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Notes on Barthes SZ

Notes on Barthes SZ

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Published by Rykalski
Some notes on S/Z by Barthes
Some notes on S/Z by Barthes

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Published by: Rykalski on May 24, 2011
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Rykalski, W. (2011)
Barthes S/Z 
The Voice of the Reader: the Entanglement of the Reader and the Text 
LXIV The Voice of the Reader"What we hear, therefore, is the displaced voice which the reader lends, by proxy,to the discourse: the discourse is speaking according to the reader's interest ...writing is ... specifically the voice of reading itself:
in the text, only the reader speaks 
."The involvement of the reader in the text (their
perhaps) is asignificant problem as this entanglement of us and the text tends to either renderthe text a narcissistic field (a mirror in which we read only ourselves) or obscuresthe discursive regimes that constructed the text by rendering them seeminglysubject (or submissive) to our reading. We must be alive to our
discursive entanglement 
with the text if we are to avoid both traps and build for ourselves anunderstanding of the text.
S/Z (I Evaluation) p3 
"... the goal of literary work (of literature as work) is to make the reader no longer aconsumer, but a producer of the text. Our literature is characterized by the pitilessdivorce which the literary institution maintains between the producer of the text andits user, between its owner and its customer, between its author and reader. Thereader is thereby plunged into a kind of idleness - he is intransitive; he is, in short,serious: instead of functioning himself, instead of gaining access to the magic ofthe signifier, to the pleasure of writing, he is left with no more than the poorfreedom to accept or reject the text: reading is nothing more than a referendum."Barthes' focus on the active reader - the reader as producer (as 'writer') - points tothe role of the disciplinary institutions of capital in cultural life and nexus of forcesbrought to bear on 'readers' to ensure the limitation of our 'construction of meaning'to pre-determined channels.
S/Z p5 II Interpretation - Plural 
 "Here, we require a second operation, consequent upon the evaluation which hasseparated the text, more delicate than that evaluation, based upon theappreciation of a certain quantity - the more or less each text can mobilize. Thisnew operation is interpretation (in the Nietzschean sense of the word). To interpreta text is not to give it (more or less justified, more or less free) meaning, but on thecontrary to appreciate what plural constitutes it."This insistence on the plural (on the '&' over and against the 'or') is the verypresence of society (of people, of us). Society (interaction, power) is plural, culture
Rykalski, W. (2011)
(both objects and concepts) is plural, discourse is plural & all because we areplural. This insistence on the '&' is the mark of thinking about us and is to be foundemerging in all 'disciplines' after the spark of The Genealogy of Morals. We mustas a matter of urgency remove the 'or' from the field of analysis-interpretation.
"the gradual analysis" 
The first necessity of all work of analysis (of the self, of the text, of the social,cultural or discursive) is the rejection of programme. The pre-ordained schemasthat so much analysis proceeds from are just the long-winded projection of the selfwith the intent of obscuring the ostensible object of study. "... the step-by-stepcommentary is of necessity a renewal of the entrances to the text, it avoidsstructuring the text excessively, avoids giving it that additional structure whichwould come from a dissertation and would close it: it stars the text, instead ofassembling it."
S/Z 465 
"... the (realistic) discourse adheres mythically to an expressive function: itpretends to believe in the prior existence of a referent (a reality) that it mustregister, copy, communicate ..."This short phrase from
contains everything that History ought to be worriedabout but wilfully ignores.
S/Z LXXVI Character and Discourse 
Barthes draws a distinction between two functions of the realistic. First, therealistic view of character in which we (the reader) invest characters with morethan just a paper-being and treat them as people with a 'psychology' and a lifebeyond the page. Second, the realistic view of discourse in which we acknowledgethe text and its narrative as technologies with specific modes of functioning,specific systems of effects, and specific durations and courses.However, Barthes is keen to point out that this distinction is not a dichotomy.Whereas it may seem that the two readings (which we might relate to thesuspension or not of disbelief) are separate an opposed they are not."From a critical point of view, therefore, it is as wrong to suppress the character asit is to take him off the page in order to turn him into a psychological character(endowed with possible motives): the character and the discourse are each other'saccomplices: the discourse creates in the character its own accomplice ... Such isdiscourse: if it creates characters, it is not to make them play among themselvesbefore us but to play with them ... [in] the uninterrupted exchange of codes: thecharacters are types of discourse and, conversely, the discourse is a character likethe others."
LXXVI Character and Discourse
Rykalski, W. (2011)
 Characters are paper-beings and do not posses a 'psychology' but the do have asignificance and a function in the discourse that we must be alive too. We musttreat the characters of a text with a double-caution: we must not dismiss them asmerely textual and we must not elevate them out of the text. To do either is to failto consider what it is the characters are doing in our world, the world beyond thetext, what effect they have on us.
The Surface of Truth  
We are trained into the acceptance of their being something behind, beyond orbelow the surface of things. We are actively schooled in the belief that the truth is'behind the curtain' not because this is the case but because it suits the form of ourculture (and thus the
structures of power in our society) for us to believe this.Barthes showed (in The Reality Effect and elsewhere - e.g.
LIVBehind, Beyond) that the realistic was an aspect of bourgeois ideology. That is tosay (following Benjamin) that the realistic is the expression in culture of bourgeoisdomination of society through their control of its resources. It is not the only suchexpression but its effect on what we take to be true is the most dramatic.
The Force of Meaning  
Barthes was concerned with the role of power in narrative and meaning. In Hiswork there is an effort to force us to recognise the dependency of text on power inthe world."Thereby appears the nature of meaning: it is a force which attempts to subjugateother forces, other meanings, other languages. The force of meaning depends onits degree of systemization: the strongest
meaning is the one whose systemizationincludes a large number of elements, to the point where it appear to includeeverything noteworthy in the world..."
LXV The "Scene"This systemization of meaning (the epistem of Foucault?) is both the effect of anda mode of action of the system of power (of relations of power) in society findingtheir expression in culture in the text. From
LVI The Tree:"... for meaning is a force: to name is to subject, and the more generic thenomination, the stronger the subjection."Discourse is power (it is an action-upon-the-action-of-others) and that power canbe a violence. Discourse is the most projectional of all tools and thus is a weapon.It has both edges: of destruction and construction.
Irony, Meaning, Capital (S/Z XXI). 
Section (element? It is difficult to know what to call the longer passages of writingamidst the 'starred text' of
) XXI of
is worthy of close attention (of re-reading as Barthes called for):

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