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Severed texts : aspects of aestheticization in Roland Barthes’ post-structural writings Blais, Joann M. 1993

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SEVERED TEXTS: ASPECTS OF AESTHETICIZATIONIN ROLAND BARTHES' POST-STRUCTURAL WRITINGSbyJOANN M. BLAISHonours B.A. (Comparative Literature/French),The University of Alberta, 1983M.A.(Comparative Literature), The University ofAlberta, 1985A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THEREQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHYinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES(Comparative Literature Program)We accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAApril 1993©copyright Joann M. Blais, 1993In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature) Department of  (otovvFA rc fiv-c.^4-e-is+1",,The University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate Ap14 --2■1 f )61 DE-6 (2/88)i iABSTRACTThis thesis contributes to a discussion of the specificityof Roland Barthes' post-structural theorizing by examiningsome of the themes and techniques of aestheticization runningthrough his writing--reverie, pleasure, "perversion," and thehyper-textualization of the human subject and culture.Following this thread/hypothesis of aestheticization, thethesis focuses upon changing notions of the human subject andtextuality presented in Barthes' writings from "The Death ofthe Author" (1968) until Camera Lucida (1980).The opening chapter discusses aestheticizing and decadentdiscourses in nineteenth century French and English literarytraditions, identifies relevant intertexts, and proposes a setof key themes in aestheticizing discourses--the rejection ofthe natural, the quest for separation and mediation expressedin a valorization of artifice, aesthetic pleasure, privateexperience, and anti-utilitarian, anti-bourgeois values. Thesecond chapter lays out the myth of an alienated literarymodernity underwriting Barthes' later theorizing. Subsequentchapters follow shifts in notions of subjectivity, textuality,and aestheticizing strategies in most of the major textsproduced by Barthes during this period: S/Z, The Empire of Signs, Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes, Fragments of a Lover's Discourse, Camera Lucida, and essays collected in The Rustle of Language and The Responsibility of Forms. The lasttwo chapters follow Barthes' half-ludic struggle with hisearlier construction of the subject as public intertext. Heiiidramatically moves away from conventional forms of theorizinginto the cultivation of subjectivity, affectivity, andpersonal culture to escape being captured in the public texts ofthe cultural Imaginary. Finally, the thesis will consider someof the contributions and consequences of his theories,including whether the cultural skepticism and pose of fatalbelatedness underwriting his positions can be maintained.TABLE OF CONTENTSTitle Page^Abstract iiTable of Contents^ ivAcknowledgementsA Note on Abbreviations and Pronouns^ viDedication^ viiiEpigraph ixCrossing the Line (An Introduction)^ 1Chapter One. Barthesian Aestheticization:Some Intertexts^ 29Chapter Two. Barthes Degree Zero: The Passionof Writing^ 91Chapter Three. Where is The Voice Coming From?:Early Post-Structural Versions of Writing, Textuality,and the Subject^ 134Chapter Four. An Elsewhere of Signs^ 186Chapter Five. Pleasures of The Text 233Chapter Six. A Cuttlefish and His Ink:The Later Works^ 274Chapter Seven. Working Through Barthes(Conclusion)^ 322Endnotes 344Bibliography^ 361ivACKNOWLEDGEMENTSTo begin with the sine qua non: thanks to the Social Sciences andHumanities Research Council for faithfully funding my graduateyears of studythanks to Maureen Scobie, for aural asylum and the gift of anexquisite Victoria garden full of sage and hummingbirds onesummerand to Jimmy Sung Chan, N.D., for the compassion and excellenceof his careand, finally, I bow down to the generations of women and men whohave kept alive knowledge of the earth's healing plants--thoughthey are no longer alive, they still healviABBREVIATIONS AND A NOTE ON PRONOUNSThis text will occasionally veer between the use ofmasculine and feminine pronouns such as the inclusive generic(i.e. from he and his to she and her). Where the pronouns aremasculine, they conform to the usage of pronouns found inBarthes and most of the other texts cited. Where the pronounsare feminine or inclusive (i.e. "he or she," "she or he") theygenerally signal my own voice.The following abbreviations refer to books by Barthes andcollections of his essays. The first page number(s) given in thethesis refer to the English translation; the second to theFrench original.ABR: A Barthes Reader CE: Critical Essays/ Essais Critiques CL: Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography/ La Chambre claire. Note sur la photoqraphie ES: The Empire of Signs/ L 'Empire des siqnesFLD:A Lover's Discourse: Fragments/ Fragments d'un discours amoureuxGV: The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962-1980/ Le Grain de lavoix. Entretiens 1962-1980.viiL: Legon inauqerale au College de France (English translationfound in ABR)M: Mythologies/Mythologies MI: Michelet/Michelet NCE: New Critical Essays/Nouveaux essais critiques PT: The Pleasure of the Text/ Le Plaisir du texte R: On Racine/ Sur Racine RB: Roland Barthes By Roland Barthes/ Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes RF: The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art, and Representation/ L 'Obvie et 1' obtus. Essais critiques III RL: The Rustle of Language/ Le Bruissement de la lanque Essais critiques IVSFL: Sade, Fourier, Loyola/ Sade, Fourier, Loyola S/Z: S/Z/S/Z WDZ: Writing Degree Zero/ Le Deqrê zero de 1 'êcriture viiifor Kuan YinSuzanTedHeatherd.d., mouse & the rainixHeard the one about the post-structural mafia?They make you an offer you can't understand.Susan Musgrave, "Scabbing for Clarity"1CROSSING THE LINE (AN INTRODUCTION)Aesthetic DiscourseHe attempts to compose a discoursewhich is not uttered in the name ofthe Law and/or of violence: whoseinstance might be neither politicalnor scientific; which might be in asense the remainder and the supplementof all such utterances. What shall wecall such discourse? erotic, no doubt,for it has to do with pleasure; orperhaps even aesthetic, if we forseesubjecting this old category to agradual torsion which will alienate itand bring it closer to the body,to thedrift.Roland Barthes, (RB 84/87)The old values are no longer transmitted, nolonger circulate, no longer impress; literatureis desacralized, institutions are impotent todefend and impose it as the implicit model ofthe human. ....Our gaze can fall, not withoutperversity, upon certain old and lovely things,whose signified is abstract,out of date. It isa moment at once decadent and prophetic, a momentof gentle apocalypse, a historical moment of thegreatest possible pleasure.Roland Barthes, (ABR 475/L 40-41)In an essay on Giacometti, John Berger writes:Every artist's work changes when he dies.And finally no one remembers what his workwas like when he was alive. Sometimes one12can read what his contemporaries had to sayabout it. The difference of emphasis andinterpretation is largely a question ofhistorical development. But the death of theartist is also a dividing line.'Twenty years after Giacometti's death, Berger continues,few will understand this change, the hermeneutic borderlinethat has been crossed.His work will seem to have reverted to normal--although in fact it will have become somethingdifferent: it will have become evidence from thepast, instead of being, as it has been...apossible preparation for something to come.(AL 171-173)The work of Roland Barthes lies somewhere in this bardorealm (that strange place in between death and canonicalresurrection as an intertext). The sheer accident of his deathin 1980 is fading: the edges of that lacerating caesura arebeing smoothed by time and scholarship. Barthes, the light,myriad creature that he consciously sought to be, is enteringthe Lacanian Imaginary of culture; as he knew he would.Speaking through the persona of the structural Lover in FLD, hewrites of his life:I myself cannot...construct my love story tothe end: I am its poet (its bard) only forthe beginning; the end, like my own death,belongs to others; it is up to them to writethe fiction, the external, mythic narrative.(FLD 101/117)This is why Barthes sought beginnings, middles, andinterstitial states, avoiding conclusions of any sort. Anapparently protean writer, he nevertheless worked on a corpus3of issues and (though he would resist the terms) identity-themes or existential codes which lend his work--which he oncedescribed as a long, unending sentence--a certain thematiccoherence.The energetic displacements of his work--the change ofintellectual idioms, the constant redefining of terms,critical hypotheses, and forms, do, however, trace a kind ofspiraling progress. The interrogation of language and powersustained throughout those shifts leads him away from thepractice of literary theory in the usual sense. His final textsare permeated with an ambivalent appreciation of the formalbeauty and dangers of unreflective theorizing, and an evenstronger move, however problematic and dissimulated, towardparticularity and the personal and affective dimensions ofwriting.I began working on Barthesian post-structuralism becauseI wanted to understand the visceral ambivalence that I'veoften felt reading his texts. An attraction to the gentleanarchy and sensuality of his discourse was always complicatedby an unease which resisted analysis. One day, reading L whilelooking back on certain passages underlined in PT and broodingover Barthes' treatment of the photograph of the deadSalvadorean boy in CL, I recognized that what I was returningto, finally, were the pragmatic political and ethicalimplications of his position (however often he would disparage4the notion of ethical discourse, once apocryphally equatingthe phrase "we sincerely desire peace in Vietnam" with "pleasepass the cheese." I wanted to map the world that he, like othertheoreticians, invites his reader to inhabit alongside him; Ineeded to establish some of its historical antecedents, itssocial and aesthetic values, and, finally, draw out thepotential cost of unreflectively entering that world ofhypertextuality and isolated, fissured human subjects. Ifound myself weighing the direct and implicit claims he makesabout the ethical force of his theoretical positions, hissearch for the suspension of signs and a disengaged hedonismthat does not seek power but flees it, against the potentialconseqences of that stance for women and other marginals infirst world cultures who might consider--at leastintellectually--emulating his position.Despite his injunctions against interpretation, in orderto understand Barthes' position and my own sense of déjà lu, Ineeded a more diachronic reading of Barthes, one that wouldreach behind the exposed, obvious intertexts and at leastbegin to acknowledge the prior literary and philosophicaltexts still actively working in his writing. Post-structuralism is, as I was reminded during a conference inMontrdal, a post-Existentialism. French Existentialism--principally Sartre--is a strong but little explored intertextpervading Barthes' early and post-structural texts. Both inits pre- and post-structural phases, Barthesian discourse, asI will suggest in the chapter on WDZ, is not only an evolving5rejection of Sartrean humanism and its call to artisticengagement, but an ongoing response to violence and themultiple absurdities of language and human existence. Drawingupon the prior discourses of writers committed to theaestheticization of the real, that response passes from anambiguous commitment to form into a period of structural andsemiotic analyses, finally moving into a paradoxal moralcommitment to the sign and to a mythopoeic celebration of thepleasures of the text and the literary amateur (Barthespresenting Sisyphus the absurd creator in a new guise: thepost-structural scriptor).Susan Sontag, in "Writing Itself: on Roland Barthes,"identifies Barthes as a latter-day aesthete who oscillatesbetween an apparently extreme egoism and an elegantdepersonalization of the subject. 2 She notes his affinitieswith Oscar Wilde, yet does not pursue the implications of herobservation. Within Barthesian post-structuralism there canbe discerned a complex thematic return and theoretical echoingof the postures of Flaubert, Baudelaire, Mallarmê, and Proust--not to mention fin de siècle writers such as Huysmans.Throughout the 1970s Barthes repeatedly aligns himself withthe values and historical situation of decadence, most notablyin PT, L, and RB. In those text he ingeniously renovatesearlier hedonistic and transgressive postures in hisreflections on pleasure, perversion, erotic textuality andthe reading body. Barthes' attraction to what Wolfgang Iser,in his study of the aesthete Walter Pater, identifies as the6"intensified moment" and the liminal state of "in-between,"taken in conjunction with Barthes' cultivation of pleasure,his fear of closure, his tendancy toward boredom, and the senseof absurdity which circulates just beneath a compulsive questfor pleasure and distraction in his later works, supportBarthes' view of at least an elective affinity existingbetween himself and the writers of Decadence and theirprecursors (grouped, for the sake of convenience andhistorical orientation, under the rubric of Aestheticism). 3Barthes' comments, the overwhelming presence of the above-mentioned themes, and the particularly strong echoes ofBaudelaire in PT led me to formulate the hypothesis ofBarthesian "aestheticism." This aestheticism--moreprecisely, Barthes' characteristic aestheticization ofphenomena, his desire to rewrite things so as to suspendmeaning or cause the implosion of matter into the sign-- doesnot develop directly, in a historical sense, out ofnineteenth-century aesthetic and decadent discourses. It is,rather, a defiant political posture that models itself uponthe earlier refusals funding those discourses.I have chosen to read Barthesian post-structuralism(which is generally acknowledged as beginning with the 1968manifesto of "The Death of the Author," and continuing untilhis last major book, CL) as an evolving intellectual myth inthe Nietzschean sense. Barthes' myth of post-structuralacriture does not begin suddenly in the late 1960s: it spinsoutward from the thematic core of WDZ. By opting to read7Barthes from a more speculative position, following some ofthe turns that his thinking takes on textuality and the subjectover this stretch of twelve years, the thesis is released fromthe need to defend the truth or error of Barthes' extravagantpost-structural notions: for instance, his insistence thatsigns and referents are fatally separate, that the author isdead, that texts are empty fragments void of any priormeaning, and so on. What this thesis will begin to consider arethe consequences of Barthes' intellectual mythologizing; amythologizing which is, in my view, a function of hispessimistic cultural imagination. The intermittent myth thatthis thesis will weave around Barthes' work is itself partialand tentative, asserting only a kinship between Barthesianaestheticization and earlier nineteenth-century writers(decadence and Mallarmean Symbolism being later intertextsthat directly fund his post-structural theorizing on signs andpleasure).Originally, the thesis was to be a more direct feministengagment with Barthes than it appears in this final version.The plan was to lay out the aestheticization of subjectivity,the body,the text and the real in Barthes' theories, thenproceed into a consideration of how useful these theories ofdissemination and suspension might be to feminist theorizing.But the first half of the project, fueled by my need to overcomethe sense of disorientation which had come to attend my readingof Barthesian post-structuralism, took over. This thesis is,then, a kind of prelude to that analysis; a work still8informed, if too quietly, by feminist prejudice (in theGadamerian sense of the inescapability of intellectualprejudice). In its intermittent consideration of theintertexts which enable Barthes' concepts and positions, itobliquely advances the argument that hermeneutic andhistorical readings of contemporary theorizing are essentialcritical activities for those who care about the culturalconsequences of ideas. Seeking precedents, contexts andintertexts for apparently novel ideas not only assists one indiscerning the specificity of each theorist's discourse, butaids in a reflection upon the ethical implications of thosediscourses. It is often difficult not to be seduced by theintelligence, the playfulness and rhetorical persuasivenessof Barthesian post-structuralism. R.G. Collingwood oncewrote that in order to understand a work, one must understandthe set of questions to which it is responding. Barthes' texts,which are obsessed by the issues of power, violence and theconstruction of human subjectivity, invite and yet resist thenotion of any final ethical accountability to others. And itis toward a consideration of the ethical implications ofBarthes' discourse and his chronic aestheticization ofphenomena that this thesis moves.In his introduction to Untying the Text:a Post-Structural Reader Robert Young writes that the premises of post-9structuralism forestalls any comprehensive definition ofitself:The word post-structuralism itself shiftsthe emphasis from any single meaning ortheory towards an unbound movement throughtime and space, suggesting that there neverwill be, and never can be, any definitive'theory of post-structuralism'. Instead itconsists of a perpetual detour towards a'truth' that has lost any status or finality. 4Yet post-structuralism is often treated as an almostmonolithic entity in some theoretical circles, in spite of thedifficulties using this term to encompass the disparategenealogies, turns, and projects found in the work of thoseclaimed as post-structuralists; principally, Derrida, Barthes,Lacan, Kristeva, Foucault. These disparities are obscured byseveral factors. Thematically, their writings interrogatesimilar issues: authority, power, writing, violence,subjectivity, absence, the formation of reality and the humansubject, eroticism, and so on. And there are the simplehistorical facts of proximity and synchronic interaction dearto a hermeneut's retrograde heart: these individuals read andresponded to one another's work in their own writing,contributed to many of the the same organs of publication(particularly Tel Quel), lived--often as marginals in somesense--in the same nation-state, experienced May 1968, and knewone another to some degree. The specificity of each thinker's"detour," or swerve away from the tenets and intellectual styleof Structuralism, recedes further in anglophone North Americabecause of small subtleties, which, over time, accumulate: a10reliance on unstandardized English translations which come outerratically, in a random order, not at all, or in collectionsdirected by market pressures which scramble chronologicaldevelopment, creating spectral Borgesian image-beings intranslation whose diff6rance is not at all helpful. Moreimportantly, the obsessive, almost journalistic critical focuson the immediate theoretical past and present has made it appearthat intellectual history is indeed "going very fast." Aspivotal has been the tendancy, in most of North America, toneglect any serious consideration of the less obvious politicalor philosophical intertexts informing these discourses. Thiscan unfortunately lead to a shallow and blurred reading ofthese varied post-structuralisms as being largely a reaction tothe constrictions of French Structuralism and persistantvarieties of humanism.Critical, too, has been the lack of attention to thediverse literary intertexts of post-structural theorizing: theimpact, for example, of Jabds and Blanchot on Derrida, of Artaudand Romantic philology on Kristeva, and of Aestheticism andGerman Romanticism on Barthes. Even a partial reconsiderationof these intertexts--which comprise part of the vast submergedprehistory of post-structural theorizing--would extend thehistorical frames within which theory is considered, anddemonstrate how these post-structural theories continue theinterrogation of language and writing begun in earliercenturies.11Barthes' career, with its dramatic enthusiasms andsubsequent fadings or abdications, seems to invite and yetresists easy periodization. Many critics have opted for aschematic solution, dividing his work into the earlySartrean/Marxist period of WDZ and M, followed by a structuralphase, beginning in 1963 with the publication of "History orLiterature?" and OR, followed by CE and a series of essays inwhich Barthes engages French literature and society as astructuralist (however idiosyncratic his brand of structuralanalysis). These phases, in tandem with Barthes' semioticwritings, constitute the era of the "hard" Barthes, theintellectual dedicated to political critiques and thescientific analysis of social discourse. By 1968, with "TheDeath of the Author," Barthes is undeniably moving beyond thepseudo-scientific discourse of Structuralism. In theestimation of some critics, such as Annette Lavers in RolandBarthes: Structuralism and After, he is regrettably turningaway from progressive forms of criticism and beginning a slowdecline into the questionable pleasures of his post-structuralism, into the later, "soft" (or, in AntoineCompagnon's terms, the "tender" Barthes). 5-6 Yet StevenUngar, in Roland Barthes: The Professor of Desire, holds thatthis moment after Structuralism is when Barthes, questioninghis own authorities and methodologies, begins his most radicalwork.? Of the two, only Ungar explores the complexity of thatpost-structural phase, the subtle movements and turns within12that extraordinary last decade of Barthes alive.The movements within that last decade begin to be sketchedin RB. There, in the fragment "Phases," theprotagonist/narrator of RB makes himself "intelligible,"wryly presenting a schematic and roughly chronological tableof R.B.'s intellectual "periods" and ongoing resistance to hisown and others' ideas. The table has three columns:"Intertext," "Genre," and "Works." (RB 145/148) Gide heads thelist of intertexts: he is the writer credited with ignitingR.B.'s desire to write. Sartre, Marx and Brecht follow,grouped together under the rubric of "social mythology."Saussure stands alone, the master of R.B.'s brief period ofrelatively orthodox semiotic analysis. Then Sollers,Kristeva, Derrida and Lacan appear as the intertextsstimulating R.B.'s inital period of exuberant textualitythat, according to the table, includes three major texts: S/Z,SFL, and ES. Nietzsche is the intertext who presides over thenext internal movement or sub-phase within his post-structural period, the phase of "morality" (the two textsincluded in this period are PT and RB). Some guidingreflections on R.B.'s intellectual displacements, in pointform, succeed this table. The narrator recaps that movement,underlining the complicated and fugal nature of hisintellectual practice:...first of all (mythological) interventions,then semiological fictions, then splinters,fragments, sentences, phrases; (4) betweenthe periods, obviously, there are overlappings,returns,affinities, leftovers...(5) each phase13is reactive: the author reacts either to thediscourse which surrounds him, or to his owndiscourse, if one and the other begin to havetoo much consistency, too much stability; (6)as one nail drives out a perversiondrives out a neurosis: political and moralobsession is followed by a minor scientificdelirium, which in its turn sets off a perversepleasure (with its undercurrent of fetishism)...(RB 145/148)This table and accompanying remarks, only brieflyalluding to the least submerged influences operating inBarthes' texts, begins to suggest why it would be exhaustingand nearly impossible to lay out the prehistories of each ofBarthes' intellectual phases. He was, more than any othercontemporary European theorist, an intellectual in flux.Barthes' work, as Fredric Jameson asserts (providing hisreader with a more comprehensive inventory of Barthesianintertexts), constitutes...a veritable fever-chart of all thesignificant intellectual and criticaltendancies since World War II:Bachelardianphenomenology...Sartrean Marxism...Hjelmslevian linguistics...BrechtianVerfremdung...orthodox Freudianism...hard-core semiotics...Tel Quel textualproductivity...Lacanian 8If one were to seek through lines in Barthes'writing,themes which organize his work from the time of his earliestpublished essay (on Gide) until CL, at least three could beoffered: his rejection of the ideology of representation, hisresistance to endoxic discourse and utilitarian models ofculture, and, lastly, his preoccupation with the non-14referential aspects and potentialities of the sign (thegraph). These themes are keys to the Barthesian project ofaestheticization. Barthes' early fascination with thearbitrary and autonomous potential of the sign graduallymodulates into an appreciation of the autotelic sign, andthen, almost simultaneously, into the aesthetic reverie of thebeautiful silenced graph informing ES and the meditations onvisual art and music collected in RF. The graph, whether visualor aural, becomes for Barthes in the 1970s an emptied, driftingutopia, an ephemeral elsewhere (an ailleurs), a quasi-Baudelairean 1/ot of reverie and signifiance in which thewithdrawal of prior meanings is, as in other aestheticizingwriters, a condition of pleasure. 9Barthes' aestheticizing bent is not the product of asudden break with his earlier structural and semioticpractice. In texts such as "The Structuralist Activity"Barthes' delight in the purely formal and non-semantic aspectsof structure is clearly in evidence. Retrospectively, hisaesthetic posture of refusal, his cultivation of the non-rational and the marginal in the face of bourgeois demands tomake money and sense, is already discernable in WDZ. There heforwards the outlines of his enduring myth of an alienatedliterary modernity and his search for a position of socialinnocence. And, pursuing the implications of Allan Megill swork on post-structural intellectuals in Prophets of Extremity, Barthes' turn toward aestheticization isencouraged by the textualization of reality underwriting15structural, semiotic and post-structural theories. 10 Thisturn, read in more traditional terms against the background ofnineteenth-century French literature, emerges quietly in thestylized exoticism of his reading of Japan in ES, thendetonates in PT, where he exposes the anhedonia of high cultureand an unrelenting theoretical modernity. Enacting aprovisional theory of reading and writing erected partiallyupon the recasting of Baudelairean thematics of pleasure,ennui, desire, and mental escape from bourgeois culture,Barthes makes of the text a semi-private pleasure dome, asanctioned Babel withdrawn from the turbulence of history, theviolence of assertion, and from the pressure of others' needsor desires.In his writing from this time forward (1973) Barthesreprises many of the characteristic postures, themes, andstrategies of those earlier writers I have mentioned. There ishis Baudelairean (or, from Sontag's vantage point, quasi-Wildean) indictment of referentiality and bourgeois doxa, hisfascination with textual surfaces and style, as well as hiscelebration of criticism as a primary creative act. Barthes'critique of the bourgeois ideology of the natural moves into aheightened appreciation of artifice (his post-structural playwith artifice centring upon an exploration of the intertext,the Lacanian imago and other varieties of simulacra). In ES heidealizes the (for him) unreadable calligraphies of Japanese.Nauseated by the repletion of Western societies and subjects,he takes refuge in "Japan," a utopic haiku country of emptied16signs, restful interstices, decentred texts, and attenuatedhuman subjects--the site of a gentle aestheticization ofmatter and a voiding of personal identity. This rejection ofhumanism and the fiction of the "moral" anct,;olitical unity ofthe subject for Kristeva's conflicted poetic subject leadsBarthes to experiment with the ambiguities and absence ofidentity he finds in personal pronouns and imagos.(PT 31/52)His last three major works--RB, FLD, CL--pursue the defensiveand ironic possibilities of a disseminated and textualizedsubject-simulacrum. They revolve around divided and fictionalsubject-shards (dividua) that function as masks which areintended to protect Barthes from figuration and culturalrecuperation.This attraction to fragmentation, complexity anddissimulation further suggests Barthes' affinities with finde siecle literary decadence. In RB the narrator/protagonistR.B. confesses to a decadent penchant for "le fragment, ledetail, le rush. " (RB 94/97) This will-to-fragmentation andfascination with the inessential detail (what Derrida refersto as the "supplementary") organizes Barthes' writing bothstructurally and thematically for the rest of his life. 11 Hispreference for short, fragmented, hybrid forms is acontemporary restatement and elaboration of the generalaesthetic inclination toward marginal, small-scale works andmore intimate literary forms such as the aphorism, the lyricpoem or prose text, the essay, the journal entry, the closetdrama. The fragment is, particularly in Barthes' hands, a17fertile and extreme form of writing--a texte-limite whichpushes against the margins and nomenclature of literature. Itcan archly mime the classical notion of a text as a highlyunified, composed structure; then, in a reductio ad absurdum,'4=1 and cause that tight text to implode and assume theundecidable configurations of the post-structural text. Theprose fragment is, in Barthes' writing, as in its history, tornbetween the early Schlegelian vision of it as a glitteringhermetic plenum (but full of absence), and the Novalianapprehension of it as blOtenstaub, as an imperfect diaspora oflanguage, as an intermittent field of disseminated traces inwhich the writer takes refuge from meaning in absence andimperfection.Barthes'post-structural writings, following his owncharacterization of them as essais, have been regarded asbeing simply variations on that venerable anti-genre,theessay. In Roland Barthes:the Essay as Reflective Text RddaBensmaia reads his essais more astutely, situating them withinthe tradition of the European philosophical and speculativeessay, finding within them bits of "intellectualautobiography, anecdotal punctum, and discursivetransgressions...that brilliantly manipulates the essay formto idiosyncratic ends." 12 The issue of genre in these latertexts is even more involved than Bensmaia suggests: everymajor work of Barthes' from the time of S/Z forward is notmerely an "essay," but rather an active attack upon thecategories of humanism and what Derrida refers to as the "law18of genre. " 13 PT subverts the written and unwritten codes of thescholarly essay; RB plays ironically with the conventions ofautobiography and cultural hagiography. FLD is not so much anessay but the hyper-fragment of a virtual discourse whichmoves restlessly, erotically cannibalizing the official canonand earlier genres to create a cybernetic subject--thestructural lover--and provide moments of amorous intertextualresonance and screen "memories." CL, his final major text, isa subtle work of enormous complexity. It is at once a tentativenote on photography, a prose elegy for his dead mother and thepassing world, and an self-consuming essay indicting themachinations of the will-to-representation and the will totheory--theory being viewed as a return of representation on ametadiscursive plane. These works react against the inheritedimperatives of relative coherence, erotically pulverizingconventional forms of rhetorical development, tantalizing thereader with shards of familiar forms and literary strategies.Epiphanic, drifting utterances, they seek refuge from masternarratives and commodity culture in the utopian realms of non-signification and non-identity, and in what Barthes, during a1971 interview with Stephen Heath,termed the "paragrammatic":that which is--or is made--"plural,multiple, ambiguous." (GV137)....the great problem, for me in any case,is to outplay the signifier, to outplaythe law, to outplay the father, to outplaythe repressed--I do not say to explode it,but to outplay it; everywhere there is apossibility of a paragrammatic work...I19feel at ease.(GV 137/)And this is the heart of the matter. Barthes'aestheticizing moves, like those of Baudelaire or Wilde, arenot gratuitious: they are a conscious response to the feltstresses of bourgeois ideology. In Barthes' case, there arethe additional stresses of history and power (the tools of theelided emperor of CL), as well as the congealing gaze ofcommodity culture which seeks to murder the individual into animago, a distorting image-identity which circulates withincultural economies as one of its primary currencies. Barthesapprehends that the social and ideological violences he isfleeing are, fundamentally, forms of stabilized images andassertions which develop into doxa and social narratives (or,in Althusserian terms, into systems of representation). 14 Sohis later texts are, among other things, devoted to disruptingthe fascination of images and narrative in all theircomplementary forms: identity, history, generic forms, andtheories. Fragmentation becomes a principal device in thisguerilla warfare, as does anacoluthia, the use of dramatic andunmastered irony, reflexive and decentered texts, ambiguouslydistanced discursive subjects, and the transformation of thetextual space and writing into a theatrical spectacle run byBrechtian Verfremdting ,desire, and Barthesian perversity.As the 1970s progress, Barthes wearies of the stockmarketsof culture and the arrogance of unreflective theorizing.Having the apparent option of a partial withdrawal fromconsumer culture, retreat and evasion were to become Barthes'20final tactics. PT announces Barthes' definitive conversion tothe body and to the specificity of sensual and aestheticpleasures. In CL he turns to the reverie of a post-theoreticaldiscourse, one in which theoretical reflection would be putunder erasure and turn toward a speculative, pleasure-drivenphase, charged only with enjoying the eccentric sway of its owndetours away from the threat of any meaning or authority, evenits own. And it is in this almost Paterian state of quietism andretreat from the narratives of power that he allowsphotographs of oppression and tortured bodies to becomegraphs, floating signifiers, important only as sites fromwhich some unpredictable aesthetic interest--a detail, apunctum--might suddenly arise and ravish him.Is this withdrawn and compensatory ideology of pleasureand unattended bliss the logical terminus of Barthesian post-structuralism? Can feminists and others who make use of histheorizing on textuality, pleasure and the body escape theovert and covert agendas of his aestheticiting, his need toevade a parti pris by asserting a Nietzschean will-to-art (artbecoming here the textual) and declaring the desirability of aposition of "nonpower" (depouvoir)?(ABR 472/L 34) Is reality,as Barthes claims, only organized violence, only a "system ofpower"? (FLD 89/105) These are some of the issues to beexamined in the final chapter of the thesis, where the enablingand disabling consequences of Barthes' aesthetic quest forseparation will be considered.My interest in Barthes aestheticizing activity lies not21in a hermeneutic reconstruction of his sources inAestheticism, Modernism, and Decadence, nor in a closecomparative study of themes and motifs. My interest, likeMegill's, lies in the consequences of the textualizing trendof contemporary European theorizing; and, with Megill, Iconcur that the roots of this trend lie partially in the soil ofAestheticism (both philosophical and literary), though wherehe emphasizes its philosophical antecedents (Nietzsche,Schopenhauer), I will point to a few of its literaryintertexts.In this thesis, the reading of Barthesian post-structuralism as a "neoaestheticism" is intended to helpbring to light the kinds of distancing and skepticism thatenable Barthes' theories to function. The following chapter isnot intended to be anything more than the briefest indicationof the links between Barthes and earlier writers, usingBarthes' own comments about Flaubert, Baudelaire, Mallarmdand decadence as its parameters. A comprehensive comparativethematic reading of Barthes against the founding discourses ofAestheticism and decadence (both philosophical and literary)would be salutory. The successive shocks of novelty which hiswriting have engendered would be replaced by the shock ofrecognizing that many of his more provocative themes andpostures originate in antecedent texts. Barthes' innovativepost-structural move is to textualize and eroticize sensualaspects of the aesthetic experience, developing an unstableidiolect in which traces of older terms and categories such as22taste, the beautiful, and the sublime are revamped,circulating in extravagant Parisian guises. Some of theseantecedent aesthetic terms and themes that are critical toBarthesian post-structuralism--hedonism, the aesthete'sbody, perversion, the creation of utopian spaces of solitarypleasure, the aestheticization of matter, the rejection ofrepresentation and conceptual systems--will be considered inthe following chapters.As for the thesis itself: after pointing out somesimilarities between Barthes' post-structural posture andthose of literary decadents, and then, in the chapter on WDZ,outlining the myth of an alienated literary modernitypervading all of Barthes' writing, the argument willconcentrate upon following the textualization of reality andthe human subject in Barthes' post-structural period. Thechapter on S/Z will lay out Barthes' conversion to an ethics ofthe sign, his use of structural and post-structural simulacra,his earliest version of the subject, and his theories of thetext. The next chapter, on ES, will pursue Barthes'textualization of reality and use of the simulacra--there, the"dislocated" and purely textual hyper-reality known as Japan--to suspend context and forestall interpretation. It will alsoexplore the two textual economies operating in Barthes' post-structural texts: one, which I refer to as a Parisian economy,which is predicated upon an unconcluding web of codes andintertexts, and the other, a complementary textual economy,referred to as a Japanese economy, where the gestural sign, as23empty as "Japan's" subjects, tends away from the web ofculture toward silence and a utopian space of non-involvement.The chapter on PT will be a busy one in which Barthes' defenseagainst bourgeois discourse will be sketched in an examinationof the notions of pleasure,the nihilating force of jouissance,the reading body, the recalcitrant and hedonistic subject,Barthes' retreat from the hyphos of commodity culture, and hisflight from ideological violence. The subsequent chapter onRB, FLD and CL will follow Barthes' flight from the violencesof ideology and the image, his cultivation of personae andother forms of textual distancing, his growing mistrust oftheory and doxic culture, his vacillation between thecompeting attractions of the gesture and the intertext, and,finally, his turn toward affectivity, the novelistic, and thespecificity of the body. In the conclusion I will attempt tosummarize my own ambivalent response to Barthes' constructionof the real as textual, and his withdrawn, defensive ethos ofpleasure.There is, to return to the issue of Aestheticism, anotherreason for opting against a more traditional source study.Identifying all of the persistant traces and transformationsof literary Aestheticism in Barthes would be quite difficult,given his casual, often indirect or approximate quotations andallusions (as in, for instance, FLD) and his sense that theworks he pulls into his own text exist as widely disseminatedpublic intertexts needing no footnotes. Paradoxially, thesecultural icons and the hermeneutic systems tracking them24become the direct targets of Barthes' post-structuralism. InS/Z he counsels their sabotage, writing:A multivalent text [the ideal post-structuraltext] can carry out its basic duplicityonly if it subverts the opposition betweentrue and false, if it fails to attributequotations (even when seeking to discreditthem), to explicit authorities, if it floutsall respect for origin, paternity,propriety,if it destroys the voice which could givethe text its ('organic') unity, in short ifit coldly and fraudently abolishes quotationmarks which...enclose a quotation andjuridically distribute the ownership of thesentences to their respective proprietors...(S/Z 44-5/51)This passage betrays the outlines of Barthes' strategy forthe rest of the decade and indicates why it would be an arduousand at times futile task to naively attempt, using orthodoxhermeneutic means, to read his writing and disentangletheir sources. Up against such writing, which relies upona cultural memory that is nurtured by decades of reading, thenslyly put under erasure or "forgotten," the reader can onlyrely on her own memory of that memory (the "circular memory" ofculture, as Barthes will describe it in PT), and on what shecan remember outside of that memory-loop.This also suggests the deep ambivalence toward culturewhich characterizes Barthes' later work. The consequences ofthis antagonism toward cultural structures which fix writersand texts will be explored throughout the thesis. Barthes'revulsion against authorial "ownership," which he sees as the25foundation of bourgeois culture and its current expression ina market-driven commodity culture, recalls the antipathyexpressed by Baudelaire, Wilde and other aesthetes toward thecommercialization of art. The passive-aggressive politicalcritiques historically launched against power and massculture by aesthetes--a tradition which Barthes continues--points to the curiously backhanded ethical concernscirculating in aesthetic discourse, which some commentators,Camus being a luminous instance, have picked up on.There has been much discussion of the abstract politics ofthe Father in post-structural theories, but less around thepragmatic implications of post-structural ideas. Barthes, inmany of his writings and some of his interviews, insists uponthe ethical force of his post-structural posture. In "Remarkson Violence," a conversation with Jacqueline Sers in 1978, hespeaks of seeing circles within circles of violence inEuropean society and being forced, as a person living withinthat society, to choose between accepting certain instances ofviolence (the-end-justifying-the-bloody-means) orcategorically denouncing all violence, as he would,asintolerable. (GV /287) In another interview given in 1972,"Pleasure/Writing/Reading," Barthes makes it clear that thepleasures of the text are, in his eyes, implicated in an"ethics of the sign" which inaugurated in ES. (GV 153/150)Against the pressures of "terrorist discourse," that is, ofdiscourses of assertion which value language primarily as ameans to some final signified, which is usually a political,26ethical or religious cause, Barthes raises the counter-ethicof the drifting, uncertain sign whose only end is itself.(GV156/153) This counter-ethic inscribes, as Barthes will put itfive years later in L, "the impossible horizon of linguisticanarchy...that point where language attempts to escape its ownpower, its own servility." (ABR 468/L 26-27)Against the discourses of power (including the idiolectsof literary theory) Barthes asserts the utopian will to anabsolute renunciation of power in his idea of the Text: theText becomes a site of non-power(depouvoir)where the scriptorlearns to outfox power by "cheating with speech" (la langue);that is, by creating undecidable (i.e. literary) texts.(ABR472,462/L34,16) This is one of the ideal aims of Barthes'aestheticizing posture. By assuming the role of the amateur inhis later writings, by opting for the pole of an apparentlydisengaged, non-harming hedonism focused upon the sign,pleasure, and signifiance, Barthes hoped to escape thesinister nets of power. To be neither victim nor victimizer; tocreate a writing which, in staying close to the energies andexperiences of his plural "bodies" as he/they cruise art andthe world made infinite text, does not play into thediscourses of Law or of Violence; this begins to articulateboth the contents of Barthes' cultural Imaginary and the oddlymoral dimensions of his aestheticizing projects.This thesis will call for a more nuanced and criticalevaluation of the agendas and implications of Barthesian post-structuralism. Barthes teaches us to read in speculative and27liberating ways, demonstrating how readers might deploy theirparticular bodies and responses as disruptive heuristicdevices. But the eventual costs of Barthes' strategies,particularly his political disengagement and its underlyingaesthetic pessimism have not, to my knowledge, been addressed.Rather than assenting to his early post-structural counter-proposals--the deaths of history, identity, the subject, andinterpretation--and then passively accepting thecompensations of private textual pleasures, feminists andothers have more to gain by learning from and yet resistingBarthesian myths regarding writing and culture. By temperingthe hyper-textual claims of Barthesian post-structuralism andretaining a sense of the historical specificity andpositionality of the human subject (one who is read aspositively embodying multiple identities rather than one ornone), feminist theorists and others can continue to work withBarthesian post-structuralism without perpetuating thealienation from which it arises.My reading of the last twelve years of Barthes' work mayinadvertantly have the force of academic closure, so that itwould seem that I am imagining Barthes as nothing more than acontemporary decadent, but this is not my intention. Barthes'post-structuralism is a complex phenomenon that draws uponmany prior discourses. It exceeds any attempt to categoricallyfix its polysemic intricacy. And it is not a pensee terminale.CL, like FLD and RB, are liminal texts, where Barthes begins tonegotiate another turn, a turn away from criticism, perhaps28into what he would term the novelistic, or perhaps intosomething else.29CHAPTER ONE. BARTHESIAN AESTHETICIZATION: SOME INTERTEXTSWhat seems beautiful to me, what I shouldlike to write, is a book about nothing, abook dependent on nothing external, whichwould be held together by the strength ofits style, just as the earth, suspended inthe void, depends upon nothing external forits support; a book which would have almostno subject, or at least one in which thesubject would be almost invisible.... Thefinest works are those which contain theleast matter... I believe that the futureof Art lies in this direction.... Thisemancipation from matter can be observedeverywhere.... from the standpoint of pureArt one might almost establish the axiomthat there is not such thing as subject,style in itself being an absolute manner ofseeing things.Gustave Flaubert 1It seems as if the most opposite statementsabout him were alike true: he is so receptive,all the influences of nature and of societyceaselessly playing upon him, so that everyhour in his life is unique, changed altogetherby a stray word, a glance, or touch. It is thetruth of these relations that experience givesus, not the truth of eternal outlines ascertainedonce and for all, but a world of fine gradationsand subtly linked conditions, shifting constantlyas we ourselves change...To the intellect, thecritical spirit, just these subtleties of effectare more precious than anything else. What islost in precision of form is gained in intricacyof expression.Walter Pater 2Aestheticism, aestheticization: for some, the words may30conjure up slightly faded after-images of green carnations,jewels, out-of-focus debauchery, stylized C curvesmaterializing into images of unsettling androgeny, byzantineprose styles, accelerating decadence, and perhaps a fleetingglimpse of the young Rilke walking through the streets ofPrague, defiantly dressed in black, carrying an iris. Which isto say that literary aestheticism, from Gautier's assertion ofthe uselessness of art, of 1 'art pour l'art, in his preface toMademoiselle de Maupin, through to fin de siècle decadence anddandyism; can seem a last-century phenomenon, a curioushistorical blip having little to do with contemporary literaryand theoretical discourses . 