P comme Professeur

— Gilles Deleuze (1988-89)

L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze is a French television program produced by Pierre-André Boutang in 1988–1989, consisting of an eight-hour series of interviews between Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet.

this is the english transcript of the “P comme Professeur” part, from this website

first, a couple screenshot of favorite parts, because the background is gorgeous.

Capture d’écran 2016-05-25 à 09.58.27 Capture d’écran 2016-05-25 à 09.59.48 Capture d’écran 2016-05-25 à 10.05.25 Capture d’écran 2016-05-25 à 10.08.05

for the francophones, enjoy the video


<New interview day; Deleuze in open-collared shirt, new glasses>

"P as in Professor"

Parnet reminds Deleuze that at 64 years of age, he spent nearly 40 as a professor, first in French high schools (_lycées_), then in the university. By 1988, Deleuze no longer was looking forward to teaching courses, so she asks first if he misses them since he has said he taught his courses with passion, so she wonders if he misses no longer doing them. Deleuze says no, not at all. He agrees that courses had been a very important part of his life, but when he retired, he was quite happy since he was less inclined to meet his courses. This question, for him, is quite simple: courses have equivalents in other domains, but required of him an enormous amount of preparation. Again, like so many other activities, for five or ten minutes at most of inspiration, so much preparation is needed. Deleuze says he always liked doing that a lot, preparing a lot in order to reach these moments of inspiration, but the more he continued, the longer he had to prepare only to have his inspiration progressively reduced. So it was about time, and it didn't make him happy, not at all, since the courses were something he greatly enjoyed, but then became something he needed less. Now he has his writing which poses other kinds of problems, but he did love teaching enormously.

Parnet asks him what he means by preparing a lot, how long he took to prepare. Deleuze says it's like anything, rehearsing <des répétitions> for a class. He compares it to theater or singing, there are rehearsals, and if one hasn't rehearsed enough, there's no inspiration. In a course, it means having moments of inspiration, without which the course means nothing. Parnet says he can't mean that he rehearsed in the class itself, and Deleuze says, of course not, each activity has it's modes of inspiration. He describes it as getting something into one's head <se mettre dans la tête>... Getting it into one's head and managing to find that what one's saying is interesting. It's obvious, Deleuze says, that if the speaker doesn't even find what he's saying of interest... and that doesn't go without saying, he insists, finding what one is saying is interesting, impassioned. Deleuze says that this isn't a form of vanity, of finding oneself passionate and interesting, it's the subject matter that one is treating and handling that one has to find passionate. And to do so, Deleuze admits, one sometimes has to drive oneself hard <se donner parfois de véritables coups de fouet: whip oneself forward>. The question, he says, isn't whether it's interesting, but of getting oneself stimulated <se monter soi-même> to the point at which one is able to speak about something with enthusiasm: that's what rehearsing is.

So, Deleuze says he needed that less, especially since courses were something quite special, what he calls a cube, a particular space-time in which so many things happen. Deleuze says he likes lectures much less, never liked lectures since they tended to be too small a space-time, whereas a course is something that stretches out from one week to the next. It's a space and a very, very special temporality, something that has successive steps <une suite>. He clarifies that it's not that one can do over or catch up when something might not go well, but there's an internal development in a course. Moreover, the people change from week to week, and the audience for a course, says Deleuze, is quite exciting.

