Deterritorialized Travels: Notes on World, Earth, and Literature in the Work of Deleuze and Guattari / by Florian Scherübl | TRANSIT

Deterritorialized Travels: Notes on World, Earth, and Literature in the Work of Deleuze and Guattari

TRANSIT Vol. 13, No. 1

Florian Scherübl

[Related Links: “Introduction” by Andrew Blough and Jonas Teupert]

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Starting with the works of Edmund Husserl, phenomenological philosophy occupied itself with questions of foundation. The German word Grund’s denotations of both foundation and physical ground give rise to numerous foundational concepts such as Husserl´s Lebenswelt and Heidegger´s Erde. Regarding such concepts, one can trace a path that leads through Heidegger´s Der Ursprung des Kunstwerks to the terminology of Deleuze´s and Guattari´s post-phenomenological thought. This paper argues that the Deleuzian term “deterritorialization” can be seen as an offspring of phenomenology´s attempts to cope with foundational problems. Traveling and deterritorialization become defining features of the authors´ reading of the Anglo-American literary tradition. The paper thus also contends that the deterritorialization of language — the affinity of literary texts for agrammatical forms — exemplifies for Deleuze and Guattari the characteristic trait of what can be regarded as a traveling form.


During the first years of the Soviet and US space travel programs, philosophers became increasingly occupied with a certain question: How do the consequences of a departure from earth affect the philosophical concept of the subject (Kreienbrock 7– 42)? To understand their interest, it is imperative to see that the transcendental base of Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology, an influential discourse in France during the 1950s, relies not only on a post-Cartesian conception of the ego but on the notion man on earth.[1] Clarifying this reliance counts among the lesser-known insights of Jacques Derrida’s commentary on Husserl’s Origin of Geometry. Derrida paraphrases Husserl’s central notion as follows: “Consciousness of being-in-community in one and the same world establishes the possibility of a universal language.” (Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry 79). This possibility goes along with the paradoxical function of life-world (Lebenswelt) in Husserl’s Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie (The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology). Life-world is said to be a common ground for all human experience and the realm of that which is deemed natural in lived experience. It allows Husserl to posit a human species always already unified in its mode of recognition due to its common existence on a shared earth.[2] Husserl’s conception of life-world is paradoxical because, as the philosopher concedes, it is on the one hand universal and on the other dependent on historical and cultural sub-worlds (Waldenfels 16). According to Derrida’s well-known critique, Husserl’s conception can only take up its transcendental function thanks to a reduction of the role of empirical languages and cultures in what he describes in Voice and Phenomenon as hearing-oneself-speak. The Husserlian subject’s transcendental thought is an arché-language of science, a thought-language that precedes every actual intersubjective exchange. It is inherent to man and based on the universality of noemata, substituting what might otherwise be attributed to communal existence – most importantly language – for a transcendental a priori. A noema here is the ideal content of that which is thought and as such the central issue of transcendental phenomenology. The Husserlian subject is endowed with a language and representation preceding all empirical language and therefore stands on the ground of an intersubjectivity that communicates universal noemata. Thought and language are considered to be given before the world as well as other subjects. It is only on the basis of this presumption, eliminating all empirical differences, that Husserl is able to unify mankind on the basis of the life-world.[3] In a critical gesture channeling Heidegger’s critique of Descartes, Derrida further shows that geometry is, for Husserl, the science of an absolutely objective essence of things – space. This is why Husserl denies even the possibility of an objective science of Earth and its constituents, as well as of transcendental subjectivity: “The transcendental Earth is not an object and can never become one. And the possibility of a geometry strictly complements the impossibility of what could be called a “geology,” the objective science of the Earth itself. ” (Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry 83). Speaking from the point of view of transcendental phenomenology, there can be no geology, no history of the planet earth, simply because life-world, as a universal, implies a transcendental earth, the same for all mankind. The very notion of life-world carries with it a certain “earthly” vocabulary and set of metaphors. Since the life-world assumes the function of a ratio and a foundation – both notions expressed by the German word Grund, which Husserl uses to classify the term – it not only provides a foundation used to conceptualize an ultimate point of reference, but was also the first in a line of philosophical metaphors and concepts of Grund introduced in post-phenomenological thought to have been subjected to critique by French poststructuralist thinkers. Heidegger’s metaphors of ground and his preoccupation with topics like building and dwelling are foreshadowed by Husserlian life-world as a Grund-concept.

