(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

Gilles Deleuze 1925-1995

French philosopher and critic.

Deleuze is noted for his influential critical writings. He is considered by many to have been a philosopher whose writing reached beyond the realm of philosophy, delving into the fields of linguistics, sociology, literary criticism, and cinematic studies. His complex theories have had implications in several disciplines and dramatically impacted the work of other acclaimed philosophers, such as Michel Foucault. In recent years, his publications have garnered increasing critical attention.

Biographical Information

Deleuze was born in 1925. He attended the Lycée Carnot in Paris, and he began to study philosophy at the Sorbonne in 1944. It was there that he formed friendships with such thinkers as Michel Butor, Michel Tournier, and François Châtelet. After receiving his degree in philosophy in 1948, Deleuze taught philosophy for several years. In 1957 he began to teach the history of philosophy at the Sorbonne, and in 1960 he took a job as a researcher with the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). Four years later he began teaching at the University of Lyon. In the 1960s he formed a friendship with the French philosopher Foucault, and the relationship influenced the work of both men. In 1969, at the behest of Foucault, he was appointed professor of philosophy at Vincennes. He retired from teaching in 1987. Deleuze committed suicide in 1995 after suffering for several years from a respiratory illness.

Major Works

Some of Deleuze's most famous work was done in collaboration with Felix Guattari, including their groundbreaking two-volume study, Capitalisme et schizophrénie (Capitalism and Schizophrenia). The first volume, L'Anti-Oedipe (1972; Anti-Oedipus), is considered an attack on capitalism and the theories of Sigmund Freud. In the study, Deleuze and Guattari argue that psychoanalysis and capitalism are closely related. They reject the Oedipal myth and assert that the Oedipal triangle reflects the structure of capitalism. According to this theory, labor plays the same role in the political economy as desire does in psychoanalysis. As a replacement for Oedipal psychoanalysis, the authors offer what they call “schizoanalysis.” Mille plateaux (1980; A Thousand Plateaus), the second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, includes several new concepts intended for use by other disciplines. Deleuze explored the world of film in his two-volume study Cinéma. The first volume, L'image-mouvement (1983; The Movement-Image), investigates the movement theories of Henri Bergson and the semiotics of C. S. Pierce. L'image-temps (1985; The Time-Image) challenges the notion that all images in the cinema are necessarily in the present. Qu'est-ce que la philosophie? (1991; What Is Philosophy?), also written with Guattari, posits their belief that philosophy is the art of developing concepts which are not mere subjective images of an objective reality, but exist as realities in their own right. Those concepts then must be able to interact with other disciplines, including politics, culture, and science.

Critical Reception

Critics have traced the development of Deleuze's writing from his early histories of philosophy to his later works in critical philosophy and unconventional literary criticism. His disparate interests and writings have prompted many commentators to praise the creativity of his thinking. Yet many scholars have trouble summarizing or classifying his oeuvre. Although Deleuze's utilization of a wide array of resources and references in his work has been cited, most argue that it also can make his theories complicated and difficult to understand. Along with Jacques Derrida and Foucault, Deleuze is regarded as one of the most influential and cited French thinkers in recent years.