Tag Archives: Deleuze

Samuel Beckett – Molloy (1951)

First of the trilogy is divided in two chapters, both extended monologues. The first is from the vagrant Molloy’s perspective, broken into two paragraphs, one about 1.5 pages long, the second about 75. He is at his mother’s house. From there, he narrates his journey to that house…journey on road, runs off Madame Lousse’s dog with a bike, goes to Lousse’s house to convalesce, leaves, goes to forest without bike, encounters shepherd, gets lost in forest, kills someone, but eventually sees the light of day once gain. The second monologue is from Jacques Moran’s perspective. He is a detective who goes with his son to look for Molloy, a mission given to whom by Youdi via the messenger Gaber. They set off one evening for Bally (Molloy’s country), pitcha  tent in the forest, Moran’s knee starts hurting, sends his son to get a bike, kills a man while his son is away, son returns with bike and they make it to city, son deserts him, he wanders but eventually follows orders to go back home and write a report. He gets there and writes the first lines of the account.

Narrative frame and time: both stories foreground the retrospective narration. Moran’s narrative begins with “It is midnight. The rain is beating on the window,” and ends with the same two sentences with the coda “It was not midnight. It was not raining.” This comes just after he claims to be better understanding “the language” of the voice that comes to him from apparently nowhere >> the point is that the time (And action) of narration is a real and present counterfactual to the time and action of the plot. The final “It was” plays on the indeterminate past tesne: does it refer to the time of writing or the time of the plot? Past and present are thereby unhinged from their normal coordination with plot vs. writing. Compare with The Good Soldier and Lord Jim, for example, where that sort of temporal ordering is confusing but nevertheless stable. Molloy comments on this early on: “It is so easy to speak in the present tense, when speaking of the past. It is the mythological present.” Curious to see the sort of equivalence of all identity and things and time, etc. as achieving some sort of epic or mythic status in this novel….” Contrast to Joyce and Eliot.

Identity: Identity is bound up with power relations and, relatedly, territory and possessions. Not to mention the relation between Molloy and Moran (strangely similar life experiences), each of these characters have unstable ego-boundaries which they are obsessed with marking out the contours of. “here’s my beginning,” says Molloy, and it is as if marking out the contours of his story somehow doubles the process of forging a cohesive identity. he fails on both ends. This is of course related to the Cartesianism that Beckett would play with in Murphy, but whereas as that remains a more or less negative approach to philosophy attempting to divide mind and body, here we see Beckett showing how characters (and readers, too) begin to build up identities through the material and social worlds. This often takes the form of life as decomposition itself (Molly seems to melt into the garden at Lousse’s house; as Moran’s body breaks down, is limbs become detached and he has a moment of clarity abotu who he is). Molly says, “To decompose is to live, too” (25). Moran calls the world “slow and massive,” something that must be joined along with the “ponderous oxen.” But it also a move not emphasize the stable contours of Cartesian ego, but instead to emphasize its plasticity as it extends in various ways in the world. Molloy actually calls the mind a “lump of melting wax,” which combines these ideas of decay with that of plasticity.

Passages to remember:

The sucking stones passage: think of as basic units of property that expand and contract without any recognition. Their circulation is also arbitrary. Further, it is one of the many scenes that Deleuze would identify as “exhaustion,” thus connecting it to the biscuits in Murphy and the iteration of mothers and fathers, etc. in Watt.

When Moran talks about the stories he would tell, of “Murphy, Watt, Mercier, etc.” which positions Moran as an author of sorts. “A gallery of moribunds,” he calls them.

To get out of the forest, having heard that men accidentally walk in circles, Molloy decides to walk (or crawl) in circles in order to walk in a straight line out of the forest. It eventually works. Connect this to the logic of the narrative. But also to Finnegan’s Wake opening and ending, as well as the opening of The Cantos. They somehow begin mid-cricle. Also, perhaps, the Four Quartets (the end is our beginning, knowing it for the first time, etc.)

Molloy calls the asshole the “true portal of our being” and the “symbol of all those passed over in silence” (80).

