In 1975-76, a student named Marielle Burkhalter recorded video of Gilles Deleuze’s lectures at the University of Paris VIII in Vincennes. Some of the video has been translated and re-presented by a couple of artists named Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson, in an on-going project called Through the Letterbox. In a recent showing at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, I got to watch a set of clips with English subtitles.
The videos were extraordinary. My French would not have been nearly good enough to get much from them had it not been for the subtitles. But the subtitles felt very well done. He is very intense and improvisational but faster and less self-important than someone like Lacan.
Since it felt like quite a rare privilege to watch these lectures—and as far as I can find, these particular clips with subtitles are not currently available online—I took some fairly detailed notes.
I am pretty sure it is fair to say these may be some of the only notes in English on this particular set of lectures in 1975-76.
Presumably thanks to the curation, these clips were highly condensed around some of the most important and productive points in Deleuze’s perspective. Some ideas which in the books are very difficult are here made really quite simple; to a degree that is quite remarkable and, I think, almost surprisingly useful and helpful—especially from a political perspective.
Below I attach some fairly unedited notes. Minor personal comments are in square brackets.
You can’t derive a bridge from a filiation
Filiation would ruin everything, would only be connecting kingdoms
Bridge is a term of alliance
Communication between two completely separate lines
A virus connects different series which do not therefore become one (i.e., a bridge rather than a filiation)
So connections between separate lines create multiplicities
swarm of black holes is different than a molar ensemble because each is emitter and receiver, no hierarchical structure.
[Here he is turning to the question of how you can link up several micromultiplicities, the question of “good” or perhaps we might say desirable scaling-up and aggregation, as opposed to “bad” (hierarchy and domination). He does not explain what he means by black hole but it’s elaborated at length in Mille Plateaux. In short, I read it as a void at the center of all structures, a kind of perhaps necessary anchoring point but one which typically comes to be associated with illusory meanings and conservative collective investments. He also calls it the “face,” which I think is related to how the face is the black hole of modern, narcissistic-individualistic bourgeois subjectivity (it anchors so much meaning for us and is yet ultimately empty). I would say the “black hole” or “face” is quite similar to what Lacan has in mind with his concept of the point de capiton, but I’m not an expert. In any event, in this opaque last point he is basically saying that a micromultiplicity of black holes is in less danger of fascistic regression because no particular black hole has any more power than another. There is also a connotation, I think, of relative transparency (the language of communication), as compared to the black holes of molar multiplicities, as below.]
In any molar multiplicitly, something, another nature is slipping in
Throwing down bridges, connecting new loops and networks
How is a multiplicity defined?
Molar multiplicity = structuring principle that is not given as such
But crafty multiplicities, discreet multiplicities that insinuate themselves, that’s not a structuring principle (talked about this last year)
There are a number of dimensions. But how do we understand how many? They have a maximal dimension. This is where it gets interesting
[He really emphasizes this last point. He is very excited about it.]
The maximum dimension possible. That is it.
The maximum dimension is called the border, and that is where we are saved.
Instead of a secret organizing principle, like in molar ensembles
Take a “fly” or “frog” multiplicity, or a mosquito multiplicity. Finally, remaining in science instead of literature. One fly means nothing. A single fly is lost, aka not a fly. All that means anything is “flies”. A wolf means nothing. A lone wolf means nothing, but if it’s the border wolf then that’s different.
Moby Dick: the border
The border animal is always a monster, that’s important
Micromultiplicity is a molecular multiplicity, a swarm, aleatory
Every mosquito is the border, all can see the others in space
The limit is to have all mosquitos to the right, for instance, at which point they tend to back in. Stability is assured in case of catastrophe.
The border: the line in function of which you see all others on the other side
Take advantage of being on the border
It means being part of the gang, while not being in it
Outside then re-entering
Is it Morphogensis by Thom, or Morphogenology?