3 However outdated aestheticism mayseem as a personal style, it is generally accepted that it is acritical phase in the development of Anglo-American and Gallicliterary modernity. There are critics who believe thataestheticism actively informs present cultural discourses. InThe Five Faces of Modernity Matei Calinescu reads the presentmoment--what he refers to as (literary) "modernity"--as being acomplex extended space in which the traces of five culturalmodalities persist and interact within contemporary texts. 4Those five modalities, according to Calinescu, are: the avant-garde, kitsch, decadence, modernism, and the post-modern.Calinescu's historical model is supple, polyphonic, andpolyvalent, coming closer to the kind of richly multi-vocal andconfused present comparatists encounter working with moderntexts than other, more monological readings of modernity. Iwould make one revision to Calinescu's scheme, replacing the31term "decadence" (which is generally acknowledged as thedehiscence of aestheticism) by the more general term of"aestheticism." Such a substitution would not only move backthe parameters of the prehistory of literary and particularlytheoretical modernity, but also flag the quest for separationand unique imaginative re- or dis-orderings that characterizemuch of high modernism and contemporary theorizing.In The Genealogy of Morals Nietzsche asserts that nothingthat has a history can truly be defined. 5 Aestheticism is ageneral term that suffers from the obvious dangers courted byusing a single noun to refer to a complex, even heterogenousseries of attitudes, phases and events within a culture whicharise from a cultivation of, in Barthesian terms, dagagement.("KA," CE 133/138) In English literary studies Aestheticism, asBrian Trehearne points out, connotes the entire movement ofaesthetic thought and production throughout the span of almosta century: Pre-Raphaelitism, Aesthetic criticism, Decadence,and the literary Impressionism of early twentieth-centurywriters. 6 In France, Aestheticism is an equally enveloping termwhich begins with Gautier and persists in the criticalvocabulary until Mallarmd, Proust and Gide. The history ofWestern European literary Aestheticism is complicated by astrange intergenerational dance of intertexts and personalinfluences back and forth across the Channel, and rendered evenfurther recondite by the complication of philosophical andphilological intertexts. How, for instance, is one tocategorize Nietzsche, the ironic philologist and patron32trickster of post-structuralism? He participates in thehistories of both discourses, undermining traditionaldistinctions in his hybrid texts, making the train ofphilosophy jump its rails and veer into the territory ofmetaphor and the novelistic. He initiates not only the "violentreflection upon language" of which Foucault writes, but re-introduces the body and personal history into intellectualdiscourse, changing the course of continental philosophy and,eventually, of literary theorizing.?The body: philosophical aesthetics, like literaryaestheticism, is rooted in the sentient human body. Reflectingupon the origins of philosophical aesthetics in the lateeighteenth century in The Ideology of the Aesthetic TerryEagleton observes:Aesthetics is born as a discourse of the body.In its original formulation...the term refersnot in the first place to art, but, as theGreek aisthesis would suggest, to the wholerealm of human perception and sensation, incontrast to the more rarefied domain ofconceptual thought. 8The function of this new discourse, aesthetics, was tomediate between the categories of the particular (theparticularities of sense perception) and the universal (the"generalities of reason"). (IA 15) However fleetingly, this newcategory was in Western intellectual history a sign of "thefirst stirrings of a primitive materialism--of the body's longinarticulate rebellion against the tyranny of thetheoretical." (IA 13) The innovative--and potentially33disruptive--situation of having thought attend to the life ofthe senses is, in Eagleton's account, quickly domesticated.Reason, in Eagleton's estimation, had to find some way ofordering the realms of sensation and perception, but in a mannerthat would not put its own dominance at risk. (IA 15) Aestheticstherefore became a means of rhetorically rendering the denseparticulars of physical experience "luminous" to thought. Inboth Baumgarten and Kant, founders of philosphical aesthetics,the aesthetic is conceived of as a "third way" which bridges thechasm between "the vagaries of subjective feeling and thebloodless rigor of understanding," a way consenting to speakthe language of reason. (IA 17) All aesthetic unities orphenomena would, therefore, lie open to rational analysis,never resisting analytic frames or hypotheses.The body, perception, taste, pleasure, the beautiful:these are the common origins of aesthetic writing andphilosophical aesthetics. Yet, as Eagleton and Megill concur,aesthetics soon ossifies into an idealizing and normativediscourse--an old idealizing category, as R.B./Barthes writesin RB, one which drifts far from the individual body, only to beaudaciously yanked back to its orginating ground by Nietzsche.Although aesthetics emerges as a distinct discourse in thelate eighteenth century, Western aestheticism (whetherphilosophical or artistic), is, in my view, best understood notas a bounded historical period or movement, but, as Eagletondescribes it, an "intellectual current" whose motifs could be"pursued back to the Renaissance or even to classical (Latin)34antiquity." (IA 3) Believing neither in the model of"theoretical cataclysm," that is, of an absolute rupture whichinitiates the modern (post-Kantian) category of the aesthetic,nor in the equally dubious model of smooth continuity, Eagletonacknowledges a signal innovation in late eighteenth centuryphilosophy which filters through into literary production: theemergence of art as a privileged category comprised ofdiscrete, self-contained aesthetic artifacts.(IA 3-4) In hisstudy of the development of the idea of the aesthetic fromBaumgarten through to Benjamin and Adorno, Eagleton'shypothesis explaining the historical genesis of the category ofthe aesthetic is linked to the rise of the bourgeois culture.Leaving aside his political analysis of the middle classdeveloping a shared set of aesthetic values to substitute forthe social coherence generated by feudal values, the parallelhe draws between the intellectual construction of the discreteart object and the construction of the discrete bourgeoissubject usefully anticipates (and explains) Barthes' dislikeof both. (IA 17-23) Although philosophical reflection onaesthetics in eighteenth and nineteenth-century philosophymight be viable intertexts in a philosophical study of post-structuralisms, as IA and Derrida's reflections on Kant in TheTruth  in Painting would hint, my thesis will not map the shiftsand developments occuring within those discussions of theaesthetic because Barthesian aestheticization, howeverindebted to shifts in the intellectual category of theaesthetic, is stubbornly literary, even in its use of Nietzsche35and Sartre . 9The entry found in the Princeton Encylopedia of Poetryand Poetics under "Aestheticism" supports reading it as aprimary aesthetic posture or modality. 10 The first sentence:"Aestheticism: a term applied to the point of view that art isself-sufficient, need serve no ulterior purpose, and should notbe judged by moral, political, or other nonaestheticstandards." 10 This definition--however naive and distorted byNietzschean standards--is a useful retrospective criticalsummation of an attitude that gradually arose among nineteenth-century writers, cresting in the self-consciousness anddecadent euphoria of the 1880s and 1890s. One cannot pretendthat the aesthetic stance of Gautier and the equivocalutterances of Flaubert and Baudelaire can be blithelyassimilated to the later postures of Huysmans, Mallarmd, Gide,and the 1890s generation of English and French decadents whotransformed the more contained aesthetic position of earlierwriters into a lifestyle and a metaphysics of marginality. Yetthere is a gradual amplification and working out of certaincommon themes and motifs linking early aesthetic projects tothe most outrageous manifestations of dêcadentisme.Aestheticism is such a complicated and, to borrow from Pater'sreflections on Coleridge which opened this chapter, sometimessuch a contrary phenomenon that it would seem as if the mostopposite statements about it were true. Rather than attemptinga classical definition of the aesthetic, which asserts thepresence of a single element common to all members of a proposed36unity, I would opt for a reading of aestheticism relying uponWittgenstein's notion of family resemblances, in which anoverlapping series of multiple elements perceived amongmembers of a proposed unity establishes relatedness.Aestheticism is, then, in my myth (and I stress that thisreading is not intended to be an orthodox historical one) not asingle aesthetic posture, but a collection of aestheticpostures arrayed in a continuum, or perhaps an unstablediscursive field shifting around a core thematics of privatelyrewriting or recreating the world (which manifests in Barthes'propensity to textualize phenomena).Aestheticism is an astonishing phenomenon which is (and Istruggle for words here) multi-polar. It vacillates betweenabstraction and particularity, between an arch formalism andthe pleasures of the loss of form: it can celebrate or suppressthe human body, privileging the perceiver, the processes ofperception, and/or the object perceived. Within it one can seewriters straining toward an intense submersion in both theKristevian symbolic and what Kristeva conceptualizes as thepre-Symbolic realm of oceanic sensual pleasure. 11 Often theaustere formalism of the symbolic suddenly flips into thesemiotic, providing the reader with great sensual enjoyment:something that often happens in Barthes' post-structuralreadings of the sign.If pressed for a more classical definition ofaestheticism, I would say that aesthetic writing is primarilycharacterized by a sustained play with the tensions generated37by mediation. That is, a mediation effected by means of variousstructures and strategies of artifice or semantic suspensionsuch as the simulacrum or the epoche which create an aestheticdoubling or, particularly in Barthes, an aesthetic distancefrom an origin of some type--a human subject, a discrete self-contained object, an original context. Distance, as Simone Wellonce wrote, is the very soul of beauty. Distance, or, moreexactly, the quest for separation appears to lie at the core ofwhat I am calling the aesthetic position, whether one examinesthe particular aestheticisms of Flaubert, Mallarmd, orBarthes. Aestheticizing discourse explores the ludic, sensual,anti-utilitarian spaces of separation and absence thatartifice (the imaginative nihilation and recomposing--orfragmentation--of an object), negation, radical doubt,perversion, fantasy, boredom and solitary pleasure canproduce. Within these spaces apart or between, the aesthete ordecadent is free to re-invent or destroy whatever she chooses.Or, alternatively, she can play indefinitely with the effectsand tensions created by mediation. In enhancing that space anddistance apart from doxic discourse, the constraints of contextand the heavy "screen of meaning" which stops the play of thesign are diminished, even theoretically overcome. The aesthetemoves toward the intense and cerebral pleasures of ambiguity--in Barthes' discourse, the gratifications of signifiance,irony, textuality, jouissance, paradox, connotation,reflexivity, drift, perversion, erasure, abjuration, and theparagrammatic.32Barthes, like earlier aesthetes and decadents, seeksdistance: distance from the pressures of bourgeois culture,from a gross and intransigent material world and its moralissues, from the history of others (including culturaltraditions and prior interpretations), from utilitarianaesthetic values, from genetic models dealing in beginnings andin deaths, in choices, limitations and consequences; distancefrom the traps of personality, identity, social violence,power, the sleep of Doxa. This distance, as I will argue, is thevery space of aesthetic creativity in Barthes. It is at once thesource of its power and its hidden vulnerability; and a space,for women and other marginals reading him, of promise anddeception.Of the writers (Flaubert, Baudelaire, Mallarmd) veneratedthroughout Barthes' texts, Flaubert is the one most oftenmentioned. With Mallarmê, he figures in WDZ, S/Z, PT and severalessays as a liminal writer and theoretician of modernity. InWDZ, as the next chapter will show, Flaubert is prized as thefirst writer to fully appreciate the tragic situation of thewriter in bourgeois culture, and reject the bourgeois ideologyof naive representation, turning instead toward the altar ofstyle and the ethos of art as a conscious crafting of a languagewhich does not coincide with any referent. Barthes is only oneamong several contemporary critics who champion the aestheticand modernist aspects of Flaubert that harmonize with the39values of post-structural theorizing. Read as ironic,perverse, even aporetic avant la lettre, Flaubert has beenrepeatedly celebrated as the first modern writer to espouse thedeath of the author (in his cult of authorial impersonality),and to consciously subvert both representation and narrative,miming realism only to aim at undecidability. Flaubertianrealism, as Eugenio Donato writes, deliberately works "in thespace between subject and representation." 13 Deploying anetwork of details suspended over absence, it generates theillusion of verisimilitude--what Barthes will refer to as the"reality-effect"--while subtly pointing to the artifice of itsrepresentation. 14 In "Literature Today" Barthes glosses theimport of Flaubert's practice of realism, emphasizing thedisjunction between language and the world of objects alreadybroached in WDZ.Yet, what is the real? We never know itexcept in the form of effects (the physicalworld), functions (the social world), orfantasies (cultural world); in short, thereal is never anything but an inference;when we declare we are copying reality, thismeans that we choose a certain inference andnot certain others: realism is, at its veryinception subject to a choice...("LT," CE 159/163-164)Barthes pursues the implications of the truism thatreality exceeds any description of it, that it cannot be copiedin its entirety. "Realism," Barthes asserts in "The RealityEffect," a later essay partially devoted to Flaubert, "is onlyfragmentary, erratic, confined to details." ("RE," RL 147/174)The modern real becomes, in Flaubert, a self-conscious40discontinuous simulacrum, a series of significant andinsignificant details linked together on an empty page which,when read at the proper distance, generate a deceptivereferential illusion. Flaubertian realism, however, is not acrammed verbal world which seeks to distract the reader from theinhering emptiness and absence of the literary sign. Rather, asBarthes notes, Flaubert calibrates aesthetic imperatives andreferential constraints, establishing a delicate balancebetween mimesis and linguistic reflexivity, making a textuallace of ruptures and absences (anacoluthons and asyndetons)linked by "interstichal notations" and details which do notdenote the real so much as signify it. ("RE," RL 147-148/174).These ruptures and details draw the attention of thecontemporary reader, disturbing the smooth flow of the real. Inthis way the referential illusion in the Flaubertian text isundermined as those balances shift and language slowlyseparates from the referent and the narrative Trieb, becomingvisible and intermittent. Barthes comments:...for the first time, with Flaubert, therupture is no longer, exceptional, sporadic,brillant, set in the base material of acommon utterance: there is no longer anylanguage on the other side of these figures(which means, in another sense: there is nolonger anything but language....the narrativeis deconstructed, and yet the story remainsreadable...(PT 9/18)The Flaubertian text is therefore radically ambiguous: itactively lends itself to multiple reading strategies. A readercan opt to focus upon the conforming edge of pleasure, devouring41language to fuel the illusory "realistic world" and story; shecan attend, with Flaubert, to form; or, as Barthes chooses, shecan move closer to follow the "mimesis of language" (languageimitating itself). Spacing is, as Derrida argues, a necessarycondition of intelligibility. 15 In Flaubert that spacing isplayed with, pushed almost to the point where intermittence--the rupturing of language's flow and telos--causes what Barthesrefers to in PT as the "two edges of language" to appear: thedoxic, conformist, "plagarizing" edge of readerly language(the lisible), and the wilder, erotic edge of language(associated^with^jouissance^and^the^scriptible).Intermittence--the distance between signs, the gap betweenword and thing, clothing and flesh, gesture and meaning, thechasm between scriptor and reader--is, Barthes will claim inhis post-structural phase, what creates the textual and theerotic.The subtle Flaubertian gap between word and thing estrangeslanguage from its ostensible origin and reason for being. Toreturn to the interview "Literature Today": there Barthessuggests that the meanings of words derive less from theirrelation to the object they signify than from theirparadigmatic and syntagmatic relation to other words. Languagebecomes a separate, almost parthenogenetic (un)reality(1 'irr6e/). relation to objects themselves,literature is fundamentally, constitutivelyunrealistic; literature is unreality itself;...literature is on the contrary the veryconsciousness of the unreality of language;42the 'truest' literature is the one whichknows itself as the most unreal...("LT," CE 160/164)In a move that will become increasingly characteristic ofhis intellectual style, Barthes subverts the usual definitionand telos of realism, proposing, as Naomi Schor remarks, not anaive unreflective realism, but a new "linguistic realism"inspired by Flaubert and Mallarme (RD 87):Realism...cannot be the copy of things,therefore, but the knowledge of language;the most 'realistic' work will not be theone which 'paints reality', but which,using the world as content (this contentitself, moreover, is alien to its structure,i.e. to its being), will explore asprofoundly as possible the unreal realityof language.("LT," CE 160/164)Flaubert remains a friendly tutor text during Barthes'post-structural phase, where the war on the ideology underlyingnaive realism intensifies. In the 1970 essay "Flaubert and theSentence" Barthes praises Flaubert's work on the materiality oflanguage, and his useless (i.e. intransitive) martyrdom ofstyle. In this essay Flaubert is figured in unmistakablyaesthetic terms, his creative agony being a species ofaesthetic intensity and expenditure pour rien, albeit invertedand masochistic. The text opens with a consideration ofFlaubert's sequestration and Sisyphean passion. Writingdemands, in the Flaubertian aesthetic, "an irrevocablefarewell to life," "the very sacrifice of a life," and a"pitiless sequestration" not, as in Proust, to recover a pastlifeworld through the act of writing, but, in the Barthesian43interpretation, for another reason: "to experience^thestructure of the language as a passion." ("FS," NCE 69-71/135-138)Writing is an odyssey engaging the writer's entireexistence: "to write is to live. . . .to write and to think are butone action, writing is a total being": an aesthetic which onceled Flaubert to describe himself as a home-plume (a "humanpen"). ("FS," NCE 71/138) Writing--the quest for style--doesnot redeem the boredom from which Flaubert suffers when withoutthe mediating protection of art: it is at best a strangelycompensatory activity. "Style", Barthes writes, is, forFlaubert, "absolute suffering, infinite suffering, uselesssuffering." ("FS," NCE 69/135) The essence of the Flaubertianstyle is not, as in Proust, one of endless addition; rather, itis one of endless erasure, correction, and permutation in whichFlaubert comes to experience the indeterminacy, and the"theoretical infinity" of language in his writing. TheFlaubertian verbal world, built upon the impossible notions ofabsolute style and le mot juste, and hence upon revision andellipsis, is open, upon each reading by the writer, to whatBarthes, opting for an obviously existential phrase, baptizesas "the vertigo of an infinite correction." ("FS," NCE74/140)The Flaubertian text's perpetual vulnerability toerasure, even negation, can be interpreted as a paradoxalproduct of its nascent materiality. The Flaubertian text isbuilt up sentence by sentence, block by block. With Flaubert the44sentence literally becomes, Barthes argues, a new literaryobject in which the writer's freedom is invested. ("FS," NCE 76-78/142-144) This new literary unit, the sentence, presentsitself as a separate, finite thing, only to metamorphose underthe writer's gaze. Barthes describes the Flaubertian drama ofwriting in terms which come to resemble the situation of thepost-structural scriptor. Flaubert initially confronts thesentence in an almost sculptural fashion. He sees it as adiscrete object whose finitude and beauty fascinates him,seducing him into its realm with the promise of perfection, ofachieving pure art. Once within the sentence (that is, actuallywriting), Flaubert encounters the infinite and amorphousfreedom of language, apprehending, as always, that everysentence is "unsaturable": that, as Barthes puts it, "there isno structural reason to stop it here (the present version)rather than there (some future version) " ("FS," NCE 77/143) In1853 Flaubert, recognizing that the text is theoreticallyinfinite, writes: "Ah! What discouragements sometimes, what aSisyphean labor style is, and prose especially! It's neverfinished!" ("FS,' NCE 77/143) The Flaubertian text is condemnedto incompletion, and its aesthetic to perpetual failure. Yetthis constant and agonizing failure, Barthes subtly notes, iswhat allows Flaubert to go on writing in the confined and yetvertiginous space of the sentence.Flaubertian sequestration has for itscenter (and its symbol) a piece offurniture which is not the desk but thedivan: when the depths of agony areplumbed, Flaubert throws himself on his45sofa: this is his 'marinade,' an ambiguoussituation...for the sign of failure is alsothe site of fantasy [i.e. connotation anddrift), where the work will gradually resume,giving Flaubert a new substance which he canerase anew.("FS," NCE 70/136)Ensconced in his study, engaged in the "Sisyphean circuit"of his writing, Flaubert uncovers the undecidable nature oflanguage, its trickster aspect, and the nothingness lyingbeneath it that both delights him and yet causes him to takerefuge in style and the defensive utopian formalism of "a bookabout nothing." ("FS," NCE 70/136) Something of Flaubert'sattraction to absence and its corollary themes may be seepingthrough in the first version of L 'Education sentimentale, wherehe writes:Women do not like death. That profound lovefor nothingness that the poets of our agecarry in the very depths of their beingfrightens them...Do not tell them that youlike the empty sockets of yellowed skullsand the greenish walls of tombs; and do nottell them that you have an enormous aspirationto return to the infinite, like a drop ofwater that evaporates in order to fall backinto the ocean...(FLP 38)Sartre once referred to Flaubert as "one of the originalKnights of Nothingness," acknowledging both Flaubert'sattraction to and yet wariness of absence and silence.Flaubert, as Barthes points out, is involved in a complexflirtation with nothingness: "Flaubert subtracts, erases,constantly returns to zero, begins over again." ("FS," NCE70/136) Yet when Flaubert finds that he cannot write, that htcannot produce something, anxiety and ennui overwhelm him.46Barthes appends this footnote--a passage from Flaubert'slegendary correspondence:Sometimes when I feel empty (je me trouvevide), when expression is refractory, whenafter having scribbled many pages I discoverthat I haven't made a single sentence, I fallon my couch and lie there stupified in aninner marsh of ennui.("FS," NCE 70/136)In "Flaubert and the Sentence" Barthes acknowledges theanxiety that silence and the vertigo of the sentence can provokein Flaubert, while in WDZ, S/Z, and PT those anxieties aresubstantially ignored. In these two latter texts Flaubert isfigured as a writer who aggressively works with that corrosiveambiguity and what one might refer to as the vertigo-effect.Vertigo is a complex and enduring category of experiencein Barthesian aesthetics. Sartrean vertigo (or its harbinger,and sometimes synonym, nausea) is a purely negative mental andphysiological reaction to theatening encounters withabsurdity, provoked equally by glimpses of the void, humanfutility, the threatened negation of the self by the other, orsome repulsive excess (usually of matter). Barthesian vertigois complicated: it can be either attractive (as in jouissance)or repulsive. In Barthes it is not nothingess (le ndant) butstupidity and/or repletion (the two are often conjoined) thatbrings on the nemesis of aesthetes, boredom, or nausea. WithBarthes the plenitude and stasis of doxic realism is an enduringsource of vertigo that must be countered by the practice oflinguistic realism. And in Barthes' account this is preciselywhat Flaubert, with his ironic, distanced realism that blurs47the controlled borderlines of a stable ("classical") irony,begins to effect.The referential codes have a kind ofemetic virtue, they bring on nausea bythe boredom, conformism, and disgust withrepletion that establishes them. The to make them ironical, i.e., tosuperimpose on the vomited code a second codewhich expresses it at a distance (emphasismine); in other words, to engage a meta-linguistic process (the modern problem isnot to halt this process, not to span thedistance taken with respect to a language).(S/Z 139/145)The Ironic Code (if it is apprehended as such) ruptures anynaive connection between reader and text, and, potentially, thetext and a naive mimetic function. Irony, Barthes writes,forces disconnection and "constitutes writing in all its poweras a game." (S/Z 139-40/146) But where Barthesian "classicism"quickly confines the destructive scope of irony, afraid thatlanguage might shred its mimetic lace and reveal the fraudulentnature of the author (i.e. of the voice and the originalutterance), Flaubert, the liminal modernist, couples anuncertain irony with free indirect discourse and unleashes itin his sentences. He begins, as Barthes writes, to breach the"wall of voices" and pass through the other side, to amultivalent text, to a subject-less ecriture(S/Z 45/52). Theeffects of this unstable irony on subjectivity and authorialresponsibility--already equivocal in Flaubert--are traumatic.Literature is thrown into an uncertain world of circulatingcodes. The text "speaks" in its voiceless and yet polyphonicconfusion: upon examination, discrete voices--those of the48author, the narrator, the characters, or society--cannot beassigned. The slow death of the classical author, and the birthof the post-structural text, begins here: as must, eventually,an ethical interrogation of Barthesian post-structuralism.Flaubert...working with an irony impregnatedwith uncertainty, achieves a salutorydiscomfort of writing: he does not stop theplay of codes (or stops it only partially),so that (and this is indubitably the proofof writing) one never knows if he isresponsible for what he writes (if there isa subject behind his language); for the verybeing of writing (the meaning of the laborthat constitutes it) is to keep the questionWho is speaking? from ever being answered.(S/Z 140/146)If Flaubert and Mallarmd are the more obvious and cerebraltutor texts of Barthesian discourse, the egocentric passion,perversion (in the appreciative Barthesian sense) andintelligence of Baudelaire is certainly less often recognizedas aAintertext funding Barthesian post-structuralism. Althoughechoes of Baudelaire on reverie, ennui, sexuality andperversion are frequent in PT and other works, Barthesinfrequently mentions Baudelaire by name, except when alludingto Baudelaire's notorious investigations of the effects ofhashish in Artificial Paradises. A brief reflection will bringto mind a pool of thematics and positions common to the twowriters. There is, to begin with, a similar anti-utilitarian,anti-mimetic, anti-bourgeois, pro-dandy stance: Barthes'comment that at the end of the nineteenth century the word49"bourgeois" designated an "aesthetic disease" (ffun malesthetique") expresses a shared perception and a mutualnemesis.("B," RL 192/222) A dislike of the natural and theendoxic (la banalitd and le poncif, in the Baudelaireanvocabulary), leads both writers to celebrate novelty,marginality, excess, reverie (connotation and drift inBarthes), various forms of "perversion," the fortuitous,unrepeatable sensation or event, and, of course, thespecificity and ephemerality of individual desire. Critical ofscience and of unequivocal assertions, both writers come toadopt a stance of strategic ignorance, favouring the ambiguityand irresolution of the experiential over the arrogance ofabstract systems. Both are urban writers, delighting in theartificiality, the accelerated rhythms and the overstimulationof the surrogate Nature of the metropolis. And both writers aresensual and innovative critics espousing solitary pleasure asone of their primary values. If the disembodied linguisticaestheticism of Flaubert and Menem& can be said toconstellate the pole of the Symbolic Aesthetic, thenBaudelaire s cultivation of the particular, of the sensual, andof an aimless pleasure pour rien begins to establish the pole ofthe pre-Symbolic Aesthetic that will increasingly drawBarthes' attention in the late 1970s.In "To the Bourgeois," the prefatory chapter to the Salonof 1846, Baudelaire--the isolated poet/critic--ironicallyacknowledges the bourgeois hegemony, his note revealing a deepmistrust of that class's powers and values--a wariness so50utterly reiterated in Barthes that Baudelaire's note couldpreface most of Barthes' texts. You are, Baudelaire writes tothe silent ascending bourgeois, the majority: either savants orowners, you govern the community: you are in power. You havealso, his apostrophe goes on, changed the practice of art,drawing it into the web of commerce and the idea of progress,instituting collections, museums, galleries. You--and not somesuffering minority--are, he continues, reaching a heavilyironic apotheosis, being rich and learned, the natural friendsof art. And what function would art serve in Baudelaire'ssardonic scenario? Art is a domesticated harlot that soothesthe savage--but weary--bourgeois: "When you have given societyyour science, your industry, your work, your money, you canclaim, as payment, pleasures of the body, the mind and theimagination" (i.e. art). ("k9," OC 415-417) And when thebourgeois moyen sensuel receives enough restorative pleasure,he, and by extension, society itself, being "happy" andsatiated (repue) will attain a golden state of equilibrium.Baudelaire and Barthes concur that bourgeois culture, seekingthis state of equilibrium, of safety, attempts to domesticateand commodify art by reasserting two bankrupt principles. Thefirst is the unity and continuity of past and present: that is,the economic and cultural viability of the Great Tradition;and, secondly, the idea of art as representation. Neitherwriter tolerates such doxa. The hypothesis of historicalrupture--the assertion of a chasm between past and presentculture forwarded in texts such as WDZ--alienates and frees51both writers into what Baudelaire identifies as the sources oforiginality, modernity, and modern beauty: the writer's ownsensibility and his attention to the contingencies of thepresent moment. Here, from "Modernity," is his apprehension ofartistic modernity:Modernity is the transitory, the fugitive,the contingent, the half of art, of whichthe other half is the eternal and the immutable....As for this transitory, fleeting elementwhose metamorphoses are so frequent, you haveno right to either scorn it or to ignore it.By suppressing it, you are bound to fall intothe emptiness of an abstract and undefinablebeauty...("M,"OC 695)Rather than positing a simple model of cultural history inwhich modernity (the perceiver's present) arises smoothly fromantiquity, Baudelaire proposes a more complicated model inwhich, as Matei Calinescu argues, the present is freed from theauthority of tradition. (FFM 48) Denied its usual dominance, thepast is figured as a series of heteroclite and non-communicating modernities which recede into a synchronicreservoir known as antiquity. Rejecting the classical model ofcultural development, in Baudelaire the locus of creativepotency is no longer in the past, but in the present moment ofcreation. The Great Tradition, no longer quite a living well,can become a kind of curio shop sans proprietaire filled withvases and beautiful bones--"lovely and outdated things", asBarthes puts it in L--that the estranged poet is free to break orshoplift in the service of her own art. As Baudelaire warns:52.Woe unto him who seeks in antiquity anythingother than pure art, logic, and general method.By plunging too deeply into the past, he losessight of the present; he renounces the valuesand privileges provided by circumstances; foralmost all our originality comes from thestamp that time imprints upon our feelings.(OCFFM 48)In Baudelaire the classical cultural time-line begins toshift and rupture, edging toward a contemporary sense of post-history and the aestheticist's celebration of the intense,unrelated moment. Calinescu glosses:...Baudelaire means by modernity thepresent in its 'presentness,' in itspurely instantaneous quality. Modernity,then, can be defined as the paradoxicalpossibility of going beyond the flow ofhistory through the consciousness ofhistoricity in its most concrete immediacy....Separated from tradition (in the senseof a body of works and procedures to beimitated), artistic creation becomes anadventure and a drama in which the artisthas no ally except his imagination.( OCFFM 49-50)Baudelairean modernity and beauty are predicated not onlyupon a pervasive sense of contingency, of the fugitive nature ofthings, but also upon the strength of individual artisticimagination. ("RF," OC 620) Adumbrating the Nietzschean notionof perspectivism, by punning repeatedly on the idea of the realand the true to disengage his own notion of multiple subjective"realities", Baudelaire writes: "The artist...must only render53according to what he sees and feels. He must be truly( reellement) faithful to his own nature." ( H RF , OC 620) On thepain of death the artist must avoid borrowing the eyes and thefeeling of another man, however great he may be; because then hisart will be inauthentic: it will be lies rather than realites.Baudelaire assails the values of classicalrepresentation. " ' Copy nature: copy only nature. There is nogreater triumph than an excellent copy of nature ' " hemocks. ( "RF, OC 619-620) This doctrine, which the bourgeoisapparently aspires to apply to all the arts, is, in his frankestimation, the enemy of art. Baudelaire phrases the response ofthe creative artist to this doxic imperative, articulating theanti-naturalism and chronic dissatisfaction of the rebelliousaesthete, underscoring the aesthete's perception of a chroniclack of some kind which motivates his creative response. "I findit futile and tedious to represent what is, because nothing thatis satisfies me. Nature is ugly: I prefer the monsters of myfantasy to positive triviality." (RF," OC 620)Representation is inimical to art in the Baudelaireanaesthetic. Nature--or, broadly, the external object to berendered--is rejected as an unsuitable subject. Ugly, alien, ormerely flawed, the external object and the mimetic imperativeconspire to suppress the artist 's own supplementary "nature":the islands of pleasure and reverie generated by his own body andimagination (in Barthes, the pleasures arising from and withinthe elsewhere of the Text). Imagination, Baudelaire concurs withhis romantic predecessors, is the primurn mobile: it creates and54governs the world. ( "RF, " OC 621) Active individual imaginationmust be protected because only it is capable of creating "newworlds" and the precious event of the new which forestalls ennuiand the closure of banal reality (an argument Barthes willadvance in slightly different terms in PT) . "Imagination is thequeen of the true, and the possible is one of the provinces of thetrue. It is positively related with the infinite." ("RF," OC 621)As critically, Baudelaire apprehends the way in which realism,by devaluing the imagination, lures art into the clutches ofindustry.In the Salon of 1859, oppressed by the tenacious doctrine ofrealism, and by the new threat the daguerreotype appeared to poseto both visual and verbal art forms, Baudelaire condemnsphotography. Photography, seen naively by the bourgeois asrendering reality more faithfully and completely than anytraditional art medium, puts more pressure on traditional artforms. The bourgeois credo had long been, to cite Baudelaire'sversion, "I believe in nature, and only in nature...I believethat art is and can only be the exact reproduction of nature"(excluding, Baudelaire notes, "repugnant" objects such aschamberpots and skeletons which suggested some of the suppressedthemes of bodily existence). ("PM," OC 617) Now progress andindustry had produced a technique which could crank out aninfinite number of instances of "absolute art." All arts,Baudelaire could hear the bourgeois saying, should aspire to thecondition of photography. Although an instance of artifice,Baudelaire curiously denied photography the status of art. In55his estimation it was merely a form of transcription whichexcluded the human imagination. Photography was the revenge ofthe impotent and the industrialist. It threatened to degrade artand the human imagination, encouraging society to become animmense Narcissus bent over its trivial image on a metal plate.Baudelaire worried about the long term effects of this newtechnology, fearing that a people whose eyes were accustomed toconsidering the results of a material science as art would suffera diminished imaginative and aesthetic sense. (OC 272) And,perhaps half-ironically, perhaps not, Baudelaire goes on toargue that imagination nurtures the moral sense. Without thiscardinal faculty, he contends, morality itself suffersdegradation: virtue without imagination turns hard, cruel,sterile, bigoted. ("RF," OC 621)Art (in Barthes , the utter artifice that is writing)overcomes the closure, imperfection and determinism of thenatural, offering humanity the opportunity to improve upon andeven surpass the natural. Through the triumph of style, the humanimagination asserts itself over matter, creating a certain spaceof freedom in which to operate. As the nineteenth centuryprogressed, aesthetes increasingly seized every opportunity, nomatter how small or far away from traditional definitions of art,to deform the natural and increase the realm of artifice, leadingto the life-as-art ethos of the dandy and the decadent. AsBaudelaire rails in his essay "In Praise of Makeup": "Who woulddare assign art to the sterile function of imitating nature?Makeup does not have to hide itself, to try to evade detection; on56the contrary, it can display itself ...candidly." ("EM," OC 717)From the same essay, this is Baudelaire on fashion (anotherhumble quotidien practice of artifice):Fashion considered as symptomaticof the taste for the ideal which floats inthe human mind above all the coarse, earthy,filthy things that natural life accumulatestherein, as a sublime deformation of nature,or rather as a permanent and successive attemptto reform nature.("EM," OC 716)Since Baudelaire perceives the natural as inhuman andugly, artifice--the manipulation, overcoming, or suspension ofthe natural--is regarded by him as a primary good. In bothBarthes and Baudelaire, art and artifice are fused notionsmotivated by desire. Desire in the Baudelairean aesthetic--theneed to escape the replete insensibility of the bourgeoisworld, the desire to express individual vision, emotionalstates, and, equally, to experience pleasure--demands theimaginative construction or reconstruction of objects suchthat they are liberated from the realm of the natural and crossover to the realm of the artificial. In both writers artificeoften centres upon a provocative play with gender, sexuality,and a re-writing of the human body intended to liberate theerotic from the utilitarian grasp of the natural. Aligned withthat other positive value, artifice and transgression (theBaudelairean crime and mal receiving a secular treatment inBarthes) are signal elements in their common ideologicalchallenge to realism.The revolt against the imperatives of representation and57normative aesthetics are key to the aesthetic and criticalpractices of both writers. Baudelaire's appraisal of theinadequacy and oppressive nature of systemic thought precedesBarthes' rejection of theoretical systems by more than acentury. 17 In his writing on the universal exposition of 1855,Baudelaire indicts normative aesthetics and theories. Whetherin its Greek, Italian, or Parisian versions, the "senselessdoctrine" of the Beautiful, shut up in the sclerotic but"blinding strength of its system," has lost touch with itssensual origins, surviving only to forbid the living to enjoy,to dream, or to think in any terms other than those of itssystem. System, unopposed, issuing its abstract rules from "asmall scientific temple," would eradicate the perception ofdifference ("la vari6te, le bizarre") from life, blurring allsensations into its "vast, monotonous, and impersonalunities." ("MC," OC 577) Categories as "immense as boredom andthe void" would reiterate a doxic notion of beauty ("un beaubanal"). ("MC," OC 577)Baudelairean beauty may sometimes be contained withinthe classical structure of a sonnet, but it is never a normativephenomenon. Eternal beauty co-exists for Baudelaire along withunanticipated modern forms of the beautiful--forms skimmedfrom a pool of diverse instances of beauty, each transitory andparticular. (""PVM, " OC 493/"M," OC 695) AdumbratingBarthesian difference, Baudelaire asserts the fascination ofthe strange: the beautiful is always "bizarre" he declares,coupling aesthetic pleasure with deviation, if not (in this58instance) perversion. Modern beauty is, for him, singular andstrange, always signed by the necessary and involuntary mark ofthe passions of its creator and the circumstances of itscreation. This beauty is infinitely varied, depending on theenvironments, moeurs, race, religion, and temperment of theartist. Baudelaire insists upon the function of passion withinart: the specificity of each instance of beauty arises from theunique affective and aesthetic responses of an individual.Without those traces of individual response, those disruptionsof the abstract Beautiful and conventional themes by privatesubjects and obsessions, there would be no modern beauty.Fortunately, Baudelaire writes, art escapes the normativerules and analyses of academics. The specificity and surprises("l'etonnement") of artworks--that is, its modern beauty--cannot be governed or controlled by apriori aestheticrules.("PM,HOC 616) Style--one'svision or manner of seeing as it manifests in the artwork--is ascritical a notion in Baudelaire as it is in Flaubert. ButBaudelaire's take on style is not one which idealizes theinvisibility of the author and the cool posthumous styleFlaubert craved. Rather, like many aesthetic and decadentwriters, he celebrates individual sensibility and its tracesenriching the text. Difference, the sine qua non of Barthesianpost-structuralism, turns out to play a similarly criticalelement in Baudelairean aesthetics.Aestheticism is, as I have suggested, marked by a dislikefor norms, systems and external authority. In one essay59,"Method of Criticism," a text arising out of his attendance atthe 1855 Universal Exposition, Baudelaire stages an ironicconfession that recalls the rejection of authorities, conceptsand theoretical systems Barthes announces--and enacts--in PT.To the confession: more than once, Baudelaire begins, like hisfriends, he tried to enclose himself within a systemic notion ofart and the beautiful from within which he could preach at hisease. But system rapidly revealed itself to be a "kind ofdamnation which pushes one to a perpetual abjuration." ("MC,"OC 577) Although his systems always appeared, at least in thebeginning, as "beautiful, vast, spacious, useful, clean, andsmooth," some spontaneous and unexpected bit of life ("lavitalite universelle") would give the lie to his "childish andantiquated science," the "miserable child" of his desire for anintelligible world in which life could be captured intheoretical jars.("MC," OC 577-578) However he would attempt tomodify or expand his system, it would always prove inadequateand belated, forced to run impotently after the multiform andchanging aspects of the beautiful, which moves endlessly in the"infinite spirals" of life.Condemned by his intellectual honesty to a humiliatingseries of conversions to new systems, Baudelaire faced down twochoices: either he could continue the round of philosophicalengagements and apostasies, or he could take refuge in hissenses and an "impeccable naivete." Recognizing the vanity ofsystems, he makes his decision, writing: "I prefer to speak inthe name of feeling, morality and pleasure. I hope that some60persons, wise without being pedantic, will find my ignorance ingood taste." ("MC," OC 579) This position of amateurism andstrategic ignorance or, to borrow an insight from Barthes onBaudelaire,^this^will^to^"nonfulfillment"("1 'inaccomplissement") (which is, as Barthes emphasizes,recognized by Sartre as a existential choice), is one Bartheswill himself adopt. ("EST," CE 25/41)Barthes' suppleness and idiosyncracy as a creative criticrecalls Baudelaire's critical practice. In the Salon of 1846 Baudelaire lays out some of his views on criticism. The bestcriticism is not, under the pretext of impartial explication,"cold and algebraic." ("QB?,"OC 418) Whether in an orthodox ormore poetic style destined for the eyes of an elect of poeticreaders, a critical response must be written from a passionateand partial perspective. But it cannot be dogmatic. It mustissue from a critical point of view which is always activelyseeking "new horizons." The best criticism is "amusing andpoetic," achieving a sensitive and intelligent translation ofan individual's experience of a specific artwork. Whileacknowledging the necessity of writing some criticism in aconventional manner, Baudelaire speculates that the bestcritical account of a painting, for instance, might be a sonnetor an elegy. ("QB?," OC 418) This subsequent or supplementaryact of poetic-creation-as-criticism discourages the use ofpedantic jargon (already denounced by Baudelaire) and not onlyundermines the primary and secondary textual categoriesfundamental to hermeneutic criticism, but creates what61Barthes, quoting Proust, refers to as a salutory hybridizationand "indecision of genre" that Barthes himself practises.