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  • Guattari's Proust:From Signs to Assemblages
  • Charles J. Stivale

In terms of postmodern critical references to Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu, Gilles Deleuze's Proust et les signes stands as a fundamental study that maps a complex conceptual itinerary, a four-fold semiotics followed, in the later revisions, by a more disconcerting machinic analysis culminating with the Narrator manifested as spider-body.1 Not only does this study stand on its own in Deleuze's corpus, it also nurtures the important role played by Proust's work throughout Deleuze's writing and in L'Anti-Œdipe, Mille plateaux, and Qu'est-ce que la philosophie? as a source for understanding a wide range of concepts. These latter works, of course, are the product of Deleuze's collaboration with Félix Guattari, and as in so many other instances Deleuze's dominant critical voice obscures the role played by Guattari, at least in terms of the critical appreciation of these works. Yet, as I will argue, if Deleuze's Proust et les signes was a crucial text for the development of L'Anti-Œdipe, Guattari's 1979 extended analysis of À la recherche du temps perdu in his L'Inconscient machinique, entitled "Les Ritournelles du Temps Perdu," was just as crucial, if not more, for their subsequent collaborations.2 Moreover, Guattari's Proust has its own intrinsic value qua analysis, yet has remained unexamined. An additional and primary goal of this essay, then, is to outline Guattari's strategies, both in examining Proust and in employing this analysis for the various ends of the schizoanalytic project.

Guattari's 1979 study of Proust consists of three chapters of very unequal length—two brief opening and closing chapters (respectively, on "Un Amour de Swann," then on "machinic territorialities") in between which is a lengthy nine-part study of "agencements pour une ritournelle." Guattari enunciates in this way the dynamic semiotics that he extols in the main body of L'Inconscient machinique as the fundamental articulation of schizoanalysis. However, as readers familiar with Guattari's works know well, nothing is simple in his approach, and as a means to facilitate my discussion I provide an appendix with the table of contents of L'Inconscient machinique and with an outline of the three sections on Proust. Hence, as the table of contents shows, the book's main chapters are 1 to 6, with an Annexe in chapter 7, followed by the Proust analysis as a separate section.

In the opening part of Guattari's analysis of Proust, entitled "Un Amour de Swann comme collapsus sémiotique," Guattari states that he employs Proust's work not as a demonstration of schizoanalysis as a critical method, [End Page 113] but with a three-fold purpose: first, to show that "Un Amour de Swann" constitutes a "schizoanalyse générative" from which, second, the rest of La Recherche elaborates a transformational schizoanalysis through which, third, Guattari can show how the œuvre's dénouement consists of "un déclenchement de La Recherche en tant que procès analytique de l'inconscient machinique" (Guattari 245). One might well ask here what the distinction is between schizoanalysis as critical method in contrast to what Guattari proposes, a distinction I will attempt to draw out. To proceed with part I, I will consider what Guattari means by "collapsus sémiotique," and then develop his elaboration of the refrain (or ritournelle) and faciality (or visagéïté) as two components of the machinic unconscious of la Recherche.

Guattari points out that for Proust, "l'effet musical" and works of art more generally emerge not from the imaginary, but from reality: "Toute la Recherche est focalisée sur la consistance existentielle de telles réalités inclassables" (Guattari 241). Despite Proust's efforts to locate these "réalités" within various forms and modes of expression, the author was faced with the problem, says Guattari, of "le caractère évanescent, le flou, le vague des sensations qui l'assaillent" (Guattari 242). The crucial event of the Narrator's reflection on les clochers de Martinville et de Vieux-Vicq allows him, says Guattari, to undersand this "réalité 'à l'état naissant'" as nourishment...


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