- ---- by Tom ConleyIn the histories of cartography and of the cognition of terrestrial space, 'singularity' is a term that replaces that of the mirror. It is first seen in the early modern period. In the Middle Ages the 'mirror of human salvation' (speculum humane salvationis) charted a typology of events in human and divine time that made clear the order of the world on the basis of events in the Old Testament that also have analogues in the New Testament. The mirror was that which assured a reﬂection of a totality and the presence of God, a reﬂective surface, resembling perhaps the pupil of an eye on which were gathered and assembled the variety and wealth of divine creation. When, in the later fifteenth century, oceanic travellers ventured south and east from Europe to the Indies by way of Africa or west to the Caribbean or eastern coast of South America, most representations of the world could no long conform to the figure of the speculum mundi. Discovery and encounter prompted cosmographers to register new, often conﬂicting, and sometimes unthinkable things into works of open form. As singularities these works were subject to change and revision - indeed what Deleuze often calls 'open totalities'. For a brief time, the world itself was taken to be a mass of islands and continents, of insular shapes that contained a possibly infinite measure of singularities. Thus are born works such as Les singularités de la France antarctique (by André Thevet) or isolarii ('islandbooks', by Benedetto Bordone, Tomasso Porcacchi and others). They are conceived to account for, record and cope with new shapes of alterity and difference coming from distant spaces.Wherever Deleuze invokes singularity, it can be understood against this historical background. As a philosopher he embraces the idea of virtual travel, along infinite trajectories or lines of flight that lead the thinker anywhere about the world, but first and foremost among and between conceptual islands or points of singularity. As islands, they are also points that can be seen in series, as inﬂexions or emissions of events. A singularity, also insularity, is a decisive point and a place where perception is felt in movement. In Leibniz's concept of the monad, Deleuze notes how a 'singularity' is frequently associated with condensed events. Singularities are the 'zone of clear expression' of the monad. Less abstractly, in terms of civic geography, a singularity would be a county, a regional department, or even a topography.The singularities of the monad are what assure the presence of a body in or through which they vibrate. They are the events that make it both unique and common, both an entity of its own perceptual data and a ground for the relation that the monad holds with its environs. They are the places where the 'singularities belonging to each . . . are extended up to the singularities of others' (D 1993a: 86). The world as a whole is perceived infinitesimally in microperceptions and gigantically, in macroperceptions. Singularity allows the subject to perceive the world in both ways, infinitesimally and infinitely, in hearing the whir of a familiar watermill, in being aware of waves of water striking the hull of a boat, or even in sensing music that accompanies a 'dance of dust' (D 1993a: 86).These formulations about singularity inﬂect Deleuze's work on style and the creative imagination. With the same vocabulary he notes that great writers possess 'singular conditions of perception' (D 1997b: 116). Indeed singularities allow great writers to turn aesthetic percepts into veritable visions; in other words, to move from a unique site of consciousness to an oceanic one. Such is what makes the writer change the world at large through microperceptions that become translated into a style, a series of singularities and differences that estrange common usages of language and make the world of both the writer and those in which the reader lives vibrate in unforeseen and compelling ways.Were singularity associated with the 'Causes and Reasons of the Desert Island', (one of Deleuze's first pieces of philosophical writing) it would be connected with difference and repetition, one of the bases of his work on duration, identity and ideation in Difference and Repetition. A singularity is a unique point but it is also a point of perpetual recommencement and of variation. Like other keywords in his personal dictionary, singularity shifts and bears different inﬂections in different contexts but is always related to perception, subjectivity, affectivity and creation.Connectives§ event
The Deleuze dictionary. Revised Edition Edited by Adrian Parr . 2010.