Proper education for Deleuze and Guattari – swimming, watching films and becoming animals

Dave Harris 2013


It would be reasonable to think that cultural revolutionaries would support challenges to the traditional approaches in education as well. There are some bits in the works that seem to offer support for progressive child-centred education, but these are ambiguous as we have seen


Gale (2010 ) says Deleuze and Guattari (2004) talk about how children can extricate themselves from the teacher’s language. They actually say: 'In the case of the child, gestural, mimetic, ludic, and other semiotic systems regain their freedom and extricate themselves from the “tracing,” that is from the dominant competence of the teacher's language—a microscopic event upsets the local balance of power' (2004: 16)


The quotation actually arises after a discussion of a famous case in Freud—Little Hans.  In fact, Little Hans, and the equally unfortunate Little Richard (one of Klein’s patients) are the only children discussed or cited in the whole of the book – or indeed in any the books I have read so far. Deleuze and Guattari seem to be making quite astounding generalizations based on these two.


The sad case of Little Hans

Freud did not normally attempt to psychoanalyse children, because they obviously could not understand what was going on in adult terms and so could not take part in the ‘talking cure’, but he did take on a case involving a child—Little Hans.  Hans’s dad was the one who discussed the case with Freud.  So the first thing we have to remember is that this is a secondhand case, with secondhand data, mediated through a parent: sometimes, Deleuze and Guattari write so confidently about him, as if they knew the lad!


According to his dad, Hans presented with a number of anxieties, like a fear of going outside.  That could be traced to an incident where he saw a horse urinating in the street, and horses became more and more prominent in the story.  Freud and the parent obviously zeroed in on some of their favourite themes.  Did the horse represent Hans’ father, for example, because the lad had said that one thing about horses was they had dark things around their mouths, just like his father’s facial hair.  Hans clearly was disturbed about his emerging sexuality and, like all respectable Viennese kids at the time, had been threatened by his mother that his ‘widdler’ would be cut off if he played with it -- maybe seeing the horse’s widdler reminded him?  Hans expressed anxiety about horses falling down in the street, kicking and struggling and making a fuss, and Freud immediately suspected that the lad had witnessed a primal scene, with his father having vigorous sex with his mother—but the father denied that was even a possibility (but then they always do). Hans also had an anxious episode recalling visiting his cousins to see their newborn addition to the family.  They had travelled the last part of the journey in a horse drawn cart.

So what was it about horses?


Freud eventually decided that the most probable cause of the anxiety was not the horse itself but the closed wagons that were being drawn by horses in and out of a transport depot that the lad could see from his window.  The closed wagons represented the mysterious wombs of women—dark compartments out of which something is removed.  To cut a long story short [!], the lad was getting anxious that his virile moustachioed father and his adorable mysterious mother were planning a new addition to the family.  The father was able eventually to talk all this through and the lad ceased to display anxiety –his dad tells us.


For Deleuze and Guattari (1984, 2004), this whole story is an appalling example of how Freudian theory represses the creativity of children, or rather a child. ‘They kept BREAKING  HIS RHIZOME and BLOTCHING HIS MAP, setting it straight for him, blocking his every way out, until he began to desire his own shame and guilt…  They had barred him from the rhizomes of the building, then from the rhizomes of the street, they fixated him on Professor Freud ‘(Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 15, original capitalisation). Right from the start, the lad’s imaginative creations were being reduced to Freudian categories.  It all just had to lead up to the familiar oedipal scene, fear and anxiety of his father preventing sexual activity, albeit through his mother’s dreadful threats, fear of adult sexuality and anxiety about the consequences it produces.


What would D&G  have done with little Hans instead?  They would have encouraged him to philosophize.  This is put in a slightly misleading way at first—they would encourage Hans to become horse.  Guattari (probably), anxious to reintroduce social class to Freud’s analyses, also suggests that they would have allowed him to explore social relations with the working class kids playing around depot—naturally, rhizomatically. This sounds OK -- education through play -- but what does rhizomatically mean?   It is not clear if Hans is going to follow rhizomes on his own or whether his parents have to start up the rhizome for him. Maybe his teachers should? Here is a project for English primary schools – get kids to construct and then pursue rhizomes.


