Barthes Again

Kathryn struggles, without joy. Cassandra wrote up the first lecture, and picks up that Barthes is not hiding his thinking, not writing in a way that hides or conceals the act of discovering and thinking through writing. So the essay is not a reporting of what I think, or know, which would be more like the idea of the work, but is a thinking in writing, a demonstrating, a playful series of perhaps, and what ifs? To read this, to be able to read it, you have to join in, you become a cocreator as a reader here, you have to keep thinking, what’s that about, how would I follow that? Apply it? Maybe like this? Elena tried, struggled, listened to the lecture and returned and found some ways to make sense of it. A complex work like this, you get a sort of working hypothesis, and you apply it, and over time you make this more and more sophisticated.

Zach writes up the lecture. I wouldn’t call the ‘drilling down’ model as critical thinking, critical thinking can happen in either model. The difference is more about honing in on one thing in ever more detail and knowledge, versus a more associative model. The thing he closes with about excess and recovery. In narrative there is a thing called closure. It’s what endings do, they close what has gone before. In the model of the work closure is pretty full on, it is the canonical ‘good’ ending. Tidies up loose ends, explains most stuff that needs explaining. If I were to use an accounting metaphor (hey, why not?) it is to make sure the books (the story) balances. Bundles it all up for you so you can leave feeling like, well, it’s over. This is the ‘return’ to you, a return on your time, your pleasure, your money. The contrary view, the model of the text, is that while stories might have endings they don’t necessarily provide closure. They are still quite open. Lots of ambiguities might remain, it might lack resolution, appear arbitrary, it might even give you a bit of a kick and you leave feeling unhappy, disaffected, cheated even. (The language of love really, isn’t it?) Perhaps it wants you to have these feelings? Not to pretend that a story, or the world, or an emotion, or an experience, can be so easily and tidily wrapped up, made whole. Here meaning bleeds out all over the place. Perhaps even aesthetically the work is also fractured, divisive, noisy (“hey, the camera wobbled!”, “hey, I can hear tape hiss!”, “hey, the microphone is in shot!”, “hey, it’s so badly lit I can’t see anyone!”). You can’t really ‘recover’ this back to a nice neat ‘whole’, that is the point. Here the world is envisioned to be noisy, fragmentary, made up of parts in ever shifting relations to each other.