("LC," RL 279/315) In Baudelaire, the critic's optionstheoretically multiply as the critical act begins to bifurcateinto orthodox, readable public texts and hybrid poetic textsthat approach the condition of a privileged creativity,foregrounding the active critical response which generates asubsequent text of potentially equal interest.Baudelaire honoured both intelligence (seen as theanalytic impulse) and the imagination (the synthesizingimpulse) as equally important aspects of the creative psyche.Though not advancing the Nietzschean argument thatintellectual activity is, even in its degraded and un-selfconscious moments, an aestheticizing and quasi-creativeactivity, one could argue that Baudelaire draws poetic andanalytic modalities closer together. In the text on Wagner herecognizes that poetic and intellectual modalities ideallysupport one another. Since a poet (a generic term designatingthe creative artist) must harbour within himself a critic whouncovers the hidden laws of his art in order to continuecreating, he must therefore have a more complete experience ofart, and is, in Baudelaire's view, potentially the best critic.("W," OC 495-496) Baudelaire's preference for the poet-critic,or to put it in other terms, the poeticization of criticism,stimulates later generations of English and French writers whofigure as covert intertexts for Barthesian post-structuralism.The poet-critic, in Pater, becomes the aesthetic critic who62writes subtle answering essays that cannot be read as other thanprimary texts themselves. Pater's texts, like Barthes', arehypersubtle webs of texture, reflection and mood whichexquisitely overwhelm and dissolve whatever is drawn into theirhyphos. And in Wilde, the recognition of the creative nature ofcriticism culminates in the notion of the critic as artist: acategory in which Barthes might fit most comfortably.Although this thesis will not focus upon the sometimesstriking affinities observable between the post-structuralaesthetic values of Barthes and Pater (Proust being, I suspect,a literal intertext), or Barthes and Wilde (Gide acting as apossible intermediary), I want to signal connections whichshould be explored in a prehistory of contemporary literarytheory. Barthesian post-structuralism is, if anything, a bodyof hypotheses about, and experiments in, reading. Pater andWilde not only adumbrate aspects of Anglo-American reader-response theories, but nurture, and in Wilde's case, argue forthe parallel creativity and autonomy of both the critic and thecritical text: notions of paramount importance in Barthes'post-structural theorizing. And Pater and Wilde are among thefirst European critics to unhook criticism from its servitudeto high culture and to the past, granting critics the permissionto read in unheard-of and perverse fashions, denying thesanctity and authority of the primary text, overcoming it withwhat we would recognize as very contemporary strategies ofparadox, irony, citation, recontextualization, reflexivity,excess (in the Barthesian sense), disfigurement, digression,63and biographical intrusion.Like Baudelaire, for Barthes reading is not a passivereception of artworks or the spectacle of the world, but ratheran active creation which delights in its own brio andexcessiveness, in its freedom and its uselessness withinbourgeois society. By the time of PT, Barthes has begun to workthrough his strategy of reading as a counter-bourgeoisdiscursive strategy. Following the lead of aesthetes anddecadents such as Proust and Huysmans, Barthes makes reading asite of resistance to bourgeois notions of art and language.Reading becomes particularly precious when it does not followthe rules of culture and easily produce a viable culturalproduct (a text, an iterable interpretation, an imago), butrather subtracts the text and the act of reading from theeconomy of culture, drawing it into a realm of private pleasureand expenditure pour rien. The reader becomes another kind ofamateur, a counter-bourgeois amateur whose activity, modeledafter the earlier practice of decadents, is intense andephemeral, decentred, self-consuming, without memory ofitself.Barthes and the intertexts of western decadence...the world must be remade for my pleasure:my pleasure will be simultaneously the endsand the means: in organizing it, in distri-buting it, I shall overwhelm it [the world).(SFL 79/85)64Under the heading "Decadence" the Princeton Encyclopediaof Poetry and Poetics provides a partial inventory of thecharacteristics of decadent discourse. Decadence is, the entrybegins, inadvertantly touching upon the enduring ideology ofclassicism and the transgressive nature of decadent art, anadjective applied to diverse "periods or works whose qualitiesare held to mark a 'falling-away' (L: de-cadere) frompreviously recognized standards of excellence." (PEP 185) Thetwo most notorious periods of decadence in Western literaryhistory to date have been the Hellenistic period (ca.300-30B.C.E.) and the last-century span of symbolist and decadentmovements in fin-de-siecle France and England (ca.1880s-late1890s). To summarize the analysis of decadence found in themiddle third of this entry: the decadent poet lives in a state ofHeraclitean flux, his values and attention confined withinnarrowly egocentric limits which, ironically, leads to an onlymomentary satisfaction. His existence is a cycle of desirefeeding upon itself. The decadent individual is concerned, inthe Paterian phrase, not with the fruit of experience butexperience itself--whether experience is met by chance on thestreet, in some private library or gallery, or in a boudoir. Theworks--and, often, the life--of the decadent "poet" (a genericterm used within the entry) manifest some of the followingtraits. Terrified by the spectre of boredom, the decadentlaunches himself on a perpetual quest for novelty, with anattendant cultivation of the artificial and the unnatural. Thedecadent is, the entry continues, prone to the following:65excessive self-analysis, neurosis, feverish hedonism, anobsession with corruption and morbidity, and an exaggeratederotic sensibility. His work tends to align itself with thevalues of aestheticism (1 'art pour l'art). Like the aesthete,the decadent and his work can also demonstrate some of thefollowing: a preoccupation with and cultivation of raresensations and emotions coupled with a scorn of contemporarysociety and utilitarian mores; a restless curiosity,perversity and eccentricity; an "overemphasis" on formalelements, with a resultant "attrition" of content; an interestin ornamentation and detail; a cultivation of the exotic, theesoteric, and dream-states (reverie), leading to apredominantly connotative use of language ; the substitution ofcoherence in mood for coherence and synthesis in thought;obscurity, arising from remote, private, or complicatedimagery, diction, and syntax; a penchant for synesthesia, andtranspositions d'art which heighten the musicality or visualaspects of a text; and radical experimentations with prosody.The aesthetic choices of the decadent artist precipitate thedisintegration of the well-wrought art object in classical andneoclassical terms, giving onto the ambiguous art objects ofcontemporary modernities. (PEP 185)The Princeton entry attends to conventional analyses ofdecadence, but neglects some of the more vital theoretical andphilosophical aspects of decadence. The corrosive skepticismand relativity of most decadent writing is repeated in thenegative theology of Barthesian ecriture, while the decadent66cult of artifice and the life-as-art ethos engages in the veryacts of mediation which underlie the post-structuraltextualization of the subject and reality. The resurgence ofsensuality and the experiential body in decadent writing, itsanti-utilitarian ethos and its insistence on the marginalityand exclusion of the individual (often a marginal several timesover as an addict, homosexual, "pervert", and so on) recur inBarthes. And, finally, the decadent's sense of culturalbelatedness--of culture returning a second time, but as farce,as Barthes writes--supports a shift toward ironic forms ofcriticism, personal culture and a fascination with isolateddetail which are, again, encountered in Barthesian post-structuralism. ("TS," RL 342/379)One must examine the genesis of decadence in the turnaesthetic discourse begins to take in the middle of thenineteenth-century, as those attitudes broaden from arelatively contained position into the more radical andreflexive ethos of decadent life and art styles. Sensibility:whether productive or purely reflexive, it is, of course, amaster term of both aesthetic and decadent discourse. The cultof sensibility supports the turn from the more philosophicalsensualism of early aesthetes to the later reworking ofaesthetic values into the hedonism and narcissism of the 1880sand the yellow nineties. That turn develops slowly, beginningwith Gautier in the 1830s and attaining a critical point in thework of Baudelaire.It is with Baudelaire that the responding consciousness--67whether of the critic, the amateur or the observant dandy--begins to assume greater importance. In Baudelaire the poet is,as I have indicated, not only brought into a positive relationwith the critic, but is also allied with the l_gure of the dandyand the aimless flâneur. As sensitive marginals rebellingagainst bourgeois values, the hyper-sensitivities of thecritic, the fláneur, and the dandy almost rival those of thecreative artist. Over the course of the work of Baudelaire, thepoetic critic and the fla-neur devolve into supplementarycreative forces as they interact with prior cultural texts. Thedandy is, also, paradoxically, a creative entity, although hiscreativity does not lie in the creation of texts in a strictlyliterary sense, but rather in a generalized semiotic one.Seeking, in the Nietzschean way, to turn life into art, thedandy's very body and every gesture become, potentially, asign. His life becomes a grandly ephemeral text--a performativecounter-text inscribed on and against the semiosis of thelarger social text.When Baudelaire published Les Fleurs du mal in 1857, theconcept of decadence had already been in circulation for sometime in England and France. 17 Artists and other marginals,morally and aesthetically alienated from the self-servinghumanism of the bourgeois class, espoused, as Calinescu writes,an "aesthetic modernity" which, by the end of the century hadcome to be known as decadence. (FFM 162) By the middle of thenineteenth century French intellectuals had begun to explorethis modernity which dramatically opposed a crass "bourgeois68modernity"^promising^open-ended^progress^andindustrialization, democracy, material comfort, and wantingonly safe (and saleable) art. Thêophile Gautier, in his 1868preface to Les Fleurs du mal, was among the first critics topropose a sociocultural account of decadence, linking culturaland artistic decadences:The style inadequately called decadence isnothing but art arrived at the point ofextreme maturity yielded by the slantingsuns of aged civilizations: an ingenious,complicated style, full of shades and ofresearch, constantly pushing back theboundaries of speech, borrowing from alltechnical vocabularies, taking colour fromall palettes and notes from all keyboards,struggling to render what is most inexpressiblein thought, what is vague and most elusive inthe outlines of form, listening to the subtleconfidences of passion grown depraved, and thestrange hallucinations of the obsession whichis turning to madness.(FFM 164)Paul Bourget, whose analyses of decadence in the 1870s and1880s were to influence Nietzsche's own sense of the decadent,endorses Gautier's sociocultural reading. Writing from withina period of decadence, Bourget forwards a partisan defense ofdecadent times. Decadent periods are, Bourget argues, vigorousand superior to "organic periods" because of the intensity andaudacity of its artists, and their "uneven, violent creations."(FFM 169) By "organic periods", Calinescu glosses, Bourgetmeans highly ordered societies in which the energies of the"components" (the individual) are subordinated to the goals anddemands of the "total organism." (FFM 170) As soon as individuallife is considered more important than the welfare of the social69organism, Bourget writes, the social organism becomes decadent(hence the enduring antagonism between totalitarians anddecadent individualists). Decadent societies are thus markedby a growing anomie and anarchy precipitated by an abandonmentof that collective's sustaining myths in favour of someprivately-worked out myth, and what one might refer to aspersonal culture. Most accounts of decadence focus upon thecompensatory myths and activities of pleasure, passivity andskepticism. Yet there is, as Megill argues in PE, a history ofdecadents opting for something else: a radical creativity thatarises out of the very failure of meaning.In Bourget's analysis of decadence, the decay of thesocial organism is mirrored in the slow-motion failure of thelinguistic organism. His description of that decay foreshadowsthe course of what Barthes refers to as "our modernity," andsuggests to contemporary readers the reiteration of decadentaesthetics within Barthesian post-structuralism, whereBarthes' post-structural theory of textuality presentsdecadence--the failure of semantic and textual integrity--asthe fundamental condition of the text.One law governs both the development anddecadence of that other organism which islanguage. A style of decadence is one inwhich the unity of the book breaks down tomake place for the independence of the page,in which the page breaks down to make placefor the independence of the sentence and inwhich the sentence breaks down to make placefor the independence of the word.(FFM 170)In Bourget's view, in declining societies the withdrawn70decadent stands in polar ideological opposition to the militarybarbarian--and, not surprisingly, compares favourably. LikeBarthes, Bourget finds a viable if passive resistance ofsocietal violence within the decadent stance. Bourgetintimates that sensitive persons would prefer, as it were, thedefeat of decadent Athens to their violent triumph overinvading Macedonians. But sensitive persons always seem tocomprise a social minority, and Bourget goes on to sound thetheme of the decadent's marginalization and reactive hostilityto majority opinions.Let us then indulge in the unusualness ofour ideal and form, even though we imprisonourselves in an unvisited solitude....whysacrifice what is most intimate, specialand personal to others?(FFM 171)Summarizing Bourget's position as a decadent intellectual(one akin to Barthes' eventual stand), Calinescu observes thatthe borderline between the intellectual recognition of the factof decadence blurs into a commitment to decadence as a positivecultural style. This "unbounded, anarchic individualism...forall its socially paralyzing effects, is artisticallybeneficial" since it has "done away with traditionalauthoritarian requirements such as unity, hierarchy,objectivity." (FFM 171) Calinescu highlights the link betweendecadence and the modernities of the contemporary era, notingthat "decadence thus understood and modernity coincide in theirrejection of the tyranny of tradition." (FFM 171)Baudelaire stands as a transitional figure in whose71discourse the early phase of aestheticism gives onto the pan-sensuality and outrageous postures of fin de siècle decadence.Although ambivalent about both the term and the developingpractise of decadence, his poetry and criticism were to serve astutor texts for later writers and theoreticians of decadence.Throughout his texts, Baudelaire intermittently refers to hispoetry as decadent (decadence and modernity being near-synonymous in his view) . In a long apostrophic note appended tothe poem "Fransicae meae laudes" Baudelaire reflects on his ownmodernity and that of late Latin decadence, findingsimilarities in the language and cadence of those twomodernities. The language of that earlier decadence--itscomplex tenor shifting between mysticism and sensuality--appears particularly appropriate to express the complicatedpassions of modern poets (Baudelaire ' s decision to write"Fransicae" in Latin being a kind of hommage to his deaddecadent brothers) .The passions of those late poets were atonce sophisticated and anarchic; the beauty of Latin wasforcibly twisted into new configurations by them, made assubtle and overdetermined as their psyches. The complicateddesire of modern poets expresses itself, for Baudelaire, notonly in a similarly extreme refinement of language andsensibility but also in a free interchange of means andprocedures among the arts, leading to texts sui generis whichseek to blur the boundaries between arts. The artistic text,however, remains unified: Baudelaire rejected the fascinationof the detail, insisting upon a subordination of elements to the72artistic whole, and it is this position which separates himdecisively from the later generation of decadents.Needing an audience to appreciate his complex andinnovative discourse in a hostile culture, Baudelaire conjuredthe sensitive marginalized critic, the dandy (an amateur of artwhose greatest creation is himself), and the receptive fläneur.Traces of these figures--altered and subjected to therecombinative impetus of Barthes' own desire--will return inthe roles of reader, scriptor and amateur in Barthesian post-structuralism. Baudelaire frequently adopts the pose of theflaneur in his poems. The fläneur (inevitably male, as JanetWolff observes in "The Invisible Fläneuse: Women and theLiterature of Modernity") embodies the antithesis of bourgeoisvalues. 18 The artist, the dandy, and the flaneur begin to blurin the late nineteenth century. All three are usually visually-oriented operators of the Sartrean gaze, resolutely urban andanti-utilitarian marginals who, as Benjamin once wrote ofBaudelaire, go botanizing on the asphalt . 19 But where thedandy, in existential terms, is preoccupied with managing thedual dynamics of the gaze, seeking at once to look and to belooked at, the flaneur simply directs his gaze outward. Like thedandy and the artist, he wanders aimlessly through thesurrogate nature of the metropole s streets and arcades, gazingat the pageantry of urban life and the thousands of floatingexistences which drift about the underworld of large cities.73("AHM," OC 690-693) The flaneur, like the Barthesian subject,prefers not the grandly official subjects of tradition, butrather isolated details or moments of experience, the intimateor ephemeral private subjects which constitute the heroism ofmodern urban life. In Baudelaire's "Le Peintre de la viemoderne" Constantin Guys, as the paradigmatic painter of modernurban existence, moves into the stimulus of the crowd to recordthe "myriad impressions of day and night":He goes and watches the river of life flowpast him in all its splendour and majesty...He gazes upon the landscapes of the greatcity...He delights in fine carriages and proudhorses...the sinuous gait of the women, thebeauty of the children...If a fashion or thecut of a garment has been slightly very sure that his eagle eye will alreadyhave spotted it.("AHM," OC 692-693)Both the flaneur and the modern artist seek novelty andsurprise. But where some flaneurs consume spectacles whilerefusing to produce anything but an intransitive stream ofprivate experiences, the artist creates something public, orquasi-public--the artwork, the text. This is the criticaldistinction between the artist, the dandy, and flaneur inBaudelaire. All three look upon and move through the sameenvironments, the same modernity, but where the flaneur and thedandy take refuge in their languid sterility and non-involvement, the artist produces artworks, thereby keeping thecycle of culture spinning.Both the dandy and the flaneur existed as culturalphenomena before being drawn into literary discourse.74Baudelaire's famous take on dandyism opens with a sketch of thehistory and temperment of that mode of being. Dandyism is, heclaims, an ancient and global phenomenon, one properly includedamong the range of human tempers. Caesar, Catalina andAlcibiades serve as antique prototypes; Chateaubriand claimedto have found aboriginal dandies in the forests of the NewWorld. The dandy, in contemporary Europe, is a man of financialease disengaged from the pressures of earning a living. Blasé,an idler, his only occupation is the pursuit of his ownhappiness, his only profession that of elegance. ("PV," OC 709)Dandyism is, Baudelaire writes, a venerable institution whichexists outside of the law; yet has it own rigorous laws andmores. To be a dandy, one must devote oneself to cultivating theideal of the beautiful in one's person, seeking only to feel, tothink, to love, to satisfy one's passions, and to cultivatereverie. ("PV,"OC 709-170)Reverie--the old romantic topos of a consciousnessdrifting blissfully in the space in between--is a key term indecadent aesthetics--it is at once a stimulus to art-making, adominant poetic theme, a rebellious act, and one of art's fewproper ends. (Reverie is, as the chapter on PT will examine, aninherited strategy of emancipation Barthes reworks in the moretheoretical terms of drift, connotation, and delay.)Baudelaire is pragmatic enough to note that ease (in theBarthesian sense) is a sine qua non of dandyism. Without havingboth money and free time, fantasy (reverie) is reduced toimpotent daydreaming, and love, instead of being the subject of75some burning caprice or elaborate reverie, is reduced to"repugnant utility" (i.e. conjugal duty or crass orgies).("PV,"OC 710)The dandy's aesthesis--his cultivation of reverie, theattention to the "material elegance" of his person and hisenvironment, his "cult of the self," is seen as a kind ofspiritual discipline and as evidence of the aristocraticsuperiority of his spirit: a spirit which seeks to escape thestifling repetitions of doxa and stereotype, achieving thestate of absolute originality (the fundamental need of a dandyis,as Baudelaire puts it, "de se faire une originalit6").("PV," OC 710) The Baudelairean dandy is a complex spectrum ofpossibilities, but intensity and excess always attend hispostures and actions. A bit like a heyokima, a contrary, whofinds greatness in folly, or the serious in the trivial, a stoicwho seeks to shock while never being shocked, the Baudelaireandandy is always performing against doxic expectations.In the last third of his account Baudelaire returns to hissociohistorical account of dandyism, observing that the dandyappears most often during troubled epochs--interregna--whenthe local aristocracy is faltering and degraded, but democracyis not yet entrenched. In the uncertainty of those times, andagainst the rising tide of democracy, some men--sociallydispossessed (dêclasses), disgusted, idle, but endowed withgreat native strength, conceive the project of founding a newkind of aristocracy: an aristocracy founded not upon bloodlinesor money, but upon inalienable "celestial gifts": taste, pose,76refinement.The men of this counter-democracy--dandies--howeversolitary they tend to be, express a common parti pris: that ofintransitive opposition and revolt against banality. ("PV," OC711) Camus, in his study of the dandy in The Rebel :An Essay onMan in Revolt, expands on Baudelaire's perception of theseditious nature of the dandy and his negative theology:The dandy creates his own unity by aestheticmeans. But it is an aesthetic of singularityand negation....The dandy is, by occupation,always in opposition. He can only existby defiance. 20Refusing to endorse the structures of meaning andcoherence emanating from some collective god-term, the dandyfinds himself in a stimulating but precarious situation.Apparently disloyal to and rejecting of past and presentauthorities, his sense of cultural time alters dramatically.Relativity and an egocentrism of the type Todorov indicts inpost-structural theories reigns. 21 R.B. sums up the isolationand the truncated sense of cultural time of the dandy in RB: "adandy has no philosophy other than a transitory one: a lifeinterest: time is the time of my life." (RB 106/110) Camus putsit stronger, moralizing terms, apprehending the compensatoryyet futile nature of the dandy's ethos of synchronic pleasures.The dandy, Camus writes, "finds himself delivered over to thefleeting moment, to the passing days, and to wastedsensibility."(R 51) Realizing, after some time of drift, thathe must create some kind of ethical structure, however minimal,77to contain this corrosive anomie, the dandy "rallies his forcesand creates a unity for himself by the very violence of hisrefusal." (R 51) Pleasure, Art-for-art's-sake, and the refusalof social commitment become elements of that unity, that myth.But such unities are, to borrow a term from Barthes, largelyreactive and oddly dependent ones. The dandy is, as Camus pointsout, always belated: he needs a prior term (or assertion) and ahostile majority if his world-view (or Imaginary) is tofunction. His ethos of reflexive pleasure and chronic playleads to a despair only partially dissimulated by irony. Thedandy creates, in Camus' view, an untenable position: neitherhis creativity nor his marginality can save him.Perpetually incomplete, always on the fringeof things, he compels others to create him,while denying their values. He plays atlife because he is unable to live it.(R 52)The skepticism and sterility of the dandy's pose, hisallegiance to appearances, to the intensities of the moment,and to the reactive mode, forces him, Camus argues, to extremepositions. Dandyism, its alienation and negative theologycarried through to its logical conclusion, ends in suicide,madness, silence, or abdication. When dandies fail to commitsuicide or go insane, Camus observes wryly, they begin a careerand pursue prosperity (or, following the progess of the dandydes Esseintes in Huysmans' A Rebours, threaten to getreligion).78Barthes and the decomposition of bourgeois consciousnessBarthes is, rather like Bourget, an intellectual whosedescription of a late cultural phase slides into a celebrationof decadence. In Barthes' case, his writing becomes anaffirmation of and repeated call for the further decompositionof bourgeois consciousness:(s)uppose that the intellectual's (or thewriter's historical function today is tomaintain and to emphasize the decompositionof bourgeois consciousness...we deliberatelypretend to remain within this consciousnessand that we will proceed to dismantle it, toweaken it, to break it down on the spot, as wewould do with a lump of sugar by steeping itin water. Hence decomposition is here contraryto destruction: in order to destroy bourgeoisconsciousness we should have to absent ourselvesfrom it, and such exteriority is possible onlyin a revolutionary situation.(RB 63/67)Western Europe is not, Barthes writes, (from the middle 1970s)in the midst of any kind of social turmoil that threatens todestroy the dominating bourgeoisie. In 1975 his estimation isthat there is no viable hors-texte, no undogmatic site ofutterance on the far side of bourgeois discourse. Other than"tripping the lever of a counter-term" and falling into into anunpalatable mode of a discourse of opposition, into the"aggression" of meaning, there is nowhere to go. Nowhere exceptinto the pleasurable non-assertive spaces of dissolution andambiguity: the territories of irony, paradox, and thenovelistic, of personal culture, fragmented simulacra,multiple reading bodies and the manipulated imago, and a newversion of cultural carpe diem dealing in shards and "post-79meanings" (aprés-sens). (RB 87/90) and destroy [bourgeoisconsciousness) would ultimately come tono more than reconstituting a site ofspeech whose one characteristic would beexteriority: exterior and motionless: inother words: dogmatic language. In order todestroy, in short, we must be able tooverleap [sauter]. But overleap where? intowhat language? Into which site of goodconscience and bad faith? Whereas by de-composing, I agree to accompany such de-composition, to decompose myself as well,in the process: I scrape, catch, drag.(RB 63/67-68)This process of cultural dissolution is, for Barthes, ashe tells his reader, not agonizing but pleasurable andstimulating. Readings of ES, then PT, with its obsessive andsolitary des Esseintian cultivation of the pleasures of textualperversion, followed by the sophisticated essays on art and thepleasures of the amateur collected in RF, suggest that Barthesis, if anything, a textual hedonist whose positive ethos ofdecadence and matte, suspended pleasures is an intertextualelaboration of nineteenth century discourses. Barthes himself,in L and that curiously distanced and unreliable systdmatiqueof intellectual autobiography, RB, begins to make this verycase. Throughout RB, protected by the masks of the third-personsingular and the screening fiction of an unnamed narrator,Barthes reflects upon the alienation and dandyism of hisposition.Lavish use of paradox risks implying (orquite simply implies) an individualistposition, and one may say: a kind ofdandyism. However, though solitary, thedandy is not a given historical80situation--of pessimism and rejection--itis the intellectual class as a whole which,if it does not become militant, is virtuallya dandy.(RB 106/110)And he considers the evasions or at least deferrals that theaesthetic modality can achieve against the assertive forces ofpolitical (i.e. overtly positional) discourses which demandthat the intellectual choose.(RB 48/52, 84-86, 87-90) Finally,as a middle-class hedonist, he muses on the value of materialcomfort. Like Baudelaire, he is aware of the need to financehis hedonistic modus vivendi. Just two years after PT, therhetoric of pleasure is already mellowing into the quietervalues of ease, private life, and the specificity of his bodythat will mark his later writing.Being a hedonist (since he regards himselfas one), he seeks a state which is, really,comfort; but this comfort is more complicatedthan the household is a comfort hearranges for himself...This personal comfortmight be called ease. Ease can be given atheoretical dignity ('We need not keep ourdistance with regard to formalism, merelyour ease'), and also an ethical force: itis the deliberate loss of heroism, even inpleasure.(RB 43-44/48)The historical pessimism and rejection of assertion (of"heroism") in these last two passages raises the issue ofBarthes' post-structural skepticism, a skepticism equallymistrustful of power and rebellion. As a negative theologyskepticism, as Eugene Goodheart writes in The Skeptic Disposition in Contemporary Criticism, is a powerful anddouble-edged conceptual strategy. 22 Whether in Nietzsche,81Wilde or Derrida, skepticism lends the critic or theoreticianboth a deconstructive capacity and a strong negativecapability--not an empathic Keatsian faculty, but an ironic,even nihilistic intellectual capacity which, in this world ofnear zero-gravity, enables a scriptor to assume or desert anyposition at will. In either case, once the great doubt is setinto motion, the solidity of endoxic constructs is suddenlyvulnerable: the locus of power shifts from past institutionsand traditions towards the solitary questioning individualworking in the present--that is, ultimately modern--moment.Barthes' skepticism expresses itself in an oftenambivalent assessment of cultural production, particularlythe vast collective enterprise of high culture. Whether in PT, Lor RB, Barthes, the arch cultural initiate, cannot resistairing his cultural ambivalence, positioning himself somewherein the space between the cultural devotee and the barbarianthat his irony opens up. In PT, reprising a theme firstencountered in WDZ, he asserts: "(a)rt seems compromised,historically, culturally. Whence the effort on the part of theartist himself to destroy it." (PT 54/86) Yet even in WDZ artalready appears indestructible to Barthes. In his post-structural phase, despite his efforts to level the traditionaldistinction between registers of discourse into a generictextuality, it will remain beyond demolition. Building uponnineteenth-century attempts to, as Barthes puts it, murderliterature, contemporary efforts--other than his own--todestroy art have taken, in his reading, three forms. The artist82can abjure his original medium and "shift to another signifier"(a writer can, for example, begin to make video documentaries);he can renounce all overt forms of creativity, becoming ascholar or an "intellectual theorist" who no longer speaks"except from a moral site cleansed of any linguisticsensuality"; he can, lastly, emulate Rimbaud and "stopwriting ,change trades, change desires." (PT 54/86) But,Barthes regrets, such attempts at cultural liquidation arealways inadequate, since the epicentre of destruction arisingfrom purist act of silencing oneself lies outside of the artrealm itself. Or, should the would-be saboteur remain apractising artist, his discourse of subversion, judging fromthe past, is destined to a profitable recuperation.Barthes' attitude toward the vast reservoir of texts knownas culture is complicated. As an aestheticizing hedonist whoseprimary fetishes and moments of pleasure are obtained from artobjects and a decaying high culture, he allows that theexistence of that body of prior works is the very condition ofhis enjoyment. Barthes legitimates culture through a strategicinversion: he makes "the totality of the human past"subservient to the end of a private and ephemeral pleasure thatcan propose and dispose at will in the magic realm of theimagination. 23 Substantiating Iser's observation, and Camus'point about the reactive and belated nature of the dandy, in aparticularly paratactic fragment in PT Barthes reflects:Pleasure of the text. Classics. Culture (themore culture, the more diverse, the pleasurewill be). Intelligence. Irony. Delicacy.83Euphoria. Mastery.... Texts of pleasure(jouissance). Pleasure in pieces; language inpieces; culture in pieces.(RB 51/82)Barthes, like most decadents, is a cultural parasite (theterm is not perjorative) who is estranged from the institutionsof high culture but does not wish--and cannot afford--thedemise of his host. Lacking the protective naivete andaggressive will-to-nihilation of young avant-gardists.decadents are often caught in ambivalence, both desiring andresisting the products of culture: witness Barthes' equivocalpositioning of himself in PT and his subsequent texts in anuncertain place in between culture and its destruction. In PThe insists: "(n)either culture nor its destruction is erotic;it is the seam between them, the fault, the flaw, which becomesso." (RB 7/15) This disaffection with the sedimentary processesof culture is reiterated in his vision of present culture ashistory returning--but as kitsch and farce.(RB 88/92-93) In"Outcomes of the Text" Barthes' reflections on Bataille andNietzsche clarifies Barthes' own post-structural practice of"decadence." He offers a surprising interpretation ofdecadence as a continuation of the bourgeois banalization ofvalues. In both Bataille and Nietzsche(d)ecadence is not read, contrary to theword's accepted connotation, as a sophisti-cated, hypercultural condition, but on thecontrary as a deflation of values: return oftragedy as farce (Marx), clandestinity offestal expenditure in bourgeois society(Bataille)....In all, the same disgustprovoked by bourgeois deflation: bourgeoisman does not destroy value, he deflates(aplatit) it, diminishes it, establishes a84system of the paltry.(RL 238-239/271-272)Both Barthesian post-structuralism and nineteenth centurydecadents radicalize that deflation--literally, theflattening--of values, forcing this process to its logicalconclusion: a world consituted not of meanings, but surfacesand signs, ruled by a ludic if corrosive relativity minimallycontained by pleasure and desire. Objective or scientificknowledge is, as readers of the later Barthes will know, abourgeois value that he indicts as the stale repetition ofstereotypes and doxic statements. Following Bataille, Barthescomes to recognize two categories of knowledge. There is theorthodox hermeneutic "endoxal knowledge" that Barthes railsagainst, a "citational, referential, reverential knowledge."("0," RL 240/273) Against that monological knowing, Bataille(and then Barthes) assembles a paradoxal counter-savoir, abricolage of textual fragments, interfering codes, and small"curiosities" that refer back not to some cohesive universalassertion or body of texts, but to an individual's ownparticularity--in Barthes' essay, Barthes' and Bataille'sfascination with the "strange" (especially the strangeness of"elsewhere" (de l'ailleurs) and with details. ("0," RL 240-241/272-273) This "personal culture" "de-naturalizes"objective knowledge. As a kind of foregrounded self-consciouswriting it produces a "remoter knowledge," a "burlesque,heteroclite knowledge," an inverted image of savoir (Barthes'sapentia), which, in its intransigent particularity, produces(Barthes contends) an "incipient collapse" of the principles of85knowledge by its "futilization" and "miniaturization." Thiscounter-savoir produces not mastery but astonishment. Itssyncretism overcomes the orthodox separation of knowledges (of"genres," in Barthes' take). Knowledge is thus construed as aseries of Nietzschean fictions; it becomes the territory of"polygraphs," that is of amateurs and writers, rather than ofmonological specialists.("OT," RL 240-241/272-273)With the intervention of skepticism--these various formsof aesthetic and philosophical doubt (the negative theology ofwriting, the flattening of values and the production ofpolysemic counter-knowledges)--the context that was cultureis imaginatively suspended. The Barthesian sense of culturaltime begins to shift toward an indulgent synchronicity andreversible syncreticism that is increasingly in evidence fromPT onwards. As the 1970s progress, Barthes inclines toward anintricate and eccentric personal culture, ignoring theoppressive repertories of both high and avant-garde cultures toread and look at whatever he chooses, collecting theoreticaland textual fragments, and moments of bliss, like a touristwandering through an ageing ruin. Old and lovely texts such asProust's novels and essays, Goethe's Werther, Chateaubriand'sVie de Rance and Memoires d'outre-tombe, Brillat-Savarin'sgastronomic writing, Erte's drawings, and Schumann's musicincreasingly draw his attention. Overtly theoreticaldiscussions of contemporary theories and writers fade, or moveinto familiar and even colloquial registers. Theories such asthe Lacanian imago, as well as Barthes' own notion of a86systematics, drift into the subtle and even more fluid realmsof metaphor and the dissembled stories of the novelistic (leromanesque) structuring RB, FLD, and CL.Throughout this period of twelve years Barthes slowlydevelops an alternative personal culture is not unfamiliar toreaders of mid to late nineteenth century French literature.Alternative personal cultures are liberating environmentsthat are freely as well as individually chosen and controlled,rather than inherited or passively endured. In Barthes theyconstitute semi-private mental pleasure domes, protectivesemiotic environments cobbled together by need and desire.These habitations still retain some lines of communication intoendoxal culture. Barthes' vision of an ideal alternativepersonal culture is partially expressed in RB in terms of a"plural culture" of "composite" arts that joyously "loop"together several tastes and languages ("...un art compose,quiprenait en dcharpe plusieurs goats, plusieurs langages"),creating artforms that could be both popular and intricate, asin, for instance, Chaplin's films.(RB 54/58-59) Such art andartists, Barthes'protagonist writes, "provoke a complete kindof joy," because they offer the "image of a culture that is atonce differential and collective: plural." (RB 54/58-59) Thepluralism of difference inactivates the conflict andantagonism inherent in cultural models which oppose "high" and"low" forms of culture. This alternative cultural practice,Barthes continues, "then functions as the third term, thesubversive term of the opposition in which we are imprisoned:87mass culture or high culture." (RB 54/58-59)In Barthes' plural culture the suspension of context andprior interpretations allows any object--whether a text byBalzac, a painting by Wilhelm von Gloeden, the single redfingernail of a student's lover, or a photographic self-portrait by Mapplethorpe--to be read without bowing tointentionality or any other interpretive contraints. Thisjoyful skepticism is not merely a sophisticated intellectualposition. It is also, and perhaps even more so, as Goodheartcontends, a corrosive mood (in the Heideggerean sense) whichcauses a thing to shatter into a synchronic and textualizedworld of intermittence,of fine gradations and constantlyshifting surfaces and conditions: substantially, the kind ofbeautiful and absurd world of Huysmans, Pater and their kin.Whether one opts for a historical or intertextualperspective, there are important similarities between Barthesand his aesthetic and decadent predecessors. Beyond the evidentthematic and aesthetic congruities--cultural ambivalence, thecultivation of intensity and disjunction, the adumbration ofthe useless reader and the useless text, the foregrounding ofindividual aesthetic response, the fascination with surfaces--there is even deeper agreement. Barthesian post-structuralism,like these earlier writings, is an anti-genetic discourse, adiscourse of skepticism and perversion. For both, the conceptof the natural is the "ultimate outrage," (RB 85/88) because88" (t)he natural is never an attribute of physical Nature, " but anideological representation and the "alibi paraded by a socialmajority: the natural is a legality." (RB 85/88, 130/134)Looking back over his own career, R.B. comments:His work is not anti-historical (at least, sohe intends), but always, persistently, anti-genetic, for Origin is a pernicious figure ofNature (of Physis): by an abusive interest, theDoxa 'crushes' Origin and Truth together, inorder to make them into a single proof, eachreinflating the other...(RB 139/142)R.B. offers two somewhat conflicting accounts of hisreaction to Nature, one more nuanced and predictablyambivalent, the other polemic. To begin with "The abandonmentof origins," a fragment summarizing the polemic thatencapsulates Barthes' early post-structural attitude and thestrategy of semiotic pantextualization operative in S/Z andES:(iin order to thwart Origin, he firstacculturates Nature thoroughly: nothingnatural anywhere, nothing but the historical;then this culture (convinced as he is, withBenveniste, that all culture is only language)is restored to the infinite movement ofvarious discourses...(RB 139/142)But in another, earlier, fragment, "The natural," R.B. is moreequivocal, contending that against the doxic category of the"natural," he can rebel in two ways: either by arguing, "like ajurist, against a law elaborated without me and against me";or, in the grandiose tradition of the countercultural,aggressively "wrecking the majority's Law by a transgressive89avant-garde action." (RB 130/134-135) R.B. is, in this secondfragment (which is closer to Barthes' reflections in his lateressays) a more complicated creature. Writing of himself in thethird person, R.B. reflects: "[We seems to remain strangely atthe intersection of these two rejections: he has complicitiesof transgression and individualist moods." (RB 130/134-135)The effect:(t)his produces a philosophy of the anti-Nature which remains rational, and theSign is an ideal object for such a philo-sophy: for it is possible to denounce and/orcelebrate its arbitrariness; it is possibleto enjoy the codes even while nostalgicallyimagining that someday they will be abolished:like an intermittent outsider, I can enterinto or emerge from the burdensome sociality,depending on my mood--of insertion or distance(emphasis mine).(RB 131/135)In Barthes' discourse, the poles of the Symbolic aestheticimpetus and pre-Symbolic aesthetic desire, which constitutethe aesthetic continuum, meet. This continuum, ingeniouslytwisted back upon itself through an exploration of theabstraction and sensuality of the sign, becomes, to borrow ananticipatory image from Baudrillard, a moebius strip. In thelogic of Barthes' moebius strip categories fail as contrariesmeet, as the distinction between inside and outside, betweenthe model and the real, past and the present, origin andrepetition, are abolished. Barthes' textual realms, the worldhe invites us into, is the seductive floating world apart of thesign, signifiance and the simulacrum--a world complicated inits very structure by, as the chapters on ES and PT will testify,a paradoxal longing to put an end to the sign.9091CHAPTER TWO. BARTHES DEGREE ZERO: THE PASSION OF WRITINGEvidently he dreams of a world which wouldbe exempt from meaning (as one is frommilitary service). This began with WritingDegree Zero in which is imagined the 'absenceof every sign'; subsequently, a thousandaffirmations subsequent to this dream (aproposof the avant-garde text, of Japan, of music,of the alexandrine, etc.)(RB 87/90)It was in the late 1940s, recovering from tuberculosis in asanitorium, that Barthes first read Sartre and Brecht. From thatexperience, if one is to rely upon the charming if unreliableprotagonist of RB, Barthes emerged a temporarily committedSartrean and Marxist. Barthes' first major statement onliterature, WDZ, is a polemical and mythopoeic document bearing aconflicted witness to the impact of Sartre upon him. Responding tothe existential view of language and the call for an instrumentalengaged writing in Sartre's What is Literature?, Barthes readswith and against the grain of Sartrean discourse, laying out astylized history of literary modernity and a counter-ethos ofecriture which adumbrates his post-structural devotion to thesign.' This counter-ethos of ecriture and personal style is one inwhich the writer's primary engagement is not directly withhistory, power, or some community of people, but rather with formand the literary word. Barthes rejects the belief inrepresentation underwriting the Sartrean artistic ethos. A92relative authenticity is to be found not within the use ofinherited forms to impossibly mime what exists beyond the bar oflanguage, but in a conscious and solitary exploration of artificeand the multiple beauties of signs divorced from referents. Thiscounter-ethos, and the themes presented in his lapidary historyof French modernity, will endure throughout his career.In WDZ Barthes prefaces his speculations on the contemporarywriter's situation with a spare history of the development ofFrench literary modernity. He presents a claustrophobicscenario, using only a few genealogical points de repêre(Gautier, Chateaubriand, Flaubert, Valdry, Gide, and Mallarmd)who weave in and out through the text like Wagnerian leitmotifs.Barthes reads French history through an existential thematics.Crisis, alienation, complicity, absence, choice, the hostilegaze, the unresponsive object, and familiar metaphors ofplenitude, le neant (nothingess, the void), the viscous (theSartrean "stickiness") are deployed to figure literature'slurching fall from neoclassicism and realism into modernity'sself-consciousness and impotence.In WDZ social changes precipitate a series of compensatorymoves resulting in literary modernity. The historical caesura inBarthes' reading occurs sometime around 1850, when theconvergence of three new sociohistorical realities--demographicexpansion in Europe, the birth of capitalism, and the 1848revolution--divided French society into mutually hostileclasses, effecting an "obvious disjunction between the socialvocation of the writer and the instrument which he has inherited93from Tradition."