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Gilles deleuze and minor rhetoric.

Language is not life; it gives life orders. Life does not speak; it listens and waits.

--Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari (1)

The target ... is ... to refuse what we are. We have to imagine and to build up what we could be We have to promote new forms of subjectivity through the refusal of [the] individuality which has been imposed on us.

--Michel Foucault (2)

[T]he best of all possible worlds rises up on the shoulders of the damned, because the damned have themselves forsaken progress and so set free infinite quantities of "progressiveness."

--Gilles Deleuze (3)


French philosopher and critic Gilles Deleuze's work carries a strong sophistic, anti-Platonist accent and is exuberant with productive energies. There is much to pick up and relaunch from his prolific corpus. As an effort of affirmative criticism, this essay distills and translates Deleuze's work into a rallying cover term--what I call a Deleuzian "minor" rhetoric--as a shorthand way of invoking a uniquely Nietzschean-Deleuzian ethical sensibility and linguistic orientation for purposes of transforming our self, our life, our times, our world, as well as our disciplinary and extradisciplinary praxis. The enabling power of this sensibility goes well beyond any particular discipline and is ultimately extradisciplinary, as the numerous examples used in the essay indicate. As such, this essay imagines, anticipates, and speaks to a much broader audience than the title suggests. Its serviceability rests entirely on the power of the audience, namely its affectivity and receptivity.

The problematic that minor rhetoric addresses is well stated in two passages. One is by Gilles Deleuze:

How many people today live in a language that is not their own? Or no longer, or not yet, even know their own and know poorly the major language that they are forced to serve? This is ... the problem of minorities ... but also a problem for all of us: how to tear a minor literature away from its own language, allowing it to ehallenge the language and making it follow a sober revolutionary path? How to become a nomad and an immigrant and a gypsy in relation to one's own language? Kafka answers: steal the baby from its crib, walk the tightrope. (4)

In a sense, we are all minorities, speaking a language not our own. In another sense, we all need to do the hard work to become real minorities--non-conformists, nomads. A Deleuzian minor rhetoric is relevant in both senses. It is "for everyone and no one." (5)

The other passage is by Michel Foucault:

... all manifest discourse is secretly based on an "already-said"; and ... this "already-said" is not merely a phrase that has already been spoken, or a text that has already been written, but a "never-said", an incorporeal discourse, a voice as silent as a breath, a writing that is merely the hollow of its own mark. It is supposed therefore that everything that is formulated in discourse was already articulated in that semi-silence that precedes it, which continues to run obstinately beneath it, but which it covers and silences. The manifest discourse, therefore, is really no more than the repressive presence of what it does not say; and this "not-said" is a hollow that undermines from within all that is said. (6)

Foucault's oxymoronic formulation suggests that the threshold moment of enunciation is necessarily a moment of trickery, one that holds the secret of selection, subsuming, and repression. Minor rhetoric is committed to affirming the "never-said," by means of a minor, intensive utilization of a major language.

Definition with Examples

The following clauses seek to further clarify the what, why, and how of minor rhetoric.

A Deleuzian minor rhetoric is minoritarian. It is practiced by minor rhetoricians for a minority people, a people to come. How to understand "minority" is a crucial step. It simply means a people capable of becoming, capable of slipping the captivating grasp of the identities overdetermined by the culture, and capable of "absolute deterritorialization," which defies "reterritorialization." (7) As Deleuze points out: "A minority never exists ready-made, it is only formed on lines of flight, which are also its way of advancing and attacking." (8)

"Minor" does not mean "weak." The opposite is the case. Herein lies a Nietzschean understanding of power. Power is a matter of affectivity, "a capacity for being affected." (9) It has a lot to do with the notion of vulnerability: vulnerability as a good, as an ethics. As such, "minor" is not a palliative gimmick that gets the oppressed to come to terms with their oppression. It is not a pretext for people to romanticize their oppression, to entertain what Friedrich W. Nietzsche calls a slave mentality.

