This seminar will introduce us to the problem of nonsense and its implications for what it means to think philosophically and artistically. The focus of the seminar will be on Gilles Deleuze’s The Logic of Sense (Logique du Sens).  Published in 1969, The Logic of Sense is a work of philosophy whose form as well as its content is highly experimental. Comprised of intersecting series, instead of chapters, the book constructs a theoretical universe that moves between ontology and aesthetics, logic and literature.  Through an engagement with structuralism, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and the avantgarde, as well as classical philosophical texts ranging from Stoicism to Leibniz, Deleuze recasts what it means to do philosophy.

This is perhaps above all evidenced in the central place that the 19th century children’s author Lewis Carroll (the pen name of the logician Charles Dodgson) has for developing the logic of sense. Inspired by Jacques Lacan’s “marriage of language and the unconscious” and his reading of Poe’s Purloined Letter, Deleuze finds a similar marriage in the work of Carroll. In Carroll’s fictions, most notably Alice in Wonderland, we are introduced to an apparently illogical world, a topsy turvy universe that Deleuze terms a “chaos-cosmos,” that weaves together sense and nonsense. Through grappling with the paradoxes that populate Carroll’s fictional universe, we discover that the “machinery of the unconscious” engenders a thinking, as Deleuze puts it, in which “sense is produced always as a function of nonsense.”

In addition to reading The Logic of Sense, we will also be reading in parallel selections from the fiction of Lewis Carroll. We will also have occasion to take up Jacques Lacan’s decisive approach to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Purloined Letter.

Central Texts:

Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark


            Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Selections)

Gilles Deleuze,The Logic of Sense, trans. Constantin Boundas

Edgar Allan Poe, The Purloined Letter

Jacques Lacan, “Seminar on the Purloined Letter,” Écrits, trans. Bruce Fink

Elizabeth Sewell, The Field of Nonsense, Dalkey Archive Press, 1952