(WDZ 60-63/43-45,47) Confronted by the emergenceof competing social discourses, by the multiple writings whichwere then emerging, neoclassical aesthetic and ideologicalunities could longer masquerade as universal. Dislodged from theartist's prior position in the ancien regime, from the old ritualof Literature, and feeling the normlessness of his situation, thewriter was thrown into crisis. Ceasing to be a "witness to theuniversal," he becomes instead "the incarnation of a tragicawareness," "an unhappy consciousness" (une consciencemalheureuse).(WDZ 3/8) The social compact between writer andsociety has, in this version of history, been sundered. Languagecan no longer be used innocently by a writer; its unity tornasunder by class conflict, language's power to define a sharedsocial world is put into crisis. The transparent union of word andreferent begins to fail. Over a period of several generations,language slowly becomes almost palpable and increasinglyambiguous as it disengages from both literary tradition and theworld external to it. Barthes' post-revolutionary writer iscondemned to be at once a perpetual witness to and participant inthis disengagement: but a witness who is estranged from theassertions of the universal, a martyr whose attention is chainedto particularities and to the ambiguities of choice, whose workwith language ironically only increases his isolation.The first gesture of this unhappy and alienated writer,Barthes maintains, is to decide whether to accept or refuseTradition (a package deal which includes the humanistic subject,essentialist genres, and the ideology of representation). The94decision to reject the authority of what lies on the other side of1850 is, in WDZ, a foregone conclusion, as is the recognition thatone cannot entirely escape the remnants of the past, the writerbeing always belated and forced to use stale, inherited words.Having disavowed Tradition, the writer is then forced to findanother guiding principle, opting for the commit"'ment of uniqueliterary form, that is, of style.Language first becomes visible to French writers through theexploration of literary form. Form, Barthes writes, no longerintegrated and utilitarian as in the economy of the "classical"text, begins to capture the attention of writers (notablyFlaubert). As a fresh receptacle for creative energy, form comesto "fascinate," "disorient," and "enchant," eventually becomingan almost reified Forme-Objet capable of evoking "existentialfeelings": existential feelings being, for Barthes, surprise,familiarity, disgust, complacency, utility, and murder. (WDZ4/8-9)In WDZ the materiality and absurdity of language, coupledwith the writer's need to justify or simply create a space for hisactivity within a mercantile society, constitute the crux ofBarthes's mythopoeic reading of modernity. From Flaubert onward,writing, released from the old justification and constraints ofrepresentation and the literary tradition, sheds its humanism andbecomes, in Barthes' view, a problematic of language. Or, put inother terms: released from history and mimesis, the writers inBarthes' story begin to re-imagine the fundamental conditions ofwriting, dreaming of what Barthes refers to as "solutions" to the95compromised situation of the writer. Flaubert's solution--countersigned by several generations after him--is an immersionin unique form; Rimbaud's revolt takes the form of an engagementwith the sensual and Dionysian aspects of language, eventuallymoving into silence; Mallarmd's solution is the suicide ofliterature by the poetic Word; and Camus struggles toward a whitewriting (ecriture blanche) that Barthes, in his fashion,countersigns: a white, pure discourse liberated from anyservitude to an order, one that "being devoid of reflections,declares its solitude, and therefore its innocence" [emphasismine]. (WDZ 75/55) Some of these writers share the elusive dreamof a post-humanist writer without literature; and others, evenmore radically, envisage a writing without a subject, culminatingin Mallarme's dream of a double homicide (of literature and thewriter) which informs the early years of Barthesian post-structuralism.(WDZ 61/45)This, then, is the passion of writing according to Barthes.From an initial classical transparency and utility, writingpasses through the phases of a progressive and alienatingobjectification, ending in a final disintegration in the latenineteenth century; a process which parallels and, Barthes willsuggest in RB, perhaps accelerates the disintegration ofbourgeois consciousness and the solitude of the writer. As hesummarizes in (language] was first the object of agaze, then of a creative action, finally ofa murder, and has reached in our time a lastmetamorphosis, absence: in those neutral modesof writing, called here 'the zero degree of96writing,' we can easily discern a if Literature, having tendedfor a hundred years now to transmute itssurface into a form with no antecedents, couldno longer find purity anywhere but in theabsence of all signs...(WDZ 5/9-10)Language as objectThis is the core of Barthes' argument: for the past hundredyears, he claims, writing has been either an exercise in taming ora revulsion against the growing materiality of literary language.This trend, which he baptises as the "concretion" of literature,is first seen emerging in the work of Chateaubriand. In termswhich anticipate the reflexive and sensual linguistic positionadopted in PT, Barthes describes this process in Chateaubriand:there a "trace, a light pressure of linguistic euphoria, a kind ofnarcissism" appears as writing slowly begins to separate itselffrom the task of representation, turning instead to look into thepool of signs. (WDZ 4/9) Curiously, this suggestion of romantictextual jouissance is immediately submerged in a melancholicreflection upon the Flaubertian work-aesthetic, though itresurfaces periodically in the work.In the chapter "Style as Craftmanship" Barthes reflectsupon the reasons for this move toward an emphasis on writing asthe painstaking production of form. After 1850, he writes,returning again to the moment of crisis, literature faced aproblem of self-justification; it needed to seek (and this wordreturns in the text) "alibis" for itself.(WDZ 62/46) Generationsof writers--most of those he names being canonical male writers --97attempt to legitimate their activity by opting to replace the use-value of art by its work-value. (WDZ 62/46) "Writing is now to besaved not by virtue of what it exists for (sa destination) butthanks to the work it has cost." (WDZ 63/46-47) An image(imagerie) of the writer as craftsman arises, who, "like aworkman operating at home...roughs out, cuts, polishes and setshis form exactly as a jeweller extracts art from hismaterial . " (WDZ 63/46) This working of language into the fetish ofhighly wrought form, or into the inverted preciosity ofFlaubertian concision, is not seen as a selfless meditation on orencounter with language. It is read as a quasi-public spectacle, ameans for now-alienated writers to justify themselves withinbourgeois culture. Barthes observes:Writers like Gautier (past master in Belles-Lettres), Flaubert (grinding away at hissentences at Croisset), Valery (in his roomat the crack of dawn) or Gide (standing at hisdesk like a carpenter at his bench) form akind of guild of French Literature...Labourreplaces genius as a value.(WDZ 63/46-47)Flaubert, comedien et martyrFlaubert is, in WDZ,the first tragic bourgeois writer, onewho perceives that "the bourgeois state is an incurable ill" that,as in the Sartrean imaginary, repulsively "sticks" (poisse) tothe writer, leaching his freedom. (WDZ 64/47) Flaubert 'sresponse, in Barthes' reading, is to realize that he can cope withthis situation only by deliberately assuming it. Accordingly, heopts to justify his writing to the external and, perhaps,introjected bourgeois mind by founding an aesthetic of writing as98craftsmanship (1 16criture artisanale).(WDZ 64/47) This writingsubtly draws attention not only to form, but to the voicelesssigns of literature, to the unnatural tenses and cadences ofprose, and to its rules of eloquence which, unlike those ofspeech, appeal to a "sixth, purely literary sense" shared by theproducers and consumers of Literature.(WDZ 65/48) Form becomes asacred "ritual language" of writer-"priests" and a utopian valuewhich, like all utopian hypotheses, is antagonistic towardshistory: form seeks neither to participate in, nor express acultural moment, but to "transcend History." (WDZ 74/54) Thisaesthetic is one which, in Barthes' interpretation, emphasizesits separation from speech, society and tradition. Literaturebecomes largely a recondite problem of language and form engagedby a solitary writer whose activity is justified as a kind of amarginal productivity, but a productivity nevertheless. Byappropriating the bourgeois work-ethic, figuring the writer asan industrious artisan, and writing as a sort of fetish of workedform, however impractical, even perverse, Flaubert's movesucceeds in establishing a new contract between writer andsociety.touched with sadness, and openess too...the art of Flaubert points to its mask as itmoves forward. What this Gregorian codificationof literary language aimed at was ...thetransmutation of the writing handed down tohim by history into an art...The writer thengives to society a self-confessed art, whoserules are given to all, and in exchange societyis able to accept the writer.(WDZ 65/48)The acceptance of the writer in bourgeois society comes at a99high price. Flaubert becomes an ironic Christ-figure, the firstmartyr of modernity crucified on the cross of style to appeasemiddle-class philistines. The "Flaubertization of writing," asBarthes refers to this cult of art as a perverse and Sisypheankind of work, is perceived as offering the general salvation ofall writers (le rachet general des 6crivains). This redemptiondoes not, however, ease the distance and unhappiness which hauntshis account of Flaubert and this first solution to the dilemma ofthe modern writer. Barthes lucidly analyses the fundamentalpassivity of this êcriture artisanale. Lying within the belly ofthe bourgeois patrimony, renouncing both the ideological battlesof Realists and the avant-garde struggle to "liberate" a newliterary language, it does not disturb any order. The artisanalwriter's only passions are the creation of form and perhaps theornamentation of language with new conceits, próciosites, andarchaisms, creating a "rich" and "mortal" writing (in thiscategory of "great traditional writing" Barthes places Gide,Valdry, Montherlant, and even, surprisingly, Breton). (WDZ74/54) Barthes moves onto his account of the second moment inliterary modernity. Some writers, notably Rimbaud, strugglingagainst the "sacred writing" of the Flaubertian aesthetic and thecompromised situation of the writer, turn their attention towardlanguage, experimenting with a "chaos of forms and a wilderness(desert) of words, " hoping to achieve a pristine state of languageand a verbal "object" wholly delivered from the nightmare ofHistory and the myth of Literature.(WDZ 74/54) Form is now putinto crisis. And with it language and the writing subject begin to100disintegrate. But, inevitably, Barthes writes, this poeticrevolution fails (Barthes reveals here his enduring skepticismabout grand gestures of social rebellion; a skepticism whichreturns with even greater force in his post-structural writing).All the possible outcomes are grim. Revolt, gutted by bad andopportunistic epigonic repetition, and the voracious sponginessof bourgeois culture, which appears capable of neutralizing, andeven profiting from, any critique, is flattened into fashion,even convention. The search for innovation degenerates into thetedium of bad imitation, ending in the halls of art school andBelle-Lettres. The other foreseen end is even darker. Barthessummarizes: "(i)n a perpetual flight forward from a disorderlysyntax, the disintegration of language can only lead to thesilence of writing." A desire to escape Literature and impostureleads to the complete abandonment of writing. It ends in theterminal "agraphia" of Rimbaud and some Surrealists, in the"poignant self-destruction of Literature," as well as the literalsuicide of the writer.(WDZ 75/54-55)Flaubert's discovery of form disengaged writing fromtradition, representation, expression and communication: in aword, from the traditional tasks of writing. In WDZ Flaubert'sformalism is, following standard histories of modernity, athreshold, a phase which gives onto the current obsessional phasewith language. As the nineteenth-century fades into thetwentieth, language becomes increasingly visible andthematically central to writers and to critical reflection uponwriting. With Mallarme—whom Barthes will venerate throughout101his career as the threshold and texte-limite of modernity--modernity embraces the Word. The Word (le Verbe) is the primalunit of Mallarmean discourse; with its foregrounding historyarrives at the Mallarmean fiction of Litterature-Objet, wherelanguage quietly supplants the external world, and where thefinal conceptual sundering of Nature and writing, of word andreferent, is broached.The Rimbaldian temptation of silence and linguisticdestruction is central to Barthes' reading of Mallarme. Mallarm6is seen through Barthes' Blancholdian lenses as the "Hamlet ofwriting" who meditates upon the murder of Literature. ForBarthes, Mallarm6 embodies a "precarious moment in which literarylanguage perists only the better to sign the necessity of itsdeath." (WDZ 75/55-56) Silence was, for Rimbaud, a complicatedgesture; it appears to have been, among other things, an attemptto regain some kind of innocence. The allure of the idea of thedeath of Literature, for Barthes' Mallarmó, appears to lie in asimilar need to overcome the compromised situation of the writerin bourgeois society, gaining a position of almost suicidalsocial innocence through separation and protective contextualsilences.Mallarmê's typographical agraphia seeksto create around rarefied words an emptyzone in which speech, liberated from itsguilty social overtones, may, by somehappy contrivance, no longer reverberate.The word, dissociated from the husk ofhabitual clichês,and from the technicalreflexes of the writer, is then freed fromresponsibility in relation to all possiblecontext; it appears in one brief act, which,being devoid of reflections, declares its102solitude, and therefore its innocence. Thisart has the very structure of suicide: in it,silence is a homogenous poetic time whichtraps the word...and sets it off less as afragment of a cryptogram than as a light, avoid, a murder, a freedom. is Literaturebrought to the gates of the Promised Land: aworld without Literature...(WDZ 75-76/55)In WDZ Mallarmd ushers in the third moment of modernity,where the remnants of literary classicism give way to the ethicsand economies of a literary modernity marked by reflexivity andalienation. The economy of classical language, Barthes observes,is relational. Within it words have no quasi-existential"density," and are hardly even signs. "Words," he reflects, "areabstracted as much as possible in the interest of relationships":that is, words are treated as utilitarian carriers of content,serving to establish relationships among referents that existbeyond the circuitry of language.(WDZ 45/35) Rather than"plunging into an inner reality consubstantial to its outerconfiguration, it extends...toward other words, so as to form asuperficial chain of intentions." (WDZ 44/35) In this classicaleconomy language flows in rigid channels, its words"neutralized," stale, "dessicated", the writer assiduouslyavoiding the "phonetic or semantic accident which wouldconcentrate the flavour of language at one point and halt itsintellectual momentum in the interest of an unequally distributedenjoyment." (This is perhaps an early suggestion of post-structural jouissance.) (WDZ 44-45/35)The function of the writer within the classical economy,in Barthes' polemic, is not to "find new words, with more body or103brillance, but to follow the order of an ancient ritual, toperfect the symmetry or the conciseness of a relation" whichverges on becoming a verbal "algebra" or series of "chemicalvalences" in which words, as instrumental messengers, delineatea "verbal arena full of...connections,junctions, and networks"from which endlessly arise new waves of meaning, "the gestures ofintellection" which need to be carried forward in an endlessrelay." (WDZ 46/36)Aestheticization, solitude, reverie: poetic textsOne might call 'poetic' (without valuejudgement) any discourse in which the wordleads the idea: if you like words to thepoint of succumbing to them, you excludeyourself from the law of the signified, fromecrivance. This is an oneiric discourse tothe letter (our dreams seize the words whichpass under their nose and make them into astory).(RB 151/155)In the chapter "Is There Any Poetic Writing?" Barthesprepares the ground for ecriture by reworking a centraldistinction in Sartre's existential analysis of literature: thedifference between "prose" (that endless wave of language whichmoves into the world, gesturing toward what lies beyond itself)and "poetry" (introverted moments of language which decline torefer to anything external to its world-of-signs). This Sartreandistinction rests upon the linguistic categories of literaryclassicism. Classicism, Barthes argues, borrowing a formula fromone of Molidre's characters, understands prose and poetry thusly:"Poetry= Prose+a+b+c" and "Prose=Poetry-a-b-c" ("a," "b," "c,"representing the "useless but decorative" attributes of language104such as metre, rhyme, or images). (WDZ 41/33) This scheme doesnot, as Barthes puts it, "jeopardize the unity" of written andspoken languages:...there remains everywhere a singlelanguage, which reflects the eternalcategories of the mind. Classical poetryis felt to be merely an ornamental variationof prose, the fruit of an art (that is, atechnique), never a different language...(WDZ 42/33)In WDZ Barthes insists upon the estrangement of trulyliterary discourse, dividing up language into a crudelyaffirmative political or "axiological writing" (the precursor ofhis post-structural bate noire "endoxic discourse") and theliterary (i.e. "poetic") word. The modern poetic word, in WDZ andthroughout Barthes' writing, succeeds in forcing the Flaubertianwedge of difference between speech and writing further into thebody politic, converting literary discourse into a sovereignrealm, a "dwelling place" (demeure), a "closed Nature" in whichsolipsism might preserve innocence, the poet's clean hands.(WDZ47/37) The poetic word avoids existential issues of complicityand responsibility, and manages to neatly sidestep the spectreof inauthenticity by taking refuge in artifice (a tactic whichBarthes will endorse again throughout the retrospectiveassessment of his career in RB). The poetic word is neither truenor untrue. In fact, it becomes the site of a curious solipsisticauthenticity-by-default: the Word can never be untrue, Barthesargues in classical aesthetic style, because it is a solitarywhole unto itself which dwells in possibility rather than (asEmily Dickinson once wrote) prose. The poetic word evades the105traps of definition, affirmation and relation: "it shines,"Barthes rhapsodizes, "with an infinite freedom and prepares toradiate toward innumerable uncertain and possible connections"--connections which are always, as in Barthesian post-structuralism, deferred.(WDZ 47/37)Freedom and chronic potentiality renders the poetic word anideologically subversive genre-killer. The bourgeois myth ofliterature and its "old literary categories"--specificallygenre--embody, Barthes argues, the essentialist and humanisticviews of classicism. This deft slippage from an indictment ofclassicism to a denunciation of humanism sets up Barthes' realantagonist in WDZ: naive, mimetic varieties of representation,with all their aesthetic and ideological ramifications).(WDZ 85-86/62-63) These humanistic literary modes and forms, now emptiedof convincing ideological content, remain only as tottering husksput into a final crisis by the Mallarmean displacement ofattention from the level of form to the minimal unit of theindividual word. Genre and its social ramifications neutralized,"now writing," (ecriture) Barthes argues further, ignoring moreconservative accounts of generic transformation which rejectavant-garde theses of an apocalyptic death of genre, "absorbs thewhole identity of a literary work." (WDZ 85-86/62-63).In this dramatic reading of the alienation of late nineteenthand twentieth century writing Barthes first reveals his enduringdesire for a position not implicated in the utterances andmachinations of power. Although he is almost fifteen years awayfrom it, the fundamental assumptions underlying his post-106structural 6criture already appear in his affirmation of theseparateness and difference of literary writing from ordinarylanguage. This poignant quest for a position of non-engagement,of non-complicity--for an elusive zero degree of writing--willsustain his explorations of the reflexive sign for the rest of hislife.In the last chapter of WDZ, "The Utopia of Language," Barthesreturns to the impossibility of classicism. "Classicism,"throughout Barthes' polemic, is a huge and sometimes confusingstraw term which flouts the schemes of orthodox literary history,lumping together disparate literary periods and movements. Theterm, as I understand it, primarily refers to a linguisticideology common to all these discourses. Barthes deploys thisstylized classicism/modernity opposition to help focus hisaccount of modern writing and its move toward a surrogate world ofsigns. Sounding a great deal like Sartre, he maps out theassumptions of classicism's fading but persistent ideology(which, need it be said, lingers in various forms of Naturalisticwriting and even in Sartrean discourse).For what does the rational economy ofclassical language mean, if not that Natureis a plenum, that it can be possessed...Classical language is always reducible to apersuasive continuum, it postulates thepossibility of dialogue, it establishes auniverse in which men are not alone, wherewords never have the terrible weight of things,where speech is always a meeting with the others.(WDZ 49/38)Like the decadent writers before him, Barthes dislikes the"gregariousness" of classicism. Classical language, Barthes107observes, is "euphoric" because it is a coherent and "immediatelysocial" phenomenon, its reassuring language spinning a communalcocoon sheltering readers and writers from nothingness andabsurdity (the same bourgeois horror vacui Barthes identifies inclassical Dutch painting). Classical literature is, he writes,caught up in an efficient economy which encourages a regulated andcollective consumption of the literary text: "classical literaryart is an object which circulates among several persons broughttogether on a class basis." (WDZ 49/38-39) In this economy,Nature, human subjects, and writing interact in a seamless andtransparent harmony. After the disintegration of that economy,the series of tentative or failed or partial solutions offered byFlaubert and other modernists undermined--but did not entirelydestroy--classicism's most fundamental constructs: Literature,the writer, and History. In the final chapters of WDZ Barthessketches the contrary and troubled economy of modern writing,which struggles against those persistent humanisticconstructs.Modernity's endgameThe economy and ontology of modernity put forward in WDZ isantithetical to that of Barthes' bucolic classicism. Reactive,catastrophic, pyrrhic, it rewrites the human world according toan existential script emphasizing alienation, absence, anddiscontinuity. It is never quite clear in Barthes' earlierwriting whether literary modernity creates or merely describes108this broken world and its own impotence. In RB an older Bartheswill forward a complex explanation of contemporary writing'simpotence, its aphasia, its turn against representation.Literature, R.B. suggests in that text, has been overwhelmed bythe vicious and manic proliferation of events in recent worldhistory....literature...cannot account for objects,spectacles, events which would surprise itto the point of stupefying it: this is whatBrecht sees when he says:'The events ofAuschwitz, of the Warsaw ghetto, of Buchenwaldcertainly would not tolerate a description ofliterary character.' Literature was not preparedfor such events, and has not given itself themeans to account for them.(RB 119/122-123)R.B. continues his reflections on the series of unpleasantshocks which have overwhelmed some writers, generalizing thatshock to rationalize his own position of retreat. 2Perhaps this explains our impotence to producea realistic literature today.... Realism isalways timid, and there is too much surprisein a world which mass media and the generaliz-ation of politics has made so profuse that itis no longer possible to figure it projectively:the world, as a literary object, escapes;knowledge deserts literature, which can no longerbe either Mimesis or Mathesis but merely Semiosis,the adventure of what is impossible to language,in a word: Text...(RB 119/122-123)But as a younger man Barthes vacillates between twopositions. In WDZ his text moves ambiguously between passive andactive constructions, alternately suggesting and then denyingthat literature still retains a power to order, to make myths,albeit at the cost of the writer's innocence. At this point his109strongest assertion--one that persists in his post-structuraltheorizing--is that literary modernity has rhetoricallydestroyed the world, as it were, in its dismantling of Nature,language and literary structures....modern poetry destroyed relationshipsin language and reduced discourse to wordsas static things....The interrupted flowof the new poetic language initiates adiscontinuous Nature...At the very momentwhen the withdrawal of functions obscuresthe relations existing in the world [faitla nuit sur les liaisons du monde], theobject in discourse assumes an exalted place...(WDZ 49-50/39)Barthes figures Nature in the usual existential terms: ascontingent, "unfulfilled," "terrible," only precariouslyasserting itself intermittently in a void. (WDZ 50/39) No longerclassicism's happy plenum, it becomes "a fragmented space, madeof objects solitary and terrible, because the links between themare only potential" (virtuelles). (WDZ 50/39) In this unordereddark vacuum with almost zero gravity, the literary object--thepoetic word--assumes an "exalted place" as an "absolute object."The connections between persons, words, and things being broken,Nature becomes a random, tenderless hall of novelties andpotential fetishes--"a succession of verticalities, of objects,suddenly standing erect, and filled with all theirpossibilities." These poetic, dehumanized words "exclude men"and are "full of terror"; they relate human beings not to otherindividuals, as in classical discourse, but to "the most inhumanimages in Nature: heaven, hell, holiness, childhood, madness,pure matter." This is a language of "anti-communication" in which110a "violent drive towards autonomy detroys any ethical scope."(WDZ 20, 50-51/18-19,39) This drive toward autonomy in modernpoetry, he concludes, "destroys the spontaneously functionalnature of language, and leaves standing only its lexicalbasis....The Word shines forth above a line of relationshipsemptied of their content, grammar is bereft of its purposes ...andlasts only to present the word."(WDZ 46-47/37) Put under erasure,these relationships become "a parody of themselves." Thisfragmentation and emptying out of language is, Barthes asserts,needed: "this void is necessary for the density of the Word to riseout of a magic vacuum, like a sound and a sign devoid ofbackground," creating not "works," but a literature "seen from adistance" [qui se volt de loin). (WDZ 50,70/39,51)The horizons of modernityTorn in conflicting directions by social demands, thebelated impotence of what survives as literary discourse, and themateriality of language, the writer is now confronted with anunprecedented, and, as Barthes repeatedly insists, tragicsituation.Before his (the writer's) eyes, the worldof society now exists as a veritable Nature,and this Nature speaks, exuding livinglanguages from which the writer is excluded:...History puts in his hands a decorative andcompromising instrument, a writing inheritedfrom a previous and different history, forwhich he is not responsible and yet which isthe only one he can use. Thus is born a tragicelement in writing, since the conscious writermust henceforth fight against ancestral and all-111powerful signs which, from the depths of a pastforeign to him, impose Literature on him likesome ritual...(WDZ 86/63-4)Writing thus moves into a complicated historical situation:despite its alienated condition, it testifies to "somethingbeyond language, which is both History and the stand the writertakes in it." (WDZ 1/7) Here Barthes puts a complex spin on theSartrean notion of commitment. The first gesture of a modernwriter, Barthes observes, is a choice: to either accept or refusethe literature of his past. Rejecting it is, as already indicated,a forgone conclusion. Rhetorically excising the representationalpowers of literary art, he argues that for the writer, thissolitary figure situated in a strange liminal zone, equallyrepulsed by History and the conditions of his medium, writing isnow an "ambiguous reality" which draws him back, by a "tragicreversal", toward his "instruments of creation": that is, towardlanguage and Form.(WDZ 16/16) The historical post-classicalmultiplication of modes of writing forces a new set of ethicalissues upon the writer. There is the possibility of opting for thederivative and inauthentic modality of social realism. (WDZ 70-73/50-53) But for the writer who cannot hide in thatconventionality and act of bad faith, there can be no primaryallegiance to a moral principle, to a group of people, or anythingexternal to language.The proper site of the writer's commitmentis not in the world, as in the Sartrean argument, but in thewriter's choice of a mode of writing; that is, to the commitmentto literary form. Form categorically reveals the writer'sallegiances, and affiliations, Barthes argues:112...the writing to which I entrust myselfalready exists as an institution; it revealsmy past and my choice, it gives me a history,it blazons forth my situation, it commits mewithout my having to declare the fact. Form...functions as an economy signal whereby thescriptor constantly imposes his conversionwithout ever revealing how it came about.(WDZ 27/23)(A passing objection: Barthes' argument is highly suspect here.Curiously retaining the classical value of clarity at this pointin his polemic, Barthes shifts the entire burden of signifying,and of clarity, onto artistic form, saturating it with a total,rather than a more moderate degree of significance, as though formcould not be as damningly ambiguous as language itself. Form maysuggest the political alignment of a writer, but certainly failsto confirm it; as the fascist inclinations of several innovativemodernists would attest.)But to return to Barthes' reading of form in WDZ. Extendingthe Flaubertian view of artistic form, the Barthesian versionargues, somewhat opaquely, that form has three dimensions:language, writing (ecriture) and style. In the Flaubertianaesthetic form is, as Barthes notes, antagonistic towardshistory: it strains toward a beyond of history, dreaming of aBaudelairean alibi that would free the writer of aguilty complicity with History: and specifically, in France, withbourgeois society. 3 Acknowledging the impossibility of everbeing completely "innocent" of this alliance, Barthes manages totheorize form as being an only partially compromised--that is,socially implicated--gesture. Rejecting, as Sutan Sontag notesin her introduction to the English translation of the work, the113doxic dualism of language as a "social property" and style as an"individual decision" that runs Sartrean criticism andunequivocally interns every act of writing within the gulag ofHistory, Barthes proposes this uncertain conceptual triad whichpulls away from the fatalism of History. (WDZ xii) Of the threeterms, only language is seen as irredemably sociohistoric inorigin. The opening paragraph of the chapter "What is Writing?" issurcharged with similes and metaphors straining to apprehend thereality of language. Language is a "corpus of prescriptions andhabits common to all the writers of a period". The Englishtranslation is weak and confusing at this point, obscuring thebotanization of the semiotic realm first pointed out inBaudelaire: language, the translation runs, is a "kind of naturalambience wholly pervading the writer's expression." The originalreads: " la langue est comme une Nature qui passe a travers laparole de l'ecrivain." (WDZ 9/11) Language "enfolds the whole ofliterary creation much as the earth, the sky, and the line wherethey meet outline a familiar habitat for mankind." (WDZ 9/11) Asenvironment and horizon, language is simultaneously a negative(that is, constraining) phenomenon and an enabling one: it is "ala fois une limite et une station,H the reassuring expanse of anH6conomie" (an "ordered space" in the English version), a "fieldof action" which, paradoxically, being seen as something which isa societal given--"the undivided property of men"-- and thusbeyond personal choice, cannot be the site of a socialcommitment.(WDZ 9/11) Language is a "blind force": behind it "thewhole of History stands unified and complete in the manner of a114Natural Order." (WDZ 9,14-15 /11,14) As a naturalized plenum,language is "an abstract circle of truths, outside of which alonethe solid residue of an individual logos ("la densite d'un verbesolitaire") begins to settle." (WDZ 9/11)If History, as Barthes claims, is a blind collective force,then on the far side of that History and its ironicallycapitalized categories lies a counterforce: the wild and sheercarnality of individual style.(WDZ 14/14) Style, for Barthes atthis point, is not a Flaubertian process of infinite correction,or post-structural play, but is instead seen as a perverse (i.e.irrational and nonutilitarian) process whose origins lie beyondlanguage.(WDZ 10-11/12) It is rooted not in inherited models ofdiscourse, but outside of language, in the magma of the writer'sbody and his past. In a series of strong claims, WDZ asserts thatthe body's primary frames of reference are not historical orcollective, but biographical and biological. Style is specific tothe person: it is, in Baudelairean terms, always bizarre, and,like the Freudian psyche, split between conscious and unconsciousprocesses. It issues from desire and the body's privateremembering: it resists conscious control and analysis....imagery, delivery, vocabulary spring fromthe body and the past of the writer...Thusunder the name of style a self-sufficientlanguage is evolved which has its roots onlyin the depths of the author's personal andsecret mythology...where once and for all thegreat verbal themes of his existence come tobe installed...(WDZ 10/12)In this initial take on style--subtracting its residualhumanism and bracketing its insistance on the private origins of115writing--one can discern the outlines of Barthes' later versionof a drifting and detached post-structural has always something crude about it:it is a form with no clear destination, theproduct of a thrust, not an intention.... itis the writer's 'thing', his glory and hisprison, it is his solitude. Indifferent tosociety...a closed personal process, it is inno way the product of a choice or a reflectionon Literature. It is the private portion ofthe ritual...the decorative voice of a hidden,secret flesh...(WDZ 10-11/12)Style is, Barthes contends, an "infra-language" which developsduring the encounter between flesh and world ("qui sidlabore a lalimite de la chair et du monde").(WDZ 11-12/12) Its sourceslargely hidden from the social gaze, style is enigmatic, opaque,and secretive. Opposed to the "transparent" and "horizontal"social flow of speech, style has only a "vertical" (i.e.introverted) dimension which is surprisingly retrospective.Although, in WDZ, the writer is already drawn to the Mallarmeantextualization of reality, to the purity and refuge of theliterary sign, the things beyond language retain an existentialresistance to language: there is, as it were, an outside tolanguage. Style arises from a space beyond the reach of thismaterial "outside." The unique writerly body--its specific"density," its solitary recollections of "fragments of a realityentirely alien to language"--impinge upon collective discourseswhile remaining, Barthes claims, beyond art and the socialcontract. Style is, as Barthes' remarks on Flaubert suggest, amask that at once reveals and protects the is never anything but metaphor,that is, the equivalence of the author'sliterary intention and carnal is always a secret...its secret isrecollection locked within the body of thewriter....By reason of its biological origin,style resides outside art, that is, outsidethe pact which binds the writer to society....It is the Authority of style, that is, theentirely free relationship between languageand its fleshly double, which places thewriter above History as the freshness ofInnocence (sic: 'qui s'impose 1'ecrivaincomme une Fraicheur au-dessus de l'Histoirel.(WDZ 12-13/13)Language and style--History and and the remembering body--are two ostensibly autonomous "objects" or "blind forces" whichinteract in the elaboration of an ecriture, of a mode of writingwhich links the writer's singular utterance to the "vast Historyof the Others (d'autrui)." In this way, Barthes writes, the choiceof a form and of a mode of writing are acts of historicalsolidarity; to opt for a mode of writing is to compromise theabsolute freedom and novelty of personal style using inheritedforms, since "it is under the pressure of History and Traditionthat the possible modes of writing for a given writer areestablished." The primary ethical and political issue of writingafter 1850 is, therefore, what Barthes refers to as the "moralityof form." The writer's choice of an aesthetic or of a form amongthe plurality of post-classical modes of writing is, he argues,the clearest political gesture that he can make. (WDZ 10-15/11-15)This argument is clearly directed against the crudercontent-driven arguments about committed literature found inWhat is Literature? For all the reflection on ethics in WDZ, whichR.B. acknowledges as being produced during a period of "political117and moral obsession," there is no desire to assent to a Sartreanethos of definitive social commitment that would bring the writerand his work entirely into the realm of the social and thehistorical.(RB 145/148) Rather, one senses a constant effort todistance the writer from the juggernaut of the socio-historical.Barthes' ambivalence toward the pressures of history and theexistential imperative of commitment permeates WDZ. Writing is- seen by him as a fleeting moment of freedom-ran instant in whichthe writer is at liberty to choose how he will compromise betweenher individual "freedom" and a constraining "remembrance" of past_writing--even her own.(WDZ 16/16) This fear of claustrophobicrepetition and of a sinister concretion or sedimentation oflanguage over time, as Merleau-Ponty (and perhaps Beckett) wouldenvisage it, motivates Barthes' post-structural discourse ofdisplacement and indecision. Throughout WDZ, M and CE the readercomes across traces of the same complaints regarding endoxicdiscourse (referred to in WDZ as stereotypes) and the confiningpublic imago appearing twenty-two years later in RB.True, I can today select such and such amode of writing, and in so doing assertmy freedom, aspire to the freshness ofnovelty or to a tradition; but it isimpossible to develop it within durationwithout gradually becoming a prisoner ofsomeone else's words and even of my own. Astubborn after-image, which comes from allthe previous modes of writing and even fromthe past of my own, drowns the sound of mypresent words.(WDZ 17/16)Writing is, for Barthes at this moment in his intellectualcareer, and then again, in the latter part of the 1970s, a solitary118and "ambiguous reality" born from a complex confrontation betweenthe writer's private being and sociohistorical conditions. Thewriter remains on the periphery, oddly disengaged from the socialrealm, theoretically shielded from the full force of history byhis body as he struggles against the stale repetition of words andforms, searching for social innocence and a fresh writing. Andalready the Barthesian subject is seeking shelter from the socialcontract between writer and audience, distancing himself from thesense of an enduring if vague social obligation beyond theeconomic Flaubertian entente by insisting upon the opacity oflanguage, and theorizing the existence of lateral space, ofspaces apart, in the private body of the writer, and in the zone ofsilence Mallarmd discovered around words. This silence and thematte writerly body are counterforces to history; somehow,history does not mark or coerce this solitary hypotheticalwriting body in the ways that it has harassed other bodies. InBarthes' scenario, silence protects the writing body and itswords as it has not protected other bodies, by creating anemptiness history cannot, in theory, flow across.An assessment of the Barthesian myth of writingWhile often brillant, the arguments in WDZ as frequentlyhave the opacity of someone else's obsession. The tacticallysyncopated and claustrophobic reading of a brief moment--adetail--of French history turns in circles around a tightthematic node: the mythemes of History, Literature, the Writer,119and Society. Themes of silence, bourgeois society, guilt,innocence, and absence recur in an almost fugal series, seeking anelusive resolution in Barthes' discourse. Barthes' argumentsabout classicism and the predicament of literary modernity aremost often unsubstantiated: they appeal to a sympathetic readerwho can silently accept his tight and obsessive reading of thepast; they rely on the seductive beauty of symmetrical argumentsand dyadic oppositions (Barthes' predilection for the productivetensions of structural oppositions evidently predating hisinvolvement with Structuralism). The rhetorical strength andpersuasiveness of WDZ lies in its relentless movement toward atragic aporia which obscures other facts or absences which wouldundermine Barthes' monological interpretation of French culturalhistory.In her preface to the English translation of WDZ, SusanSontag catches the ersatz historicism of the text. This is, Sontagwrites, a strangely "generalized, thin notion of history...Barthes is not so much referring to a real state of affairs as heis using a metaphor, which allows him to describe literature as aprocess rather than as a static entity."(WDZ xix) This pseudo-historicity she reads as being in the service of Barthes' versionof the fall of Literature from the gilded age of classicism and itsideological congruence into the self-consciousness, alienation,and ambiguities of modernity.The terseness and lack of concrete detail she remarks uponin the text is a function of its almost geometric rhetoric. In WDZBarthes is a nascent theoretician using his rhetorical training120to its^fullest effect. Here, as in the writing of othertheoreticians (one could think, for instance, of Bakhtin'saccount of the development of the epic and of the novel),conventional literary history is subordinated to a strongtheoretical, or, in Nietzschean terms, mythic imagination. 4 Forinstance, the claim central to Barthes' argument about thedevelopment of modernity--that where writing is concernedclassicism lasts until Flaubert--is historically outrageous inits treatment of Romanticism.(WDZ 37/30) This historicallyuntenable assertion should not be dismissed out of hand, butrather interpreted as a theoretical move in which Barthes' native"structural reflex" and rhetorical skill combine to construct aNietzschean fabula out of the too-simple opposition of"classicism" to "modernity." What emerges from this intellectualreprocessing is a stylized polemic in which periods, genres, andcategories are to be understood as theoretical entities,asheuristic devices, as supporting hypotheses.WDZ is a stylized and partial account of the development ofFrench modernity (though that ethnic qualification sometimestends to be suppressed). In "Reflections on a Literary Manual"Barthes makes a series of suggestions on how to overcome the"classico-centrism" of French literary history. The first is todo literary history, as it were, backwards:...instead of envisioning the history ofliterature from a pseudo-genetic point ofview, we should make ourselves the centerof this history, and if we really want to'do' literary history, organize this historystarting from the great modern break...("RL," RL 28/55)121In WDZ Barthes is making himself the hidden centre of his history,reading backward to simultaneously create and justify his myth ofliterary modernism. 1850 is, as it were, the year of "the greatmodern break": the moment of irrevocable change, the beginning ofthe Baconian chute from innocence into ambiguity and process.Barthes' attitude toward modernity is complicated. There is, inthis work, a strange fluxing of moods. The characteristic disdainand utopian hopes of an avant-garde polemicist are undercut by aresigned awareness that the greatest talents of the bourgeois--assimilation and neutralization--spell the inevitability of co-optation. No writing, he admits, can ever be perpetuallyrevolutionary. Ambivalence, indirection and a certain conceptualfatigue further complicate his tone. The actual intent of thisprimer charting the disintegration of the classical mode ofwriting is at least two-fold: to underline the impossibility oftwentieth-century Realism (i.e. representation in the sense ofmimesis), and to defend the ethical choice of engaging writing asconscious artifice, as a form of "anti-communication"(contre-communication).(WDZ 20/18) In WDZ Barthes responds to Sartreindirectly, restaging the cultural scenario to support his claimthat the alienation of the writer and of language make theSartrean ethos of committed writing unworkable. Barthes actuallyinverts Sartrean values, insisting that the practice of writingas a form of anti-communication is ethically preferable to anaxiological discourse, that is, to a discourse of engagement.At the centre this counter-myth of modernity lies the tragic122situation of the writer. Alienated from any meaningful community(other than the spectre of the economic gang of vile bourgeois),faced with a compromising medium, she lives in an absurd world ofconvention and artifice. A world in which, as Eugene Goodheartpoints out, the only uninterrogated--and therefore "natural"element--is absence (and an attenuated version of Sartreanabsudity); and where the only refuges from nothingness andvulgarity are personal style, narcissistic paper languages, andthe fantasy of ecriture blanche. 5 Barthes' writer inhabits aconfined and tragic world: and the sense of tragedy which thistext exudes arises from Barthes' monological and unidirectionalreading of modernity. WDZ should not, therefore, be evaluated onthe basis of whether it is an accurate or misleading history ofmodernity. Following Barthes' lead, it is best understood as acritical fiction which simply helps him makes sense of the presentsituation. As Barthes might put it, WDZ constructs theintelligibility of his time. Reading backward with the angel ofhistory, one can find in this construction of the situation of theFrench writer of the 1950s many of the themes of Barthesian post-structuralism.Barthesian discourse rests upon two principal mythemes ofmodernity which continue to operate in his (and others')thinking: separation and absence. Barthes, and quite possiblyother post-structural theorists, may well have first encounteredthese concepts in Sartre. In WDZ absence is designated usingSartrean terms such as le nóant and le vide. As both Goodheart andBetty R. McGraw in "Pliblic Parks and Private Gardens : Sartre's123Nausea and Barthes Ennui" point out, in his texts Barthesrewrites the Sartrean take on the void, softening the existentialterror haloing the Sartrean construct . 