This phenomenological ground of life-world – which grounds man on earth, barring both man and earth from further analysis – is also the ground from which a discourse on literature and the notion of traveling emerges – not, of course, limited to space travel. In his remarks on Anglo-American literature, Gilles Deleuze, often along with Félix Guattari, links a certain formal cunning of literature with a challenge to philosophical logic and, furthermore, to an abandoning of territory (expressed in theoretical figures like “line of flight” and “deterritorialization”).[4] The following pages will show that their connection can only be properly understood if the philosophical consequences of the aforementioned Husserlian concept of life-world are kept in mind. The development from Husserl to Heidegger to Deleuze and Guattari takes as its point of departure the concept of man on earth, or the earthly concept of man as expressed by the Husserlian life-world. Heidegger is the first and best-known thinker to bring this problem together with the arts in his essay Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes. When Deleuze and Guattari later write about deterritorialization, a term of special importance for their thinking of the arts (for instance, their reading of Kafka), the domain of language generally and its form more specifically recall the phenomenological discourse on man and ground. Traveling thus becomes a crucial category in Deleuze’s take on modern Anglo-American literature as he and Guattari have this phenomenological background in mind, implicitly developing their thinking of literature and the arts in contrast to Heidegger’s notions of world and earth as proposed in Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes. The formal components of the artwork can be linked, especially from a Deleuzian perspective, to traveling and other ways of leaving charted territory, providing a perspective for exchange between philosophy and the arts. Art, especially literature, can be regarded as constituted by traveling forms.  Deleuze – sometimes with and sometimes without Guattari – relies on an understanding of literature as a traveling form that is closely linked to a departure from postulated forms of grammaticality. Literature thus becomes interesting for philosophy because it destabilizes one of phenomenological philosophy’s transcendental grounds: language. 

Ground in Heidegger’s “Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes”

At least four crucial characteristics determine Heidegger’s concept of the work of art as conceived in Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes: 1) The artwork is “Aufstellung von Welt”; 2) It is also “Herstellen von Erde”; 3) It is, moreover, born from a strife between Welt and Erde; 4) The artwork is the opening of a world for a historical people (“ein geschichtliches Volk”) (“Ursprung des Kunstwerkes” 30-38; Cf. Scholtz 96-106).

“Aufstellung von Welt” means for Heidegger the clearing of a certain world, which is always already accessed by a people, defined by their existence in a national state. The work of art constitutes a people in presenting their world, their understanding of being as a relation to truth via an artistic thesis.[5] There is, however, a second, intersecting line of thought that connects this homogenous notion of a historical people with the problem of ground. Heidegger means not only that art represents the community of a historical people in their relations to truths and values, but, moreover, that the artwork effectuates the relationship to physis, nature or earth, interchangeable terms for Heidegger. The work of art is also “Herstellen der Erde” (“Ursprung des Kunstwerkes” 34). Earth is discussed here as “das Sichverschließende” (33), that which closes itself in.[6] World and earth are not simply given entities; this becomes especially clear in his interpretation of Hölderlin. Heidegger opposes any notion of nature as a simple given: “Wie lange noch wollen wir meinen, es gäbe da zunächst eine Natur an sich und eine Landschaft für sich, die dann mit Hilfe von ‘poetischen Erlebnissen’ mythisch gefärbt werde?” (“Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung” 21). According to Heidegger, there is no “Natur an sich,” nature as it is in itself. Instead, the strife between world and earth produces the clearings of Sein, the different ways in which that which is is given to a people. These Entbergungen des Seins,[7] constitute Seinsgeschichte for Heidegger: Each clearing (Entbergung), as a new mode of ontological thinking, provides ontology a new transcendental ground. Here, Heidegger’s theory of language is of importance. Instead of one that takes as its starting point an already given faculty of representation (Vorstellung), expressed instrumentally by language as a kind of tool,[8] Heidegger advocates a theory of Stimmung. The term appears in Sein und Zeit, referring to a pre-subjective conception of Dasein’s relation to the world: “Stimmung ist also keine Gefühlsanwandlung eines bereits konstituierten Subjekts, keine vage und flüchtige Emotion, die etwa eine durchschnittlich rationale Weltauffassung nur einfärbte, sondern sie ist diejenige Weise, in der sich dem Dasein ‘das Seins des Da in seinem Daß’ erschließt.” (Hamacher, “Wozu Hölderlin” 163). The language of poetry, Dichtung, does not, in its early stages, express a mental image, a certain meaning or referent. Read through the lens of Heidegger’s theory of Stimmung, Dichtung originally constitutes that which is ‘da’ (what is there, or given, and therefore addressable in words at all). Poetry, which Der Ursprung des Kunstwerks endows with the faculties of “Aufstellung von Welt” and “Herstellung von Erde,” is Stiftung as Dichtung: “Dichtung – transitiv – ist die ontologische Differenz; Versetzung in eine Disposition und aussetzende Bestimmung des Ortes (tópos) endlichen Seins” (Ibid. 164). Rather than expressing something already given, Dichtung originally constitutes the expressible in creating means of expression. This kind of Stimmung is for Heidegger – who seems to follow here, like in other texts concerning language, the precedent of Wilhelm von Humboldt (Figal 281) – also something that cannot be separated from a people and that allows for a close link between a people and its language.

