I pulled Gilles Deleuze: Key Concepts off of my shelf and read through Tom Conley’s essay on “Folds and Folding,” since I read through Deleuze’s book on The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque a number of years ago and also met Tom while teaching at Hamline in Minnesota. This is some of the clearest writing I’ve read by him (his The Self-Made Map I found tough-going). In it, he speaks of thinking (how is it that, once I turn my attention to this topic, suddenly it shows up everywhere?!). He starts with early conceptions of the fold in Deleuze’s book on Foucault and writes, in the section titled “Foldings, or the Inside of Thought (Subjectivation),” about the larger issues of sexuality in the emergence of subjectivity:
Every human being thinks as a result of an ongoing process of living in the world and by gaining consciousness and agency through a constant give and take of perception, affect and cognition. (Key Concepts 171).
According to Conley, “There is opened a dramatic reflection on the character of thinking, which belongs as much to Deleuze as to Foucault. . . . In terms of subjectivation, thinking means ‘folding, doubling the outside with its co-extensive inside’. A topology is created by which inner and outer spaces are in contact with each other” (174).
Perhaps my invocation of moebius strips and klein bottles during the Imaging Place conference wasn’t so far off the mark!
When we “think” we cross all kinds of thresholds and strata and follow a fissure in order to reach what, he says, Melville calls a “central room” wherein, we fear, no one will be and where “the soul of men might reveal an immense and terrifying void.” Thinking is figured as a moving line; it is indeed “Melville’s line” with its two free ends… a line moving at a growing molecular speed, a “whiplash of a crazed charioteer,” which leads… ultimately to a central room where there is no longer any need to fear its emptiness because the self (a fold) is found inside. “Here we become masters of our speeds, more or less commanding our molecules and singularities, in this zone of subjectivation in the embarkation of the inside and the outside” (174).
Conley continues to tie Deleuze’s work to thinking when he introduces The Fold:
When he [Deleuze] remarks that it is incumbent upon the self to “draw singularities from a space of the inside”, and that thinking–what makes possible the agency of the self–is tantamount to doubling the outside with a coextensive inside, Deleuze suggests that the upper room [of the “Baroque House”] and its folded furnishings become the imaginary space where subjectivation can be realized. The Baroque room, a space in which thinking takes place, is the site where new folds and folding (the forces and products of thinking) can be felt and harmonized” (176, my emphases).
So perhaps my question about “what is thought?” wasn’t so whacky after all. After reading how much Deleuze seems to consider the question, it makes me feel very philospher-like to have asked it in the first place….