a tenth chapter interestingly entitled “Nomadology’s Trial by Proxy.” The author examines the different objections to Deleuze’s philosophy, in particular those expressed by Christopher L. Miller in his Diacritics 1993 essay1 which presents Deleuze and Guattari as “utopian, contradictory, arrogant and messianic” . While admitting that some “glaring errors” may appear in the Deleuzian corpus—especially concerning actual nomadic groups—Bogue only reconsiders Miller’s objections to reassert a concept “which has never been articulated completely” .
Deleuze’s Way therefore appears as an extremely documented and enlightening collection of essays on the philosopher’s thought and writings. Through his comprehensive study of the “transverse way”—this rhizomatic network connecting apparently unrelated domains—Bogue will no doubt contribute to the wider dissemination of Deleuze’s ideas and confirm Foucault’s 1970 statement that one day, perhaps, “the century will be known as Deleuzian.”2
1. Christopher L. Miller, “The Postidentitarian Predicament in the Footnotes of A Thousand Plateaus: Nomadology, Anthropology, and Authority” in Diacritics, vol. 23, n°3, Histoires coloniales (Autumn 1993), 6-35.back