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Fr. 359

July 11, 2013

Other independent confirmation of Deleuze’s conclusions concerning creation and interference are to be found in the world of literature, notably for one Eric Wilson, professor of literature, for whom “poetry makes you weird” and this in perhaps two related, though distinct ways. Drawing on a Dickinson poem centering around winter shafts of lights, Wilson first concludes that having read this poem made him perceive winter light differently or, what comes to perhaps the same thing, the winter light came to be something other than what it had been before him: not simply melancholy and remembrance of brighter times, but also signs of a feverish summer still to come. He is quick to multiply the examples in noting that:

“What I had taken for granted was shattered; the marvelous erupted amid the fragments. In Whitman I saw ordinary grass morph into the ‘uncut hair of graves.’ In Eliot’s ‘Prufrock,’ I watched twilight transmogrify into ‘a patient etherized upon a table.’ The grass, the evening—in these metaphors, they grew more lucid than before, and more cryptic.”

Yet it is not simply in the fact of watching the things around oneself become that the essence of poetry, as it were, consists. Indeed, there is a second case to consider, namely, that of becoming other than oneself. By what means does one accomplish this? Through connecting in new ways with that which one knows already. Wilson reasons that:

“In shocking us into awareness, poetry urges us to relate to the world in fresh ways. The problem is, How do I connect my own mind, relatively familiar, with what is before me, enticingly bizarre? Shelley answers: Imagine what it’s like to be what you perceive. To accomplish that connection requires ‘a going out of our nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or person, not our own.'”

This becoming other, close as it is to Deleuze’s devenir-animal, devenir-femme, devenir-enfant, is only possible insofar as there is no fixed identity to which oneself must “dogmatically” cling. Although Deleuze would be loath to describe this fact in a negative fashion, it is not hard to see how close his own position on the matter is to that of Wilson and Wilson’s sources:

“Thinking of Shakespeare, Keats…claimed that the most powerful versifier ‘has no identity’ at all, for ‘he is continually … filling some other body.’ He inhabits shade as much as light, Iago as much as Imogen. The chameleonesque Keats had a preternatural talent for this ‘negative capability,’ his phrase describing the ability to be ‘in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’ Adept at suspending the prejudices that so often accompany dogmatic surety, especially in moral contexts, he could adapt to myriad perspectives, and relished doing so.”

Insofar as there remains something uncertain about the constitution of the identity, individual, subjective or otherwise, new components will ever introduce themselves into the given composition at the moment of each new encounter and creation. For both Wilson and Deleuze, it seems, there is an ethical sense to be given to being an “uncertainty”, in that each perspective must be provisionally welcomed and respected as such and only then to be judged on the basis of the way in which its addition informs the then composition of the whole. In the end, Wilson’s conclusions can be seen as another example of external interference, i.e. that resonance between or coming together of two lines of thought that set out from different points, made use of different tools within different disciplines, yet come to similar and complementary conclusions.

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