"Minority" is not a matter of numbers, either. In his conversation with Toni Negri, Deleuze points out:

The difference between minorities and majorities isn't their size. A minority may be bigger than a majority. What defines the majority is a model you have to conform to: the average European adult male city-dweller, for example.... A minority, on the other hand, has no model, it's a becoming, a process. (10)

To be in the majority is a shame for Deleuze. It means to be complicit in the age-old game of representation and recognition, to be identified and self-identical, and to be a happy wreck, a mindless generic man. Hence, his exclamation: "The shame of being a man--is there any better reason to write?" (11) If the essence of life is flux, fluidity, flow, and flight, then conforming to a model simply means a blockage of life. There is something nihilistic about being in the majority. "Nihilistic" means life annihilating. (12)

A minor figure is defined by unmitigated nomadism: the will not to be domesticated. Real nomads "decodify instead of allowing themselves to become overcodified." (13) They "continually evade the codes of settled people" even if they stay in the same place--"some voyages take place in situ, are trips in intensity," "imperceptible, unexpected, and subterranean." (14) A minor figure is illegible in the eyes of a rational, administrative machinery, "in which parts and functions are delimited and coordinated, in which nothing whatever finds a place that has not first been assigned a 'meaning' in relation to the whole." (15)

The Overman, a la Nietzsche, is a minor figure. Deleuze points out, "The aim of critique is not the ends of man or of reason but in the end the Overman, the overcome, overtaken man. The point of critique is not justification but a different way of feeling: another sensibility" (emphasis added). (16) Two things are notable here. First, the Overman is no overlord but man unbound, man unhindered. Neither an upper dog nor an underdog, but a different animal entirely--"the positive product of critique itself." (17) Second, when he says "critique," Deleuze exactly means minor rhetoric--an affirmative critical praxis that calls into being a species of man capable of becoming, capable of being minorized, capable of unmitigated nomadism, and capable of another sensibility. It "inventu[s] a people that is missing," a new possibility of life. (18) It creates and traces lines of flight.

Minor rhetoric is a relay. It midwifes the actualization of the virtual nomad in us. A nomad is not a petty trickster, but a traitor, "traitor to one's own reign, traitor to one's sex, to one's class, to one's majority." (19) So it is with a minor rhetorician: "traitor to the world of dominant significations and to the established order." (20) A minor rhetorician is "a physician, the physician of himself and of the world." (21) To practice minor rhetoric is to "betray the fixed powers which try to hold us back, the established powers of the earth." (22) To betray takes more, not less, than to be a happy wreck. It is a capacity, the will to power. As Deleuze puts it, "it is difficult to be a traitor; it is to create." It is an affirmative move through and through.

A precise image of the minor rhetorician is offered in a poem of Goethe's, as quoted by Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy:
  Here I sit, forming men
  in my own image,
  a race to be like me,
  to suffer, to weep,
  to delight and to rejoice,
  and to defy you,
  as I do. (23)

A minor rhetorician is an anti-Christ who recuperates man's capacity for pain, for pathos (the capacity to be affected), for joy, and for defiance.

Minor rhetoric is a relay also in another sense. It does not end in itself. Rather, it finds its utility in its afterlife, its unexpected uptake and eruption elsewhere, as transmuted enunciation in a different milieu or as direct political praxis. It is an arrow "launched out into the world," to be picked up where it has fallen and shot somewhere else. (24) "As soon as [it] is enmeshed in a particular point ... it will never possess the slightest practical importance unless it can erupt in a totally different area." (25) It "only makes sense in relation to the state of forces that it expresses, and ... changes sense ... must change sense, according to the new forces which it is 'capable' (has the power) of attracting." (26) Put differently, minor rhetoric must connect up with an outside, an exteriority. Here's what Deleuze says of Nietzsche--the minor rhetorician par excellence:
  Nietzsche puts this very dearly; if you want
  to know what I mean, then find the force that
  gives a new sense to what I say, and hang
  the text upon it. Following this approach, there are
  only mechanical problems of plotting out his text,
  of trying to establish which exterior force actually
  enables the text to transmit, say, a current of energy ... the
  problem takes the shape of finding, assessing,
  and assembling the exterior forces that give a
  sense of liberation, a sense of exteriority
  to each various phrase. (27)

Minor rhetoric is a relay--a condenser and releaser--for transformative energies, so to speak. Its efficacy always lies beyond itself. It presupposes in its imagined audience a predisposition to privilege life and praxis over knowledge and theory.