Parnet goes back to the start of Deleuze's career, as a lycée professor. Deleuze says that doesn't mean much since it occurred at a time when the lycée was not at all what the lycée has become. Deleuze says he thinks of young professors today who are beaten down in the lycées. Deleuze says he was a lycée professor shortly after the Liberation, when it was completely different. To Parnet's query, he says he was in two provincial cities, one he liked, one he liked less. Amiens was the one he liked because it was a very free city, very open, whereas Orleans was much more severe. This was a period, he says, when a philosophy professor was treated with a lot of generosity, he tended to be forgiven since he was a bit like the madman, the village idiot. And usually he could do whatever he wanted. Deleuze says he taught his students using a musical saw, since he had taken it up at the time, and everyone found it quite normal. Nowadays, Deleuze thinks that would no longer be possible in the lycées. Parnet asks him what he used the musical saw to teach <laughing>, and Deleuze says he taught them curves, because one had to curve the saw in order to obtain the sound from the curve, and these were quite moving curves, something that interested them <Deleuze smiles back at Parnet>. She says that already it's an infinite variation, and laughing, Deleuze says yes, but that he didn't only do that, he taught the baccalaureate program, as a very conscientious professor <Deleuze laughs>. It was there, Parnet says, that he met <Jean> Poperen, and Deleuze says yes, but he traveled more than Deleuze, and stayed very little in Amiens. Deleuze recalls he had a little suitcase and big alarm clock because he didn't like watches, and that each day he went out and took his clock to class. Deleuze found him very charming. Parnet asks who Deleuze associated with as a lycée professor, and Deleuze recalls the gymnasts, the gymnastics professors, but says he doesn't recall very much. He says that the professors' lounge in the lycée must have changed a lot today as well. Parnet says as a student, one imagines the professors' lounge as a very oppressive place, but Deleuze says, no, that there are all sorts of people there, solemn or jokers, but that in fact, he didn't go there much.

Parnet continues, after Amiens and Orleans, Deleuze was in Paris at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in the preparatory course <Deleuze says, yes, yes, yes, as Parnet reviews this>, so she asks him to recall any students he had that were remarkable or not so. Deleuze repeats this question, reflecting, saying he doesn't really recall, perhaps some became professors, but none that he knows who became government ministers. He laughs as he recalls someone who became a police officer, but says really there were none very special, they all went their own way.

Parnet continues to the Sorbonne years of which one gets the impression, Parnet says, that they correspond to his history of philosophy years. Then he went to Vincennes which was a completely crucial and determining experience after the Sorbonne (Parnet indicates that she is jumping over Lyon that came after the Sorbonne). She asks if he was happy to become a university professor after being in the lycée. Deleuze says happy isn't really an appropriate word in this case, it was simply a normal career, and if he had gone back to the lycée, it wouldn't have been dramatic, just abnormal and a failure, so the way things worked out was normal, no problem, and he has nothing to say about it. Parnet asks if he prepared his university courses differently from the lycée courses, and he says not at all, exactly the same, he always did his courses the same way. Parnet seems astonished, asking again if his lycée preparations were as intense as his university preparations, and he repeats "of course" three times. In any case, Deleuze says, one has to be absolutely imbued <with the material>, one has to love what one is talking about, and that doesn't go all by itself, so one has to rehearse, prepare, go over things mentally, one has to find a gimmick. As the tape runs out, he says it's quite amusing that one has to find something like a door that one can pass through only from a particular position. After the tape change, Parnet asks the same question (about class preparations) a third time, and Deleuze says simply that there was no difference at all for him between the two kinds of courses.

Parnet says that since they are discussing his university work, perhaps he could talk about his doctoral thesis. She asks when he defended it. Deleuze reminds her that he had already written several books before his defense, and to some extent, this happened because he didn't want to finish the thesis, a frequent reaction. He recalls working enormously, and at one point, he realized he had to have the thesis, that it was quite urgent. So he made a maximum effort, and finally he presented it as one of the very first defenses following May '68, in early 1969. This created a very privileged situation for him because the committee was intently concerned with only one thing, how to arrange the defense in order to avoid the gangs roving through the Sorbonne. They were quite afraid, since it was right after the return to school following the May '68 events, so they didn't know what would happen. Deleuze recalls the chairman saying that there are two possibilities: either they have the defense on the ground floor, where there is one advantage, two exits <Deleuze laughs> so they could get out quickly, but the disadvantage was that the gangs mostly roved around on the ground floor; or they could go to the second floor, with the advantage of fewer gangs on that level, but the disadvantage of only one exit, so if something were to happen, they might not be able to get out. So, when Deleuze defended his thesis, he could never meet the gaze of the committee members since they were all watching the door <Deleuze laughs> to see if someone was going to come in. Parnet asks who the committee chairman was, but Deleuze says it's a secret. Parnet says she could make him confess, but Deleuze insists no, especially given the chairman's agony at the time, and also that he was very charming. Curiously, the chairman was more upset than Deleuze was, and it's rare for a committee to be more disturbed about the defense than the candidate. Parnet suggests that he was probably better known at that point than anyone on the committee, but Deleuze says he wasn't all that well-known. Parnet says the defense was of _Difference and Repetition_, and Deleuze says yes, then Parnet recalls that he was very well known for his works on Proust and Nietzsche <here Deleuze makes a kind of growling noise as his only response, visibly embarrassed, then shrugs his shoulders at Parnet>.

