How to Live with Roland Barthes


“This is work in progress.” The gesture that Barthes calls “proleptic” points to its object as a fragment of an uncompleted whole, indicates the opening fragment of a project that will in time attain completion. Barthes values the proleptic, or dilatory gesture over the completed whole; the statement “Plus tard…,” moreover, works in secret as a denunciation of the “monstre de la totalité” (Roland Barthes, 175–6). The fragment may be the opening of an encyclopedic project, but the body of the project, the realized totality, falls silently away. The dilatory fragment is moreover, for Barthes, an object of jouissance, a source of pleasure and scandal.

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