Deleuzian Folds in Hodgson's Ghost Pirates

Jacob Huntley
University of East Anglia


"It occurred to me then, like a flash, that the man had stumbled upon a portion of the truth." [Hodgson: 260]

[1] Truth produces a problem for philosophical thought; the transcendental suggests a ground for truth somewhere beyond being, whilst immanent truth becomes a problem of (metaphysical) representation. Entangling the problem further, truth, stripped of the sovereignty of the definite article, stands revealed as contingent; "illusions which we have forgotten are illusions," as Nietzsche says, "hardened and congealed"—and thus brittle and precarious—upon its pedestal. [Nietzsche: 84-6] A truth has no claim to dispose of or invalidate another truth, meaning that a true reality may be challenged.

[2] In William Hope Hodgson's The Ghost Pirates [1909] the challenge emerges as the invasion of the supernatural that first threatens and then wrecks the reality of those aboard the Mortzestus. Soon after they set sail from San Francisco the discomforting suggestion of too many shadows on the vessel rapidly becomes the "fact" of a menacing maritime haunting. The implications create waves, choppy logic, extending beyond the fate of the unfortunate vessel to lap at the shores of philosophical thought. Hodgson wasn't a philosopher—indeed, he is accused by some of barely being a writer. David Punter summarises this when he acknowledges the power of trauma stemming from the perennial encroachment of weirdness in Hodgson's fiction while castigating the impenetrability, limitations, and lack of coherent structure. [Punter: 125-6 pass.] And yet, as China Mieville counters, arguing it is precisely that traumatic, apocalyptic excess, stumbling upon something of ghastly significance (here, the "intrusion of the otherworldly") which ultimately rescues the prose from justified wholesale neglect. [Hodgson: vii-ix]

[3] The narrator, able seaman Jessop, provides an eyewitness account of the strange circumstances surrounding the demise of the Mortzestus. Jessop's tale of the hazy and inchoate figures who menace and stalk the crew and finally sink the vessel continually pitches and rolls between reality and unreality, bilious with uncertainty. [i] Apart from the journey's launching point, San Francisco, from which the Mortzestus immediately departs, Hodgson's tale is set on the water, an apparently simple sea story in setting, character, and especially, terminology. The nautical jargon is as complicated a linguistic tangle as the ship's rigging. There is a conceptual plane operating here, or as Deleuze might put it, a plane of immanence, waiting to open up. The Mortzestus is ungrounded, fundamentally so, as are the events that lead to its demise. Perhaps in this sense it is significant that the fated journey is begun in San Francisco. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Bay Area harboured a community of Gothic or fantastical writers, most notably Ambrose Bierce. In a letter to his fellow West Coast writer, Emma Frances Dawson, Bierce describes San Francisco as "a dream city—a city of wraiths and things forbidden to the senses." [Bierce in Mulvey-Roberts: 207] It is, therefore possible to discern a line of thought that extends from launch to sinking, a progression of strangeness, whereby the ship—even in port—is not unequivocally anchored in reality. Jessop mentions this aspect of the "unlucky" ship: "I heard before I signed on, that there were some funny yarns floating round about her." [Hodgson: 207] 

[4] The crew of the Mortzestus strive to rationalise the weird presence of the ghost pirates by explaining that which cannot immediately be dismissed as figments of the imagination—the crew readily prefer to believe themselves "dotty," "cracked," "fanciful," or "dreaming" in the face of half-glimpsed figures, ghostly hands pulling them from the rigging, or phantom ship's lights emerging from the unnaturally foggy night, rather than confront the possibility of their having inadvertently discovered a terrible and traumatic truth. Asked to name the "problem" associated with the ship, it is something too vague to be labelled, other than that the Mortzestus is "unlucky." 