Heidegger’s theory of Stimmung is the basis of his theory of language, which allows him to sever the ties that bind together the matter of poetry, his conception of a people, and the epistemological problem of Sein. As the Kunstwerk essay’s “geschichtliches Volk” makes all too clear, however, Heidegger reintroduces a notion of a people grounded in the 19th century form of the national state.[9]

What did Heidegger accomplish in The Origin of the Artwork? The foundation – the universal life-world in Husserl’s late thought – is substituted in Heidegger’s thought for Sein, itself derivative from the struggle between world and earth. Earth remains as an unthinkable pre-conceptual difference in the attempts to unveil a world as a transcendental ground from which to think that which is.[10] Poetry plays a mediating role amongst the four constitutive concepts in the essay and is infamously linked to the concept of a people as the populace of a national state, which Heidegger archaically pictures as a community whose beliefs and relations to truth are represented, if not constituted, by the work of art.

Deleuze’s and Guattari’s artwork

The phenomenological ground, of decided importance to Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology and Heidegger’s fundamental ontology, is a point of departure for the thought of Deleuze and Guattari. The concept of literature developed by both thinkers during the 1970s relies on the notion of deterritorialization, unthinkable without its counterpart reterritorialization – there is no deterritorialization without reterritorialization (Cf. Parr 69–72). While Husserl builds, so to speak, his philosophy on the territory of the universal life-world, Heidegger’s displacement of transcendental phenomenology takes place in the notion of Sein. Deterritorialization can be understood not only as a departure from territory, but also from transcendental grounds in search of new ones. While for Heidegger, literature, especially poetry, plays a crucial role in establishing the transcendental ground of language for philosophy, for Deleuze and Guattari, it is deterritorialization as a feature of literary language that challenges the foundation of Sein as ontotheseological (thus verbal and conceptual), or as the fundamental ground of thought.

There are various points of entry to the works of Deleuze and Guattari that would indicate their departure from the phenomenological discussion of ground. One less obvious route connects this departure with traveling. In his Dialogues with Claire Parnet, Deleuze clarifies some central notions about his work with Guattari during the 1970s. The third section of Dialogues, dealing with Anglo-American literature, is most relevant to the present concern. On the first pages of this chapter, Deleuze refers to his notion of literature as tracing a line of flight, which is surprisingly linked to a concept of world: “On ne découvre des mondes que par une longue fuite brisée” (“One doesn’t discover worlds but in a long rupturing flight,” 47, translations from the French text are my own). It is central to Deleuze’s understanding of literature that literary texts trace a line of flight. Writing, for Deleuze, is at once a flight from a menacing reality and a force of becoming. The psychoanalytic model of sublimation, connected to the neurotic author, is substituted for a model of literature as a flight into fiction that does not succumb to neurosis: “On n´écrit pas avec ses névroses. La névrose, la psychose ne sont pas des passages de vie, mais des états dans lesquels on tombe quand le processus est interrompu, empêché, colmaté” (“One doesn’t write with her or his neurosis. Neurosis, psychosis aren’t passages of life but states into which one falls when the process is interrupted, circumvented, blocked,” Deleuze, Critique et Clinique 13). This flight, which is the process of writing itself, does not take place intradiegetically; the act of writing itself effectuates a flight from an unbearable reality. This does not imply an escape into a fictionalization of the world nor should it be used to pathologize authors, as a great deal of early psychoanalytic literature did. Flight rather indicates for Deleuze the emergence of literature as a newly won health: “Le monde est l’ensemble des symptômes dont la maladie se confond avec l’homme. La littérature apparaît alors comme une entreprise de santé” (“The world is the ensemble of symptoms in which the illness is confused with the person. Literature appears thus as an enterprise of sanity,” 14). In the passage from Dialogues quoted above, the world is linked to “une longe fuite brisée,” in the latter from Critique et Clinique, it is described as an “ensemble des symptômes dont la maladie se confond avec l’homme.” Although this does not seem to be the same world Heidegger has in mind, we have to consider in the mere choice of terms a displacement that Deleuze intends. When he says that one does not discover worlds, “découvre” may also be read as a displacement of the Heideggerian sense of Aufstellung, one opposed to Heidegger’s essay on the work of art. There is no “Aufstellung von Welt” in the line of flight, which, for Deleuze, is writing; quite the opposite, it is a departure from a given world. This connection to Heidegger would be all too superficial if not for Deleuze’s frequent assertion that the writer is always in search of a people to come, “un peuple à venir.”[11] Not only is a world left behind, a people is also missing and must be created as such: “La santé comme littérature, comme écriture, consiste à inventer un people qui manque” (“Sanity as literature, as writing consists in inventing a people that’s missing,” Deleuze, Critique et Clinique 14). Together with Guattari, Deleuze foregrounds the importance of a people in literature for the first time in Kafka. Pour une littérature mineure. Following an assertion that literature is an affair of the people and some remarks from Kafka’s diary on minor literature, Deleuze and Guattari characterize minor literature by: 1) the minor use of a major language; 2) its connection to a people, which Kafka brings about by a certain use of free indirect speech (i.e. allowing others voices to be audible in the narrating voice). The language of a majority, inseparable from the model of the major citizen (white/male/heterosexual…), is used in a minor way, opening a new world. But this new people is not one and is not yet there; it does not even have a language. Deterritorialization is Deleuze and Guattari’s term for the intensive use of the major language as it is brought about by a writer attempting to trace a line of flight, summoning a people (Cf. Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka 29–50).

