Sunday, November 18, 2012

Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes pp.113-144

Here we have less writing by this humble commentator than last time probably. Well, take what you can get, I suppose.

While I recognize Barthes' frustrations in much of his language here (his distaste for other languages--though he learned English in school), I do like how he lists his likes and dislikes (on 116-117) and then states, plainly, that "this is of no importance to anyone," that it has no meaning. (117) But of course things mean (especially to the, or at least this, reader).

An interesting though: "what I write about myself is never the last word: the more 'sincere' I am, the more interpretable I am." (120) I should mention that, if Camera Lucida was a kind of eulogy for Barthes' mother, it seems almost as if this book is a kind of eulogy for Barthes himself.

Barthes was unfashionable. (125) As an aside, the remaining members of the band Queen said a similar thing about themselves (throughout the band's career) in a 2011 BBC documentary I watched this week.

A thought: if writing constantly risks being vulgar (because it supposes certain effects of discourse, what of photography? "The imaginary grasped" by photography, as by writing, does it also "grimace"? What do you think this might mean? What does Barthes think about photography, then? (126)

The Neutral is a "back-and-forth, an amoral oscillation." (132) (Is it "willy-nilly," then?) He reveals here that The Neutral is not a "third term" (a kind of pseudo-synthesis, if you will) but rather "at another link of the infinite chain of language," that is, a constant second term, of course, leading to more. (132-133)

Another note related to the one above: am I correct in understanding that sleep (or, specifically, taking a nap at a bar) is the third term to "speaking/keeping silent"? (142)

The difficulty remains high with some of these fragments; his playfulness is highly evident though (though he seems to deny its presence).

1 comment:

Phil Wiebe said...

Barthes’ notion of apostrophe feels similar to the ideas on Repetition expressed by Kierkegaard’s narrator in the eponymous book: ‘recovering a new state, dialectizing the original demand, triumphing over reduction’ (114). Barthes often quotes, but seldom does he tell who he likes to read beyond Proust, Michelet, and Sartre – what academic sources informed his thought?

Note the self-awareness regarding jargon and mad discourse; I wonder if he thought he contributed to or worked to dispel such things. What do his likes and dislikes say about him? To me, mainly that Roland was a very aesthetic/sensuous person – many of his likes are foods, drinks, smells, music, views, etc. Similarly, his dislikes mainly consist of sounds and composers. In these likes and dislikes Barthes recognizes the other-ness of everyone else: ‘our bodies are not the same,’ and what he calls the intimidation of liberalism/toleration (117).

I like his ideas of readerly/writerly/receivable and text contra literature, even though they are not useful to me. Two fine lines: “Anyone who speaks about himself gets lost” and “I feel both very intelligent and very futile” (120). Barthes expresses a strong fantasy that I think many thinking people have had: “Taking a perverse pleasure in the endoxal products of mass culture, provided that when you left the immersion of that culture, someone handed you on each occasion, as if nothing had happened, a little detergent discourse.”

I wish I had a comment on Barthes’ section on Migraines, since it was quite good, but I don’t think I have anything more to add. I wonder if Barthes knew of Yves Saint-Laurent’s quote, “Fashions fade, style is eternal;” I think he would’ve liked that one. He is very insightful when he realizes that our fashion words, our metaphors, can only be substituted for further metaphors. Since they cannot be explained, they are the essential kernels of a person’s thought. It is an enjoyable exercise to try to figure out what one’s own fashion-words are. I wish Barthes would’ve listed his mana-words.

While photography may not suppose the effects of discourse, it is certainly subject them to them – the act of photographing may be above vulgarity, but the act of showing, displaying, the ‘here, look at this’ of photography: this is stamped with the grimace of vulgarity as it willingly submits itself to discourse. The photographer knows that the photograph will not be read the same way twice.