Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Roland Barthes

The London Review of Books made a note of two newly issued books by the late Roland Barthes. I hadn't really been familiar with Barthes' work until this article, but I'll have to reconsider it for the future

One book is set of transcribed notes of his from a 1974 trip to China in spring 1974, and the other is considered his diary of mourning following his mother’s death in 1977.

Michael Wood makes note of one of Barthes' quotes, that 'To write is to engage in a difficult relationship with our own language.’ And that Barthes considered himself:
‘un sujet incertain’: in Richard Howard’s translation, ‘a fellow of doubtful nature, whose every attribute is somehow challenged by its opposite’.
Well, how can I not be intrigued by that. Woods wrestles to present the significance of Barthes' work in the article- it's not always easy reading, but when he helps clarify many of the ideas, it's illuminating:
Emboldened by these lines, we could rephrase his own definition: to write is to have ideas in and through language, to look for what is missing from the words you have, and to learn to live with old tunes rather than dig into them.
This would intersect with my approach, especially with BARROW and poems like 'What Tomorrow Takes Away.' Although, I certainly also consider digging into the words an option.  So, some more things to plug into the grey matter and see what emerges.

Among the more interesting lines in Wood's remarks was his assessment that for Barthes, "It’s not that we keep meeting the dead. We keep meeting our failure ever to meet them again."

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