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Writing Degree Zero Reissue Edition
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That all said, there was still much that I found of interest in this slim volume. The main thrust of the argument seems to be the `impossible' dilemma inherent in the act of writing. And, by `writing,' we mean here the act at its highest level of intent. How, for instance, can the writer compose an authentic text when the very tools he's forced to use--the conventions of language and Literature--are those that belong to a tradition he had no part in choosing, let alone creating? How can he write a text socially and historically engaged in the present when this tradition is handed to him from the past? How can he avoid slipping into cliché, commercialism, and sloganistic propaganda, all pitfalls of the present, and yet still make himself understood and relevant to his time?
Barthes makes much of the distinction between speaking and writing, the former more genuine than the latter in his view, inasmuch as speech is less bound by `Order,' which is, by its very nature, always closed and authoritarian. Yet all attempts to convert the idiosyncratic, free-form rhythms and authenticity of speech into text ((as in the works of Celine)) remains, in the final analysis, when written, artifice.
What's a writer to do?Read more ›
"This erect discourse [modern poetry esp.] is full of terror, that is to say, it relates man not to other man, but to the most inhuman images in Nature: heaven, hell, holiness, childhood, madness, pure matter, ect."
Barthes's sympathies appear to lie in classical over modern forms and modes of writing. He indicates in his analysis of modern poetry, that the Word remain hegemonic without being communicative itself--it being in essence an assertion of solipsistic individuality in reaction against the tyrannical inertia of Doxa. This line of thought is carried through to its conclusion (proletarian and petit bourgeois natured writings being two faces of the same Janus) especially in the sections "Triumph and Breakup of Writing" through "Writing and Revolution" and "Writing and Silence."
His conclusion: The Utopia of Language, Writing Degree Zero.
Synthesis of the classical distribution of meaning applied to the whole language, and modern force of Words themselves, reigned back to their status of tools of communication: subordinate to their social use-their original and sole purpose ("instrumentality" in his words). see pg. 46 "a total gesture of intellection, that is, of communication." A synthesis between the modern and classical, without the solipsism of the former or dogmatic adherence to Form in the latter. Something new, the Text.
"[. . .] there is no thought without language, that Form is the first and last arbiter of literary responsibility, and it is because there is no reconciliation within the present society, that language, necessary and necessarily orientated, creates for the writer as situation fraught with conflict." pg.Read more ›