by EILEEN JOY-as-JULIE ORLEMANSKI
These comments are posted on behalf of JULIE ORLEMASNKI, for whom the comment function on another post just will not behave [nor even for me!]:
This is a response to Dan, and to his comments here in response to "Some More Thoughts on Pleasure" and to his blog post at wraetlic: “how the new middle ages will be a radiant modernism with a queer cowboy for its dean: kalamazoo 2009.” If we’re talking about matter, rather than human subjects, do we need to be talking about pleasure? Can intensity do the trick? What is the value-added of “pleasure”? Intensity, radiance, gravitational allure, pleasure--your terms move in a spectrum, from what is “proper” to matter to what is proper to a subject. The metaphoricity is (wonderfully) difficult to pin down—are you anthropomorphizing matter or materializing psychic states or . . . .? Pleasure raises the question of WHOSE pleasure, which again turns one (turns me) to the question of a subject, a self coincident with a body vulnerable to pleasure and pain, to ethics.
Of course, you are in good company with the (meaningful) slippage between material and psychological terms, and I am going to invoke one site where I’ve dwelled on that slippage. I am a wee bit obsessed with chapters 5 & 6 of Deleuze & Guattari’s Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature and the play of intensities, lines of flight, dismantlings, desire, and jouissance that constitute the life and decay and transformation of the bureaucratic machines therein. Kafka is of course another literary modernist we might think productively with and against and through an engagement with medievalism. Two quotes from D&G's Kafka stage, I think, the radical character of this desire and pleasure beyond consciousness:
“One would be quite wrong to understand desire here as desire for power; it is power itself that is desire. Not a desire-lack, but desire as a plenitude, exercise, and functioning, even in the most subaltern of workers. Being an assemblage, desire is precisely one with the gears and the components of the machine, one with the power of the machine. And the desire that someone has for power is only his fascination for these gears, his desire to make certain of these gears go into operation, to be himself one of these gears—or, for want of anything better, to be the materials treated by these gears, a material that is a gear in its own way.” [p. 56]D&G do achieve a way of talking about pleasures that is not founded on consciousness—but then conscious things become gears or material for gears, become suffering machines that rejoice in functioning (desire = energy = pleasure = function). The pleasures of function evoke the modernist topos of the man-machine, but we might also think of the Middle Ages’ own interest in an individual’s role/function/type (see estates satire; Theseus and his Boethian “faire cheyne”). Of course, what is wonderful about D&G is that there is no totality, we’re always left with n minus 1 and the machine dismantling itself and taking flight via its functioning . . . . But pleasure is so completely remade by D&G’s discourse that it blows my mind and makes me wonder how we can talk about our own pleasure. Where is it?
“And the cry of Franz, the warder punished for his thefts, the cry that K hears in a lumber room contiguous to the hallway of his office at the bank, seems to ‘come from some martyred instrument’ but is also a cry of pleasure, not in the masochistic sense but because the suffering machine is a component of the bureaucratic machine that never stops creating its own bliss (jouir de soi-même).” [p. 57]
Is pleasure an inessential category, an epiphenomenon of consciousness in contact with intensity, with energy that might be registered sometimes as pleasure, sometimes as pain, sometimes as tedium—? Or are desire and pleasure the true names of intensity, and if so, why? “Whose pleasure?” I still want to ask. D&G’s discussion of cogs and gears is very different from the autodeictic and autoindexical movement you referred us to—but the autodiectic produces for me (in the cropping it effects, in its after-image or negative space) the machine or assemblage of which that moment is a part. My question is not so much about ethics, at this point, but about the utility of pleasure as a concept. (And also, tangentially, about Kafka as a modernist interlocutor for the Middle Ages . . . .)