Parnet continues on to Vincennes, and Deleuze says that for Vincennes, Parnet is right that there was a change, not in the way he prepared his courses (what he calls his rehearsals), nor in the style of a course, but from Vincennes onward, Deleuze says he no longer had a student audience. This was what was so splendid about Vincennes and not generalized in all the universities that were getting back to normal. At least in philosophy -- Deleuze doesn't know if it was true for all of Vincennes --, there was a completely new kind of audience,.no longer made up of students, but a mixture of all ages, all kinds of professional activities, including patients in psychiatric hospitals. It was perhaps the most multi-textured <bigarré> audience that found a mysterious unity at Vincennes. That is, it was at once the most diverse and the most coherent as a function of, even because of, Vincennes, which gave to this disparate crowd a kind of unity. Deleuze says that he spent his whole career at Vincennes, but had he been forced subsequently to move to another _faculté_, he would have completely lost his bearings. When he visited other schools after that, it was like traveling back in time for him, landing back in the nineteenth century.

So at Vincennes, he spoke to a mixed audience, young painters, people from the field of psychiatric treatment, musicians, addicts, young architects, people from very different countries. There were waves of visitors that changed each year. He recalls the sudden arrival of 5 or 6 Australians, Deleuze didn't know why, and the next year they were gone. The Japanese were constantly there, each year, and there were South Americans, Blacks... Deleuze says it was an invaluable and fantastic audience. Parnet says that was because, for the first time, Deleuze was speaking to non-philosophers, his practice that he had mentioned earlier, and Deleuze agrees: it was fully philosophy that was addressed equally to philosophers and to non-philosophers, exactly like painting is addressed to painters and non-painters, or music not being limited to music specialists, but it's the same music, the same Berg or the same Beethoven addressed to people that are not specialists in music and are musicians. For philosophy, it must be strictly the same, Deleuze says, being addressed to non-philosophers and to philosophers without changing it. Philosophy addressed to non-philosophers shouldn't be made simple, no more than in music does one make Beethoven simpler for non-specialists. It's the same in philosophy, Deleuze says, and for him, philosophy has always had this double audition, a non-philosophical audition as much as a philosophical one. And if these don't exist together, then there is nothing.

Parnet asks Deleuze to explain a subtle distinction <une finesse>: in conferences there are non-philosophers, but he hates conferences. Deleuze says, yes, he hates conferences because they're artificial and also because of the before and the after of conferences. He says he likes teaching courses so much, which is one way of speaking differently from conferences. There, one talks before, then after, and just doesn't have the purity of a course. And then there's a circus quality in conferences -- although Deleuze admits that courses have their circus quality as well, but at least they amuse him and tend to be more involved <profonds>. In a conference, there is a phony side, and Deleuze says he doesn't enjoy people who go to them, or even just speaking at them: he finds them too tense, too much of a sell-out <trop putain>, too stressed... not very interesting at all.

Parnet brings him back to what she calls his "dear audience" <cher public> at Vincennes that was so mixed back then, with madmen, addicts, as Deleuze said, who made wild interventions, took the floor, and yet none of that ever seemed to bother Deleuze. Despite all of these interventions in the middle of his course, it remained completely masterful/authoritative <magistral; NB: a _cours magistral_ in France is a formal lecture course>, and no intervention made during the course seemed ever to be of objectionable value, that is, the masterful aspect of the course always remained.

