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TOWARD AN ONTOLOGY OF LITERATURE: DETERMINATION AND INDIVIDUATION IN DELEUZE

This is an excerpt from a much longer chapter, the fourth of a seven-chapter manuscript. The manuscript argues for the possibility of thinking literary form on the basis of a non-totalizing organization, one that can take into account the integrity of the literary work without reducing the work to a closed system of self-identity or self-reflection.  Earlier chapters trace the relationship between German romanticism and Kantian aesthetics, as well as offer critiques of notions of organic form in American New Criticism and of possibility in Blanchot.

This chapter turns chiefly to Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition in order to draw out the way Deleuze articulates a concept of creation in which notions of system and freedom appear in terms very different from Kant’s.  Deleuze offers a powerful critique of the traditional concept of determination, arguing that determination depends on a schema of recognition and an already-determined, unified principle.  And he offers a parallel critique of the concept of possibility, which positions the real as an inferior image of, or sacrifice of, the possible.  In place of these concepts, he proposes a study of the organization of difference, of the tension between a self-differing cause and a repetition that structures and communicates.  My claim is that Deleuze’s rethinking of determination as individuation, and of being as difference, provides an alternative model of form, one that can and should be put into dialogue with theorizations of the literary work.  This claim is based on the idea that the literary work is something that differs from itself as well as from its causes, and thus needs to be studied on the basis of philosophies that have explicitly articulated a logic and an ontology of self-difference.

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