The Deleuzian (and Guattarian) understanding of Kafka can be read as directed against Heidegger based on the concept of people operative in their writings. Here there is not a major people whose reality and truth are doubled and represented by the work of art that originally constituted them, but a minor one, still on its way towards a world, as yet without certain ground, especially in language. Thus, world and people do not emerge on a determinate common ground as Heidegger’s earthbound metaphors suggest.[12] Deleuze and Guattari intend here an open process of creation, not the representation of world and earth in either an epistemological or artistic sense, destined to reveal to a nation its own sense and foundation as in Heidegger’s conception.

A model for such a non-Heideggerian conception of literature is found not only in Kafka, but more generally in Anglo-American literature, which Deleuze considers neither a national literature nor as having a preoccupation with metaphors of ground: “La littérature anglaise-américaine ne cesse de présenter ces ruptures, ces personnages qui créent leur ligne de fuite, qui créent par ligne de fuite” (“Angloamerican literature doesn´t cease to present these ruptures, these personalities creating their line of flight, creating by a line of flight,” Deleuze and Parnet 47). Of course, Deleuze is neither channeling nor opposing Hölderlin, Heidegger’s recurring example in thinking art and poetry, nor does he mention Heidegger explicitly. But the anti-nationalist, anti-state position adopted here converges with the conception of the minor, both in terms of the use of language as well as of minorities and the vernacular. In their book on Kafka, Deleuze and Guattari advocate a “langue mineure,” a minor language like that of the Jewish minority in Prague, which was of particular interest to Kafka. Another important feature of literature for Deleuze and Guattari is also found in Kafka: literature as the invention of a people to come. This people to come is not the national community that Heidegger addresses as Volk. It is, as Deleuze and Guattari clarify, something missing (Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka 29–50). As a concept and as that which literature demands, a people to come is defined by lack. It is a notion, much like Derrida’s justice à venir (justice to come), which remains in coming and, therefore, in becoming (see Derrida, “Force of Law” 27). This people is not the Heideggerian kind, having a communal world of its own, representable in the work of art.[13]      

