Exposé: Deleuze and Guattari—Immaculate Conception: Hidden Emissions

By Domenico Shirley and Stefano Curley

We have not assigned clever pseudonyms to prevent recognition. Why have we kept our own names? Out of habit, purely out of habit….To reach, not the point where one no longer says I, but the point where it is no longer of any importance whether one says I. We are no longer ourselves. Each will know his own. We have been aided, inspired, multiplied.

-Deleuze and Guattari[1]

Gilles Deleuze was born on January 18, 1925. He was a Capricorn. Felix Guattari was born on April 30, 1930. He was a Taurus. Both came onto the earth in the vicinity of Paris and received their educations there. Deleuze studied philosophy at the Lycee Carnot and at the Sorbonne. Guattari was also a lyceen, but instead of entrenching himself in academia, he ended up at the La Borde Clinique studying pharmacology and psychoanalysis with Jacques Lacan and Dr. Jean Oury. To what extent Deleuze and Guattari knew of one another’s work before the events of 1968 and the summer of 1969 remains unclear. The most relevant way to tell the story is to relate their separate bildungsroman(s) and then to locate their point of intersection.

Deleuze, steeped in the tradition of the history of philosophy, found something lacking in the rigid works of rationalist and phenomenological thought exemplified in the works Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger. [2] It was an issue that, in his mind, could only be glimpsed through the anarchic minds of anti-rationalist philosophers such as Lucretius, Spinoza, Hume, Nietzsche and Bergson.

Deleuze wrote an interpretative series of monographs on many of these thinkers.[3] Like Nietzsche, Deleuze considered himself an immoralist who, despite all of the sickening and weakening trends in society and in philosophical thought, still wanted to find a way to say “yes” to the world and all of its problematic manifestations. Deleuze was an institutionalized rebel, a rebel of the spirit; and an internal counter-movement to the progress obsessed French Hegelians of the 1950s. Even so, Deleuze continued to work within the university system.

Guattari, on the other hand, was an outward rebel, an institutional deviant on the grandest of scales. Not even the Parti Communiste Francais (PCF), where he helped publish the newspaper Tribune de discussion, was left-leaning enough for Guattari. In 1958 Guattari left the PCF to contribute to the pro-Algerian independence publication, La Voie communiste. Due to its radical political tilt, the publication was squenched by the French government in 1965 – not that a simple squenching would quell the stolid anti-authoritarian nature of such a young man. On the contrary, Guattari aligned himself next with the Trotskyist Left Opposition party.

During the cataclysmic events of May 1968, Deleuze was content to write philosophy, perhaps too Nietzschean, too free, to participate. Conversely, Guattari had a hand at the outset of the uprising; he became entrenched working at the La Borde Clinic at Cour-Cherverny, a “mental institution,” where he analyzed institutional power relations.[4] In short, both Deleuze and Guattari respectively attacked the symptoms of a diseased society from a deeper physiological level than the disaffected reactionary protesters in the streets.

In some ways, the strikes of May 1968, as intense and life-changing as they were for the majority of France, did not play largely into the intersection of Deleuze and Guattari. On the other hand, it is true that the personal work of each man equated to parallel movements of dissent, which culminated in their fateful meeting in the summer of 1969.

As amor fati would have it (and should there be an eternal return we wouldn’t wish it any other way), a young leftist doctor named Jean-Pierre Muytard, was studying both at the La Borde Clinic, where Guattari was working, and at the University of Lyon, where Deleuze taught from 1964-1969. Muytard proved to be the link between Deleuze and Guattari. He brought Guattari with his radical views and psychoanalytic training to Deleuze’s home in Limousin and the two took to one another immediately. Incipit collaboration. They wrote their first book, Anti-Oedipus, in 1972, which proved to be a culmination of their respective disciplines and a striking critique of the institutions from whence each emerged.

