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A Lover's Discourse: Fragments Paperback – June 1, 1979

4.7 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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"Barthes's most popular and unusual performance as a writer is A Lover's Discourse, a writing out of the discourse of love. This language--primarily the complaints and reflections of the lover when alone, not exchanges of a lover with her or her partner--is unfashionable. Thought it is spoken by millions of people, diffused in our popular romances and television programs as well as in serious literature, there is no institution that explores, maintains, modifies, judges, repeats, and otherwise assumes responsibility for this discourse . . . Writing out the figures of a neglected discourse, Barthes surprises us in A Lover's Discourse by making love, in its most absurd and sentimental forms, an object of interest."--Jonathan Culler

About the Author

Roland Barthes was born in 1915 and studied French literature and the classics at the University of Paris. After teaching French at universities in Romania and Egypt, he joined the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, where he devoted himself to research in sociology and lexicology. He was a professor at the College de France until his death in 1980.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; Second Printing edition (June 1, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374521611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374521615
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #804,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on April 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
Very, very difficult to read. Not because it is hyper-intellectual and most everyone will need a dictionary on each page. This book is so difficult because it taps into the heart of the crazy abyss of love. It seemed at times as if the book could only be understood by someone in the madness of love as s/he reads it. Having loved before is not enough: the details and precision applied to this insanity are too exact, too punishing, too passionate for me to believe that this book can make the same sense for those in love as for those out of it. By the same token, to read this while in love can be a demolishing experience. To know that this passion has been felt and analyzed so well by someone of towering intellect is little solace to the solitude one feels reading these words. A brilliant and disturbing book.
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Some readers may find this book difficult. Barthes never attempts to give us a uniform narrative about love. Instead, as the title implies, he provides us with fragments--some of which come from literature and some from his own philisophical musings--of a lover's point of view. Since childhood, we are taught to think of love as a singualar entity. Whether it is God's love, marriage, passion, or patriotism, we are taught to think of love as a unique, and exclusive prize. But as Barthes' points out, love is built upon fragments, many of which are mundane.
The most compelling part of "Lover's Discourse" is Barthe's dissection of the phrase, "I love you". Drawing upon literary examples and common sense, Barthes asks us what we mean when we state that we love someone. Do we love what they do for us? Do we love how they make us feel? Do we love the idea of them? Are we in love with love itself? This concept is born out by the protagonist Merseault, in Camus' novel, "A Happy Death". The first thing Merseault says to his lover when she wakes up in the morning is, "hello image".
"Lover's Discourse" extracts love from ideology and examines it under a microscope. We may be confused by what we see, and we may not like it, but the view contains more than a glimmer of reality.
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A personal favourite. Captures admirably the absurdity of it all. Contains gems like `Even as he obsessively asks himself why he is not loved, the amorous subject lives in the belief that the loved object does love him but does not tell him so.' Also has what is probably the best paragraph ever written on jealousy: `As a jealous man, I suffer four times over: because I am jealous, because I blame myself for being so, because I fear my jealousy will wound the other, because I allow myself to be subject to a banality: I suffer from being excluded, from being aggressive, from being crazy and from being common.'
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What is love? Perhaps the question has never been answered more succinctly, more completely, and more devastatingly than in *A Lover's Discourse.* In this unique and sly little book, Roland Barthes deconstructs `love,' or, perhaps more accurately, subjects it to a thorough semiotic examination that reveals the psycholinguistic archetypes that comprise all great affairs of the heart--the very definition of which virtually dictates that they all end unhappily.

Barthes examines love in brief chapters, each devoted to a different aspect of the entire humiliating `catastrophe': the helpless infatuation, the agonizing wait beside the telephone that doesn't ring, the jealousy of anyone with access to the beloved, the infantile terror of abandonment, the sense of martyrdom, the suicidal despair...but also the inexplicable enchantment of the seemingly insignificant ((and yet all-too potent)) detail that fatally charms us--the crooked tooth, the dimple, the slant of an eye, the simplest gesture--that causes that one person of all possible people to appear to us as the very image of our desire no matter what suffering they subsequently bring upon us. And they do cause us to suffer, because the lover always loves the beloved more than he or she is loved in return.

It's hard to say whether this book helps to heal a broken heart or turns a stick in it--probably it does a little of both. One thing is certain: this is no *30 Days to Mend a Broken Heart* or such similar self-help collection of insipid platitudes. This is more like chemotherapy. To paraphrase the old joke, Barthes might have cured Cupid of his disease, but, unfortunately, the patient died.
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Barthes " A Lover's Discourse" takes one on a journey of longing, the broken heart and what it means to love. His text drawers from multiple literary examples such as Goethe to demonstrate these tropes. Barthes uses a structuralist method to create these meditations on love and loss, that not only stimulate the mind but also the heart. Barthes takes phrases and feelings and analyzes them reminding us of the diction of love, and how it remains a structural piece. This book is for anyone interested in structuralism without the dryness of academia, as well as anyone interested in the topic of love. The translation is quite good, and I definitely recommend this to those who want to read Barthes but cannot read French.
Enjoy!
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