Deleuze’s conflict with Heidegger is even more apparent when the strife between world and earth is considered in the epistemological sense advocated by the latter. What Heidegger grasps as “Aufstellung von Welt” persists as a problem for Deleuze and occupies his writings with Guattari, namely Mille Plateaux and Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? Metaphors and concepts of earth, ground and the loss thereof, and the movement of de- and reterritorialization reappear and, what is more, seem to be conceived against Heidegger’s phenomenological concept of ground. This becomes apparent in the third chapter of Mille Plateaux, Le géologie de la morale, which attempts to do what, according to Derrida, was impossible for Husserl: to draft an outline for what is intended to become a philosophical geology or even a universal history of the planet (Mille Plateaux 53–94). This is part of Deleuze’s and Guattari’s turning away from Husserl’s transcendental earth, but it also entails a critique of Heidegger’s relatively constructivist – in comparison to Husserl – concepts of world and earth.[14] Whereas Heidegger opposes the two in order to think the ways in which historical concepts of physis change, Deleuze and Guattari do not treat their own notion of earth, as it frequently appears in their writings from Anti-Oedipus onward, as a merely conceptual one. There is at least one significant feature that, for Deleuze and Guattari, cannot be denied as a quality of earth, not even from an ontotheseological point of view like Heidegger’s: Earth is a place of primary production, of the emergence of subjects from relations to earth in the form of territories, worlds, states, etc. preceding empirical subjectivity. This production escapes the grasp of man as transcendental subject and cannot be reduced to a mere feature of the varying ontotheseological Setzungen of earth or physis brought about by mankind.[15] This primary production has always already taken place. The very possibility of conceptualizing earth via naming and attributing predicates to entities is enabled by the primary production in communal existence itself, which presents a preestablished relation to earth. This is why, in their remarks on Husserl and Heidegger as well as Hegel in the chapter on Geophilosophie in Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? Deleuze and Guattari object that “tout se développe intérieurement au concept” (“everything evolves within the concept,” 90). The following outline highlights how this conflict remains linked to literature and form.

The creative force of literary form as challenge and provocation to ontological thought is most clearly evident in Dialogues’ chapter on Anglo-American literature. At first glance, the long passage on empiricism in the second part of the chapter seems out of place, but after a digression on Hume and the exteriority of relations in empiricist thought, Deleuze seems to allude to Heidegger when he asserts that philosophy is still mainly about the verb ‘to be’ and the question of a first principle (“le verbe être et la question du principe,” Deleuze and Parnet 70). This addendum to the discussion of empiricism allows Deleuze to address the problem of being in the ontothesological frame. Like Hume and the empiricist tradition on Deleuze’s reading, literature poses a challenge to a certain tradition of thinking Sein.

Here the deterritorializing quality of language comes into play. Not only is Anglo-American literature one of flights and travels, these qualities coincide with the movement of deterritorialization, considered to be a movement of the real: “Mais fuir au contraire, c’est produire du réel, créer de la vie, trouver une arme” (“but fleeing, on the contrary, means producing the real, creating life, finding a weapon,” 60). But what does it mean to produce the real, to create life for literature, to find a weapon? When literature, for instance in Kafka, pour une littérature mineure, is said to effectuate metamorphosis instead of merely creating metaphors, this can also be interpreted as a shift of focus to the horizontal axis of contiguity as conceived by Jakobson, that is, a shift to metonomy and away from metaphor as enabled by the paradigmatic axis that allows words to be substituted one for another (Cf. Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka 39–41). Thus, the text manifests itself quite literally as an ongoing line of writing. It is a line of flight insofar as the process of writing itself, in its most forceful way, unshackles itself from the bonds of grammar. Abandoning grammatically codified language in tracing this line of flight is a process of addition or connection, adding semiotic elements to the text not necessarily subject to grammatical rules. It is this process that Deleuze and Guattari designate by the French ‘ET’ (‘and’). Writing that traces a line of flight is becoming, a kind of metamorphosis for Deleuze and Guattari. The additional and metonymic movement of ‘ET’ is opposed to ‘EST’ (‘is’, Sein), the presumption of a fundamental ground and ratio. In his essay on Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, Deleuze praises E. E. Cummings’ poetry, which, like Bartleby’s formula “I would prefer not to,” is comprised of structures that Deleuze calls agrammatical: “Nicolas Ruwet explique, qu’on peut supposer une série de variables grammaticales ordinaires, dont la formule agrammaticale serait comme la limite” (“Nicolas Ruwet explains that one can presuppose a series of ordinary grammatical variables whose limit is an agrammatical formulation,” Critique et Clinique 90). These agrammatical formulas push the boundaries of grammatically tolerable language and form “une limite ou un tenseur” (“a limit or a tensor,” 90), meaning they are not only a variation but an intensification of language. Kafka’s minor literature is characterized by an intensive use of language effectuated by dialect and other features or ‘tenseurs.’ Thus, agrammaticality is always an intensification beyond mere semantics and a deterritorialization insofar as it leaves the common structure of codified language, its major usage or usage by a majority, and the standard code of communication. Using agrammatical formulations is only one way of leaving the territory, so to speak, of the common tongue, of deterritorializing oneself without knowing where it might lead. This points to why a people is always missing in literature: The intensive use of language is not one that can take hold in a community of speakers.[16]    