Deleuze makes his embarrassed "oui, oui, oui" as she is completing her statement, then says she needs to find another word, since this expression -- _cour magistral_ -- is imposed by the university, but another one is needed. Deleuze sees two conceptions of a course: the first is one in which the object is to incite rather immediate reactions from the audience by means of questions and interruptions. This is a whole trend, Deleuze says, a particular conception of a course. On the other hand, there is the so-called "magistral"conception with one person <le monsieur> who speaks. It's not that he prefers one or the other, Deleuze says, he just had no choice, he only had practice with the second form, the "magistral" conception. So a different word is needed.

It's more like a kind of musical conception, Deleuze suggests. For him, one doesn't interrupt music, good or bad, or only if it's really bad, but usually one doesn't interrupt music whereas one can easily interrupt spoken words. He asks what this musical conception of a course means. He takes things from his experience, although he doesn't mean that this is the best conception, just how he sees things. As he has experienced audiences, his audiences, it occurs frequently that someone doesn't understand at a particular moment, and then there is something like a delayed effect, a bit like in music. At one moment, you don't understand a movement, Deleuze says, and then three or ten minutes later, it becomes clear: something happened in the meantime. So with these delayed effects, suddenly a guy listening <in the course> can certainly understand nothing at one point, and ten minutes later, it becomes clear, there's a kind of retroactive effect. So if he had already interrupted -- that's why Deleuze finds interruptions so stupid, or even certain questions people ask. Instead of asking a question because one is in the midst of not understanding, he/she would be better off waiting. That's a first aspect of it, and Deleuze says the best students were those who asked questions the following week. He hadn't insisted, but toward the end, they would pass him a note from one week to the next -- a practice he appreciated -- saying that he had to go back over a point. So by waiting that way, there was a kind of communication.

Deleuze brings up a second important point in his conception of a course: since a course he taught was two and one-half hours in length and no one could listen that long, for him, a course was not something destined to be understood in its totality. A course, says Deleuze, is a kind of material in movement <matière en mouvement>, really material in movement, which is how it is musical. So let each group or each person take from it what suits him/her. A bad course is one that quite literally suits no one, but of course one can't expect everything to suit just anyone. People have to wait, Deleuze argues, and it is obvious that some people nearly fall asleep, and then, by some mystery, they wake up at the moments that concern them. There is no law that foresees that this or that is going to concern someone or another. It's not even the subjects that are interesting, Deleuze says, but something else. In a course, he sees this as emotion, as much emotion as intelligence, and if there is no emotion, then there is nothing in the course, it has no interest. So, it's not a question of following everything or of listening to everything, but to keep a watch so that one grasps what suits him or her at the right moment. This will be something personal, and that's why for Deleuze a varied audience is so crucially important, because he senses clearly that the centers of interest shift and jump from one spot to another, forming a kinds of splendid fabric, texture.

Parnet reminds him that this corresponds to the audience, but to the "concert", Deleuze invented the expression "pop philosophy" and "pop philosopher." Deleuze nods, yes, that's what he meant. Parnet continues, saying that his appearance <allure>, like Foucault's, was something very special, his hat, his fingernails <extremely long, quite visible in the video>, his voice. So, she asks if Deleuze was conscious of this kind of mythification by his students around this appearance, like they had mythified Foucault. First, was he conscious of having this appearance and then of having this special voice? Deleuze says, certainly, since the voice in a course -- Deleuze recalls what he said earlier: if philosophy mobilizes and treats concepts, which is a vocalization of concepts in a course, then this is normal just like there is a written style of concepts. Philosophers aren't people who write without research into or elaboration of a style, it's like artists, and they are artists. So a course implies that one vocalizes, even <Deleuze says he speaks German poorly> a kind of *Sprechgesang*, clearly. So, if on top of that there are mythifications -- did you see his nails?, etc. -- that kind of thing occurs to all professors, already even in grade school. What's more important is the relationship between the voice and the concept. Parnet says that to make him happy, his hat was like Piaf's little black dress, with a very precise _allure_. Deleuze responds that his point of honor resides in never having worn it for that reason, so if it produced that effect, so much the better <tant mieux>, very good. Parent asks if that is a part of his professor's role, and Deleuze repeats her question aloud before saying no, it's a supplement to it. What belongs to a professor's role is what he said earlier: prior rehearsal and inspiration within the moment, that's the professor's role.