Minor rhetoric is a creation that traces a path between impossibilities. It often bespeaks some sociopolitical angst and an underprivileged, difficult speaking position. Edward W. Said, who gives voice to a long-repressed Palestinian side of the Israel--Palestine story in a milieu hostile to such a voice, is a minor rhetorician. (28) Another good example is howard zinn (lower case as used on the cover of his A People's History of the United States, with "bell hooks" being a parallel case), a "minor" historian, whose writing, like Said's, has the potential to call into being a minor species of Americans. His speaking position is evident from the passage below:
... in that inevitable taking of sides which
 comes from selection and emphasis in history,
 I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery
 of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks,
 of the Constitution from the standpoint
 of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as
 seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen
 by the New York Irish, of the Mexican
 war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott's
 army, of the rise of industrialism as seen
 by the young women in the Lowell textile        mills,
of the Spanish-American war as seen by the Cuban... (29)

What a worthy "traitor"! To tell the story from the viewpoint of the Arawaks involves an Arawak-becoming. A parallel experience would be the butterfly-becoming of Zhuangzi, the ancient Chinese Taoist, who in a delirious morning dream couldn't tell whether it was him dreaming of a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming of him. The point is that minor enunciation is predicated on ego loss, or becoming Other--Other as a productive power, a transformative opportunity, rather than as deviance. This sentiment is echoed by Michel de Certeau, the heterologist by trade and by "genetic makeup." As Luce Giard says of him:
  He had had from childhood an intense desire,
  in his own words, to "not belong," to free himself, to
  overcome the limits of family, of milieu, of a province
  and a culture, and to encounter the Other in order
  to be, at the same time, again in his
  own words, "transformed" and "wounded." (30)

De Certeau definitely constitutes a notable nexus in our minor rhizome, which is already in the making.

Another good example is Franz Kafka. He was among the Jews of Prague, most of whom had dropped the vernacular Czech language (Kafka was one of the few Jewish writers to understand and speak Czech) and adopted an impoverished version of German--a paper language, which was cut off from the masses, intermixed with Czech and Yiddish, and plagued with a withered vocabulary and an incorrect syntax. Kafka found himself caught between "the impossibility of not writing, the impossibility of writing in German, the impossibility of writing otherwise." (31) He took the impossibility as a reason to write and turned it into a productive energy, a source of relevance and resonance. "Since the language [was] arid, [he made] it vibrate with a new intensity." (32) He wrote "like a rat digging its burrow." (33)

Here is how Deleuze takes account of this phenomenon:

Creation takes place in bottlenecks ... A creator who isn't grabbed around the throat by a set of impossibilities is no creator. A creator's someone who creates their own impossibilities, and thereby creates possibilities ... it's by banging your head on the wall that you find a way through. You have to work on the wall, because without a set of impossibilities, you won't have the line of flight, the exit that is creation, the power of falsity that is truth. Your writing has to be liquid or gaseous simply because normal perception and opinion are solid, geometric ... You have to open up words, break things open, to free earth's vectors. (34)

Minor rhetoric is the line of flight, the exit that is creation.

Minor rhetoric often finds its material incarnation in syntactic mutation, in stylistic innovation. Through syntactic creation or style, the minor rhetorician "opens up a kind of foreign language within language, which is ... a becoming-other of language, a 'minorization' of [a] major language, a delirium that carries it off, a witch's line that escapes the dominant system." (35) Syntactic creation transforms communication from representation (something to recognize, often mindlessly) into signs (the encounter with which provokes thought). A new thought is essentially a new style of thought, to be crystallized by a new syntax--something unforeseen, a transformation. "Style is ... a syntax ... [S]tyle amounts to innovation." (36) "It is always a question of freeing life wherever it is imprisoned, or of tempting it into an uncertain combat." (37) Minor rhetoricians are stylists. Obvious examples include Nietzsche, Helene Cixous, Marshall McLuhan, and Kafka.