6 In all of his writing, thevoids and absences (particularly of meaning) found in WDZ areclosest to the absurd and destructive vacuums found in Sartre. Yeteven here one can observe how absence and absurdity are recoveredby a nascent aesthetic which assigns them a positive value.Tempermentally disinclined toward painful forms of extremis, inBarthes nothingness and its sometimes slightly gentlervariation, absence, are contained by being pluralized anddisseminated, becoming desirable aesthetic values which supportone of his cardinal post-structural values: artifice. This"aesthetic nihilism," to borrow a phrase from Alan Megill, isobvious in Barthes' reading of the Mallarmean sign, where the signis surrounded by a zone of silence, a kind of protective negativespace which does not negate the graph, but only any potentialcontext, any threatening incursion of meaning. (PE 34)In ES, filtered through an idiosyncratic reading of Japaneseaesthetics, absences and miniature voids become criticalelements in the protagonist 's mental production and analysis ofaesthetic objects. Emptiness and absences of various kinds (ofthe author, of authorial intention, of meaning, of history)facilitate Barthes' structuralist and eventually post-structuralist analyses. Absence, in "The Death of the Author,"S/Z, PT and other early post-structural texts, becomes the verypre-condition of the scriptor's textual pleasure and his endlessdrift through language. During the last eight years of his life,124however, and specifically after the death of his mother, Barthes'apprehension of absence and separation shifts as traces ofpersonal emotions and responses, however ironically mediated,enter his writing. In RB, FLD and particularly in CL, a ludicinterpretation of absence gives way to a more complex and ironicreading of absence. Leaning upon Sartre and Lacan, these laterworks assert absence as being the precious condition of humanfreedom and, then, poignantly, explore absence as irrevocableloss.Some final comments to anticipate arguments made insubsequent chapters. In PE Allan Megill reflects upon the termaestheticism, writing:(a)s it is usually employed, the wordaestheticism denotes an enclosure withina self-contained realm of aesthetic objectsand sensations, and hence also denotes aseparation from the 'real world' of nonaestheticobjects.(PE 2)In Barthes' work reflexivity, as Goodheart notes, "has the effectof generating an enclosed subjective space (what Barthes callshis imaginaire de la solitude)." (SD 85) There are in WDZ, as inmost of Barthes' other texts, enclosed spaces, self-contained(or nearly so) realms of aesthetic objects and rhetorical/textualspaces set apart from ordinary reality through imaginativeepoches and re-writings. As I will show in subsequent chapters,this textualization of the given and of the real hypotheticallysuspends context, thus enabling the creation of these privilegedspaces, these floating worlds. In WDZ three of the most enduringsanctuaries in Barthes' theories--the text, body and the silent125space beyond or around signs--first appear. Although most criticswrite as though the thematics of the privileged body and the signin Barthes only develops in the late 1960s, in WDZ the writer'sbody and her graphs are already being thematized and treated asisolated lateral spaces which resist the pressures andencroachment of history. Most importantly, in WDZ Barthes isalready theorizing and seeking out the safe spaces of a non-communicating writing. The desire for these spaces manifests inBarthes' attraction to the perceived zone of silence surroundingthe Mallarmean sign, to the project--however unworkable--of awhite writing, and the reverie of a writing without Literature.These safe spaces, these protective gardens found at theheart of Barthes' texts, at once shelter him from (as Megill putsit) "the terrors of an interested reality," and allow him to flirtwith nothingness and absence while never having to face thepainful, wrenching aspect of these forces until the final years ofhis life. (PE 43) Consequently, Barthes and the uncertainscriptors and actants found in most of his post-structural textscan sidestep issues that agonise existential writers andprotagonists, or treat them almost comically. In his textsboredom never accelerates beyond the safe vertigo experienced inthe presence of stupidity and repetition into anything likeRoquentin's nausea. The complex phenomenon of boredom will,rather, be conjoined with pleasure in PT and RB. The void, ratherthan being an engulfing anti-entity, as in earlier existentialtexts, is rhetorically ruptured and almost domesticated. Theinvasive and terrifying Sartrean void, pluralized, will become an126aphrodisiac, a ludic tease. Re-thematized as gaps, fragments,interstices, negative spaces, or silences, le neant becomes avital element in the strategies of aestheticization which developin Barthesian post-structuralism. Emptiness anu absence becomeinterstitial, epiphanic, and in PT, even sexy: eros, as Bartheswill contend in that text, depends upon discontinuity; pleasurearises in the spaces between or beyond the sign.The second mytheme of modernity operating in WDZ, that ofseparation or rupture, is obviously linked to the first. Threescissures synergistically combine to enable Barthesianmodernity: a historical rupture between past and present; alinguistic rupture not only between past and present discourses,but also between word and world; and a series of social ruptureswhich provoke the separation of the writer from others. InBarthes' scenario, these last two ruptures are both diachronicand synchronic: they are ongoing schisms, literature andcommunity like two continents drifting apart. The most momentousof all breaks, Barthes acknowledges in WDZ, is the rupture of asocial--that is, a shared--language.(WDZ 40/32) In Barthes'history, the self-conscious writer's separation from thelanguages of his society feeds upon itself. Although the act ofwriting does, as Barthes recognizes, compromise the purity of thegraphic gesture per se, since writing cannot help yielding sometrace of the writer's sociohistorical situation, the overallalienation of literary writing deepens. As the distance betweenwriting and referents grows, its prosaic (i.e.representational)aspects, in Sartrean terms, atrophy; the writer must choose127between turning back toward the materials and conditions ofwriting, or falling into the senility of formulaic repetition andthe pose of inauthentic authenticity. Innovative writing,therefore, can only turn inward and become fundamentally "poetic"(that is, reflexive). Language empties itself out. All writersbecome solitary poetic specialists working in distant paperlanguages that, however compromised they may be, neither affirmor deny. Barthes summarizes his account of the situation of modernwriting in the last chapter of WDZ, seeing it as a kind of weed (inDerridean terms), as a supplementary parasite ironicallydoubling or feeding off the remains of the classical "literaryact", pulling it toward the Mallarmean zone:Wodern writing is a truly independent organismwhich grows up around the literary act, decor-ating it with a value foreign to its intention,engaging it contirually in a double mode ofexistence, and superimposes on the content ofwords opaque signs that carry within themselvesa that thought is always involvedwith the supplementary, often diverging and alwaysencumbering supplement of form.(WDZ 84/62)The supplementariness of the writer and of writing itselfare core assumptions propelling the Barthesian myth of modernity.In his construct, the writer is not only separated from History(past and contemporary) and its representation by the "discovery"of the mediated and reflexive nature of language; he is alsoisolated from any vital sense of community. As a solitary beingenclosed within the horizon of language, literary gestures ofsolidarity or acts of self-defense on behalf of oneself or a groupof people become tortuous and improbable. This writer cannot, as a128writer, overcome his isolation. In Said's terms, he might have, atbest, a constituency: but his primary audience in such asituation is either himself or a bourgeois clientêle. 7 Notsurprisingly, alienation and ambiguity are key terms in thebelated no-exit culture through which Barthes' writer moves (atragic modernity seemingly patched together from the ontologiesof Sartre, Beckett and Kafka) . The estrangement of the writer, thelack of any vital communal sense or ethos to counter the bourgeoisethos, sets up the hostile and utterly negative analysis of powerwhich endures throughout Barthes' career. The comments found inWDZ--that "Order" always indicates repression (WDZ 26/22) andmurders poetic intention (WDZ 38-39/31); that writing,faced withthe choice of complicity or impotence, is literary only to theextent that it is powerless (WDZ 28/24)--are echoed twenty-oddyears later in L. This revulsion against the "realities" of power,coupled with the need to flee power and create a position and awriting of non-complicity, of "innocence," underlies his post-structuralist theories of language and style: "the word(including, as Barthes will demonstrate in RB and FLD, the firstand third-person singular) becomes an alibi, that is, anelsewhere and a justification." (WDZ 20/19)The utopian strain in Barthes' thinking, his need towithdraw and create spaces apart from the stream of the endoxicsocial, marks WDZ, returning strongly later in his post-structuralist theories of subjectivity, the text, the readingbody, drift and jouissance. But this utopian bent is, as I haveindicated, tempered by an awareness of the limits of his own129beautiful theories. Characteristically, Barthes will offer agrand gesture, a seductive hypothesis (e.g. of writing beyond the"literary myth," or of "Literature becoming the Utopia ofLanguage," then lay out the reasons those ideas or states cannotbe realized. (WDZ 88/65) In effect, he generates fecund tensions,paradoxes, contradictions and aporias, putting his own rhetoricunder erasure, but not his categories out of play (one of the mostperplexing contradictions in the text, as I read it, is Barthes'vacillating presentation of the literary word as both "dense" andempty). 8 The effect, depending on one's mood, can be eitherstimulating, poignant, or irritating. And, again, thesestrategies of contradiction and erasure persist in his post-structuralist thinking.The most critical ambivalence in WDZ is Barthes' vacillatingattitude toward Literature. In theory, he clearly sides with theavant-garde and its murderous inclinations regarding Literature.Yet he is reluctant to fully relinquish that cultural discursivespace. After acknowledging the impossibility of "liquidating"Literature (Literature being one of the cultural Undead) he optsfor the desacralization of writing, seeing modern 6criture as anon-communicating literary language that is "hardened" and"closed" against ordinary speech (the latter designated as "laparole" ) ( WDZ 19/18) Opaque, languidly synchronic, this modernwriting is only, in Barthes' words, "a duration of empty signs"whose movement is the only significant element." (WDZ 19/18) Inthe Barthesian conception of 6criture the Flaubertian concept ofform as a stable autonomous object has already fragmented, and130is, via Mallarmê, edging toward the amorphous and intermittentflow of the post-structuralist text. And there are indicationsthat the unity of the poetic sign itself is already failing.Barthes repeatedly points to the fascination with ambiguity andthe "beyond" (au-delà) of language in which writing is, in histhesis, rooted. This beyond is, in part, as I have signalled, thewriter's own body. It is a conceptual point where the poeticuniverse curves back toward itself, where the two poles of theaesthetic phenomenon--in Kristevian terms, the rarefied symbolicand sensual, pre-logical semiotic (pre-Symbolic) realms--meet aslanguage destroys itself. Barthes is, I think, pointing towardthese very realms when he refers to the unity of the sign inliterary writing as being attracted to the "alibi" of "the zonesof infra- or ultra-language" first charted by Rimbaud and then thesurrealists. (WDZ 20/19)Throughout WDZ Barthes intimates that this nascentfascination with the literary sign--let alone the subsequent movetoward infra- and ultra- linguistic zones--will fatallyundermine the "old values" of the literary institution:authority, meaning (hence interpretation), and authorialidentity. Writing will, as Barthes' history projects,necessarily drift toward the realms of the reflexive sign and ofthe semiotic; private gardens to which Barthes himself will,after passing through a minor "scientific delirium; turn hisattention.(RB 145/148) Despite his tentative and ambivalentconsiderations regarding the ethics of writing, and his claimsthat the writer is bound to society through the sociohistoric131aspects of form, in WDZ Barthes' rhetorical energy is moving inthe opposite direction, towards a defense of the solitudes ofwriting. He is already suggesting the fictional-- that is,textual--status of Nature and of History. In this mythopoeic textthe locus of the real is contracting, shifting away from Historyand the world toward the de-contextualized sign and the secretrealm of the writer's body: two of the most privileged sites ofBarthesian post-structuralism.The later Barthesian notion of ecriture is predicated uponthe existence of privileged sites, places beyond or apart fromthe social. These sites--the body and unpredictable semioticprocesses which are not, at least rhetorically, entirelycontained within collective semiotic sytems--are precisely therefuges of earlier aesthetes. In the following chapters I willexplore how Barthes develops these safe utopic or atopic zones ofcreativity and distance--the body of the scriptor, the text as itis being read or heard or re/written in solitude,the non-productive appreciations of the amateur, the "dislocated copy" ofJapan in ES, the safe places behind the language-masks andsimulacra of RB and FLD, the"hanging garden" of the seminar, theWinter Garden photograph in CL, and, of course, the absoluteseclusion of jouissance.This reading of WDZ as a mythological intervention in whichBarthes establishes the tenets of his modernity begins, I hope, todemonstrate how the aestheticizing quest for separationcirculates in the Barthesian myth of literary modernity. Arecognition of this quest is fundamental to any reading of Barthes132which attempts to grasp the reasons behind the ethical andpolitical positions advanced in his post-structuralist texts.WDZ identifies most of the things Barthes will spend his lifeanalysing, indicting and, whenever possible, evading: theendoxic fatigue and bad faith of ordinary language (la parole),the rejection of referentiality and the category of the Natural,the uselessness both of tradition and writing, the bête noire ofthe bourgeoisie, the alienation, marginality and belatedness ofthe writer, the co-optation and commercialization of art, what hewill later refer to as "the war of languages," the dangers ofpower, institutional violence, writing as a contre-communication; and, more positively, the sanctuaries of absenceand absurdity, the perception of the text as space rather thanobject, and the grails of pleasure and the reflexive sign.Barthes' enduring sense of absence and of the absurd--primary mythemes supporting his post-structuralist notions ofsubjectivity and textuality--testify, in my view, to Sartre'simpact upon Barthes. His post-structural theories, I have come tobelieve with Dittman, McGraw, Roger, and a few other critics, arefar more indebted to Existentialism than is generallyacknowledged. 9 Behind Barthes' critique of conventionality,whether in WDZ, S/Z or PT, one hears the existential murmur of asenseless fluxing world. Absurdity, whether it is consciouslyattended to or suddenly invades our mental compounds, is adisorienting event. The vertigo it normally precipitates forcesthe recognition of the fluidity and indeterminacy of thesubjects, objects, meanings and worlds (in the phenomenological133sense) that once caused experience to cohere into something onceknown as reality. But in the grip of that vertigo, with the deathof context and the loss of the power to interpret, things are nolonger solid: they become uncertain, intermittent, and, asBarthes writes in PT, they glitter momentarily and intensely,then die.Endoxic solidity is more of a threat to Barthes than isemptiness. The modern writer and his text must, as Barthesasserts in an early essay on Robbe-Grillet, operate in a "verynarrow zone, in that rare vertigo where literature unavailinglytries to destroy itself, and apprehends itself in that one and thesame movement, destroying and destroyed." ("LL,"CE 57/69)Literature must exist in a "state of permanent presuicide": it canonly exist as "the figure of its own problem, self-pursuing, self-scourging." ("LL," CE 58/69-70) Subtracting the tone ofexistential anguish, this threshold between being and non-beingis the very space of Barthes' post-structuralist writing; theplace to which he will return after experimenting with other,more "prosaic" forms of criticism, the vertiginous yetclaustrophobic site that will be imaginatively opened up byBarthes' play with signs. As R.B. puts it:[w)riting is that play by which I turnaround as well as I can in a narrow place:I am wedged in, I struggle between thehysteria necessary to write and the image-repertoire, which oversees, controls, purifies,codifies, corrects, imposes the focus (and thevision) of a social communication.(RB 140/137)134CHAPTER THREE. WHERE IS THE VOICE COMING FROM?:EARLY POST-STRUCTURAL VERSIONS OF WRITING,TEXTUALITY AND THE SUBJECTIn its primary aspect, a great picture has nomore definite message for us than an accidentalplay of sunlight and shadow for a moment, onthe wall or floor; is itself, in truth, aspace of such fallen light, caught as thecolours are caught in an Eastern carpet, butrefined upon, and dealt with more subtly andexquisitely than by nature herself.Walter Paterl...extravagant polysemy is the first(initiatory) episode of an ascesis: theone which leads outside the dictionary,outside meaning. ("R," RF 225/205)Jump cutAfter passing through a rich period of eclecticanalyses ranging from applied phenomenology (MI) to socialcriticism (M), by 1960 Barthes was moving into the newmythopoeic territories of structural analysis; and, withhim, French writers were distancing themselves fromexistential views of literature. In "Kafka's Answer," a kindof post-script to WDZ, he surveys the contemporary Frenchliterary scene, writing:(t)he end of the Sartrean novel, theimperturbable indigence of socialist135fiction, the defects of political theater--all that, like a receding wave, leavesexposed a singular and singularly resistantobject: literature.("KA," CE 133/138)He perceives another literary moment cresting, an "opposingwave" that washes over literature, the wave of "an asserteddetachment" ("un degagement declare). ("KA," CE 133/138)This wave carries with it another set of aestheticvalues:...(a) revival of the love story, hostilityto 'ideas,' cult of fine writing, refusal tobe concerned with the world's significations:a whole new art is being proposed, consistingof a convenient swivel ( d 'un tourniquet commode)between romanticism and off-handedness (ladesinvolture), the (minimal) risks of poetryand the (effective) protection of intelligence.("KA," CE 133/138)Structuralism, as part of the rising anti-Sartrean wave,proved to be a viable form of intellectual protection forBarthes, one which stimulated his bent for creative theorizingand paraliterary texts. In the mid 1970s, looking back on hisown work, Barthes implicitly rejected the construct of the "twoBarthes" sometimes forwarded by his interpreters, in which theearly critical thinker suddenly cedes to the delicious essayeurof hedonism. He never, he said repeatedly in interviews andarticles, actually believed (at least for very long) in thepossibility of a science of literature of the kind pursued bysome of his structural colleagues. 2 His real fascination laywith the creative discursive possibilities offered by thestructural use of binary oppositions, deep and surfacestructures, and the simulacrum.3136In retrospect, Barthes appears as the most fanciful anddesinvolte of the French structuralists. By 1963, with "TheStructuralist Activity," he is already split between thepractice of a "reflexive" (i.e. purely scholarly)Structuralism as opposed to a creative "poetic" Structuralism.(" -A," CE 214/214) In this essay the two practices are notclearly separate, although Barthes is already tending toward apoetic Structuralism. He opts to foreground Structuralism'sinventi% critical operations on the text, and implicitlyaccords them the status of a further or parallel creation. Hemakes these assertions about structural analysis.Structuralism is not an intellectual movement so much as agenerative cultural activity: "we might speak of structuralistactivity as we once spoke of surrealist activity." ("SA," CE214/214) The goal of all structural activity is to reconstructan object so as to manifest the rules which govern itsfunctioning.("SA," CE 214-215/214/215) Those rules comprisethe "structure" of that object, whether it is a poem, a socialritual, or a prosaic economic exchange. That recovered deepstructure is therefore, in structural jargon, a simulacrum ofthat object. Barthes' structural simulacrum is not adisinterested scientific anatomy of an object, but a "direct,interested simulacrum," one that makes something that waspreviously invisible--the structure of that object--appear tothe intellect. "Structural man," Barthes writes, "takes thereal, decomposes it, then recomposes it." ("SA," CE 215/215)This analysis, which is only a series of abstracted movements137in a symbolic realm, might seem to be inconsequential, but itliterally produces something else: something Barthes initallywavers between referring to as a new object or merely regardingas an "addition" to the first. Then, deciding that thesimulacrum is neither an after-image nor an appendage to theobserved object, that it is indeed a distinct object, he movesinto a line of argument already advanced by nineteenth-centurywriters who argued for the creative nature of critical work.Structuralism, Barthes contends, is an activity of homologicimitation: there is no technical difference between structuralcriticism and the making of art. When Levi-Strauss, forinstance, mentally decomposes a myth in order to discover andrecompose the homologic functioning of the totemicimagination, his acts are indistinguishable from those ofMondrian or Butor: all three are engaging in the act ofcomposition. ("SA," CE 215/215) Barthes goes on to accord thesame value to the structural theorist's work as to traditionalart-making, throwing open the boundaries of critical activity,making everything a potential text for the critic's formalizingart:It is of little consequence whether the initialobject submitted to the simulacrum activity isgiven by the world in an already assembledfashion...or is still dispersed (in the caseof the structural 'composition'); whether thisinitial object is drawn from a social reality[le reel social] or an imaginary reality (lereel imaglnaire) . It is not the copied objectwhich defines an is the fact thatman adds to it in reconstructing it: techniqueis the very being of all creation.("SA," CE 215-216/215-216)138Barthes presses his case for structural readings being anaesthetic activity, presenting structural analysis and thesimulacrum as a kind of intellectual collage which cannibalizesand reassembles the raw and sometimes far flung materials of theobject ( s ) .Significantly, he argues against both representationand originality, contending that it is not the copying of anobject that defines art, but the addition of a new element--intellect--which creates new art by producing an abstractedreconfiguration of the object. The English translationinadvertantly obscures the creative intent of that move,rendering the precise "decoupage" and "agencement" by thevaguer, almost clinical English approximations of "dissection"and "articulation." "The structuralist activity," Bartheswrites, "involves two typical operations: dissection[decoupage] and articulation (agencement]. " He glosses thefirst operation:To dissect the first object, the one which isgiven to the simulacrum activity, is to findin it certain mobile fragments whose differentialsituation engenders a certain meaning; thefragment has no meaning in itself, but it isnonetheless such that the slightest variationwrought in its configuration produces a changein the whole...("SA," CE 216/216)Whether one of Mondrian's squares, or Levi-Strauss'mythemes, these elements or "fragments" are then, on the basisof a perceived similiarity, classed into paradigms. Theseparadigms constitute a "reservoir...of objects (of units)"from which the structuralist critic, by an act of citation, cansummon forth elements at will. Once these "elements" are139isolated and paradigmatic classes are posited, "structural manmust discover in them or establish for them certain rules ofassociation." ("SA," CE 217/217) This is the second operation:the active recombination of those elements. The structuralistbuilds up his version of the internal structure of the objectfrom its abstracted elements, in effect producing a distinct ifvirtual object: the structural simulacrum. This simulacrum"manifests a new category of the object, which is neither thereal or the rational, but the functional." ("SA," CE 218/218)The structuralist does not deal in meanings, but in schematicprocesses and virtual intellectual forms:(u)ltimately, one might say that the objectof structuralism is not man endowed withmeanings but man fabricating meanings...the act by which...meanings...are produced.Homo significans: such would be the newman of structural inquiry.("SA," CE 218/218)The structural simulacrum is not only a theoreticalsupplement, but often, in Barthes' essays, an open, ludicactivity. It describes, in aestheticizing terms, thesynchronic and diachronic patterns of meaning generated byhuman attempts to render the world intelligible. Thestructuralist, however, does not engage or evaluate thesepatterns. He, according to Barthes, stands apart from thathuman struggle, merely analysing or fabricating patterns thatare always empty. "[L)ike the ancient soothsayer" thestructuralist "speaks the locus of meaning but does not nameit." ("SA," CE 219/219)In the description of the simulacrum found in "The140Structuralist Activity" and other essays from hisstructuralist period one can observe Barthes' drift towards afragmentary and unconcluded textuality. To create thestructuralist simulacrum, the classical assumption of theintegrity and originality of the first object (or objects) mustbe conceptually breached. Structural aesthetics, orientedtoward the notion of culture as a complex of interdependent signsystems, asserts that the integrity of the object and theauthorial imprint are illusory. Neither object nor voice areinhering plenums, but intricate and open discursive structuresmade up of independent fragments ("elements") circulatingwithin the cultural system. These structures, harmoniouslymirroring that vast system, become micro-systems; the objectbecomes construed as a text caught up in the flow of largercultural texts. The relative originality of a text now lies notin the force of authorial expression or artistry, but in itsspecific combinations and permutations of prior elements andcodes--that is, in its systemic diff6rance. The object'sapparent origin is, in structural and post-structural theory,pulverized into conceptual collage. It becomes a decentredsystem of citations, authored not by an individual, orindividuals, but rather by a transpersonal system of signs.Thenotion of the simulacrum as a collage of recycling fragments,with its emphasis on surfaces, detachable elements, andabstract recomposition, functions as a transitionalconstruction of the text, sliding toward the hypothesis of theintertext upon which Barthesian post-structuralism is141founded.The authorial intertextOften coupled with Foucault's "What is an Author?," "TheDeath of the Author" lays out Barthes' initial post-structuralstand on the Author, reading, and the text. The essay circlesaround a sentence taken from Balzac's "Sarrasine," which reads:"She was Woman, with her sudden fears, her inexplicable whims,her instinctive fears, her meaningless bravado, her defiance,and her delicious delicacy of feeling." ("DA," RL 49/61) Anindividual known as Balzac may have written down these words,but who or what is truly speaking through that sentence? Is it,Barthes reflects, a single man, "universal wisdom," orRomantic psychology? The conventional response is, of course,to shake off this sophist's doubt and affirm the sovereignty ofthe author. But Barthes, like Foucault and others, asserts thatevery utterance is full of other utterances. They view theAuthor--broadly, the idea of a privileged and unified singlevoice--as a recent (i.e. post-medieval) ideologicalinstitution produced by a convergence of philosophies which, bysupporting the idea of the "prestige of the individual," helpedto nurture the rise of capitialism.("DA," RL 49-50/61-62) Inreturn, capitalism reinforces the idea of the centrality of theindividual within cultural systems, so that the author has cometo dominate the process of writing. As Barthes complains:the image of literature to be found incontemporary culture is tyranically centredon the author, his person, his history, histastes, his passions...[the] explanation ofthe work is still sought in the person of142its producer.("DA," RL 50/62)But before capitalist cosmology, the author was--inFoucault's celebrated phrase--an anonymous authorialfunction. 4 In pre-industrial and pre-capital societies,Barthes writes, writing was not a personal affect-ladenutterance, but a communal and impersonal utterance that wasperformed by a mediating shaman or reciter whose interpretationof the already-known text was the focus of an audience'sadmiration and attention. Falling back upon the genealogy ofresistance outlined in WDZ, Barthes suggests that the currentof contemporary literary resistance to the empire of the Authoris, in fact, not at all novel, but a stance akin to the oldermodel of authorial anonymity. For. Barthes this wave of modernresistance begins with Mallarme, who constantly cast thecategory of the Author into doubt, stressing the "verbalcondition of literature" and the purely linguistic andcontingent nature of his writing activity. These become tenetsof the Barthesian Imaginary:...for Mallarmd, as for us, it is languagewhich speaks, not the author: to write isto reach, through a preliminary impersonality...that point where not 'I' but only languagefunctions, 'performs': Mallarmd's wholewriting consists in suppressing the author infavour of writing (and thereby restoring, aswe shall see, the reader's place).("DA," RL 50/62)In a curious but telling interruption of the logicalsequence of his argument, Barthes presents the second figure inhis potted history of resistance: Proust, who has "given modern143writing its epic" in the massive novel cycle A la recherche dutemps perdu. By a "radical reversal," Barthes claims, Proustdid not put his life into his novel. Instead, in aestheticfashion, the author and history implode into a pre-existingimaginative text....he (Proust] made his life itself a work of whichhis own book was the that it is quiteclear to us that it is not Charlus who imitatesMontesquiou, but Montesquiou, in his anecdotal,historical reality, who is only a secondary,derived fragment of Charlus.("DA," RL 51/63)After Proust, Surrealist experiments with irrationalprocessual forms of discourse such as automatic writing, aswell as innovative collaborative forms of writing such as thecadadvre exquis, flouted traditional literary codes,disappointing the bourgeois expectation of univocality andmeaning, thus helping to "desacralize the image of the Author."("DA," RL 51/63) Lastly, Barthes writes, outside of literatureitself (though such a distinction was, he noted, becomingdated) linguistics delivers the coup de grace to the categoryof the Author by demonstrating the double vacuity of theutterance and of the personal[s] that the speech-act in its entirety is an 'empty' process,which functions perfectly without its beingnecessary to 'fill' it with the person ofthe interlocutors: linguistically, the authoris nothing but the one who writes, just as Iis nothing but the one who says I: languageknows a 'subject,' not a 'person,'...thissubject, empty outside of the very speech-actwhich defines it...("DA," RL 51/63-64)144The rest of the essay explores the consequences of thisanalytic "destruction" of the Author. Although the title of theessay dramatically proclaims the demise of the authorialsubject, in the last half of the text Barthes undercuts his owninitial claim, advancing instead the Brechtian notion of adistancing of that figure. 5The removal of the Author (with Brecht, wemight speak here of a veritable distancing,the Author diminishing like a figure at thefar end of the literary stage)...transformsthe modern text.("DA," RL 51-52/64)To assign an Author to a text, Barthes asserts, is to limit theplay of that work, "to impose a brake upon it, to furnish itwith a final signified, to close writing." ("DA," RL 53/65) Thisclosure of the work allows certain forms of criticism to busilydiscover within and beyond its texts of pleasure the Author andits corollary notions--"society, history, the psyche,freedom." ("DA," RL 53/65-66) But once the Author is distancedfrom the text, no longer a stabilizing source of meaning, therabbinical Critic is likewise dispossessed. "[T]he claim to'decipher' a text" Barthes concludes, logically enough,"becomes entirely futile." ("DA," RL 53/65) The source ofwriting becomes not an individual's engagement with the world,but language itself: and meaning is dismissed as a bourgeoisdesire, of less interest than the desire to play.Having withdrawn his assent from an authorially-centredmodel of culture, it rhetorically collapses in Barthes' text,bringing down with it the inherited parameters and telos of145bourgeois culture. Writing is no longer the site of individualaffirmation and expression, but the very locus of its loss. Inthis modernity, the older sense of cultural time and its steadyflow shifts. Barthes begins to gloss the ontological implosionsand inversions implicit in his reading of Proust. Time, withinBarthes' construction of modernity, although freighted withcodes and intertexts, bends back upon itself into a perpetualsynchonicity created through a suppression or forgetting ofwhat has gone before. "The Author," Barthes writes, "when webelieve in him, is always conceived of as the past of his ownbook...he lives before it, thinks, suffers, lives for it..."("DA," RL 52/64) No longer countersigning the idea of anAuthor, Barthesian modernity posits instead the post-structural scriptor who is perpetually "born at the same time ashis text." This scriptor "is not furnished with a being whichprecedes or exceeds his writing, he is not the subject of whichhis book would be the predicate." ("DA," RL 53/66) In thismodernity, the reader, as a supplementary scriptor, literallycreates both the "author" and the "text" every moment that shereads--that is, performs--it. Barthes holds: "there is no timeother than that of the speech-act, and every text is writteneternally here and now." ("DA," RL 53/65)Writing, in Barthes' ideology of perpetual performance,is an activity antithetical to personal expression andaffirmation. The scriptor, unlike the Author, "no longercontains passions, moods, sentiments, impressions" but is an"immense dictionary." ("DA, "RL 53/65) To write, or to read, is146to suicide oneself into an impersonal, drifting, intransitiverealm of signs. Once an individual begins to work with languagein such a reflexive manner, no longer demanding that it extenditself to referents or that it "act directly upon reality," a"gap" appears between word and world, between human beings andlanguage; "the voice loses its origin, the author enters intohis own death, writing begins." ("DA," RL 49/61) "Writing,"Barthes the destruction of every voice, everyorigin. Writing is that neuter, that composite,obliquity into which our subject flees, theblack-and-white where all identity is lost,beginning with the very identity of the bodythat writes.("DA," RL 53/65)The scriptor is a disembodied actant, a hand "detached from anyvoice, borne by a pure gesture of inscription." ("DA," RL 52/64)This gesture is itself derivative: it "traces a field withoutorigin--or at least with no origin but language itself, i.e. thevery thing which ceaselessly calls any origin into question."("DA," RL 52/64-65) Like Bouvard and Pdcuchet, Flaubert's"sublime and comical" copyists whose "profound absurdityprecisely designates the truth of writing," the writer isfatally belated, unable to impress an originality upon priordiscourse (as in the more optimistic Bakhtinian model), doomedto the imitation of anterior gestures, none of which are,ironically, themselves original or--and this word is, inBarthes' view, synonymous--integral. ("DA," RL 52-53/64-65)The Barthesian Text, from this time forward, is theantithesis of the classical hermeneutic work. 6 It is not framed147as an utterance releasing a "single 'theological' meaning" asencoded by an author, but is imagined as a massivelyoverdetermined and decentred post-Jehovah field of Babel. Thetext is now a "fabric of quotations" drawn from an unthinkablenumber of cultural sources, a public and multi-dimensionalspace in which several discourses and codes jostle, marry orchallenge one another without resolution. Writing becomes thepolyglot art of arranging ruins in perpetual motion. Bricolage,or unrestrained dispositio, is one of the few creative avenuesremaining to the writer. According to Barthes, the writer cannow only "mingle" (reeler) writings," and provisionally contestsome discourses by means of other prior utterances.Having distanced the centripetal originary myth of theAuthor, the hyphos of culture becomes perceptible; and becomes,in fact, the primary force and focus of the macro-Text of post-structural culture. In this multiple writing that is both theindividual text and its context, meaning (semiotic closure) isfrustrated. Traces and signs can be "disentangled" from oneanother, but nothing ever definitively "deciphered." ("DA," RL53/66) The structures of a text can be followed in "all (their)reprises, all (their) stages, but there is no end to it, nobottom." ("DA," RL 54/66) Writing is now not only perceived as acounter-communication, but also as a negative theologyelevating process and evasion:...writing constantly posits meaning, butalways in order to evaporate it: writingseeks a systemic exemption of meaning.Thereby, literature (it would be better,from now on, to say writing), by refusing148to assign to the text (and to the world-as-text) a 'secret,' i.e. an ultimate meaning,liberates an activity we may call counter-theological, properly revolutionary, forto refuse to halt meaning is finally torefuse God and his hypostases, reason,science, the law.("DA," RL 50/63)The centrifugal push of the text, its "multiplicity" andoverwhelming intertextuality, is momentarily halted andgathered together: not in the figure of the Author, but in theact of reading, in the cultural function that is the reader.Barthes' isolated competent reader is, at this point, very likeRiffaterre's virtual super-reader.?[T]he reader is the very space in whichare inscribed, without any of them beinglost, all the citations out of which awriting is made; the unity of a text isnot in its origin but in its destination,but this destination can no longer bepersonal...("DA," RL 53/63)In Barthes, as in other theorists associated with reader-response theories, a suppressed category of classical culture--the reader--erupts into cultural consciousness. Through apolemical inversion, the scriptor/reader is now seen by Barthesas the only viable future of writing. Rather than opting for amore modest and gentle proposal--the birth of the text--Barthesends "The Death of the Author" on a note of almost classicalbloodlust: "we know that in order to restore writing to itsfuture, we must reverse the myth: the birth of the reader must berequited by the death of the Author." ("DA," RL 55/67) Thatmythic inversion, which births the scriptor, the reader, thetext, and the intertext, delivers Barthesian post-149structuralism.S/Z & ES: reading and the intertextTo interpret a text is not to give it a...meaning, but on the contrary toappreciate what plural constitutes it.Let us first posit the image of a triumphantplural, unimpoverished by any constraintof representation (of imitation).(S/Z 5/11-12)In 1970 Barthes published two works.One, S/Z, was almostimmediately celebrated as a major theoretical statementbreaking with Structuralism; the other, ES, issued in Geneva bya smaller publishing house specializing in art books, wasrather overshadowed (it was first translated into English in1982). Both books forecast the course of Barthesian aesthetics,providing two complementary versions of post-structuralaestheticization, two perspectival textual economies, two waysof reading. S/Z, in its exuberant and irreverent reading ofBalzac's "Sarrasine," is the first major document from Barthes'phase of "extravagant" semiosis, which climaxes in thetheoretical hedonism of PT, then moves into the quieter andcomplex intertextualities of FLD and RB. The private reverie,the cooler attention to gestures, emptied signs, and re-imagined materiality found in ES foreshadows the lateressays on visual art and music, as well as the strategicabsences of Barthes' late books.Although Barthes is, as I will argue, disturbing Balzac'sdelicate mimetic lace to effect aestheticizing operations upon"Sarrasine" in S/Z, it is in ES that Barthes first appears as aWestern aesthete of a kind recognizable from the prose of150Gautier, Baudelaire, and Huysmans. The strategy common to bothtexts is what critics like Megill and Fredric Jameson,following Barthes, identify as the textualization of reality. 8If S/Z is the theoretical baseline of Barthesian post-structural theorizing, a compendium of heuristic concepts andpractices of reading texts and the phenomenal world so as torender them as synchronic, semelfactive systems, as "play-texts," ES is an imaginative--and surprisingly different--application of Barthes' practice of the reading the "world-as-text." 9Hyper-textualizing the world is, as Allan Megillsuggests, the fundamental move of aestheticizing discourse inthe twentieth century: and it is certainly the critical move inBarthes' post-structural writing. But there are otherimportant supporting and correlative moves in Barthes'theorizing during this period, many of which are clearlyderived from earlier aestheticizing discourses. The mostcrucial are those to which I have alluded in the precedingchapter: the privileging of writing as reflexive, sociallyindifferent process, the utopian hypothesis of the world as arealm of malleable signs, the voiding of the human subject andof the sign (what I refer to as the process of de-authorization), and the emancipation of the repressed reader.Having thus suspended the old imperatives of semantic andcontextual stability, Barthesian post-structuralism lends thereader carte blanche. It allows him to overwhelm, interrupt,play with and/or dismember the text at his leisure,151disregarding the restrictions of any interpretativemethodology or community, as well as the pressures of history orintentionality. These postulates reinforce the uncrowning ofthe author and create the preconditions for the critical thesisof intertextuality, the concept blurring reader, writer andtext, a concept Barthes is attracted to and yet finally, when heis on the verge of becoming a cultural intertext himself,resists.By the end of 1970 intertextuality had emerged as a majorconceptual fiction (or epistemological shift) in the work ofBarthes and other French intellectuals. With such persuasivestatements as S/Z and "From Work to Text" Barthes popularizedhis own exuberant take on Julia Kristeva's notion of theintertextual. Yet within a few years of publishing thesecelebratory manifestos of post-structural textuality,unresolved tensions begin to appear in his work around that veryconcept. For the rest of the decade Barthes returns to theintertextual, making what I see as a series of re-appraisals ofhis initial understanding. In later years the analyticenthusiasm of S/Z modulates and at times recedes, giving way totentative speculations on unusable (what Barthes will refer toas "perverted") forms of reading and writing, and to the ironicintertextualities of RB and FLD. The aestheticizing turn in histhinking, his inclination towards irony and mediation,intensifies. He develops the critical terms and strategies of152oscillation, abjuration, the palinode, jouissance, the body,the grain of the voice, the graph, graphic texture, the ductus,the gaze, the amateur, utopia, atopic texts,the obtuse meaning(refigured as the punctum in CL),and so On. 10 Retreating fromhis initial fascination with public systems of culture, hecomes to cherish the unrepeatable (the non-iterable, inDerridean terms), the non-functional, the supplemental, thesensual, the private,the neuter, and the indeterminate. Allthat, in short, actively or passively resists being caught upin the citational nets of institutional culture.There is, in Barthes, a slowly developing tension betweentextualization and his particular body (the strife betweensocial expectations and the aesthete's desires being a commontheme in nineteenth-century aesthetic discourse) that leads meto propose, grosso modo, two periods of intertextual theorizingin his work. Intertextuality obviously turns upon theinterdependent terms of system and difference. S/Z is theprimary document from his initial, more systems-orientedphase; PT marks his entry into a still pleasurable but agonisticlater period in which his critical reflections on textualityand difference continue, but in hybrid ironic and sensualizedforms which exploit the uncertainties of the literary registerand resist critical summation. Texts from both phases need to beread together in order to understand his movements around thisissue, and how Barthes the post-structural critic develops intothe aesthetic critic who resists the commercial and eventuallysinister hyphos of culture. In this chapter I will begin with153Barthes' initial phase--the phase whose version of post-structural (inter)textuality is still most widely incirculation (a time that foregrounds the textual economy that Ishall refer to as the "Parisian economy").The Barthesian version of intertextuality put forward inS/Z derives from at least four prior "texts." The first threeare fairly obvious: the decentred systems theory of FrenchStructuralism, and then the wilder, pluralistic account ofinteracting systems found in the work of Kristeva, who isindebted to Bakhtinian dialogism. Bakhtin in turn, is, with theothers, indebted to the early nineteenth-century hermeneuticsof Schleiermacher, who conceived of culture as a self-perpetuating system of texts working in terms of source andinfluence. 11 Post-structural textuality can be read as aradicalized version of hermeneutics in which the notion ofcultural system survives, but one in which the controlling,stabilizing, and creative category of the individual author hasbeen erased, barely surviving as an assembleur, as an authorialfunction (in Foucauldian terms), as a de-historicized trace. 