Roberto Esposito – “The Philosophy of Bios” from Bios (2004, trans. 2008)

The final chapter of Esposito’s book articulates a positive biopolitics that does not immediately become the Thanatopolitics which found its most extremem manifestation in Nazism’s reduction of life to death. He does this with the concept of the “immunitary.” He claims that all societies seek to completely immunize themselves from all foreign bodies, rendering themselves completely pure; he tries to build an ethics of contamination, i.e. a Nietzschean concept of living by preserving what is foreign rather than obliterating it. The biopolitical is the tendency to flatten the political and purely biological (146), and while Nazism may have “died,” its biopolitical modalities still persevere in things like preventative war: auto-immunitary process by which an outbreak is constructed and deployed in order to prevent an outbreak ad infinitum. Starting with Arendt, and moving through Foucault, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Freud, Simondon, Spinoza and Deleuze, Esposito attempts to take the three dispositifs of Nazi biopolitics–the double enclosure of the body, the preemptive suppression of birth, and the normativization of  life–and deconstruct them so that they signify in an opposite, positive direction. How?

Arendt does not think the concept of life thoroughly enough, and therefore does not understands its political valence. Instead, she rigorously distinguishes the zone of bios (life)  from the zone of the polis (world): that which exceeds life is the political. Esposito sees an unlikely and partial “corrective” in her teacher Heidegger, who similarly draws a distinction between mere life and “Da-sein.” Life itself withdraws from the political and the philosophical realms of thought: the facticity of life is precisely that which has immanent to its self its own self-reflective form of thought. But Heid can do this by keeping “factical life” separate from biological life. Thus while Nazi biopolitics denigrates “existence without life,” Heidegger will denigrate “life without existence.” In other words, “[life] can only be deduced negatively from Dasein as that which isn’t it” (154). This comes down to the radically opposed stances towards death: while for Nazis death representes a life “emptied of biological potentiality,” for Heidegger death is the authentic mode of being that grants existence possibilities that exceed the category of bare life. Thus Heid rigorously distinguishes between humans that “create a world,” animals that are “the poor of the world,” and stones which are “without a world.” Nevertheless, Adorno’s criticisms in Jargon of Authenticity lurking in the background, Esposito sees Heid’s withdrawing of life from the category of thought as problematic: it is precisely because he politicized life too little–not too much–that Heid opened himself up to appropriation by Nazi philosophy .

THE BODY: Merleau-Ponty’s notion of the flesh rewrites Heid’s ontology of the human by assuming “the poor of the world” as part of human experience itself. He thus inscribes the threshold between man and animal as the form of phenomenological experience. We can see here, as fi in a mobius strip, the mirror image of Nazism’s reduction of the human to the animal. It is for this reason, that Lyotard, Deleuze, Derrida and Nancy are all uncomfortable with the concept of the flesh: in short, they that it cancels the concreteness of the body by placing it under a transcendental signifier fraught with the symbolism of Christianity. Esposito admits that for M-P the flesh is a-political, an excess; for this reason, its politicization opens up possibilities: “a being that is both singular and commun al, generic and specific, and undifferentiated and different, not only devoid of spirit, but a flesh that doesn’t even have a body” (167). Such is “incarnation”: not a modality that incorporates, but one that multiplies and “self-divides.” Esposito sees this “journey to the end of the body” in Francis Bacon’s portraits, which portray the flight of flesh from the body. There is an indeterminate relation between man and animal (all “one flesh”).

BIRTH: The idea of the nation is biological and political (natio). One could say that the biological was once preeminent, but the modern state prioritizes the political, even as it uses the biological to support the boundaries of the political. Birth holds the dual possibility: birthing into a political body, yes, but also introducing the unassimilable fact of existence into a body that can’t contain in it (176). In Moses and Monotheism,  Freud deconstructs the Nazi logic of origins by showing how the originary father/son is always doubled as the foreign body that the nascent nation will need expropriate. Likewise, Arendt will use “birth” to confront the bad “seriality” that marks out mere life from the political. Simondon goes further, however, by integrating birth into the process of life: “life is to perpetuate a birth that is permanent and relative” (qtd. 181). [The connection with Hegel, Darwin, and also with Agamben, should not be missed.] Life is the zone not between birth and death but between the “pre-individual” and the post- or trans-individual. Thus life could be seen as the perpetuation of preservation of impotentiality. [Return to animal, human divide and Levinas on ecstatic ontology]

