Deleuze’s Proust and Signs

Deleuze, Proust and Signs
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
•    Interpretation is the converse of a production of signs
•    Proust’s work produces signs in different order
Chapter 1: Signs
•    Not memory, but “the search for truth”
•    Not only lost time, but also time wasted, lost track of
•    The hero doesn’t know what this or that is—he will learn it later on
•    Proust’s Platonism: to learn is still to remember
•    The search is oriented in the future, not the past
•    “How can we gain access to a landscape which is no longer this one we see, but on the contrary the one in which we are seen?”
•    Jealousy contains love’s truth: goes further into apprehension and interpretation of signs
•    Material meaning is nothing without an ideal essence which it incarnates
Chapter 2: Signs and Truth
•    Truth has essential relation to time
•    What does the person who says, “I want to know the truth” mean?
o    “We search for truth only when we are determined to do so in concrete situations”
o    Always violence that starts the search for truth
•    He who says “I want the truth” wants it only when it’s constrained and forced
•    To seek the truth is to interpret, decipher, and duplicate
o    Truth of time is always temporal
•    Proust: change ≠ Bergsonian duration, but defection, a race to the grave
•    Calendar of facts v. calendar of feelings
•    Memory implies “the strange contradiction of survival and nothingness”
•    Once we love a mediocre person, s/he is richer in signs that the most profound intelligence
•    We learn by doing with someone, not by doing like someone
•    Must be forced to seek the sign’s meaning: violence
Chapter 5: Secondary Role of Memory
•    Memory is voluntary and always comes too late in relation to signs being deciphered
•    Involuntary memory intervenes with sensuous signs only
o    Reminiscences and discoveries
•    “Does the sensuous quality address the imagination, or simply the memory?”
•    Reminiscences are metaphors of live; metaphors are reminiscences of art
•    With reminiscence: How do we explain the absence of resemblance between present and past?
•    Voluntary memory: actual present → present which “has been”
o    Doubly relative: relative to present it has been and relative to the present to which it is now a past
•    Memory recompenses with a different present
•    We place ourselves directly in the past itself
•    Involuntary memory: resemblance of present to past
o    Makes context inseparable from present moment
•    Involuntary memory causes use to regain lost time
Chapter 7: Antilogos, or the Literary Machine
•    The truth is produced, produced by orders of machines which function within us, it’s extracted from our impressions, hewn out of our life, delivered in a work
•    Every truth is a truth of time
•    The sign forces us to think—it’s the object of an encounter
•    There is no Logos, there are only hieroglyphs
o    To think is therefore to interpret, is therefore to translate
Critical moments in the text
•    6: “The worldly sign appears as the replacement of an action or a thought.  It stands for action and for thought.  It is therefore a sign which does not refer to something else, to a transcendent signification or to an ideal content, but which has usurped the supposed value of its meaning.  This is why worldliness, judged from the viewpoint of actions, appears to be disappointing and cruel; and from the viewpoint of thought, it appears stupid.”
•    11: “This experiences, the quality no longer appears as a property of the object which now posses it, but as the sign of an altogether different object which we must try to decipher, at the cost of an effort which always risks failure.”
•    13: “Now the world of art is the ultimate world of signs, and these signs, as though dematerialized, find their meaning in an ideal essence.  Henceforth, the world revealed by art reacts on all the others, and notable on the sensuous signs; it integrates them, colors them with an esthetic meaning and imbues what was still opaque about them.”
•    56-7: “Voluntary memory proceeds as if the past were constituted as such after it has been present.  It would therefore have to wait for a new present so that the preceding one could pass by, or become past.  But in this way the essence of time escapes us.  For if the present was not past at the same time as present, if the same moment did not coexist with itself as present and past, it would never pass, a new present would never come to replace this one. The past as it is in itself coexists with, and does not succeed, the present it has been.
•    99: “It is no longer a matter of saying: to create is to remember—but rather, to remember is to create, is to reach that point where the associative chain breaks, leaps over the constituted individual, is transferred to the birth of an individuating world.”
•    101: “Perhaps that is what time is: the ultimate existence of parts, of different sizes and shapes, which cannot be adapted, which do not develop at the same rhythm, and which the stream of style does not sweep along the same speed.  The order of the cosmos has collapsed, crumbled into associative chains and non-communicating viewpoints”
•    102: Proust’s reminiscence: “an associative, incongruous chain is unified only by a creative viewpoint which itself takes the role of an incongruous part with the whole.”
•    166: “There are other things which force us to think: no longer recognizable objects, but things which do violence, encountered signs.  These are simultaneously contrary perceptions,” Plato states.  (Proust will say: sensations common to two places, to two moments.)”


1 Response to “Deleuze’s Proust and Signs”

  1. 1 oldnil
    July 24, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    I’m in the first third of In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, and I write about it often in my blog. Naturally, this post caught my eye. While I’ve certainly noticed the more philosophical side of Proust’s prose, I haven’t taken much time to digest how he approaches memory. Surprising, really, given the title of the series. At any rate, I studied Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology in college and have been taken with how he and Proust might describe something like our experience of music. I know that Proust is thought to have been influential in existentialism, but to be frank, my knowledge of that is topical at best.

    If you get a chance, check out one of my posts about Proust. Maybe you could show me how what you’re writing about above relates. I look forward to hearing from you!


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