NOTES ON : Barthes, R. (1974) S/Z. Translated Richard Miller. London: Jonathan Cape.

by Dave Harris

[This book apparently arose from a seminar conducted over two years.  It consists of an extremely close and detailed reading of the short story by Balzac Sarrasine.  The story is included in this volume, and it consists of the unraveling of an enigmatic character encountered at a swish Parisian ball.  This character is a dreadful-looking old man, who is nevertheless at the centre of attention of a bevy of beautiful women and attentive males.  He's obviously very rich, for unknown reasons,  but also curiously detached, having to be defended from the questions of strangers.  The seducing narrator tries to explain to his innocent female companion what the source of the enigma is.  We finally learn, as does she, that his fortune is based on his having been a castrato, a castrated male able to pass as a female dancer and singer in the Italian theatre.  We learn this through a number of clues about sexual ambiguity -- strange paintings, for example --  and their role in a structure of meaning.  As the French language is so obviously gendered, the enigma has to be defended at first by the use of particular adjectives and nouns.  The use of the letter Z in the stage name of the castrato, Zambinella, is one of these, and Barthes insists that the slash of the Z also indicates some spoiling of identity.

In the process of offering this extremely close and detailed reading, Barthes identifies the activity of a certain number of codes at work in this story and in the classic text generally These are the famous or notorious ones, identified in the preface by Howard as: hermeneutic, semantic, proairetic, cultural and symbolic.  Barthes defines them rather less clearly, but in his comments on sections of the text --"lexias", he identifies them in particular sentences.  He also interrupts his reading of the text with "divagations", more general remarks about literature and how it works, and how reading works.  These sections, indicated by Roman numerals in capitals, demonstrate how 'Barthes' text is writerly' (xi).  We are also free to pursue a 'readerly' reading in the lexia, unpacking the meaning intended by Balzac.

Obviously, I'm just going to pick out a few points from this massively detailed text, focusing on the divagations.]

First, a sample lexia: 

sample lexia

I Evaluation.

Early analysts of narrative were trying to see all stories as variations within a particular model of the narrative.  The variations are endless.  Narratives refer in this case to functions.  However, this is about representation not production.  We should instead look at productive practice, writing, to focus on what can be written or rewritten—'the writerly' (4).  This indicates that the role of literature today 'is to make the reader no longer a consumer, but the producer of the text'.  It is only literary institutions which maintain the difference between producers of the text and users, authors and readers.  This implies or constructs a passive reader, able only 'to accept or reject the text'.  In addition, [and rather unnecessarily 'We call any readerly text a classic text' -- makes more sense the other way around].  However, we are about to see how Barthes himself reacts to a classic text [maybe an unusual one] far from passively.  It seems that writerliness can be restored by a skilled reader—for any text?

II Interpretation

It follows that writerly texts are not things, not actual books, it is rewriting which disburses the text, it is 'ourselves writing', and this open processes is only 'traversed, intersected, stopped, plasticized by some singular system the (Ideology, Genus, Criticism)' (5).  Language and its ability to construct networks and texts is infinite.  Readerly texts are indeed constrained products instead , but they can themselves be divided, according to how they can be interpreted.  Interpretation restores the notion of a plural text as, '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'.  Interpretation is endless and infinite.  Interpretation should not reimpose a particular meaning, but assert radical plurality.  However, 'as nothing exists outside the text' (6), we cannot impose some external model which the text represents, including any fixed work, narrative structure, grammar or logic.  These can only be imposed on 'incompletely plural texts'.

III Connotation: against.

Connotation mediates this plurality, but it has a limit in that it cannot be used to understand univocal texts or fully plural ones. Hjelmslev developed the term to mean the way in which combinations of content and expression --denotation -- can serve as a sign for further understandings.  Philologists would reject that in favour of a univocal meaning, semiologists would refuse to accept any difference in the way in which denotation and connotation work: denotation is privileged only because it is a connotation supported by other kinds of discourse such as law.

IV Connotation: for, even so.

