Sunday, September 30, 2012

Deleuze's Beckett: A Body Without Organs

A body without organs. Could that be similar to a language without a subject? Samuel Beckett's kinetic, "Worstward Ho", is an organless masterpiece:
On. Say on. Be said on. Somehow on. Till nohow on. Said nohow on.

Say for be said. Missaid. From now say for missaid.

Say a body. Where none. No mind. Where none. That at least. A place. Where none. For the body. To be in. Move in. Out of. Back into. No. No out. No back. Only in. Stay in. On in. Still.

All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

As a playwright, Beckett was acutely aware of the unconventional syntax and the physical demands it places on the actor, or in this case, the reader. As a result, the "meaning" of "Worstward Ho" is experiential and can't be apprehended without reading it aloud, or playing the part. Once you consent to participate in this exercise, a body with organs - a subject - takes the stage. Beckett provides the script, we must fill it in with our presence.

The term, "a body without organs" (BwO), originally comes Antonin Artaud's radio play, "To Have Done with the Judgment of God" (1947):
When you will have made him a body without organs,
then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions
and restored him to his true freedom.
While Deleuze uses the term in his essay on Beckett, "He Stuttered," it was a concept that he modified through the years and in his work with Félix Guattari. In the essay, Deleuze makes plain that "the stutter" isn't simply related to speech, but can be applied to anything that disrupts or ruptures a particular syntax, or way of ordering any form of comprehension. By upending conventional syntax - the "subject-object" formula - Beckett is putting the Cartesian cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) on the chopping block. "Worstward," or "worst word," is literally the key to this shattered formula, this broken English.

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