Subjectility : On Reading Artaud

Shaw, Jonathan Keith. 2017. Subjectility : On Reading Artaud. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The notebooks in which Artaud constantly worked in the final years of his life (1946–48) bring together writing, drawing and attacks on the very materiality of the paper. In bringing together these three regimes – visual, textual, material – the notebooks represent the culmination of Artaud’s complex ontology. They also continue to pose a unique set of problems for his readers.

These three regimes come together on what Artaud calls the “subjectile”, yet as he uses this word only three times, approaching it asks that we traverse his entire oeuvre. Framing this thesis is the question of how reading Artaud, especially the notebooks, might engage we readers as ourselves subjectiles; how “reading” must be understood in an expanded sense to take in textual, drawn and material elements at once.

Artaud’s writings have an unparalleled importance in continental philosophy of the “long twentieth century”: perhaps most inalienably in Deleuze & Guattari’s appropriation of the figure of the “Body without Organs”, and in Derrida’s career spanning interest in Artaud’s writing and drawing. This thesis will forge critical responses to how these writers accommodate and appropriate Artaud into their systems.

What is at stake in responding to their highly original literary philosophical readings is not merely a philological pedantry concerning Artaud. Rather, I propose to both examine elements of these philosophies in order to scrutinise, appropriate and respond
to the modes of reading Artaud which underlie their projects, and to trace how the themes which they identify are taken up within Artaud’s own oeuvre: to find both critical responses to and productive lines from their work. On the one hand, this concerns the aleatory formation of subjectivities in Deleuze and Guattari, through which they imbricate Artaud in a Spinozist project; on the other hand, Artaud’s own ideas on ontological anteriority and the methodology of case-studies runs against Derrida’s deconstruction. As such, rather than using Artaud to illustrate a philosopher’s ontology,

I will engage with Artaud as a metaphysician and metontologist in his own right – one whose project is deeply embedded in materiality, thought and causation. Central to this proposition is close examination of Artaud’s articulation of the “subjectile” in relation to matter, in particular following his journeys to Mexico and Ireland, and his development of what I will call his lucid materialism.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Artaud, Deleuze, Derrida, Lucidity, Materialism, Lucid Materialism, Experimental Literacy, Subjectile, Subjectility, Body without Organs, Drawings, Cahiers

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


31 August 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

14 Sep 2017 11:03

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:32


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