In these journals, I would like to continue the work that I began in my initial discussion post dealing with the work of the cartoonist Chris Ware as it pertains to Deleuze’s writing on time, thought, and the image. I do not know, precisely, that I am using Ware to explain Deleuze, or, conversely, that I am using Deleuze to explain Ware. Either method would likely be reductive. Rather, I hope that these journals will generate a new understanding of comics as a medium, its structure and, more importantly, its possibilities, particularly in the modes of the ethical and the political. At the same time, I hope that the application of Deleuzian models of thought will enhance my personal understanding of his work. With these twin goals in mind, I will use Ware’s Building Stories (2011) as my primary testing ground, with occasional recourse to Ware’s other works, like Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000), and perhaps older experimental comics such as George Herriman’s Krazy Kat (1913-1944).
The question that concerns me most, in relating Difference and Representation to Cinema 2, is the question of how the Image of Thought (and, necessarily, the Thought without Image) relates to Deleuze’s metaphysics of Time. What is the structure of time, such as it relates to the production of real difference—a difference that also seems to be a repetition that appears, in an illusory form, only as resemblance, identity, analogy, representation, and the negative (Difference and Repetition 265-267)? It is through thought, it seems, that difference is grasped, or sensed, but in a form that exceeds ‘faculties’ like memory, imagination, and intelligence—or, rather, thought is born of the instant when the encounter tears apart any unity between the faculties, and takes each to the edge of its ability. How does this happen? It must, it seems, be related to how time is conceived (or preconceived), because each of the faculties seem to correspond with an attempt to locate the self within time. Memory represents to the self the I of the past, while intelligence is applied to grasp at the present, and imagination produces possible futures. But in all these conceptions, the unity of the self is presupposed, as is the ability of the self to order itself within time. Deleuze, rather, is pursuing something else, a kind of something that does not presume an ordered and unitary self that moves through an ordered and unitary time—whether circular or linear—but that is fragmented, fractured, and only comes into being through its contingent, chaotic encounters throughout space and time.
“We seek the truth only within time, constrained and forced,” Deleuze writes in Proust and Signs (97). But we know time only by presupposing the I that moves through it. In the case of both the Platonic (or Viconian) circular time, and the Kantian linear time, we maintain our stability through representation, analogy, identity, and similarity. These elements form the “ground” that covers over difference and buries it within its own substance. The ground, Deleuze writes in Difference and Repetition, is a tripartite structure formed of Identity, Resemblance, and Simulacra. The same or identical is that which is the only thing that possesses itself: “What it is, and what it possesses, it is and it possesses primarily, in the utmost. What, apart from Courage, would be courageous, or virtuous apart from Virtue?” (272). In other words, courage and virtue are among those things that are identical only to themselves, that are inhabited and can be claimed only by themselves. When a person says, “I am virtuous,” or “I am courageous,” it is an appeal to the second part of the structure, Resemblance. This claim of resemblance “is always a claim or an ‘image’ that requires a ground or appeals to a ground […] Each well-grounded image or claim is called a representation, since the first in the order of claims is still second in itself in relation to the foundation. It is in this sense that Ideas inaugurate or ground the world of representation” (272). Resemblance is thus one step removed from its transcendental ground, the unified idea of courage upon which it stakes its claim, yet it can be claimed only because of that presupposed and inaccessible ground. Finally, there are also Simulacra, “the rebellious images which lack resemblance” (272). These, Deleuze writes, “are eliminated, rejected and denounced as ungrounded, false claimants” (272). It seems, however, that this is precisely the sign of difference, of the ungrounded that destabilizes the image(s) of thought that cannot account for it. This is also why Deleuze says that stupidity, not error, is the enemy of learning; because error is productive, and marks the return of difference. Deleuze rails against a philosophy that finds in the simulacra only the negative, or an antithesis to be incorporated into a Whole, because they encounter difference only as an obstacle to be surmounted, to be subsumed by repetition. Rather, it is not difference in repetition but the repetition of difference that seems to give form to history and time. “It is as if repetition were never the repetition of the ‘same’ but always of the Different as such, and the object of difference in itself were repetition” (256).
Yet the question remains: how does this bear upon time and its image? Deleuze gives the ground a temporal as well as an ideal dimension: To ground is “to represent the present—in other words, to make the present arrive and pass within representation (finite or infinite). The ground then appears as an immemorial Memory or pure past, a past which itself was never present but which causes the present to pass, and in relation to which all the presents coexist in a circle” (273-74). This image is particularly intriguing when one thinks of the work of Chris Ware, but I want to bypass that for now and continue along this line of thought. The point is that such a conception of time still invokes representation, still covers over difference because it proceeds along points, in memory, or in a mythical circling, that precede the encounter itself, and denies the division between the I that has happened and the I that is happening. To grasp hold, somehow, of this fracture, which is not an absence but a site of productive difference, seems to be the location, or the temporality, of the image without thought:
It is this form of time which distributes throughout itself an I fractured by the abstract line, a passive self produced by a groundlessness that it contemplates. It is this which engenders thought within thought, for thought thinks only by means of difference, around this point of ungrounding (276).
For Deleuze, it is not representation that orients us within time but his interpretation of Nietzsche’s eternal return: a repetition that is only the repetition of difference. “Time,” he writes, “must be understood and lived as out of joint” (298). This pure form of time is structured only by the singular intensities and multiplicities that emerge within it; it is the only guarantee of time itself.
As it turns out, I have left myself without the space or time necessary to include anything but a cursory mention of comics in this journal entry. Nor have I been able to find the ethical implications of this investigation, so far as it stands. I hope, in future entries, to return to those subjects. They are, I think, integral to my development as a scholar. So, at this point I would like to simply end with a question rather than an assertion. The question I want to end with: Deleuze seeks the ungrounded thought without image, a mode of inquiry that begins with something like the interrogative: is-God rather than God-is or God-being. Deleuze himself describes a thought without image as “solipsistic” and “an essentially amnesiac narcissistic ego.” Yet he also writes of a plane of immanence that is always becoming, always growing with intensities and mutations. But if this is so, if every presupposition must be resisted, how can any structure be built upon, or any seed germinate? Deleuze says, “it’s multiplicities that fill the field of immanence, rather as tribes fill the desert without it ceasing to be a desert” (Negotiations 146), but are these to be nomadic tribes, constantly scrounging for a meager subsistence, always on the move and without any permanent shelter, any way to organize their own existence? If so, it’s a bleak proposition, though perhaps this fear and disorientation I feel at such an idea says more about my own image of thought than it does about Deleuze’s. Or, maybe, it is less a matter of abandoning any permanent structure than it is of historicizing it, of bearing in mind its contingency and the particular forms of deviant simulacra it has denounced in order to appear as it does. If this is the case, it seems to indicate a sort of tactical philosophy, which may indeed be a philosophy of life and affirmation.