[5] Jessop, who first witnesses the ghost pirates and attempts "to comprehend their significance—their beastly, sinister significance," [Hodgson: 260] speculates upon the ephemeral encounter in a way almost everyone else on board is reluctant to do. "I don't know whether they're real—that is, not as we consider things real." [Hodgson: 236] What he tentatively proposes is a shared reality—ontologically adrift in this undefined, unmapped space—between the world of the Mortzestus and the world of the ghost pirates, a folding (the term is Deleuze's) or the compossibility (in Leibnizian thinking) between the two. The unresolved, inexplicable, off-sure meeting between the sailors and the marine ghosts can be considered on both Deleuzian and Leibnizian lines as "the irruption of incompossibilities on the same stage." [Deleuze, 2006: 93]

Deleuzian Glimmers

"Truth depends upon an encounter with something which forces us to think, and to seek the truth." [Deleuze, 1972: 16]

[6] For Deleuze, the fold becomes a predominant concept within his later philosophy. [ii] It is, in a strict emphasis, an elaboration of the virtual and the actual where Deleuze, explicitly drawing upon Leibniz and aspects of the baroque from art to architecture, folds and unfolds subjectivity, perception, and becoming as an ongoing process both concrete and abstract, "to produce an inside copresent with the outside" [Deleuze, 1995: 113] whereby nothing is lost, neglected, or remaindered. "For Leibniz, and in the Baroque," Deleuze states, "folds are always full." [Deleuze, 2006: 41] It is an opportunity for plenitude that Deleuze develops and elaborates upon to extend his own philosophical discourse.

[7] What the fold allows is an inclusive pattern of existence. Its inclusivity carries from the most acutely "local" perception where the "tiniest of all animals has glimmers that cause it to recognise its food, its enemies, and sometimes its partner" [Deleuze, 2006: 105] towards multiplicity. That is, it incorporates (in the manner of Leibniz's monadology) microperceptions (the light-sensitive, olfactory, and tactile perceptual requirements of a tick, for example) that extend beyond a threshold to macroperceptions and the cosmological whilst also including the alternative bifurcations and divergences: the incompossible or the virtual are included within the fold.

A dust of coloured perceptions falls on a black backdrop; yet, if we look closely, these are not atoms, but miniscule folds that are endlessly unfurling and bending on the edges of juxtaposed areas, like a mist or fog that makes their surface sparkle, at speeds that no one of our thresholds of consciousness could sustain in a normal state. But when our clear perceptions are reformed, they draw yet another fold that now separates the conscious from the unconscious, that joins the tiny edges of surface to a great area, that moderates the different speeds, and rejects all kinds of minute perceptions in order to make from all the others the solid fabric of apperception: dust falls, and I see the great fold of figures just as the background is unfurling its tiny folds. [Deleuze, 2006: 106]

As Deleuze is keen to stress, the concept is a rich seam of philosophical thought, including "the folds of the earth, the folds of organisms, folds of the soul ... it's in the folds of things that one perceives ...The whole thing is a crossroads, a multiple connectedness. We're still a long way from exhausting all the potential of the fold, it's a good philosophical concept." [Deleuze, 1995: 154-5] Tom Conley (translator of The Fold) emphasizes the centrality of the concept to Deleuze's philosophy when he says that "in Deleuze's world everything is folded, and folds, in and out of everything else." [Conley in Stivale: 180] It would be fair to say that Deleuzian thought, certainly from the late 80s, can always be taken to mean a Deleuzian fold of thought.

Leibnizian Vagabonds

"Once I had established these things, I thought I had reached port; but when I set myself to reflect on the union of the soul with the body, I seemed to be cast back again into the open sea." [Leibniz: 104]

[8] Leibniz's strongest influence on Deleuze's philosophy seems to be contained in this "wonderful remark" [Deleuze, 1995: 104]; that is, the willingness to reformulate or reinvent. Perhaps for this reason it is less appropriate to call Leibniz's thought a systematic philosophy than to consider it akin to a Venn diagram (which Leibniz's attempted notation of logic anticipates) where conceptual areas relate through associations of commonality. Rhizomically, Deleuze might say. These retracings, revisions, and conceptual accretions allow the introduction of new variables and account for the prolific creativity in Leibniz's work.

