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.

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    Neil Patrick Harris, excerpt of the show How I met your mother, 2012.

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

  • Certificat de naissance

    Jean-Marie Straub, excerpt of the show Nuits Magnétiques, France Culture, 1992.

  • Couvre-toi bien

    Voicemail message, 2013.

  • Des pétards de clarté

    Darry Cowl, excerpt of the film Assassins et voleurs by Sacha Guitry, 1957.

  • Dobbiamo immaginare

    Excerpt from a guided tour of the Domus Aurea in Roma, 2019.

  • Du loopcut de partout

    Excerpt of a cosmetic packaging tutorial posted on YouTube, 2012.

  • Et ! le terrorisme

    Excerpt from a radicalization prevention training, personal recording, 2016.

  • Et comment ils sont cons

    Jean-Marc Lebihan, excerpt of a performance at the Aurillac Festival, 2013.

  • F.O.U.T.R.E.

    Message left on Martin Juvanon de Vachat's voicemail, 2017.

  • Gourmand comme une vieille chatte

    André Tubeuf, excerpt from the radio show André Tubeuf Mémoire, France Musique, 2021.

  • It's your mother

    Voicemail message, 2008.

  • J'ai appris hier

    Antonin Artaud, excerpt of the radio performance Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu, recorded for the RDF (but never broadcast), 1947.

  • J'suis vert

    Party conversation, recording by Olivier Nourisson, 2000s.

  • Je suis une primaire

    Barbara, concert excerpt, unknown date.

  • Je vais le rappeler

    Voicemail message, 2011. 

  • Je vous remercie de vous

    Barbara, excerpt of a concert at the Olympia, Paris, 1978.

  • L'Occident doutait

    Fabrice Luchini and Alain Finkielkraut, excerpt of the show Répliques, France Culture, 2011.

  • La fête au pain d'épices

    Pierre Repp, excerpt of the comedy sketch “Les Crêpes,” 1960s.

  • Lâcher les élastiques

    Jean-Luc Delarue, excerpt of an interview on RTL, 2009.

  • Le coup de foudre du mépris

    Jean-Louis Bory, excerpt of the show Le Masque et la Plume, France Inter, 1963.

  • Le petit bidon

    Christophe Tarkos, Le petit bidon, Centre Pompidou, 1999.

  • Le suicide est le seul acte

    Jacques Lacan, excerpt of the film Télévision by Benoît Jacquot, 1973.

  • Le tissu de l'âme

    Gilles Deleuze, excerpt of a lecture on Leibniz, 1986.

  • Les Provinciales

    Henri Guillemin, excerpt of the show En appel about Blaise Pascal, RTS, 1972.

  • Les tickets du palais des mirages

    Alain Robbe-Grillet, excerpt of the show Le Roman du nouveau roman, France Culture, 2007.

  • Mais il y a des vilains peut-être

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

  • Mes clefs

    Jérôme Mauche, message left on Nicolas Rollet’s voicemail, 2008.

  • Mon livret de Caisse d'Épargne

    Scene from a police station, excerpt of the film Faits divers, Raymond Depardon, 1982.

  • Mon Maître, mon Roi !

    Scene from the metro, personal recording by Nicolas Rollet, 2010.

  • Muscle ton jeu, Robert

    Aimé Jacquet, excerpt of the film Les yeux dans les bleus, 1998.

  • On m'a jamais appris à gêner

    Marie Dasylva, extrait du talk Survie au taff : charge mentale et confinement, Facebook live, 2020.

  • Par exemple Proust

    Roland Barthes, La Préparation du roman, lecture at the Collège de France, 1978.

  • Sauf sur un point

    Marc Kravetz, excerpt of the show Les Matins, France Culture, 2007.

  • Si j'ai agi

    Léon Blum, excerpt of a speech at Luna Park in Paris, 1936.

  • This is the fifth house

    Tom Lescher aka Kaypacha, excerpt from a video on the YouTube channel « New Paradigm Astrology », 2019.

  • Un petit peu de bêtises

    Excerpt of the show L’école des fans, Antenne 2, 1980.

  • Un projet à court terme

    Sophie Marceau, speech before the presentation of a Palme d'or, Festival de Cannes, 1999.

  • Une chose enfantine

    Françoise Sagan, excerpt of the show Ramdam, FR3, 1993.

  • Une épiphanie paysagère

    Conversation entre amis, enregistrement personnel, 2020.

  • Vos Vuitton, vos Rollex

    Scene from the Parisian metro, personal recording by Joëlle Gayot, 2013.

  • You are a Republican

    Jonathan Krohn, excerpt of an appearance at the Conservative Action Conference, 2009.

This is the fifth house

Tom Lescher aka Kaypacha, excerpt from a video on the YouTube channel « New Paradigm Astrology », 2019.

Et ! le terrorisme

Excerpt from a radicalization prevention training, personal recording, 2016.