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Review Of_Deleuze and the Meaning of Life by Claire Colebrook

Review Of_Deleuze and the Meaning of Life by Claire Colebrook

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Folger insists that this parasitic projection refects “a new orm o subjectivity, with an altered relation to authority and to techniques o public governance(bureaucracy) and governance o the sel (
assujettissment 
)” (148). I medievalstatecrat required bodily displays o authority, towards the end o the 15thcentury states increasingly relied on written and printed texts to govern. Thelocus o power, as a consequence, no longer depended on the presence o an authoritative body, but merely an authorial signature carrying the weight o law and threat o sovereign violence. In a similar vein,
Cárcel 
introduces atextual barrier between readers and the ramications o Leriano’s lovesickness. Along with medieval orms o selhood, he passes away, leaving El Auctor, SanPedro, and readers to tinker with emerging orms o identication.Oddly enough, Folger alls victim to some o the very same anachronismshe disdains by using Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytical theory as a method o delving into medieval aculty psychology. Claiming that his objective is not “to‘apply’ his theory,” but instead to “rene premodern aculty psychology—andits underlying epistemology—with psychoanalytic concepts,” he recasts pre-modern selhood in Lacanian terms (40–41). This raises a potential dilemma.In raming his discussion in psychoanalytical jargon, Folger runs the risk o marooning readers in a sea o unamiliar terms that may hamper comprehen-sion. Furthermore, he overlooks the possibility that reerencing the “gaze” or“phallus” articially orces premodern subjectivity into a Lacanian ramework,thus committing the sin o “application” he tries to elude.Still, Folger’s insight on the textual mediation o experience, in conjunction with the rigorous historicizing o premodern subjectivity and its centrality in
Cárcel de amor 
, makes
 Escape 
a delight to read and an indispensible resource orscholars o early modern Iberian literature. While his organizational preer-ences are questionable, Folger artully manages a myriad o texts ranging romthe most amiliar works in mainstream Hispanism to articles neglected orlack o translation. From this motley grouping o texts emerges an elaboratedescription o how writers and courtesans conceived o themselves
on their own terms 
, one that challenges the litany o studies that project the postmodern“subject” onto Spanish Golden Age literature. Thus, a ew conusing excep-tions notwithstanding,
 Escape 
lls a yawning gap in the research on subjectivity during the Early Modern period.
Stanford University 
CHRISTOPHER KARK 
Claire Colebrook
.
 Deleuze and the Meaning of Life 
.New York: Continuum, 2010. Print. 200 pp.
 Deleuze and the Meaning of Life 
is Claire Colebrook’s ourth book on the workso Gilles Deleuze. Moreover, this text is the sixth book devoted to Deleuze inthe series
Continuum Studies in Continental Philosophy 
. The very act that such
 
1171M L N
a work emerges in the context o a blossoming o Deleuze-inspired scholar-ship has a direct bearing on the aspirations and structure o the book itsel. Accordingly, Colebrook’s work is synthetic in nature, aiming to summarize,evaluate, postulate, and take sides in a powerul struggle over the signicanceand legacy o Deleuze’s reception.Colebrook’s book does not undertake to provide an exhaustive account o  vitalism in the works o Deleuze, nor does she attempt to explain or redenesome o the most widely circulated Deleuzian vocabularies, such as deterrito-rialization, rhizomatics, schizoanalysis, and so orth. Instead, her text seeks tosituate Deleuze in the broader context o contemporary debates concerningthe established and emergent vitalist tradition. As such, she does not oera chronology o Deleuze’s writings, nor does she chronicle evolutions ortransormations in Deleuzian thinking.Instead, her work begins with and unolds around a central insight: Deleuzestands out among the thinkers o vitalism insoar as his work uniquely articu-lates a
 passive 
 vitalism, distinct rom and otentimes in direct contrast with theactive vitalist cannon, one that on Colebrook’s account includes the works o Bergson, Derrida, Foucault, and many others to whom Deleuze is in no doubt indebted but rom whom he nonetheless departs. In Colebrook’s own words:“The working hypothesis o this book is that the very idea o passive vitalismpresents us with a new way o approaching what it is to think” (7).Colebrook summarizes this active/passive distinction as ollows:
 Vitalism in its contemporary mode . . . works in two opposite directions. The traditionthat Deleuze and Guattari invoke is opposed to the organism as subject or substancethat would govern dierential relations; their concept o “lie” reers not to an ulti-mate principle o survival, sel-maintenance and continuity but to a disrupting anddestructive range o orces. The other tradition o vitalism posits “lie” as a mysticaland uniying principle. It is this second vitalism o meaning and the organism that,despite rst appearances, dominates today. The turn to naturalism in philosophy,to bodies and aect in theory, to the embodied, emotional and extended mind inneuroscience: all o these manoeuvres begin the study o orces rom the body andits world, and all understand “lie” in a traditionally vitalist sense as oriented towardssurvival, sel-maintenance, equilibrium, homeostasis, and autopoiesis. (137)
This deluge o “turns” all turn towards conceptions o lie with which Deleuzetakes issue.
The key point in terms o the relation between lie (and the meaning we makeo it) is that or Deleuze, and Deleuze and Guattari, one cannot begin rom thebounded organism and then consider the sense that it makes o its world; such apoint o view begins rom a constituted body and does not explain how that body emerges rom a potentiality or orientation—a sense—that enables both bodies andmeaning systems. (94)
Sense, that is, meaning, is not assigned to lie retrospectively, as Descartes wouldhave it and as Bergson cautions against (Bergson would argue that the very concepts that lie develops or the sake o eciency and expediency become
 
