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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 4 - Deadly Attachments: Love and Grief -179


Chapter 4 Deadly Attachments: Love and Grief The Subject as Monad. Love and Trauma Monadic Subjectivities in Barthes and Deleuze Barthes repeatedly contests the idea of a subject remaining constant through time and place. For him, Je is the empty marker of Benvenistean linguistics: an empty sign ‘non référentiel par rapport à la “réalité”, […] qui devient “plein” dès qu’un locuteur l’assume dans chaque instance de son discours’. For Benveniste the first pronoun ‘ne peut être identifié que par l’instance de discours qui le contient et par là seulement. Il ne vaut que dans l’instance où il est produit’.1 We hear echoes of this formulation in Sollers Écrivain where Barthes, com- menting on Drame, argues that the signifier je is a ‘je sans personne, qui n’a d’autre individualité que celle de la main toute corporelle qui écrit’.2 Identity is transitory, a work permanently in progress. But the void marker je also constitutes the horizon of a space teeming with innumerable, shifting presences. Subjectivity is as anonymous as collective representations; dispersed and untraceable to a single source, ‘ma subjectivité a finalement la généralité même des stéréotypes’.3 In S/Z we encounter a theory of the subject as perpetual dif ference or dif férance, endless slippage under the pressure of the signifier. Subjectivity and textuality are homologous: ‘Ce “moi” qui s’approche du texte est déjà lui-même une pluralité d’autres textes, de codes infinis, ou plus exactement: perdus (dont l’origine se perd).’4 The...

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