In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gilles Deleuze

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews

Literary and Critical Theory Gilles Deleuze
Jing Yin, Paul Patton
  • LAST REVIEWED: 31 July 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 July 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190221911-0079


Gilles Deleuze was one of the most important French philosophers of the second half of the 20th century. Born in 1925, he studied philosophy in Paris at the Lycée Carnot and the Sorbonne during the Second World War, passing the agrégation in 1949. He was trained in the history of philosophy by Ferdinand Alquié, Georges Canguilhem, and Jean Hippolyte, among others, and his early works were mostly monographs on individual philosophers, including Hume (Empiricism and Subjectivity, 1991 [1953]), Nietzsche (Nietzsche and Philosophy, 1983 [1962]), Kant (Kant’s Critical Philosophy, 1983 [1963]), and Bergson (Bergsonism, 1988 [1966]). He also published a book on Proust during this early period, which signaled a lifelong preoccupation with literature (Proust and Signs: The Complete Text, 2000 [1964]). He published essays on Sacher-Masoch (“Coldness and Cruelty,” in Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty by Gilles Deleuze and Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, 1991 [1967]), Beckett, T. E. Lawrence, Melville, and Whitman (collected in Essays Critical and Clinical, 1997 [1993]). The end of this early period saw the publication of Deleuze’s doctoral studies, Difference and Repetition (1994 [1968]) and Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza (1990 [1968]), followed by The Logic of Sense (1990 [1969]). Deleuze’s metaphysics of difference intersected at some points with Derrida’s philosophy, but also departed from it in that Deleuze saw his practice of philosophy as straightforwardly metaphysical and constructive rather than deconstructive. In the 1960s, Deleuze taught at the University of Clermont-Ferrand. In 1969, at Foucault’s invitation, he took up a post at the experimental University of Paris 8 at Vincennes (later St. Denis), where he taught until his retirement in 1987. His encounter with Félix Guattari in the aftermath of May 1968 led to their two coauthored volumes under the general title Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus (1983 [1972]), followed by A Thousand Plateaus (1987 [1980]). This work produced a number of concepts that have been taken up in diverse fields across the humanities and social sciences. They also coauthored Kafka: For a Minor Literature (1986 [1975]), and a decade later they produced a reflective account of their practice of philosophy: What Is Philosophy? (1994 [1991]). A final phase of Deleuze’s work began after the publication of A Thousand Plateaus, and continued until his death in 1995. During this period he published an essay on the painting of Francis Bacon (Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, 2003 [1981]) and two short monographs: Foucault (1988 [1986]) and The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (1993 [1988]). He also published a very influential two-volume study of the nature and history of cinema: Cinema 1: The Movement-Image (1986 [1983]) and Cinema 2: The Time-Image (1989 [1985]). As noted above, a collection of his literary philosophical essays, Essays Critical and Clinical, appeared in 1993 before being translated into English in 1997. After a long period of respiratory illness, Deleuze committed suicide in November 1995.

General Overviews

Dosse’s intellectual biography of Deleuze and Guattari is the best overall account of Deleuze’s life and work, while Smith and Somers-Hall provides state of the art essays on Deleuze’s philosophy and its relation to the history of philosophy (Dosse 2010, Smith and Somers-Hall 2012). Colebrook 2013, Hughes 2012, and May 2012 are helpful introductions to aspects of his work, while Parr 2010 and Stivale 2011 provide glossaries of key concepts and themes of his work, especially the coauthored work with Guattari. Zourabichvili 2012 is a strong French interpretation of Deleuze’s philosophy, and also includes a dictionary of key concepts.

  • Anonymous. Gilles Deleuze (1925–1995). In The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden, 2019.

    This entry on Gilles Deleuze provides brief accounts of the content of his major works and lists primary and some secondary bibliographical sources.

  • Colebrook, Claire. Gilles Deleuze. 2d ed. London and New York: Routledge, 2013.

    Accessible introduction to Deleuze’s philosophy from the perspective of his later work coauthored with Guattari, including What Is Philosophy? (cited under Coauthored Works). Colebrook discusses key concepts from these texts, along with Deleuze’s work on cinema, literature, and some aspects of his earlier work that led to the transcendental empiricism outlined in Difference and Repetition (cited under Early Works).

  • Dosse, François. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Intersecting Lives. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

    This dual biography of Deleuze and Guattari focuses on their intellectual engagement and partnership. Based on Guattari’s papers, published works, and interviews with third parties, it remains the only biographical account that provides details of Deleuze’s life and career, along with brief discussions of his published works and the context in which they were written.

  • Hughes, Joe. Philosophy after Deleuze. London: Continuum, 2012.

    Discusses Deleuze’s contribution to classical fields of philosophy, including ontology (focused on Difference and Repetition), aesthetics (focused on Cinema 1 and 2 and Kant) and political philosophy (focused on the theory of institutions in Deleuze’s early work). Includes an initial chapter on Deleuze’s philosophical style.

  • May, Todd. Gilles Deleuze: An Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

    Introduction to Deleuze’s philosophy that begins with the ethical question of how we might live differently, before turning to his relationship to Spinoza, Bergson, and Nietzsche and the guiding concepts of his thought associated with these philosophers; namely, immanence, duration, and affirmation. Subsequent chapters explore Deleuze’s conception of science, his politics of difference, and applications of his thought to a variety of topics from everyday life.

  • Parr, Adrian. The Deleuze Dictionary. Rev. ed. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010.

    Provides definitions and descriptions of more than 150 terms relating to Deleuze’s philosophy alone and in collaboration with Guattari. These include entries on specifically Deleuzian terms, as well as entries on other thinkers who influenced Deleuze or about whom he wrote, and entries on topics or fields in which his work has been influential. Taken together, these entries provide a guide to key themes in Deleuze’s philosophy, aspects of his intellectual lineage, and some of the ways in which his work has been taken up in areas across the humanities and social sciences.

  • Smith, Daniel, and John Protevi. “Gilles Deleuze.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2018.

    Comprehensive survey of Deleuze’s life and work, including discussion of the reception of his work and an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary literature.

  • Smith, Daniel W., and Henry Somers-Hall, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Deleuze. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

    Chapters by leading scholars address Deleuze’s relationship to the history of philosophy and to particular philosophers, such as Plato, Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger. Others address thematic dimensions of Deleuze’s work, including aesthetics, ethics, literature, mathematics, biology, and political philosophy. Other chapters address his relationship to major currents of 20th-century thought, such as phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and structuralism.

  • Stivale, Charles J., ed. Gilles Deleuze: Key Concepts. 2d ed. London and New York: Routledge, 2011.

    Seventeen chapters on key themes (force, expression, difference and repetition, desire), key concepts (sense, event, assemblage, micropolitics, style, cinema, etc.) and topics in Deleuze’s work (folds, critical and clinical philosophy, etc.), including work with Guattari as well as early and late solo works. The book has an introductory essay that reflects on Deleuze’s work and friendship.

  • Zourabichvili, François. Deleuze: A Philosophy of the Event, together with The Vocabulary of Deleuze. Edited by Gregg Lambert and Daniel W. Smith. Translated by Kieran Aarons. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012.

    Includes translations of two short works on Deleuze by an important French interpreter of Deleuze’s work. The first of these, Deleuze: Une philosophie de l’évènement (Paris: Press Universitaires de France, 1996), offers a powerful exposition of Deleuze’s philosophy centered on his concepts of time and the event, while the second presents a distinctive account of Deleuze’s philosophy in the form of a dictionary of key concepts: Le vocabulaire de Deleuze (Paris: Ellipses, 2003).

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