LIFE: Nazism created a norm of life, not in that it adapted its policies to the demands of life, but that enclosed life within the borders of norm birthed in the state of exception/nature: a norm imposed on nature, nature imposed on a norm. Esposito wants to vitalize that norm (184). Using Spinoza, Esposito proposes to substitute for a logic of presupposition one of reciprocal immanence, where the power of “aliveness” and “action” is that from which rights are derived: “the process of normativization is the never-defined result of the comparison and conflict between individual norms that are measured according to the different power that keeps them alive, without ever losing the measure of their reciprocal relation” (187).To think life philosophically, we need, as Canguilhem argued, to open the “norm of life” to the infinite unpredictability of life. Thus “normal man” equals “normative man” to the degree that individual “mutations” are “self-legislated” [the brush with Kant should not be missed]. He turns to Deleuze’s late work and discusses the move form “the life” to “a life” in terms of Riderhood’s near-death experience in Our Mutual Friend. This depersonalization of life comes so close to that the impersonality that opened up the floodgates of Nazi violence; but here life is not submitted to a norm, but norm and life are seen in one another. The potentiality of life is given to the norm. He ends by echoing Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents:

Whether its [biopolitics’] meaning will again be disowned in a politics of death or affirmed in a politics of life will depend on the mode in which contemporary thought will follow its traces. (194)

Samuel Beckett – Watt (1953)

In section 1, Watt replaces Arsene as a servant in Mr. Knott’s house. Arsene give a huge farewell speech that describes his time while in the employment of Mr. Knott. Along with Erskine, who covers the first floor duties, Knott begins working for Mr. Knott  (though, working on the ground floor, he never sees him), preparing a big pot of highly mediated food (87),maintaining the charitable relationship to the famished dog (including keeping other famished dogs in a Kennel),  etc. Most of the text focuses on the paradoxes of knowing–insignificant events trigger arbitrarily terminated series of repetition, such as the 12 ways Watt attempts explain Knott’s alimentary contentment.  “But in the first week Watt’s words had not yet begun to fail him, or Watt’s world to become unspeakable” (85). This looks forward to the next two chapters, but not before an extended description of the Lynch family, which maintains the kennel. They are one of the many impoverished families all around, all of them dysfunctional in some way (the twin sons are Con and Art). Later on, Murphy mysteriously breaks into Erskine’s room, where he finds  a broken bell and a painting. Watt eventually runs in Knott but they simply look at a worm in the ground for a while. The third chapter switches to a different narrator (Sam). Here we hear some of Watt’s tortured locutions: “Of nought. To the source. To the teacher. To the temple. To him I brought. This emptied heart. These emptied hands. This mind ignoring”, etc. We also get series of iterations spiraling out of control…as if the narrative has become subjected to mathematical functions intent on churning out every possible variation. Exhaustion begins to pervade the text. Chapter 4 recounts Watt’s journey to Mr. Knott’s house, thus screwing up the temporality of the novel. He watches a sunset. The final addenda includes scraps that were supposedly meant to be a part of the story, ending, famously, with “No symbols where none intended.”


In contrast to the many novels and poems that have their reference to grounding historical events, psychological trauma, and other transcendental signifiers, Watt seems to reverse this by giving us too much. Rather than sparseness of image, richness of symbol (however fractured), Beckett trivializes the idea of referentiality all together by taking the Signifier and twisting and contorting it until it longer functions. [Interesting in terms of the contrast between Freud and Lacan…the latter taking the Signified as that which produces something like the It…] The final line, “No symbols where none intended” takes on a certain ethical force; could be read as “No violence where none intended.” Thus the “over-production” of prepositions, participles, conjunctive combinations, etc subverts what would normally be thought of as literature’s productive, metaphoric function: the symbol.

A caged beast born of cages beasts born of caged beasts born of caged beasts born in a cage and dead in a cage, born and then dead, born in a cage and then dead in a cage, in a word like a beast.

Such a formulation displays what it takes to make a simile work–and by showing this, the simile both functions and dysfunctions. Carrying language’s “possibility” to absurd extremes dramatizes language’s self-closure.

Also interesting is the epistemological limits set by the modes of transmission: Arsene tells Watt, Watt will someone else, and all of this will be relayed to this by way of Sam (the name of the author should not be missed, since Sam is always making excuses for his incomplete and imperfect portrayal of Watt):

And so always, when the impossibility of my knowing, of Watt’s having known, what i know, what Watt knew, seems absolute, and insurmountable, and undeniable, and uncoercible, and it should be know that I know, because Watt told me, and that Watt knew, because some told him, or because he found out for himself. For I know nothing, in this connexion, but what Watt told me. And Watt knew nothing, on this subject, but he was told, ot found for himself, in one way or another. (128)

In other words, when all the secrets out, the function of the secret is shown to be arbitrary, constructed, fabricated, unreal. The secret has secreted, taken on a form, and dissipated (cf. Deleuze, Henry James).


Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari – A Thousand Plateaus (1980)

“How do you make yourself a body without organs?”

