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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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Afterword In the last chapter I investigated the interactions between frustrated fantasies of omnipotence and their containment into the civilised forms of cultural products. Ultimately, I have chosen to invoke the emergence of a subject who takes upon herself the responsibility of forms, of finitude, of provisional sta- bilisation. This is also a subject aware of her inevitable participation in the psychic and material dynamics of culture and society: a subject who advances while pointing to her own masks, as Barthes puts it. As I have argued, this gesture of self-exposure is an invitation to dialogue, an opening to unknown others and their unpredictable rejoinders. However, this is not a simple ‘solu- tion’ or a safe conclusion, in the sense that it is all too easy to succumb to the magnetism of the object to which one is pointing, indulging in the same complicities that one is out to expose. Moreover, it is the very gesture of pointing that becomes absorbing: like grief and pain, and like pleasure and jouissance, self-critique and self-exposure are not without their attractions. Throughout this book I have tried to follow mechanisms and ramifications of our stubborn yet precarious attachments to myths, ideas, images, people, values, and so on; and to consider, in the very breaking of these bonds, the reforming of yet new attachments, of ever-resurging forms of dependency, and the persistence of blindess. At the end of Chapter 1, I brief ly contrasted Pasolini’s apocalyptic pes- simism with Barthes’s social critique. Notwithstanding his...

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