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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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From Fichier to OEuvre: Barthes and the ‘Our Literature’ Project

From Fichier to OEuvre: Barthes and the ‘Our Literature’ Project

(p.252) 16 From Fichier to OEuvre: Barthes and the ‘Our Literature’ Project
Interdisciplinary Barthes

Claude Coste

British Academy

Would Barthes have carried through to completion his plan to write a novel? The largely unpublished Roland Barthes archive, held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, shows clearly that he worked right up to his death on his Vita nova project. What is less known is that another project entered into competition with it. In the last months of his life, Barthes was hesitating between writing a fictional work or writing the literary history he referred to as ‘Notre littérature’ (Our literature). The existence and gestation of this project, which can be traced in Barthes’s fichier, offers an illuminating example of this filing-system at work. The fichier can be seen as a curious intellectual object: autonomous and self-renewing, but in constant dialogue with previously published texts; often, these return to their starting point as fiches, before being recycled by Barthes in new contexts. More specifically, this chapter has two aims: first, to present the detail of Barthes’s project of a ‘subjective’ history of French literature, contextualising it within his earlier publications on literary history; second, to analyse his very late hesitation between the two forms of writing he wished to renew – a fictional work or a literary history.

Keywords:   Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes archive, Barthes’s fichier, Vita nova, ‘Our literature’, literary history, hesitation between forms

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