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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 February 2021

Ben Radcliffe*
University of California, Los Angeles


The work of Gilles Deleuze is populated by literary and artistic figures who become stuck, confined, and exhausted: he has written about the characters of Samuel Beckett, for instance, who are incapacitated by a compulsion to count and sort; Sacher-Masoch's protagonists, who share their author's eponymous desire to defer endlessly the sexual act; and the notorious figures in the paintings of Francis Bacon, determined but unable to escape the confines of their own bodies. What accounts for Deleuze's interest in scenes of stasis and immobility? These figures, and others like them, seem to appeal to Deleuze precisely because their corporeal limitations coincide with intense and inscrutable affects, as if Spinoza's maxim, ‘we do not even know what the body can do’, is true especially when the body's capacities appear most restricted. This is an aspect of Deleuze's thought that complicates his reputation as a philosopher of limitless becoming, movement, and synthesis.

Research Article
Copyright © Ramus 2021

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1. See Deleuze (1998), 152–74, ‘The Exhausted’; Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty (1989b); and Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (2003).

2. See Deleuze (1988c), 17, citing Spinoza's Ethics 3, 2, scholium.

3. His philosophical interlocutor (and sometime rival) Badiou (2000a), 8, neatly captures this conventional image of Deleuze: ‘It is fairly commonly believed that his doctrine promotes the heterogeneous multiplicity of desires and encourages their unrestrained realization…that he made no concession to the spirit of system, but rather constantly commended the Open and movement, advocating an experimentation without preestablished norms.’ For a novel conception of Deleuze as a thinker of stasis and immobility, see Kaufmann (2012).

4. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 310f.

5. It is a question of creating an interface, a partial ‘sieve’ between a nascently organized interior and the chaos outside: ‘The forces of chaos are kept outside as much as possible, and the interior space protects the germinal forces of a task to fulfill or a deed to do. This involves an activity of selection, elimination and extraction, in order to prevent the interior forces of the earth from being submerged, to enable them to resist, or even to take something from chaos across the filter or sieve of the space that has been drawn’ (Deleuze and Guattari [1987], 311).

6. See in particular Deleuze's account of chaos in Difference and Repetition (1994), 56f., 67–9. Chaos is a central concept in Guattari's independent philosophical works as well. In Chaosmosis (1995), for instance, Guattari explores the emergence of novel forms of subjectivity through the interface between chaos and complexity. ‘Speaking with one's mouth full’ (88) figures memorably Guattari's conception of semiotic subjectivity: the aggregation of complex linguistic signifiers is crossed with the chaotic disaggregation of masticated food; see Genosko (2002) and O'Sullivan (2010).

7. This is a constraining function that Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 208, explicitly associate with domestic spaces in, for instance, their discussion of segmentarity: ‘The house is segmented according to its rooms’ assigned purposes; streets, according to the order of the city; the factory, according to the nature of the work and operations performed in it. We are segmented in a binary fashion, following the great major dualist oppositions: social classes, but also men-women, adults-children, and so on.’

8. The notion of ‘preexistence’ (préexistence, préexister) in Deleuze's work has an ontological rather than a strictly temporal or historical meaning. In Difference and Repetition (1994), for instance, Deleuze tends to dispute the notion that plans, models, or possibilities preexist their instantiations (147, 159, 161, 212) or that rules preexist games (116, 282f., 303), but he affirms that complexes of virtual differences (‘Ideas’) preexist their actualizations (20, 47, 102, 276). The same concerns are at play when preexistence is discussed in collaboration with Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus (1987) and Anti-Oedipus (1983). In A Thousand Plateaus, for example, ‘a semiotic collective machine’ preexists individual languages (63); in the idiom of Difference and Repetition, the virtual Idea of language preexists actual languages. The expression ‘but home does not preexist’ in Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 311, discussed above asserts that Klee's musical home runs counter to a received notion of home in which the model or institution is ontologically antecedent to actual domestic structures.

9. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 440.

10. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 381; see further 400: ‘From this standpoint, the most absolute immobility, pure catatonia, is a part of the speed vector, is carried by this vector, which links the petrification of the act to the precipitation of movement. The knight sleeps on his mount, then departs like an arrow. Kleist is the author who best integrated these sudden catatonic fits, swoons, suspenses, with the utmost speeds of a war machine.’

11. The distinction between the philosophical and political content of Deleuze's solo works and that of his collaborations with Guattari has attracted some polemical attention; see Noys (2010), 51–3.

12. This precise formulation of difference versus Difference is developed at Deleuze (1994), 86; the whole work explores the consequences and variations of this distinction.

