The Will to Multiplicity
This or that book, they like to say, is the definitive tome on James Joyce, on the French Revolution, on Monet. But why be definitive? What will propels such a desire?
It seems such a peculiarly imperial drive — to claim the territory, plant the flag, make the laws: this is James Joyce, dammit! This will imagines knowledge as a domain to be colonized with texts that are fixed entities, quantities to be exhausted and hence known — as if knowledge had an end.
But what of the will to multiplicity? What of the will that says, "This is my take on Joyce. What's yours? The more the merrier!"
The will to multiplicity doesn't mean writing with any less rigor (although rigor of research wields its own very special kind of tyranny). Nor does it necessitate hedging its bet (although there's nothing wrong with that — hedging is a complex art and science unto itself). One who writes with such a will is no less passionate, no less engaged with the material than the one who seeks to be definitive. I might even say that the will to multiplicity enjoys a certain intimacy with the material, seeking to see it celebrated, proliferated, extended into new territories.
Just because I recognize that there are other readings doesn't mean I don't stand by mine. Why can't I be passionate, emphatic, about what I have to say while simultaneously relishing the fact that there are other passionate, emphatic readings?
A text — whether it's a book, an oeuvre, a life, an event — is infinite. There are as many ways into a text as there are readers and more. I want to say that a text is all of its possible readings, including those yet to come, including those we cannot yet imagine. The more readings — and the stranger the readings — the more alive that text becomes.
The will to multiplicity enjoys the lack of finality, the impossibility of reaching the end. It knows no reading can claim the land because there is no land per se: the whole thing is in motion, a river, an ocean, a sky. It does not seek to exhaust a text because there is no exhaustion — there is nothing but the act of reading, of reading again, and again, and again.
The will to multiplicity is premised on love — a love of the text, a love for and of and with difference. It is a love of life in all its multihued splendor.