It is exactly this raw force of literature, deterritorialization as an affirmation of language, a line that does not care for the given idols (the codifying ‘gods’ of grammar), which illustrates becoming while opposing the notion of Sein. The deterritorialization of literature as a matter of form therefore becomes a matter of philosophy. We can find this shift from a paradigmatic to a connective or additive use of language in Dialogues, in the shift from ‘EST’ to ‘ET.’ This shift can be read as one from the constative or apophantic language of philosophical discourse to the exigencies of everyday communication and ultimately towards a connective use of linguistic units not underlying any explanatory function. In other words, a shift from the language of Sein to a language that in its process of creation is a force of becoming, a line of flight away from commonly and communally accepted language games:

Il faut aller plus loin: faire que la rencontre avec les relations pénètre et corrompe tout, mine l’être, le fasse basculer. Substituer le ET au EST. A et B. Le ET n’est même pas une relation ou une conjonction particulières, il est ce qui sous-tend toutes les relations, la route de toutes les relations, et qui fait filer les relations hors de leurs termes et hors de l’ensemble de leurs termes, et hors de tout ce qui pourrait être déterminé comme Etre, Un ou Tout. Le ET comme extra-être, inter-être. Les relations pourraient encore s’établir entre leurs termes, ou entre deux ensembles, de l’un à l’autre, mais le donne une autre direction aux relations, et fait fuir les termes et les ensembles, les uns et les autres, sur la ligne de fuite qu’il crée activement. Penser avec ET, au lieu de penser EST, de penser pour EST: L’empirisme n’a jamais eu d’autre secret. (Deleuze and Parnet 71)

One has to go further: making the acquaintance of the relations, penetrate and corrupt everything, undermine being, overturn it. Substitute ET for EST. A and B. ET isn´t a relation itself or a particular conjunction, it is that which underlies all relations, the route of all relations and what makes the relations disappear outside of their terms and outside the ensemble of their terms and outside everything that could be determined as Being, One or Everything. ET as extra-being, inter-being. Relations could still be established with one another between their terms or between two ensembles, but it allows the relations to take a different direction and makes both, terms and ensembles, flee on a line of flight that it actively creates. Thinking with ET instead of thinking EST, thinking for EST: This was always the secret of empiricism.

This may be only a small part of one of the most enigmatic, complicated, and little read passages of Deleuze’s work, but even so, it suggests Deleuze’s overcoming of Heidegger and his turning away from the ontotheseological tradition of thinking being (‘EST’). Deleuze intends to think for ‘EST’ (“penser pour EST”), which, however, does not mean that Sein and ontotheseology are simply dismissed. The crucial point for Deleuze is to turn to ‘ET,’ the relations amongst things usually left out or treated secondarily to the substance of propositions so central to the apophantic language of Sein (‘EST’). To think with ‘ET’ for ‘EST’ means to not rely on a conception of Sein that speaks retroactively of that which is already there, but to engage in a movement that makes new forms emerge – both new ontological forms and new forms of ontology. Such a use of language is not that of classical philosophical discourse (X is p). It is the connective use of literature in its inertly activist approach to language, separable from philosophical discourse but not dismissive of it. In presenting a language that challenges the structures of grammar, literature also challenges the propositional structures of philosophical discourse: ‘ET’ thinks for ‘EST,’ as Deleuze suggests at the end of the passage quoted above. In fact, works of art and literature force philosophy into heterogenesis, a process of dealing with that which at first seems chaotic and heterogenous to thought.[17]

Deterritorialization, tracing a line of flight, is always thought as a kind of traveling and suggests that traveling is, in a sense, the form of literature itself.[18] Literature is a traveling form insofar as the movement of deterritorialization takes place in it. Deleuze finds this kind of traveling especially in Anglo-American literature, which, in abandoning ‘EST’, posits an implicit critique of the philosophical preoccupation with the concept of being, Sein. Traveling leaves the ground that, for Heidegger, was opened up by the strife of world and earth:  “Ils [the American writers] créent une nouvelle Terre, mais il se peut précisément que le mouvement de la terre soit la déterritorialisation même.” (“They created a new earth but perhaps precisely the movement of the earth itself is deterritorialization,” Deleuze and Parnet 48).

What is a traveling form (according to Deleuze and Guattari)?