The BwO is the field immanence of desire, the plane of consistency specific to desire (with desire defined as a process of production without reference to any exterior agency, whether is be a lack that hollows it out or a pleasure that fills it in. (154)

The chapter alternates between descriptions of extreme sadistic and masochistic violence and descriptions of “courtly love” and the “caress.” The idea here is to level out desire, so it is no longer defined in terms of lack and fulfillment, but in terms of intensity. Thus, “the slightest caress may be as strong as an orgasm; an orgasm is a mere fact, a rather deplorable one, in relation to desire in pursuit of its principle” (156). Systems that would constrict desire are associated with the “organism,” which is the real enemy of the body, not organs. The body si opposed the organization of its organs called the organism, which Deleuze associates with significance and subjectification.

Yet Deleuze also calls for an economy of “practice”:

You have to keep enough of the organism for it to reform each dawn; and you have to keep small supplies of significance and subjectification, if only to turn them against their own systems when the circumstances demand it, when things, person, even situations, force you to; and you have to keep small rations of subjectivity in sufficient quantity to enable you to respond to the dominant reality. Mimic the strata. (160)

The BwO always risks suicide if deterritorializing flows go too far, resulting in too severe destratification of the body.  It is necessary to experiment, test, try–it is necessary to “taste.” The danger is not so much in the quality of objective mediation, but in  its quantity. Going too far risks becoming a negative line of flight, destroying the subject. Keeping “small rations of subjectivity” is a form of respect, of ethics.

“The BwO is desire; it is that which one desires and by which one desires” (165). This connects with Levinas’s work on “proximity” and the elemental. Both are overturning psychoanalytic systems of signification that constrict the flows of desire.


“Becoming-Intense, Becoming Animal, Becoming imperceptible…”

This chapter attempts to answer this question: How can we grant reality to a becoming that never fully “becomes”?

Becomings-animal are neither dreams nor phantasies. They are perfectly real. But which reality is at issue here? For if becoming animal does not consist in playing animal or imitating an animal, it is clear that the human being does not ‘really’ become an animal any more than the animal ‘really’ becomes something else. Becoming produces nothing other than itself. We fall into a false alternative if we say that you either imitate or you are. What is real is the becoming itself, the block of becoming, not the supposedly fixed terms through which that which becomes passes.

The chapter makes the claim that bodies should be defined in terms of their affective capacity–which is directly linked to the process of becoming:

We know nothing about a body until we know what it can do, in oter words, what its affects are, how they can or cannot enter into composition with other affects, with the affects of another body. (257)

Interesting in terms of the “bottom” limit of affect–that which precedes the subject’s formation: not a subject that can “affect,” but a cross-section of affects that constitutes. Becoming-animal is affect itself.

This leads into a very interesting section on secrets–the secret’s mode of becoming is from the internal form of concealment, a finite secret, to an infinite form of the secret that secretes in public. “The more the secret is made into a structuring, organizing form, the thinner and more ubiquitous it becomes” (289). This could be used to conceptualize forms of reading (and of writing, and of subject formation) that seek to maintain the secretiveness of the secret, rather than transform it into public knowledge. The secret that is not content to take the form of it container, but attempts to make its own form. Henry James accomplishes this, according to D and G.


Emmanuel Levinas – Otherwise than Being (1974)

Autrement qu’être differs form Totalité et Infini (1961) in its structure and focus. Levinas’ first major mature work started with a description of the subject before the ethical encounter–a “being” housed in a world of nourishment and enjoyment that was shattered by the encounter with a face, the other. This later work does not stratify its representation of the subject and its world in this way; rather the ethical relationship is foundational to all self-world sensuous experience. The ethical relationship (openness) “grounds” original sensuous apprehension–and further, comprehension. The focus is therefore directed not at the other, whose contours can never be fully described, but at the ego on whom the other calls–an ego whose ipseity turns out to be just as elusive, just as “capable” of eluding presence and identity.

Thus the rich descriptions of nourishment, the erotic and jouissance become reconfigured as “proximity,” sensuous closeness and contact: all opposed to Kantian “rational respect” that would establish distance as the condition for an ethics that would obliterate that difference in the transcendental “I.” Thus in Levinas there is an ethical need for affectivity–affectivity marks out the contours of the proximal subject.

