Reading, Embodiment and Fantasy in Late Barthe
I am interested in the way reading – and engaging with cultural representations more generally – inflects and informs the way we live and create meaning. My way into understanding this complex relationship between ‘art’ and ‘life’ is through the late work of the French writer and theorist Roland Barthes (1915-1980), specifically the lectures he gave at the end of his life at the Collège de France. These lectures are nominally concerned with literature, living together, Barthes’s notion of the ‘neutral’, and preparing to write a novel, but all are underpinned by Barthes’s constant concern with signifying practices as simultaneously formed by and formative of our thoughts and material output. My research will focus particularly on two further themes: reading with the body, and reading in relation to fantasy, exploring how these lectures and texts more generally put our bodies into process. In analysing these lectures, I aim to make explicit Barthes’s own particular value system, examining how he tries to convince us to adopt it without recourse to dogma or didacticism, and to what extent his effort is compelling.