What is a rhizome exactly? That’s easy [I jest, of course] . First we ‘Subtract the unique from the multiplicity to be constructed: write at n-1 dimensions...A system of this kind would be called a rhizome'  (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 7).  You can see what this might mean if you go back to look at the file on Deleuze's rejection of conventional thinking and find the stuff on singularities and multiplicities and how they are connected. DeLanda (2002) reminds us that the way to go from the usual geometries to the more abstract topological kinds is to 'subtract dimensions', moving from actual  triangles,for example, to more conceptual and more general conceptualizations.

After we have got that, we simply have to remember that 'the rhizome connects any point to any other point…  [It]…  is reducible neither to the One and/or the multiple…  It is composed not of units but of dimensions…  It constitutes linear multiplicities [my emphasis] with n dimensions having neither subject nor object, which can be laid out on a plane of consistency and from which the One is always subtracted…  The rhizome is an antigenealogy…  The rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoots.  Unlike the graphic arts, drawing, or photography, unlike tracings, the rhizome pertains to a map that must be produced…  a map that is always detachable, connectable, irreversible, modifiable and has multiple entryways and exits and its own lines of flight…  The rhizome is an acentred, and non hierarchical, non signifying system without a General and without an organizing memory or central automaton, defined solely by a circulation of states' (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 23 ). Got it?  Now write that up as a series of lesson plans, and don't forget the objectives/outcomes/targets or whatever they call them these days.


Where do you actually wander to, when you drift nomadically round your rhizome?  Overall ’the only escape route left to the child is a becoming-animal [but this is] perceived as shameful and guilty (the becoming-horse of Little Hans, truly a political option)’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 16).


Now any drama teachers among you might be thrilled and encouraged by this sort of remark, and would be planning to allow a modern Hans to draw a horse, make a puppet of a horse, dress up as a horse, canter around the playground neighing like a horse, enter school races with everyone dressed as a horse, go and see lots of horses on neighbouring (neigh-bouring) farms, because we don’t have too many horses on the streets any more, and so on.  You would cheerfully interpret the rhizomatic path that must be followed as just a flexible normal one, depending on resources, staffing, and the kid itself, even though there is FAR more to it than that as you can see --its n dimensions for a start. The snag is that Deleuze and Guattari do not understand ‘becoming-horse’ as involving any of these activities. Things like horses are a ‘list of affects’ [for Hans]  – eyes  blinkered,  a dark band round its mouth, drumming with its feet etc. all  have an affectual significance (they impact on Hans and make him want to do things, feel things or think things). So becoming horse means not playing at horse, not developing an analogy with a horse, not empathising with a horse but rather:


whether Little Hans can endow his own elements with the relations of movement and rest, the affects, that would make it become horse, forms and subjects aside. Is there an as yet unknown assemblage that would be neither Hans’ nor the horse’s but that of the becoming–horse for Hans? An assemblage, for example, in which the horse would bare its teeth and Hans might show something else, his feet, his legs, his peepee maker, whatever? And in what way would that ameliorate Hans’ problem, to what extent would it open a way out that had been previously blocked?...and when Hoffmanstahl, [whoever he is],  contemplates a dying rat and ‘becomes a rat’ ... this is not an analogy, or a product of the imagination, but a composition of speeds and affects on the plane of consistency; a plan(e), a program, or rather a diagram [see the earlier file], a problem, a question-machine’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 284-5)


And later, discussing so-called feral children:  


Of course, it is not a question of a real production, as if the child "really" became an animal; nor is it a question of a resemblance, as if the child imitated animals that really raised it; nor is it a question of a symbolic metaphor, as if the autistic child that was abandoned or lost merely became the "analogue" of an animal. Scherer and Hocquenghem [whoever they might be] are right to expose this false reasoning, which is based on a culturalism or moralism upholding the irreducibility of the human order: Because the child has not been transformed into an animal, it must only have a metaphorical  relation to it, induced by the child’s illness or rejection. For their own part, they appeal to an objective zone of indetermination or uncertainty, ”something shared or indiscernible” a proximity "that makes it impossible to say  where the boundary between the human and animal lies”, not only in the case of autistic children, but for all children; it is as though, independent of the evolution carrying them toward adulthood, there were room in the child for other becomings, "other contemporaneous possibilities" that are not regressions but creative involutions bearing witness to an inhumanity immediately experienced in the body as such”, unnatural nuptials “outside the programmed body”. (2004: 301—2, original emphases)


Keep reading (well, skimming) will ask questions afterwards...