Parnet says that he never wanted either a "school" <based on his works>, nor disciples, and this refusal of disciples corresponds to something very deep in him. Deleuze bursts out laughing at this, saying he doesn't refuse at all, generally it works two ways: no one wants to be his disciple any more than Deleuze wanted to have any. A "school" is awful, he says, for a very simple reason: it takes too much time, one turns into an administrator. Consider philosophers who have their own "school": the Wittgensteinians, it's not a very lively bunch <pas très marrade>. The Heideggerians form a school: first it implies some terrible scores being settled, it implies exclusivities, it implies scheduling, an entire administration. Deleuze says he observed the rivalries between French Heideggerians led by Beaufret and the Belgian Heideggerians led by Develin <sp?>, a real knife fight, abominable for Deleuze, without any interest.

Deleuze clearly thinks of other reasons, saying that even on the level of ambition, being the leader of a "school" <Here he sighs> He says "Just look at Lacan, Lacan"... Lacan was the leader of a "school" as well <Deleuze laughs>. It's awful, he says, it creates so many worries. One has to become Machiavellian to lead it all, and then for Deleuze himself, he despises that. For him, the "school" is the opposite of a movement. He gives a simple example: Surrealism was a "school", with scores settled, trials, exclusions, etc., Breton as the leader; whereas Dada was a movement. Deleuze says that if he had an ideal -- and he states that he doesn't claim to have succeeded --, it would be to participate in a movement, but even to be the leader of a "school" does not seem to Deleuze to be an enviable fate <Deleuze laughs>. The ideal is the movement, not at all to have guarantees and signed notions or to have disciples repeating them. For Deleuze, there are two important things: relations that one can have with students means to teach them that they must be happy with their solitude. They keep saying: a little communication without being alone, we're so alone, etc., and that's why they want "schools." They can do nothing except as a function of their solitude, so it's to teach them the benefit of their solitude, reconcile them with their solitude. That, says Deleuze, was his role as a professor.

The second aspect is a bit the same: rather than introduce notions that would constitute a "school," he wanted notions or concepts that circulate in the course. Not that these become something ordinary, but of common use, that can be manipulated in several ways. That could only occur, Deleuze says, if he addressed this to other solitary people who will twist these notions in their own way, use them as they need them. So all of these notions relate to movements and not to "schools."

Parnet asks if today, the era of great professors has passed, since things don't seem to be going very well. Deleuze says he hasn't many ideas about that since he no longer belongs there. He says he left at a time that was terrifying, and he could no longer understand how professors could continue teaching courses, since they'd become administrators. Deleuze argues that the current trend of politics is clear: the university will cease being a research site, entirely consonant with the forced entry of disciplines that have nothing to do with university disciplines. Deleuze says his dream would be for universities to remain research sites and that, along with universities, technical schools would multiply, where they would teach accounting, information science, but with universities intervening only in accounting and information science on the level of research. And there could be all the agreements one would like between a technical school and the university, with a school sending its students to pursue research courses at the university. But once they introduced material belonging to such schools into the university, it was done for <foutue>. It's no longer a research site, and one gets increasingly eaten up by these management hassles, all of these meetings at the university. That's why, says Deleuze, he said he no longer sees how professors can prepare a course, and he guesses that some do the same one every year. He admits he could be wrong, that maybe they still prepare new ones, so much the better. The tendency seemed to Deleuze to be the disappearance of research at the university, the rise of non-creative disciplines, non-research disciplines, and that's what's called the adaptation of the university to the job market. Deleuze argues that it's not the role of the university to be adapted to the job market, but the role of technical schools.