The concept of traveling is linked to literature in Deleuze’s thought by his affinity for Anglo-American literature, but the movement of traveling is not what it might seem at first glance. There are, of course, literal or topical movements of deterritorialization at work in, for example, Melville’s Moby Dick or Kerouac’s On the Road (both of which Deleuze references). In Melville’s sea-tale and Kerouac’s depiction of Dean Moriarty’s journeys across the US, we find physical travel semantically depicted in the realm of the story world. However, it has become apparent that it is not this kind of traveling that Deleuze and Guattari have in mind. Rather, it is a traveling of language’s form itself, brought about by its intensification, its intensive use implied by the concept of deterritorialization on a linguistic level. Becoming a traveling form, a form traversed by the movement of deterritorialization and therefore deterritorialized from codified grammatical structures and rules – this is the power of an intensive literary language, according to Deleuze and Guattari. The traveling form traces a line of flight away from the ideal of standard language. Irrespective of what effectuates this movement (be it use of the vernacular, of a minor language, a dialect, agrammatical formulas, etc.), it is dependent on an intensification of the linguistic material and abandonment of the common code. Deterritorialization is thus a movement that does not take hold on the semantic or formal level. 

Deleuze and Guattari try to make sense of literature as an ongoing task for philosophical thought. The predilection for literature as a traveling form tries to give literature back its power to produce a world instead of just representing it. World does not designate here the totality of being ‘as it is’ or as it is presumed to be by a certain metaphysics or even the common tongue. The deterritorialized language of literature brought about by its formal travels has to be understood as a challenge to the common notion of world as it is produced in language by philosophy, standard discourse, orthographically ‘correct’ language, and all the powers (institutional or otherwise) behind these terms. It reminds us that the world is not simply given nor has it ever been. It is constantly being created anew and literature takes part in this creation.

Works Cited

Beaulieu, Alain. Gilles Deleuze et la phénoménologie, Mons: Les éditions Sils Maria, 2004.

Deleuze, Gilles. Pourparlers. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1990.

————. Critique et Clinique. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1993.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. Kafka. Pour une littérature mineure. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1975.

————. Mille Plateaux. Capitalisme et schizophrénie. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1980.

————. Qu’est-ce que la philosophie. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1991.

Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet. Dialogues. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1977.

Derrida, Jacques. Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry: An Introduction. Trans. John P. Leavey, Jr. Lincoln/London: University of Nebraska UP, 1989.

————. “Force of Law: The “Mystical Foundation of Authority.”” Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice, ed. Drucilla Cornell, Michael Rosenfeld and David Grey Carlson. Trans. Mary Quaintance. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Figal, Günter. Martin Heidegger. Phänomenologie der Freiheit. 3rd edition. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013.

Hamacher, Werner. “Prämissen.” Entferntes Verstehen: Studien zur Philosophie und Literatur von Kant bis Celan, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1998.

————. “Wozu Hölderlin, 1934, in Deutschland? Einige Bemerkungen zu Heideggers Frage und seiner Antwort.” Hölderlin-Studien, ed. Shinu Sara Ottenburger and Peter Trawny, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2020.

Heidegger, Martin. Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung. Gesamtausgabe (GA) I/4, ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann and others, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1976.

————.“Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes.” Gesamtausgabe (GA) I/5, ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann and others, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1977, pp. 1–74.

————.“Die Zeit des Weltbildes.” Gesamtausgabe (GA) I/5, ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann and others, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1977, pp. 75–113.

————.“Vom Wesen und Begriff der Φύσις. Aristoteles, Physik B, 1.” Gesamtausgabe (GA) I/9, ed. Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann and others, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1976, pp. 239–301.

————. Nietzsche. Erster Band. Gesamtausgabe (GA) II/43, ed. Friedrich Wilhelm von Herrmann and others, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1996.

Husserl, Edmund. Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie (Husserliana VI) . ed. Walter Biemel, Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1954.

Kreienbrock, Jörg. Sich im Weltall orientieren: Philosophieren im Kosmos 1950–1970. Wien: Turia + Kant, 2020.

Parr, Adrian. “Deterritorialization/Reterritorialization.” The Deleuze Dictionary. Revised Edition, ed. Adrian Parr, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010.

Scherübl, Florian.“  Territorien, Welten, Erde: Deleuze’ und Guattaris Verabschiedung von Heideggers Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes.” Weimarer Beiträge, vol. 3, 2020, pp. 441–460.

Sholtz, Janae. The Invention of a People: Heidegger and Deleuze on Art and the Political. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015.

Waldenfels, Bernhard. In den Netzen der Lebenswelt. Suhrkamp: Frankfurt am Main, 1985.

Žižek, Slavoj. Organs without Bodies. Deleuze and Consequences. Routledge: New York/London, 1993.

