The Pluralistic, Nebulous Self As Text


Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes is a book which presents its text as the 'self'-conscious manifestation of an author wrestling with the tenuous construction of an ambiguous, dispersed (Barthes, 95, 136, 143) self which is, ultimately, 'merely an effect of language' (79). Rather than emphasizing the primacy of definitive, chronological selfhood within its content, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes constantly questions its own meta-textual linguistic structure in an attempt to 'pry the pronoun from its name, the image from its support, the image-repertoire from its mirror' (168-169).

The resultant book, though cuboid and linearly numbered in physical structure, serves as the channel for an amorphous cycle of narrative fragments which simultaneously construct and deconstruct the reader's conception of autobiographical 'authenticity' and truth (56). As one fragment explains, 'When I pretend to write on what I have written in the past, there occurs in the same way a movement of abolition, not of truth'.

Thus, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes is an 'anti-autobiography' in the sense that its text aims to diminish the idea of a cohesive, linear account of a definitive self, in favor of an inconsistent subject (86) who is dispersed (143) as a set of fictive personae (120) which seek to create 'neither a text of vanity, nor a text of lucidity, but a text with uncertain quotation marks, with floating parentheses' (106).”

Excerpt from my essay, “The Pluralistic, Nebulous Self As Text”

[ Barthes, R. Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes. Hill And Wang, 2010. ]