An example: Do not imitate a dog, but make your organism enter into composition with something else in such a way that the particles emitted from the aggregate thus composed will be canine as a function of the relation of movement and rest, or of molecular proximity, into which they enter. Clearly, this something else can be quite varied, and be more or less directly related to the animal in question: it can be the animal’s natural food (dirt and worms), or its exterior relations with other animals (you can become-dog with cats, or become-monkey with a horse), or an apparatus or prosthesis to which a person subjects the animal (muzzle and reindeer, etc.), or something that does not even have a localizable relation to the animal in question. For this last case, we have seen how Slepian [?] bases his attempt to become-dog on the idea of tying shoes to his hands using his mouth-muzzle. Philippe Gavi [?] cites the performances of Lolito [?], an eater of bottles, earthenware, porcelains, iron, and even bicycles, who declares:  “I consider myself half-animal, half-man. More animal than man. I love animals, dogs especially, I feel a bond with them. My teeth have adapted; in fact, when I don’t eat glass or iron, my jaw aches like a young dog’s that craves to chew a bone.” If we interpret the word "like" as a metaphor, or propose a structural analogy of relations (man-iron : dog-bone), we understand nothing of becoming. The word ”like" is one of those words that change  drastically in meaning and function when they are used in connection with haecceities, when they are made into expressions of becomings instead of signified states or signifying relations. A dog may exercise its jaw on iron, but when it does it is using its jaw as a molar organ. When Lolito eats iron it is totally different: he makes his jaw enter into composition with the iron in such a way that he himself becomes the jaw of a molecular dog (2004: 303).


My gloss on all this stuff


What we are discussing here is what I described earlier as establishing the relationship between singularities and multiplicities. Hans must come to see himself as a singularity or haecceity, not an individual child in the bourgeois sense, but the product of a number of forces acting upon him and emanating from a multiplicity.  Then he must come to see a horse as a singularity too.  Both are actualizations of the same multiplicity – let’s stick with commonsense a bit and call it a mammalian multiplicity, a diagram or combination of forces and factors that condense out into producing all the different but various mammals.  Becoming is a process of tracing the lines back to the multiplicity, and then reversing the path into another actualization. The lines are rhizomatic – linear, endlessly interconnected, acentred and all that.

Shifting metaphors, actualizations are like islands in the ocean, plateaux [geddit? There might be a thousand of them!] on top of a whole subterranean mountain range that all connects up underneath on the ocean floor.  Becoming is a matter of tracing those structures, diving off your island, following the mountain range down and then tracing it up again as it produces another island.  Between the two islands is the zone of proximity.  Getting to that zone (also called a zone of indiscerniblity) is the aim of philosophy, since we can form concepts there, and also a personal ambition for Deleuze and Guattari, apparently.  Of course, this is too limited and simple—we have to think of islands or plateaux being produced by a number of other factors on a number of possible planes of consistency.


Incidentally, I said in my notes of on Deleuze and Guattari (2004) that I have heard of this sort of becoming before—Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman (written in 1940) where mysterious Irish constables develop extraordinary resemblances to their personal bicycles over time: some get angular and upright, some like leaning up against walls etc. What happens is that they exchange their spare and less well-attached electrons ('corpuscles' for Deleuze) with their bicycle saddles as they ride them (the saddle is a 'zone of proximity'?), and converge more and more as they use their bikes. Their bikes, similarly, take on some of the characteristics of their riders -- they get lazy or slow or whatever.  Becoming bicycle!  The Wikipedia entry for O'Brien notes that the mysterious police station also contains 'a box from which anything you desire can be produced' -- a Deleuzian abstract machine if ever I saw one.


Anyway, Little Hans has to become a philosopher, but, even more daunting for the poor little sod, he has to become a Deleuzian philosopher!  I must say I think this is every bit as cruel as forcing the poor little devil into Freudian categories.  Here, he is a not a specimen on Dr Freud’s table, but a ventriloquist’s dummy, with the hands of Deleuze and Guattari up his back. What a fate is in store for the lad – he is going to have to read Difference and Repetition. Primary teachers would do best to get him started with a classical French education.

