A Shock to Thought: Expressions after Deleuze & Guattari

A Shock to Thought: Expressions after Deleuze & Guattari

A Shock to Thought: Expressions after Deleuze & Guattari

A Shock to Thought: Expressions after Deleuze & Guattari


A Shock to Thought brings together essays that explore Deleuze and Guattari's philosophy of expression in a number of contemporary contexts. It will be of interest to all those in philosophy, cultural studies and art theory. The volume also contains an interview with Guattari which clearly restates the 'aesthetic paradigm' that organizes both his and Deleuze's work.


Steven Shaviro

It has become quite fashionable to talk about the Sublime, as it is presented in Kant's Critique of Judgement, in relation to postmodernism. But it is rare to find anyone who similarly considers Kant's presentation of the Beautiful.

2 the Sublime seems more appropriate to contemporary taste because it is an aesthetic of immensity, excess, and disproportion. Whereas the Beautiful is one of harmony and proportion. It is as if Beauty were somehow old-fashioned, whereas the Sublime is considered more radical.

3 Among recent theorists, Jean-François Lyotard is the one who has talked most interestingly about the Sublime. in his account, the Sublime is what invokes the unpresentable, what keeps open that which would otherwise be foreclosed by information technologies and by commodification. the postmodern sublime, he writes, 'would be that which in the modern invokes the unpresentable in presentation itself, that which refuses the consolation of correct forms, refuses the consensus of taste permitting a common experience of nostalgia for the impossible, and inquires into new presentations - not to take pleasure in them, but to better produce the feeling that there is something unpresentable'.

4 the Sublime in Kant is a double movement: a rupture followed by a higher recuperation. Postmodernists want to affirm the first moment, but defer or avoid the second. the breakdown of the imagination in the sublime can be compared to Bataille's notion of expenditure without return. It is an opening. But the appearance of Reason is a restoration of order and of closure.

5 But is it really possible to separate out the parts of the Kantian movement like this? Neil Hertz suggests that even the first moment of the sublime, the imagination's distress, seems 'slightly factitious, staged precisely in order to require the somewhat melodramatic arrival of Ethics'. Hertz has an important point here, though it is unfortunate that he chooses to denigrate melodrama.

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