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


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 2 - Two Versions of Sade -89


Chapter 2 Two Versions of Sade Interpretations of Sade: On the (Im)materiality of Fantasies of Violence It seems that Sade has a privileged, continuous relationship with our trou- bled modernity. The beginning of Sade’s rehabilitation, after a long period of ostracism, can be traced to the beginning of the twentieth century, when Apollinaire saluted the marquis as ‘un des hommes les plus étonnants qui aient jamais parus’.1 From the surrealists to the subsequent explosion of Sadean criticism, the interest in Sade’s work continues to the present day. Sade’s changing fortunes, as well as his admission to the pantheon of respect- able writers, crowned in the 1990s with the publication of his complete opus in the prestigious Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, have been inextricably linked to a number of interpretations that have made him our contemporary, our neighbour even. So much so, that it seems particularly dif ficult to disentangle Sade from some of his inf luential interpreters. Critics such as Jane Gallop and Annie Le Brun have polemically pointed out that Sade’s entrance into the circuits of the cultural industry, his admit- tance to the field of proper ‘literature’, was facilitated by the prestigious mis- interpretations of writers of the calibre of Bataille, Blanchot, and Klossowski, who were more concerned with corroborating their own worldviews than uncovering the real Sade. They glossed over the unpalatable aspects of Sade’s writing and sanitised horrors and brutalities by transforming them into ‘dis- course’, ‘rhetoric’ and exempla of Hegelian dialectics. As...

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