A Rhythm Constellation in the s and s â Lefebvre, Foucault, Barthes, Serres, Morin, Deleuze & Guattari, and Meschonnic
Jacek Kornak Queer Incidents Pes this essay I analyse a fragment from Barthes' Incidents, a book that remained unpublished during his lifetime, and one that took many years to emerge even after his death. In France, these four short essays were published berthrsand the English edition appeared in Incidents was written in the style of a diary and collects selected fragments, written in a very condensed and peculiarly poetic style. I believe that Barthes intentionally meant them to be published posthumously.
They are too well prepared to be just personal notes. The title essay, Incidents, concerns Barthes' trip to Morocco, which took place more than 10 years before his death. Thus, even if they were based on notes that he made during this trip or if they are based on his i of that free, these texts are not spontaneous in their form and content. What strikes readers of Incidents is the style which blurs distinctions between fiction and diary, fiction and criticism or theory, and between personal and public.
Barthes starts the title essay: "In Morocco, not long ago…" This beginning already suggests a kind of fairy-tale, but not a typical fre as it takes place "not long ago" and inn three dots take us readers into the fabulous oriental world of free sexuality: "Driss A. Another boy, Slaui Mohammed Gymnastiquesays dryly and precisely: ejaculate: "Watch out, I'm going to ejaculate" Barthes, As Carol Mavor says, "the posthumous Incidents can make you tingle with embarrassment and even sadness chst its strangely materialized sexuality" Mavor, In my opinion this comment characterises very well the entire book, and, in particular, these two sentences.
Sexuality is brought to the fore with an intensity that was never before present in Barthes' writing. The sentences are almost aggressive in their lack of sublimation, of any sentimental language or even of any personal form. Incidents may be an example of such a terrorist act.
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There is also no atmosphere of a liberating semiotic discovery, which was present for instance in Empire of s. The ultimate mood of the book is marked by melancholia. There is also a strong feeling of cht in the construction of Barthes as a character of his own book.
This nostalgia is the effect of impossible attachments, which are nevertheless necessary for him to survive. The two short sentences quoted above form one of the fragments fgee Incidents. The essay is divided into very short paragraphs, usually one or two sentences each. The narration is not linear yet in some way continual. In Incidents Barthes does not tell us a coherent story about his stay in Morocco. These are disconnected fragments that present selected images of Morocco.
None of them seem to be really privileged or highlighted and none of them seem to be a necessary element for the story.
They all are rather accidental. The book's title, Incidents, from the Latin, incidens or incidere, ifies to fall into or to fall upon or, derivatively, that which happens by chance. Barthes's text depicts the fatalistic encounter of sexuality and death, both ls biological entities and in terms of the deathliness fdee drives. This is how Kritzman characterizes Incidents, proposing that melancholia and death are the main tropes which animate the book.
In some sense Incidents is a product of an 'I' destabilized by melancholia but free also an 'I' that is deeply intimate. But what kind of intimacy is it, and how does Barthes construct it? A Moroccan opera The fragment I choose to read is sed accidental in a way. The story presented here is operatic let us say that it would make a contemporary opera : a professor of semiotics temporarily teaching in Morocco is fascinated by Moroccan boys.
He has sexual intercourse with them; and his fascination becomes even stronger because of the boys' incorrect use of the French language in sexual situations. The main character is so obsessed with his profession, being a ebrthes of semiotics, that language is his main focus even while describing a sexual situation. The form of this fragment, as well as many other fragments in Incidents, appears to be hyperbolic. It is condensed, impersonal, almost lyrical in its lack of any sentimentality.
What frree and intensifies the sexual situation is the particular use of language. It creates for readers the picture of an innocent savage. This is the typical motif: the boys do not know that sperm is called sperm; they act spontaneously; there is no sin of transcendental reflection.
Simone de Beauvoir
These boys seem to represent the recourse or immediate access to something unmediated, almost prelinguistic. As if they finally break the spell of language.
Identity can be grasped only through language, and language also creates the community; therefore, for Barthes on a utopian level Moroccans might represent the promise of non-identity for the reason that in their use of language there is a lack of the ified. The relation between the words they use and their traditional denotation is not stable.
They are on the edge of language, and this excites the narrator. They speak French but their French slips away from the common use of French. The language becomes flexible in their use of it, and they prove it by acts which correspond to the language: they fuck the narrator.
