Deleuze, Gilles. "Nomad Thought"
annotation by Mal Ahern (Theories of Media, Winter 2003)

“Such texts are traversed by a movement that comes from without, that does not begin on the page (nor the preceding pages), that is not bounded by the frame of the book; it is entirely different from the imaginary movement of representation or the abstract movement of concepts that habitually take place among words and within the mind of the reader.” -Deleuze

Deleuze speaks of traditional philosophy (and, by extension, traditional writing) as something that seeks to code the world and works within the codes of the world: it works within a system of law and lack, that interprets the world through rules and (in its more progressive states) wishes to reform certain rules. The primary instruments of codification are laws, contracts and institutions. He describes the way that unlikely subjects, like madness and even the act of writing a book, have been codified by these instruments.

Nietzsche’s writing is used in the text as the paradigmatic example of the confounding and transgression of codes in philosophic writing, though Deleuze’s theories on Nietzsche could be extended to any work that looks to the exterior and traverses its frame (he mentions Kafka’s fiction as another example). Aphorisms reject law, and are conceived through “embarkation,” a deterritorializing experience of intensity. Aphorisms are mobile because they draw attention to the way they are framed and the exterior of the frame (the boundaries between the text and reality). The line of the frame of an aphorism comes from without, from the exterior. It doesn’t begin inside the text, does not begin “within the limits of the frame” - the argument both begins outside the frame and traverses the frame. The surface of the image painted relates to an outside, is more than the image itself.

It is important to note that a text that “refers outside of itself” is different from representation: it is not in the interior of the text that a world (supposed to take place outside the text) is represented. Narrative still takes place in the interior, where parts of the text can only exist in the interior whole, the reality represented by the text. These texts rely on their own (respective) worlds, their own interiors, to exist - even when these texts seek to represent an element of the outside world, representation introjects that world into the text so that it is only comprehensible internally. A clear line is drawn between world and text, often through (in the form of the novel) suspension of disbelief. Aphorism, on the other hand, is “a play of forces, the most recent of which... is always the most exterior.” (145). Nietzsche’s writing breaks down the frame, the division between text and the world, through its own style and through drawing attention to the ways in which these frames have been drawn around text (or ideas, or styles) in history.

Through multivalent meanings and juxtaposition, Nietzsche asks, as Deleuze writes, for the reader to “find the force that gives a new sense to what I say, and hang the text upon it.” (145). The frame is transgressed through attention to where it is hung - that is, the text acknowledges the exterior and the way in which its arguments, its sense, depends on the context in which it is read. The author does not have to be killed by criticism - he commits suicide, or relinquishes subjectivity while still living. What is transmitted, then, is not a static logic or codification of the world, but “a current of energy,” (145) a theoretical force, a way of interpreting the world that is fully contingent on the world that the text exists in. To textually debunk the fascists that claim Nietzsche as their own is not relevant, for no truth of the text should be claimed. Rather, the “revolutionary force” (146) of the text - which can be manifest not only in contextualization, but also in the “notion of style as politics” (the crossing of the frame and attention drawn to it) - must be sought out, from outside of the text. The revolutionary force is a place to hang Nietzsche, a place to let his text play, rather than something that should be drawn out of his work through textual criticism. The “illegitimate interpretations” of Nietzsche (in quotes for more reasons than authorly attribution) are those that “spring from the spirit of seriousness, the spirit of gravity... the cult of interiority.” (147). Humor and irony can destroy this cult, as schizophrenic laughter is forever outward-reaching. It runs counter to “the whole tragedy of interiority.” (147). “One cannot help but laugh when the codes are confounded.” (147).

There is a nomadism in these shifting intensities that are “a continuous flux and the disruption of flux.” (146). Deleuze exemplifies this with the use of names in Nietzsche’s texts, proper names that are “neither signifiers nor signified.” (146). “The signifier,” writes Deleuze, “is really the last philosophical metamorphosis of the despot.” (149). The signifier holds no sovereignty over interpretation in this account, for intensity of experience is more important than meaning. The signifier is not the determinant of what is signified, for the significations of the text change with the placement of the text in con-text. The philosophy of embarkment, which is not a philosophy but a mobile method or form of text, is always outward-looking; its meanings and intensities change with the (temporary) territory it inhabits. Such instances of text (and perhaps instances in other media - Deleuze mentions Godard’s films) are not isolated - they do not merely exist in the world, nested in criticism/interpretation, but rather break the boundary between text and interpretation, and make the text a joyful participant in many divergent readings of its self.