So, now that Korsakov is ‘over’, and by that I mean submitted, I figure it’s time to tackle Barthes. I made some initial notes when we got the readings and have annotated them on paper, so here goes…
Barthes introduces language as something which is subject to conceptual and physical change over time. He pinpoints these changes as a result of social reforms, movements and developments much as Marxism, psychoanalysis and anthropology.
Bathes suggests we need a new “object, obtained by the sliding or overturning of categories- that object is the text” (PG156)
1. He says it is pointless to try and ‘compute’ a text or compartmentalise works from texts. The work is a fragment occupying a physical space (like a library) but the text is a methodological field (system of methods) – one is displayed and one is demonstrated. This reminds me of the whole opposition between tacit and explicit knowledge. The work can be seen/perceived, but the text is a process of demonstration.
“The text is experienced only in an activity of production” – This is extremely reminicent of the idea that consumption is an act of production and in a constant state of discourse.
2. Texts cannot be contained inside a hierarchy. The text “cannot stop” because the process of language does not come to an end; the meaning is always suspended, deferred or impending. The subversive power of the text is that it cannot be contained in a hierarchy or a simple division of genres. The text tries to place itself very exactly behind the limit of genres – all literary texts are woven out of other literary texts. There is no literary ‘originality’: all literature is ‘intertextual’ and paradoxical.
3. The text can be approached, experienced, in reaction to the sign. The work closes in a signified, which is on the idea it expresses which is separate from it’s physical form.
There are two modes of signification, the work is an object of literal science or an interpretation. The work functions as a general sign but the text is in a constant state of deferred action, im not entirely sure what this means, but I think Barthes is trying to say that the initial interpretation cannot be the only the one and cannot be defined by it’s objectivity. Metonymic logic is employed which is bound in associations, contiguities and over-lappings.
So, The text practices the infinite deferment of the signified. The infinity of the signifier refers to play a with the disconnections, overlappings, and variations between signifier and signified. The text is filled with symbolic energy, like language, it is structured but decentered, without closure.
Sunni has some really good notes on this section.
4. The text is plural (two or more sources of authority exist) and irreducible, it’s meaning is spread out and leads to an explosion of meaning and a web of significance. The text relies on stereographic plurality – how it is perceived (eg, a book) and how the reader comes in and out of the text. In this extent, no sign is ever ‘pure’ or ‘fully meaningful’, so the Text can be itself only in its differences, not monistic (denies existence of duality) determination, it can ever be ‘stand alone’.
5. The work is caught up in a process of filtration – it is constantly being connected to something else like its author, genre history. It is seen as a specific work paced ‘in the world’ which has a specific function.
KEY IDEA: The text is an organism (it grows and develops) into a network which constantly extends itself and is open to redefinition and the author becomes a guest to because the original meaning no longer exists.
6. The work is normally a the object of consumption; it is the quality of the work which differentiates it, not how it is ‘read’.
“The text decants the work from its consumption and gathers it up as play ,activity, production and practice. It tries to abolish/diminish the distance between reading and writing…playing must be understood in all its polysemy(possible meanings); the text itself plays and the reader plays twice over as one plays a game, looking for a practice which re-produces it – Pg 162
This reminds me of the human tendency to look for patterns in order to create theory – they make do with what they have, play with it and try and make order and sense.
Further, the idea that “the reduction of reading to a consumption is clearly responsible for the ‘boredom’ experienced by many in the face of the modern (unreadable) text, the avant garde film or painting: to be bored means that one cannot produce the text, open it out, set it going.” Pg 168
This seems to be a ‘Barthe-ian’ description of the ‘black box response‘?
7. Pleasure can be found in some works, yet it is a pleasure of consumption because you are inevitably cut off from the production of the work. Texts are inseparable from pleasure, they create new meanings or even a form of escape and no language has any hold over another.
Phew…I feel like i’ve run a marathon. However, I didn’t do it alone, Sunni’s blog post helped me along a LOT, as did this website. Also, if you haven’t had enough of brain rape for one night, check out this blog post on how Barthes’ essay defines, paradoxically his main arguments…interesting stuff, here’s a little taste!
“…it would be interesting to look at Barthes’ own essay as a work and as a text. In many ways, Barthes signals his own separation from the “Newtonian” texts that claim to be works (Barthes 192). In other ways, however, the philosophy of the work inevitably permeates his own claims to avoid its dictates. As a work, as an entity which is separable from the discourse surrounding it, Barthes can claim that his essay is in conformation with the view of the text. Paradoxically, when viewed as a text, this separation from those texts which claim to be works is not achieved”