Power and Subjectivity in the Late Work of Roland Barthes and Pier Paolo Pasolini (European Connections)
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Roland Barthes and Pier Paolo Pasolini were two of the most eclectic cultural personalities of the past century, as elusive as they were influential. Despite the glaring differences between them, they also shared a number of preoccupations, obsessions and creative approaches. Certain themes recur insistently in the works of both men: the pervasiveness of power and the violence inherent in the modernising process; the possibility of freedom and subjective autonomy; and the role of creative practices in a society configured as a desert of alienation. Despite this common ground, no systematic attempt at reading the two authors together has been made before now. This book explores this uncharted territory by comparing these two intellectual figures, focusing in particular on the similarities and productive tensions that emerge in their late works. Psychoanalysis plays a key role in the articulation of this comparison.
does not allow himself to be held back by the contradiction posed by the criminal essence of nature. Nature is reviled because, by being itself 26 Lautréamont et Sade, p. 41. 27 Klossowski reaches a similar conclusion; for him the Sadean hero destroys the dialectical bond with nature and acquires sovereignty through the ascetic exercise of apathy. See Sade mon prochain, p. 132. 28 The speech of Pasolini’s libertine is a faithful reproduction of Sade’s own narrative. See Sade, Les Cent vingt
events stand out as truly subversive and, as such, they provoke the wrath of the executioners. The episode following a mock wedding ceremony between two of the victims can be seen as representing one of these real insubordinations. After presiding over the ceremony, the libertines force the victims to perform a sexual act so as to complete this ritualistic mise en scène. However, the fascists realise to their horror that, once their initial coyness is overcome, the two adolescents start to make
Traumatic Encounters, p. 93. Sergio Parussa discusses Pasolini’s fascination with power as ‘absolute negativity’ in his L’eros onnipotente. Erotismo, letterature e impegno bell’opera di Pier Paolo Pasolini e Jean Genet (Turin: Tirrenia stampatori, 2003), in particular pp. 14–16. Two Versions of Sade 115 Sade Unbound? The Logothete While in Sade’s universe Pasolini sees an enactment of power’s savage anarchy and all-encompassing sway, Barthes glimpses in Sade’s fantasy of enjoyment the
irreconcilable. ‘Because Kant saw the modern subject as “out of joint” with its world, or as structurally in revolt against its laws and institutions, the question that keeps arising […] is this: are not the transgressions of perversion a development, either dialectical or direct, of this modern stance of revolt or “out-of-jointness”?’.97 Is the Sadean character an avatar of the Kantian ethical subject, able to antagonise the status quo in the name of a dif ferent truth, one that is not the
Michael Moriarty, Roland Barthes (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991), p. 151. 80 See Moriarty, Roland Barthes, p. 152: ‘In S/Z, the evaluative classification between scriptible and lisible came first, then the interpretation of the lisible text directed at gauging its plurality. Now it appears that all texts, modern or classical, are open for interpretation in this sense, tracking the articulations within them of culture and the negation of culture, plaisir and jouissance.’ 81 See for instance ‘Sur