7/14/2005

Penthesilea



Penthesilea


"Well, Graves has the following possible hints: In 131.1, he talks about the wedding of
Heracles and Admete, which he claims would have been preceded by a
battle analogous to the one which Thetis fought with Peleus and
Penthesilea with Achilles. During this battle, he says, the woman would
undergo a series of transformations -- he doesn't mention a dog,
but does mention a serpent, a crab, a doe, a wild mare, a cloud.
In 164.1, he says that according to Dictis the Cretan, when P lay dying
on the ground, killed by Achilles, the Greek soldiers shouted: "Toss this
witch to the dogs to be devoured; she has offended womanly nature."
- malgosia


Selections from
Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Translated by Brian Massumi

TREATISE ON NOMADOLOGY--THE WAR MACHINE



And it is Ulysses who inherits Achilles' arms, only to convert them to other uses, submitting them to the laws ofthe State--not Ajax, who is condemned by the goddess he defied and against whom he sinned.10 No one has portrayed the situation of the man of war, at once eccentric and conjemned, better than Kleist. In Penthesilea, Achilles is already separated from his power: the war machine has passed over to the Amazons, a Stateless woman-people whose justice, religion, and loves are organized uniquely in a war mode. Descendants ofthe Scythians, the Amazons spring forth like lightning, "between" the two States, the Greek and the Trojan. They sweep away everything in their path. Achilles is brought before his double, Penthesilea. And in his ambiguous struggle, Achilles is unable to
prevent himself from marrying the war machine, or from loving Penthesilea, and thus from betraying Agamemnon and Ulysses at the same time. Nevertheless, he already belongs enough to the Greek State that Penithesilea, for her part, cannot enter the passional relation of war with him without herself betraying the collective law of her people, the law of the pack that prohibits "choosing" the enemy and entering into one-to-one relationships or binary distinctions.
Throughout his work, Kleist celebrates the war machine, setting it against the State apparatus in a struggle that is lost from the start. Doubtless Arminius heralds a Germanic war machine that breaks with the imperial order of alliances and armies, and stands forever opposed to the Roman State. But the Prince of Homburg lives only in a dream and stands condemned for having reached victory in disobedience of the law of the State. As for Kohlhaas, his war machine can no longer be anything more than

As for Kohlhaas, his war machine can no longer be anything more than
356 : 1227: TREATISE ON NOMADOLOGY--THE WAR MACHINE
banditry. Is it the destiny of the war machine, when the State triumphs, to be caught in this alternative: either to be nothing more than the disciplined, military organ of the State apparatus, or to turn aginst itself, to become a double suicide machine for a solitary man and a solitary woman? Goethe and Hegel, State thinkers both, see Kleist as a monster, and Kleist has lost from the start. Why is it, then, that the most uncanny modernity lies with him? It is because the elements of his work are secrecy, speed, and affect.11 And in Kleist the secret is no longer a content held within a form of interiority: rather, it becomes a form, identified with the form of exteriority that is always external to itself. Similarly, feelings become uprooted from the interiority of a "subject," to be projected violently outward into a milieu of pure exteriority that lends them an incredible velocity, a catapulting force: love or hate, they are no longer feelings but affects. And these affects are so many instances of the becoming-woman, the becoming-animal of the warrior (the bear, she-dogs). Affects transpierce the body like arrows, they are weapons of war. The deterritorialization velocity of affect. Even dreams (Homburg's, Pentheselea's) are externalized, by a system of relays and plug-ins, extrinsic linkages belonging to the war machine. Broken rings. This element of exteriority-which dominates everything, which Kleist invents in literature, which he is the first to invent--will give time a new rhythm: an endless succession of catatonic episodes or fainting spells, and flashes or rushes. Catatonia is: "This affect is too strong for me," and a flash is: "The power of this affect sweeps me away," so that the Self (Moi) is now nothing more than a character whose actions and emotions are desubjectified, perhaps even to the point of death. Such is Kleist's personal formula: a succession of flights of madness and catatonic freezes in which no subjective interiority remains. There is much of the East in Kleist: the Japanese fighter, interminably still, who then makes a move too quick to see. The Go player. Many things in modern art come from Kleist.





Goethe and Hegel are old men next to Kleist. Could it be that it is at the moment the war machine ceases to exist, conquered by the State, that it displays to the utmost its irreducibility, that it scatters into thinking, loving, dying, or creating machines that have at their disposal vital or revolutionary powers capable of challenging the conquering State? Is the war machine already overtaken, condemned, appropriated as part of thc same process whereby it takes on new forms, undergoes a metamorphosis, affirms its irreducibility and exteriority, and deploys that milieu of pure exteriority that the occidental man of the State, or the occidental thinker, continually reduces to something other than itself?
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