Thus speaks Kenneth Burke about Nietzsche's later style:

Nietzsche's later style is like a sequence of darts ... His sentences are forever striking out at this or that, exactly like a man in the midst of game, or enemies. They leap with a continual abruptness and sharpness of naming, which seems to suggest nothing so much as those saltations by which cruising animals suddenly leap upon their prey ... Nietzsche's pages are certainly a battlefield of thought ... he vigorously constructed pages that put the raging of his brain before us. (38)

Nietzsche's style both expects and constitutes a minor sensibility--the capacity to be receptive to, to be affected and infected by, his forceful style. Here's how Nietzsche pictures his ideal reader: "a monster of courage and curiosity, also something supple, cunning, cautious, a born adventurer and discoverer," (39) From another angle, Nietzsche also did something to the German language by using it in a Polish way. As Deleuze observes: "His masterful siege of the [German] language permits him to transmit something uncodifiable: the notion of style as politics." (40)

Cixous's beautifully written "The Laugh of the Medusa" constitutes a stylistic statement, a break, a creation. Its syntax and rhythm enact the exuberance of life overflowing in the new woman. This piece alone is enough to make Cixous a Deleuzian minor rhetorician, in style and in substance. There is such a strong resonance between Deleuze and Cixous that the two proper names can naturally be hyphenated, at least in this context. Importantly, Cixous's invitation for becoming, including becoming woman, is extended to both conventional woman and conventional man. Male or female, our receptivity to her call is contingent on our overcoming "the deaf male ear, which hears in language only that which speaks in the masculine." (41) For the perceptive reader, Cixous also portrays a specific species of minor rhetoricians, namely:

... poets who would go to any lengths to slip something by at odds with tradition--men capable of loving love and hence capable of loving others and of wanting them, of imagining the woman who would hold out against oppression and constitute herself as a superb, equal, hence "impossible" subject, untenable in a real social framework. Such a woman the poet could desire only by breaking the codes that negate her. (42)

Two things are of special import here. First, being minoritarian is a capacity. Second, it is a matter of decodification, in substance and in style.

McLuhan's experimental, poetic mode of writing invites completion and maximum involvement on the part of the reader. He is a minor theoretician in the sense that he transforms academic writing into social poetry, which calls for a minor sensibility in the reader. Eric McLuhan's preface to Laws of Media offers a partial reveal as to how McLuhan's style came about.

When he decided to start on a book, [McLuhan] began by setting up some file folders ... and popping notes into them as fast as observations or discoveries, large or small, occurred to him. Often the notes would be on backs of envelopes or on scraps of paper and in his own special shorthand, sometimes a written or dictated paragraph or two, sometimes an advertisement or press clipping, sometimes just a passage, photocopied from a book, with notes in the margin, or even a copy of a letter just sent off to someone, for he would frequently use the letter as a conversational opportunity to develop or 'talk out' an idea in the hope that his correspondent would (ire back some further ideas or criticism. (43)

McLuhan's logistics of writing reminds us of Walter Whitman. This mode of writing turns McLuhan's work into a rhizome, a vortex of forces. The proper name "McLuhan" indicates a multiplicity, encompassing Edmund Carpenter and many others--hence the dynamism or vitalism of his writing. The jumpy quality of McLuhan's writing is a poetic quality, poetic not out of negligence or incompetence but as an effect of artful, "planned incongruity," to stretch one of Burke's signature phrases a bit. (44) This is a quality Nietzsche achieves single-handedly, but only after years of preparation as a classical philologist. Similar to McLuhan's comic incorporation of others' voices, Deleuze is in the habit of using free indirect discourse, whereby he "creates a zone of indiscernibility between his ideas and the ideas of the thinkers that he writes about," "to turn their separate voices into a multivocal 'becoming.'" (45) Incidentally, it is a habit that outrages those among us who treat intellectual property with disproportionate piety. This style of writing can be frustrating. It can also be maximally enriching and fulfilling, if one is capable of appreciating it. The point is that perfectly self-contained syllogistic reasoning produces no new knowledge, in the same way a neutral, non-dramatic vocabulary numbs us down. It takes audacious minor figures to dispel the monotony.