And it is intelligible to readers; moreover they prove that they are sovereigns of the beerthes, not the subjects of it. The questions one might posit here are: is it already the emancipation of language nerthes is it the moment when utopia starts? Knowing Barthes' irony, we might suspect the second one. Here the irony is built on several levels. It is clearly a description of a sexual act but it is described with the focus on language, not deeds.
It seems that language is strongly connected to sexual act. Here is a man copulating with a woman a tergo, and using in the act a bit of wheat paste. On this level, no perversion" Barthes, For Barthes there is a particular link between not only language and sexuality but also the perversion. The orgasm in Incidents, Lacanian le petit mort, is intensified or possibly even achieved by the linguistic error.
This is a very interesting narration, and contrary to many traditional representations of sex, in which sex might be described by the use of more and more words to express intensity. The intensity in modern narration is achieved by the multiplication of words, which aim to chase and catch something that is outside of themselves.
In Incidents, particularly in the first two essays about Barthes' childhood and about Morocco there is no ethical level.
There is a utopian idyllic atmosphere. There are no choices made. Barthes' style oscillates around some kind of impressionism, but it radically changes in the last essay, which kes place in Paris before the death of Barthes. Then Barthes as a character of the essay resembles Ls Giovanni, who is condemned, but still has the power to say 'no' to society. This schema of the plot in itself is almost a self-parody, and a reading via the trope of irony can bring us to more interesting conclusions.
Queer play between the narrator and the reader The two sentences chaf Incidents are not simply an example of utopian sexuality; the irony involved makes them much more ambiguous. There is a distance between the voice of the narrator, which is quite dry and academic, and the intensity of the sentences. This clear dissonance between the narration and content of these sentences situates the readers in a peculiar position. It is difficult to fully identify with the text.
The text presents itself as perverted, and the author as a fictional character is the one who can only fully enjoy the text. We cannot therefore identify with the picture, which is drawn but we can try to follow the narration. In these two sentences the narration is told from the outside. It is a third person narration. No "I" is included in the picture. A reader might sdx this move uncanny, especially since this is a description of sex.
One would rather expect something in vree style: "I felt an cchat pleasure when Driss A. In the entire scene the narration is in the passive form. In relation to the sex, the narrator seems to be an observer, in opposition to the author, who seems to be engaged in the situation.
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What is surprising is that the author is not the creator of meaning; he is a recipient of the meaning and its displacement: of the sperm which is called "the shit. Who will guide us and show us the center and draw the limits to the peripheries of meaning? The narration is not transparent and one cannot follow it. One can identify neither with the narrator nor with any of characters, but still there is some perverse pleasure of this, text although the source of this pleasure is not directly present in fgee picture.
The identity of a reader in a text is constructed via identification with a particular character, value or figure which subsequently becomes the center around which the interpretation is built up. This center guides a reader's reading and directs it. This is traditionally the condition of any transparency in literature.
If the possibility of identification is undermined then arises a problem of relation between the reader and the text and between identity and its meaning. On the very level of discourse the narration violates its own iin of ification. A particular melancholia pervades the narration. The images seem to be very personal, very close, but the "I" vree missing. Barthes gains a particular intimacy via this strategy. Through erasing a sentimental first person narrator, Barthes emphasises even more strongly the relationship between the narrator and the author.
In this way, Barthes materializes the desire and the fantasy. Miller comments on this move: "Though he Barthes goes on regret not having a lyrical language at his command, his disposition — evoked lyrically enough, after all — has demonstrably more to do with restricted access to narrative" Miller, Barthes as a gay man writing about gay sex has limited possibilities of expression.
His language falls into the dimension of perversion but Barthes as the author seems to affirm it. The narrator as "I" who experiences being fucked by Moroccan boys is absent. The effect is not a lack but an excess, which brings readers back to the author, as if all this double hiding structure was aimed at showing that there is no narrator, but that Barthes himself would like to say: "Here I am, Roland Barthes, being berthea by Moroccan boys.
The text does not allow infinite interpretation; on the contrary it undermines the very possibility of interpretation by breaking the lines of identifications between reader — text, author — narrator, and finally, author — text. This is how Bhabha describes the problem of identity bedthes relation to a play of ifiers in Barthes' work.