13. Heath (1985) argues that the information in Hesiod's calendar of the farming year is not ‘genuinely intended to instruct’ (254). On the object of Hesiod's didacticism, see further Marsilio (2000) and Canevaro (2015).

14. See Martin (1992).

15. It must be noted that the text leaves the exact details of Perses’ biography notoriously open to interpretation; see Clay (2003), 34f.

16. Concerning Hesiod's representations of labor, van Wees (2009), 447, observes that ‘the landowner may occasionally have shared his slaves’ labor, and his sons might help out on the farm (379–80) or take the livestock to graze on the mountainside, as according to Theogony, Hesiod himself did in his younger days (22–6). Otherwise, his commitment to work evidently takes the form of energetic supervision of the laborers: he rises before the slaves do (W&D 573), reminds them of work to be done (502–3), and issues instructions (597). His job is “to arrange (kosmein) tasks in due measure” (306), i.e. to organize the work to be done by others.’

17. LfgrE s.v. οἶκος identifies three central meanings of the word in early Greek epos: (1) house, place of residence, as a material structure; (2) the dwelling of animals (very rare; see n.60 below); and (3) household, private property. Notice that oikos rarely refers to small or temporary shelters, to the homes of gods, or to non-domestic dwellings (e.g. temples), and it does not refer to the family or the home's occupants themselves. Under (3), it specifically designates the sphere of private wealth and economic activity.

18. Hesiod concerns himself only intermittently and cursorily with the creation and rearing of human offspring. In his depiction of a prosperous and peaceful city, mothers are fertile (Op. 227f.) and children resemble their fathers (235) as a matter of course. In his account of the successive generations of the human race, the first and best iteration did not even produce children; they went extinct after one generation and were happier for it. On the incapacity of the golden race to reproduce, see Clay (2003), 87.

19. The importance of the oikos inflects the most basic vocabulary of Works and Days. Whereas in Homer the term ergon encompasses virtually any kind of action, in Hesiod most of its uses are restricted to the activities of an independent farmer who owns land and capital. On the semantic development of ergon from Homer to Hesiod, see Descat (1986), 175–93. Indeed, ergon can refer to the land itself and to the productive, private sphere of the farmer centered in the oikos. On the polysemy of ergon, Edwards (2014), 97–104, remarks, ‘Hesiod places ἔργον, both labor and the site of labor, at the ethical center of his poem. Given the identity of labor in Works and Days with cultivation of the fields, Hesiod clearly spatializes moral values in the poem’ (104).

20. See Finley (1978), 74–107; Thalmann (1998); and Scully (1990), 100–12. On the spatial and religious valences of the oikos see Vernant (2006), 157–96 (‘Hestia-Hermes’).

21. See Wohl (1993), especially 18–20; Thalmann (1998), 9, 124–33; and Foley (1978).

22. Thalmann (1998), 9.

23. Translations are my own unless otherwise noted. I use the Solmsen et al. (1970) text of Works and Days.

24. See Rose (2012), 181, on the theme of ambiguity in Works and Days.

25. See Marsilio (1997b), 411f., and Canevaro (2015), 73–6.

26. Nelson (1998), 55.

27. There is a brief period in the middle of the summer when idleness is permitted (582–96), but it is sandwiched between two periods of work (see Canevaro [2015], 76f.).

28. Marsilio (1997b), 411, remarks that ‘one of the most admired passages in the Hesiodic corpus is the poet's lush description of the winter season’. West (1978), 54, refers to its ‘succession of highly poetic pictures’. Heath (1985), 255, admires the ‘long and lovely description of the mid-winter cold and its effects’.

29. See Purves (2004) on the temporality of vessels in Hesiod.

30. On the similarities between the girl at Op. 519 and Hesiod's Pandora, see Marsilio (1997a).

31. West (1978), 289f.

32. Campanile (1989) and Watkins (1978).

33. See Bagordo (2009) for a comprehensive review of interpretations of anosteos.

34. Brockliss (2018), 18f., and Marsilio (1997b), 417, stress the assimilation between animal and human bodies in this passage.

35. Lacan (1992), 3.

36. There are seven instances of ἦθος in Works, referring variously to Pandora's ‘thieving disposition’ (67, 78); human customs and especially sacrifice (137); the idyllic dwelling places of the deceased heroes (167); the abodes of humans visited by vengeful Dikē (222); the woeful abode of the ‘boneless one’ (525); and the respectable duties of a new wife (699). See Verdenius (1985), s.v. Op. 67 and 137. It is striking that the non-spatial meaning of ‘disposition’ is applied only to women.

