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The Pleasure of the Text Paperback – January 1, 1975

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; Reissue edition (January 1, 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374521603
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374521608
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.3 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on February 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
"The Pleasure of the Text," by Roland Barthes, is a work of literary and cultural philosophy that actually transcends the genre. The short book consists of a series of "meditations," many less than a page long, that explore various facets of language and reading. Barthes' work has been translated from French into an elegantly playful English by Richard Miller.
As a whole, the book has an informal, almost stream-of-consciousness feel to it. Barthes' text is richly studded with numerous cultural references--Bataille, the Kama Sutra, Sade, Severo Sarduy, Marx, the Buddhist sangha, Poe, Chomsky, and much more. Barthes often uses sexual imagery as a vehicle by which to construct a philosophy of reading. The result of all these elements is a dizzying, yet oddly delightful reading experience.
One of the key themes of "The Pleasure of the Text" is Barthes' attempt to define "pleasure" and "bliss," and to delineate the differences between the text of pleasure and the text of bliss. From Barthes' project the close reader can thus derive a new way of looking at all texts.
Among other topics Barthes considers the hierarchical nature and pleasure factor of the sentence, as well as the erotic potential of the word. And throughout, his writing is marked by passages of wit and insight. A typical observation: "The bastard form of mass culture is humiliated repetition [...]."
"The Pleasure of the Text" often takes on a metaphysical, almost prophetic flavor. For those who are willing to dig into this dense text with gusto, it may prove to be an intellectual treasure heap.
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By A Customer on July 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
Reading this long essay, I was reminded of Barthes' contention that he was not a literary critic--this work goes farther than most anything that passes for literary criticism nowadays. This is a beautiful, concise essay on what makes reading pleasurable, something most critics wouldn't dare to tackle. But Roland Barthes is no critic--he's a philosopher and a poet, a gifted writer whose words desire your reading (and you'll desire the words) as much as they illuminate that desire itself. It's a rare person who can explain literature while creating it. Barthes is one such person, which is just another reason he's no literary critic.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I returned to Barthes not having read him in a long time. A graduate TA, with shaky french herself,
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.
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Format: Paperback
For context, I have read (and own) most Barthes's work that has been translated into English, and multiple times, and consider him requisite reading for anyone seriously interested in literary criticism/theory. As well, his less academic books, like _Camera Lucida_ and _Lover's Discourse_ are worth getting for anyone who enjoys literature as a higher endeavor.

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.
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