12No longer does the writer "speak" to another through language:language writes (to) itself through the making of texts,perpetuating itself via the intermediary of the scriptor. Thusthe locus of creativity shifts to the realm of the sign, and toa ludic reading consciousness.To briefly reiterate the salient points of Kristeva'sargument on intertextuality,which return in Barthes' discourseon textuality: the text--a generic semiotic term--is figured in154systemic, spatial and belated terms. It is seen as a "mosaic ofquotations," a bricolage of previous texts created by thesimultaneous absorption and transformation of prior texts in acomplex movement of affirmation and negation. The Kristeviantextual space is polyphonic and potentially infinite, boundedonly by the reader's ability to identify shards of priorutterances. Intertextuality, as she defines it, is thetransposition of one or more systems of signs into another signsystem, "accompanied by a new articulation of the enunciativeand denotative position." 13 There are no strong discrete humanagents directing this process in Kristeva's theory:intertextuality explicitly replaces the old hermeneutic notionof intersubjectivity, stimulating the new theories of reading,writing, and the text advanced in S/Z.There are few clear conceptual edges to the post-structural Barthesian categories of the work and the text. Inthe fifth thesis of "From Work to Text" Barthes actually refersto them as metaphors which point to disparate organic andcybernetic models of writing:The metaphor of the Text is...detachedfrom the metaphor of the work; thelatter refers to the image of an organismwhich grows by vital expansion, by'development'...the metaphor of the Textis that of the network; if the Text expands,it is by the effect of a combinative opera-tion, of a systematics...("WT," RL 61/74)Nevertheless, to recapitulate the outlines of the idealBarthesian text advanced in S/Z: the text is not to be equatedwith the work. The work is, alternately, either the classical155conception of a literary text--a classicism whose demand forrepresentation suppresses the polysemy of a writing andimpoverishes its language, turning it into a readerly text,that is, into a cultural product intended to be passivelyconsumed by a reader--or the physical object we literally holdin our hands and read. Barthes refers to contemporaryinnovative writings that reject inherited notions of thecoherence of literary work, such as those by Sollers, as texts.These texts--and what Barthes sometimes refers to as thewriterly or plural text--are distinguished by their openessand, even more, by their chronic potentiality. Texts andtextuality are, Barthes suggests, ephemeral things that areheld and enacted in the realm of language.("WT," RL 57/70-71)Like the structural simulacrum, the text (or textuality) is anunappropriated instance of linguistic potential which exceedsboth the signs and every act of reading that reconstellates it.("WT," RL 58/71) The text is a perspectival "galaxy ofsignifiers," a "methodological field" or quasi-musical "score"which is provisionally constellated (produced) only in themoment-by-moment act of reading which catches up the sign in aplurality of larger discursive systems. ("WT," RL 57-58/71) Theideal text is virtual, limitless, freed from authorialintention and critical categories: it does not, as Barthesobserves, stop at the end of a library shelf or a backcover.("WT," RL 58/71) The text is "radically symbolic," and,like language, is "structured but decentred, without closure":it gravitates around the sign and playfully resists meaning by156indefinitely deferring the signified through a "serialmovement of dislocations, overlappings and variations." ("WT,"RL 59/72) Meaning is further frustrated by the text 'sinclination to dissolve and incorporate the meta-languageswhich attempt to describe it. ( "WT," RL 64/77) Where the workhas an apparently consistent structure and telos, the text, as adecentred network or field, theoretically has no privilegedpoint of entry, no beginning, and can be entered or abandoned atmultiple points. (S/Z 5/11) The irreversibility of theclassical work, which is seen as insisting upon an organicliterary model having clear beginnings, middles, and ends, ischallenged by the wandering cybernetic "reversibility" oftexts. The text, being a stereographic "social space" in whicha number of languages circulate, having neither consistentstructure nor a clearly defined territory, cannot beinterpreted so much as traversed, and, as it were, perpetuallyproduced and disseminated by each reading.The Barthesian text confronts the quasi-capitalistideology of classical culture. The work is, Barthes writes,caught up in the nets and values of tradition, what he refers to,ironically, as the "process of filiation" which controlsinterpretation and helps cultural capital accrue to the greatFathers. Being authored, the work is controlled by a priorintention--metonymically, the Father's signature--that mustbe respected and countersigned by the reader. The text, incontrast, is unauthored, and theoretically exists outside ofculture's Oedipal economy. Barthes' reader thus has no need157(and no desire) to respect the integrity of the text, theFather/Author's word or any intention prior to his own. Ratherthan heightening the distance between the grand act of writingand the dependent, largely passive act of reception, as in theclassical ideology of the work, Barthes' construction of thetext collapses writing into reading. The reader (the scriptor)does not kowtow to the work or generate a reading of it which canbe deposited to the reputation of the author. He plays with theunreadable score, actively performing the text as he pleases.("WT," RL 62-63/75-76) His role, cultural rights andinheritance usurped, the author can return to the text only as a"guest" of the reader, as one character among others:if he (the author) is a novelist, heinscribes himself there (in the text)as one of his characters, drawn as afigure in the carpet; his inscriptionis no longer privileged, paternal, alethic,but ludic: he becomes, one can say, apaper author; his life is no longer theorigin of his fables, but a fableconcurrent with his life [sic (oeuvre)]...("WT," RL 62-63/74-75)Barthes glosses this notion of the text and of textualityrepeatedly, admitting its intermittent and conjectural, almostghostly status....the writerly text is not a thing,would have a hard time finding it in abookstore....the writerly text is a perpetualpresent, upon which no consequent language...can be superimposed; the writerly text isourselves writing, before the infiniteplay of the world (the world as function) stopped, plasticized by some singularsystem (Ideology, Genus, Criticism) whichreduces the plurality of entrances, theopening of networks, the infinity of languages.158(S/Z 5/11)However opposed the categories of the work and theidealized hypothesis of the text may appear in Barthes, the textis in some respects intimately related to the work. Although thetext may exist as an independent entity, it--or textuality--often arises within the interstices of the work. "It would befutile," he writes in "From Work to Text," "to attempt toliterally separate works from texts, and to contend that "thework is classical, the text avant-garde," since "there can be"Text" in a very old work, and many products of contemporaryliterature are not texts at all." ("WT," RL 57/70) A readerattuned to potential textuality can release the suppressedwildness of the work's language.The Text (if only by its frequent'unreadability') decants the work...from its consumption and recuperatesit as play, task, production, practice.("WT," RL 62/75)Ambiguity and disagreement as to the strongest locus ofproduction divides work from text. A "work" is the ambiguity oflanguage successfully forced into a confined room and the mythof authorial originality; the "text" is the demolition of thatroom, the work opening into the nebulous galaxy of culturalsystems. The text cultivates relative originality, what onemight refer to as systemic diffdrance, rather than the hubris ofabsolute originality. As Barthes remarks, the text can be Textonly in its systemic difference.(S/Z 3/6, "WT," RL 60/73) 14 Thetext is the explosion of structure in favour of systématiques,the delight in the vagaries of polysemy connotation and159cybernetic noise (the "delicious and precious nourishment"that literature affords), the preoccupation with differance--"a difference which does not stop and which is articulated uponthe infinity of texts,languages, of systems." (S/Z 3/5)The work, then, moves toward signifieds, toward cultureand meaning. The text, however, resists any unity of meaning: itis irreducibly plural and fragmentary; its reading cannot becumulative (as with the work) but only semelfactive. ("WT," RL59-60/73) The work may appear to present a coherent structure,but the text has, at best, only moments of structuration, sothat the work may be easily consumed as a cultural commodity,while the text resists consumption. In theory, it offers onlythe opportunity for play. The work, then, is anchored in theworld, and moves back toward it as it is read: the text, as it isperformed, seeks to move into an immanent textual realm free ofthe pressures of history, a strong individual subjectivity, orhuman need.S/Z is acclaimed for its exposition of post-structuraltextuality, but, like the theory of the Text, intertextualityremains a soft and even self-subverting hypothesis in Barthes.The last lexia of Barthes' spectacular reading of Balzac'sshort story is, not incidentally, declared to be"unclassifiable" according to the five-code schema thatBarthes has just spent the last two hundred pages elaborating.The sabotaging of metalanguages and their categories, or atleast their disruption, is, as indicated, part of the program ofBarthesian post-structural textuality. ("WT," RL 64/77) The160multivalent text (the ideal post-structural text, utterlydecentred and reversible) is, within the economy of hermeneuticculture, fundamentally "duplicitous," since it attempts todestroy the traces of cultural origin and authorial "ownership"persisting in itself or in the other works upon which it draws.(S/Z 44/51) The multivalent text can only effect that end by,Barthes writes, subverting the opposition between true andfalse, by failing to attribute quotations (even whendiscrediting them), and by flouting all respect for "origin,paternity, propriety," generating a textual noise--a"cacography"--which disrupts the semblance of an authorialvoice that might lend a text the semblance of an organic unity.(S/Z 44-45/51-52) This multivalent text must "coldly" and, ifnecessary, "fraudulently" abolish the textual signs (the"quotation marks") that enclose a discrete utterance and createthe illusion of an utterance being some author's privateproperty. Post-structural textual multivalence is intended asan aggressive contestation of literary ownership and authorityas it has been understood within the academy.In both Kristeva and Barthes intertextuality is an attemptto describe the transformation and deliberate--or inadvertent--persistence of prior discourses within new utterances. In S/Z Barthes identifies five codes (the Hermeneutic, Proairetic,Symbolic, Cultural, and Semic codes) which, woven together inendless combinations, constitute every (literary) text. Thesecodes and intertexts are seen in terms which range from thebanal (the doxic) to the erotic and flirtatious: although161frequently experienced as coercive or authoritarian, they tendto be perceived by Barthes as half-familiar, half-exotic. Everytext, being the intertext (that is, the antecedent) of anothertext, belongs to the endless chain of the intertextual. Thisintertextual relay or pool must not be equated with the nowunworkable nineteenth century hermeneutic myth of stabletextual sources. Intertexts are not in themselves origins, butonly vast, derivative, distorted fields of signs. To search forsources and influences in these spaces would be to fall backinto the myth of filiation. Critically, Barthes insists uponthe familiarity of these echoes or traces for his hypotheticalreader. The quotations from which a text is made are, he writes,"anonymous, irrecoverable and yet already read: they arequotations without quotation marks." ("WT," RL 60/73) Thesetexts create a "circular memory," a shared cultural space ofhalf-remembrance within which an individual and the societywithin which she moves thinks and creates. (PT 45/58).Together, these anonymous and faded codes and quotationsconstitute a kind of uninterrogated environment. They havebeen naturalized: that is, they have become part of an allegedlygeneral cultural macrotext that constitutes the backgroundagainst which individual texts become legible.Barthes' post-structural reader moves through thesequasi-environmental semiotic zones known as texts in waysdiametrically opposed to traditional hermeneutic styles ofreading. Practicing the vagaries of an unpredictableconnotative and "topographical" style of reading that, as162William Ray describes it, ironically inverts the usual movementof interpretation, this reader subverts the traditionalcritical goals of meaning and structural synthesis. 15 If eventhe structural reader sought a hidden order within a text, thepost-structural reader locates and heightens thediscontinuities within a text, spinning and unravelling the"fabric of codes knotted around each textual element" into anuncertain and perpetual movement as he attends, in anunconcluding present, to his structurations of the text. (LM176) "The more plural a text, the less it is written before Iread it" Barthes asserts. (S/Z 10/16) Hence post-structuralreading is not a "parasitical act," but a form of creative"work". (LM 176) This work may be ludic but it is alsodeliberately Sisyphean. To read now is now not so much toremember--that is, to identify intertexts and painstakinglytrack semiotic relations and build up meanings--as toforget....reading does not consist in stopping thechain of systems, in establishing a truth,in establishing a truth, a legality of thetext, and consequently in leading its readerinto 'errors'...I (the post-structural reader)pass, I intersect, I articulate, I release, Ido not count.(S/Z 11/18)Although this hypothetical reader may, as Barthes does in S/Z,draw in fragments of several kinds of critical discourses, sheadopts a globally Nietzschean mode of interpretation thatappreciates the passing strangeness and plurality of signswithout seeking any putative referents.(S/Z 5/11)163Acknowledging referents would imply not only recognizingan extra-textual dimension to the hypothesis of world-as-text,but also press Barthes to furnish his ideal reader with areasonably stable and consistent cultural memory if he were notto be labelled dysfunctional, narcissistic, or literallypsychotic. There is a curious tension between memory andforgetting in the version of reading advanced in S/Z and otheressays between the years 1968 and 1971. Barthes, echoingMallarmd's cultural fatigue, asserts in effect that"everything" is always already read. He therefore claims forhis way of reading a "freedom" characteristic of later phases ofculture, one which implies a strong and active cultural memory:the freedom of reading a text as though it had already been readby the reader: a manner of reading which assumes that thereader's hermeneutic and narrative impulses have long beenexhausted. (S/Z 15-16/22-23) This is the post-structuralstrategy of framing reading as re-reading (and is,incidentally, a tenet of the Parisian textual economy). Yet,curiously, lack of sustained memory is, in this counter-ideology of reading, a positive virtue, an act of semanticfailure which enables the post-structural lector to continuereading moment to moment, indefinitely.Forgetting meanings is unfortunatedefect in performance; it is an affirmativevalue, a way of asserting the irresponsibilityof the text, the pluralism of systems (if Iclosed their list, I would inevitably consitutea singular, theological meaning): it isprecisely because I forget that I read.(S/Z 11/18)164These early Barthesian notions of reading, the text, andintertextuality are predicated upon two prior theoreticalconstructions. The first is a theoretically gutted (i.e.textualized, decentred) subject. Barthes' reader, like hisscriptor,are both, as he describes it, "fairly empty"subjects. ("WT," RL 60/73) The question is, emptied of what? Thedescription found in "The Death of the Author" makes it clear.The reader is "a man without history, without biography,without psychology." ("DA," RL 54/67) He is a cyberneticactant, a discursive function that momentarily gathers into onesite thousands of disparate traces, and then releases(forgets) them, so that ideally little or no trace survives ofhis reading--either physically, communally, or evenpersonally. 16 ("DA," RL 54/67) This reading subject, no longer"dense, emphatic centred, sacred," has been stripped not onlyof gender but of most of the attributes of humanistic subjects.(ES 85/63) This largely empty and "idle" (desoeuvr0 post-structural reader is a textual operator: his task is not tointerpret but to "shift systems," to identify and then"release" codes and texts, to practice a selective amnesiawhich allows him to frustrate any movement toward meaning. He iscompetent, functional, at ease with the system, its"accomplice," as Barthes writes. He manifests, at thisjuncture, no sense of cultural coercion or dissonance, norecognition of alternate or marginal subcultures. No painfulabsences disturb his play with the text. This subject isliterally a walking bundle of citations and semes woven from the165surrounding discursive environment. He mirrors the text:reading becomes the complex identification and interfacing ofcommon codes and texts, some remembered, others forgotten butstill active....I is not an innocent subject, anterior tothe text....This 'I' which approaches thetext is already itself a plurality of othertexts, of codes which are infinite or moreexactly, already lost (whose origin is lost).Objectivity and subjectivity are of courseforces which can take over the text, but theyare forces which have no affinity with it.Subjectivity is a plenary image, with whichI may be thought to encumber the text, butwhose deceptive plenitude is merely the wakeof all the codes which constitute me, so thatmy subjectivity has ultimately the generalityof stereotypes.(S/Z 10/16-17)The human intertext and the texts he reads are made fromthe same quasi-genetic pool of codes. The flesh has been madesign: and emotion, like human consciousness, is renderedtextual and citational. Recalling the cynical LaRochefoucauld, Barthes opines in S/Z:Mithout the--always anterior--Book andCode, no desire, no jealousy...itself alost origin, writing becomes the originof emotion.(S/Z 73-74/80)The subject here is not the recalcitrant, introvertedhedonist of Barthes' later works. Well-socialized, complicit,attuned to the symbolic order, she seems almost nothing butsurfaces and impersonal forms of memory. Turned toward thesocial space that is the text, motivated only by the pleasuresof textuality, this reading subject is primarily a synchronic166public entity, and a theoretical function. Made up of publicintertexts, ;he moves in a universe of codes, of indiscrete andblurred phenomena held precariously together by the fiction ofpantextuality. And this brings forward the second theoreticalassumption upon which Barthesian intertextuality depends.Alan Megill, in PE, argues that aestheticism informs thework of Foucault and Derrida and their predecessors (Heideggerand Nietzsche). By "aestheticism" Megill is referring, as Ihave suggested in a previous chapter, to the chronictextualization of extra-textual phenomena, that is, to atendancy to see discourse as constituting the primary realm ofhuman experience. (PE 2-4) This idealizing position is, as thereading of WDZ showed, already present in Barthes' emulation ofthe Mallarmean position in the 1950s. Barthes' aestheticizingpolemic, which argues that signs and texts utterly precedeindividual experience, only intensifies in his early post-structural years. In S/Z Barthes, echoing Derrida, affirms thatnothing exists outside of the text, and that, despite realism'sclaims to the contrary, nothing exists behind the text. (S/Z 6/12) Recycling the trope of world as semiosphere, he comparesthe infinite Text to the sky, signs being figured as migratingbirds: " (t)he text, in its mass, is comparable to a sky, at onceflat and smooth, deep, without edges and withoutlandmarks. "(S/Z 14/20) The commentator is, again, likened to asoothsayer, one who again raises his staff toward the azur ofthe text-sky to carve out an empty locus, an arbitrary space(the "zone of reading") in which to consider, like the falling167of yarrowstalks, the flight of these signs. (S/Z 14/20) In PTpastoral and mantic tropes fade into the dominating trope ofnetwork. There Barthes writes of experience as being inevitablymediated by a web of external and introjected texts. Theseintrojected texts become the circular public "memories" whichstructure human experience:Proust is not an 'authority,' he is notwhat I actively recall, but is simply acircular memory. And that is what theintertext is: the impossibility of livingoutside of the infinite text--whether thistext be Proust, or the newspaper, or thetelevision screen: the book creates meaning(le sens), meaning creates existence.(PT 36/59)This points to one of the aestheticizing aims of Barthes inS/Z: to rewrite the work as text, wrenching "Sarrasine" awayfrom its putative origin (the author Balzac) and its naiverepresentational ground by making visible the semiotic codesand intertexts which constitute the intertext. Barthesaccomplishes this by literally re-writing the text,surrounding and overwhelming Balzac's text with a massive closereading that sunders the illusions of a seamless fictionalworld and a single authorial voice. Barthes' post-structuraltechnique of analytic disruption conflates, at least for thereader of S/Z, the two phases involved in the making of astructural simulacrum. The "breaking" or "starring" of the textis akin to the first phase of structural analysis of a text: thestage of ddcoupage. (S/Z 13-14/20-22) This "starring" of thework separates, "in the manner of a minor [ontological andepistemological) earthquake," the work's "blocks of168signification" that were imperceptibly soldered together bythe flowing discourse of narration and the "'naturalness' ofordinary language." (S/Z 13/20) Barthes' post-structuralanalysis, based upon the affirmation of the artificiality andhidden plurality of all texts, aggressively "manhandles"(malmener) the work, interrupting its flow and its "natural"syntactic, rhetorical and anecdotal divisions, disturbing theillusory transparency that the story may have once had. (S/Z 14-15/21-22)The second phase of structural analysis--agencement--occurs simultaneously--if almost ironically--in S/Z. Therethe text's order is disordered, then tentatively and looselyreconstellated--reordered--within the larger network ofcultural intertexts and codes. Barthes' violation of theapparent plenum of the work has several pragmatic andideological functions. It is, of course, a flat rejection theclassical ideology and its privileging of the discrete primarytext. By dramatically rupturing the conventional connectionsbetween sign and referent, work and author, and exposing thecitationality of texts, Barthes' reading displaces the originof Balzac's short story, indeed of all texts, to the immanentrealm of textuality. Lastly, however denied, one wonderswhether Oedipal tensions--at least in the sense of a resistanceto entrenched powers--fund Barthes' post-structural drive tovalorize re-reading and re-writing. By literally overwhelmingand dissolving the boundaries of Balzac's work in the universalsolvent of language, Barthes levels the old hierarchies placing169the author above the reader in importance. He shifts attentionto the ultimately modern moment--the eternal present of post-structural modes of reading and commentary--thereby makingspace for further writing; that is, for the scriptible. 17As Nietzsche pointed out, all intellectual acts are, in asense, aestheticizing operations in that they abstract andactively reconstruct the object(s) lying passively under theintellectual gaze in order to generate a theory of some kind. 18S/Z is a discourse which lays bare the latent aestheticism ofintellectual work: Barthes' text is an aestheticizing act (inthe Nietzschean sense) which overtly produces a new objectdesigned to overcome its primary text. This new thing is not,strictly speaking, a structural simulacrum--since it does notposit deep or macro textual structures--but a different kind ofsimulacrum, a post-structural simulacrum. This unfinished andunstable simulacrum posits not a textual system but asystematic (systematique). The Barthesian systematic attendsnot to a text's order, but to its disorder. Refusing theposition of authority assumed by structural analyses, Barthes'reconstruction of "Sarrasine" has a different agenda; one thatis clearer when read against Baudrillard's study of simulacraand hyperreality in Simulacres et simulation. 19Baudrillard's study opens with a discussion of one ofBorges' fables. The mapmakers of an Emperor were ordered tomake a perfect map of the Empire. These cartographers,frightened of their master, made a map so detailed and true tothe scale and topography of the realm that it ended up covering170the whole empire itself--covering it exactly, mind you (thefable ends with an evocative, Shelleyan image of the mapdecaying slowly back into the desert sand).Borgds' fable conducts, in Baudrillard's an ironicreductio ad absurdum of the ideology of realism. This idealrealism, dealing in the desire for an exact correspondencebetween thing and copy, is, even in its less extremeexpressions, Baudrillard writes, a nostalgic impossibility.Representation can no longer be framed in terms of the map, thedouble, the mirror, the concept, territory, or referent.Representation is now, in Baudrillard's account, a culturallyunworkable term which has been superseded by a new activity, onethat Baudrillard refers to as "simulation." (SS 10) Westerncultural forms of simulation now deal not in reflecting areality, but in creating autonomous hyperrealities: that is, inthe "generation, by models, of a reality (un reel) which hasneither origin nor reality (realite)." (SS 10) In this newreality-less reel he baptises as "hyperreality" referents (oreven simply prior objects) are no longer the strong term. InBaudrillard's analysis of contemporary simulacra, "theterritory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive themap." (SS 10) Now the map, as it were, precedes the territory: itconjures up a putative "reality." In Baudrillard's revisioningof Borgds' fable, the ruins of the territory would rot slowly onthe expanse of the map.But, in the next paragraph, Baudrillard rejects his ownrevisions to the fable, since it implies an imaginary co-171extensivity he no longer perceives in the contemporarysimulacrum. Reality is no longer enveloped by a friendly orcomplementary zone of the imaginary (i.e. of the non-real, thefictional; Baudrillard's use of the term imaginary is not to beequated with the Lacanian use of the word). (SS 11) As in theBarthesian notion of the text, in the Baudrillardian reading ofthe simulacrum, reality has been collapsed into--or has been"liquidated" by--signs.(SS 11) In its strongest expression,the era of the simulacrum has destroyed the once "sovereigndifference" separating the thing from its representation. (SS10) Consequently, without the necessary distance between thereal and an imaginary zone, there is, Baudrillard contends, nolonger an imaginary realm in the usual sense: even the categoryof the fictional collapses into the hyperreal. (SS 181) The realcan now be parodically and "artificially resurrected" in thebright sterility and flatness of the simulacra, but there hasbeen a fatal, irreversible substitution of signs of the real(i.e. a realite) for the real (le reel). Ontologicaldifference--the difference between thing and graph that onceconstituted the charm of maps, portraits, and concepts--isovercome (although difference persists in other forms).Western faith in representation has historically restedupon the wager that in its semiotic economies the sign alwaysreferred to, or could be exchanged against, some referent or"deep meaning." (SS 16) Possibly following the Althusseriantake on representation and cultural economies, throughout SSthe sign is also equated with the image (the image construed as172sign or hypersign). According to Baudrillard (who provides nohistorical points of reference to substantiate his claims) theimage evolves through four distinct phases in Western history.The image/sign begins as the reflection of a deep reality; thenit masks and denatures a deep reality; subsequently, it masksthe absence of any deep reality; and finally, being without anyrelation to any reality (reel), the image become its ownsimulacrum. (SS 17) During the first phase the image/sign isseen as being "sacramental" and harmoniously co-extensive withits referent; in the second phase, it is figured as a distortingmark at odds with the referent; then, in the third phase, it isseen as a diversion: the image/sign ironically plays at beingthe faithful reflection of a referent which is suspected to beabsent. In the fourth phase, the image/sign is no longerperceived as having co-extensivity with any external referent;it is now engaged not in the processes of representation but inthose of reflexivity. It becomes,as it were, its own simulacrum(hence Baudrillard's image of the moebius strip).In these third and fourth phases the Western image/signattains the status of what Baudrillard generally identifies asthe simulacrum (though images/hypersigns from all of fourstages can correctly be designated as simulacra). TheBaudrillardian simulacrum, like the Barthesian text, negatesthe hermeneutic hypotheses of depth, origin, identity, and thesign as bearer of meaning. (SS 16) Within this fourth, post-hermeneutic stage of Western culture, odd things happen toinherited notions of reality. Having destroyed the belief in173relations between signs and referents, and therefore intranscendance (i.e. a hors-texte, an outside to semioticsystems), this cultural construction of the real is, or atleast appears to be, in Baudrillard's reading, entirelycaptured within semiotic systems of exchange. (SS 182-185) LikeBarthes, writing from inside the dense and egocentric cultureof the intellectual West, Baudrillard laments the Coca-colonization of the planet: "(th)e space of the earth isclosed, saturated with codes, turned into a universal market ofgoods, values, signs,and models which crowd out theimaginary."(SS 182)Awash in images and replications, this culture of thecitation is one that (as in Benjamin's reading of the cultureof mechanical reproduction) destroys the putative aura of thediscrete and unrepeatable objects of the real. Within this zonethe "real" and its corollaries, exhausted by excessiverepetition, fragmentation, and gratuitous re-contextualizations, turn into superseded notions, overcome bythe noise of mass images and the "uninterrupted circuit (ofimages and signs) whose reference and circumference isnowhere." (SS 182) This fourth phase, which initiates thefinal agony of the real (that is, of "rational" and "strongreferents") ushers in the era of hyperreality and the culturalreign of the simulacrum. (SS 70, 183)In the zone of the hyperreal (in this fourth stage timeseems to collapse into space) mimesis is, as Baudrillard'sanalysis has been signalling, rendered impossible.174(Hyperreality is defined by Baudrillard as existing when arealite absolutely coincides--or maps onto--itself: as astudent of American culture, one of his favoured instances ofthis is the Disneyland theme park in California. ) (SS 76) Insidethis fourth world the creative process no longer consists,Baudrillard writes, in starting with a real (un reel) and makingfrom it an unreal world (un irreel), a fiction. Rather,creativity now consists in retro bricolage, in takingcitations from models and simulations already in circulationand making from them patently self-conscious and decentredillusions of a "real" that flagrantly exposes its artifice,like the dark roots of a dyed blonde. At this moment thesimulacrum turns back upon itself, and from the earlier stagesof reflecting or invoking a collective real assumed to beindependent of any act of representation, it now, in the fourthstage, "reinvents" the real as as a consummate and malleablefiction, in a practice Baudrillard terms "neofiguration". (SS72)Baudrillard stresses the circularity and solipsism ofthis post-real zone. Neither metaphysics, history, phantasms,nor science-fiction--in fact, traditional fictions of anykind--can endure in this atmosphere. Recalling Barthes'formulation of textuality, in this fourth phase the priormeanings of things and events now survive only in an "artificialeffervesence of signs which succeed one another without logic,in a total equivalence."(SS 65) Consequently, the differentialpoles creating boundaries and ontological distinctions tend to175implode into one another, destroying the necessary conditionfor dialectics, creating a world of citation and farcicalrepetition in which there are no truths, no points of stabilityby which to orient oneself. Ideological oppositions becomeparodic or senseless; time becomes uncertain, malleable,reversible; reality turns into a film that "gives off thesinister impression of being kitsch,retro and pornographic allat once." (SS 65-66) Reality, which needs to be reinventedbecause, Baudrillard asserts darkly, "it has disappeared fromour lives," is not restored by acts of neofiguration, whichironically only point to the emptiness of its forms and itscitations. (SS 183-184) The real metamorphoses into somethingwhich no one can quite believe is real: mediated, endlesslyrefracted and manifactured, manipulated by others, it subsistsonly as a hallucinatory thing haunting our images, a kitschgrab-bag of citations generated via models, semiotic matrices,and memory banks, a reconstituted and arranged thing: precise,transparent, yet without substance, derealized.This "new universe" is not a parallel universe, a possibleworld, or the double of reality. The hyperreal universe ofBaudrillard's commodity culture, is one in which images ideallycoincide and refer to themselves. a universe which no mirror canreflect, since it is a matte realm having no centre of gravity,and no outside. (SS 185) Trapped inside this world of reflexiveimages and signs (Baudrillard is no fan of the simulacrum),there is neither past not future. Paralysed by its amusing andyet cruel techniques, human beings, should they resist this new176order, experience vertigo and ontological as well asepistemological crises. Previous means of human orientation--time, space, identity, memory, imagination, specificity--aredestroyed, and their ruins left to float in an uncertain andshallow space. (SS 76-77,184) Meaning, values, and history"hemmorhage" from this space, which levels hierarchies ofdiscourse and "cools out" events. (SS 77)Baudrillard studies many cultural phenomena, butDisneyland occupies a special place in his analysis ofsimulacra: it is singled out as a phenomenon which embodies thethemes and the kinds of simulacra operating in this strangeworld culture spinning outward from its American epicentre. Forthe French theorist, Disneyland is, to begin with, like theBarthesian intertext, a site where a culture recycles itsruins, its dechets, a space devoted to restaging the "game ofillusions and phantasms," past and future, that haunt its hostsociety: themes such as the Frontier, the manically optimisticFuture World, and so on. (SS 24-27) Like its late creator, WaltDisney, whose body is held in cryogenic suspension, awaitingresurrection, Disneyland is, Baudrillard asserts, a giganticcongealed and kitsch miniature that resurrects things whosesubstance has disappeared. (SS 17,25) As a superficial andretro "digest of the American way of life, a panegyric ofAmerican values," this sunny cartoon simulacrum is also, as athird-stage image or hypersign, a "machine of dissuasion" whichfunctions not only to hide the "real" America, but--and hereBaudrillard's argument takes a surprising twist--to affirm the177failing "reality" of a hyperreal America. Los Angeles,simulacra captial of the U.S.A., is surrounded by a number ofthese centrales imaginaires (Enchanted Village, MagicMountain, Marine World, Disneyland) which, while affirming adissuasive version of the societal real, simultaneously flaunttheir artifice in order to shore up the public reel , to persuadeAmericans that the rest of what they live in is "real," althoughthe omnipresence of the hyperreal has weakened, and,Baudrillard goes so far as to say, murdered reality (i.e. hasdestroyed the auras of "originals"). (SS 25-26, 161-162)Baudrillard argues that most public events, whetherhijackings, strikes, demonstrations, no longer possessing anyinhering content or proper ends, have become hyperrealgestures, public quotations of previous texts caught up in astrange network in which events indefinitely cite and refractone another Power, in Baudrillard's reading, manipulatessimulacra as dissuasive tools of social control (thesesimulacra being what Barthes identifies as doxic utterances),but it publicly sets itself against the corrosive relativityand emptiness of simulacra dominating a now "irreferentialworld." (SS 37-29) Power must vigorously defend itself by"reinjecting" the signs of the real and of the referential inorder to persuade its subjects to endorse its legitimacy, andfend off the vertigo of non-sense produced by the hyperreal.If Baudrillard is to be believed, the present commercialfirst-world culture, with its media machines and centralesimaginaires , is a kind of fullfillment of the aesthete's dream178of Nature overcome: in it the nineteenth-century discourse ofperversion accelerates into an imploding and triumphantreflexivity, into an unconcluded polysemy which precipitatesthe diaspora of meanings.There are, certainly, important differences betweenBaudrillard's reading of the simulacrum and Barthes'construction of the text. Barthes is both a theorist and anactive practitioner of literary simulacra (the text being, assubsequent chapters will show, elaborated into a number ofsurprising kinds of shattered simulacra). Baudrillard,however, is a pessimistic cultural theorist whose work attemptsto describe the purely negative effects of the rise ofreflexive image systems within first-world (and specificallyAmerican) society. His examples are not literary butsociological and ethnographical: Disneyland (a "sentimentalsimulacrum"), Watergate, a TV miniseries on the JewishHolocaust, the degraded institution of the American presidency(an "ideological simulacrum"), and the curious flatness ofHollywood period films (which do not evoke the past but insteadpresent the past as a series of cool visual surfaces).(SS 77) Heemphasizes the harshness and insensitivity of the reign ofhyperreal images, writing that its "realities" are unbearable," more cruel than Artaud' s Theatre of Cruelty" since their noiseand replications separate the cultural subject from anyprimary source (what Baudrillard, daring to be unfashionable,calls life), condemning him instead to the mode of the retro,to the phantasmal and parodic rehabilitation of lost179referents.(SS 66) Barthes, however, is still in his early phaseof post-structural theorizing, when loss and a rediscovery ofthe individual have not yet impinged upon his theories of thesubject and of the referent. For Barthes, writing in the early1970s, the hypothesis of human subjects and reality as a seriesof surfaces is preferable to hermeneutic notions of depth andexteriority. Textual surfaces are ludic sites; the act ofdeformative copying is an opportunity for pleasure, and bothare vehicles of critical and ideological liberation.Both theorists present post-representation models ofcultural discourse in which the creative forces are notdiscrete human subjects, but models, systems and fragments("ruins" or "remains" in Baudrillard's terminology).(SS 207)In Barthes' reading, simulation is a desirable and liberatingavant-garde practice in competition with a still tenaciousideology of the representational, while Badrillard finds hisdiffering conclusion--the fait accompli of the death ofrepresentation and the attrition of the Bejaminian aura--ahighly sinister cultural development (as Linda Hutcheonremarks in The Politics of Postmodernism, in Baudrillard'scultural scenario "the simulacra gloats over the body of thedeceased referent.") 20 Baudrillard's murderous simulacra arereadable, crassly commercial, and highly visible public textsdesigned for passive consumption as substitute reels andsurrogate cultural memories that destroy history,authenticity, originality and difference. Barthes recognizesthe nihilating potential of repetitive utterances (it is the180case he makes against Doxa). But, contrary to Baudrillard,Barthes endorses a positive nihilation, a salutory Nietzscheanforgetting of the past and of referents which opens up culturalspace for new texts and semiotic drift, a strategic amnesiawhich pits itself against a pernicious doxic memory whichcongeals the real, repeating it until it is literally solid butsenseless. Barthes pits that mode of nihilation against thepractice of representation. Furthermore, Baudrillard's dislikeof the semiotic noise of repetition, which shatters theintegrity of prior utterances, runs against Barthes'appreciation of that interference, which is part of what,reusing a term from WDZ, he refers to as the greatest delicacyand effect of desirable writing: countercommunication. Thiseffect (due to language's inhering poeticity and involuntarysemantic noise), Barthes writes joyfully, "makes communicationobscure, fallacious, uncertain." He goes further:literatures are in fact arts of 'noise';whatthe reader consumes is this defect in commun-ication, this deficient message; what the wholestructuration erects for him and offers him asthe most precious nourishment is a countercomm-ication; the reader is an accomplice, not ofthis or that character, but of the discourseitself as it plays on...the impurity ofcommunication...(S/Z 145/151)Baudrillard's obvious unease with the loss of metalanguagesand language's^communicative aspect, is, again, starklycontrasted by Barthes'^cultivation of the counter-communicative, and his contention that the function of writing181is to ridicule and to annul the power of one language overanother, to dissolve any metalanguage as soon as it isconstituted. (S/Z 98/105)Although Barthes' simulacra are generated using similartechniques of textual fragmentation and diverse forms ofcitation as explored by Baudrillard, Barthes' simulacra--specifically, here, his notion of the text as a copy without anoriginal--while also circulating in the public arena, areintended as unrepeatable and writerly counter-commercialentities that can only be activated through the activeparticipation of the solitary reader. These sophisticatedsimulacra, attuned to the differences within systemicrepetitions, privilege, rather than abolish, textualdifference. Barthes' reflexive and citational construction oftextuality is congruent with Baudrillard's notion of thesimulacrum as the endless public repetition of empty models.Barthes' exploration of the text as an intertext--that is, thetext as an ephemeral metasimulacrum several times overparticipating within larger semiotic systems--parallelsBaudrillard's reading, but emphasizes the perception thatcitations occur within the smallest units of discourse, andthat they are generally conjoined in hybrid constellations. TheBarthesian text is, in my reading, made up of shatteredsimulacra that are recombined into open discourse pour rien--as an aerated and dynamic constellation of signs characterizednot by closure, but by gaps, silences, noise, disorders, andfertile indeterminacies which provide the opportunity for the182kinds of oblique readings championed in S/Z.Perhaps surprisingly, the impact of simulation is similarin both accounts. For both men, the simulacrum or copyeventually constitutes, in Baudrillard's metaphor, a kind of"moebius strip" that turns the world into a looping andcentreless series of surfaces that destroy distinctionsbetween inside and outside, between past and presentdiscourses, the real and the fictional, the original (or evensimply the antecedent) and subsequent replications. ButBarthes' examination of the forms of textual fragmentation andcopying, as well as the reader's and/or the scriptor'sengagements with prior texts, are far more sophisticated thanthose laid out in SS. Barthes recognizes that culture deals lessin models (still a modernist notion) than in gratuitousfragments of a plurality of codes comprising the naive real.(S/Z 6/13-14) Baudrillard fears the absolute and irretrievableloss of the real in a vertiginous sea of signs; while in S/ZBarthes tends to argue that the real is always a sea of signs,and that the semiotic produces the real. In subsequent textsBarthes plays with that tension between the ostensible real andtextuality, recognizing that the utter obfuscation of thecategory of the real would be undesirable. There is, as he willwrite in PT, the need for a small bit of chiaroscuorso, of theproblematic flesh of the real, to cling to signs.The recognition of^semiotic reflexivity, textualsurfaces, citational^recycling and deformation, and thepostmodern quest to overcome what one might refer to as the183outside constitute points of contact between theBaudrillardian simulacrum and the Barthesian intertext.