[9] The new variable of the incompossible offers a valuable formulation for expressing the divergence of series, not, as Alain Badiou argues "between true and false, but between possible and possible." [Badiou in Boundas and Olkowski: 51] The concept is Leibniz's innovation, as Deleuze sees it, where "he invokes a profoundly original relation among all possible worlds." [Deleuze, 2006: 67] What appears to attract Deleuze most is the freshness and vitality of the thinking: "incompossibility is an original relation, distinct from impossibility or contradiction." [Deleuze, 2006: 71] Effectively, this unfolds a relation between two worlds (or series) that are inherently possible but mutually contradictory: "[t]he eventual divergence of series is what allows for the definition of incompossibility." [Deleuze, 2006: 68] Thus, Adam who doesn't sin is neither a paradoxical contradiction nor an impossibility, but is precisely incompossible with the world where Adam is a sinner; similarly, bothand the relation is again one of incompossibility. 

[10] Leibniz argues that an individual substance or monad (Adam, Caesar, or for the purposes of this essay, Jessop) is qualitatively different from any other substance or monad, however much they may appear similar—the principle of the identity of indiscernibles—and the particular substance achieves its status as actual through its placement within the system of pre-established harmony. "There is one possible Adam whose posterity is such and such, and an infinity of others whose posterity would be different; is it not the case that these possible Adams (if I may so speak of them) are different from one another, and that God has chosen only one of them, who is exactly our Adam?" [Leibniz: 61] One substance may, nevertheless, resemble another despite differing in certain respects of their actions or function. As Deleuze usefully elaborates:

God does not create a 'vague' or vagabond Adam who straddles several incompossible worlds, but creates, 'sub ratione possibilitatis,' as many divergent Adams as there are worlds, each Adam containing the entire world to which he belongs (and to which, also by including it, belong all other compossible monads of such a world). In short, every possible monad is defined by a certain number of preindividual singularities, and is thus compossible with all the monads who singularities converge with its own, and incompossible with those whose singularities imply divergence or nonprolongation. [Deleuze 2006: 72]

Adam (as First Man) and Caesar (as crosser of the Rubicon) exist, folded into the history of the world, but substances with Adam-like attributes apart from the capacity to sin, or Caesar-like existence up to the very bank of the Rubicon, are not illogical chimeras of impossible substances. They are of the order of another world, "folded in the monads that express it". [Deleuze, 2006: 84] As Stuart Brown notes, Leibniz's view (revised following discussion with Spinoza) sees that "though all possibilities exist in the mind of God there are infinitely many possibilities which are not true of the actual world."  [Brown: 58-9]


[11] In relation to Hodgson's tale, the fold becomes a valuable way of understanding the central premise that so exercises Jessop's thought: what strangeness are they caught within? Drawing upon Leibniz, the strangeness can be defined as a meeting between two incompatible series, one above, the other below, folded together on the surface of the sea. If the ghost pirates are indeed malign maritime spirits (and it is unresolved quite what they are) they may have washed free of the flesh, resorting "to a more subtle scene" in Leibniz's phrase. [Leibniz: 25] It is the fluidity of this particular plane of immanence that allows this encounter: "Waves are vibrations, shifting borderlines," Deleuze and Guattari remark in A Thousand Plateaus, [Deleuze and Guattari: 252] so that this fold can be deemed an elemental one, occurring along the unfixed, shifting, traversable surface of the water ("the thing I saw, came up out of the sea, and went back into the sea" [Hodgson: 238]). Indeed, it is an element Deleuze calls a "creased" and "infinite fold", [Deleuze, 2006: 140] where the surface ripples and swells continually, forming a dizzying and dangerous threshold, a squally folding that simultaneously unfolds in lurching waves which crest infinite force and crash in submerged swirls. Of the first crewmen to perish, it is the infinite, elemental fold into which they fall, drowning down towards the phantom vessels of the pursuing ghost pirates. The watery fold causes a nauseous swooning, l'etourdissement (as suffered by individual monads), or an extreme case of sea-sickness. The very strangeness the Mortzestus is caught within is an extension of—and emerges from—the elemental fold. The sensation of sea-sickness, the perpetual, churning instability, is what resolves Deleuze and Guattari's contention that the sea, "a smooth space par excellence," is also "the archetype of all striations of smooth space," yet "in the aftermath of striation, the sea reimparts a kind of smooth space". [Deleuze and Guattari: 479-80] The sea, an intensive space capable of "waiving" the subordination of striation, creases inexorably, giddying the senses, confounding perception, and reducing it to the confused movement and squirming of fishes.

