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Interdisciplinary Barthes$
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Diana Knight

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266670

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266670.001.0001

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Barthes and the Emotions

Barthes and the Emotions

(p.188) 13 Barthes and the Emotions
Interdisciplinary Barthes

Patrizia Lombardo

British Academy

Barthes’s œuvre is significant not simply for the ‘linguistic turn’ of the second half of the twentieth century, but also for the interest in the emotions that has marked a number of disciplines since the early 1980s. This chapter analyses Barthes’s changing relationship to affectivity in general and to art considered as an emotional experience. The early Barthes, enthralled by Brecht’s dramaturgy and Japanese Bunraku, denounced traditional Western theatre for its privileging of the expression of emotions and the audience’s participation in the feelings of fictional characters (Barthes’s comparison of two operatic death scenes, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Debussy’s Mélisande, is a key example). By the late 1970s, Barthes has rethought his negative evaluation of emotion. In Fragments d’un discours amoureux, he draws on Sartre’s phenomenological Esquisse pour une théorie des émotions; in the Proustian ‘“Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure”’, he stresses the reader’s participation in fictional ‘moments of truth’ and proclaims his own need to write a novel of pathos; in La Chambre claire, he valorises an emotional relation to photography. Barthes’s late vita nova cannot be fully understood without this new focus on affectivity, a positive acknowledgement of pathos, and the emergence of joy.

Keywords:   Roland Barthes, affectivity, dramaturgy, pathos, Sartre’s phenomenology of the emotions, Fragments d’un discours amoureux, ‘“Longtempsje me suis couché de bonne heure”’, La Chambre claire, joy

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