Saturday, March 27, 2010


One of the challenges of our Theory (D&G) is to construct a concept for thinking from the collective position of event.  Virno (on Target) contributes the procedure we are testing in Routine.
In the actual experience of talking, the road sign is language as a system of signs, while the different ways in which one can behave in the presence of these signs has to do with a universe of discourse language (with "the activity of the speaker who puts language into action," Benveniste: 256).  The distinction between the semiotic plane (sign) and the semantic plane (discourse), developed by Benveniste corresponds in many ways to the distinction between the normative plane and the applicative plane.  The semiotic system "exists in and of itself; it establishes the reality of language, but it does not require particular applications; the sentence, instead, the semantic expression, is solely particular"  (256).  The sentence is not a "habitual event"; rather, it is a unique, "evanescent" event (Virno, 105).
We may not "think" event directly, but write it, and receive it thus from ourselves (middle voice).  The crucial insight developed throughout Multitude is the focus on this moment of exchange, the twist in the moebius band of language, marking the imbrication of drives (body, natural regularity) in language (grammar, rule).  Julia Kristeva used similar vocabulary while naming the semiotic dimension "chora" (a term requiring further development elsewhere).  The point is that jouissance (bliss, blissence) associated with originary unconscious experiences of satisfaction (in psychoanalytic theory), are carried within discourse imbricated in the semiotic register of words.  Given the importance of the pleasure/pain axis to electracy, the usefulness of Virno's argument cannot be overstated. The value of Multitude is its foregrounding of the joke effect as announcing exactly the event of interference between the two registers.
The joke is a discourse--particular, unique, evanescent--that gives a reckoning of the difference between the semiotic system and the universe of discourse.  The comic effect derives, often, exactly from that coming and going between the two planes; inside one sentence one can see the diversity of the statute of the very same lexical entity, depending on whether it is interpreted as a sign, or as part of the discourse ("How's it going?" asks the blind man of the lame man; "Just as you see," the latter answers") (106).
In short, the event of Routine happens in the bit, in language and not only there, but in image discourse.

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