Collaboration and the Friend

The question of friendship is intimately linked to that of collaboration. Camaraderie implies collaboration, of course, but that is not to say that collaboration necessarily grows from or expresses a personal affection. Rather, collaboration is about affinity and affect; it concerns the creation of something new from the conjugation or co-mingling of diverse singularities. As Deleuze remarks on his work with Guattari in a 1988 interview, “[W]e didn’t collaborate like two different people. We were more like two streams coming together to make ‘a’ third stream, which I suppose was us. One of the questions about ‘philosophy,’ after all, has always been what to make of the philos.”[5] This elucidates the impersonal quality of collaboration; the way in which its conjoining does not so much birth a pedigreed product as unleash a flow of becoming that transforms its antecedents.           The signature “Deleuze and Guattari” does not mark a union between two bounded individuals; it is the result of a transformative encounter, a “third stream.”  How to think this third stream, this coming-together that results from affiliation, not filiations? In terms of philos, the figure of the friend or lover.

In their final book, What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari insist that any concept requires conceptual personae to animate and define it.[6] Just as the character or personage of the philos animates philosophy, so too it stirs and moves within co-creative philosophical writing. But what is this philos? Perhaps it signifies an affinity, a “competent intimacy”[7] by which the friend aligns with and brings out the potential of its beloved. If so, then the friend or lover introduces an inassimilable alterity into the ostensibly cold purity of intellectual thought.[8] Perhaps the philosophical philos befriends the concepts it creates, or maybe the concept itself refers to the friend as its generative progenitor.

This language of generation and procreation is purposively perverse. For while philosophical thought does not proceed through patrilineal schemes of descent and origin, it can in fact effect bent begettings. Deleuze’s own philosophical monographs illustrate this exceptionally well, as he seizes the history of philosophy as an opportunity for illicit and immaculate couplings. Deleuze approaches the history of philosophy as “a sort of buggery or (it comes to the same thing) immaculate conception.” In writing monographs on select figures in the philosophical tradition, Deleuze claims:

I saw myself as taking an author from behind and giving him a child that would be his own offspring, yet monstrous. It was really important for it to be his own child, because the author had to actually say all I had been saying. But the child was bound to be monstrous too, because it resulted from all sorts of shifting, slipping dislocations, and hidden emissions that I really enjoyed.

In this light, the creation of concepts is undeniably queer: the child born of the joyful, sodomitic coupling between Deleuze and his long-dead predecessors has a lineage– but it is one that sneaks up from behind, that blurs lines of authorship and consent, which revels in unauthorized ejaculations and becomings. Deleuze enters his philosophical figures in a gesture of affinity and dislocation, fidelity and promiscuity.

The Monstrous Child

Collaboration both diffuses and depersonalizes the work of philosophical creation. When it comes to collaborative writing, the text stands as a singularity; it is impossible to parse out authorial authority along the lines of distinct authorship. This gives rise to an element of permeability and risk that accompanies the greater strength produced by joining forces.  The joint becoming of Deleuze and Guattari spawns a creative vitalism that explores the questions of what bodies can do. Their very collaboration poses this same question: what can a body do, how can its affects, intensities, speeds and slowness enter into combination with others? What becomings can be sustained from this encounter, what new creations are born?

Deleuze and Guattari’s composite children formally total six in number (see Figure 1).  This purely arbitrary and formal figure does not, however, truly account for the countless spaces that the immaculate fruits of Deleuze and Guattari’s conceptual loins have dug out in contemporary critical thought. Instead we could say that they have spiraled out in an infinite series of hidden emissions and transmutations.

Deleuze and Guattari begin their introduction to A Thousand Plateaus with the assertion that, “The two of us wrote Anti-Oedipus together. Since each of us was several, there was already quite a crowd.”[9] Each man is himself a multiplicity, a crowd. So the collaborative signature “Deleuze and Guattari” is an experiment in what is possible when these two men, these two internally multiple streams, conjoin. To us, the readers, the question is not who wrote which part when, but rather: how can we collaborate with this monstrous offspring?g




[1] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and

Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi. (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minneapolis

Press, 1987), 3.

[2] Ronald Bogue, Deleuze and Guattari (New York: Routledge, 1989), 2.

[3] Bogue, 5.

[4] op. cit., 5.

[5] Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 136.

[6] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy? (London: Verso Books, 1994), 3.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid., 4.

[9] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 3.