[12] But the fold is not to be characterised by negation, merely despatching and depleting the crew, because folds are always full. It is crucial that the fold allows for the simultaneous presence of the two seemingly incompatible kinds of life, the accord between ostensibly opposing realities and the conjunction between the visible and the invisible. As the dust shimmers and settles, a normal perceptual threshold is breached along with the surface tension of the sea, sparkling through the waves. For Jessop, the unfolding of this alternative, virtual existence, the swoon into unreality, is principally experienced both through what he sees and what incomprehensibly evades his sight.

Ghost Watch

[13] From the first appearance of the ghost pirates ("abruptly, away aft, my rather sleepy gaze had lighted on something altogether extraordinary and outrageous. It was nothing less than the form of a man stepping inboard over the starboard rail, a little abaft the main rigging."[Hodgson: 209]) to the final "great wave of murderous, living shadows" [Hodgson: 301] that board and sink the ship, Jessop's gaze becomes a visual palimpsest or (perhaps more appropriate for the photography enthusiast Hodgson) a double exposure. It is visual excess, an intensity, in a similar manner to how Deleuze views the overloaded and crowded Baroque still life as "schizophrenic stuffing." [Deleuze, 2006: 141] Notably, Jessop's initial reaction is to imply varying degrees of derangement: "I suppose I was dazed – mentally stunned." [Hodgson: 210] The consequence of this, again in specifically Deleuzian terms, is a zone of indiscernibility, where both the Mortzestus and the ghost ship are possible without contradiction, the prismatic, schizo Jessop capable of looking beyond a perceptual threshold at the "coloured dust" and apprehending its great and miniscule sparkling folds.

[14] Although Jessop is the primary and principle witness to the ghost pirates, seeing them with an ease that somehow eludes his comrades, he is soon reconciled to the rest of the crew. Whilst standing at the taffrail, Jessop spots another ship, apparently signalling to the Mortzestus, although it abruptly disappears, vanishing from the smooth, blank ocean. Jessop at first concludes that the ship has sunk (enfolded beneath the surface); discarding the idea for the absence of evidential debris—"there was nothing, not even an odd hencoop" [Hodgson: 242]—he examines his doubtful perception (unfolding his thought).

It occurred to me then, that the vessel I had seen was nothing real, and, perhaps, did not exist outside of my own brain. I considered the idea, gravely. It helped to explain the thing, and I could think of nothing else that would. Had she been real, I felt sure that others aboard us would have been bound to have seen her long before I had—I got a bit muddled there, with trying to think it out; then abruptly, the reality of the other ship came back to me—every rope and sail and spar, you know. [Hodgson: 242]

It is precisely in the muddle that Jessop is able to reify the presence of the other ship; a perceptual threshold unfolds but only by incorporating a fold within this movement, the caesura in his ratiocination. In the fold, an exclusive perception, (the vessel existing within Jessop's brain) cannot spontaneously represent itself to itself (a 'new' element somehow occurring within the closed unity of the monad), like a model ship suddenly appearing within a bottle. Perceptions depend upon the disruption of a preceding perception: "a conscious perception is produced when at least two heterogenous parts enter into a differential relation that determines a singularity." [Deleuze, 2006: 100] The reality of the missing ship is indubitably a singularity in Deleuze's terms (in that it is both unique and peculiar) as it marks a shift, a point where relations become changed. The fold too can be viewed as changed at this moment too, or rather, a further fold can be perceived. The hencoop, or any more evidential debris of the other ship, may not be there but a possible line of thought is revealed. The sinking disjecta membra highlight another plane as they fall like the coloured dust against the black backdrop. The sinking of the other ship, even virtually, allows an unfolding beneath the waves to be perceived. The other "real" ship falls out of Jessop's field of vision, whereas up to this point the issue has been a surfeit of seeing. He doesn't understand this as a lack of vision or perspective, however; this is not a limitation. Instead, the absence of any broken up bits of the ship indicates for him a wider picture, an ungrounded thought amid the literally groundless swell. As Jessop expresses it: "a curious thought got me, that I had looked at her from out of some other dimension." [Hodgson: 243]  

[15] Crucially, whether caused by the presence of the ghost pirates or not (the relationship between the two phenomena is apparently heterogeneous), the Mortzestus finds it has sailed into a weird cloud or haze that Jessop calls an "extraordinary, blind atmosphere". [Hodgson: 253] It is a mist of particular qualities, partially blocking sightlines in the manner of a two-way mirror, so that the whole crew (Jessop included) cannot see out of the shimmering opacity, although other shipping can still see them. The intervention of the mist (where "a sort of screen intervenes" [Deleuze, 2006: 86]) has the consequence of folding the stricken vessel within a pocket of compromised visibility, somehow travelling with them just as the ghost pirates are able to do in tracking them from beneath the waves. Despite the mist passing, its effects remain with the Mortzestus.