(S/Z6/13-14) In both, prior consensual models of the real--whatBarthes sees as putative origins--are overwhelmed by the sheerperversity and iterability of artifice (what Baudrillardrefers to as the procession of prior models). Furthermore, inboth constructs distinctions between the real and the non-real,the system and the individual utterance, are abolished in thepremise of a voracious and ultimately empty textuality: atextuality whose potential impact is thrown into relief byBaudrillard's exploration of the flatland of hyperreality. Theclaustrophobia lurking in both constructions of culture--aconfinement felt by Baudrillard but not yet, at this juncture,by Barthes--is also notable. In S/Z the classical notion of thework is apparently opened up to the larger macrosystem ofcultural systems, and to the vagaries of connotation andarbitary structuration; but despite the proliferation of codesand the induction of luxurious spaces of indeterminacy anddrift, "Sarrasine" is simply caught up in a larger but stillrestrictive and oddly metaphorical system--the hypothesis oftextuality.S/Z is, literally, an instance of simulation thatdisengages both the "tutor signifier" and itself from theintent "world's significations," taking shelter from meaningin the safer space of a hyperreal textuality. (S/Z 13/19) Theaggressive if ludic acts of reading that comprise S/Z arededicated to the textualization of "Sarrasine," and, by184extension, to the forcible dismantling and relocation ofclassical culture and its categories within the nebulous andflat realms of the textual and, metaphorically, of thecinematic (hence the realm of the gaze, of the visual, of thelegible). The strength of Barthes' dramatic "slow-motion"reading, the digressions, the cut-ups, the cinematographic"decomposition(s)" and the extreme close-ups of isolatedtextual details that comprise S/Z, must be acknowledged. (S/Z12/18) Balzac's short story, appended to the commentary thatcannibalizes it and disrupts its mimetic flow, is not restoredafter the analysis, as Barthes ironically suggests, to itsoriginal purity and continuity. The story, which the readerstumbles across at the back of S/Z, lies as inert as a deadanimal along a highway. And where a reader, prior to Barthes'tour de force, might once have contentedly read "Sarrasine"without hearing the noise of culture buzzing in the spacesbetween the words, she now cannot get that noise out of her head,and has come to mistrust the silence she was once taught to hearbehind the voices of great men.This verbal victory is won, obviously, not over a singletext, but over the assumptions of the entire practice--criticaland creative--of naive realisms. The losses reality sustains inthis attack are substantial. The "real" and the categories ofhermeneutic readings of cultural phenomena dissolve into thepost-structural zone of the textual and the perspectival. Withthe consequent loss of a sense of a bracing textual outside, anintractable hors-texte, less remains of the once fertile185tensions drawn among the world, the human subject, and the textanimating, for instance, the Bakhtinian model ofintertextuality.Barthes' extravagant and poetic reading of the play ofsigns produces new texts whose difference exposes the pretencesof doxic culture, and yet gives cultural production a newimpetus. The world is, in S/Z and for almost the duration ofBarthesian post-structuralism, once again flat, but this timeit is a palimpsest, a surface upon which human intertextsinscribe distorted repetitions of repetitions, seeking arelative disordering. This textual disordering or reprocessingis achieved through an exhaustive process of tracking codes andcitations, through decentring, re-articulation, purging priorinterpretations, putative meanings, authorial imprints, anddiscrete perameters. These operations, in tandem with Barthes'pursuit of the connotative, the aleatory, the gaps between wordand referent,constitute the aestheticizing operations at workin S/Z--operations which become increasingly sophisticated andfecund in Barthes' subsequent books.CRAFTER FOUR. AN ELSEWHERE OF SIGNSJe dis: une fleur! et hors de l'oubli oil mavoix reldgue aucun contour, en tant que quel-que chose d'autre que les calices sus,musicalement se ldve, idde mdme et suave, 1'absente de tous bouquets.Stephane MallarmelThis is not Japan/ Forgetting the WestES is perhaps Barthes' most beautiful book. None of thelinguistic overload of so many other contemporary theoreticaltexts here: the text is beautifully balanced between image andtext, filled with calligraphy, line drawings, black-and-whitephotographs, exquisite colour reproductions of Japanese art,and holographic mementos of Barthes' time in Japan.But be advised: this book is about things other than Japan.Barthes himself refers to the text as a "fantasy," an imagined"faraway" place. (ES 3/7) During an interview after the book'srelease he speaks of ES as a "countermythology," "un bonheur dessignes," the first writing in which he broaches the pleasure ofthe text. (GV 158/150) Reading ES against the background ofnineteenth-century aestheticism and its escapist penchant forthings oriental, I would push that analysis a bit further andcategorize ES as an innovative twentieth-century exercise inutopic discourse using that old and now ideologically suspect186187vehicle of fantasy and social critique, exoticism.Historically, exoticist texts and utopias (whether purelydiscursive entities or actual attempts at alternativesocieties) have been contestatory and highly ideologicalgestures. 2 Barthes' fantastic counter-Japan is no exception.The theoretical exoticism of ES, its praise of a half-imaginaryculture that does not naturalize or close the strong signs itgenerates, but instead values the very fissure between the realand the symbolic, has as its primary ideological target the"classical" western ideologies and values already indicted inWDZ and S/Z. (ES 4/8)In ES the travelling protagonist, despite his body beingphysically present in "Japan," is often preoccupied by thoughtsof the West. Both the protagonist (whom I will designate asBarthes) and the text are spectacularly divided, circulatingbetween two "real-world" (i.e. consensually recognized)entities (Japan and France) and at least two reels, two purelyindividual constructs ("Japan", and the "Occident"). 3 Thegaps, tensions and non-coincidences circulating among thesefour terms constitute a major source of pleasure in the book;indeed the very success of Barthes' verbal fantasy depends uponexploiting the unresolved tensions between these alternatereels. This book/trip, as Gary Shapiro writes, is alsoemblematic of Barthes' polemic with orthodox scholarship. 4Revolting against the imperatives of traditional hermeneuticinterpretation, this "imaginary voyage" is undertaken by atraveler who plays with the interpretative apparatus--a188contextualizing knowledge of the language, history, andculture of that country--usually employed by travel writers tocreate a persuasive image of a foreign country. Instead,Barthes suspends verisimilude and truth-claims, relying on hisown touristic desire and a scattered, sometimes doxic knowledgeof Japanese culture and aesthetics. ES is a site in whichBarthes half-creates a half-imaginary country in order tocriticize the bedrock principles of Western realism: presence,identity (iterability), meaning, naturalness and repletion. AsGary Shapiro writes, reading in the half-light of the Derrideandeconstructive project: "Barthes' desire to slide over thesurface of Japanese life is...tied to his attempt tosuspend...the Western metaphysical commitment to the values ofthe center and interiority." ("PD," SC 4)Shapiro's observation that in ES Barthes is attempting tosuspend Western metaphysics and contest the binary categoriesof center/periphery and interior/exterior goes to the heart ofBarthes' project. In this book Barthes continues to work out hispost-structural aesthetic, advancing an alternate economy ofsigns (what I will refer to as the Japanese textual economy)through the systematique, the fragmented simulacrum heironically identifies as Japan. Barthes is at pains toemphasize that the systematique given the name "Japan" in hisbook is not to be confused with the reality one might encounterlanding at Narita airport. ES opens with Barthes' reflectionsupon how he might variously position his fantasy with respect tothat latter reel. A first, paratactic, thought:If I want to imagine a fictive nation,give it an invented name, treat itdeclaratively as a novelistic object,create a new Garbagne,so as to compro-mise no real country by my fantasy (thoughit is then that fantasy itself I compromiseby the signs of literature). 5(ES 3/7)Barthes moves on to consider and adopt his second option.I can also--though in no way claiming torepresent or to analyze reality itself (thesebeing the major gestures of Western discourse)isolate somewhere in the world (faraway) a certainnumber of features...and out of these featuresdeliberately form a system. It is this systemwhich I shall call: Japan.(ES 3/7)Barthes defends himself from the potential charge ofOrientalism, underlining the unreality of his "Japan."Hence Orient and Occident cannot betaken as 'realities' to be comparedand contrasted historically, philosophically,politically. I am not lovingly gazing towardan Oriental essence--to me the Orient is amatter of indifference, merely providing areserve of features whose manipulation--whose interplay--allows me to 'entertain'the idea of an unheard-of symbolic system,one altogether detached from our own.(ES 3/7)Barthes' Japan is not a simulacrum of the type described in"The Structuralist Activity." There the task of structuralanalysis is to decompose an object (such as Japanese culture)and subsequently reconstruct in such as way as to manifest itsrules of functioning. This skeletal reconstruction--the189190structural simulacrum--makes visible a deep structure whichremains invisible in the "natural" object. The result ofstructural analysis is the creation of a new--and equallysignificant--object which is related to but distinct from thefirst object. In his post-structural phase Barthes retains theludic and creative aspects of structural analysis whilerejecting its analytic imperative. Continuing the tradition ofearlier aestheticizing critics, ES Barthes concentrates ondeveloping a supplementary form of critical creativity thatexplores a whole range of subjective responses and desiresthrough the hybrid personal essay. Barthes' innovative post-structural syste-matiques and essayistic forms seek to besemelfactive and inconclusive. In ES, as in his other post-structural texts, he evidences no interest in depth structuresor general rules of cultural functioning. On the contrary: thegoal of Barthes' decentring, desiring analyses are to valorizeand remain on the level of surfaces and "flashes," forestallingany movement toward depth, coherence, history, identity, ormeaning (i.e. doxic forms of interpretation). (ES 4/8) Like hisstructural analyses, Barthes' post-structuralist analyses aresynchronic. But his rejection of an interpretiatve methodfocused on global structures for a more responsive andepiphanic mode separates his structural phase decisively fromthis later period. Barthes' idiosyncratic construction of afantastic Japan in ES is not aimed at structurallyreconstituting that culture: it goes beyond structuraloperations of d6coupage and collage in an arbitrary191recombination of elements. At least in theory (since one caneasily recognize the "real-world" Japan in this other "Japan"),this perverse manipulation of Japanemes yields an "unheard-ofsymbolic system," a systematigue rhetorically separated fromany referent, and, most critically, insulated from Occidentalsymbolic systems and values: an ideal hyper-text whosedifference obliquely challenges Western notions of presence.A thematics of difference and otherness in ES organizesthe separation of the referential Japan from its fantasticversion. In phenomenological terms, Barthes uses an epochswhich, by bracketing (or suspending, in Coleridgean terms) thereal, allows the imagination to nihilhate that given andrecreate, from its elements, an utopic emptied country ofsigns. Exploiting the Saussurean fissure between sign andthing, word and image, object and interpretation, the gulfbetween the imagined and the "real," ES derealizes(textualizes) Japan. In the headnote and first entries of thebook, Barthes drops hints regarding how his reader is tointerpret the disjunctions, separations and absences rulingES. The headnote reads:The text does not 'gloss' the images, whichdo not 'illustrate' the text. For me, eachhas been no more than the onset of a kind ofvisual uncertainty, analogous perhaps to thatloss of meaning Zen calls a satori. Text andimage, interlacing, seek to ensure thecirculation and exchange of these signifiers:body, face, writing; and in them to read theretreat of signs.(ES xi/5)A bit later, he elaborates on the connection between writing192and the "retreat of signs":...Japan has afforded him [the author) asituation of writing. This situation is thevery one in which a certain disturbance ofthe person occurs, a subversion of earlierreadings, a shock of meaning lacerated,extenuated to the point of its irreplaceablevoid, without the object's ever ceasing to besignificant, desirable. Writing is, after all,in its way, a satori: satori (the Zen occurance)is a more or less powerful...seism which causesknowledge, or the subject, to vacillate: itcreates an emptiness of language.(ES 4/10)Sartre's Roquentin would understand some of what is goingon here. Vertigo--the onset of uncertainty and the loss ofmeaning which Barthes suggests might be analogous to Zensatori--ruptures the tight conventional connection betweensign and referent as it forces open the dense narcissism of thatideology, lacerating the seamless mask of the ordinary toreveal its emptiness. But where Roquentin, the emblematicWestern protagonist, would respond with anxiety and nausea ashis world-system, rocked and punctured, collapses, revealingabsurdity, Barthes--who prefers absence--reacts to thefissuring of symbolic systems and the appearance of emptinesswith delight and relief. This space of intermittent emptinessand semiotic crisis--of simultaneous danger and opportunity--is, for Barthes, both the very space and aim of writing. Such anunderstanding of the power of emptiness, of the decentred, andthe beauty of the interstice is, I think, one of the gifts ofJapanese culture to his post-structural aesthetic (Barthes'fascination with absence adumbrates the desire for the193cessation of signs found in CL and his later essays onmusic).Themes of vacillation and emptying reappear in thefollowing section of ES, "The Unknown Language," where Barthesexpounds upon the salutory traumas of a Western encounter withJapanese difference. Difference, although signalingseparation, nevertheless implies some degree of relatednessand similarity. 6 In ES the ground of similarity is provided byWestern terms of reference: throughout the book the Occidentremains the primary referential term, while "Japan" is read soas to function as a supplement disrupting the Westerncategories Barthes wants to undermine.The dream: to know a foreign (alien) languageand yet not to understand it: to perceive thedifference in it without that difference everbeing know, positivelyrefracted in a new language, the impossibilityof our undo our own 'reality' underthe effect of other formulations, other syntaxes;to discover certain unsuspected positions ofthe subject in utterance, to displace thesubject's topology; in a word, to descend intothe untranslatable, to experience its shock...until everything Occidental in us totters andthe rights of the 'father tongue' vacillate...(ES 6/11)Vacillations of other kinds unsettle the work.Throughout the text Barthes makes conflicting implicit andexplicit assertions about his degree of knowledge and culturalcompetence with respect to Japan. At times he claims that hedoes not need and does not want to "know" Japan or Japanese inthe usual sense, preferring a warm womb of signifiance:194The murmuring mass of an unknown languageconstitutes a delicious protection, envelopsthe foreigner (provided the country is nothostile to him) in an auditory film whichhalts at his ears all the alienations of themother tongue...(ES 9/17)Yet, when it serves his purposes, Barthes will incorporatescholarly interpretations regarding the referential Japan intohis fantastic version. The Japanese language--this "auditoryfilm"--"it is said," through its proliferation of functionalsuffixes and complex enclitics, "turns the subject...into agreat envelope empty of speech ...diluting...hemorrhaging thesubject in a fragmented, particulated language diffracted toemptiness." (ES 7/12) Pursuing the theme of the salutoryemptiness of the Japanese subject, he analyzes the ontology ofthe Japanese ritual of bowing as two individuals pass a giftbetween them. The gift, Barthes writes, "remains suspendedbetween two disappearances": the salutation (bowing)"literally salutes no one;" it is not a moment of communication"between two personal empires"; "it is only the feature of anetwork of forms in which nothing is halted, knotted,profound." (ES 68/87-88) 7 Logically enough, the Japaneselanguage has verbs which are "without subject, withoutattribute, and yet transitive": zen, for instance, refers to anact of knowledge without either a knowing subject or a knownobject. (ES 7/12) This language is tentative in its truthclaims, articulating impressions rather than "affidavits." (ES7/12) And where the West has struggled to create the illusion oflife in its invented characters, Japanese assigns these195entities an inanimate verb form: "the very structure ofJapanese restores or confines these being to their quality asproducts, signs cut off from the alibi referential parexcellence: that of the living thing." (ES 7/13) Barthesreveals the contestatory agenda of his literary utopia,writing:These phenomena and many others convince ushow absurd it is to try and contest oursociety without ever conceiving the verylimits by which...we claim to contest it:this is trying to destroy the wolf bylodging comfortably in its gullet.(ES 8/13)So much for his initial claim that this country has norelation to any other symbolic system. It is clearly a reactivetextual fantasy. "Japan" is, in fact, created out of andpartially lodged between two other symbolic systems: Japan and"the West." 8 And, like a smaller body in space, its orbitdescribes its attraction to those two larger gravitationalfields, while it exerts its weaker, contrary pull. Rather thanaccepting Barthes' claims about the autonomy and fictionalityof this country, I think it is more to the point to look at theeffect of his rhetorical manoeuvering. This "Japan" is less aMallarmean absence than a "dislocated copy" of the consensualJapan. Barthes creates a version of Japan which oscillatesbetween fictional and referential registers. Thus Tokyo,General Nogi and his wife, student demonstrators, and artworkfrom the seventeenth century appear in this closed textualrealm--cited but looking, to the naive reader, amazingly like196the "real" thing. Japan (like the West from which Bartheswrites) is no longer an origin but an intertext. Like the chasmbetween the text-system and image-system in ES, gaps open upbetween these symbolic systems, producing a field of uncertaintensions in which the author and the reader, if she is soinclined, can experience the vertigo of indeterminacy and thehemorrhaging of meaning. Barthes' imaginative act, whichsuspends and then causes the intermittent coincidence of Japanand the West with "Japan," puts the ontological status of thelatter into a strange realm: "Japan" both is and is not real.This fantastic country is at once an interpretation (and anevasion of interpretation), a critique, and a re-imagining ofthe consensual real.The functions of "Japan" in ES are at least three-fold. Itexists as a site of indeterminate pleasure; it functions as autopia, a place of gentle, plural voids which challenges theWestern ideology of repletion; and, finally, as a foreign spaceit "protects" Barthes from "the alienations of the mothertongue" and more. Another passage from ES, in which Barthesplays upon the real and fictional status of his foreign countries, what a respite!Here I am protected against stupidity,vulgarity, vanity, worldiness, nationality,normality. The unknown language, of whichI nevertheless grasp the respiration, theemotive aeration, in a word the puresignificance, forms around me, as I move, afaint vertigo, sweeping me into its artificalemptiness (vide artificiel), which is consummatedonly for me:I live in the interstiche, deliveredfrom any fulfilled meaning (sens plein).(ES 9/17)197Paris, JapanS/Z and ES are, with PT, among the most seminal andidealizing discourses of Barthes' career. They manifest twodiverse aspects of Barthes' evolving post-structuralaesthetic, revealing distinct versions of culture andtextuality operating in his work. Although Barthes' Japan readslike an ideal generic post-structural culture/text, being aworld of surfaces, empty subjects, structurations, anddeferred signs, it is very different from the busy Frenchhypertext analysed in S/Z. It is not the syncretic andsymbolically overloaded site of Balzac's Paris--synedochally,of Barthes' West.Paris and Tokyo can stand as emblems of the diverging formsof textual economies Barthes most desires. The Parisiantextual economy, as it were, is the one generally identified asbeing the definitive post-structural formulation of the textand textuality. It is the version of culture and of culturalproduction found in Barthes' most-quoted statements. Thiseconomy puts forward a belated and citational model of culture,one in which the writer is both bricoleur and copyist. In thiseconomy, the writer is not an originating Author, controllingsome univocal text, but a voiceless scriptor whose only powersare citational and combinational. His gestures are limited: todraw from the immense dictionary of culture, "to trace a fieldwithout origin," to "mingle writings, to counter some byothers," making a textual system that no longer contains198"passions, moods, sentiments, impressions," but only oldsigns, which, repeated, rearranged, circulate in a new context.("DA,"RL 53/65) Writing can no longer in good conscienceperform the classical operations of recording, observing, orrepresenting anything outside of itself; yet it has,ironically, in Barthes' aesthetic, become a performative actwhich creates its own continous present.("DA," RL 52/64)Having, as Barthes writes, theoretically "distanced" the signfrom the referent, and the Author from the text, the play ofsigns cannot be arrested by any definite "meaning." Thereader's task in this economy is to disentangle the "threads"(that is, the codes and semes) of this multiple writing, tofollow its structures in all their stages and reprises, knowingthere is no end to it, no origin. For the reader/scriptor (thedistinction between the two is almost totally obscured inBarthes) "the space of writing is to be traversed, not pierced;writing constantly posits meaning, but always in order toevaporate it: writing seeks a systematic exemption of meaning."("DA," RL 54/66)The Parisian economy is, as Barthes writes, antimimeticand "countertheological". ("DA," RL 54/66) Within its anti-theology, everything is citational, yet nothing has origin,self-identity, or depth. In it the lives and bodies of thescriptor and of the receiver (who is always reading alone) arealmost entirely suppressed, surviving only in the gestures ofinscription, or in turning a page to momentarily collect intoone's own emptiness disparate traces of previous writings. The199earlier carnality of the writer (in WDZ) has disappeared into atextual economy in which baroque playing surfaces and thepleasures of citation build up to and then yield to the frisson--and alibi--of absence.There are are significant commonalities in both theParisian and Japanese economies, which I see as complementaryrather than antagonistic systems: an agreement on the lack ofsubstantive origin, subjectivity, hermeneutic plenitudecentre, depth, and the view of culture as play. Compare, forinstance, the following two passages. In "The Death of theAuthor" Barthes writes:...writing is the destruction of every voice,every origin. Writing is that neuter, thatcomposite, that obliquity into which our subjectflees, the black-and-white where all identityis lost, beginning with the very identity ofthe body that writes.("DA," RL 49/61)A congruent, slightly more poetic take on writing andemptiness in ES:...satori creates an emptiness of language.And it is an emptiness of language whichconstitutes writing; it is from this emptinessZen writes gardens, gestures, houses, flowerarrangements, faces, violence.(ES 4/10)Both economies work interstichally; they need that emptiness ofworld and persons, those gaps, voids, and fissures between signand referent in order to function. But the ratio of sign toemptiness is markedly different in each textual economy.200Signs (graphs) are more restrained and spare in theJapanese economy of ES, which begins to develop a graphic spacethat participates in what Barthes, in a late essay on CyTwombley, will call the aesthetic of the rare. He offers thisdefinition: "'Rarus' in Latin means: presenting intervals orinterstiches, sparse, porous, scattered...." ("CT," RF182/167) The rare is linked to the principles of lightness,emptiness, apparent spontaneity, surprise, chance, maculae,and the dissemination or erasure of subtle gestures lingeringin a subtly "aerated space." ("CT," RF 178-183) This concept ofthe rare--in short, of spacing--is, he continues, crucial inJapanese aesthetics, "which does not acknowledge the Kantiancategories of space and time, but the subtler one of theinterval." ("CT," RF 182) 9 The rare is "the 'void' of Orientalcompositions, merely accentuated here and there by somecalligraphy." ("CT," RF 182-183/168) But the rare is also partof the Mediterranean aesthetic; Barthes finds its expressionin the old southern houses of the Midi:'Those huge rooms of the Midi, very good formeditation--the big pieces of furniture lostin them. The great emptiness enclosed [myemphasis) where time doesn't count.The mindseeks to populate all this.' Basically,Twombley's canvases are big Mediterraneanrooms, warm and luminous, with their elementslost in them (rani), rooms the mind seeks topopulate.("CT," RF 183/168)"Emptiness enclosed": one of the generative principles, Ithink, of Barthesian post-structuralism and its versions of201textuality. This fascination with absence and enclosure firstappears, as I have shown, in Barthes' reading of Frenchmodernity and his characterization of the Mallarmean project inWDZ as one which seeks to allow Language (rather than any humansubject) to "speak" by creating around the Word an "empty zone"in which "guilty social longer reverberate."(WDZ 75-76/55)In ES Japan is fragmented and largely absent: put anotherway, it is present only synecdochically, in small details andgestures which are apprehended in a largely empty space. Japanis a kind of big empty room throughout which an indefinitenumber of smaller emptinesses--cities, gift packages,theatrical performances, faces, gestures, drawings, poetry,meals, photographs, persons--circulate. These things arescattered (in the sense of the rare) and yet contained eitherfiguratively or literally by frames, envelopes, silences, orspace itself, since form, as Barthes insists throughout ES,following Buddhism, is emptiness.In the final entry of the book, appropriately titled "TheCabinet of Signs," Barthes reflects upon the subtle orderingand enclosure of his Japan. In every part of this country, thereis an idyllic and "special organization" of space which rendersthe sense of an indefinitely spacious miniature: there is "theconjunction of a distance [un lointain) and a division [unmorcellement, literally a fragmentation)." (ES 107/144) Thefields (literal and visual) are discontinuous, open; there areno functional enclosures, but only, and infrequently, the202pleasing gesture of one. The traveler is neither "beseiged" bythe specter of a horizon, never constrained to constitutehimself as the "assimilating center of the infinite." (ES107/144)This is a country which has been utterly overwhelmed andtailored by human orders (however subtle their apparentabsence). The wild--that alterity--is repressed. Spaces areentirely civil: voids are small, pleasing, and "artificial"(i.e. human). Chance strolls sweetly through the streets as apublic entertainer. Barthes, the western tourist, movesthrough it like a flgneur in the streets of Paris, like the post-structural reader of "From Work to Text" who wanders through theexotic if contained word-landscape of a text.From the slope of the mountains to theneighborhood intersection, everything hereis (human) habitat, and I am always in themost luxurious room of this habitat (emphasismine): this luxury (which is elsewhere thatof the kiosks, of corridors, of fancifulstructures, collectors' cabinets, privatelibraries) is created by the fact that theplace has no other limit than its carpet ofliving sensations, of brillant signs (flowers,windows, foliage, pictures, books)...(ES 107/144)The safety and contraction of this beautiful,aestheticized world provides Barthes with severalopportunities to directly and indirectly articulate someprinciples of post-structural textuality.203Tempura and textualityThe motifs of enclosure, space and detail dominateBarthes' meditations on textuality. Frames conventionallysignal boundaries, distinguishing inside from outside, self(or object) and other. As deictic devices, they have pointedout the realm of heightened semiosis--historically, the zonesof art and of authority. ES is filled with a disorienting arrayof visual and verbal framing devices which can almost jostle oneanother,heightening the already decentred, plural quality ofthe text. 1 ° As with other devices of containment, the literaland verbal frames operating in ES (e.g. the suspensiveheadnote, the handwritten texts scribbled on the bottom ofphotographs) function as devices of art--devices of separationand reconstellation--which help to aestheticize Japan and itsculture, turning it into a land of insistent textuality.In Barthes' post-structural Japan, frames distance andwithdraw phenomena from the stresses of representation andplenitude (depth). Positively alienated from confining andonly putative referents, signs--especially framed signs--nowcreate only surfaces and, as Eve Tavor Bennet refers to them,emptied "play-texts." (SD 54) In ES Barthes' theories ofpantextuality and of the sign-in-itself allow him torhetorically subsume the heaviness of matter into an etherealtextuality. Barthes' readings of Japanese cuisine are a case inpoint.204The dinner tray seems a picture of the mostorder: it is a frame containing against adark background, various objects (bowls, boxes,saucers, might be said thatthese trays fulfill the definition of paintingwhich, according to Piero della Francesa, 'ismerely a demonstration of surfaces and bodiesbecoming ever smaller or larger according totheir term.'(ES 11/19)This "painting," (perhaps a miseen abyme with respect toES), quite literally framed, contains the elements of an openwork. It defines the play-field of a dynamic and unpredictabletext, one "destined to be undone, recomposed according to thevery rhythm of eating"; metaphorically, of (readerly)consumption. (ES 11/19) What was initially "a motionlesstableau ...becomes a workbench or chessboard, the space not ofseeing but of doing--of praxis or play." (ES 11/19) The personhaving a meal, randomly and "hesitantly" taking up bits of riceand vegetables, condiments and soup, is likened to a Japanesegraphic artist hesitating over pots of ink. This diner is, asshe eats, performing a series of aesthetic operations on thistray-cum-tableau: she is altering or decomposing the tableau,shifting and reassembling its elements in order to compose asecond artwork in process: the meal, "the praxis ofalimentation." (ES 12/20) 11This new artwork is not achieved with mounds of food andthe usual violent Western tools of analysis--metaphorically,in ES, knives and forks. Instead, there is an idyllic "harmonybetween Oriental food and chopsticks." (ES 15/24) The Japanesegastronomic artist works with miniscule amounts of food already205tending toward dispersal, and a utensil--a pair of chopsticks--expressing, Barthes avers (conveniently dismissing theJapanese cleaver working in the kitchen) a radically differentaesthetic. A chopstick has, to begin with, a purely deicticfunction: "it points to the food, designates the fragment,brings (it) into existence by the very gesture of choice, whichis the index." (ES 16/24-25) This introduces "not an order but acaprice (fantasie), a certain indolence (paresse)" and"intelligence" into the act of eating. (ES 16/25) Thechopsticks express a refined, tender and tentative interactionwith the food, rather than a primal drive to seize anddismember: "the instrument never pierces,cuts, or slits, neverwounds, but only selects, turns, shifts." (ES 16/26) Thesesticks never violate the food: they gradually unravel or prod atthe natural fissures of the food in order to separate morselsand then "translate" them to the mouth. Against the "predatory"operations of the fork, the chopsticks are figured as gentle andalmost maternal in their work.The food-texts the chopsticks work on are analysed aspost-structural avant la lettre. In "Food Decentred" Barthesconsiders the ways in which Japanese cuisine "cooks," in theLêvi-Straussian sense, transforming the natural density andrawness of foodstuffs into aerated surfaces, graphs,andtextures.Entirely visual (conceived, concerted,manipulated for sight, and even for apainter's eye), food thereby says that itis not deep: the edible substance is withouta precious heart...a vital secret: no206Japanese dish is endowed with a everything is the ornament of anotherornament...(ES 22/32)There is no order or within the Jac lese text (heresukiyaki) is never anything but a collectionof fragments, none of which appearsprivileged by an order of ingestion; to eatis not to respect a menu (an itinerary ofdishes), but to select, with a touch of thechopsticks...this food--and this is its onceoriginality--unites in a single time that ofits fabrication and of its consumption...once'started', it no longer has moments ordistinctive sites: it becomes decentred,like an uninterrupted text. [my emphasis](ES 22/32-33)In "The Interstice" Barthes meditates in an almostBachelardian fashion on the preparation of tempura, followingthe chef's aesthetic "cancellation" or transmutation of heavynatural objects (a pepper and an eel) into artificed and "purelyinterstitial" objects. In ES, writing is,in all its metaphorsand instantiations--calligraphy, Bunraku theatre, cuisine,gift wrapping, the layout of a city, social rituals, pinballgames, gardens, wrestling--a process or spectacle whichtextualizes its raw elements, congruent with the aesthetic ofartifice and absence Barthes sketches. In his analysis oftempura, the chef is first figured as an artist who "makes laceout of fish and peppers." (ES 26/38) Then the chef's cookingstall is likened to a calligrapher's table, and his cooking isseen as "literally graphic." (ES 26/48) (Throughout the bookthe distinction between writing and more quotidian activities207is attenuated.) The reason for cooking eel and peppers is asmuch to aestheticize human need while providing physicalsustenance; tempura translates the raw world of matter andbasic human need into the textual artifice and ornamentation ofa desire: the desire for "empty signs." In Sartrean terms,tempura re-imagines the pepper, liberating it from theuncomposed sterility of the natural (that is, theuntextualized, the undelineated). To quote from two of the epicsentences contained in ES:tempura...the fry outlines...a pepper,chambered inside; what matters here isthat the foodstuff be constituted as apiece, a fragment (fundamental state ofthe Japanese cuisine...out of which emergesa fragment completed, separated, named andyet entirely perforated: but the contour isso light that it becomes abstract: [my emphasis)the foodstuff has for its envelope nothingbut time, the time (itself extremely tenuous,moreover) which has solidified it....refinedby the Japanese techniques of cancellation andexemption, it is the nutriment of another time...a kind of meditation, as much spectacular asalimentary...on the side of the light, the aerial,of the instaneous, the fragile, the crisp, thetrifling, but whose real name would be theinterstice without specific edges, or again:the empty sign.(ES 25-26/35-36)208Cities, envelopes and empty signsIn ES writing often occurs within 'the suggestion of framesof various kinds. Frames, as I have indicated, conventionallyhelp organize the physical and conceptual space within theirborders, assisting in the determination of compositionalcentres. Writing and frames can generate at least the illusionof meaning, but here they help produce neither. Elements andstructure give way to fragments, discontinuous surfaces, andstructuration. For instance: like the city of Tokyo, theJapanese gift (both further "texts" and objective correlativesin the book's wandering argument) are structurations of detailscirculating around contained and silent traces, half-absences.Both literally and figuratively, in post-structuralism thecenter (of the subject or the text) is no longer a special siteof plenitude and truth, the place where the essential values ofwhat is called Western civilization collect. Historically, thecentre (the origin) is the place where the West has gone--orreturned--to "invent" or recognize itself. It has been thestorehouse of Western mythologies--and power. Power collectsin origins and radiates outward; and it is in relation to thatpower centre that whatever surrounds it is interpreted andsystematized (or textualized). Social reality crystallizesaround those centres. It is no accident that the Western city-centre is where generations have consistently chosen to buildlandmark churches, libraries, courts, government offices, andcorporate cathedrals.Dead centre in Barthes' contemporary Tokyo, there is a209walled imperial palace with a ceremonial emperor. But in thisTokyo power has migrated elsewhere. Having become a corporatedemocracy, the imperial power once held at this centre hasapparently become an "evaporated notion", a "sacred 'nothing'(le 'rien' sacre)", another non-interfering "mirage". (ES32/46) Tokyo thus offers Barthes a "precious paradox: it(Tokyo) does possess a center, but this center is empty." (ES30/43) Emptied, this centre persists not in order to radiatepower, "but to give the entire urban movement the support of itscentral emptiness, forcing the traffic to make a perpetualdetour." (ES 32/46) In this way, Barthes concludes, revealingyet another element of his theory of the function of relativeabsence within a text, "the system of the imaginary is spreadcircularly, by detours and returns the length of an emptysubject." (ES 43/46) Emptied, the subject cannot impose itselfor an interpretation on what envelopes it.Emptiness and material framing devices organize the"semantic meditation" Barthes finds in Japanese packaging,whether the packages are utilitarian or literally gratuitious.The Japanese carry, "with a formicant energy" (he recounts inamazement, sounding like Gulliver among the Lilliputians), aprofusion of tiny "instruments of transport." (ES 46/62) Theseinstruments--pouches, packages, sacks, suitcases, fujos(peasant bundling scarves )--apparently contain almost nothing.These packages are, Barthes asserts, "actually empty signs."(ES 46/62) In this post-structural country every citizenritually carries "some sort of bundle, an empty sign,210energetically if the finish, the framing, thehallucinatory outline (my emphasis) which established theJapanese object destined it to a generalized transport( translation generalisee) " (ES 46-47/62)Ceremonial packages are just as intriguing in this unrealland. There is, for Western sensibilities, an unexpectedreversal in the Japanese aesthetic of the gift. The packagecontaining the gift, painstakingly composed of a pleasinginterplay of cardboard, wood, paper, and ribbon, carefullysigned somewhere with an asymmetrical fold or knot, "is nolonger the temporary accessory of the object to be transported,but itself becomes an object; the envelope, in itself, isconsecrated as a precious though gratuitous thing; the packageis a thought." (ES 45/60) The art of the package, he insists,suddenly digressing momentarily to an image of a naked butbound boy in a Japanese pornographic magazine, lies in theextreme art of fastening and, he continues, (returning to thegeneral analysis of packaging), of strategic delay. Theenvelope postpones the discovery of the object it contains. Itis, in fact, a Japanese tradition that the triviality of theobject itself (a sweet, a small souvenir) is inversely relatedto the extravagance of the envelope. It is as though theparergonal wrappings--a layered experience of surfaces,complications and beautiful delays screening the triviality atits core--constitute the true gift. What lies beneath thewrappings is not the real gift, but a mere pretext enabling theother process--the slow and appreciative undoing of the211package--to occur. Musing on this happy analogue to his post-structural text, Barthes reflects on the aesthetics of delay heconstrues in Japanese packaging, comparing their wrappings tothe post-structural sign:Thus the box acts the sign: as envelope,screen, mask, it is worth what it conceals,protects, and yet designates...but the verything it encloses and signifies is for a verylong time put if the package'sfunction were not to protect in space but topostpone in time...(ES 46/61)The wrapped object, Barthes writes, somehow "loses itsexistence", becoming a "mirage." (ES 46/61) Slipping into ametaphorical register, he goes on to reiterate the view oftextuality and interpretation found in S/Z....from envelope to envelope, the signifiedflees [fuit) and when you finally have it(there is always a little something in thepackage), it appears insignificant, laughable,vile: the pleasure, field of the signifier, hasbeen taken: the package is not empty, butemptied...(ES 46/61)The ultimate hermeneutic moment--finding the kernel, theessence of the text--is the moment of greatest disappointment;the moment in which the sign, according to Barthesian post-structuralism, is consumed, then discarded. Playtime is over.The "Japanese" solution to such a rapacious and wanton (read:bourgeois) pillaging of the text is involved. One: insist uponan experiential approach to "texts." Two: prolong the time ofplay, that is, the process of "unwrapping" the sign. Three:212discourage the acquisitive hermeneutic impulse by insistingthat all objects and gestures, whether natural (such asflowers) or a human product (e.g. the gift boxes), are "precise,mobile, empty." (ES 47/62) Four: eliminate intertexts, priorjudgements, and interpretive communities. Barthes' contraryworld of Japanese aesthetics frustrates Western expectationsof a dense, controlling semantic or ontological centre whichmight order one's experience of the world-text, providing notonly a telos of some kind (and therefore a moment of catharsis,or resolution), but also a certain semantic capital. Instead ofsign and referent, centre and ornament, tension and relief, theprocessual narrative of the Japanese gift provides not essencebut instead a series of details (supplements), semelfactivetensions, and surprises. 13 In effect, the Japanese gift--broadly, the Japanese object/text-- is an enveloped tracewhich, as Barthes remarks frequently in ES, merely emphasizesthe interstiche or void in which it floats.This principle of containment, producing an airy,contained emptiness that is both intimate and yet, finally,quite distant, dominates Barthes' Japanese aesthetic. And itcontributes to the quality of the miniature in this imaginaryworld that so enchants Barthes. In the first two paragraphs of"Packages" Barthes explores some of the effects of containingdevices. "If the things and manners of Japan seem diminutive tous" he observes, "this is not by reason of their size, it isbecause every object, every gesture, even the most free, themost mobile, seems framed." (ES 43/57) These frames may be213obvious (e.g. the dinner tray), or they may be discrete, eveninvisible. In Japan, space is the final frame:...the Japanese thing is not outlined,illuminated; it is not formed of a strongcontour...around it, there is: nothing, anempty space which renders it matte (andtherefore to our eyes: reduced, diminished,small).(ES 43/57)The clean delineation of Japan's miniatures arises from "a kindof precision which the thing observes in delimiting itself,stopping, finishing." (ES 43/57) This precision is, however,not rational, not Apollonian. The distinctness of the Japaneseobject, Barthes argues, results from one of two possiblegestures effected by the scriptor: excision or hallucinatoryre-visioning: that is, "an excision which removes the flourishof meaning from the object and severs it from... its position inthe world, any tergiversation"; or, more opaquely, aBaudelairean "hallucinatory...(of) fantasmal addition" quiteanalogous, he adds, to the visions induced by hashish. (ES43/57) Through framing, excision, and fantasy, Japan becomes acountry of miniature textualized objects; or, more simply, aplace of intransitive and voided forms of writing. The materialworld undergoes an imaginative refiguration: it becomes, inNietzschean terms, aesthetically justified, not as an artwork,but as a series of textualities. The heightened and detachedcharacter of Japanese semiosis--its radical but unthreateningalterity, its difference--captures Barthes' admiration. In ES214Barthes' project is to re-write--to privately re-imagine--Japan, heightening what Western eyes have interpreted as theinhering aestheticism of the Japanese culture in order tosubtly clarify and support his own emerging aesthetic ofbeautiful, playful, absurd signs.At the approximate midpoint of ES, three photographsdisrupt a long entry on Bunraku theatre. The first image, spreadacross two pages, is a black-and-white photograph of an emptyJapanese room (which is later identified as the Shikidaicorridor). The other two black-and-white photographs face oneanother on following pages. One is of a "woman" in traditionalJapanese dress (the face is a stiff white theatrical mask,through which the reader catches sight of a pair of androgynouseyes); the other image is of a mature Japanese paterfamiliaswho, one may risk inferring from an accompanying note, may bethe man behind the mask in the first image. The handwritten noteaccompanying the photograph of the room in the original reads:"Turn the image upside down: nothing more, nothing else,nothing" [rien de plus, rien d'autre, rien]." (ES 50-51/64-65)The second note, set off in italic type in the original,reads:The Oriental transvestite does not copyWoman but signifies her: not bogged down[il ne s'empoisse pas] in the model, butdetached from its signified; Femininityis presented to read, not to see...translation, not transgression...(ES 53/69)The photograph of the empty room and the visually215reinforced parable of the Oriental transvestite are, I suspect,keys of a sort to ES. And they are, of course, a strong statementabout writing and the material world. The notes found beneaththese images communicate Barthes' abiding hostility to naivetheories of mimesis, and to the unformed heaviness of matteritself (as the Sartrean adjective "s'empoisse" found in theoriginal suggests). The symbolically-resistant materialityhuman beings live in and are--a raw materiality synecdochallypresent in ES in as unprepared food, unarranged flowers, theunartificed human body--is put under erasure. The crudelymaterial (predictably, metaphorically, "Woman") is overcome bya writing which, in detaching itself from any heavy truth-claims or responsibilities the referent might have pressed uponthe scriptor or the reader, displaces human attention to therealm of the airy mental. The locus of the real, shifts from thephysical to the conceptual level. "Femininity" (read thereferent) is presented to read, not to see. In this aestheticour eyes shift from the world to the sign and do not shift back.The sign thus, in Sartrean terms, abjures its prosaicfunctions. It becomes an utterly poetic sign as itirresponsibly "signifies" the real, and then, invoking thealibis of difference and textuality, disburdens both the objectand itself of referential force.Alan Megill argues that aestheticism has a radicallycreative aspect: it seizes upon and foregrounds what he refersto as the ontogenetic potential of language. (PE 3) Thatontogenetic impulse, as exemplified in Holderlin and Rilke,216literally recreates the human world from a mass of particularsby imaginatively shaping human existence and the humanenvironment into meaningful forms (what Heidegger referred toas the "worlding of the world"). Barthes opts for a different,reflexive reading of the generative potential of the sign.Labelled by the unimpressed as Mallarmean linguisticsolipsism, this alternate hypothesis, or myth, has yielded twomajor conclusions (Barthesian post-structuralism oscillatesbetween the two). The first conclusion is not complicated oreven particularly original. Elaborating upon the Saussureanmyth of the estrangement of sign and thing, language is treatedalmost as an alternate, or even parallel reality, an emptiedBaudelairean fantasy island offering shelter from the cold warof languages. Ideally distanced ("detached") from reality,language is a series of empty graphs that does not point toanything beyond itself. Language does not mean. It simply,sensuously, is. (This is one possible reading of the photographof the empty room and the juxtaposed note found beneath it.) Thesecond conclusion offers a twisted skeptical paradox: languagecreates, sustains, and destroys "reality."The destructive aspect of the sign is one which comes topreoccupy Barthes during his later, autographical phase, whenhe explores the tension between figuration and the live person(RB, CL), and the strife between the publicizing sign and theprivate, the beloved (CL). In his early post-structural work,the reflexive beauty and creativity of the poetic sign isstressed. The creativity of the sign lies partially in its217capacity to rewrite the given world, to heighten the formal andpre-Symbolic aspects of the real--or the imagined--for thereader's own pleasure. This, to my mind, is the commondenominator of otherwise divergent aesthetic discourses. Andthis heightened re-imagining and appreciation of the sign is asignature move of Barthes' imaginative and cerebralsensuality.According to the Sartrean theory of the imagination, inorder to re-imagine the world, one must momentarily nihilateit. That is, one must imaginatively suspend the plenitude of thegiven world in order to create potentiality--a conceptualemptiness--that would allow one to not repeat what exists, butconstruct something other. 