Summer 2011

No, Oedipus Does Not Exist

Analyze this

Jamieson Webster and Ben Kafka

Against the walls of the [Oedipal] triangle, toward the outside, flows exert the irresistible pressure of lava or the invincible oozing of water. … Who does not feel in the flows of his desire both the lava and the water?
—Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus

“Who does not feel in the flows of his desire both the lava and the water?” Deleuze and Guattari asked in their 1972 bestseller Anti-Oedipus. The events of May 1968 had stirred the utopian dream of another, less repressive, social structure. New arrangements were to spread out rhizomatically across the surface of the earth, or, as with the flows of lava and the oozing of water, desire was to disrupt the surface and be the force of an endlessly changing landscape like the silt islands in the mouth of a delta. For those with such a dream, the static Oedipal arrangement was the normative obstacle and enemy. “Your Oedipus is a fucking drag, keep it up and the analysis will be stopped,” they moan. The familial arrangement, whose form par excellence is Oedipal, is the drag on desire.

The occasion for the drawing reproduced here also happens to be a familial one: Gilles Deleuze, his wife Fanny, and their children Julien, age ten, and Emilie, eight, meet around a table to inscribe a copy of Anti-Oedipus to Michel Foucault. Deleuze has written a few words: “For Michel, admiration and affection, and for shared causes, intolerably, where I will follow you.” Fanny, who seems to be having fun, signs the page “schizophrenically.” Hard to tell whether Guattari was there with them, or whether he added his illegible initials later—no matter how hard Deleuze tried to include him, Guattari never quite fit into the story. The children take a box of felt-tipped markers and draw pictures: an exploding volcano sending terrified women and children fleeing their homes in search of safety; a fisherman sitting tranquilly, having a drink, oblivious to the chaos just beneath the surface, the danger overhead.

In this inscription we see traces of a friendship. Or to be more precise: traces of fountain pens and felt markers that attest to a friendship, which, sadly, was nearing its end. Strictly speaking, the inscription is ungrammatical: the word intolerably is full of sound and fury but modifies nothing. In fact it’s a friendly wink to their “shared cause,” the Groupe d’Information sur les Prisons (GIP), which Foucault had formed in 1971, and which Deleuze joined soon after. The rhetoric of the “intolerable” circulated throughout the group’s publications and speeches, the master signifier of everything they rejected (“the courts, the cops, the hospitals, the asylums, school, military service, the press, TV, the state”).

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