The strangeness was with us. It was something that was about (or invested) our ship that prevented me—or indeed, any one else aboard—from seeing that other [ship] ... they could see us, plainly; and yet, so far as we were concerned, the whole ocean seemed empty. It appeared to me, at the time, to be the weirdest thing that could happen to us. [Hodgson: 243]

This curious blind spot corresponds with what Jean Clet-Martin calls "one of the most important requirements of Deleuze's philosophy: on the surface nothing is hidden, but not everything is visible." [Clet-Martin in Patton: 19] The perceptual fold created by the mist (analogous to Deleuze's dust of coloured perceptions) screens perceptual data, filtering prehension, allowing compossible elements to integrate [Deleuze, 2006: 87 pass.]; in Jessop's rough thought, this is taken to mean "that the actual, visible mist was a materialised expression of an extraordinary subtle atmosphere in which we were moving." [Hodgson: 245-6]

[16] To talk of a materialisation of the incorporeal is to uncover another fold of thought: the event. Tucked within the centre of The Fold, the event is one of the more persistent Deleuzian concepts, highlighting the attribution or expression of transformation. It may be a sudden actualisation (becoming cut) or, as Jean-Jacques Lecercle explains, a fragmented, inscrutable experience hovering like a mist or haze (being caught up in the disorientation of a vast battle). [Lecercle: 109 pass.] The event is incorporeal yet intimately involved with the state to which it is attributed. Deleuze and Guattari insist that having identified this (Stoic) differential does not constitute a separation. "The independence of the form of expression and the form of content is not the basis for a parallelism between them or a representation of one by the other, but on the contrary a parcelling of the two, a manner in which expressions are inserted into their contents." [Deleuze and Guattari: 87] The transitive verbs may be exchanged with the notion of folding.  

[17] This event of materialised expression is the elemental fold, here diffused and suspended, like the vaporous drapes and pleats composed of regular seawater. Caught in this singular "particular" of an atmospheric fold, Jessop and his crewmates experience indiscernibility, where they may glimpse through the perceptual fog in patches—when it unfolds —whilst remaining a part of the seafaring community—that is, still folded within the navigational charts, nautical maps and shipping lines that exert the authority of striation.

A Sea Interlude

[18] Part of Badiou's critique of The Fold is an objection to the conditions through which an event becomes actualised. "Shouldn't we rather ask: 'What are the conditions of an event for almost nothing to be event?'" [Badiou: 56] The discussion supposes a degree of contradiction in Deleuze's thinking, an incompatibility between the singular and the universal.

This enigma can be expressed simply: while we often understand 'event' as the singularity of a rupture, Leibniz-Whitehead-Deleuze understands it as what singularizes continuity in each of its local folds. But on the other hand, for Leibniz-Whitehead-Deleuze, 'event' nonetheless designates the origin, always singular, or local, of a truth (a concept), or what Deleuze formulates as the 'subordination of the true to the singular and the remarkable'". [ibid]

What Badiou proposes is an event that bursts within a situation (the model ship briefly flickering within the bottle) "which brings to pass 'something other' than the situation ... the event is a hazardous [hasardeux], unpredictable supplement, which vanishes as soon as it appears." [Badiou, 2001: 67] The aftermath of the event has an irrevocable effect on those caught up in the event, the traces of 'something other' marking them with the process of a truth. (See also Badiou's Being & Event for a full account.) Yet it is precisely within this after-the-event, or inquest-period, that the event can be tainted, or wholly corrupted by evil. (See Badiou's Ethics.)

