The Theater of History: Carnivàle, Deleuze, and the Possibility of New Beginnings


Time and history have come to play a particularly important role in the understanding of the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. While his conception of time—built among other things on the Bergson’s radical understanding of time, and developed perhaps most famously in Deleuze’s work on cinema—has been seen as one of his major preoccupations, he is frequently accused of disregarding the importance of history. As Claire Colebrook points out in her introduction to the recently edited Deleuze and History, the skepticism toward Deleuze in this respect may be based on the fact that he and Guattari seem to dispute the explanatory capacity of historicism. At the same time, Colebrook notes, Deleuze’s understanding of time opens up other ways of reading history. Deleuze and Guattari aim to rethink the relationship, or maybe the balance, between man and history. Part of their historiographic method is to read man as an event of history rather than as an a priori from which to interpret it. This would yield a non-linear history that could not be narrated according to a chronological, causal narrative. Rather, it would be based on time in its pure state—that is, time not tied to a specific object, but shifting with the different speeds of different events.

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