40 Matching Annotations
  1. Oct 2020
    1. A couple of notes for first-time users of hypothes.is:

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    2. discourse on the Text should itself be only text, research, textual activity

      Here Barthes joins a robust tradition of artist-critics who abolish the distinction between "primary" (imaginative literature) and "secondary" (criticism): Derrida, Brecht, Godard, and so on...

    3. This is a consequence of the fact that a Theory of the Text cannot be satisfied with a meta- linguistic exposition

      Barthes: "in other words, I practice what I preach."

    4. The Text is a little like a score of this new kind: it solicits from the reader a practical collaboration.

      I love this idea that readers/writers of the "text" are like friends gathered around the piano in olden times in which to hear music, you had to make it. Reminds me of Matt Rubery's work on oralizations of Victorian literatur.

    5. “Playing” must be taken here in all the polysemy of the term: the text itself “plays” (like a door that “plays” back and forth on its hinges; like a fishing rod in which there is some “play”); and the reader plays twice over: he plays at the Text (ludic meaning), he seeks a practice which reproduces it; but, so that this practice is not reduced to a passive, interior mimesis (the Text being precisely what resists this reduction), he plays the Text

      This is basically the mission statement of this course...

    6. Rhetoric, the great literary code of that time, taught writing (even if what was ordinarily produced were discourses, not texts); it is significant that the advent of democracy reversed the watchword: the (secondary) school prides itself on teaching reading and no longer writing

      Profound point with an extremely compressed history within it: access to reading and writing are always bound up in class distinctions. Indeed, in our own moment it's clear that, the more expensive the education, the more it is oriented towards writing and the production of texts; the cheaper, the more it's oriented towards the inscription, as it were of the student via automated ed-tech interfaces with its XP and badges and Foucaultian surveillance techniques.

    7. The Text (if only by its frequent “unreadability”) decants the work

      Another gorgeous metaphor and very French!

    8. the I that writes the text is never anything but a paper I.

      Here we see the return of the physics analogy: as in quantum physics, the object has no autonomous existence apart from the process of its creation or recreation via reading/observation/reenactment.

    9. Hence, confronting the work, the Text might indeed take for its motto the words of the man possessed by devils: “My name is legion, for we are many” (Mark 5:9). The plural or demonic texture which sets the Text in opposition to the work may involve profound modifications of reading, precisely where monologism seems to be the law: certain “texts” of Scripture, traditionally adopted by theological (historical or anagogical) monism, may lend themselves to a diffraction of meanings (i.e., finally, to a materialist reading), while the Marxist interpretation of the work, hitherto resolutely monistic, may become more materialist by pluralizing itself (if, of course, Marxist “institutions” permit this).

      Further elaboration of the "paradoxical" aspect of the text. His critique comes into clearer focus in light of the dominance of "formalist" or "structuralist"modes of criticism that presupposed a unity of the text. Barthes's own famous "mythologies" of pop cultural objects like soap or the Tour de France themselves were relatively "monistic" in this sense.

    10. wadi

      (in certain Arabic-speaking countries) a valley, ravine, or channel that is dry except in the rainy season. Thanks, dictionary.com.

    11. the stereographic plurality of the signifiers

      Man, I love this dude's metaphorics: explosion, indeed.

    12. The text is approached and experienced in relation to the sign.

      For those of you who are not theory nerds, this riff is based on the linguistic theory of Ferdinand de Saussure, which exerted enormous influence on 20thC cultural theory in France and, really, everywhere. "Signifier" means the arbitrary combination of sounds or letters that makes up an "utterance" in language and "signified" means the idea that signifier points to. The letters T-R-E-E is the signifier; the mental image of the thing with leaves in the signified.

    13. paradoxical

      Nice turn of phrase that digs into etymology: the text is next to but not connected to (para) the common belief structure or "common sense" (doxa).

    14. Or again: the Text is experienced only in an activity, in a production. It follows that the Text cannot stop (for example, at a library shelf); its constitutive moment is traversal (notably, it can traverse the work, several works).

      I started to lose him above, but this last couple of sentences secures it for me, as the primacy of practice, of process comes into focus. To borrow from the language of the course, one "does things" with texts; one "reads" works.

    15. understood as a computable object

      Barthes is speaking metaphorically and at a time when computing is in its adolescence, if not infancy. But it's kind of funny to read this sentence now, when texts are eminently computable in a much more literal sense!

    16. method, genres, the sign, the plural, filiation, reading, pleasure

      That's all? Quite a menagerie of terms here, Roland...

    17. Confronting the work–a traditional notion, long since, and still today, conceived in what we might call a Newtonian fashion–there now occurs the demand for a new object, obtained by a shift or a reversal of previous categories.

      This extended metaphor linking theoretical physics and the humanities makes me wonder whether our present-day fascination with text mining, distant reading, and so on represents another turn of the screw that (to extend the analogy) resembles discussions of "quantum gravity" that try to link Einstein and Heisenberg, the macro and the nano scales.

