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Power and Subjectivity in the Late Work of Roland Barthes and Pier Paolo Pasolini

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Viola Brisolin

Roland Barthes and Pier Paolo Pasolini were two of the most eclectic cultural personalities of the past century, as elusive as they were influential. Despite the glaring differences between them, they also shared a number of preoccupations, obsessions and creative approaches. Certain themes recur insistently in the works of both men: the pervasiveness of power and the violence inherent in the modernising process; the possibility of freedom and subjective autonomy; and the role of creative practices in a society configured as a desert of alienation. Despite this common ground, no systematic attempt at reading the two authors together has been made before now. This book explores this uncharted territory by comparing these two intellectual figures, focusing in particular on the similarities and productive tensions that emerge in their late works. Psychoanalysis plays a key role in the articulation of this comparison.

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Introduction Roland Barthes and Pier Paolo Pasolini were two of the most vital and eclectic cultural personalities of the past century, as elusive as they were inf luential. Despite the glaring dif ferences between them, they also shared a number of preoccupations, ideas, obsessions and creative approaches. In particular, questions concerning the pervasiveness of power, the violence inherent in the modernising processes, the possibility of freedom and subjective autonomy, and the role of creative practices in a society configured as a desert of aliena- tion recur in the works of both authors. This common ground has occasionally attracted some critical remarks, but never a sustained, systematic investigation. By combining a reading of Roland Barthes and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s literary, theoretical and cinematic works and by using mainly a psychoanalytic meth- odology, this book proposes to explore the similarities and the productive tensions emerging with special intensity in the last decade of their produc- tion, a period roughly coinciding with the years 1964–75 for Pasolini and 1971–80 for Barthes. In referring to these periods, the notion of lateness mentioned in the title is stretched beyond the limits of the usual time-span associated with the ‘late’ Barthes and the ‘late’ Pasolini. The late Barthes presented here is not just the author of La Chambre claire, but also the critic who wrote the 1971 essay ‘La mythologie aujourd’hui’; and my late Pasolini is not just the controversial director of Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma, but also the poet who...

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