[19] There is a subtle tension between the accounts provided by Deleuze and Badiou: the event as "hazardous" flash, rupturing the situation or appearing as singular provocation within continua; the infrequent, seismic event (the French Revolution) or the 'quotidian' event: "A concert is being performed tonight. It is an event." [Deleuze: 91] The concepts operate along dissimilar trajectories (Lecercle's discussion characterises them as following differing paths) [Lecercle: 108-118] in that either "something" emerges suddenly or the event is "nourished" by preceding minute perceptions ("so it was that!"). For Deleuze, this is a consequence unfolding from Leibniz's thinking.

Leibniz's philosophy ... requires this ideal pre-existence of the world, this silent and shaded part of the event. We can speak of the event only as already engaged in the soul that expresses it and in the body that carries it out, but we would be completely at a loss about how to speak of it without this withdrawn part. However difficult it may be, we must think of the naval battle beginning with the potential that exceeds the souls that direct it and the bodies that execute it." [Deleuze, 2006: 121]

Badiou's critique acknowledges this shadowy aspect almost to the point of exaggeration: "[Deleuze] does not say that it is the obscure that predominates. He does not meet the debate head-on. No, he shades." [Badiou: 54] This shady, excessive potential of the event, "the All that preexists it," [Badiou: 57] is gathered within the event yet buried imperceptibly within, Badiou contends, so that the notion of the event "is like a spontaneous gesture over a dark background." [ibid]

[20] Whilst the ghost pirates witnessed by the Mortzestus may appear closer to Badiou's version of the event in that they present an unpredictable, hazardous, and reality-cracking something, they in fact illustrate Deleuze's version rather better. Firstly, their ghostly attribution which is insisted upon throughout (shapes, not bodies) accords with Lecercle's assertion that "the Deleuze event ... has three striking characteristics: it is incorporeal ... impersonal ... and infinitive." [Lecercle: 116] Secondly, the ghost pirates emerge from the silent and shady depths. "They appeared to me to be a great way down in the sea, and quite motionless. Yet, though their outlines were somewhat blurred and indistinct, there was no mistaking that they were very like exact, though shadowy representations of vessels." [Hodgson: 288] Gradually extending from the submerged darkness, minute perceptions reaching a surface-threshold where they encounter the conscious perception of Jessop and the rest of the crew, the event of the ghost pirates unfolds against the 'dark backdrop' of the ocean depths. It is just such a backdrop, of course, before which Deleuze sprinkles his dust of coloured perceptions and to which Badiou rightly draws our attention.

Other Possible Worlds

"It is very difficult to conceive how a truth can be in the mind, if the mind has never thought of that truth." [Leibniz: 171]

[21] As is clear, Deleuze's concept of the fold operates across several lines at once, although they may appear to be composed along diverging or even contradictory series: "there exist minute perceptions that are not integrated into present perception, but also minute perceptions that are not integrated into the preceding one and that nourish the one that comes along ('so it was that!')." [Deleuze, 2006: 99] This future-anterior condition is also acknowledged by Deleuze when he states of hallucinatory perception: "I see the folds of things through the dust they stir up." [Deleuze, 2006: 107]

[22] Folding is a process of continually re-folding, not a discrete procedure. Tom Conley condenses this usefully and aphoristically when he calls the fold "the expression of a continuous and vital force of being and becoming." [Conley: 180] The possibility of the ghost pirates, the "truth" of their existence, unfolds, for the benighted Mortzestus, the order of multiplicity which their narrow perception of reality cannot contain. It is the illusory and congealed thought that cannot tolerate this interruption. As John Marks observes, "We go in search of truth only when incited to do so." [Marks: 132] Whilst they strive to maintain their course—the insistence on keeping to the original route becomes ever more determined—they are sailing ever further into the smooth, uncharted territory containing the ghost pirates. Faced with this supernatural Other (Autrui), the crew—and Jessop moreso than his fellows due to his prolonged, intensive exposure—are incited to discard their old, obsolete picture of the world (to jettison their doubt) and recognise another possible, virtual condition of being in an effort to safeguard their own existence. As Greg Lambert summarises: "For Deleuze, it has never been a question of 'breaking out' of the world that exists, but of creating the right conditions for the expression of other possible worlds to 'break in' in order to introduce new variables into the world that exists, causing the quality of its reality to undergo modification, change and becoming." [Lambert: 37]