To use McLuhan's terminology, a minor style is a "cool" style that provokes mindfulness in the reader. Indeed, the style is the message. This is precisely Deleuze's point when he promotes impactful encounter with signs to displace mindless recognition of representation. As he puts it: "Learning takes place not in the relation between a representation and an action (reproduction of the Same) but in the relation between a sign and a response (encounter with the Other)." (46) Writing needs to become a theater of cruelty Antonin Artaud style. (47) Martin Heidegger displays a similar sensibility when he proposes primordial appropriation as against average intelligibility. (48)

Kafka's case is worth revisiting here. He uses Yiddish "as a nomadic movement of deterritorialization" to rework the German language from within, to become "a sort of stranger within his own language," to "make the German language take flight on a line of escape," "in the direction of a new sobriety, a new and unexpected modification, a pitiless rectification." "[H]e will tear out of Prague German all the qualities of underdevelopment that it has tried to hide ... He will turn syntax into a cry that will embrace the rigid syntax of this dried-up German ... To use syntax in order to cry, to give a syntax to the cry." Deleuze specifically mentions "Kafka's fascination for servants and employees." His point seems to be that a language can escape only by points of nonculture or underdevelopment, linguistic Third World zones, by its oppressed quality instead of its oppressive quality. (49)

Early in the 20th century, Chinese underwent a wholesale becoming-other, or minorization--a flight from its elitist, archaic version in embrace of a hybrid between vernacular Chinese and Western syntax. The impact on the culture was revolutionary. The becoming-other of language has also happened to English in the hands of many blacks, and whites, in America. (50) If African American rap minorizes English in a way that is inspired by African American Vernacular English, then Asian American rap adds another twist to the minorization. To quote Deleuze again: "A style is managing to stammer in one's own language. It is difficult, because there has to be a need for such stammering. Not being a stammerer in one's speech, but being a stammerer of language itself." (51) To stammer is to enact the becoming-other of language. Minor rhetoric is a stylized construction that materially enacts a line of flight.

Minor rhetoric is "the collective enunciation of a minor people," "a bastard people, inferior, dominated, always in becoming, always incomplete," who "find their expression only in and through" the minor rhetorician. (52) If the minor rhetorician "is in the margins or completely outside his or her fragile community, this situation allows [him or her] all the more possibility to express another possible community and to forge the means for another consciousness and another sensibility." (53) Minor enunciation involves "[a] movement from the individual ... to the pack or to a collective multiplicity." (54) As Dana Polan points out, "placing any minority [rhetorician] within a major language can turn into a battle of the most far-reaching sort." (55) Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Helene Cixous are obvious examples.

Minor rhetoric is a rhetoric of vitalism. It gives voice to a "minor" mode of being. "Minor" and "vital" are interchangeable terms for Deleuze. Order as spelt out by major discourse often means lifelessness, or repression of life. Disorder is often a misnomer for multiple orders. Minor rhetoric affirms life. It reveals the elan vital (life force) in things and puts on display the positive power of "disorder." If major discourse wills harmony and identity, then minor rhetoric privileges clashes, difference, unruliness, and the obstinacy of life. Major discourse is something erected above the plane of immanence that governs the plane. By contrast, minor rhetoric perverts major discourse. It affirms the life force that is of the plane. It embodies a horizontal, pluralist, and rhizomatic principle.

Nietzsche's writing proffers "perspective by incongruity" precisely because it is rich in clashes. (56) The same dynamic is evident in Picasso. Life can be imprisoned. People may desire their own enslavement. Minor rhetoric is an antidote for cultural and psychic pathologies that negate or enslave life. It wills the exuberance of life and traces lines of flight for life. The power of life "can be found in a line that's drawn, a line of writing, a line of music." (57) To the extent that they celebrate life, such "lines" are properly "minor" in nature. Like Cezanne who "paints the forces which allow mountains to exist," and Van Gogh who "invents the forces of the sunflower," the minor rhetorician renders visible forces of life that are not visible. (58) Minor rhetoricians are "'vital' personalities by virtue of the excess of life that they have seen, experienced or thought about." (59)

Minor rhetoric is a rhetoric of becoming. Identity is a trap. Minor rhetoric presupposes an eternal journeyman, capable of encounters and self-transformation. The Present is a tyrannical formation. Deleuze challenges us to see a difference in kind between Present and present, suggesting that Present means past. As he puts it:
... the present is not, rather, it is pure becoming,
  always outside itself. It is not, but it acts.
  Its proper element is not being but the active or the useful.
  The past, on the other hand, has ceased to act or to be useful.
  But it has not ceased to be. Useless and inactive,
  impassive, it IS, in the full sense of the word.
  It is identical with being in itself. (60)

A Deieuzian minor rhetoric radically redefines what the present entails. It traces lines of flight and invents new possibilities of life. It is a rhetoric of change. It affirmatively critiques the kind of change that is already immanent in the present. It resists the Present. The essence of resistance is the affirmation of elan vital and vital alternatives.


