Friday, October 03, 2008

Noted: Roland Barthes

From The Pleasure of the Text (translation by Richard Miller; all italics in the original):
An entire minor mythology would have us believe that pleasure (and singularly the pleasure of the text) is a rightist notion. On the right, with the same movement, everything abstract, boring, political, is shoved over to the left and pleasure is kept for oneself: welcome to our side, you who are finally coming to the pleasure of literature! And on the left, because of morality (forgetting Marx's and Brecht's cigars), one suspects and disdains any "residue of hedonism." On the right, pleasure is championed against intellectuality, the clerisy: the old reactionary myth of heart against head, sensation against reasoning, (warm) "life" against (cold) "abstraction": must not the artist, according to Debussy's sinister precept, "humbly seek to give pleasure"? On the left, knowledge, method, commitment, combat, are drawn up against "mere delectation" (and yet: what if knowledge itself were delicious?). On both sides, this peculiar idea that pleasure is simple, however, is not an element of the text, it is not a naïve residue; it does not depend on a logic of understanding and on sensation; it is a drift, something both revolutionary and asocial, and it cannot be taken over by any collectivity, any mentality, any ideolect. Something neuter? It is obvious that the pleasure of the text is scandalous: not because it is immoral but because it is atopic.

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