And so with Barthes it is not just random musings but something that weaves in and around ideas and propositions from contemporary literature, cinema, philosophy, anthropology, political theory and literary studies. He treats the writing as open propositions and things for you (the reader) to think with, alongside the writing. Here his writing is not a reporting of what he knows, but a discovering which happens in and with and inside of (amongst and together with) the writing.
This paragraph is from the IMblog on the chapter “From Work to Text” by Roland Barthes, and once again I get a feeling that this course is not only about learning what’s in the course guide, but understanding more about life in general. It is about being aware of the things you do, realising why you do them, and how they are situated in this web of chaos that we call The World.
Barthes has 7 different points that shows the position of the Text (in comparison to works, but also looking at is a unique thing). I will briefly go through the points and try to get something useful out of it.
1. The Text is not to be thought of as an object that can be computed. He stresses that it is pointless to try to separate out materially works from text. The difference between the two is that “the work is a fragment of substance”, which means it is a small part of a certain space, like books (in a library, a bookstore, etc), while the Text is a methodological field. Methodological means “a system of methods used in a particular area of study or activity”.
Barthes compares the opposition between text and work with Lacan’s distinction between ‘reality’ and ‘the real’; the one is displayed, the other is demonstrated.
So, while the work is a physical object and can be seen, the text “is a progress of demonstration, speaks according to certain rules (or against certain rules). The text exists in language, and only exists in the act of communication.
This is what Adrian described on the IMblog. Barthes wants us to look at the opportunities in writing, how to think alongside writing (and reading).
The text is experienced only in an activity of production. Hmm, sounds familiar doesn’t it? This is so related to the term “making do” that it almost makes me laugh. in the blogpost i did on the de Certeau reading, which was inspired y the lecture explaining it, Adrian said that things are only real in the act of making/doing. If I have an idea for a film, it doesn’t exist until it’s written down, or I’m actually filming it.
2. You can’t have a hierarchy when it comes to Text. It has a subversive force in respect of the old classification.
“If the text poses problems of classification (which is furthermore one of its ‘social’ functions), this is because it always involves a certain experience of Unfits.”
What he means by Unfits is (I think) limit-works. The text is that which goes to the limit of the rules of enunciation.
The Text is always paradoxial.
3. The Text can be approached, experienced, in reaction to the sign. The work closes on a signified.
Just a quick update for everyone who isn’t a hundred percent confident in their knowledge regarding semiotics.
- a ‘signifier’ (signifiant) – the form which the sign takes; and
- the ‘signified’ (signifié) – the concept it represents.
The sign is the whole that results from the association of the signifier with the signified. The relationship between the signifier and the signified is referred to as ‘signification’, and this is represented in the Saussurean diagram by the arrows. The horizontal line marking the two elements of the sign is referred to as ‘the bar’.
If we take a linguistic example, the word ‘Open’ (when it is invested with meaning by someone who encounters it on a shop doorway) is a sign consisting of:
- a signifier: the word open
- a signified concept: that the shop is open for business.
To be honest, I still don’t get what Barthes means. Please help Adrian.
Barthes is telling us (with all his big words) that the logic around a Text is not comprehensive, but metonymic, which means
the substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant, for example suit for business executive, or the track for horse racing
So, if the work closes on the signified, does this mean that the work is a clear representation for a certain thing? It is what it is, no more? We can therefore label it.
And then the text, which can be approached as the Sign, is a combination of different elements, and not one specific thing. Since the sign is the whole that results from the association of the signifier with the signified, the text can be thought of as something that changes with the interpretation of the reader. Please correct me if this is completely wrong..
4. The text is plural.
So my idea of statement number 3 is confirmed, but also proved wrong. Barthes writes that calling the text plural doesn’t just mean that it has several meanings, it accomplishes the very plural of meaning. A plural that is impossible to reduce. It doesn’t answer to interpretation, but a dissemination (something spreading widely). The plural of the text depends on stereographic plurality (stereography means the depiction or representation of three-dimensional things by projection onto a two-dimensional surface).
The way I interpret this is that a Text is able to evoke feelings and thoughts, even though it is on a two dimensional surface (a book, a screen).
Barthes goes on to say that every text is intertextual, but that there is no point in trying to find the origin of the text. Citations are not there to show you the sources and influences of the work, they are anonymous, untraceable, and already read.
5. The work is caught up in a process of filiation. This means that the work is always seen as connected to something. The author, history, etc. A determination of the work of the world, hence it it a specific work which has a specific function.
The Text on the other hand, functions without the presence of the author.
Barthes offers a metaphor: The Work can be seen as an organism, which grows by vital expansion, while the Text is a network. “If the text extends itself, it is as a result of a combinatory systematic (an image, moreover, close to current biological conceptions of the living beings).”
6. The text decants the work:
The work is the object of consumption, it is made for the consumer culture. Here I’m again thinking back to Adrians idea about how producers look at us as passive consumers.
The Text decants the work from its consumption and gathers it up as play, activity, production, practice.
Bingo. The Text allows us to MAKE DO. Like in the post I wrote on The Death of The Author, Barthes mentions how the Text tries to make us diminish the distance between writing and reading. Not to make the reader superior, but to join them in a single signifying practice.
Lets look at what Barthes means by PLAY. He stated that reading works, here in a sense of consuming, isn’t even close to the play the text engages us in.
The text itself plays (like a door, like a machine with ‘play’) and the reader plays twice over, playing the Text as one plays a game, looking for a practice which re-produces it, but, in order that that practice not be reduced to a passive, inner mimesis (the Text is exactly that which resists such reduction), also playing the Text in the musical sense of the term.
7. Final approach to the Text.
Works make it impossible to produce something new from the material. You can find pleasure in some works, but it is still a pleasure of consumption, of being lead in a direction without the ability to imagine a different way. It cuts you off the production of these works.
The text is bound to a pleasure without separation. The Text is that space where no language has a hold over any other, where languages circulate.
I know this blogpost is way to long, and that no one is going to read it, but at least I understand the reading a little better.