play presents, beginning with its title. The phrase ‘not I’ can be read in a number of ways, two of which are as follows: She is not I; or equally, Mouth is not I. In the case of the former, Mouth would become the I of the play and She would be I’s (Mouth’s) Other. However, this seems an insufficient assumption, as Mouth never once uses the pronoun I throughout the play itself and, moreover, Beckett insists on Mouth’s “vehement refusal to relinquish third person” (375). This can only mean that Mouth is not ‘I’. As such, whatever Mouth is, it is characterized by the fact that it is categorically not a subject. However, this is not to say that She is I, either. Indeed, the simple pronouns used here would contradict such a conclusion, as – grammatically speaking, at least – the pronoun ‘she’ and the pronoun ‘I’ are distinctly different in person.
The complication here is that if She is not ‘I’ and Mouth is not I, then the title requires a third interpretation. A possible alternative, for example, may be that: There is not I; or, more specifically, there is not (an) I. If one were to accept this reading as a possibility, then it becomes evident that what the I of the title refers to is the lack thereof, the fact that there is no I at all. ‘Not I’, therefore, is the simple suggestion that this is a play without a subject. But, in order to understand this desubjectification fully, it is important to qualify what She is, or further, what She is not.
As stated formerly, She is the closest the play comes to subjectivity. Yet, this subject is never fully made manifest. In fact, Beckett’s characters never achieve stability. Oftentimes they are barely present at all. This is because She simultaneously functions as both the I and the Other, a an inclusionary state that disallows exclusive subjectification. It is stated, for example, that: “words were coming … a voice she did not recognize” (379). As soon as She starts to speak, She is defamiliarised from the voice of the I. In other words, the I speaks in a voice that She perceives as Other. In order to hear it back, She hears it back as an Other also.
If She is both speaker and listener, She aligns herself with both the speaking subject and the listening Other at the same time. Yet, She acknowledges that this voice was “none other … than her own” (379). As in, the Other of her voice is her own and ‘none other’. Here, in order to have this voice, She must own the Other embodied in it. As such, Beckett is placing Otherness into the voice of the I who owns it. He accentuates the complicity of the Other and the I, exemplifying the way in which this binary operates through the language of She. She is at times deluded that the voice “was not hers at all” (379). She does not ignore the fact that this voice is “hers alone … her voice alone”, and yet even then, She cannot escape the undercurrent of “this other awful thought” (379). The other awful thought, in this instance, is the enduring presence of the Other in ‘She’’s attempt at being an I. Thus, the words of She are exhausted because they are spoken through the foreign voice of the Other, which “give them the only reality to which they can lay claim” (Deleuze, 7).
For the absent I, again, it is necessary here to return to the plays’ titles, Not I, perpetuates the notion of desubjectification; it categorises itself as a play without subjectivity. This is made painstakingly evident in the desubjectification of She, as well as Mouth’s refusal to adopt the I. As such, both Mouth and She are presences without subjectivity, creating a play that revolves around the annihilation of the I. In fact, the subject is not important, there is none, The activity of speaking is thus a process of attempting to formulate a new voice, an authentic pronoun, which remains all the while relentlessly elusive. Similar to Deleuzean Images, Mouth is a desubjectified presences that create an experience, which is ever unthinkable, because it is an experience that remains objective, beyond the frontiers that subjectivity inevitably enforces.
For Deleuze, every literary work implies a way of living, a form of life, and must be evaluated not only critically but also clinically “style, in a great writer, is always a style of life too, not anything at all personal, but inventing a possibility of life, a way of existing” (Deleuze89). For what Anti-Oedipus terms schizophrenia as a process is nothing other than what A Thousand Plateaus terms the process of life as a nonorganic and impersonal power. As Deleuze mentioned
No one has been able to pose the problem of language except to the extent that linguists and logicians have eliminated meaning; and the highest power of language was discovered only when the work was viewed as a machine, producing certain effects, amenable to a certain use. The idea that meaning is nothing other than use becomes a principle only if we have at our disposal immanent criteria capable of determining legitimate uses, as opposed to illegitimate uses that would refer use to supposed meaning and restore a kind of transcendence analysis termed transcendental is precisely the determination of these immanent criteria (Deleuze 89).
