Roland Barthes

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Roland Barthes

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From Work to Text

From the superb collection: "Textual Stategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticsm", Ed by Josue V. Harari, LCCN PN 94.T4, ISBN 0.8014.1218.8, (Cornell, Ithaca NY (see map), 1979). BEGIN BLOCK QUOTE [P.73] NB: Could not determine the date/source for this; qv, loc. cit.
Over the past several years, a change has been taking place in our ideas about langauge and, as a consequence, about the (literary) [emph mine] work, which owes at least its phenomenal existence to language. [Note 1] This change is obviously linked to current developments in, [emph mine] among other fields, linguistics, anthropology, Marxism, and pscchoanalysis (the word "link" is used here in a deliberately neutral fashion: in implies no decision about a determination be it multiple and dialectical). [Note 3] The change affecting the notion of the work does not necessarily come from the internal renewal of each of these disciplines, but proceeds, rather, from their encounter at the level of an object that traditionally depends on none of them. Interdisciplinary activity, valued today as an important aspect of research , cannot be accomplished by simple confrontations between various specialised areas off knowledge. [Note 4 Interdisciplinary work is not a peaceful operatiojns: it begins effectively when the solidarity of of the old disciplines breaks down -- a process make for violent, perhaps, by the jots of fashion -- to the benefit of a new object and a new language, neither of which is in the domain of those branches of knowledge that one calmly sought to confront. [Note 5] END BLOCK QUOTE


(this section only) [1] So, what *does* "literary" mean? Non-scientific/science? Non-maths? Non-art? But, wait *literature* is supposedly one of the "arts" (it's certainly *not* relativisic physics -- though naturally, it shares much with that subject and the philosophical implications of not only relativity but, QM (quantum mechanics), and so froth). Regardless, we (or rather i, since it is *i* (or more properly the "i-ness" (that is me) that is pushing this particular wheel barrow), i wish to assert that in this "work" (under discussion -- ie, "a (literary) work". Thus, with that *co-erced* *interpretation* of the word "literary" (and more specifically the term "liteary work", i (we?) proceed as follows... [elipsis intentional] [Note 2] The question is raised (ie, i assert the following - subject to my own mis-interpretations, etc) that: "Barthes asserts that the/a/some/etc literary work is dependent upon language. I ask the question: Is this true; ie, is there a counter-example? In maths we would say: Does there exist a literary work SUCH THAT it is NOT a FUNCTION OF language? Being the good dadaist that i am (well trained in fire insurance sales technique) ah ha! [Martin Gardner ref: "Ah Ha Insight", book] Collage. Thus, we must (cautiously) begin our attack; cautiously, since there is nothing more vicious (other than ponies) than a collage when cornered. 1. Is a/some/of/which/duck/etc "collage" a literary work? NB: Hence forth, i shall refer to "a collage", we will take it as read that i mean all possible contexts/concepts/extentions/restrictions/etc of the concept of collage . More info on collage: [Collage] (ah term) We (i again, hello? hello? Halito?) assert that indeed a collage is a most literary thing. It can (obviously) contain text, but even if it is only (ie, merely; David Newman's Paradox reference) pictures/signs/symbols (ie, non-text; yes, i'm aware that: नान = bread in Hindi *is* text, and that of course to the non-hindi speaker/reader these appear to be cute little (beautiful aren't they, the Moravian Brown is wonderously coloured this time of year) "symbols", etc. Regardless, i assert that the juxtaposition (collision of differences and likenesses) that is at the heart of collage creates the same sorts of *textual* concept as the use of words; ie, he hurriedly thougth of things that were-un-hurried. She didn't know that she had suddenly been written into the *text* so as to for the author to not be accused of sexism in survial situations [Jusrassic Park reference]. Thus, in exactly the same way that the above some-what convoluted sentence presents a flow of ideas (is my mine ever NOT a flow? not with the med's i'm on!) that is "at least similar to" the flow of borders and areas present in a collage. Thus, for our first snipe hunt, we should try to find parallels from the textual (text, written stuff, words, poems, etc, and at the very least explanatory and/or tutorial works -- which should always be the *least* convoluted discourse) and the visual (in particular collage). First we are presented with the concept of shape. And of course, we can take Don Taylor's class in 2-d design for that: Line, shape, colour, etc. Thus we have an AREA (a thing enclosed -- i must be enclosed, since it is a piece of cut out paper; yes, i'm quite aware of the concept of "drawing in space" and the idea of "infinite extension by implication"; eg, when we make a print and the design goes off the edge of the paper, one possible interpretation is that the design continues on to infinity -- or at least continues beyond the "mere" (again, wit Professor Noimann! Will his counter examples never cease to haunt me!?!!?) edge of the paper. thus, the paper (picture plane) becomes (in the Renaissance tradtion) a "window" (ie, the canvas as window into the world; and even the tradition of painting a window or mirror onto the picture -- this is present in many of the most severe cubist works). Thus, we have AREA, and thus BORDER (line, demarkation, distingishing mark [G. Spencer Brown "Laws of Form" reference, book], or in literary terms: Compare and contrast. Thus, (and we haven't even gotten to colour, and the specifics of shape yet), AREA (with property of SHAPE/SPACE) creates BORDER (with property of LINE). And so, from even that base example, we have: The Woman saw the man and wept. The Man saw that he was seen weeping and felt ashamed. These texts can easily be imagined as cut out pictures from a magzine that "tell that story" [Mihai Nadin reference, "Culture of Illiteracy", ref ??page??]. The fact that the pictures (again not assuming text at this point) can not *exactly* tell the story as distinguised in the two sentences above, points to the difference in TEXT (writing) and ART (drawing). They *are* different, after all a blind person can "understand" any written text better than any visual "text" (art work). [I should note here that in the same way that by 'writing' i imply all of the variants; eg, poems, prose, essay, exposition, speeches, dialog, stage directions, etc. In he same way by 'art work' or 'drawing', i imply all of the variants of that; eg, drawing, paining, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, photography, jewlry making, design, and installation woks. But, that we should probably restrict ourselves to NOT include performance art (including drama, music presentations, etc -- although that would (obviously) make for a very intringuing diversion; alas, i digress] Thus, i hope (nervously) that i have some-what "proved" that collage IS a literary work in that it can (at least) "tell a story" -- which is considered one of the major domains of literary work. 2. And since our (i again) agenda is to show that there IS a liteary work that does not refer to language; and yes, i don't want get into Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" (which i barely pretend to understand when i am outside of its text; ie, when i am "reading and submerged into it" (the text), i *think* that i understand what is being said, but when i come out of the text (back to "the real world" it seems as if i understand nothing about it at all; it is as if when i go into the text of "Being and Nothingness", that i become charged (electrically) and then am influenced by the various electrical and magnetic fields, but that when i emerge back out of the text, i lose this "charge" and become once again a neutrino that has little affect upon or little effect by things around me). So, at this point, we seek a literary work (collage) that is NOT a function of language. It is at this point that i realise the futility of this; ie, if we extend the definition of "langage" enough (and mindful of the fact that we think in language [again with Being and Nothingness; ie, we can not be conscious of our consciousness or rather we are always conscious of our consciousness except when we forget to be aware. This is the same as Douglas Adams' concept of how to levitate: You throw yourself at the floor, and miss. And of course since you are all too aware of the fact that you are about to hit the floor (and thus feel pain) you can't NOT miss the floor. So, the trick is at the last instance get distracted by something, and thus forget to hit the floor (being distracted) and thsu miss the floor, and definition if you miss hitting the floor you are obviously levitating. Thus, i (we?) restrict language to that thing by which we communicate verbally or through the written word or by sign language -- the "transported thing" is essentally TEXT (words, ideas, symbols, etc). But, collage is (we again haven't introduced text - which it should be obvious that once we allow text, we could simply type up the *what* of what we wanted to say, print it out and then paste it onto a piece of paper (being the lazy louts that artists supposedly are). (I have done this in my "We want you to want"collage, which contains texts such as: WE WANT YOU TO WANT. WE WANT YOU TO WANT. WE WANT YOU TO WANT. WE WANT YOU TO WANT. and: WE MAKE YOU WANT THINGS THAT YOU DON'T NEED. YOU HAVE TO BUY THINGS OR WE WILL BECOME WEAK. nsume consume consume consume consume consume consume consume consume consume and: WE DEAL WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE OUR ENEMIES. IF THEY PAY US, WE DON'T BOTHER THEM. IF THEY DON'T PLEASE US, WE WILL MAKE UP AN EXCUSE TO DESTROY THEM .do not anger us. These texts are used to counter-point the pictures (mostly clipped from (ahem) a certain "men's magazine") the theme being unbridled materialism [Monty Python reference, episod #23 (i think) ??episode??]