1172reviews
alienating and lie-negating when they are in turn applied to lie itsel). Rather,meaning/sense has a virtual relation to lie that is nonetheless real.The signicance o this insight comes to ruition in Colebrook’s Chapter 3,“Inorganic Art” (perhaps her most ambitious and proound chapter), wherethe very title o her work,
 Deleuze and the Meaning of Life 
, becomes unctional. As Colebrook contends, Deleuze insists
that while sense or the virtual exists only as unolded in bodies and actual timeand space, it has an insistence and problematic being that exceeds the actual andmakes it possible. This is probably the most dicult aspect o Deleuze’s thought but it has great signicance or where we are today . . . [or instance] while it istrue that language emerged rom material interactions, those material interactions were only possible because o something like the problem or idea o language—the virtuality o language. (86)
Thus, on Colebrook’s account, it is the virtual (deterritorialization and di-erence properly articulated) that co-constitutes passive vitality, and indeed,gives meaning to lie. Colebrook thereore argues that Deleuze, rather thanpositing lie in-itsel and or-itsel, espouses a passive vitalism through whichbecoming-other is co-eectuated by sense/meaning.Once the reader accepts that there is indeed a distinction to be had betweenactive and passive vitalism and that this distinction is predicated on dieringconceptions o the relation o meaning to vitality, the rest o the book allsinto place. Colebrook’s work unolds as an application o her ormulationo passive vitalism vis-à-vis meaning/sense to the works o many o the most prominent theorists o the continental tradition, including Derrida, Lacan,Bergson, Descartes, Foucault, and on and on (and on). The chapters o 
 Deleuze and the Meaning of Life 
are subsequently, even i haphazardly, organizedas thematic iterations o this same passive vitalist thesis, albeit a thesis that becomes clearer and increasingly convincing as the book progresses.Some o the most striking contributions o Colebrook’s work are the dexter-ous and thorough applications o her central insight to Deleuzian theoreticalormulations o capitalism, language, and psychoanalysis, which unold overnumerous chapters and in detailed elucidations ar too complex to be easily summarized. Even more laudable are Colebrook’s employments o historical,political, and even commonplace examples and metaphors to articulate thecomplexities o her arguments. Yet despite her adroit deployments o such concrete and easy-to-understandtidbits, hers is by no means an introductory text on Deleuzian thought. Instead,this work constitutes a proound intervention in the contemporary vitalist  wrangling over the Deleuzian legacy. Colebrook’s leanings in avor o Deleuzeare by no means concealed: her accounts o conficting paradigms (e.g. Der-rida versus Deleuze) decidedly conclude in avor o Deleuze (or at least theDeleuze that she argumentatively instantiates). Indeed,
 Deleuze and the Meaning of Life 
concludes with a strikingly bold claim: “We might say then that there canbe only one philosophy: that o a passive vitalism, but that such a philosophy 

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