37. Pucci (1977), 54.

38. See Edwards (2014), 112f., on these public locales, which are in every way opposed to the property regime that Hesiod's ethics is intended to promote. The shade and warmth of the thōkos are public goods available to all-comers, not the preserve of a private individual. The goods that the leskhē and thōkos offer—relaxation and idle talk—are economically unproductive and distract farmers from the vital work of accumulating private capital. Worst of all is the agorē, where parasites like Perses can steal their neighbor's property through litigation. In each of these common spaces, private substance is exposed to theft and waste.

39. This is not to say that Hesiod is an individualist. According to the patriarchal ideology of the oikos, farmers may naturally rely on the labor of their slaves (dmōes) and wives, and they sometimes employ wage laborers, since these relations of economic dominance are turned in the farmer's favor. Hesiod's discourse in Works and Days is addressed to a particular socioeconomic figure, the middling farmer who owns a plot of land, farming equipment, and slaves. It is simply assumed that the addressee can easily obtain this private capital and labor: the first instruction in the farming calendar is to ‘first of all [purchase] a house, a woman, and an ox for plowing’ (οἶκον μὲν πρώτιστα γυναῖκά τε βοῦν τ’ ἀροτῆρα, 405). Such a person is in no sense dependent on the labor of the individuals whom he exploits. Whatever resources the farmer can command within the private domain of his ergon become ‘his own’, an extension of his propertied, patriarchal self. Marsilio (1992), 26f., notes that while the presence of the dmōes seems to undermine the value of self-sufficiency, in fact they amount to little more than tools at the master's disposal (‘the δμῶες are extensions of their master’), akin to oxen (a connection that Aristotle makes when he quotes Op. 405 at Politics 1252b10f.). See Nussbaum (1960) on the status of dmōes in Hesiod.

40. Among the many passages asserting the inviolability of private property, the most famous is the account of the good and the bad races of Strife (Op. 11–26; on which see Nagler [1992]). See Op. 312–16 as well, where Hesiod advises Perses that he will prosper only if he averts his stupid mind ‘from the property of others’ (ἀπ’ ἀλλοτρίων κτεάνων, 315).

41. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 381. On the ‘nomad space,’ see n.56 and 59 below. In suggesting that the oikos and its striated social landscape ‘preexist’, I am not claiming that they are historically antecedent to any other kind of economic regime—for instance, nomadic pastoralism. See n.8 above on the ontological sense of ‘preexist’.

42. Deleuze and Guattari's accounts of land use in Archaic Greece focus on pastoralism in the hinterlands (nomos), which was organized differently from the densely settled farmland around oikoi; see n.56 below.

43. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (Deleuze [2003], originally published in 1981). For critical readings of this text, see Smith (1996), Rancière (2004), and Badiou (2005), 11. In the following discussion, when I refer to ‘Bacon’ and his techniques and painterly intentions, I always mean, parenthetically, what Deleuze reads into Bacon's work.

44. See Deleuze (2003), 137, on Bacon's attitude toward the home and its private interiority: ‘but Bacon continually denounces the annoying “intimacy” or “homely atmosphere” of chiaroscuro and calls for a painting that will take the image “away from the interior and the home”’. Here again, the meaning of ‘home’ has to be ambivalent. Bacon manifestly paints domestic settings, but they are nomadic, provisional spaces, not ‘home’ in the ‘homely’, familiar, sedentary sense.

45. These paintings illustrate some of the hallmarks of Francis Bacon's domestic scenes: sparsely furnished rooms occupied by solitary figures who are sitting or writhing; a circular contour that separates the figure from the unarticulated color field in the background; continuous distortions that render limbs and faces barely recognizable; garbled newspapers and random arrows, the ‘asignifying traits’.

46. Deleuze (2003), 3.

47. See Deleuze (2003), 3: ‘Coupled Figures have always been a part of Bacon's work, but they do not tell a story. Moreover, there is a relationship of great intensity between the separate panels of a triptych, although this relationship has nothing narrative about it.’

48. Op. 733–6 describes sexual taboos in the household.

49. See Watkins (1978).

50. Deleuze (2003), 14: ‘The material structure curls around the contour in order to imprison the Figure, which accompanies the movement of all the structure's forces. It is the extreme solitude of the Figures, the extreme confinement of the bodies, which excludes every spectator: the Figure becomes a Figure only through this movement which confines it and in which it confines itself.’

51. The purposeful comings and goings of the propertied farmer in the winter section (Op. 554) and the unmarried girl's peaceful repose (519) both follow the preexistent courses and narratives that populate the normative oikos.

