Tel Aviv University, IL
The Politics of Intimate Grammar: A Literary Symptomatology of the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict
Day 2, 10 November, De Bijloke Auditorium, 12:30-13:00
This presentation is part of an emergent, larger research project of founding an experimental “literary clinic,” which studies a diverse body of literary works as both clinical symptoms of and critical interventions in the ongoing experience of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The project takes its cue from Deleuze’s approach to literature, and offers a dynamic theoretical practice that constantly revises and invents the concepts it employs to read literature. By attending both to specific effects and lived contexts of the literary work, the literary clinic strives to engender critical readings that question and explore the uses of literature for life and of theory for literature in the reality of the Israeli Occupation.
Deleuze states that “literature begins only when a third person is born in us that strips us of the power to say ‘I’” (1997, 3), and that “narcissism in authors is odious” (1995, 134). Should we assume that Deleuze precludes the possibility that the “I” could function as a means of political resistance and express the revolutionary demand of the people to come? This paper argues that we may conclude otherwise once Deleuze’s approach to literature is plugged into the literary machine of David Grossman, a contemporary Israeli author, whose works will be presented here as both symptomatic maps of the illnesses of the Occupation and critical minoritarian experimentations that resist the majoritarian Israeli “state grammar”—the current dominant expressive mechanism of Israeli culture whose constructions of reality function as means for legitimising and justifying the Occupation.
In the framework of the literary clinic, the aim of this paper is therefore twofold: (1) to delineate a form of writing the “I” as a strategy of resistance to state grammar, hence as an artistic research practice that both critically rethinks the Israeli oppression and creatively fabricates (through language) an alternative vision of life. By reading Deleuze with Grossman’s novel The Book of Intimate Grammar (first published 1991), this paper will show how the intimate grammar of writing the “I”—effected by the becoming-child of the author and the becoming-imperceptible of the character—not only undermines the negative logic of enmity that dominates the Israeli state grammar but also transforms and politicises the expressive power of the literary first person, with its newly discovered capabilities of seeing and knowing reality. (2) To offer a preliminary conceptualisation of “reading-with” as a creative practice (and in this sense “artistic”), in contrast to “reading-through” as a practice of interpretation that subjects the literary work to already established criteria and values. By outlining three aspects of “reading with”—onto-methodological, ethical, and political—this paper will describe the potential uses of Deleuze’s philosophy for a dynamic literary theory; one that is committed to critically evaluating its concepts and procedures, as well as to constantly experimenting with its capacity to produce diverse practices of reading in changing contexts.
Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. Negotiations 1972–1990. Translated by Martin Joughin. New York: Columbia University Press.
———. 1997. Essays Critical and Clinical. Translated by Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Grossman, David. 2010. The Book of Intimate Grammar. Translated by Betsy Rosenberg. London: Vintage Books.
Nir Kedem is a lecturer in the Literature Department and the Department of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University, Israel. He moderated the international conference “Deleuzian Futures,” and edited a special issue of Deleuze Studies bearing the same title. He is currently working on turning his doctoral dissertation, The Viral Politics of Queer Resistance, into a book.