On learning to swim

Other examples of Deleuze actually saying what learning is, occur in Deleuze (2004). Swimming, for example,  involves a rather complex learning process involving adjusting to the movements and rhythms of the sea. In Deleuzian, this becomes  urging us to ‘conjugate the distinctive points of our bodies with the singular points of the objective Idea in order to form a problematic field’ (Deleuze 2004: 205).  This sentence is preceded by this: ‘To learn is to enter into the universal of the relations which constitute the Idea, and into the corresponding singularities’  (2004: 204).  The example is Leibniz’s understanding of the sea as a kind of system of relations between particulars and singularities incarnated in the movements of waves, but no doubt you spotted that.

Time for PE teachers to rejoice and feel wanted!  I do not know if they still attempt to justify learning to develop physical activity for the body as a kind of applied mathematics—you know the kind of thing, where catching a ball is interpreted as making complex calculations of trajectories based on an implicit understanding of differential and integral calculus?  Deleuze seems to be in the same camp here.  Of course, we cannot take this too literally: dolphins are superb swimmers, so does that mean they are also superb philosophers with a deep grasp of Leibniz?  Is there a difference between the way in which human beings explicitly understand the world in terms of formalizations like mathematics or not? Deleuze (and Delanda) seem so keen to develop an all purpose explanation of reality, that they acknowledge, but only barely, the massive difference between human beings and everything else, the development of language and consciousness.  Deleuze in particular has a really silly way of denying human specificity by arguing that even inanimate objects ‘express’ themselves, and it would be easy to miss the gigantic generality behind that notion—roughly, inanimate objects simply appear in a particular form: to imply that that is somehow the same thing as human beings writing, reading and calculating is pretty misleading.

No doubt, even Deleuze would argue that you need some kind of human thinking to really follow up the mathematical implications of learning to swim.  You have to swim like a mathematician or a philosopher in order to see these all important relations between multiplicities and singularities again. I swam quite a bit in my youth and never got to Leibniz!  We get closer to this idea by looking at more famous quotations from Difference and Repetition.

For example, Deleuze tells us that proper learning involves not just performing an action when you see the representation (see the sea, swim in it), but seeing the relation between a sign and response, not repetition of the same, but ‘an encounter with the Other’ (2004: 25).  For him, signs are necessarily heterogeneous, in terms of their relation to the object that bears them, their internal characteristics which refer to an idea, and to their reception, since a response does not resemble the sign. That is why you have to really think about what signs might mean at first and throughout, even though we are not always aware of this sort of interpretation. ‘That is why it is so difficult to say how someone learns: there is an innate or acquired practical familiarity with signs ’ 2004: (25-6). Again, this is not celebrating 'innate' knowledge of the kind gained in 'communities of practice' or anything -- it is a difficulty in the way of developing proper philosophical learning.

This is why we don’t learn by simply being told to do something, but by doing things with someone, and learning how to deal with heterogeneous signs rather than simple gestures to be imitated -- not in a community of people who all think the same, but in a heterogeneous group.  Learning is not just sensory motor, so it is not like learning the movements of a skilled tailor.  Combining [or matching] points of your body with those of an external environment involves the Other,  something different, a difference which has to be preserved, even though activities might be repeated.  ‘To learn is indeed to constitute the space of an encounter with signs, in which the distinctive points renew themselves in each other, and repetition takes shape while disguising itself’ (2004: 26).  It is the encounter with the Other that is repeated in proper learning, although normal people do not see it that way, of course. Signs allude to powers behind words, gestures, characters, and objects like waves, and to repetition as real movement not abstract movements as in representation.

Bogue, in an excellent discussion which also discusses cinema (in Semetsky 2008), points out that this extends to reading great literature as well.  Indeed, he says, this notion of encountering and learning to read signs emerges as a major theme in Proust, according to Deleuze’s book on Proust.  So, at this point, let’s hear it for teachers of literature (as long as they are suitably philosophical, of course)! Get primary kids started on Proust!