Connotation can help us to see the different value of texts, how readerly texts are produced by specific apparatuses like poetry.  Connotations help us see the 'polysemy of the classical text'…  (It is not certain that there are connotations in the modern text)' (8).  Connotation leads to a certain notion of the plurality of the text and is therefore useful.  It helps us see how texts relate to other mentions or sites of the text or another text.  This relation can be called 'function or index', as long as we see the issue as the relations immanent in the text(s).  It is how the text acts as a kind of subject itself, to produce meanings that are not just those in dictionaries or grammars.  These additional meanings can be proliferated by 'layering' or agglomeration, in a sequential space or in a [synchronic] one.  Each connotation is the 'starting point of a code' or 'the articulation of a voice'(9).  Connotations can help date a text.  Connotation has the function of breaking from the notion of pure communication in 'the fictive dialogue between author and reader'.  It reveals that both the author and reader are fictive.  Citing denotation and connotation reveals the text to be a kind of game.  When skilfully developed, the classic texts can appear to be innocent of any additional meaning, offering only natural or truths, when denotation pretends to be the only meaning intended, and this can serve an ideological function.

V Reading, forgetting.

Plural texts cannot be seen as fully written, because plural meanings are released by reading.  The reading subject, however is not outside texts itself, but 'is already itself a plurality of other texts, of codes' (10) even if this is forgotten.  Neither  objectivity nor subjectivity are found in the text.  Subjective readings are really produced by all the codes which constitute the reading subject, and objectivity is also an imaginary system 'which serves to name me advantageously, to make myself known, [after the illusion of having been]  "misknown" even to myself'.  These illusions are assisted by seeing the text itself as only an expression [of something objective like the landscape DH Lawrence grew up in, or of the author's subjectivity].  Reading is not just passive, but should be seen as 'a form of work'.  The reader is not hidden, but inextricably combined with the text, working to overcome objective and subjective limits [the objective ones might be to insist on limiting oneself to what the text literally says]. Reading means finding and naming meanings, and locating those meanings in groups.  This is endless, a process of becoming.  To say we forget means that we have stopped this flow of meaning—there can be no whole of a text with bits that we have forgotten.  Similarly, there can be no true or false reading.  In fact forgetting meanings is 'an affirmative value, a way of asserting the irresponsibility of the text, the pluralism of systems'(11) [or in a more pseudy version: 'it is precisely because I forget that I read'].

VI Step by step.

We should not be structuring texts according to some model, including 'secondary school explication' (12). There is no ultimate structure, there is no single commentary.  There is no real division between texts—'literature itself is never anything but a single text'.  When we read, we can start anywhere.  We develop a perspective which can never be closed, difference returns indefinitely.  We can read [while avoiding black boxes], always opening up signifiers and their codes.  Steady reading, the step by step method aimed at dispersion decomposes the work of reading.  It pursues systematic digressions '(a form ill-accommodated by the discourse of knowledge)'(13) [and certainly very unlikely to fit in to the modern university].  Step by step reading always renews different entrances to the text and avoids excessive structuring, as might 'come from a dissertation and would close it'.

VII The starred text.

We need to 'star the text'[and the book goes on to literally use stars to indicate particular sections], to identify 'blocks of signification' which are usually covered up by narrative or natural language.  We need to cut texts into lexias, 'units of reading'.  This will be arbitrary, focused on signifiers not what is signified.  Lexias will vary in length.  The aim is to find a convenient unit that will help us observe meanings.  Some will be densely occupied by connotations, and there should be at least three or four.  The point is to trace 'certain zones of reading', to see how meanings and codes occur and work.  A lexia represents a 'polyhedron faceted by the word'.

VIII The broken text.

Identifying signifiers in lexias does not claim to demonstrate the truth of the text, but rather its plurality, the connotations.  There'll be no attempt to impose some meta meaning to link these connotations together.  The point is not criticize the text, but to show how various kinds of criticism '(psychological, psychoanalytical, thematic, historical, structural)' (14) might be deployed, without prioritizing any one of them.  This is a commentary on a classic readerly text which is to be [turned into a writerly one], broken and interrupted, refusing its natural divisions such as its split into explanation or digression.  It is a denial of its '"naturalness"' (15).

IX How many readings?

