Monday, March 1, 2010

An Introduction: Reproductive Beginings

[T]his text is a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifieds; it has no beginning; it is reversible, we gain access to it by several entrances, none of which can be authoritatively, declared to be the main one...(S/Z, 5)

Barthes attempts to resist an analysis of the text; rather he posits a methodology one that is “linked” “to a practice, and this practice is that of writing” (S/Z, 4). Barthes resists merely “reading” the text, opening the text only to its illusory “denotation,” rather favoring a process of “writing” or “rewriting” the text to show not a network of signifieds but a network of the text's signifiers. This methodology therefore produces a new text, one that attempts to reconcile the function of writing in reading. This process resists falling static to an explication of possible “denotations” but to reconcile the open “connotation” as possible, but never absolute, “entrances” to the text and “I” of “I read the text” as “not an innocent subject,” but a subject that “is already a plurality of other texts, of codes which are infinite or, more precisely, lost (whose origin is lost)” (S/Z, 10).

It is plurality that is sought: a plurality that cannot be realized through mere reading. The text itself is not to be addressed en-masse, but as Barthes highlights through a “step-by-step method.” This method operates “through its very slowness and dispersion, avoids [penetration] is never anything but the decomposition (in the cinematographic sense) of the work of reading: a slow motion, so to speak, neither wholly image nor wholly analysis” (S/Z, 12-13).

Barthes reveals his methodology through this cinematic metaphor. A slow motion. The motion is marked not by a gradual move toward a totality of the given text. Rather, “the step-by-step commentary is of necessity a renewal of the entrances to the text,” therefore it functions as a forced opening, an occupation by force of the text in which the “I” in its plurality refuses to allow a closure. The strategy the methodology takes is not an act of “[assemblage],” but of what Barthes name's a “[starring].” These text is subjected to a decomposition by the symbol of the star. These stars function as edged weapons which act on the “tutor signifier” through division: they “cut [the text] up into a series of brief, contiguous fragments, which we shall call lexias...[the] units of reading” (S/Z, 13). The lexia is subject to no formal restriction, but only that it contains a moment of plurality. These fragments of different length are then subjected to the weapon of the star. The star holds the place of a possible “entrance,” each “entrance” or “star” corresponding to a “code.” Thesecodes are named and introduced from within the analysis, which together forge a “network, a topos through which the entire text passes (or rather, in passing, becomes text)” (20).

This methodology enables the plurality of the text to remain open, yet it also begs questions of the (political?) value of the codes. The codes only present a possible view of the text and are constructed by a method that holds a narrative-based text as its object.

{{We question if these codes, even in their “network”of meanings, construct a true “slow motion” of the text or fail to present the text as such. In what ways can we re-imagine these codes as to more properly form not only entrances to the text's plurality, but portals?}}