  2. Sep 2020
    1. it begins effectively (and not by the simple utterance of a pious hope) when the solidarity of the old disciplines breaks down-perhaps even violently, through the shocks of fashion-to the advantage of a new object, a new language, neither of which is precisely this discomfort of classification which permits diagnosing a certain mutation

      Certainly the early years of DH felt like an echo of the late 60s-early 70s moment Barthes is feeling here.

    2. A couple of notes for first-time readers of this text:

      • yes, everyone wrote like this in 1970s French academic life
      • light up a Gauloises cigarette and feel free to complain about jargon-words in the margins
      • think about how the act of reading/writing on/around/with Barthes and classmates interacts with the argument
  3. Apr 2019
    1. As the famous French philosopher Roland Barthes said myth is, in its most basic form, a special type of speech.* What he meant was that a myth isn’t just a genre of stories, its a way of saying something. According to Barthes, the special trick of myth is to present an ethos, ideology or set of values as if it were a natural condition of the world, when in fact its no more than another limited, man-made perspective. A myth doesn’t describe the natural state of the world, but expresses the intentions of its teller, be that a storyteller, priest, artist, journalist, filmmaker, designer or politician.
  4. Oct 2018
    1. critic executes the work

      Barthes is not thinking about this valence, but the phrase makes me think of the three permissions levels that structure access to texts in UNIX: read/write/execute. Readers of the "work" have read-only access: they consume it without inscribing it. Execute permission allows changes to the operating system itself: the energy of the passage points us towards hacking texts at this root level...

    2. the 'interpreter', who is called on to be in some sort the co-author of the score, completing it rather than giving it 'expression'. The Text is very much a score of this new kind: it asks of the reader a practical collaboration.

      This could be the slogan for our course! Doing things with novels means engaging them in a "practical collaboration," not only with the text but with other writer/readers.

    3. to abolish (or at the very least to diminish) the distance between writing and reading

      I hope y'all can feel the force of using hypothes.is on this text in particular: we are engaging in precisely the kind of work/play that RB assigns to the world of the "text."

    4. It is not that the Author may not 'come back' in the Text, in his text, but he then does so as a 'guest'. If he is a novelist, he is inscribed in the novel like one of his characters, figured in the carpet; no longer privileged, paternal, aletheological, his inscription is ludic.

      I love this passage. Once you publish something, it ceases to be yours, or at least exclusively yours. If you return to it, you are just another reader or critic. Think of all the readings you've been to when someone from the peanut gallery disagrees with the author's take on the motives of a character or the after-life of the plot! In a few weeks, we will literalize this idea via the Ivanhoe concept, having Melville visit Billy Budd as a "guest" among its characters, narrator, critics, editors, etc.

    5. the stereographic plurality of its weave of signifiers (etymologically, the text is a tissue, a woven fabric).

      Man, the metaphors are thick on the ground here! The stereograph is a 19thC cultural technology that shows the viewer two images in an apparatus they look through to create the illusion of depth. RBs point here is that the coherence of the "text," such as it is, is constantly drawn back into the "plurality" of the "weave" that creates it.

    6. the sign. The work closes on a signified

      Note that this section is really obscure if you haven't read the work of Ferdinand de Sassure, a Swiss linguist who basically created "semiotics," the systematic study of sign-systems, and whose influence on Barthes is enormous. RBs basic point is that, following Saussure, the "sign" in a symbolic system (say, language) is composed of two components: a "signifier," which is the material inscribed word or aural sound, and a "siginified," which is the meaning conventionally associated with that sound or combination of letters. The "work," for RB, gives up its "signified," its meaning or interpretation, after the critical labor of exegesis (THE ODYSSEY shows the emergence of "civilization," in all its discontents, from the spontaneity of kinship-based cultures), whereas the "text" remains in the field of the signifier in a field of "play" that resists reduction to a meaning (Gertrude Stein, "a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose...").

    7. its constitutive movement is that of cutting across (in particular, it can cut across the work, several works).  

      Reminiscent of the roughly contemporary statement by Derrida that "there is nothing outside the text" (il n'y a pas de hors-texte: really "there is no outside-text"). In other words, textuality is a web that can't be contained within the hermetic walls of a book's covers; all textuality bleeds over into other texts. RBs reading does not go quite so far, in that he emphasizes the position of texts that pretend, as it were, to be "works" that are hermetic and separable.

    8. it is the work that is the imaginary tail of the Text

      That is a super cute metaphor and encapsulates the entire set of oppositions RB develops here: a) the priority of text over work; b) text as living process v. work as epiphenomenal thing.

  5. Sep 2018
  6. Feb 2018
  7. Aug 2016
    1. istinction between "writerly" writing and "readerly" writing to that made by Roland Barthes in his book on literary theory, The Pleasure of the Text.

