Yves Abrioux est professeur de littérature anglaise à l’université Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint-Denis. Sa recherche porte sur la littérature et l’art dans leurs rapports avec la philosophie, la science et les nouvelles technologies. Il est président de la branche européenne de la Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (SLSAeu).
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The word « virtual » evokes both a significant technological quality of recent digital media and a key concept in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. This has led many theoreticians of new media to treat both usages of the term as being essentially identical. This is a highly problematical move, since it has the effect of reducing Deleuze’s concept of the virtual to that of the possible, in spite of the philosopher’s repeated strictures to the contrary. American theoreticians have probably been no guiltier than their French counterparts of this tendency, which has the effect of blunting an understanding of the capacities of digital media. This article begins by reviewing critically the use of references to Deleuze in American media studies before going on to underline that Deleuzian scholarship in America itself suggests a way out of the ensuing impasse and to suggest that French thought would benefit from approaching the issues raised by new technologies by way of the critical reception encountered in America by Alain Badiou and Gilles Châtelet as well as by Deleuze himself.