[I think he is asking Guattari in the audience, or suggesting that Guattari be consulted or something, not sure. In any event he is referring to Structural Stability and Morphogenesis by René Thom.]
In Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf’s molar problems are solved by a walk. No longer the same scale. A fantastic molecular walk sweeps away the molar problems, e.g. to remain man or woman, to marry or not, molar problems. A small particle makes all this explode.
During her walk among taxis; taxis are semi-aleatory
She slices like a “knife through everything”
“I am a mist”, she says. That’s a molecular multiplicity
“A mist laid out among the people I know”
And at the same time, I am on the outside
How is that possible? It’s odd, you cant describe that as a molar thing
They will say “it’s only literature”, “you’re either outside or inside.” You’re either one of us or you’re out, or you’ve been placed on sentry duty. Or there is a series of binary choices…
They will say “you can’t say that” (like logical postivism).
But we can awake particles, and nobody can deny that. “But of course, this is how I live.”
A particle that is always on the border of the multiplicity it belongs to
But it can be any particle whatsoever, like mosquitos, or it can be a monster mosquito, Moby Dick, head wolf. If you find the border, you’ll know how many dimensions the multiplicity has. If you dont keep to the border, you are stuck in the molar.
A rapport between lines of flight and border, perhaps the border is a path. The particles on the border stabilize. Temporary stabilizer. Local, but not only. It also lets the mult slip into another. It is stabilized, but also puts the border near others, and allows them to transform. Thresholds or doors from one border to another, below a threshold, the border defines the local stabliizer. Above it, there is tranformation into the other. A slippage of borders, an overcoming of thresholds. No ramified arborescent schema can do that. “Sol-gel,” from state of solution to a gel. The solution state is a kind of multiplicity, the gel is another.
How does a border pass the threshold? The percolation threshold. You can’t do this with an aborescent model.
[I put in my notes, “This really matters for how we see the wealthy, the politicos, etc. We tend to see them as powerful and in control but I really think nearly the opposite, and I have been trying to think harder about what it means if we take that very seriously. I think Deleuze is helping to explain that the powerful are not in control but really they are stuck more than anyone, at least in one special sense; they couldn’t change themselves or their environments even if they wanted to or tried, because they are so in the center of the molar ensembles, they are indeed only those who have been most fully sucked into the molar black hole.]
The bordering particles have to change nature, “that’s key”
Species or types dont matter to evolutionary theorists, only populations
Debts, counter-debts: these are bonds
All individual lines on their own terms
Threateend by massification or leadership on the inside, or group oedipus, like gender roles
Gangs are molecular multiplicities
Then they are threatened by the molar, like how nomads become states
The point is that the individuals go out, they bring back the loot, and redistribute it. But it’s always on individuals terms. There are debts and alliances, etc.
[To be clear, I think he is saying “it’s always on individual terms” as if it’s a good thing; i.e. autonomy.]
But black holes can emerge on the inside of a gang; the issue is to not slip over into the molar.
Molar ensembles are organized around black holes or the face; it organizes the center by organizing ambitions, all the underlings try to enter the center, because those are the careers which are legitimated; the value and reality of different goals are decided by the structuring of the moral ensembles, it sucks everything in as a black hole does.
[I think it was my own note here, that I wrote: “A constant sucking up of our attention. I don’t remember him using the word “attention” so I think that was me, but it could have been him, I forget.]
Except the sentrys who are charged with guarding
The outsider can come from nowhere, overspilling the border, the unnameable thing, a swarm of one
The leader of a molecular multiplicity, they are inherently on a border. As in animal packs, a central leader, and someone who pushes, surveys, the great nomad; only emporers stay in the center.
The question is always what kind of leader: a border-dweller occupying postion of outsider, or a “champion” of centralized power, a face.
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Murphy, Justin. 2015. "Notes on some rare Deleuze lectures," https://jmrphy.net/blog/2015/11/22/notes-on-rare-deleuze-lectures/ (November 19, 2018).