The Pleasure of the Text by Roland Barthes

Saturday, June 11, 2016 § 0

The Innovative Text Envisioned with Esthetic Pleasure: The Narratology of Roland Barthes

A Book Review by
David Detrich

The green apple tree is engulfed with the water droplets of spring which signify the regeneration of life creating green leaf clusters of brush strokes converging on pink apple blossoms which contrast with the intense saturated pastel tones of the misty grey sky, as the laptop computer screen at the scene of writing is illuminated by an inner spiritual light which creates the cognitive impression of the Roland Barthes essay to produce esthetic appreciation for the innovative text in the mind of the reader. The whiteness of the page is illuminated with sentence structures that suggest subtle visual images leaving an afterglow of literary sensuality in the foggy morning light.

The alphabetical structure of The Pleasure of the Text is based on double word assemblages, like Fétiche / Fetish, where the French and English words create a meaningful pairing of signifiers that form a linguistic structure on which to construct the essay, so the essay becomes visible as a way of enhancing the pleasure of perceiving the conceptual. Eroticism in innovative fiction further enhances the pleasure of the text when the reader can appreciate the romantic interaction between the nightlife characters, so that by imagining the situation described in the text one can create an erotic fantasy that is a learning experience.

When Roland Barthes considers the novel Lois (1972) by Philippe Sollers he considers it a deconstruction of key narrative concepts, including the sentence structure itself. According to the back cover Lois is composed of six chants which begin with a legal theme, and continue the trend of Abstract Expressionism that was developed in Drame (1965) where incomplete sentences use the narrative technique of ellipsis signified by three dots ... which suggest the brush strokes of an abstract painting. This technique has influenced American innovators who are gradually becoming more abstract with the use of incomplete, unpunctuated, or poetic sentence structures, so that the novel is becoming a sophisticated work of art similar to an Abstract Expressionist painting. 

Especially, of course (here is where the edge will be clearest), in the form of a pure materiality: the language, its lexicon, its metrics, its prosody. In Philippe Sollers's Lois, everything is attacked, dismantled: ideological structures, intellectual solidarities, the propriety of idioms, and even the sacred armature of syntax (subject/predicate): the text no longer has the sentence for its model; often it is a powerful gush of words, a ribbon of infra-language.
                                                       The Pleasure of the Text
                                                       Roland Barthes      

Lois means law in English, and at worst represents a law community that is in violation of the right to privacy, and in rebellion against the written law. This defiance of law signifies collaboration with a hidden domestic terror network which is disrupting society, and is reflected in the literary text. The structure of Lois (1972) is being deconstructed into a series of six chants which are written in poetic prose, and is a continuation of Nombres (1966), and Drame (1965), both novels using ellipsis as an expressive form of literary abstraction, and are approaching the freer style of H (1973), a novel written in unpunctuated prose which can be imagined as a powerful gush of words.

For Roland Barthes tobacco smoke represents the intellectual shadings of pleasure which create a misty atmospherics to appreciate the nuances of the innovative text. 
I recall working next to a tobacco shop in Berkeley where the rich aromas of pipe tobacco flowed through the doorway onto the sidewalk creating the heightened perceptions of sensory pleasure for the study environment. Tobacco can be considered a pleasure product which stimulates the brain with Vitamin B3 nicotine, enhancing esthetic pleasure with a heightened sense of life energies for the smoker, who may be a university scholar or literary critic.

The text is a fetish object, and this fetish desires me. The text chooses me, by a whole disposition of invisible screens, selective baffles: vocabulary, references, readability, etc.; and, lost in the midst of a text (not behind it, like a deus ex machina) there is always the other, the author.
                                                         The Pleasure of the Text
                                                         Roland Barthes

The author may hope to be chosen by the fetish, and waits patiently for acceptance, either as a prospective author, or as a contributor to a literary magazine. The fetish is what inspires him, and the idea of a poetess thrills his imagination, a young woman who has become one of the main characters in his novel-in-progress, which is a monumental work of Surrealist erotica that embodies his appreciation for the fantasy figures that make up the cityscape of his psyche. 

I am reading Circus (1972) by Maurice Roche which comes closest to the idea of a parallel text with the space of the page heightening the awareness of typographical design to express the precise narrative logic of the interactive text. Beginning with an enlightened perspective, the narrator creates individual typographical designs which focus on key phrases to intensify the meaning. The novel follows a two column pattern with variations in font that give it an ultramodern look, similar to my own novel-in-progress, and demonstrates the potential for the innovative novel to become a work of literary art. 

Then perhaps the subject returns, not as illusion, but as fiction. A certain pleasure is derived from a way of imagining oneself as individual, of inventing a final, rarest fiction: the fictive identity. This fiction is no longer the illusion of a unity; on the contrary, it is the theater of society in which we stage our plural: our pleasure is individualbut not personal.
                                                     The Pleasure of the Text
                                                     Roland Barthes

The subject is an abstraction in the sense of multiplicity, with multiple characters, and an evolving identity, which create a sense of esthetic pleasure for those who envision a novel that is a rare genre of fiction: innovative, ultramodern, and individualistic in style. The plurality of the large scale monumental novel which portrays numerous abstract characterizations with the use of poetic metaphor enhances the theatricality of the fiction, which is written for the individual reader as a celebration of love.

Roland Barthes has written numerous essays including A Lover's Discourse: Fragments (1990), Writer Sollers (1987), and Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (1981), books which put him at the forefront of narratology along with Gérard Genette and Tzvetan Todorov. The Structuralist and Semiotic critical theory of the 1970s produced an awareness of linguistic structures and sign systems which have become techniques used in the contemporary innovative novel, and the writings of Roland Barthes reflect relevant literary texts and new trends in critical theory while still remaining readable as a form of sublime creative non-fiction to be appreciated with a sophisticated sense of esthetic pleasure.

David Detrich lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he has just completed The Convergence of Two Narrative Lines Ascending, an ultramodern Surrealist novel written in minimal squares. He is working on Dream the Presence of the Circular Breast Starfish Topography, a monumental Surrealist novel written with innovative typographical design. His first novel Big Sur Marvels & Wondrous Delights (2001) is available from Amazon. He edits Innovative Fiction Magazine, and Surrealist Star Clustered Illuminations.