Minor rhetoric rejuvenates democracy. By its "cool" nature, minor rhetoric constitutes the habit of engagement, which is a crucial habit for an agonistic, robust, and strong democracy, as articulated by Chantal Mouffe, Robert L. Ivie, and Benjamin Barber. (61) A habit of engagement in the realm of discourse directly translates into a habit of engagement in the realm of politics. Since the world we inhabit is essentially a world we make and remake with others by means of language, language games play a central role in our mode of being with others in the world, democratic or otherwise. Voices of difference, especially those couched in systematically marginalized languages, however, are susceptible to dismissal as unworthy of a serious hearing. Minor rhetoric, by virtue of using the major language in a "foreign" way, effects both connection and dissension. It can produce the effect of a theater of the absurd in the political realm and cast the petrified narrow seriousness of the major language in a light of shame, thereby undermining its legitimacy from within. This line of reasoning is well articulated by Ivie in his essay on democratic dissent. (62) The kind of rhetorical critique he advocates is precisely a species of minor rhetoric. Being life-affirming in spirit, minor rhetoric can rejuvenate an attenuated democratic culture. It is a rhetoric of dissent with a totally affirmative accent. As such, it is the right medium for doing democracy. On the other hand, people need to become real minorities, as defined by Deleuze, for democracy to work.

Minor rhetoric embodies an ethics, with ethics to be understood as the pursuit of the good life. The ethics in question is an ethics of vitalism, multiplicity, becoming, vulnerability, insecurity, uncertainty, self-cultivation, and self-transformation, which are intricately interconnected and which collectively define a minor sensibility. It involves making a clearing in the self so it can become a receiver, whose receptivity is a function of its void. Better still, it involves ego loss, ego being a hindrance against becoming. In an essay about the hurtful nature of name-calling, Meaghan Morris observes: "a 'me' truly never hurt by names would be impervious to other human beings--an angel or sociopath, perhaps." (63) The self is best pictured as a desert populated by numerous others, each of whom means a line of becoming for the self. Or, the self is always a multistrand happening, a constellation of virtualities actualizing themselves moment by moment as per the logic of eternal recurrence.

To affirm life means to pluralize it, so it evades the trap of an essentialized identity, or an identity that is overdetermined by the "ordinary" language of the culture. This ethics is Nietzschean-Deleuzian through and through. Incidentally, an ethics without this Nietzschean-Deleuzian element in it always smacks of being priestly, moralist, and pseudo. As a side note, the way Joseph Cornell made Rose Hohart holds an important ethical lesson for the maddening shopping crowd of today. One can invent something so miraculous with so little. A contemporary example would be the series of media-ecological performances done by Eric Goodman and Mike Stevens--two guerrilla cultural critics--under the title Thus Spoke the Spectacle. The good life rests entirely on a minor sensibility, which is always already pluralist, affirmative, and inventive, which involves making oneself illegible to the profiling, profiteering matrix. Alain de Botton captures it quite well in a video talk entitled "A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success": "The next time you see somebody driving a Ferrari ... feel sympathy, rather than contempt."

Minor rhetoric entails a pedagogy of dlifference, appropriation, and repurposing. Such a pedagogy does not see much value in replication of the Same; instead, it sees error and deviation as a productive force. It encourages people to take ownership of singular problematics and use them as reasons to pick up energies from what they encounter. Between "stuff" and what one could do with the "stuff," the latter is valued much more. As per the logic of this pedagogy, theory and praxis are mutual relays. (64) Techne (the art and practice of consciousness raising, cultural intervention, and social transformation) is privileged over episteme (knowledge for its own sake). People are encouraged to be "alchemists," to develop a power of "translation"--the ability to transform another's work, to pick up another's arrows and relaunch them. (65) This pedagogy is a "cool" pedagogy because it expects maximum involvement on the part of the participants and constitutes in them a habit of engagement. This habit is indispensable in sustaining democracy as a vital process, as something to be constantly realized, renewed, and earned rather than something one automatically has by virtue of being born somewhere. The last thing this pedagogy trusts is literal meaning, which is "a product of a social elite." (66)

