All entries for Thursday 18 May 2006

May 18, 2006

Research Notes: The conflict between sadism and masochism in Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Follow-up to Research Notes: Bogue on Deleuze on Sade and Masoch from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Relating Deleuze’s analysis of sadism and masochism to travel and Seven Pillars of Wisdom. This starts to make more sene of Deleuze’s Shame and Glory essay on T.E. Lawrence.

It could be argued that sadism and masochism, the formal relations instantiated by each of these conditions, present two different kinds of journey or travel. Sadism as described by Deleuze assimilates every difference to its brutal logic, consuming time, events, into its minimal singularity with an entirely instrumental attitude. The sadist wants to get from A to B without deviation (!), but at the same time must feel some kind of intensity giving matter to the journey. The masochist journey has a plan and material, rehearsed continually. Contrary to Freud’s analysis, the rehearsal is undertaken in the hope of some unanticipated modulation in the script.

The rape scene in Seven Pillars of Wisdom is, contrary to common readings, not some kind of phantasmic product of a sadomasochistic imagination. The continual horror with which T.E. Lawrence recalls the event is genuine. It was in fact a brutal imposition of sadistic practices onto a (moderately) masochistic character. As Deleuze argues, sadism is alien to masochism, hence the terrible effect that the encounter had on Lawrence’s psyche, perhaps ultimately leading to his death.

The clock plays an absolutely key role in the rape scene. To cope with the viscious attack, Lawrence focusses on its sound in order to filter out other intensities. Similarly, in the desert, he focusses on the rhythmic movement of the camel to filter out the pain and the horrors of the conflict. Is this a third mode of travel? How does it relate to Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of the refrain? Minimalism? Rauschenberg?

Research Notes: Bogue on Deleuze on Sade and Masoch

Follow-up to Research Notes: The concept of recirculation from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

In the opening chapter of his Deleuze on Literature, Ronald Bogue focusses on Deleuze's analysis of the conditions of masochism and sadism. These are key concepts linking difference and repetition, circulation and cybernetics, to literary production and psychoanalysis.

Bogue identifies that Deleuze's sigificant claim is that sadism and masochism are formally different conditions, not poles of a single disorder. Sadomasochism is then a 'syndrome' not a disease, a badly analyzed composite of symptoms.

Whereas in Sade erotic scenes are repeated with violent and mechanical reiteration, in Masoch phantasy figures are identified with motionless art objects – statues, portraits, photographs – components of scenes that are repeated in a stuttering sequence of frozen images. Sade seeks the violence of continuous movement and hence abjures the stasis of the art object, whereas Masoch aspires to a world of suspense and waiting, and thus aestheticizes the real as a series of tableaux vivants. p.20

Each is then a solution to the problem of repetition and difference. But they capture and recirculate matter in different ways. Is Sadism closer to mathematics in its relentless application of an algorithm that reduces difference? And Masochism, obviously a theatre focussed on an artistic monument, slowing down differentiation through repetition/rehearsal.

Sade's immediacy – the nomadic war machine? – the desert?
Masoch's theatre – the socius? – the city?
These are conunterposed in Seven Pillars of Wisdom – see my entry on Lawrence and Abu Ghraib

But this is not the phantasm of psychoanalysis. The programme is itself real and complex, with a history of its own. Bogue seems not to see this.