Of particular interest is the third chapter, “Sensibility and Proximity,” in which Levinas argues that “signification is sensibility” (67). This contradicts the phenomenological tradition of Husserl, which would divide these domains along the line of intentionality: the first term is intentional, the second is primarily passive. To illustrate this difference, Levinas uses the metaphor of hunger. In Husserl, the symbol (significance) fills a lack: it satisfies a hunger. Levinas renounces this intentionality and takes as his guiding thread “sensibility” where “in proximity, signification signifies before it gets bent into perseverance in being in the midst of Nature” (68). This requires an attention to the time of daily experience: a refusal of the simultaneity of a system that rewrites sensuous relationships (with objects and with others) from the standpoint of the total system. Thus the “meaning” of “perception, hunger, sensation, etc.” is different from the signifyingness that animates these activities, which is “the other in the same, the trope of the for-the-other in its antecedent inflexion” (70). This is hunger conceived sensuously, as sensibility, affect. Importantly, this is not a naive coincidence of the subject with itself: but a subject that is always-already for-the-other, out of sync with itself, hungering:

The signification of the gustatory and the olfactory, of eating and enjoying, has to be thought on the basis of the signifyingness of signification, the-one-for-the-other…. It is the passivity of being-for-another, which is possible only in the form of giving the very bread I eat. But for this one has to first enjoy one’s bread, not in order to have the merit of giving it, but in order to five it with one’s heart, to give oneself in giving it. Enjoyment is an ineluctable moment in sensibility. (72)

Levinas is approaching the point at which sustenance of the subject converges with the subject’s capacity to savor: where quantity of nourishment sustains the quality of quality: “In a gustative sensation, sensibility does not consist in confirming the aim of hunger…to fill, to satisfy, is the sense of the savor” (72). This is a crucial iteration of Levinas larger project of overturning the aggressive intentionality of the Heglian, Husserlian, and Heideggerean subjects–in Lev’s words, “an ego assimilating the other in its identity” (73):

To bite on bread is the very meaning of tasting. The taste is the way a sensible subject becomes a volume…Satisfaction satisfies itself with satisfaction. Life enjoys its very life, as though it nourishes itself with life as much as with what makes it live, or, more exactly, as though nourishing oneself has this twofold reference. (73)

Enjoyment, which borders on the tautological and elliptical (cf. Deleuze (and Lacan): desire desires desire), “in its ability to be complacent in itself, exempt from dialectical tensions, is the condition of the for-the-other involved in sensibility, and in its vulnerability as an exposure to the other” (74). Levinas continues: “Only a subject that eats can be for-the-other, or can signify. Signification, the-one-for-the-other, has meaning only among beings of flesh and blood” (74).

Levinas is building an ontology of taste. The tasting subject, the affectively capable subject (able to eat and taste), is constantly exposed to the other–affective openness is a position of vulnerability.  Being exempt from the dialectic is a position of vulnerability. Levinas calls this “proximity”: “Proximity is to be described as extending the subject in its very subjectivity, which is both a relationship and a term of this relationship” (86). This means that that the subject who eats maintains itself as such when in it enters into proximity with an other: that which divides the subject from the other also divides the subject from itself. This non-coincidence is temporal–i.e. the time of the other:

Difference is the past that cannot be caught up with, and unimaginable future, the non-representable status of the neighbor behind which I am late and obsessed by the neighbor. This difference is my non-indifference to the other. Proximity is a disturbance of the rememberable time. (88)

This is Levinas’ turn to obsession as non-indifference–the positive iteration of a negative difference–in which the non-coincidence of that tasting subject fills out into the ethical relationship. Levinas preempts Adornian critiques à la The Jargon of Authenticity:

The passivity of obsession, where consciousness no longer veils the unassumable assignation which comes from the neighbor, is not another name for naive consciousness, the immediacy prior to philosophy. On the contrary, it is what puts into question the naive spontaneity of the ego. (91)

This is aimed at both Kant and Hegel, both of whom (by means spatial and temporal, respectively) grant the ego a negativity that allows it to detach from itself and view itself, thereby recuperating the negative spontaneity of the subject within the confines of the ego made all the more robust by the sublime, etc. In other words, Levinas is taking aim at the forms of mediation that get philosophical systems off the ground at all, by claiming that the negativity which divides the self form the world is inherent in the “passivity” the ego expresses in the basic experience hungering and savoring. This is radically a-teleological:

The trace of the past in a face is not the absence of a yet non-revealed, but the anarchy of what has never been present, of an infinite which commands in the face of the other, and which, like an excluded middle, could not be aimed at. (97)

Here is a curious contrast with Jane Bennet and the Deleuze-Nietzsche tradition of vitalist that posit a more-or-less naive relationship to subject-object relations: their coincidence must  be posited for one reason or another: for life, for ethics, for creativity and intensity. Levinas is not so sanguine. We cannot aim at such a  coincidence, because the “original” coincidence is always a non-coincidence, much like Merleau-Ponty’s notion of the flesh as dehiscent.

