Psychoanalytic paradigms have been widely and successfully used to understand the relationships between desire and narrative fiction. The fact that Freud's theory accounts so well for the structure of many novels, particularly nineteenth-century novels, may lead critics to overlook alternative patterns of desire in narrative or to treat them as failures in relation to desire's presumed ends and objects. The work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari can be useful in rendering alternative patterns legible as such. In this essay I focus on instances of pointless overproduction, a kind of production Deleuze and Guattari associate with desire in its purest or least “oedipalized” form. First I discuss the deliberate but apparently pointless and wasteful expenditure of labor, time, and resources associated with “curiosities.” Turning to Uncle Toby's battlefield in Tristram Shandy and Mr. Dick's kites in David Copperfield, I consider the tensions between these represented instances of overproduction and the narrative patterns of the novels themselves. As a whole, Tristram Shandy sides with the joy and madness of pointless production. It thus suggests motives for reading that align more closely with the attraction exerted by curiosities than with Freudian patterns of tension and release. The strongly plotted novel David Copperfield distinguishes itself from the kites it describes, though Mr. Dick's name pointedly invites a comparison to Dickens's own writing. Ultimately Mr. Dick presents a “line of flight”—a schizophrenic alternative to the patterns of writing, subjectivity, desire, and temporality embraced by the other characters and the novel as a whole.
Lorri Nandrea; Desiring-Production and the Novel. Novel 1 May 2010; 43 (1): 18–22. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2009-057
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