. Thus, i hope that it "is at least arguable" that collage represents (potentially) a literary work that does not (directly; can i have *any* more qualifiers in this sentence??? ;) use language or depend upon language as for its "phenomenal existence". I would go further that a collage (a created work, and therefore existAnt), does protude into our sphere of awareness by its juxtaposition of SHAPE and LINE and thus achieves its "phenomenal existEnce" without language. {Back to the tExT!} [2] Egad! Now, i'm even annotating my own texts (works!). Is there any end to this madness? "Nothing to be done" [godot reference] "I can see no semblence of a beginning; no prospect of an end". -- James Hutton; "father" of modern geology commenting on his first encounter with what Stephen J. Gould refered to as "deep time"; ie, geological eras, etc. {Back to the taxT!} [3] The word link is indeed NON-neutral. By that i mean (or intend) that one may link anything with anything -- going back to the concept of collage (as well as the "illogic" of dada, Eugenio Montale, and others). Thus, this linkage allows for the connecting (in theory) of any idea/thing with any other idea/thing and includes the idea of an idea/thing being connected with itself. That is This goes back to language in general. There is no rhyme or reason to words in general (and yes, i am thorough mis-informed about Ferdenad de Sausure ?sp? and his work on signs and such). But, really: Think about the word "dog (especially this word since it has no cognates in French that i know of). We see that: docga (Late Old English; ref to: The Oxford English Dictionary) introduced into the continental languages as a kind of strong breed of "dog". And othewise the origins are gone. Note that the loss of "origin" is NOT just because the word is ancient, for example, the use of the word "fuzz" for police/cop has been lost as well and that is well within confines of the *modern* thorougly documented [15 minutes of fame, Andy Warhol reference] TWENTIETH CENTURY (1900c modern usage these works). So, there is no *reason* for the word dog to be dog (other than the most profound bit of wit that dog backwards spells god; gee wizz, does that mean that agcod (docga backwards) is god in Late Old English?? ;) Hence, ofi (Chatah for dog) would do as well. And then we can play all of the usual "word association" games of *linking* any word to any other. This becomes readily apparent on so-called intellegence tests [refer to the superb books "The Mis-measure of Man" (Stephen J. Gould's wondrous work that in turn gave rise to "This Mis-measure of Woman by Carol Tavris)]. I've have found great pleasure when taking one of these tests in finds a *good* reason (and often valid reason as well) for EACH answer being correct -- not just the so-called "obvious" one. Or as the composer/artist Juan Ramón Jiménez put it: "If they give you ruled paper, write the other way". {Back to the tarxT!} [4] This brings up the question/problem of interaction (I/A for short). The interaction vs. the collision as per Barthe's statement: [The interdisciplinary activity] cannot be accomplished by simple confrontations between various specialised areas off knowledge Thus, we would say that the areas of knowledge (and i don't intend to restrict it to "specialised") must interact and influence each other in order for the "interdisciplinary" *act* to occur. The clearest example of this which springs to mind is the idea of "relativity". Once relativity was "out of the box" its influence on philsophy, sociology, etc was immense. Thus, in each are of knowledge (eg, history) considering the external element (eg, relativity physics) was the process of interaction. Thus, a historian might ask "If Einstein has established that there is NO prefered reference frame, then what does this mean in the various *interpretations* that historians have traditionally given events?" This would of course lead to a re-evaluation of those interpretations in the "light" of the "external element". Thus, rather than a distancing the external element intrudes into and pervades the area of knowledge. Thus, it interacts - forcing new interpretations, new paradigms, and indeed a new version of the established cannon of knowledge. Again, the concept of "cultural relativism" springs to mind -- following relativistic thinking, "cultural imperialism" would never hold water again. If we now contrast this *interactive* nature of the interdisciplanry activities with the non-interactive nature of collage, we proceed as follows. 