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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 February 2021

Assaf Krebs*
Tel Aviv University; Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art


Despite this paper's title it is only fair to warn the curious reader that it is not about reading Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, or using modern theory to better understand it. At least this is not its main intention. Instead, my wish is to experiment with the Metamorphoses, to wander inside it, to move from the actual to the virtual and the potential; to explore how things connect, proliferate, intensify—rather than learn how they actually are. The paper wishes to provide the readers means whereby they can experience the Metamorphoses, rather than examine categories of genres, style, or mode that lead to interpretation of the text. In other words, this paper addresses the Metamorphoses as Deleuze and Guattari do in their reading of Kafka's work in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. It focuses on modes of becomings, motions of desire, operating machines, assemblages, and language. According to Deleuze and Guattari, minor literature demonstrates literature's ability to challenge the major order, to undermine the doxa, to unstitch the seam between signifier and signified. It breaks forms and encourages ruptures and new routes, which forces reconstruction of content in new ways. It produces lines of flight, flows, streams, ramifications, and junctions instead of immobile paradigms and moulds; it prefers multiple centres to a centre and periphery; it relinquishes principles of unity for the benefit of experiencing multiplicity. Minor literature therefore is a political action containing the possibility of subverting the major order governed by structures of language, fixed and steady position, and state apparatuses.

Research Article
Copyright © Ramus 2021

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1. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), originally published (1975).

2. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 16f.

3. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 3. See also (1987), 27f.: ‘Thus, when there is no unity in the thing, there is at least unity and identity in the word. It will be noted that names are taken in their extensive usage, in other words, function as common nouns ensuring the unification of an aggregate they subsume. The proper name can be nothing more than an extreme case of the common noun, containing its already domesticated multiplicity within itself and linking it to a being or object posited as unique. This jeopardizes, on the side of words and things both, the relation of the proper name as an intensity to the multiplicity it instantaneously apprehends…Are we not witnessing the first stirrings of a subsequent adventure, that of the Signifier, the devious despotic agency that substitutes itself for asignifying proper names and replaces multiplicities with the dismal unity of an object declared lost?’

4. Deleuze (1990b), 12–22, originally published (1969).

5. Finkelpearl (2006), 205, after Callebat (1978).

6. All translations are mine.

7. Finkelpearl (2006), 215. His claim ibid. that the ‘distinction between Latin and Greek may therefore be irrelevant at 3.29; rather the main distinction is between human and animal talk’ as well as the assertion that ‘Lucius’ “genuinus sermo” is human language’—interesting as it is—misses the minoritarian subversive potential of escape-line offered here by Apuleius.

8. I thank Kyle Khellaf for his observation that even the use of the Latin verb boo here is striking, since it seems like a Graecism from boaō, and therefore has additional minoritarian qualities.

9. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 6. Lucius refers to the bestial sound vs. human voices at Flor. 13, for example, when comparing birdsongs to the speech of philosophers; see also Flor. 17.

10. Deleuze (1990b), 2f.

11. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 6.

12. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 34: ‘Becoming-animal, becoming-molecular, becoming-inhumane, each involves a molar extension, a human hyperconcentration, or prepares the ways for them.’ As in all of their concepts, the terms ‘molecular’ and ‘molar’—introduced in the third chapter of A Thousand Plateaus (1987), 39–74: ‘10,000 B.C.: The Geology of Morals’—can be understood in various ways and contexts. In terms of stasis and change and in the context of assemblage, the molecular is intensive, prone to change, and suggests parts which are intensively related to one another. The molar, on the other hand, tends towards stasis and in the context of assemblage refers to extensively related parts. The becoming is contrasted with molar stability. In terms of political bodies, ‘molar’ refers to the state apparatus and the civic world, whereas ‘molecular’ points at micro-entities. In this context, the motion between the two forms is related to the event and to deterritorialization. In relation to desire, the molecular is where the desire is generated, and the molar is where it is repressed.

13. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 21.

14. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 300.

15. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 22.

16. Cf. auris remulceo, frenos detraho (‘I caressed [my horse's] ears and unfastened his bridles’, Met. 1.2).

17. ‘Hey, you’, says Lucius to the credulous listener he meets in the story, ‘with your thick ears and obstinate heart’ (‘heus tu…tu uero crassis auribus et obstinato corde’, 1.3). Lucius is pointing to the traveller's asinine stubbornness that makes him ‘spit out’ (respuere) the story of his companion since it does not fit the regular frames—or is, in terms of this paper, the major order.

18. Harrison (1990).

19. See additional discussion of multiplicity below in the sections ‘Packs and multiplicity’ and ‘Becoming II’.

20. See the additional discussion of the war machine at n.39 below.

21. Cf. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 35. See also (1987), 9f.: ‘Every rhizome contains lines of segmentarity according to which it is stratified, territorialized, organized, signified, attributed, etc., as well as lines of deterritorialization down which it constantly flees…That is why one can never posit a dualism or a dichotomy, even in the rudimentary form of the good and the bad. You may make a rupture, draw a line of flight, yet there is still a danger that you will reencounter organizations that restratify everything, formations that restore power to a signifier, attributions that reconstitute a subject—anything you like, from Oedipal resurgences to fascist concretions. Groups and individuals contain microfascisms just waiting to crystallize.’

22. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 22.

23. Kenney (1990), 37.

24. Cf. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 18.

25. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 9, tie ants to the rhizome, claiming that ‘you can never get rid of ants because they form an animal rhizome that can rebound time and again after most of it has been destroyed’.

26. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 239f. See also their discussion of the packs of wolves in chapter two of A Thousand Plateaus, (1987), 26–38: ‘1914: One or Several Wolves?’

27. See Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 241f.

28. Deleuze (1990b), 56.

29. For the widespread use of et by Apuleius in the Met. as a transitional phrase, probably common in spoken Latin, see Keulen et al. (2015), 258.

30. See also my argument that this section is related to the dissolving boundaries between the corporeal sensation and the lingual system, or—in Deleuze and Guattari's terminology—between the sensible and intelligible (Krebs [2018], 70).

31. Keulen (2007), 281.

32. Keulen (2007), 286.

33. See Keulen (2007), 286f.

34. Keulen et al. (2015), 269.

35. Deleuze (1998), 22. The cited words were written by Deleuze about Lewis Caroll, but can be equally applied, so I believe, to Apuleius’ text.

36. Cf. Hijmans et al. (1977), 150.

37. This recalls in reverse the episode at Met. 7.26, in which a wild bear attacks and lacerates the donkey-driver.

38. Hijmans et al. (1977), 159, mention ‘Vallette's suggestion that clamor refers to articulate speech, ululatus to inarticulate utterance’.

39. The term war machine is mentioned by Deleuze and Guattari in various compositions; the longest discussion of this term appears in Plateau 12 of A Thousand Plateaus (1987), 351–423: ‘1227: Treatise on Nomadology—The War Machine’. While regular views of machines usually refer to them as actual devices for work, Deleuze and Guattari use an abstract definition of machines as productive organizations of forces (such as social or lingual structures, or mathematical formulas). The war machine has several features which are related to the current paper. The war machine is always exterior to the state apparatus, and is closely related to the nomad. However, Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 354, note that ‘it is not enough to affirm that the war machine is external to the apparatus. It is necessary to reach the point of conceiving the war machine as itself a pure form of exteriority, whereas the State apparatus constitutes the form of interiority we habitually take as a model, or according to which we are in the habit of thinking.’ Nomadic principles provide opposition to those of the state: the nomadic is flexible, spontaneous, and in constant motion; it operates by joining and connecting points rather than by following existing conventional paths; it challenges rigid structures (social, political, geographical) while continually producing new possibilities. In this respect, the war machine is related to becomings, deterritorializations, and lines of flights, and it provides non-orthodox paths, knowledge, and ways of existence. The machine phyla, which resist systematic and rigid structures, produce different types of operations and innovative practices in various dimensions through speed (by allowing rapid and spontaneous connections that subvert the state apparatus), affects, and secrecy.

40. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 248: ‘Exclusive importance should not be attached to becomings-animal. Rather, they are segments occupying a median region. On the near side, we encounter becomings-woman, becomings-child’.

41. On the concept of becoming and contagion and epidemics, see Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 247f.

42. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 320f. See also Nancy Worman's analysis in this volume.

43. For a detailed discussion on the becoming women in this episode, see Krebs (2018).

44. See Pl. Ti. 69e–70c.

45. In the current context, time as chronos refers to molar and linear time, whereas time as aion is molecular, cyclical, and discontinuous. The latter is also independent of matter (which fixes time). On time as Chronos and time as Aion see Deleuze (1990b), 162–8, as well as Richard Ellis's paper in this volume.

46. et ‘heus tu, ubi es?’ inquam…‘quid? tu’ inquit ‘ignoras latronibus infestari uias, qui hoc noctis iter incipis?’…‘quid uiatori de summa pauperie latrones auferre possunt? an ignoras, inepte, nudum nec a decem palaestritis despoliari posse?’…‘unde autem’ inquit ‘scio an conuectore illo tuo, cum quo sero deuorteras, iugulato fugae mandes praesidium?’

47. Keulen (2007), 296. Although he refers to a specific part of the janitor's speech (his words ut pro te moriamur, ‘to die for you’, 1.15), it certainly matches the whole dialogue.

48. For desire in the context of assemblages and the war machine see for example: Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 215f., 399f; on desire and the Body without Organs, see 154f., 165f.; on desire and becoming, see 282f.

49. Cf. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 326.

50. Cf. Quintilian's discussion on voice and his advice to orators to abstain from feminine or feeble voices, by keeping a healthy throat which prevents broken, obscure, rough, and cracked sounds (Inst. 11.3.20).

51. Cf. Deleuze (1990b), 125.

52. Cf. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 72.

53. ‘The magistrates…dreaded the danger to themselves’ (magistratus…metu periculi proprii, 10.6).

54. Cf. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 451: ‘the law in its entirety undergoes a mutation, becoming subjective, conjunctive, “topical” law: this is because the State apparatus is faced with a new task, which consists less in overcoding already coded flows than in organizing conjunctions of decoded flows as such. Thus the regime of signs has changed: in all of these respects, the operation of the imperial “signifier” has been superseded by processes of subjectification; machinic enslavement tends to be replaced by a regime of social subjection’.

55. See Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 73: ‘Paranoid law gives way to a schizo-law; immediate resolution gives way to an unlimited deferral; the transcendence of duty in the social field gives way to a nomadic immanence of desire that wanders all over this field.’

56. Cf. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 388.

57. Cf. Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 389.

58. As Hijmans et al. (1985), 155, note, this is a standard description of a battle scene. Cf. Sall. Cat. 56.3; Verg. Aen. 7.505f.

59. e.g., ad quem modum (9.13) instead of the usual quem ad modum order in the Met. (Hijmans et al. [1995], 125).

60. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 82.

61. For a discussion on books, rhizome, and the possibility of a book to avoid the imitation of the world and the reproduction of the common sense, see Deleuze and Guattari (1987), 3–25: ‘Introduction: Rhizome’.

62. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 38.

63. The most exhaustive discussion of the fold by Deleuze appears in his book on Leibniz and the Baroque (1993).

64. Such as the original Onos, Greek poetry techniques, especially of Alexandrian tradition, as well as folktale, and myth, and Platonism (Kenney [1990], 12f.). See also Harrison (2000), 210f., and (2013); O'Brien (2002).

65. Finkelpearl (1998), 184. Emphasis is mine.

66. Deleuze and Guattari (1986), 7.

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