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This review is taken from PN Review 12, Volume 6 Number 4, March - April 1980.

LOVE AMONG THE STRUCTURALISTS Roland Barthes, A Lover's Discourse: fragments, translated by Richard Howard (Cape) £6.95

What Barthes has been writing since The Pleasure of the Text (1973) is in part a kind of rearguard defence against those of his more earnest disciples (the Nouvelle Critique) who erected his brilliant but wayward ideas into full-blown "structuralist" theory. Texts are no longer to be mulled over, pegged out and analyzed according to some abstract (or "meta-linguistic") scheme of approach. Rather, they offer themselves to the reader as a site of intimate, teasing rapportswhich he can only respond to by bringing his entire sensibility-erotic as well as intellectual-into play. A Lover's Discourse can be read in a great variety of ways, depending on whether one looks in it for oblique signs and remnants of Barthes's theoretical interests (still present, though muted), or for the style of offbeat self-communing which has lately come to occupy more of his thought. About one thing the text is clear enough. It represents the choice of a consciously self-dramatising method, the drift of which "renounces examples and rests on the single action of a primary language (no meta-language)". In other words, the text is an utterance-a piece of first-person love talk-subtly interwoven with themes from Barthes' reading, his intellectual friendships and passages of thought, but in the end coming down to that encounter with his own desires and image-repertoire. The opening paragraph puts it most neatly, though in terms which for a moment step outside the charmed performative region which the text aims to occupy. "The description of the lover's discourse has ...

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