[1] Cf. Kreienbrock’s reading of Husserl: “Die Erde ist kein Körper unter anderen. Sie ist für Husserl der Grund und Boden der menschlichen Existenz und der sich daraus ableitenden Wissenschaften” (38)

[2] As German phenomenologist Bernhard Waldenfels has shown, phenomenology understands itself as a “radikale Grundwissenschaft” (“radical science of ground/reason,” translation my own) – a formulation Waldenfels borrows from Husserl (Husserl 144). “Grund” has to be understood here according to its double-sense as foundation/ground (Fundament) and ratio. Cf. Waldenfels 15–18.

[3] A concept problematic since Husserl´s Krisis, which, as the title suggests, is a Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften and focuses on what Husserl calls “[d]as europäische Menschentum” (Husserl 5). With the Renaissance and its orientation towards the antique, an originally occidental notion of science seems to be closely linked to Greek philosophy for Husserl.  

[4] Especially in Dialogues with Claire Parnet. See later remarks.

[5] Cf. Sholtz 209. However, Sholtz’s argument that Heidegger’s people has already to be considered a “people to come” is questionable – this formulation is a Deleuzian one and, as we will see, is bound for Deleuze to a people that is missing. As such, it can never become a majority or be part of a major people. Therefore the term peuple à venir addresses a constant becoming. The Heidegger of the infamous Rektoratsrede seemed to think that the German people could really be the people (“historisches Volk”) that The Origin of the Work of Art anticipates. Deleuze’s addition of à venir is a move to prevent such disastrous consequences.

[6] In this determination resonates a concept of physis that Heidegger also developed during the 1930s. It is presented in his 1939 lecture on Vom Wesen und Begriff der Φύσις, not published before the 1967 volume Wegmarken. See Heidegger, “Vom Wesen und Begriff der Φύσις” 239–302.

[7] In Holzwege, Heidegger speaks either of “Entbergung des Seienden” (“Ursprung des Kunstwerkes” 47) or “Entbergung und Verbergung des Seins” (“Zeit des Weltbildes” 113).

[8] For Heidegger, such an instrumental attitude would mean to already interpret Sein from the point of view of one of its clearings, namely the modern clearing as “will to power.” Nietzsche’s will to power is for Heidegger the final stage of Seinsgeschichte thus far: In this most recent clearing, that which exists is thought of as being constituted as given by a transcendental subject. Heidegger identifies this constellation with the will to power, which he misinterprets as a subjective yearning for power. In considering the will to power the transcendental ground for all phenomenal appearances the world is ultimately made dependent on transcendental subjectivity. Cf. Heidegger, Nietzsche. Erster Band.

[9] It is telling that Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes at one point puts “das Denken des Seins” on the same level as the craft of an art and the founding of a (national) state, “die staatsgründende Tat” (“Ursprung des Kunstwerkes” 49).  

[10] Since the strife between world and earth reveals Sein as a representational notion and the historically variable thesis (Setzung) of ground, one might characterize Heideggerian thought here with Werner Hamacher as “ontotheseology,” a term coined to characterize the philosophies of so-called German Idealism. Its tendency to consider that which is as product of a thetical act is taken up by Heidegger even if the identification of this thesis with the presence of a transcendental subject is not. Cf. Hamacher, “Prämissen” 13–17. 

[11] Cf. the recurrence of this term in Deleuze and Guattari, Qu’est-ce que la philosophie; Deleuze, Critique et Clinique.

[12] While Deleuze is not directly aiming at Heidegger here, given his recurring and often highly implicit allusions to other thinkers it is not unlikely that his characterization of minor literature is also meant to be a challenge to the Heideggerian conception of art.  

[13] Even conceding that Heidegger has the invention of a people in mind (one that “represent[s] a break with past understandings of what it means to be a people,” as Janae Sholtz has suggested [Sholtz 209]), this does not change the fact that he thinks this people in terms of nation.

[14] For a more thorough reading of Deleuze’s relation to phenomenology and its various conceptualizations of ground, see Beaulieu 17–74, especially p. 45–55.

[15] See Scherübl 448–454.

[16] Cf. Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka 42–47. Following French linguist Henri Gobard, Deleuze and Guattari differentiate between four kinds of language, the vernacular, the vehicular (official language), the referential language of culture and the mythological language of religion.

[17] Cf. Deleuze and Guattari, Qu’est-ce que la philosophie 187–188.

[18] On the other hand, there are false ways of traveling. In interviews, Deleuze elaborates his discontent with forms like the so-called “journalist’s novel“ – a genre that enacts travel on the level of plot or in the literary world, but which seems unable to affect the form of language itself (Deleuze and Guattari, Qu’est-ce que la philosophie 160–161).