October 2018



Narrative intermezzos



I ask the storytellers to start wherever they want and end wherever they want, but where does a story start and / or end? Well, the short answer is that it starts from any point and ends at any other. Or rather, the story, its happenings and its affective overflows emerge in the middle of a thought, a sentence or even a word. What is of interest, Deleuze wrote is what happens in the intermezzo, the middle of things:

it is in the middle that one finds the becoming, the movement, the velocity, the vortex. The middle is not the mean, but on the contrary, an excess. It is by the middle that things push. That was Virginia Woolf’s idea. Now the middle does not imply to be in one’s time, to be of one’s time, to be historical-on the contrary. It is that by which the most diverse times communicate. It is neither the historical, nor the eternal, but the untimely. (Minor Languages and Nomad Art, 208)


Meaning is not simply localisable in the plot, or even the discourse of the narrative. Any line, word, hesitation, sound or bodily movement is entangled in the meaning of the whole, in the linguistic gesture alone; any point is always, already, overfilled with meaning; every part of a story is a knot of different potential meanings, affects, expressions. So many lines of thought potentially passing through words, in the interstices of language in the stammering of speech, in-between linguistic codes and translations. The story is less a prose than an assemblage of language forces, a vectorial gestural nexus, wherein each starting point holds potential passages within its moment. The milieu, the middle, the intermezzo holds an infinity of meanings, thoughts and ambivalences, not all of which will be expressed in the unfolding of the story.

If the meaning of a story is not localisable when the narrative researcher seeks to understand it is not enough to create an analytical grid, no matter how well designed, organised and theorised this can be. What he/she can do is to draw a map of positions, since a situated position can become a gateway to meaning and understanding, or rather to their dynamic movement, which keeps jumping and shifting. Understanding, or rather feeling a story is not simply about taking up situated positions, but rather about following the motion of meaning, its leaps, interferences and diffractions, in short the activation of a story in becoming.

But what exactly do we see of the process of a story in becoming? Simply put, it is lines of narratives and designs of figures, never whole plots or characters as such. A word, a sigh, a silence, a hesitation erupts, but this is just a trace of a narrative field that will never be fully discernible or accessible, not even to the narrator who inhabits it, let alone the listener, no matter how attentive or sensitive he or she is. The task of the researcher is therefore to make visible what can only be felt in the unfolding of the narrative. In this sense meaning is always in transit, in-between what is expressed, what is felt, what is registered and rewritten. Meaning circles around the rhythm of language.

‘Movement only comes from movement’ in Spinoza’s philosophy, Erin Manning and Brian Massumi have noted (Thought is in the Act, 41) creating an analogy between the sui generis of movement and the sui generis of language: ‘words only come from other words, in recurring waves’ (41). In the same way, events, plots and figures come from previous myths and story-lines and insert themselves in the rhythmic composition of narrative worlds. It is in the ebb and flow of words and story-lines that temporary openings are activated, moments and events are illuminated in the dark and silenced fields of experience. In Whitehead’s Process Philosophy, ‘consciousness flickers; and even at its brightest there is a small focal region of clear illumination and a large penumbral region of experience in dim apprehension’. (267) In the same way that ‘the simplicity of clear consciousness is no measure of the complexity of complete experience’ (ibid.), the clarity of a story is no measure of the complex field of experiences it has partially illuminated.

Please reference as : Maria Tamboukou (2018) ‘Diffractions,-October 2018,’ https://mariatamboukou.org/revisiting-the-nomadic-subject-2/reflections-and-diffractions/october-2018/