14 Sartre understands theimaginative act as a form of necessary violence. In ES Barthesresists admitting the violence of the imagination and of thesign, arguing in the note on the transvestite that his fantasywriting does not "transgress" (violate) the object beingsignified, but only "translates" it; creating, he wouldprobably argue, a non-violating and detached version of themodel. Throughout the 1970s Barthes was to try to develop a non-harming and non-invasive form of writing. Reading the variousinterviews and addresses collected in GV, it is clear that thiswas one of the conscious aims of his post-structuralism (see,for instance, "The Fatality of Culture," "The Limits ofCounterculture," "Digressions," "Of What Use is anIntellectual?," and Stephen Heath's interview). Despite theseinitial claims, from 1968 to 1973 Barthes' writing is full of218attacks on the doxic and the replete given. Throughout ESwriting is defined as the technique of unsettling or destroyingprior meaning (satori), or, alternatively, as a means ofproducing relatively empty signs. A "true writing" is held tofrustrate the simple or utilitarian decoding of signs whileproducing a "volume" (that is, a textual space) in which thereader may follow--or, of course, ignore-- "the course of thewriting's labor": that is, the trace of the gestures whichproduced that sign or object. (ES 45/59) a Japanese flower arrangement...what is produced is the circulation ofair, of which flowers, leaves, branches(words that are far too botanical) areonly the walls, the corridors, the can move your body into the intersticeof its branches...not in order to read it...but to follow the trajectory of the handwhich has written it...(ES 44-45/59) 15This view of writing as producing detours and volume will bemore elaborately developed in PT. There the notion of writing assatori develops into the notion of jouissance, and Barthespursues the desirable spaces of the marginal, the hors-texte.HaikuThe functions of the frame--whether literal orconceptual-- in this economy are complex. In Barthes' countrythe frame's primary task is, as I have argued, a defensive one:219to isolate the gesture or object from any context, so as tofrustrate the semantic operations of those who would seek to"pierce" the thing with other signs, tapping the object'sostensible plenitude in order to surround it with commentaryand meaning. Thus contextualized and interpreted, the objectwould be stabilized and drawn into the marketplace of culture asa commodity. Haloed with meaning, it would be prone (in Barthes'reading) to generate further anxieties of interpretation.Anxiety (a touchstone of existential discourse) interfereswith pleasure and play: where there is no halo of meaning,Barthes declares in an interview, there is10/17)Anxiety and meaningno anxiety.(GVthe beat Zenare antipathetic toaesthetics of ES. In a spiralling series of chapters on the haikuform (the supreme exemplum of Japanese "writing" ) Barthesreiterates his criticisms of Western values. The West, hecomplains, "moistens everything with meaning, like anauthoritarian religion which imposes baptism on entirepeoples: the objects of language...are obviously de jureconverts." (ES 70/90-91) Desperate to fill the emptiness oflanguage, the West has developed ways of "sparing discourse theinfamy of non-meaning (non-sense): ... symbol and reasoning,metaphor and syllogism." (ES 70/91-92) Western misreadings ofthe haiku have subjected it to such indignities, stopping itsdynamic, absurd flow, and stuffing its emptiness with symbolsand metaphors. "Correcting" those prior interpretations, inBarthes' fantasy the haiku is framed with silence (that zone of220agraphia around the Mallarmean sign) and with space. Restoredto non-sense, it attains a paradoxical condition denied toWestern writing: the "exemption from meaning within a perfectlyreaderly discourse." (ES 81/108) Haiku vacillates between twopoles: opacity and a deceiving limpidity. It is a transparentand legible semantic absence: "while being quite intelligible,the haiku means nothing." (ES 69/89) This Japanese form hasmanaged to escape the two basic functions of Western "classicalwriting" which continue to inform Western expectations ofliterary art: description and definition (description anddefinition being, as Barthes will argue in PT, "the doors ofideology in a text.") (ES 82/110) The haiku, according toBarthes, does not deal in metaphors or syllogisms. Like thepointing finger of a child, or the deictic gesture of achopstick, the haiku neither describes nor defines, onlytentatively designating the isolated event (and things areevents) with a "so!" [Tel!): "a touch so instantaneous and sobrief (without vibration or recurrance) that even a copulawould seem excessive." (ES 83/111) This "so!" is not anepiphanic illumination, a "rich thought reduced to a briefform," but a "brief event" (ES 75/98), a "faint crease" in the"page of life, the silk of language" (ES 78/101), "a kind offaint gash inscribed upon time." (ES 82/109) The. haiku is agratuitious gesture. As with many other "graphic gestures whichmark modern and social Japanese life," the haiku is written forits own sake; it is a series of intransitive (matte) traceswhich culminate, if the poetic gesture is sucessful, in a221meaningless flash of illumination (ES 82/110-111) Haiku'ssurprise,its sudden illumination and absurd beauty, isantipathetical to the Western literary tradition ofrevelation:Here (in Japan) meaning is only a flash, aslash of light: When the light of sense goes out,but with a flash that has revealed the invisibleworld, Shakespeare wrote; but the haiku'sflash illumines, reveals nothing; it is theflash of a photograph one takes very carefully...but having neglected to load the camera withfilm.(ES 83/111)Barthes' haiku denies that there is an invisible deepworld which might potentially inform and give sense to a world ofinterrupted surfaces. This genre recognizes only randomsurfaces, perceptions, and intensities that might fallfleetingly into some kind of intriguing and sensual--butsenseless--order. Repeatedly moving between visual and auralmetaphors, Barthes likens the haiku's absurd intensity tovarious forms of writing, then to the purest graph, one that willincreasingly draw his attention: music. A "precise" utterance,without stable subject or object, this utopic haiku formsuppresses the "margins", "smudges", and "interstices" whichusually arise from semiosis, achieving the purity and veryemptiness of a note of music.In this emptiness difference and language cease tofunction. Having suspended meaning, the haiku form "makesimpossible the most ordinary exercise of ourlanguage...commentary."^(ES^81/108)^"Deciphering",222"normalizing," or making "tautological": these are thetraditional forms Western interpretation takes, according toBarthes. (ES 72/94) Western philologists, blissfully unaware ofthe haiku's aesthetics (if one is to accept the Barthesianreading), have violated that poetic genre by inferring and theninterpreting an interiority and subjectivity which is not there.The Japanese soul does not, Barthes avers, contaminate Japanesewriting. (ES 67/87) Western readings of haiku have suppressedits counter-descriptive treatment of the human subject and thething as event or appearance rather than essence: commentatorshave unknowingly used haiku as a psychoanalytic ink blot,imposing symbols, narratives, insights and subjective stateswhere they do not, according to Barthes, exist. The onlyrespectful form of commentary on haiku, Barthes writes, would berepetition: but the real work of reading haiku is not to provokelanguage but to suspend it. (ES 72/94)...merely saying that! with a movementso immediate (so stripped of any mediation:that of knowledge, of nomination, or evenpossession) that what is designated is thevery inanity of any classification of theobject...(ES 83/111)In ES, as throughout Barthes' post-structural writing,discrete verbal objects and concepts are unstable,contradictory, fluxing. They have a disconcerting tendancy totransform and half dissolve within a larger movement ofargumentation. Apparently substantial categories shimmer likemirages, then come apart, becoming synecdoches or metaphorical223entities working within a larger argument. To risk belabouringthe point of the hyper-textualization of the real: in ES haikufinally refers not only to a particular literary genre but, asBarthes parenthetically acknowledges, to any discontinuousfeature or event of Japanese life offering itself to his gaze.(ES 83/111) For this tourist haiku, finally, is whateverfrustrates the Western impulse to meaning.nothing special, says the haiku, inaccordance with the spirit of Zen:the event is not nameable according toany species, its speciality: like adecorative loop, the haiku coils backon itself, the wake of the sign whichseems to have been traced is erased:nothing has been acquired, the word'sstone has been cast for nothing: neitherwaves nor flows of meaning.(ES 83-84/111-112)In this fantasized world the graph, however rare orquotidian, is its own beginning and end. A gestural flourish,it arises and dies, leaving no semantic trace, not even thereverberating series of fortuitious associations that Pater socherished, nothing that might be salvaged as a culturalcommodity. Haiku's absurd flash is part of the larger strategyof Zen, which sabotages the mechanical operations of meaning.The four possible semantic possibilities recognized in Westernlogic--this is X, this is not X, this is both X and not-X, thisis neither X nor not-X (and therefore Y) --are confounded by theconceptual noise of Zen. The Buddhist way, Barthes argues, isthat of the "obstructed meaning": as a consequence, "the veryarcanum of signification...the paradigm, is rendered224impossible." (ES 73/95) Zen thus mocks the mechanical nature ofmeaning, whose fundamental unit is the sign, seeing all as maya;that is, as delusion. All of Zen (and haiku is only its "literarybranch") appears to Barthes as "an enormous praxis destined tohalt language, to jam that kind of internal radiophonycontinually sending in us, even in our sleep." (ES 74/96) Whenthe sudden croak of the frog awakened Basho to the truth of Zen("vast emptiness, and nothing sacred about it", as one Zenmaster put it), what Basho discovered in that sound was not amystical "illumination," but rather void, an "echolessbreach," "an end of language" which silences the"soul's...babble" and notions of depth, subjectivity, anddevelopment. (ES 74/96) What Basho attained was the far side oflanguage, a point beyond the Eliotic moment where words failsbut meaning still exists. What Basho, a master of haiku, awoketo was the lack of any stable meaning in the world.Haiku, in Barthes' reading, discovers three moments oflanguage: the first, that of "vision without commentary,"then, more radically, the reflexivity of language and the"matteness" (the opacity) of signs.(ES 82/109) Finally, haikucan move into its own nihilation: the abolition not only ofmeaning, but of the sign itself. This moment--another satori--provokes a shock in the reader. This satori is, Barthesconjectures, perhaps nothing more than a "panic suspension oflanguage," a blank moment which releases one from the "reign ofthe Codes," an interruption of the "internal recitation whichconstitutes our person." (ES 75/97) However brief, this state225of "a-language" is a "liberation" because it jams the cycling ofthought processes, the looping generation of secondary andtertiary thoughts, the circle of which language itself is the"depository and the model." (ES 75/97-98) Zen does not crushlanguage beneath a mystical silence, but halts "that verbal topwhich sweeps into its gyration the obsessional play of symbolicsubstitutions": it overcomes the semantic operations of thesign. (ES 75/97-98) Barthesian haiku is one of the strongestsucessful literary instances of^the sign as "anti-communication":^the ineffable silence it creates as itabolishes language creates a resistant space separating graphfrom referent.And in this writing the sign becomes something other: anempty form, or, better, a mirror, a jewel shining in an infinitenet of faceted jewels reflecting light without beginning orend. In the West, Barthes writes, the sign is a narcissisticobject which humanity creates only in order to look at itself init. But in the "Orient," the mirror/sign is truly empty. It isthe symbol of the "very emptiness of symbols...the mirrorintercepts only other mirrors, and this infinite reflection isemptiness itself (which, as we know, is form)." (ES 78-79/104)Haiku pulverizes the world, reducing it to a random series ofpure fragments, to "a dust of events" scattered throughoutspace which nothing can or should "coagulate, construct,direct, terminate." (ES 78/101) This beautiful absurdity doesnot provoke anxiety, but rather a desire for play. Recycling thevedic image of the universe as Indira's shimmering net, Barthes226offers the following might say that the collectivebody of all haikus is a network ofjewels in which each jewel reflects allthe others and so on, to infinity, withoutthere ever being a center to grasp, aprimary core of irradiation (for us, theclearest image of of reflectionswithout origin, would be that of thedictionary, in which a word can only bedefined by other words.)(ES 78/103-104)The haiku is a suspended jewel, a post-structuralsimulacrum in which, Barthes argues, we somehow recognize "arepetition without origin, an event without cause, a memorywithout person, a language without moorings." (ES 79/104) And,as Barthes reminds the reader, what he is writing about thehaiku he could also write "about everything which happens whenone travels in that country I am calling Japan." (ES 79/104-105)This Japan is a network of unconnected, semelfactive jewel-likeflashes: there, in the street, in a shop, a train station agesture, person or object flashes, "starring" Barthes, causinga series of perceptual and sensual "adventures" of an"infinitesmal" order. The subtlety of these experiences,Barthes' careful attention to them, as well as to his owncomplex response to them, is characteristically aesthetic inits hypersubtle exploration of detail and subjective response."An incongruity of clothing, an anachronism of culture, afreedom of behaviour, an illogicality of itinerary": these areevents that suddenly come forward in the "lively writing of thestreet" and suddenly glisten as they are "read." (ES 79/104-227105) These tiny adventures accumulate over the course of a day,causing a kind of "erotic intoxication" in the traveler. (ES79/104-105)These adventures are not "novelistic." (ES 79/104-105)They have no development, no duration, no cohesion: they do notlend themselves to the semiotic "chatter which would make theminto narratives or descriptions" (that is, they do not createthe illusion of a fictional world.) (ES 79/105) Instead, whatthey offer the individual to read is the reflexive movement ofthe graph, "without wake, without margin, without vibration."(ES 80/105)In ES Japan becomes a refined and almost inhumanspectacle--the product, as Barthes writes, of an aesthetic fromwhich all vulgarity and emotion has been decanted, or subsumedinto a series of highly coded "graphic gestures." Barthes isenchanted by a people who have achieved, in this fantasy, a"graphic mode of existing" that does not depend, as in the West,on a "theatricality (hysteria) of bodies," but on a writing allaprima--a writing which excludes erasure or repetition. (ES86/116) Japan becomes the ultimate utopian aesthetic state, thecountry of taste.In this text/state everything is--or, more accurately, isperceived by Barthes as--writing, even blatant socialviolence. He analyses the Japanese Zengakuren riots of the late1960s and early 1970s not as a manifestation of real socialconflict, but as a fierce ballet of signs. Rather improbably(given the background of the dissent fuelling the riots) he228extirpates that clash of its expressive content, arguing thatthe riot is not in fact a riot but a "great scenario of signs,"an organized and solitary "mass writing" which is neitherspontaneous nor expressive. Westerners, Barthes writes, areprone to misinterpret these riots by reading them through theOccidental prejudice that violence is a "primary, savage,asystematic" language spontaneously expressing both apolitical position and "a content, an inwardness, a (human)nature." (ES 103/139) The Zengakuren riot is, he insists,expressing neither. The violence of the riot is a self-abolishing "sign" which expresses nothing: "neither hatred norindignation nor any moral idea." (ES 103/139) It is adiscontinuous but deliberately arranged writing of actionspublicly "performed like a prosaic sentence." (ES 103/139)Barthes obscurely argues that this riot is really a form ofaction-writing. 17 In choosing not to lapse into the naive mythof presence by destroying its targets in the Western manner, butrather putting those targets and the symbols of the rioters"between parentheses," the demonstration moves into the realmof the mimed and suspended gesture, of the theatrical. (ES104/139)This riot/"sentence"--masked and helmetted studentsputting themselves in the way of state violence in order tomanifest their revulsion against the Vietnam War--lacks anysense of reality or emotional force for Barthes. Thefrightening situation is, under his outsider's gaze, doubled,aestheticized, becoming not so much a protest against a bloody229war as a "great scenario of signs." (ES 106/142)In the following, final section of the book, "The Cabinetof Signs," Barthes reasserts the contained and graphic post-structural nature of his Japan. The sumptuous closed cabinetthrough which he has been moving is a half-voided artifact. Init the human body, sensual but emptied of expressivity, becomesa pure signifier. In this cabinet the human trace is fugal: itapparently persists, as in the Zen garden, only in traces--thetrace of the rake ordering the sand, the ghostly hand placingthe rocks which transforms earthy materials into "a mineraltapestry of tiny volumes;" that is, the human element persistsonly in the work of writing which transforms the elemental intoan aesthetic object.(ES 108/146) This empire of signs is afragmentary textual--and, finally, mental--space of successive"views." Within its borders the object-as-event producesitself under western eyes in a moment of "pure significance,abrupt, empty, like a fracture" and then fades before "anyparticular signified" has time to form. (ES 108/146) Returningto the Shikidai corridor, Barthes draws a series of parallelsbetween it and this ideal Japanese space where meaning and theacquisitive impulse are delicately arrested....the better to see how it (the country)is made, take for example the Shikidaicorridor: tapestried with openings, framedwith emptiness and framing nothing, decoratedno doubt, but so that the figuration (flowers,trees, birds, animals) is removed, sublimated...(ES 108/145)In this corridor, as in the ideal Japanese house, there is230no place for furniture, no site which might express theslightest nuance of ownership, no bed or table from which thehuman being might organize space and create a centre, howeverarbitrary. Disoriented in such a space, Barthes writes, thesubject is unable to constitute himself as either subject ormaster of that space. (ES 108-109/146) This white space is alsoarguably akin to the zone of silence protecting the haiku (andthe Mallarmean sign) from the contaminating forces ofsubjectivity, the passing of time, personal narratives,history, territory. This space remains unmarked, fantastically"reversible" (that is, freed from the exigencies of choice andconsequence that mark real life), as pure and synchronic as anote of music. Underlining the unreality of this Japan, Barthesends the book with a gesture reminiscent of Thackeray in VanityFair, synecdochically picking up his creation and turning itupside down like a child's toy to exhibit its unreality.Uncentered, space is also reversible:you can turn the Shikdai gallery upsidedown and nothing would happen, except aninconsequential inversion of top andbottom, of right and left: the content isirretrievably dismissed: whether we passby, cross it, or sit down on the floor (or theceiling, if you reverse the image), there isnothing to grasp.(ES 110/146)A tentative semiosis: the suspension of language:reverie, beauty, the flash of something, of nothing, starringthe reader: a delicate suicide of signs in an aerated space.Loss and absurdity: but no grief. This is the utopian writing ofpure expenditure and reflexivity Barthes has learned to seek231from Japanese texts and their anonymous scriptors. Inboth S/Z and ES the grasping "humanist imagination" andhumanist subject of which Kearney writes is declared to be dead,an illusion undone. 18 The sovereign individual imagination ofthe West is unseated by the perception of cultural belatednessand notions of bricolage and the intertext, challenged by theideal of an writing performed by an "empty wrist." (ES 57/75)For Barthes, the textual will remain a sanctuary, but in ES thefirst indications of an ambivalence toward the intertextualeconomy articulated in works such as S/Z is evident. In theParisian economy, the world-habitat is a heavy and cerebralpalimpsest of prior writings, a realm choked with decayingsigns. The most intense pleasures in that habitat--differenceand connotation--are the rewards of the insider, the initiate.In the Parisian economy, pleasure is largely a function ofcultural competence, which depends upon a cultured memory andsophisticated mental operations. For this economy to function,the reader/scriptor is obliged to identify codes andintertexts; then, having remembered (or ludically distorted)them, she must subsequently disentangle, reconstruct andrelease (forget) intertexts. It is at this moment, the point offorgetting, that the Parisian economy begins to approach theJapanese aesthetic of suchness.The Japanese economy is, even more than the Parisian one,an aestheticizing economy. This economy is one in which either acultural initiate or a cultural outsider may participate, andit is an economy of disengagement, of pure expenditure. Moving232away from the model of the busy text, and suspendingmetalanguages, in ES Barthes proposes a textual economy inwhich what dominates is not the intertext, but that which isnon-iterable and therefore non-functional in a larger culturalsense. In S/Z a profusion of signs screens a larger absence. InES that nothingness frankly dominates an economy in whichgraphs are sensual, experiential, semelfactive, and arrestedbefore reaching a critical threshold of meaning. The criticalmind is silenced as the body experiences writing both activelyand passively, and then moves into silence, so that there isalmost nothing to comment upon, nothing left to grasp in abeautiful bouquet of signs.Nothing left to grasp: the fundamental gesture of violencein Barthesian post-structuralism. For the rest of the decadeBarthes will reflect on forms of violence and coercion found indiscourse. His analyses of the nuances of discursive violencewill most often be acute: one can cite, for example, "Writers,Intellectuals, Teachers" and his stunning L. ("WIT," RL309/345) But his understanding of grosser and quotidianviolences will remain problematic, and rather cerebral, as hisreading of the Zengakuren riot, and eventually the comments onthe images of violence scattered throughout CL, attest.CHAPTER FIVE. PLEASURES OF THE TEXTThe one way of tolerating existence is to loseoneself in literature as in a perpetual orgy.Gustave Flaubert'Claims of the repressedHalf theoretical reverie, half critical provocation, PTis a disjunctive essay of fragments and abandoned thoughts thatconfronts the cultural Imaginary with "the texture (le grain)of desire" and the unruly "claims (la revendication] of the(reading) body." (RB 71/75) As Barthes suggests, this workproceeds in a state of unresolved tension, exploring, in termsfrequently reminiscent of decadent and aesthetic discourses,the themes of reading, textuality, violence, aestheticpleasure, and cultural disengagement. After initiating areflection on the question of reading and pleasure in ES andthen pursuing it in the stimulating interpretations of Sade'sand Fourier's imaginary utopias in SFL, Barthes' writing is nowmore openly rebellious. He continues to "unlearn" culturalvalues and inherited forms of reading, and attempts to emergefrom the "aegis of great systems" and write without theintellectual protection of prior constructs. 2 Professinghimself a hedonist, he indicts the anhedonia of doxic culture,challenging the values of a "frigid" and "violent" society, andcontemporary literary theories which repress the profound233234hedonism animating cultural production.From 1970 through 1973, both in his theories and hiswriting practice, Barthes has been distancing himself frompurely cerebral discourses on, and engagement with, texts. Themodest defense of the pleasures of connotation and driftscattered throughout S/Z accelerates, in SFL, to the contentionunderwriting PT--that the text is not an intellectual object,but an object of pleasure. 3 PT, building upon the valorizationof individual aesthetic response forwarded in ES, treats thetext as a site of complex personal enjoyments, as a collectionof signs giving rise to unpredictable interstices in which thereader may experience a range of pleasures from the soothing ifoutdated enjoyments of culture to the brief voyage or satori ofjouissance.Barthes' retreat from orthodox theory is linked to theassertion of the specificity of the reading body and a searchfor new reading strategies that break the hold of doxicinterpretations. His. retreat from his earlier treatments oftexts continues in this erotic manifesto of reading. With theentry of the body into his theoretical frames, materiality,the "extravagance of the signifier," the intertext and thecessation of semiosis (satori in ES, jouissance in PT) come intoa more complex and nuanced relationship. This second, lesscritically researched phase centres upon a growing attractionto the unrepeatable surprise and specificity of individualaesthetic response to (as ES forecast) the material substratumof texts, as well as to the moments when the Symbolic order235fails. This fascination develops into an attraction toward theopaque (or matte) extra-symbolic aspects of the material, and,eventually, a desire for the shelter of the impure silencebetween signs.Under the influence of Kristeva's work on the semioticrealm and the child's pre-Symbolic relation to language, themother, and the sensual world, Barthes' constructions oftextuality and human subjectivity--and, particularly,his ownprecious and renegade individuality--turn toward the tutortexts of Baudelaire and Nietzsche. 4 Adopting the posture of amarginalized hedonist, he pursues a counter-cultural ethos ofreading not as cultural obligation but unindentured pleasure.Some of the implications of this move are not lost on StevenUngar and Betty R. McGraw, who reflect on the implicit critiquecontained within Barthes' turn toward a more self-consciousdiscourse:More than any of his peers, Barthesmade his critical practice self-reflexive.In doing so, he returned consistently tothe underlying questions of value andinterpretation that the scientific ambitionsof structural analysis had displaced. Barthes'assertion of the personal stake in criticalinquiry scandalized those of his readers forwhom he had embodied the triumph of linguisticand textual analyses over conventionalpractices which used the life of the authorto explain his or her writings.("Intro.,"SC xix)This upsurge of sensualism and private values heraldsanother shift within Barthes' post-structural theorizing,where he begins, as I have indicated, to consider the costs ofhis own involvement with dominant forms of culture, and comes to236an even more ambivalent relationship with signs and the violentdynamics of culture. PT is, as Richard Miller points out in theforward to the English translation, an "erotics of reading."(PTviii) And it is the first of Barthes' later post-structuralwritings, all of which, as Ungar and McGraw observe,"constitute a unique self-analysis which hovers consistentlybetween confession and dissimulation." ("Intro.," SC xxi-xxii,my emphasis) Hence this text on textual eroticism is a curious,ambivalent, and involuted discourse; one in which, as Millernotes, Barthes appears to passionately "give himself away" and"confess" the nature of his reading habits in what may appear tobe a "random succession" of fragments: facets, aphorisms,touches and shoves, nudges, elbowings, bubbles, trialballoons, phylacteries." (PT vii) Yet globally the text ishardly spontaneous, or casually disheveled: its internaldisputations, its formal and semantic disorders, are containedand even protected by the arbitrary device of an alphabeticordering of the titles of its prose fragments, creating,as inES, a systématique having neither centre, beginning, orclosure. 5The protective nature of disorder (and the arbitrary orderof the Symbolic) are lessons reinforced by Kristeva's work onlanguage and human subjectivity. Her brilliant theorizing onthe progression of the human subject through the realm of thesemiotic (what, for the sake of clarity, I refer to as the pre-Symbolic) into an unresolved entry into the power and thepoverty of the Symbolic order underlies the sea-change in237textuality and the subject evident in PT. Kristeva posits theexistence of three categories of human subjects. Mostfamiliarly, she identifies the functional unary social subject(what Barthes refers to in PT as the "cultural ego"). Thissocial subject is a stable, continuous, self-identical beingwho is well-integrated in the dominant order of her society.This dominant order--the Symbolic order--values closure,continuity, stability. It attempts to repress or at leastcontain the pansensuality and memories of the unfocusedexperiential world of the child before her entry into thestrictures of the Symbolic order. This entry is, howeverpowerful, not totally irreversable. An enlivening tensionbetween the two orders endures--a tension which is the verystuff of art. Even once socialized within the Symbolic realm,the subject retains a certain liminality and attraction to thepre-Symbolic realm. Through art, reverie and sensual pleasure,the subject can momentarily allow that modality to flood andsoften the Symbolic modality. However, too great and protractedan immersion in the pre-Symbolic would render herdysfunctional, or, culturally speaking, psychotic. TheSymbolic order, if it is to function, must restrict the anarchicpolyvalence of language, so that social values, signs andreferents may remain stable. The Symbolic order is, therefore,the site of political assertion. The official citizen of thisorder--Kristeva's unary subject (also referred to as thereaderly or classical subject in Barthes' texts)--is thesubject presupposed and validated by Barthes' readerly text:238(in PT, the readerly text returns as the texte de plaisir or thetexte-babil). This unary subject has been well socialized inthe interpretation of social codes that restrict polysemy andsignifiance: successfully distanced from the rich butdangerous lure of the semiotic, she approaches it onlyfitfully. Kristeva's second category of subjecthood recognizesthe "split subject"; that i , the "poetic subject-in-process"of PT who moves between the social Imaginary and its momentaryabolition in the amniotic waters of the pre-Symbolic. Finally,unlike Barthes, Kristeva identifies a psychotic subject, thatis, a person who is trapped in the semiotic realm and unable tocommunicate with other persons using a common language.Reading and subjectivityFor Barthes, reading is the fundamental human activity:to be human is to read; and thus most of his speculations onhuman subjectivity proceed through a discussion of the natureof the reader. S/Z figures the human subject as a quasi-cybernetic social intertext who re-reads and manipulates thecodes manipulating him, momentarily seduced by the draw ofconnotation and drifting; in ES he is, ideally, a gracefultrace, a gesturing but silent body who participates in thepromulgation and the cessation of codes. In PT Barthes'previous hypotheses regarding language and the human subject,predicated upon structural notions of bricolage and the post-structural trace, though still retained, are incorporated into239a construct of greater complexity and tension. This newconstruct rests upon the Kristevian model of the ambivalentpoetic subject engaging a language which is itself plural,divided, perpetually oscillating between the poles of meaningand signifiance. Barthes' ideal reader is now a competent but"split," "perverse" subject having many "bodies" thatencounter the half-dreamed "body" of the text. This virtualreader--like his pale reflection, the less subversivehistorical reader practising post-structural reading--is,Barthes declares, a "'living contradiction'" who playsthe "twoedges" of language, and "simultaneously enjoys [jouit],through the text, the consistency of his selfhood and itscollapse, its fall." (PT 6-7/14-15, 21/35-36, my emphasis) Thissplit subject is, like Barthes, full of productive tensions.Both cultured and perverse, historical and anachronic, sensualand rational, erotic and yet alienated, egocentric (but notsubjective), capable of memory and emotion yet fictive, drawntoward sapentia rather than cold knowledge, he is an unresolvedmultiplicity of sensations, responses, and postures. Like aspider, Barthes writes, this reader/scriptor makes anddissolves his (or its) selves within the secretions of the text.(PT 64/101)PT opens with a small cameo in which Barthes conjures up animpossibly ideal reading actant. This readerly being is amobile and fissured thought-form, a half-imaginary creatureissuing from the repressed of culture. Hedonistic, "anti-heroic," unstable, solitary, this reading entity (who can also240write) cultivates his "neurosis" (which isolates him from thegregarious herd), and spends his reading time as a flaneur,"cruising" the text, taking refuge in sensation and the tumultof languages. (PT 3-6/9-13) Like the romantic poet, he lives onborderlines, flouting social interdictions, names, and the lawof non-contradiction. Gesturally contesting power, he movesback and forth across the doxic and innovative edges oflanguage, courting paradox, and, like certain avantgardists, aconfusion that creates open space within cultural discourse:(i)magine someone (a kind of MonsieurTeste in reverse) who abolishes withinhimself all barriers, all classes, allexclusions, not by syncretism but bysimple discard of that old specter:logical contradiction; who mixes everylanguage, even those said to be incompa-tible; who silently accepts every chargeof illogicality, of incongruity...whoremains passive in the face of Socraticirony...and legal terrorism..(PT 3/9)In PT the figure of the reading subject is shattered into aseries of individual and ideal attitudes, as well as anecdotal"confessions" that one assumes are Barthes', so that one can nolonger speak of a coherent paradigm of the reader per se.Rather, Barthes has a number of kinds of readers and readingattitudes parade through the textual sook (square) of his work.This complexity is heightened by Barthes' doubled writing, hishabit of not only speculating, in the abstract, on the nuancesof writing and reading, but of also ambiguously inscribinghimself as both reader and writer in PT, so that distinctionsbetween the habits and traits of the ideal reading subject and241those of (presumably) Barthes himself deliberately blur. WhenBarthes writes of the reader, then, one must, when possible (andoften it is not), sort out whether Barthes is referring tohimself, to the virtual reader of his intermittent theorizing,to its counter-term (the complacent cultured reader), or,finally, to the reader moyen(ne) sensuel(le).The complexity of the reading subject(s) in this text isunderlined by the shifts in reading positions Barthes himselfenacts within the text. PT is a mass of disjunctive fragmentsand fragmentary reflections that circle around a thematic node;a mass shrewedly oscillating between the registers of thepersonal and the theoretical essay. Barthes' unsystemic andpersonal reflections on himself as a reader are part of thestrategy of protective incoherence operating in PT. Through thefictional screens of the first and third person shifters, andthe amorphous, ironized M. Teste (Barthes' mask for the idealpost-structural reader), Barthes returns frequently to theissue of subjectivity, and the subject's unpredictableresponses to what he reads. The Barthesian subject--half mann,half theory--is now, by turns, a rhapsodic Nietzschean entity,an empty space ("a vessel of expansion"), a shape-shifter. Thissubject shuttles back and forth between the stasis of his"cultural ego" (his unary identity within society) and hisfluid, latent poeticity, his capacity for experiences ofliminality in which the cultural self, momentarily fading, isravished by the pre-Symbolic. This temporary overcoming of thecultural ego can, in Barthes' rewriting of the sublime,242culminate in a momentary and purely private loss of thatcultural self in the sudden and unforseen surge of the pre-Symbolic: an experience that, in its most extreme instance,culminates in the loss known as jouissance. 6In his later texts Nietzsche, like Barthes, tends towardthe semantic compression of the aphorism, and to the stubbornambiguities and aporias of what Blanchot refers to as a parolede fragment.? The compression and allusiveness of PT is suchthat one might write a full-length study elucidating thedecadent traces and intertexts threaded through Barthes'account of jouissance and its attendant themes (ennui, thefragmentation and fetishization of the text, marginality,perversion, Heraclitean flux, the cult of the hypersubtle, andso on). 8 Barthes' covert dialogue with Kristeva and Lacan onsubjectivity, desire and pleasure could furnish material foryet another work, as could a study pursuing the Nietzscheanintertexts operative in his thinking. In this thesis I will ofnecessity severely restrict my discussion of jouissance to itsmost immediate and strategic functions, focusing on therelations between pleasure,jouissance and the indictment ofthe violence pervading the Western cultural economy.Specifically, I hope to touch upon how pleasure wards offidentity, self-consistency, meaning, and ideology. But beforeexploring those areas, it is worth pointing to a few of thechanges that the concept of textuality--and concepts ingeneral--undergo in this work. Barthes attempts to distance hiswriting from the structures of ideologies and prior243intellectual systems by embracing perpetual process (processas an irresolute shifting or displacement), opting forunresolved notions such as the systematic, the individualreading body, and the playful subversion of his own conceptualcategories (e.g. the blurring of pleasure and jouissance).Accordingly, he offers a number of new metaphors of thetext.The flowing tree, the island, the spider's web'We are not subtle enough to perceivethat probably absolute flow of becoming;the permanent exists only thanks to ourcoarse organs which reduce and lead thingsto shared premises of vulgarity, whereasnothing exists in this form. A tree is anew thing at every instant; we affirm theform because we do not seize the subtletyof an absolute moment' (Nietzsche).The Text too is this tree whose (provi-sional) nomination we owe to the coarsenessof our organs. We are scientific because welack subtlety (my emphasis).(PT 60-61/96)Text of pleasure: the text that contents,fills, grants euphoria; the text thatcomes from culture and does not breakwith it, is linked to a comfortablepractice of reading. Text of bliss (joui-ssance): the text that imposes a stateof loss, the text that discomforts(perhaps to the point of a certain boredom),unsettles the reader's historical, cultural,psychological assumptions, the consistencyof his tastes, values, memories, brings toa crisis his relation with language.(PT 14/25-26)Barthes now concentrates upon reactivating the faded244metaphoricity--and hence the ambiguity and latent novelty--inhering in concepts.(PT 40-41/65-66) As part of an evolvingstrategy of poeticizing the hardening discourses of criticaltheory, Barthes retreats from the use of quasi-scientificterms such as "network" and "system" in his writing, reachinginstead for a series of lovely if disjunctive new metaphors todescribe his vision of textuality. 9 These metaphors are attimes drawn from literary tradition. Take Barthes'Baudelairean vision of the text as an "asocial islet": "thetext is never a 'dialogue': no risk of feint, of aggression, ofblackmail...[it] establishes a sort of islet within the human--the common--relation." (PT 16/28) But these metaphors can bealso surprisingly quotidian and domestic (the text as a fluid,endlessly becoming tree, a spider's web, an irregularly veinedand knotted piece of wood). (PT 38/62, 64/101, 36-37/60) Lessvisually-oriented, more tactile and kinesthetic, Barthes' newconstellation of tropes expressing the myriad facets of thetextual shifts abruptly throughout the work. PT features asequence of beautiful and obliquely related figurations of thetextual that sound most of the themes and attitudes of thislatter phase (in addition to the above metaphors, Bartheswrites of the text as a "fissured envelope," and a fetishizedquasi-human, desiring body--"a language lined with flesh". (PT66-67/104/105) As fugual and provisional as these heuristicimages are, they signal Barthes' rejection of the role of aprofessional lector bent upon cold readings of mastery. Theessay's tropes and speculations on the textual--whether245offered from the point of view of Barthes-as-writer or Barthes-as-reader--are like a series of details or snaphots of parts ofthe beloved thrown into the lap of the reader, faute de mieux.One may attempt to work with these images as though they werepieces of an intellectual puzzle: but these images, thesepieces, do not add up into an iterable theory: they express,instead, momentary, perversely disjointed insights into thepotentialities of texts. Barthes' texts move toward a richsensualism and manifest, however dissimulated and ironically,a reading practice which, in its attention to the smallestnuances of individual aesthetic experience and response,recalls the essays of Pater and Proust's Recherche. Incliningtoward the pre-Symbolic pole of the aesthetic continuum,Barthes' writings will integrate what I have tentativelyidentified as the Parisian textual economy--i.e. the cerebraltreatment of signs and difference as elements caught up within alarger system--with the Japanese aesthetic of suspendingcontext in order to focus upon the reader's desire as itflutters over the material and sensual specificity of anobject-text.Throughout PT Barthes explores the advantages of readingaimlessly. Ideally, his reader "grazes" upon random words andpassages, safely shut away in his library like an "aristocraticreader," a textual fláneur, or, in Barthes' idiolect, anamateur who has the time and the cultural privilege to indulgehis caprices and cultivate his boredom, pursuing the phoenix ofdesire, writing small notes to himself and an audience'sueTaemmp4.6 go 43ra4 am sT sTm :sassnosTpJO sees 90U9TOS 9110 am. 's4sTboToTsAqdpue s4sTmo4eue go Apoq am :urea; go reatieq am ;.Apoq 4eqm^ur24Jao arn:uoTssaadxa aTqeaTmpp sTm esn '43ceq. am. goBuT5feeds uaqm isaeToqos creay ATimeaeddIr4x94-se-Apoq am. :fiuT4Tam sTu. so ;sal am. uT a.6emT aoCem P aq oq.satioad 4pqm SMOJI0C4 samaeg 'SUOTSIA 9AT4P00A9 JO a4Tns P mTmadoa4 1P1quao am. BuTqs Magma PuP 'BuToanos am. go A4uTp4aao9114 BuTB.Pau. '11914.T. (0c-AZ/91: .TA) ,•409C(40 UP pue 409faSIS PI.ousT 919M. : JepPeJ am) anTssed 911091110S 4uoag 4noPtre (iaT4imem.) 9AT4OP 9U091110S '4xa4 am. puTqaq 14ou sT aaaua fs4q6T1:400.1ou 'axe; am ao afie4s am. us.. -gIasmTq aoj pue o4 sanfioTouom4ua44Tmaa4uT pup ssaTpua smaogaed lapeaa am. qoTqm MOJJafie4s-sp-4xel. am. :7/q uT punoa A4TAT4onpoad SP BuT4Tam ;o maTAau.? 04 Mat' p BuT44nd 9.60.11T leT440UP o4uT SpPeLT Se141.1PCISUOT4011 IP T SJ8A024U00 asom. BuTddoap ATTEmseo aa4,TV(8Z/91 J.A)"Ja4neu 'Peu.sTiogPst qoaads JO JTOAJeS91-9.6PUIT am 90U0'au. 'Tem ASM1t4P114 fssTIq 4noqe Ulna; snot-PPLIPOS P JO asduiTTB P s4upab•aanseeTd goaan4pu TeToose am s4sajTuem 'uoT4eTaa uom-moo am.--uemnq am uTmTm 4aTsT ;o 4aos PsaqsTiqe4sa axe; et fs4oaToapT jo AaTRATIou 'TTPmxoplq ;o 'uoTssaafiBp ;o 'lute; ToxsTa ou :,anBoTpTp, P Iatiau sT 43ca4 at[a]:saTaeuTBemi. BuT4admoo pup ssaa4s TeoTfloTeTpmoag a4Tdsaa TeqoT4saa4uT UP 'AIPUTBPUIT UPTS91441Pg am. uT'sTpueTsT-s-e-4xa4 aqi '9/10CIP 04 palieiai axeq T 4PU4 SIM':T.249MTen4xa4 go aouenbas am speaT 491sT peanfuoo ATa4eATadipa4eTosT we SP 4xa4 am go aoqdp4am 4eqq. ` `a4eTadoaddeST iT^aBenflueT pcs.JuP4SI4) 4u'0'44247critics, commentators, philologists...Butwe also have a body of bliss consistingsolely of erotic relations, utterly distinctfrom the first body: it is another contour,another nomination...(PT 16/29)Disengaging himself from the more moderate position ofS/Z, where the pleasure of signs co-habits with at least tracesof representation, Barthes moves into an imploded aesthetic ofpleasure. Anything external to the immediate moment of thereading goes out-of-focus. Form, which has, over the course ofBarthes' career, devolved from structuralist simulacra tostructural oppositions, then into structurations andfragments, hallucinatory figurations, and an amorphouscollection of details, semiotic abrasions, gaps, rifts,ruptures, and maculae.Barthes'^tentative,^perpetually^experientialunderstanding of the text coincides perfectly with his carpediem posture. For Barthes hedonists are true marginals--thosewho dedicate themselves to the unverifiable pooling of energythat can be generated in the experience of aware seeing, thosewho deeply engage the details of some thing, some sign, and spina web of "erotic relations" Barthes names the "body of bliss."Poetically evoking this subtle body beyond the body, he writesof it as being like a series of "living fires, intermittentlights, wandering features strewn in the text like seeds." (PT16-17/29-30)Throughout PT Barthes exploits two potent alternatives torepresentation:the loss of form (jouissance) and the free,slightly dreamy constellation of desire within a text (what he248terms "figuration" ). Presaging the notion of the punctum in CL,in PT Barthes defines figuration as something that happensinvoluntarily, during the moments when something "leaps out ofthe frame of the picture, the book, or the screen." (PT 57/90)It is when a phantasmal "erotic body appears in the text": "thetext...can reveal itself in the form of a body, split intofetish objects, into erotic sites." (PT 55-56/ 88-89) This bodyis not a unified, historical body, but a passing, metaphoricalphantasm of desire. Representation, Barthes asserts, is merelyan "embarrassed figuration," "one encumbered with othermeanings than that of desire..reality, morality, likelihood,readability, truth, etc." (PT 56/89) The distinction here isbetween the useless (figuration) and the functional(representation). Barthesian figuration is motivated not by ahuman need to use a text for so