52. Deleuze (2003), 41.

53. Deleuze (2003), 14–19.

54. Edwards (1971), 112, suggests that Hesiod invented ἀνόστεος as a riddle-word that could be analyzed both as ἀν + ὀστέα (‘boneless’) and as ἀ + νόστος (‘one who has no journey home’, cf. Homeric ἀνόστιμος and ἄνοστος). The second analysis is supposed to support Edwards’ identification of ἀνόστεος as a snail, which carries its home and so does not need to return to it (cf. φερέοικος at Op. 571). But if ἀ + νόστος has any validity, it could also serve to contrast the anosteos with the ordinary farmer, who is told thirty verses later to ‘return home hastily’ after finishing his work outdoors in the winter (οἶκόνδε νέεσθαι, 554; νέεσθαι and νόστος are cognate). The anosteos, by contrast, remains confined to its home and is therefore ‘without return’.

55. As Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 312, recognize, νομός can also refer to words or song; e.g. ἐπέων νομός (‘a range of words’, Op. 403); νομός…ᾠδῆς, (‘principle of song’, Hymn. Hom. Ap. 20). At least by Pindar's time, νομός was a particular genre of song, a ‘nome’ (see Nagy [1990], 87–91). It is tempting to see this usage at play here, at Op. 526, even though it is philologically improbable: the presence of song in the provisional home of the anosteos would make for a striking comparison with Klee's singing figures in Twittering Machine, discussed above. The connection is too tenuous to work out in detail, but if the anosteos is a kind of singing pastoralist, its only other counterpart in the Hesiodic corpus would be Hesiod himself, the shepherd instructed by the Muses in song in the proem of Theogony.

56. This account appears in Deleuze (1994), 309, and Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 481 and 557; both texts refer to Emmanuel Laroche's Histoire de la racine NEM- en grec ancien (1949). Deleuze and Guattari further assert that there was a sharp division between ‘the city, or polis, ruled by laws, and the outskirts as the place of the nomos’, where the latter primarily supported pastoralism. The place of agricultural land in this account is problematic. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 481, remark that ‘when the Ancient Greeks speak of the open space of the nomos…they oppose it not to cultivation, which may actually be part of it, but to the polis, the city, the town’. But in Works and Days, Hesiod is interested in farming with hoes and plows, draft animals, and short fallow regimes, and he regards private landownership and just legal institutions—and thus the polis—as prerequisites for such capital- and labor-intensive methods. The ‘smooth’ nomos of the shepherds is still found in Hesiod (most famously in the proem of Theogony, and, of course, at Op. 526), but it exists on the margins of the ‘striated’ economies that form his principle topic (see n.59 below). On the agricultural regimes in Works and Days and their historical and poetic contexts, see Edwards (2004) and González (2016).

57. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 312, take nomos to be a form of dynamic, amorphous distribution that encompasses both ‘custom’ (LfgrE s.v. νόμος) and ‘pasture’ (LfgrE s.v. νομός): ‘the nomos as customary, unwritten law is inseparable from a distribution of space, a distribution in space’. Thus they oppose customary, flexible forms of justice (nomos) to the formalized legal procedures of the sedentary state (polis). I should note that this philosophical opposition does not map neatly onto the historical development of law during the emergence of the polis. In fact, legal practices could be variously improvised or fixed, customary or formalized in the Archaic and Classical polis. See Gagarin (1986) on the development of legal procedures and rules in early Greece; on the semantic development of νόμος from ‘custom’ to ‘legal statute’, see Ostwald (1969).

58. There is disagreement in the literature regarding the social form and function of pastoralism in the Archaic period; see González (2016), 250 n.51, for a summary of the discussions.

59. Based on a reading of the Muses’ scorn for ‘field-dwelling shepherds’ in Theogony 26, González (2016) and (2013) claims that Hesiod exploits an ideological separation in Archaic and Classical thought between arable farming, centered around emerging poleis, and the ‘specialised pastoralism’ of the hinterlands. Hesiod aligns his poetry with the former and its Panhellenic, cosmopolitan associations in opposition to the competing traditions of epichoric poetry, which were aligned with local, pre-polis elites. This distinction illuminates the marginal and impoverished image of the anosteos, who dwells in the nomos at Op. 526 (although González does not comment on this case). On the scarcity of sheep, goats, and cattle in Works and Days, see Athanassakis (1992), 170, and González (2016), 232f.

