Fold | Deviations in the course of speech that make use of digression, detour, parentheses, or citation, allowing one to play with a range of qualities and registers. Folds produce tacking movements that twist discursive threads without breaking them.

Speaking of folds implies viewing speech through the metaphor of a continuous line or thread (indeed, one often hears of narrative or discursive threads): one that is curved not straight, inflected, wavy, making detours and digressions, going through distinct forms of enunciation, making qualitative jumps between different levels of speech without ever resolving itself into any set form of continuity.

The fold’s light inflection

Folds can be recognized by the inflection they carve into someone’s intonation, marking the opening of temporary parentheses. We can thus hear Alain Robbe-Grillet’s descending intonation as he makes a didactic and illustrative digression on André Breton, and Jean-Marie Straub’s slightly sullen voice lighting up during the passing mention of a “childhood friend.”

Apart from the fact that they favor thematic digressions, folds also allow discourse to turn back on itself and anticipate its own becoming. In this excerpt of a Gilles Deleuze lecture on Leibniz, folding allows for the various points of a philosophical demonstration to be brought together over the course of several sessions. Such a reversal of time’s dimensions also allows actor Jean-Claude Van Damme to adequately theorize his particularly tortuous way of speaking.

The fold as delay

Some folds stretch out secondary levels of discourse ad infinitum, leading to a noticeable delay in reaching someone’s object of speech. The very beginning of Antonin Artaud’s Pour en finir avec le Jugement de Dieu delights itself in pushing back the object of the famous opening phrase “yesterday I learned.” A journalist charged with reading an AFP dispatch gives his listeners a moment of contrition whose underlying strategy is clear: to make them want the news. In this excerpt of Sacha Guitry’s film Assassins et voleurs, the character played by Darry Cowl avoids the confession demanded of him by the court through a series of successive folds. The comedic potential of this kind of situation can be heard with humorist Pierre Repp, where stuttering and spoonerisms create a number of false leads that are each more incongruous than the other.

Saturating/saturated folds

When the hierarchy of levels of discourse tends to come undone and peripheral elements begin to proliferate in excessive ways, folds can also be used to saturate speech (see the entry Saturation). Asked to justify his absence at a work meeting, a man is led to use phrases like “well, anyway” in order not to lose his initial train of thought. In an extended question asked by Marc Kravetz to novelist Eduardo Manet, a guest on France Culture’s show Matins, the multiple parentheses used are not so much digressions as they are elements that re-traverse the novel and complicate the problem. In a reverse example, we have this disproportionately long answer to the question “You’re never punished at school?” by a player in L’École des fans.

A young woman calls the hotel where she spent the night to know if anyone has found the lingerie she believes to have forgotten there: this story, simple at first glance, breaks down into pieces through the use of peripheral details. Saturation by folds reaches its peak when a rapid output is combined with incoherent remarks: asked about his ties to Claude Berri, Jean-Luc Delarue addresses his astounded listeners “without an unconscious,” his words borne by the digressions of his bubbling thoughts.

The fold as unrestrained drifting of the mind

Freed from the worries of having to maintain a steady discursive thread, folded speech can lose itself in an unrestrained drift, tacking a conversation miles from its original subject without appearing problematic in doing so. In this excerpt, we hear Françoise Sagan move without transition from racehorses to the sufferings of the unemployed. Elsewhere, Barbara’s desire to open herself to an audience leads only to the pleasure of her pretending to be lost in her remarks, and a word (“green”) becomes the basis for a series of disjointed word associations. When such an improvised drift is based entirely upon the emptiness of speaking for the sake of speaking, it can provoke an audience’s ire, and rightly so.

Just as lonely, though not quite as indifferent to its surroundings, a soliloquy captured in the Parisian Metro threads together a series of disparate referents like pearls, the subway allowing for changes in focus favorable to temporarily leaving one’s main remarks aside.

Finally, in Benoît Jacquot’s film Télévision, Jacques Lacan’s words are represented as forming a continuous intellectual drift, though one that is largely under control. Here, folds are dramatized as the realization of words in actions, with Lacan arranging his eloquent pauses, interpolated clauses, authoritative quotes, his focalization, his contrasts in tone and intensity, etc., as needed.


Porra, me da um odio, cara !

Excerpt of a video posted on Instagram, 2017.

Völkisch Ideen dans le texte

Christian Sommer, excerpt of the radio show Répliques, 2013.

À peine un filet pluvieux

Evelyne Dheliat, excerpt from the TF1 weather report, 2016.

Mais il y a des vilains peut-être

Street Scene, excerpts from the documentary On the Edge of the World, Claude Drexel, Arte, 2014.


Voicemail message from Martin Juvanon de Vachat, 2017.

Je vais le rappeler

Voicemail message, 2011. 

Il avait un salon tapissé d’astrakan

Serge Gainsbourg, excerpt from an interview on the radio, France Culture, 1982

Court-circuiter la partitocratie

Patrick Buisson, excerpt from the radio program Répliques, 2016