Minor rhetoric transforms our disciplinary imagination and praxis. It is not just for speakers and writers, or for those who study their performances and texts. As a sensibility or disposition, minor rhetoric transforms all kinds of cultural practices and the study thereof. Deleuze would call Bob Dylan a minor rhetorician, at least part of him. As affirmative criticism, minor rhetoric has intrinsic affinities with Deleuzian cultural studies, which is the study of change, or the inventive articulation of new possibilities of life. It takes extraordinary receptivity to detect change, which is always already immanent in everyday cultural practices, often at a subterranean level. One has to cultivate the ears for it, to exercise deep listening. One also needs "long legs," as Nietzsche would say, to go from peak to peak and from plateau to plateau, to invent crucial interarticulations, and to develop a rhizome, which can sap the tyranny of the Present. Our disciplinary praxis will matter tremendously if we always ask ourselves these questions: What is life affirming? What are we actually doing? Are the two well aligned with each other?

Concluding Remarks

Minor rhetoric is not "vernacular discourse." (67) Instead, it is a minor appropriation of the major language, although the vernacular may inflect or inspire ways of performing the minor appropriation. Minor rhetoric is not "critical rhetoric," either. (68) It affirmatively critiques a different species of power--power as affectivity; it sees freedom and liberation in affirmation alone-the affirmation of elan vital. Minor rhetoric defines "minority" only in terms of the capacity to become. It is loyal to and sides with real minorities, as Deleuze defines it. It is a rhetoric of resistance that sees resistance as residing in the inventive articulation of new possibilities of life. Its aim is to call into being a people that is yet to come.

This essay is not an initial wakeup call. Our cultures, languages, and lives have always been enriched, enhanced, and rejuvenated by minor rhetoricians in disguise. As a rallying term, though, "Deleuzian minor rhetoric" serves to encapsulate what this heterological species of cultural servants has been doing all along, and to constantly remind ourselves of the serviceability of the multiplicity, horizon, and commitment called Deleuze. As 1 come toward the end of this essay, I am increasingly haunted by an intriguing line from Deleuze: "I have always felt that I am an empiricist, that is, a pluralist." Therein lies the essence of minor rhetoric. It reminds me of Alfred Korzybski's structural differential, Burke's comic correctives, Antonio Gramsci's sense of hegemony, Jacques Derrida's monolingualism of the Other, the ancient Greek sophists and the gist of their symbolic praxis, and much more. A rhizome has always already been there, with Deleuze as a vulnerable, vital, capable element, even more so after his death. In developing vital relations with this rhizome, we are building up an ethics, a nomadism, a way of life illegible for the panopticon, and opening up conditions for a robust democracy.


(1.) Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. by Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), (76).

(2.) Michel Foucault, "The Subject and Power," In Hubert L. Dreyfus & Paul Rabinow, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneu-tics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 216.

(3.) Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations, 1972-1990. Trans, by Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 162.

(4.) Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Trans. by Dana Polan (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 19.

(5.) An allusion to the subtitle of Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One.

(6.) Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language. Trans, by A. M. Sheridan Smith (New York: Pantheon Books. 1982), 25.

(7.) Deleuze & Guattari, Kafka, 16-27.

(8.) Gilles Deleuze & Claire Parnet, Dialogues. Trans, by Hugh Tomlinson & Barbara Habberjam (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), 43.

(9.) Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy. Trans, by Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), 62.

(10.) Deleuze, Negotiations, 173.

(11.) Gilles Deleuze, "Literature and Life." Trans, by Daniel W. Smith & Michael A. Greco, in Critical Inquiry 23 (1997), 225.

(12.) Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 147.

(13.) Gilles Deleuze, "Nomad Thought." in David B. Allison, ed., The New-Nietzsche: Contemporary Styles of Interpretation (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1977), 148.

(14.) Deleuze, "Nomad Thought," 149.

(15.) Friedrich W. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo, ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Random House, 2010), 17.

(16.) Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 94.

(17.) Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 94.

(18.) Deleuze. "Literature and Life," 228-29.

(19.) Deleuze & Parnet, Dialogues. 44.

(20.) Deleuze & Parnet, Dialogues, 41.

(21.) Deleuze, "'Literature and Life/1 228.

(22.) Deleuze & Parnet. Dialogues, 40.

(23.) Friedrich Nietzsehe, The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner Trans, by Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1967), 69.

