Posts Tagged ‘Deleuze and Guattari’
This assignment is interesting. I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of comics, but I’m having fun seeing?echoes of Jameson all over the place. I can even see a bit of Saussure and the French duo, Deleuze and Guatarri.
Like the reflective walls of LA’s Bonaventure Hotel,?Watchmen?reflects the genre in which it situates itself, and yet it is certainly not a direct representation.?This is a comic book – kind of. The?format, like all comic books which came before, comes complete with crime,?super heroes and cartoon-like illustrations, yet Watchmen borrows?this traditional form to create something new, a graphic novel (as in pictoral AND graphic in content).?This gives?whole new meaning to the?recycling of comics.
I’m reminded of Jameson’s description of the Bonaventure’s confusing layout with entrances that aren’t clearly marked and with no directions within. Maybe it’s just that I’m new to the whole comic thing, but it took me some time to learn how to navigate through the narrative.?In the traditional sense of reading from left to right, I could enter into the story, but I needed to allow the text to carry me through?time (flashback with the actual use of a flash image)?and space (the use of color to designate East coast, West coast, Vietnam and Mars). Like the Boneventure’s escalators and elevators, the text required me to be?receptive and adapt to the space?within the page.
This is where Saussure’s sign/signifier/signified theory comes in. While he spoke solely of speech, I learned a new?visual language, one randomly assigned but accepted and understood by the comic community. Again, I’m reminded of how color represents place while images?of flash bulbs and fireworks signal flashback.?This only works if this is true of all comics. Perhaps the Super Man and Batman “Pow” is a better example of the sign we all know to signify a punch.
More directly associated with Sassure is the?necessity for societal acceptance in the adaptation of language. Minuteman Hollis Mason in Under the Hood also talks about?this happening in his lifetime?when he says:
The arrival of Dr. Manhattan would make the terms “masked hero” and “costumed adventurer” as obsolete as the persons they described. A new phrase had entered the American language, just as a new and almost terrifying concept had entered its consciousness. It was the dawn of the Super-Hero” (Watchmen 13).
(Uh, do I credit Mason or Moore?& Gibbons for this quote? I jest.?Ah, the technicalities of a new form…)
To return to Jameson here, I have to ask – Are the super dudes parody or pastiche? I?think?parody, although Jameson would disagree. One thing is clear. These guys aren’t super?heroes in the?traditional sense. Most don’t have powers at all, except for the tall, blue freak. (I?mean that in the nicest possible way.) These clowns (I mean that in the nicest possible way too) don’t even have morals to guide their mother-freaking mental ship. The Comedian is the ultimate satirical character. He isn’t funny and he doesn’t?seem to?find the world as funny as?he says he does. His superbly f*&!ed up power is to rape a fellow super hero and shoot a pregnant woman carrying his child. Aside from?the foulest of his transgressions, I think?he’s an amusing character… but I’m kinda sick like that.
To recall Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomes, this novel is certainly the organic orb to which the metaphor?refers. There is a pulpy center called Watchmen. Off to one side is?the offshoot of the?Comedian’s journal. To the other, there is a comic book within a comic book. And somewhere left of center is?Hollis Mason’s?autobiography. This is no typical, traditional, linear representation.
Jameson would have a field day with the fact that Watchmen looks back to a non-existent social and political?history.?This brings us back to?our discussion of capitalization on both the nostalgia and originality of a piece depending on the consumer’s generational perspective. If comics are for kids, and this is definitely not, does?this idea still?work? It seems that this book targets the same audience that was once interested in comics, although it targets them at an older age. And does Watchmen lose it’s comic critique in the face of the previously released Heavy Metal, an adult cartoon that similarly looks back on “future artifacts?” Does that make it pastiche – a dead language – something lacking indiviuality? I think yes. Sure, it won awards for what it accomplished, but so do pop songs and they’ve all been done before too.
In terms of defining literature, what the heck is ‘it’ anyway???(From what I gather, it’s certainly not?San Francisco’s?Original Ice Cream Treat.) Raymond Williams’?use of?the term ‘it’ in reference to literature,?complete with single quotes for emphasis on?pages 1568 and 1573 of the excerpt from Marxism and Literature, seems quite relevant to his argument that?’it’ has been rendered inatimate rather than a living, breathing organism.
As?Williams explains,?literature’s broad beginnings in the 14th Century?referred to?both the ability and act of reading. Since then,?the meaning has been hacked, chiseled and vastly narrowed through time. By the 19th Century?”literature” pertains to the highly specialized reading and printing of the social elite.?Reducing literature to “formal composition within the social and formal properties of language” (1568), is the utmost abstraction.?
William’s certainly pooh-poohs this constraint.?To be specialized in such an ideological way leaves little room for outside criticism.?Who could do it??Never the elite! In doing so, they would?destroy the?very structure?which allows their?exclusive access.?Thus “criticism” as the practice of faultfinding devolved into the “exercise of ‘taste’, ‘sensibility’ and ‘discrimination.’” (1570)?By?noting this abuse of categorization and abstraction, and abstraction’s power to distill?literature into sterility, Williams believes ‘it’ becomes less than a living, breathing thing.
Marxist criticism stretched the concept of tradition, giving literature to all people by including pop culture. Then there was the reconstitution of bourgeois social practice. Without challenging the practice in it’s own right, social history?was widened to include “conceptions of ‘the people’, ‘the language’, and ‘the nation’.” (1573)?
So what was born from Marxist criticism? Ray thinks that democratization or putting literature in the hands of “the people” again brought it to life in new ways. Everything from the State of the Union to smiley’s on the Internet have become forms of literature. No longer limited to print, technology has been an historical development that, once again, helped to shift?literature’s meaning back to something full of life as an ever growing and changing entity.
TANGENT: When I think reconstitution, bourgeois social practice or otherwise,?I think?orange juice. To my spoiled ass it doesn’t taste as good as fresh squeezed, it’s cheaper and widely available, but?it does make?me ask questions like, “How do they?take water out? And how does it get back in? What makes it taste different afterward? What’s the point?” …And then?I drink it anyway because it’s the new technology in orange juice and it satisfies my thirst.
AS FOR DELEUZU AND GUATTARI’S RHIZOMES
I am all about these little tubers. I love to plant?peonies, ferns, and dahlias and have?suffered invasions?from hostile bamboo. When peonies eventually grow beyond?their boundaries, I dig them up, divide their carpeting mass of bulbous material, and replant the smaller?hunks in new places. This is not always an easy task as the mass can be a mess. This system is not as cut and dried as that of a tree, which is what makes it so relavent.
We’re taught early on about seeds and trees. Roots grow down. Shoots grow up. End of story. As Deleuze and Guattari point out, there are limitations when applying this cliche to the analysis of literature. Rhizomes are not limited to this up and down movement. They grow up, down,?left, right?and on every possible diagonal. One bulbous center produces willy nilly outcrops of root strands and shoots that criss-cross and jut out at random. Choas, yes.?Still, the?central orb?is important to the theory as it ” is by no means an average; on the contrary, it is where things pick up speed” (1609). The tree analogy provides no pulpy?center, no central? and multiple plateaus. A tree just doesn’t cut it.
Clearly, the rhizome analogy makes?far more sense when applied to the ways in which literature can be approached. The multitudinous lines of study?stemming from?one body (wO- “without organs”) of work is, quite possibly,?infinite.