A Roland Barthes Reader
Susan Sontag, Reflections, WRITING ITSELF: ON ROLAND BARTHES - The New Yorker April 26, 1982, p. 122
ABSTRACT: REFLECTIONS about the late Roland Barthes, French man of letters, who died in early 1980 when he was struck by a van. Of all the intellectual notables who have emerged since WW II in France, it is Roland Barthes whose work the writer is certain will endure. Barthes's writing, with its prodigious variety of subjects, has finally one great subject: writing itself. As a formalist, Barthes was more interested in the structure of writing than in the message of it. Writer talks about Barthes's books "Writing Degree Zero," "Michelet," "S/Z," "Roland Barthes," and others. Much of his work is devoted to portraits of the vocation of the writer. The first essay he wrote was about the "Journal" of Andre Gide. Describes what Barthes and Gide have in common as writers. Barthes relation to politics recalls Gides's: willingness in times of ideological mobilization to take the right stands, to be politicalNbut, finally, not; and thereby, perhaps, to tell the truth that hardly anybody else is telling. Sartre wrote about the writers moral responsibility, which he called "commitmentO; supple Gidean that he is, Barthes is eager to acknowledge the model of Sartre as well. But Barthes understood (as Sartre did not) that literature is first of all, last of all language. It is language that is everything. Tells about Barthes's inaugural lecture at his accession to the Chair of Literary Semiology at the College de France in 1977, when he described the power of language as "quite simply fascist." As Barthes's writing developed, he became the latest major participant in the great national literary project: the self as vocation, life as a reading of the self. Inevitably, Barthes's work had to end in autobiography. At the end, he moved away from his aesthete's position.
Edited and with an introduction by Susan Sontag
Dimensions: 198mm x 126mm