How could one “taste” the other?

Jane Bennett – “The Force of Things” (2004)

Bennett proposes a phenomenology of non-human recalcitrance read as vitality, which she calls “thing-power.” She proceeds to give an alternative (to Marxism, Foucault) genealogy of materialism. This contradicts Adorno’s non-identical warnings by proposing a naïve realism—where concept and object are at least heuristically consonant—that helps us to imagine more ethical relationships to the non-human. Thing-vitality is that which stands in excess of material reference to human projects (be they failures (trash in Baltimore seen as mise-en-scène or assemblage) or success (monuments)).

“A material body always resides within some assemblage or other, and its thing-power is a function of that grouping. A thing has power by virtue of its operating in conjunction with other things.” (353-4)

This is derived via Deleuze via Bergson via Spinoza. [It should be connected to Esposito.] But this also leads to Latour’s notion of an actant (not actor) as way of describing a middle zone in the horizontal continuum between human and non-human (not a vertical chain of being).

Against Marxist (Adornian) critiques, Bennet asserts:

While humans do indeed encounter things only in a mediated way…a moment of [naïve relaism] is necessary for discernment of thing power…A naïve realism…allows non-humanity to appear on the ethical radar screen. (357)

Bennet accuses the fetish of mediation of a prejudice against things in favor of the subject (exactly what Adorno wants to avoid, btw). In contrast, Deleuze, Lucretius, Negri (and Bennett) presume to speak from the object’s position (which is also problematic).

Bennett does an extended reading of Adorno’s negative dialectics, and proposes joy as a way of responding to the non-identical, of motivating social awareness and change (ecological, political, etc.). While Adorno assigns the non-idenitical dark utopian (spiritual) forebodings—the thing materialist describes these things but they offer no promise, but rather hopes to make them more awake to us.

The ecology that emerges is not one of “organic wholes,” but one of participation in collectivities (not harmony, but participation—which is what Nietzsche advocates in Beyond Good and Evil).

Thing-power is an alternative to both historical materialism and body materialism (cultural studies, etc.).

Sigmund Freud – Mourning and Melancholia (1915-17)

Drawing heavily from the Narcissism essay, “Mourning and Melancholia” is an attempt to understand the rare times when an ego “[overcomes] the instinct which compels every living thing to cling to life” (584).Whereas in mourning, the lost object, though repeated reality-testing, is successfully identified and then replaced with another object-cathexis, in melancholia,the unknown loss results in the free libido being “displaced on to another object,” but rather being “withdrawn into the ego” (586), which results in “an impoverishment of the ego on a grand scale” (584). “In this way object-loss was transformed into an ego-loss.” Put otherwise, this is the mirror-image of the “On Narcissism” essay, in that his return to the self represents a violent (not erotic) “regression from one type of object-choie to original narcissism.” Identification with the love-object supersedes object-love:

The ego wants to incorporate this object into itself, and, in accordance with the oral or cannibalistic phase of libidinal development in which it is, it wants to do so by devouring it. (587)

Freud goes on:

The difference, however, between narcissistic and hysterical identification (melancholia) may be seen in this: that, whereas in the former the object-cathexis is abndoned, in the latter it persists and manifests its influence. (587)

In other words, the melancholic does not properly digest the object of mourning. It gets stuck. The processes of reality-testing–going out into the world and coming back to the self–is stunted. In extreme form, the melancholic subject develops sadism directed at the ego, because the ego is thought to be responsible for the lost object. This is the crucial point that turns the ego against the drive for self-preservation:

Owing to the return of the object-cathexis, [the ego] can treat itself as an object–if it is able to direct against itself the hostility which reates to an object and which represents the ego’s original reaction to objects in the external world. (588)

So whereas in mourning, time is needed for reality-testing to free the ego of its libido of the lost object, “the complex of melancholia behaves like an open wound, drawing to itself cathectic energies…from all directions, and emptying the ego until it is totally impoverished” (589). This image, besides bearing an uncanny resemblance to Merleau-Ponty’s “flesh,” totally disrupts the metaphor of diachronic digestion–it is directionless and therefore dangerous. [See Deleuze “Body Without Organs” for reading of this topography as potentially liberating.]