60. On ‘uncivilized’ pastoralists, see Shaw (1982–83), Vidal-Naquet (1986), 15–38, and González (2016). On the ‘liminality of the shepherd’ between gods and beasts in Hesiod, see Stoddard (2004), 75f. For interpreters who take anosteos to be an animal of some sort, the ‘pastureland’ is the wilderness habitat that surrounds its shelter. This is possible, but nomos, like oikos, is rarely used for wild animals. LfgrE (s.v. νομός) cites only two instances of wild animals grazing in a nomos: a stag at Od. 9.159 and the anosteos itself, which is assumed to be an octopus. On the use of oikos and related words for animals, see West (1978), 291, and LfgrE s.v. οἶκος. The Odyssey is the best early witness of the negative associations of pastoralism: the Cyclopes and Laestrygonians are pastoralists; even the social condition of Eumaeus, Odysseus’ kindly swineherd, is not entirely positive (González [2016], 239f.).

61. Marsilio (1997b), 417, connects the anosteos scene to Hesiod's earlier warnings to Perses about the need to acquire adequate livelihood through farming; Hesiod ‘employs the impoverished ἀνόστεος to enforce this warning’.

62. On similar grounds, no credible interpretation of Bacon's paintings takes them simply as moral lessons or as denunciations of the social problems that they depict, which include loneliness, alienation, drug abuse, and suicide. I am not denying that anosteos functions as a negative exemplum in Hesiod's didactic program, but this function cannot account for all of the figure's complex valences.

63. Hesiod gives several accounts of the happy days before the toilsome, degenerate conditions of the present. In the myth of the ages (Op. 106–201), the golden genos enjoys life ‘far away from toil and pain’ (νόσφιν ἄτερ τε πόνου καὶ ὀϊζύος, 113). In a complementary account (42–105), Hesiod tells Perses that, before the gods ‘hid away the livelihood of humans’ (κρύψαντες γὰρ ἔχουσι θεοὶ βίον ἀνθρώποισιν, 42) as punishment for Prometheus’ wiles, one could obtain enough substance in a day ‘to live for an entire year without work’ (ὥστε σε κεἰς ἐνιαυτὸν ἔχειν καὶ ἀεργὸν ἐόντα, 44). Most (1997) summarizes the vast bibliography on Hesiod's myth of the ages.

64. Hesiod's utopias include the Golden Age (Op. 109–26), the Isles of the Blessed (168–73), and the city of Justice (225–37); see n.18. All are characterized by peace and social harmony, easy labor, and the automatic agricultural productivity of the earth. See Canevaro (2015), 84, and Pucci (1977), 106, on the agrarian, patriarchal outlook of these utopias. The ‘dark men’ at 527 (discussed below, n.65) may refer to the Ethiopians, who have certain utopian characteristics in Homer.

65. It is significant that the ‘dark men’ (perhaps Ethiopians; for interpretations see West [1978], 292) belong to a dēmos and polis: they are envisioned as part of a political community whose institutions and habits are left unspecified. On the Ethiopians in the Greek ethnographic imaginary, see Skinner (2012), 95–9. There is a similar sense of novelty in the use of Πανελλήνεσσι. The earliest attestation of Πανέλληνες is at Il. 2.530, but this has been traditionally regarded as a later interpolation (Schironi [2018], 301) or as a more regional ethnonym (West [1978], 292), which would leave Op. 528 as an important milestone in the development of the vocabulary of Panhellenism. See Baldry (1965), 22.

66. See Op. 100–4 (diseases frequent the surface of the earth), 504–18 (winter winds afflict farmers), 618–94 (Hesiod's extended discussion on the dangers of sailing).

67. West (1978), 291, remarks that ‘the early Greeks thought of the sun as near enough to the earth to be localized in different countries’. The sun and the anosteos are both nomads. The sun's wandering (στρωφᾶται) recalls the use of the verb in Hymn. Hom. Cer. 48, when Demeter wanders over the earth (κατὰ χθόνα…στρωφᾶτ’) searching for Persephone; or in Il. 9.463, when Phoenix recalls how he wandered in the palace of his enraged father (στρωφᾶσθαι); determined to flee abroad, he was temporarily detained by well-meaning relatives. For further instances, see LfgrE s.v. στρωφάω. The wandering bodies in both cases are displaced from their homes by an inner and external turmoil that sets them on unforeseeable trajectories. In Deleuzian terms, this kind of errancy annuls fixed reference points and distributes bodies over a smooth, nomad space.

68. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 310f.

69. This article originated as a paper for an Affect Theory seminar led by Davide Panagia at UCLA in 2016. It was substantially reworked with material from a chapter on Hesiod in my dissertation (2019), which benefited from audiences at the Classics Departments at UCLA and the University of Toronto. For their help and encouragement with the present version of the text, I would like to thank Kyle Khellaf, Alex Purves, Elliott Piros, and the anonymous referees at Ramus.

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