The Anti-Oedipus Papers by Felix Guattari

[22 June 2006]

By N. A. Hayes

Intellectual Romance Laid Bare

I imagine very few people have The Anti-Oedipus Papers on their summer reading lists. However, the relationship between Felix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze has always seemed to be stellar examples of intellectual romance. (I must admit when I found out they were not physically romantic my jaw dropped and I was not able to utter one poignant word for quite some time.) Their romance of the mind is still fascinating because it was orgiastic in nature since as their oft-quoted line from “Rhizome” goes, “The two of us wrote Anti-Oedipus together. As each of us was several, that already made quite a crowd.”

The Anti-Oedipus Papers is a work for the scholar, the analyst, since the pages differentiate Guattari’s notes and Deleuze’s annotations. The project of publishing this text is one of disconnection and not of connection. (Anti-Oedipus, simply put, collects the Guattari and Deleuze’s theories of the Body Without Organs, deterritorialization, and other links between human psychology and economics) I doubt it’s for the non-academic reader of theory. But is there a casual reader of theory and philosophy? Perhaps the reader who is moved, and not immediately turned to vivisection of the work is academically the inferior reader, but truer to the spirit of the work.

Of course philosophy is the love of learning, which is often understood as the love of taking apart and seeing how things work. It seems an impossible task of reconciling an infatuated approach to something that in it’s heart would seem to recommend looking at the construction, the method in which it has been pieced together. The Anti-Oedipus Papers in this light perhaps is an examination that allows us to see how the root systems of Guattari and Deleuze have become intertwined, how one’s thinking and the other’s writing do not have defined boundaries. This text perhaps shows us the early growth of romance.

The text itself is incredibly dense. But it is also frenzied, revealing rare glimpses of genius. Guattari spills his ideas fast, often omitting verbs. If their joint theory requires patience and desire, these notes and notes upon those notes demand even more. The flight of the bird is evident as ideas seem to jump and turn and twist. The words, the thoughts can be followed but one must be patient and willing to hunt. The relationship between not only Guattari and Deleuze is made more complete but also those more ethereal connections between thinkers like Lacan and others also surface.

Ultimately, the responsibility of these texts does do fall upon the authors who are in fact distant from it. They have produced it together and as many but they cede authority of it once it enters the world. The Anti-Oedipus Papers at some level seems to be an attempt to return authority of textual meaning to the mythic authorial position. Of course, this movement is also accompanied by the inherent desire to declare what the author meant, given the pseudo-sacred realm of intent while ignoring the relevance alternative meanings might have in context. I believe there was no malicious anti-theory reasons for giving English speakers access to these documents, but the troubling potential lingers.

The struggle to navigate between analysis and utilization is a difficult one with obstacles on either side. There is also the inability to continue without knowing with certainty which path to take. Knowledge is a kindness, but when you approach the unknowable the real work begins. When the uncertainty of knowledge occurs, this is of course when we must be most on our guards so that we do not succumb to the laziness of faith. We must occupy ourselves with strife and be content and in this way we must approach both Anti-Oedipus and The Anti-Oedipus Papers. We must allow them to communicate between themselves and allow ourselves the good struggle along with them.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/anti-oedipus-papers/