Deleuze and Guattari were exceptional among the French thinkers of 1968: they did not embrace the linguistic turn, correlationism or anti-realism, nor did they champion social constructivism. Rather, they developed a robust realist and materialist naturalism that spoke profoundly to science, ethics, art, and politics. However, the realist singularity of their thought in a setting dominated by anti-realist, linguistic idealism has often been overshadowed by attempts to assimilate their work to postmodernist thought. With the advent of New Materialism and Speculative Realism, it has become possible to read their thought anew through a realist lens. Through a close reading of A Thousand Plateaus, this two-part seminar does just that.
Part 1 is devoted to Deleuze and Guattari’s naturalist ontology of existence. Throughout the history of Western philosophy and culture, nature has been understood as the domain of essence, and the natural as ineluctable and deterministic. By contrast, culture has been understood as the domain of freedom and creativity. Deleuze and Guattari develop a realist ontology of nature in which nature is understood to be the domain of the singular and creative and where culture is continuous with and constitutive of nature.
Part 2 is devoted to their politics and ethics. Unlike so much political theory of this period where power is seen to reside solely in the ideological, signifying, and discursive, Deleuze and Guattari develop a rich political theory that also explores the role that non-human material agencies play in social assemblages.
Each module of the two-part seminar will be composed of four two and a half hour sessions, each of which will be conducted as an extended seminar. Readings will be set for each week, and students will be expected to write 400 words on some aspect of the week’s topic in advance. This will be posted to the google classroom page for everyone to read and comment on, providing some preliminary threads for the group discussion. The final assessment will consist of a 2000 – 3000 word essay on a topic of their choosing or do some equivalent project upon completion of this 2-credit seminar.