Study Guide

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari Buzzwords

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Desire is like a kind of cosmic force that moves in, over, through, around, and above everything. (Yes, we know we sound like Yoda talking about the Force.) We look at desire as it exists outside human heads. In literature, when the desires of characters clash with the desires of institutions—bam! You get conflict, grief, maybe a little blood, and probably a great novel.

We examine what we call desiring-machines. Anything that does something is a desiring-machine—a bee, a root, a leaf, a cash register, a kite, a movie projector, grass, a solar system, a protesting crowd, a parliament—all these things are governed by desire.

Think of Oliver Twist as a little, orphaned human desiring-machine that just wants more gruel. That desiring-machine comes up against the desiring-machine of a workhouse in 19th-century London, of which Bumble the Beadle is but one of the workhouse machine's fat parts. (Probably its double chin.)

The Rhizome

How is a book like a rhizome—you know, those underground stemmy things that can produce plants? Think of a potato. It's a rhizome that lives underground where it's dark and scary. A good novel should also take the reader into places that are dark and scary.

The unfamiliar and the frightening? Yes, please.

A potato plant's aboveground shoots can all be destroyed by fire, but its rhizome, the potato, survives because it's protected underground. Because the rhizome is safe, the plant can grow back. A great work of literature is like that, too. It can be torn apart by critics and dismissed as garbage, but when new ways of thinking and analyzing come around, that novel explodes back to life with new meanings.

Similarly, you can cut a potato up into a bunch of smaller and smaller pieces. After that, you can stick those pieces into the ground, and they will sprout new growth. Now, when you analyze literature, you also cut it up into tiny pieces of different meanings, but you can't ever diminish the whole, because meaning always grows out of the areas of disturbance.

Rhizomatic analysis of literature doesn't care how you slice up the text and its meanings; it only cares that you let new meanings grow out of the interaction between the pieces. When you read a book, it's sort of like you're playing with Mr. Potato Head. All those moveable parts man that you can make up multiple faces—but they're all faces, in the end.


We think individuals and societies that don't allow minority voices into their production of culture are bad. People love being fascists. They can't help it. Everything that surrounds a person—a person's home state, ethnic group, language—makes up a person's "territory." To deterritorialize yourself, to avoid becoming-fascist, you must become something you are not.

Read the stories by a minority author writing in your mother language, and you will develop a wider cultural identity. You will be becoming-minor, which is a good thing. Your personal "territory"—your language, your customs, your religious life, your political life—should never become fixed. If you and your territory are fixed, then you are we call becoming-fascist.

Trust us. You do not want to be becoming-fascist.

Minor Literature

No, this isn't about the books of Dr. Seuss; this is the language of the underdog. This is literature written by a member of a minority community writing in the dominant language—but speaking from the margins of that dominant society.

Think of Spanish-speaking Americans, for example. The stories they tell in English will be flavored with the influence of the Spanish language as well as with the creative expressions of life on the margins of the dominant American society. This minor literature excites and changes the dominant language from within.

The Nomad

Being a nomad means you have no territory; you construct meaning wherever you happen to set up camp. Sal Paradise, Jack Kerouac's main character from On the Road, is a classic example of a nomad.

Nomads step across boundaries and cause the circulation of meaning between territories. Like gypsies or desert wanderers or retired couples in giant RVs, nomads create temporary worlds of meaning from what they find on hand. Nomadic characters collect ideas and events from random encounters and create a fragile worldview that changes when the nomad changes location. This is why we love the circus.

(Okay, Gilles actually does not love the circus. It's the clowns. He hates the clowns.)


Getting crazy will help you analyze text. Sort of.

We want you to get schizophrenic. What we mean by this is: learn to recognize many languages of desire at once. We don't want you to actually go crazy while you read great works of literature, though Félix would love to help you if you do. Just learn to listen to many voices at the same time when you read.

If you think Oliver Twist is mostly a historical narrative, allow other "random" thoughts to bubble up from your unconscious to influence your reading. The character Oliver can be seen as a type of lite snack for the desiring-machine of British Colonialism. The Artful Dodger is a rhizome living and growing through underground London, experiencing disturbance, theft, and abuse but still able to survive.

Schizo-analysts are not crazy; they're just really good at letting wild ideas grow into wild flowers that become bouquets of many different shapes and colors. So don't try and make the voices in your head speak the same language; after all, novel is many things and can't be reduced to a single interpretation. (No straight jackets, please.) Schizo-analysis helps you identify many different meanings and interpretations at once.

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