What is required is ‘an essential apprenticeship or process of learning’. ‘Learning is the appropriate name for the subjective acts carried out when one is confronted with the objecticity of a problem (Idea), whereas knowledge designates only the generality of concepts or the calm possession of a rule enabling solutions’ (2004:204). Incidentally, I think 'Idea',with a capital 'I' means a (mental or linguistic)  image of the multplicity - -Deleuze also says it is the same as a concept. You can only go so far in maths by learning formulae. Surface learning is not as permanent as deep learning. Neither is developed just by play, unmotivated ‘doing’, but by a good deal of philosophizing while you do.

Even advanced mathematicians can be fooled into thinking their tried and tested formulae work every time. To précis Deleuze on this, mathematical solutions really show us only some aspects of problems, and problems express [! see above]  themselves in a limited way in the mathematical domain.  Generalizing, we can say that each problem is duplicated in a particular symbolic field, like mathematics, but also appears in physical, biological, psychical and sociological fields, as originating from the same multiplicity. In one particular development, associated with the mathematician Abel (me neither) this led to a revolution in thinking about problems and solutions.  Other mathematicians got to the same idea, partly by specifying ‘adjunct fields’, which seems to be an ingenious idea to develop possible substitutions for particular fields, developing a whole range of partial solutions or linked groups of solutions: to mathematicians, this shows how problems are more general than the usual solutions indicate, indeed, that problems 'condition' solutions (2004: 228). Apparently, it also showed that the usual solutions only worked for particular groups of manifestations of the problem, and here were reciprocal as well as complete determinations.  I am no mathematician, but even I could see that this breaks the conventional circle between solutions and problems. The approach also breaks the master-pupil relation, where pupils had to discover solutions in terms defined by masters who provided the necessary examples, conditions and ‘adjunctions’: instead it points to unknown elements of the problem as objective parts of it, which need to be investigated collectively. 

It is worth quoting the context since the last sentence alone has been taken as some sort of licence for a general pupil-based, problem-solving approach to everything and by all pupils (for example by Semetsky 2006: 76). It is clear that Deleuze takes ‘problems’  and solving them to be pretty advanced issues, arising here in higher mathematics, and more generally after a great deal of philosophizing. Going for solutions involves the conventional thinking that is to be rejected as we saw.

We are far from the ‘stage-managed discovery’ of routine problems in schools, where pupils have to guess what teacher is thinking. At the same time, it raises an intriguing possibility for pedagogy -- genuine,complex problems can genuinely be investigated collectively, if only teachers will relinquish control and stop setting problems to which they already know the answers. I even have a little experience of trying this myself when teaching sociology of leisure --when discussing football fans' experiences, for example, the students really were in a better position to explore issues than I was. I soon got my own back when asking them for their views on figurational analyses, though -- the silly sods could only try to guess what I was thinking there, as usual!

Watching films

So far, we have marshalled Deleuze to make powerful arguments for the inclusion of philosophical swimming, philosophical studies of literature and philosophical studies of mathematics.  These are to be pursued instead of efforts to attain mere knowledge, in the form of pursuing conventional solutions using conventional approaches.  There is one more recommendation probably destined to finally raise the hackles of traditionalists more than anything: Deleuze says we can learn an awful lot from watching films. What we learn for Deleuze is to philosophize, of course, but in a powerfully motivating way. Cinema alone can provide viewers with a striking combination of images in both senses of the word – pictures and intuitions; ‘it is neither figurative nor abstract’ (Deleuze 1989: 156).  Images make us feel as well as see and hear, and ‘produce [in visual forms] material from the outside which becomes unthinkable [in the usual ways]’ (Deleuze 1989:  178).

