11.14.2007

Narrative and the Ghost of Deleuze

Two things, really in this post. First: my horoscope for this week as it appears in full (click on the icon to go to the most current horoscope):

Leo Horoscope for week of November 15, 2007
Verticle Oracle card Leo (July 23-August 22)
Stories interest me more than beliefs. I'd rather hear you regale me with tales of your travels than listen to you recite your dogmas. Filmmaker Ken Burns agrees with me. He's worried about the increasing number of people who love theories more than stories. "We are experiencing the death of narrative," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We are all so opinionated that we don't actually submit to narrative anymore. That's the essence of YouTube: Abbreviate everything into a digestible capsule that then becomes the conventional wisdom, which belies the experience of art." Your assignment, Leo, is to help reverse this soul-damaging trend. Spout fewer opinions and tell more stories. Encourage others to do the same.

Are we over-theorizing? Certainly in academe, theory is the name of the game. But to what extent does narrative intersect with theory? As one of my professors asked me (on more than one occasion), "Do students need a theory in order to write?" Maybe I see this question in a new light (I never said I was quick on the uptake). Could it be that students don't have a theory, but a narrative -- what Marilyn Cooper called the "solitary author" narrative -- about writing, and this narrative sometimes functions as theory, but isn't really? And is Burns-Brezny right in claiming that as a society we are so good at speaking about explanations of narratives that we have lost the stories themselves? If so, aren't we then loosing multiplicity or, at least, the habits of living with multiplicity and contingency?

I struggle with this as I revise my dissertation because all through its writing and now during its revision, I feel the current of narrative pulling at its theoretical aspirations. The kind of empirical research I conducted lends itself to narrative quite well, if only in the positivist/ structuralist tradition of anthropology. However, where I arrived was anything *but* positivist or structuralist and, as I increasingly find out fits more and more with Deleuze -- one could say (cry, even over the fact) that while I did not cite Deleuze even once, his thinking haunts the entire work like a ghost shambling around an attic. If Deleuze posits being (becoming) as creativity (Hallward 2006), then we may turn toward a poststructuralist re-creation studies (Rojek 1995). Further, if Zizek is right in characterizing Deleuze's becoming "within those magic moments of illusory freedom (which, in a way, were not precisely illusory)" (xii), then there is a politico-educational turn to this that doesn't settle neatly within humanism, logocentrism, or any other -ism. It simply doesn't settle.

So, maybe, following Deleuze, Zizek and Burns-Brezny, we might stop "doing theory" for a bit. Isn't this why Deleuze detested Hegel? An avoidance of thesis-antithesis-synthesis, of "debate" over meanings, of explaining in endless dialogue? Wouldn't a story tell us just as much, if not more, about our worlds? Doesn't narrative carry those multiple and contingent meanings so that the story itself ceaselessly becomes something other? Could this be a better way to talk about transcendental empiricism?

And, to stir the waters one more time, is transcendental empiricism and the virtualities of Deleuze like the Greek chora?

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Not always theoretical... not even always academic.. but always written..