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The Pleasure of the Text Paperback – January 1, 1975
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“Barthes repeatedly compared teaching to play, reading to eros, writing to seduction. His voice became more and more personal, more full of grain, as he called it; his intellectual art more openly a performance, like that of the other great anti-systematizers . . . All of Barthes work is an exploration the histrionic or ludic; in many ingenious modes, a plea for savor, for a festive (rather than dogmatic or credulous) relation to ideas. For Barthes, the point is to make us bold, agile, subtle, intelligent, detached. And to give pleasure.” ―Susan Sontag
Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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had us reading Mythologies in the early '80's. As students working hard just to translate the text, I'm afraid we let certain funny jokes, like the fact of a frenchman discussing the meaning of french fries in America,
go directly over our heads.
I happened to read a review of a movie where Ben Kingsley romances college student Penelope Cruz.
One detail, "She had under her arm, The Pleasure of the Text," reeled me in to order it, though I did not consider the movie any further(maybe that was wrong). I also ordered two others by Barthes. One was A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, a short, easy enjoyable read I recommend.
Pleasure of the Text is a little more involved but certainly not impenetrable. I actually was finding it funnier
and funnier until I got to page 9, where I laughed out loud as he talked about the "narrative" being "dismantled" in Flaubert. Maybe it was just me. On rereading it I realized it was not really a joke;
I think Barthes is a little more serious here than in the french-fry book(some may say that was serious, too).
In sum, definitely lovely, accessible writing. And he seems like a pretty nice guy after all these years.
The entire Pleasure of Text could have been better explained in one well written paragraph, but it wasn't.
However, _The Pleasure of the Text_ is easily the last book of Barthes's that I would ever recommend to anyone, especially anyone that is unfamiliar with Barthes. It is an exceptionally difficult book, and I am not convinced it is a successfully written book; or, permitting the possibility, successfully translated book. Yes, everyone will immediately defend the book by saying "it's experimental"; but just because something is experimental does not mean it is successful. Every time I have tried to read it my inner editor has come to the same two suspicions. One, that there may be a problem with the translation (something to which I cannot myself speak). Two, that Barthes did not fully have a grasp on the ideas he was exploring, that they were still in flux in his own mind while he was writing. Because of that, what is on the page never unifies into a sense-making whole.
I am fully willing (and eager) to see argument otherwise; but, in truth, every explication of _The Pleasure of the Text_ I have ever read has either been a shallow, surface reading and/or was getting most of its information from others of Barthes's texts. But, really, that is beside the point as regards the purpose of this "review," which is simply to characterize the book for people who are unfamiliar with it.
To that end, let it be said:
(1) This is an extremely difficult book, and if you are unfamiliar with Barthes's ideas I would think it unreadable.
(2) This is something of an outlier within Barthes's writings, and as such not representative of the rest of his work. (Which gives more energy to the idea that for all it's fame it may be an unsuccessful textual experiment.)
(3) You can find most of the ideas in _The Pleasure of the Text_ more clearly explicated elsewhere, particularly in the essays in _Image, Music, Text_ and in the book _S/Z_ (though, the latter work is a study in formal semiology and as such is the more technical; thus I would always recommend the former over the latter).
To sum up, if you are unfamiliar with Barthes, there is zero point in you buying this book. If you are familiar with Barthes, go ahead if you want but don't expect any great revelations. Myself, never once have I felt need or want to refer to _The Pleasure of the Text_ directly (and I have a tendency to refer to Barthes too much). It might be an interesting (if unsuccessful) experiment in literary theory; but it is not a terribly useful one. I here give the book three stars for the balance of the good and the bad.
If ever one needs well articulated justification for the
act of writing or reading, this book delivers.
It is simultaneously dense and accommodating -
one can comfortably read this book in a few hours
yet contemplate its nuances for far longer.