Thursday, October 18, 2012

Noted: Roland Barthes on reading, production, desire

I'm in the midst of my first attempts at reading Barthes, and am finding myself ambivalent--partly because despite his insight he often relies heavily on constructs that seem troublesome to me, such as the sillier ends of Freudian thought, and partly because I experience what Richard has referred to as a "vertiginous feeling" on reading some of these complex European thinkers, particularly in translation.

Anyway, I'm reading Richard Howard's translation of Barthes's essays as collected in The Rustle of Language, and in the 1976 essay "On Reading," Barthes quotes Roger Laporte (about whom I know absolutely nothing):

A pure reading which does not call for another writing is incomprehensible to me...Reading Proust, Blanchot, Kafka, Artaud gave me no desire to write on these authors (not even, I might add, like them), but to write.
Which: yes, yes, yes. I know this feeling so well. My list would be different (simply because I have not [yet] read Proust or Blanchot, have hardly read Kafka, and...well, actually, I have had exactly this experience with Artaud, so leave him on there), probably including Hart Crane, Adrienne Rich, Joanna Russ, Samuel Delany, Alfred Bester...but the point itself, my god yes. Immediately after this quote, Barthes comments:
In this perspective, reading is a veritable production: no longer of interior images, of projections, of hallucinations, but literally of work: the (consumed) product is reversed into production, into promise, into desire for production, and the chain of desires begins to unroll, each reading being worth the writing it engenders, into infinity. Is this pleasure of production an elitist pleasure, reserved only to potential writers? In our society, a society of consumption and not of production, a society of reading, seeing, and hearing, and not a society of writing, looking, and listening, everything is done to block the answer: lovers of writing are scattered, clandestine, crushed by a thousand--even internal--constraints.

This is a problem of civilization: but, for me, my profound and constant conviction is that it will never be possible to liberate reading if, in the same impulse, we do not liberate writing.

At the moment I have no comment on this, and I have no idea if it will be "useful" for me in the future, but it seems important and "true" enough to demand noting. I am tagging this with both "science fiction" and "poetry" despite its dealing directly with neither, because it is applicable to my thinking on both.

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