      Compare with the definitions of these terms in original text by Barthes here: PDF of Pleasures. Relevant quote "If I read this sentence, this story, or this word with pleasure, it is because they were written in pleasure (such pleasure does not contradict the writer's complaints). But the opposite? Does writing in pleasure guarantee-guarantee me, the writer-my reader's pleasure? Not at all. I must seek out this reader (must "cruise" him) without knowing where he is, A site of bliss is then created. It is not the reader's "person" that is necessary to me, it is this site: the possibility of a dialectics of desire, of an unpredictabilIty of blIss: the bets are not placed, there can still be a game" (Barthes 4).

  8. Jun 2016

      Hird, Alastair. 2010. “‘WHAT DOES IT MATTER WHO IS SPEAKING,’ SOMEONE SAID, ‘WHAT DOES IT MATTER WHO IS SPEAKING’: Beckett, Foucault, Barthes.” Samuel Beckett Today / Aujourd’hui 22: 289–99. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25781931.

      Picks up point that Beckett features very strongly in both Barthe's Death of an Author and Foucault's "What is an Author."

    1. writing ceaselessly posits meaning but always in order to evaporate it: it proceeds to a systematic exemption of meaning. Thus literature (it would be better, henceforth, to say writing), by refusing to assign to the text (and to the world as text) a "secret:' that is, an ultimate meaning, liberates an activity which we might call counter-theological, properly revolutionary, for to refuse to arrest meaning is finally to refuse God and his hypostases, reason, science, the law.

      Again a literary conception of purpose

    2. We know that a text does not consist of a line of words, releasing a single "theological" meaning (the "message" of the Author-God), but is a space of many dimensions, in which are wedded and contested various kinds of writing, no one of which is original: the text is a tissue of citations, resulting from the thousand sources of culture. Like Bouvard and Pecuchet, those eternal copyists, both sublime and comical and whose profound absurdity precisely designates the truth of writing, the writer can only imitate a gesture forever anterior, never original; his only power is to combine the different kinds of writing, to oppose some by others, so as never to sustain himself by just one of them; if he wants to express himself, at least he should know that the internal "thing" he claims to "translate" is itself only a readymade dictionary whose words can be explained (defined) only by other words, and so on ad infinitum

      Intertextuality and (literary) authorship

    3. Quite the contrary, the modern writer (scriptor) is born simultaneously with his text; he is in no way supplied with a being which precedes or transcends his writing, he is in no way the subject of which his book is the predicate; there is no other time than that of the utterance, and every text is eternally written here and now. This is because (or: it follows that) to write can no longer designate an operation of recording, of observing, of representing, of "painting" (as the Classic writers put it), but rather what the linguisticians, following the vocabulary of the Oxford school, call a performative, a rare verbal form (exclusively given to the first person and to the present), in which utterance has no other content than the act by which it is uttered

      Really, he's tying this to the ironic self-consciousness of postmodern authors: performance as opposed to realism.

    4. once an action is recounted, for intransitive ends, and no longer in order to act directly upon reality — that is, finally external to any function but the very exercise of the symbol — this disjunction occurs, the voice loses its origin, the author enters his own death, writing begins.

      Literary writing: "disjunction" from individual when writing for "intransitive" ends.

    5. Who is speaking in this way? Is it the story's hero, concerned to ignore the castrato concealed beneath the woman? Is it the man Balzac, endowed by his personal experience with a philosophy of Woman? Is it the author Balzac, professing certain "literary" ideas of femininity? Is it universal wisdom? or romantic psychology? It will always be impossible to know, for the good reason that all writing is itself this special voice, consisting of several indiscernible voices, and that literature is precisely the invention of this voice, to which we cannot assign a specific origin: literature is that neuter, that composite, that oblique into which every subject escapes, the trap where all identity is lost, beginning with the very identity of the body that writes.

      Why science authorship is not the same as poetic authorship: the lack of identity of the author. cf. Booth 1961, Rhetoric of Fiction

    6. "It was Woman, with her sudden fears, her irrational whims, her instinctive fears, her unprovoked bravado, her daring and her delicious delicacy of feeling" Who is speaking in this way? Is it the story's hero, concerned to ignore the castrato concealed beneath the woman? Is it the man Balzac, endowed by his personal experience with a philosophy of Woman?

      Interesting that the prompt is gender fluidity.


      Barthes, Roland. 1967. “Death of the Author.” Edited by Brian O’Doherty. Translated by Richard Howard. Aspen 5+6 (Fall/Winter): Item 3. http://www.ubu.com/aspen/aspen5and6/threeEssays.html#barthes.

    1. he “modern scriptor” (Bar-thes, 1977, p. 146) is no longer the sole conceiver, fabrica-tor, and owner of the published article.

      The modern scriptor is no longer the owner of an article