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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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Chapter 1 - On Power, History and Mourning -19

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Chapter 1 On Power, History and Mourning Pasolini’s ‘Industrial Entropy’: Historical Break and the Totality of Power Beginnings Pasolini had a life-long passionate interest in questions regarding power, authority and institutions. He felt a passionate connection to marginal and oppressed people, to all those he saw as excluded from history, from the com- munity of the ‘good men’:1 the invisible people – not necessarily a minority – that every social order produces, condemned to live a spectral existence outside the false universality of the social pact. In various occasions Pasolini recalled the time of his first social and political commitment in the immediate aftermath of World War II in the north Italian region of Friuli, when he witnessed the conf lict between the local agricultural labourers and the land owners. This experience of class strug- gle found him politically and ideologically unprepared, but he immediately decided to side with the labourers.2 Before this political involvement, he had already established a bond with the local people through the discovery of their language, a dialect he had employed in writing his first book, Poesie a Casarsa, published in 1942. The choice of this unof ficial language signified an experience of the margins, of what was outside state ideology, and intimated the drama of an oedipal conf lict between Pasolini’s maternal language – his mother was born in Friuli and spoke the local dialect – and the stance of 1 Pier Paolo Pasolini, ‘La realtà’ (1962), in Poesia in forma di rosa (1964), TPI, p....

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