(24.) John Marks. Gilles Deleuze: Vitalism and Multiplicity (London: Pluto Press. 1998), 19.

(25.) Miehel Foucault & Gilles Deleuze, "Intellectuals and Power," in Michel Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews by Michel Foucault, ed. Donald F. Bouchard (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), 208.

(26.) Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, xiii.

(27.) Deleuze, "Nomad Thought," 145-146.

(28.) Edward W. Said. "Invention. Memory, and Place," in Critical Inquiry 26(2000), 175 192.

(29.) Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present (New York: Harper, 1995), 10.

(30.) Luce Giard, "Epilogue: Michel de Certeau's Heterology and the New World,'1 in Representations 33 (1991), 216.

(31.) Deleuze & Guattari. Kafka, 16 22.

(32.) Deleuze & Guattari. Kafka. 19.

(33.) Deleuze & Guattari, Kafka, 18.

(34.) Deleuze, Negotiations. 133-134.

(35.) Deleuze, "Literature and Life." 229.

(36.) Deleuze, Negotiations, 132.

(37.) Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, What Is Philosophy? Trans, by Hugh Tomlinson & Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press. 1994), 171.

(38.) Kenneth Burke, Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purposes (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1965), 88.

(39.) Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo. Trans, by R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Penguin Books, 1979), 73.

(40.) Deleuze, "Nomad Thought," 143.

(41.) Helene Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa." in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 1 (1976), 881.

(42.) Cixous, "The Laugh of the Medusa," 879.

(43.) Marshall & Eric McLuhan, Laws of Media: The New Science (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), vii.

(44.) Burke, Permanence and Change, 89-96.

(45.) Marks, Gilles Deleuze, 51 -52.

(46.) Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition. Trans, by Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 22.

(47.) Antonin Artaud, The Theater and Its Double. Trans, by Mary Caroline Richards (New York: Grove Press, 1958), 89-100, 122-132.

(48.) Martin Heidegger, Being and Time. Trans, by Joan Stambaugh (Albany: SUNY press, 1996), 157-159.

(49.) Deleuze & Guattari, Kafka, 25-27.

(50.) Deleuze & Guattari, Kqflca, 17.

(51.) Deleuze & Parnet, Dialogues, 4.

(52.) Deleuze, "Literature and Life," 228.

(53.) Deleuze & Guattari, Kafka, 17.

(54.) Deleuze & Guattari, Kajka, 18.

(55.) Dana Polan, "Translator's Introduction," in Deleuze & Guattari, Kafka, xxvi.

(56.) Burke, Permanence and Change, 88.

(57.) Marks, Gilles Deleuze, 30.

(58.) Marks, Gilles Deleuze, 27.

(59.) Marks, Gilles Deleuze, 30.

(60.) Gilles Deleuze, Bergsonism (New York: Zone Books, 1988), 55.

(61.) Chantal Mouffe, The Democratic Paradox (London: Verso, 2000). Robert L. I vie, Democracy and America's War on Terror (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2005). Benjamin Barber, Strong Democracy: Participa?tory Politics for a New Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).

(62.) Robert L. Ivie, "Democratic Dissent and the Trick of Rhetorical Critique," in Cultural Studies

(63.) Meaghan Morris, Identity Anecdotes: Translation and Media Culture (London: Sage Publications, 2006), 205.

(64.) Foucault & Deleuze, "Intellectuals and Power," 206.

(65.) Marks, Gilles Deleuze, 25.

(66.) Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans, by Steven Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 170.

(67.) Kent A. Ono & John M. Sloop, "The Critique of Vernacular Discourse," in Communication Monographs 62 (1995), 19 46.

(68.) Raymie E. McKerrow, "Critical Rhetoric: Theory and Praxis," in Communication Monographs 56 (1989), 91-111.

Peter/Xianguang Zhang, PhD, is an assistant professor in the School of Communications at Grand Valley State University. A version of this paper was presented at the Rhetoric Society of America 14th Biennial Conference in Minneapolis, May 2010. The author thanks the following scholars (in alphabetical order) for their helpful suggestions during the revision process: Frederick Antczak, Robert L. Ivie, John L. Lucaites, Raymie McKerrow, Kent A. Ono. Ted Striphas. and Robert Terrill. Contact:
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Author:Zhang, Peter
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
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Date:Apr 1, 2011
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