Tale Spin

[23] The smooth space of the sea provides the plane upon which the incompossibilty of the Mortzestus and the ghost pirates becomes established. Confronting this reordering of his reality, Jessop's dilemma is to resolve what he has impossibly seen with what he can possibly comprehend and communicate, forcing him to explore a provisional and rudimentary epistemology. "Suppose the earth were inhabited by two kinds of life. We're the one, they're the other ... Don't you see, in a normal state we may not be capable of appreciating the realness of the other? But they may be just as real and material to them as we are to us. Do you see?" [Hodgson: 239] Jessop's imperative emphasis upon seeing is a crucial aspect of his explanation, strategically unfolding his field of vision. He endeavours to get others, particularly Tammy, a younger crewman on watch, to share his vision of the ghost pirates, even if they cannot experience them optically. "I told him the whole truth of the affair. After I had done that, I explained my idea about it, to him. 'Now do you see what I mean?' I asked." [Hodgson: 278] Jessop insists on the event (or truth) of the ghost pirates by making sense of them through language as a substitution for their visual absence. He endeavours to produce this other possibility within the thought of his fellows, allowing the ghost pirates to break in upon them, in effect, and it is no accident that everyone finds it difficult to speak of the ghost pirates. Language is under particular tension, trying to accommodate the other-worldly within intelligibility and good sense, so that language itself trembles, pitches and rolls—stuttering, in Deleuze's preferred formulation. Inciting a transposition of sense apparently unleashes the incompossibility and what breaks in does so not through good or common sense but haptic sense. The rigging becomes the site of conflict, with climbing crewmen subjected to attack on high.

[S]omething in the darkness gripped my waist ... I said nothing, but lashed out into the night with my left foot. It is queer, but I cannot say with certainty that I struck anything; I was too downright desperate with funk, to be sure; and yet it seemed to me that my foot encountered something soft, that gave under the blow. It may have been nothing more than an imagined sensation; yet I am inclined to think otherwise; for, instantly, the hold about my waist was released; and I commenced to scramble down, clutching the shrouds pretty desperately. [Hodgson: 265, emphasis added]

Twice in this section Jessop's narration points to its own inarticulacy or voices its own silence, a paradox that Lecercle describes as the "syntagmatic stuttering of reflexive connections." [Lecercle: 232] And here perhaps is the most acute instance of the fold: the encounter with the ghost pirates only unfolds through Jessop's telling of the tale to the Master and Mates of the Sangier, the vessel that picks the able seaman from the water as the sole survivor following the Morzestus' sinking. Within this purely linguistic fold, the ghost pirates remain possible between the parenthetical framing at the start—"He began without any circumlocution" [Hodgson: 207]—and the appendix by Third Mate Evans accounting for what they have heard. Despite Jessop's best efforts to distinguish his crew and the ghost pirates as two distinct series they remain intimately folded within his retelling. It is for this reason that circumlocution is eschewed; with no explicable origin and an imposed curtailment, periphrasis only silences the ghost pirates, which would be intolerable for the only man left, a denial of the truth he has witnessed. "Direct discourse is a detached fragment of a mass and is born of the dismemberment of the collective assemblage ... My direct discourse is still the free indirect discourse running through me, coming from other worlds or other planets." [Deleuze and Guattari: 84]


[i] It would be a mistake to describe the events in The Ghost Pirates as uncanny since the Freudian implication is unhelpful. Freud's folding of the familiar and unfamiliar (Unheimlich) specifically relates to homeliness and its apparent hauntedness. The Mortzestus is not in a homely condition to begin with but rather an inhospitable and alien environment—however strange things get, they are literally and figuratively all at sea. 

[ii] Although in fact The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque describes an arc back to his earlier "history of philosophy" phase and, as Robert Maggiori suggests, "envelops" the whole oeuvre. [Deleuze, 1995: 160]


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— (2001). Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil. Translated by P. Hallward. London: Verso.

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Brown, Stuart, (1984). Leibniz: Philosophers in Context. Brighton: Harvester.

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— (1995). Negotiations. Translated by Martin Joughin. New York: Columbia UP. 

— (1972). Proust and Signs. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: George Braziller.

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