In fact the claim that meaning is valid only if one begins with elements that in themselves are devoid of any signification. Modern literature had tended to pose this question in terms of the problem of a world in fragments, a world deprived of its unity, reduced to crumbs and chaos. We live in an age that no longer thinks in terms of a primordial unity or logos we have lost or a subjectivity it is only when objective contents and subjective forms have collapsed and given way to a world of fragments, to a chaotic and multiple impersonal reality that the work of art assumes its full meaning. As a matter of fact, Deleuze as a modern philosopher has followed the way of other philosophers in that era that pave the way of the death for God, the destruction of the world, the dissolution of the subject, the disintegration of the body, the minorization of politics, and the shattering of language. These themes are repeated over and over in Deleuze’s philosophy. Therefore, according to these issues, the footsteps of Deleuze can be seen in Beckett’s characters.
One wants to represent the dissolution of the subject in Not I based on Deleuze’s philosophy. As a matter of fact, in such a chaotic world, the status of the individual changes as well: the monadology becomes a nomadology instead of a certain number of predicates being excluded by a thing by virtue of the identity of its concept, each thing is open to the infinity of singularities through which it passes, and at the same time it loses its center, that is to say, its identity as a concept and a self. An individual is a multiplicity, the actualization of a set of virtual singularities that function together, that enter into symbiosis, that attain a certain consistency. Deleuze calls schizophrenization is a limited process in which the identity of the individual is dissolved and passes entirely into the virtual chaos of included disjunctions. The schizophrenic quickly shifts from one singularity to another, never explaining events in the same genealogy, never taking on the same identity. For example the woman in Not I always mentions she instead of I and that can indicate the negation of herself as being and she found herself in the:
. . what? . . who? . . no! . . she! . . [Pause and movement 1.] . . . found herself in the dark . . . and if not exactly . . . insentient . . . insentient . . . for she could still hear the buzzing . . . so-called . . . in the ears . . . and a ray of light came and went . . . came and went (789).
In fact, Beckett situates his characters entirely in the domain of the virtual or the possible; rather than trying to realize a possibility, they remain within the domain of the possible and attempt to exhaust logically the whole of the possible, passing through all the series and permutations of its included disjunctions in the process. And also, they exhaust themselves physiologically losing their names, their memory and their purpose in a fantastic decomposition of the self. The self is not defined by its identity but by a process of becoming. The same point of view can be seen in Not I when the name of the woman is not mentioned and the subject pronoun is SHE instead of I
and she found herself in the–– . . . what? . . who? . . no! . . she! . . [Pause and movement 1.] . . . found herself in the dark . . . and if not exactly . . . insentient . . . insentient . . . for she could still hear the buzzing . . . so-called . . . in the ears . . . and a ray of light came and went . . . came and went. ,
I would like to argue that in general the play is the bombard of disconnected thoughts and memories that refer to her tough life. It is noteworthy that she does not mention anything about her purpose in telling these disconnected words. Now we can easily observe the process of nothingness and negation of her ego when she comes to the world of becoming word and silence. Deleuze analyzes this concept in a long and complex chapter of A Thousand Plautea. The notion of becoming does not simply refer to the fact that the self does not have a static being and is in constant flux. More precisely, it refers to an objective zone of indistinction or indiscernibility that always exists between any two multiplicities, a zone that immediately precedes their respective natural differentiation. A multiplicity is defined not by its center but by the limits and borders where it enters into relation with other multiplicities and changes nature, transforms itself, and follows a line of flight. The self is a threshold, a door, a becoming between two multiplicities.
The relation between she and words is neither an limitation or mimesis nor a lived sympathy, nor even an imaginary identification. Rather, she becomes word and silence, she enters a zone of indiscernibility where she can no longer distinguish herself from word and silence. In a becoming, one term does not become another, rather each term encounters the other, and the becoming is something between the two, outside the two. This something is what Deleuze calls a pure affect which is irreducible to the affections or perceptions of a subject. Indeed, affects are not feelings, they are becomings that go beyond those who live through them (they become other). In Not I, she loses her texture as a subject in favor of an infinitely proliferating patchwork of affects and percepts that escape her form , as one sees that she is just a mouth. Gradually, she passes into the words like a knife through everything to the point where she herself becomes imperceptible. In short, she is no longer a person but a becoming. The word as a percept and what the percept makes visible are the invisible forces that populate the universe, that affect us and make us become. As Deleuze and Guattari put