The background might need sketching in again.  Deleuze has produced two large and extremely detailed books on cinema (inevitably, I have some online notes on them -- see references below ). By the way, the dates of publication in English make it seem that Deleuze wrote Cinema 2 before he wrote Cinema 1The approach is quite different from the usual ones found in British Media studies.  I won’t dwell on this, but Deleuze’s argument is that the usual approach involves structural linguistics, studies of signs and how they link with other signs, and how they  connect together in codes and narratives and so on.  Deleuze’s critique is really quite simple—these approaches deal with static images and their ability to signify and connect.  The main point about cinema, of course, is that it uses moving images. For the first time, we can explore movement philosophically.  As a result, we need to think about understanding cinema as offering quite different sorts of signs, and Deleuze proposes his own categorization, based on the work of the American theorist CS Peirce. Deleuze also suggests that cinema addresses the unconscious primarily, another reason for thinking that cinema presents signs which work outside of normal language and offer a ‘pre-verbal intelligible content (pure semiotics) whilst semiology of a linguistic inspiration abolishes the image and tends to dispense with the sign’ (Deleuze 1992: ix).

This is not the place to get technical, but the argument here is that cinema has also developed quite new ways of showing us how to think about reality.  We can see this even in early cinema, where the camera was able to show things that no human eyes could perceive—slow motion, time lapse, unusual shots like crane shots and close ups and, later, deep field shots.  The great auteurs of early cinema were already making films that offered a kind of philosophy, in other words.  Deleuze singles out for particular praise Orson Welles, and films like Citizen Kane.  I have a more detailed summary of his comments in the online notes, but briefly, Welles shows an interesting conception of time in the film, one that is like the work of Bergson (a philosopher much admired by Deleuze).  For Welles, time consists of a series of layers, all equally real, but all focused differently by the particular characters who are required to give their memories of Kane. Deleuze also admires the deep focus shots which illustrate context better than ever before (see clips below) .

For more modern cinema, defined, roughly, as developing in Europe post War, even  more conventions were abandoned.  We have got used to these conventions, where we see a character in his childhood, follow him through the usual journeys through school and work where he meets pretty stock characters, and see him at the end of his life: all the dialogue is neatly tailored and audible, the scenes are familiar, the camera just follows the characters and so on.  Everything is pretty recognisable, including the emotional subtext, and if anything is unclear, we can rely on one of the characters explaining it to us, sometimes in the guise of explaining it to another character.  Everything changes in experimental cinema. Modern cinema develops ‘a camera consciousness which would no longer be defined by the [familiar human] movements it is able to follow, but by the mental connections it is able to enter into…  Questioning, responding, objecting, provoking…  Hypothesising, experimenting’ (Deleuze 1989: 23).

Again, we have to be brief, but there is particular admiration for French avant-garde film.  At first blush, these look completely disruptive, lacking proper narratives and replacing them with scenes or episodes; abandoning conventional sound and replacing it with a soundtrack that might include readers off screen quoting from famous texts, music, or disruptive noises.  You can see a short clip of one of my favourites here (Godard’s Six Fois Deux,  1976 ) . Bogue also recommends Ici et Ailleurs (1976) ( see references) .  Deleuze argues that these images and sounds have broken with the idea of conventional links altogether.

I am not sure what your reaction was if you looked at this, but when I have shown this sort of thing to students, their reaction has been bafflement, rejection, boredom. The  reactions could be predicted from Bourdieu’s findings that visual material produced from an ‘pure’ aesthetic, when exposed to persons sharing a ‘popular ‘one, produces ‘confusion, sometimes almost a sort of panic mingled with revolt… [The works are] seen as a sort of aggression, an affront to common sense and sensible people.’ (Bourdieu 1986: 33).  I've tried to explain to my students that the idea is that we should rethink our conventional assumptions, and try to work out for ourselves how these 'irrational cuts' between images or between images and sound might be seen as a critique of conventional cinema (roughly, that conventional cinema simply reproduces common sense or ideology, and gets us to confirm it).  For Deleuze, there is a further challenge—how might these fractured representations be linked differently?  This is where cinema has a pedagogic function for Deleuze—it criticizes convention and invites further critical and radical thought.  This is easiest perhaps in cinema inspired by marxism as in the Godard clip which I have linked to above: we get to see how capitalism dominates our entire lives, and how we might start to think this as a way of reconnecting isolated experiences occurring at work in homes, when we shop, and so on.