1. Certainly interaction is possible in collage, but mostly it is the juxtaposition of the collage that creates an effect. This occurs ostensibly at the *boundary* of one image and the next, but also as noted before, occurs because of the substance of the area as compared to the substance of the area next to it. This goes back to the argument of the *content* being more important than *context*, thus violating Umberto Ecco's ??sp?? ??exact quote?? idea that "context is king". Indeed if we look at just two images side-by-side there may be little context at all between them; eg, a picture of a duck, and a picture of a pickup truck. The only context that i can think of is that they are pictures and that they are pasted/taped next to each other. As to the content, and the *story* [Mihai Nadin ref] that they imply, it is at best *weak*. Thus, we would need more images to create anything approaching meaning or a story. It would be at this point that the viewer might wonder what the *title* of the piece might be. We could imagine a series of title that would "create" the story/meaning. Consider the following titles: "My love has left me for someone else" "Rhymes with *uck" "Nothing in common" The first clearly creates the story desipte the desparity of the two images. The second is clearly a literary reference (word play, etc), and the third is perhaps the "intention" of the artist. Indeed as Nadin would point out, we can not help but create a story -- even if our intention is to *not* create a story, then that in itself is the creation of a story. 2. Next we should consider the problem of "layering". At the simpest level this would indicate to take a concept (eg, "cultural superiority") and then illuminate it with the external element (eg, relativity). Thus, this forces a new interpretation of "culutral superiority" and will (i would guess) lead to "cultural imperialism". Thus, the external element acts as a *filter* through which the pre-existing bits of knowledge are given a new "twist". Thus, in the tradtional literary work, the "external element" is translucent. In the case of collage, he images is opaque -- unless printed on translucent film, a mark made on a picture, a small image pasted over a larger one that does not make the under-image non-recognisable. Thus, we have *layering* in the sense that one layer masks another under it. A little thought tells us that this would be the same as tearing the edges concurently and then pasting them carefully to the matrix. On the other hand, if we simply paste one over the other (very physically indicating the three-dimensional layering), then we create an effect that is more interactive and therefore (in my use of the term) *literary*. Thus, if we paste the picture of the duck into the bed of the pickup, this is different than if we paste the duck under the pickup; ie: +-----------------+ | | +-------------+ | duck | +-------------+ +-----------------+ duck In the first case (in the pickup truck) the duck "tells the story" of being transported somewhere. In the second case, the duck is either being squashed or supressed by the truck; again, as Nadin would say "we can not but help to tell a story" in either case. And of course if the duck is placed over the truck it is either in triumph or again in the context of "have you got transport?". 3. Thus, we see a whole rnage between interaction and juxtaposition. Metaphorically, we might say that this range is analogous to the range between nurturing and domination. Which again goes back to the impact that relativity had on the "might is right" thinking that pervades much of the world still. {Back to the VarxT!} [5] Again, this speaks more to juxtaposition rather than interaction. To a certain extent, i understand Barthes' point about "confrontation", but again if we consider (for eg) bio-chemistry. Is it indeed a violent confrontation or not? I would say that interpreting life in terms of chemistry (ie, life in terms of life-less-ness), gives us a new view of the world or the subject at hand. On the other hand, it certainly was a *violent* overthrow when relativity impacted cultural imperialism. To a certain extent, i would say that the introduction of the external element (which is what happens when the interdisciplinary method is used) cause the traditional views of the pre-existing subject to be called into question. Thus, we "test" each assumption using the external element to see if it can bring illumination to the subect. Alternatively, if the external element is used to {Back to the VarxtExTSH!} [6] {Back to the VarxtEhxTSH!} [7] {Back to the VartEhSH!} [8] {Back to the Varthes!} [9] {Back to the number "9", number "9", number "9", number "barthes"!} [1] {Back to the tExT!} [1] {Back to the tExT!}


Next: Refs.


"Textual Stategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticsm", Ed by Josue V. Harari, LCCN PN 94.T4, ISBN 0.8014.1218.8, (Cornell, Ithaca NY (see map), 1979). "Critical Essays", translated from the french by Richard Howard, LCCN PN 710.B21, ISBN 0.8101.0370.2, (Northwestern Univ. Press, Evanston, ILL, 1972). (Translated from Barthes' "Essais critiques", 1964. With the dedication: To François Braunschweig ??who?? ** always with more to do!!!! *** (listening to Jean Francaix's "Concerino pour Piano" performed by his daughter!) -- beauty, beauty squared! "A Barthes Reader", edited with an introduction by someone called "Susan Sontag", (curiouser and curiouser [Alice in Wonderland reference], LCCN NX 65.B37'1982, ISBN 0.88029.015.3, (Hill and Wang, New York (see map), 1982).