In short, we are back to our familiar discovery—the point is to philosophize, and, indeed, to philosophize along with Bergson and Deleuze.  Deleuze is quite optimistic in thinking that cinema will force us to think:
‘It is as if cinema were telling us: with me... you can’t escape the shock which arouses the thinker in you’ (1989: 157).  Here, he is surely taking his own experiences as universal ones.  I am sure that he came out of modern cinema thinking something like 'How interesting!  Citizen Kane is clearly an illustration of Bergson’s image of duration as a cone!'.  I am equally sure that lots of other people came out thinking something like 'What a shame!  That nice little lad playing with the sledge turned into that awful tyrannical monster, corrupted by wealth and power, when all he wanted to do was get back to that game with his sledge!  Still, that just goes to show—maybe I am right to enjoy myself rather than attempting to become a capitalist'.

We return to Bourdieu to get sociological about this.  Avant-gardism in France in the 1970s and 80s involved a clear rejection of the ‘popular aesthetic’ (which values emotional involvement, immediate participation, and connections with everyday life), but did not share all the characteristics of the conventional ‘pure’ or ‘high’ version (which values emotional distance and a technical interest in form rather than content). Instead:

taste for the avant-garde defined itself in a quasi-negative way, as the sum of the refusals of all socially recognised tastes, refusal of the middle of the road taste…  and especially…  [that of] the petty bourgeoisie. [And even] the teachers’ ‘pedantic taste’, which though opposed to bourgeois taste is, in the eyes of the artists merely a variant of it, disdained for its heavy, pettifogging, passive, sterile didacticism, it’s ‘spirit of seriousness’ and most of all for its prudence and backwardness  (Bourdieu 1986: 294). 

These anti-bourgeois aspects appealed even to some in the dominated classes, and the anti-didactic sentiments especially might possibly explain some of the appeal of Deleuze’s written style to some modern educational radicals.


While we are here, Deleuze also flirts with an idea that was once fashionable in education—brains can be tapped into directly to encourage a kind of neurological learning. Lots of people saw cinema as offering a particularly powerful form of persuasion.  The audience sat there in the dark, focusing on the bright dominating screen, they were not able to talk to their fellows, they developed a kind of trance-like stance towards what they were seeing and hearing. Incidentally, this does not apply to watching television, but there are some truly weak books suggesting we can just apply film theory to the TV audience.  The Deleuzian version suggests that images on the screens are somehow connected directly to our brains, bypassing conscious thought and language. Deleuze thinks that cinema affects us particularly powerfully and machinically, ‘communicating vibrations to the cortex, touching the nervous and cerebral system directly’ (Deleuze 1989: 156).  He is very keen on this notion of 'vibrations' as mysterious forces linking things together.

Deleuze invites further controversy by insisting brains are stratified: ‘Bad cinema always travels through circuits created by the lower brain: violence and sexuality in what is represented – a mix of gratuitous cruelty and organized ineptitude’ (Deleuze 2000:  366).  
It is a rather undeveloped argument, to put it mildly, and clearly invites the elitist view that philosophers' brains are somehow better than those of ordinary people.

Anyway, a final tip for those wishing to apply Deleuze to education - lay in a stock of French avant-garde films, but make sure your students are locked in to watch them. Weed out the ones with too much 'lower brain' (after an MRI scan?) and let them watch The Only Way is Essex instead.



Bourdieu, P. 1986. Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. ( no notes yet -- I'm working on it).

Delanda, M.  (2002) Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, London: Continuum
  (notes here)
Deleuze, G (1989) Cinema 2 -- the time-image, London: The Athlone Press. (online notes here)

Deleuze, G. ( 1992) Cinema 1: The Movement Image, London: The Athlone Press.(online notes here)

Deleuze, G.  (2000) ‘The Brain Is The Screen: An Interview with Gilles Deleuze’, in Flaxman, G. (ed).  The Brain is the Screen: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Cinema, London: University of Minnesota Press: 365--76. (online notes here)

Semetsky, I. (2006). Deleuze, Education and Becoming. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. (no notes)

Semetsky, I. (ed.) (2008). Nomadic Education. Variations on a Theme by Deleuze and Guattari, Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. ( no notes)



Citizen Kane. Directed by Orson Welles. USA, Clips available showing deep focus techniques .1941

Ici et Ailleurs. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. France: The Dziga Vertov Group. Clips available., 1976.

Six Fois Deux. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. France. Jean-Luc Godard, Anne-Marie Miéville, Michel Raux., 1976