[Readers of this book are advised to read the story first, and it is included,but Barthes himself is going to assume it is already read].  Rereading might be 'contrary to the commercial and ideological habits of our society, which would have us "throw away" the story once it is been consumed' (15), but it is necessary 'for it alone saves that text from repetition'(16) [witty French stuff here, a bit like saying that those who do not understand the past are condemned to repeat it -- if we do not reread we will only ever read the same text again and again].  Rereading helps break with naturalistic reading such as internal chronology, the operation of suspense and so on—these devices are just ways of giving us the illusion of an innocent reading.  We must immediately reread texts.

X Sarrasine.

This text was chosen because Bataille recommends it.

[We then get into the detailed commentaries in the lexias which I am not going to summarize here.  The first few illustrate the codes, however. Each starred section is accompanied with a reference to one of the codes in brackets, together with an explanation. 

Thus the very title itself raises the question which is finally solved only by the operation of the 'hermeneutic code (HER) all the units whose function it is to articulate in various ways a question, its response, and the variety of chance events which can either formulate the question or delay its answer, or even, constitute an enigma and lead to its solution' (17). 

The title also implies femininity since it ends with an 'e' like feminine nouns do in French, and this produces a special signifier, or its unit 'a seme', in this case '(SEM.  Femininity)'. 

The story soon relates a daydream, and this daydream permits a number of literary features, such as a series of antitheses between 'garden and salon, life and death, cold and heat, outside and interior'.  This introduces 'a vast symbolic structure' which goes on to introduce all sorts of substitutions and variations to produce contrasts between the girl and the castrato, for example.  'Here—SYM.  Antithesis'.

Proairesis refers to 'the ability rationally to determine the result of an action', governed by a narrative in literature, and 'this code of actions will be abbreviated ACT, with its effects listed afterwards' (18).

Some statements are 'made in a collective and anonymous voice originating in traditional human experience'. This is a 'gnomic code', referring to various types of knowledge or wisdom.  These are cultural codes or reference codes 'since they afford the discourse a basis in scientific or moral authority…(REF.  Gnomic code)'

XI The five codes

These are the five major codes under which 'all textual signifiers can be grouped'.  The hermeneutic code sets up enigmas to be resolved [as we saw].  Semes will not be linked, for example in a thematic grouping, because we want to 'allow them the instability, the dispersion, characteristic of motes of dust, flickers of meaning'.  We do not want to structure symbolic groupings either, because we want to indicate that the field can be entered from any number of points.  Proairetic codes and sequences are simply the result of 'an artifice of reading', as readers name particular sequences, and as empirical events are seen as connected, not in any purely rational sequence.  The sequences only need to be indicated in order to demonstrate plural meanings.  The point of the cultural codes is simply to indicate that reference is being made, with no attempt to further develop what this culture is.

XIII The weaving of voices.

The codes create a network, not a structure but 'a structuration'(20).  The analysis is deliberately made loose to show how the text can be escaped, dissolved, made subject to the loss of messages.  Codes are not paradigms but reflect perspectives, something arising from what we already know, an 'offstage voice'.  They make the utterances cease to be original.  They explain how writing emerges as a convergence of the voices related to these background codes—'the Voice of Empirics (the proairetisms), the Voice of the Person (the semes), the Voice of Science (the cultural codes), the Voice of Truth (the hermeneutisms) the Voice of Symbol' (21).

XIII Citar

[The citar is 'the stamp of  the heel, the torero's arched stance which summons the bull to the bandilleros' (22). Some clever stuff ensues about how hints are dropped instead of full disclosure in discourses, 'fleeting citations', which look innocent, and which require the reader to make sense of them, as in clues about the character's personality].  The longer the time interval between these clues, the more the reader has to identify with the text 'The (ideological) goal of this technique is to naturalize meaning and thus to give credence to the reality of the story'.  Language disguises itself and serves just as an authentication.  Connotation is concealed beneath 'natural' utterances.

XIV Antithesis I : the supplement.

This helps to define a name by means of its 'natural' and irreducible opposite, rather than say a temporary opposite.  To relate opposites is seen to be a transgression, or a paradox.  Transgressions are introduced in this story originally ironically and in a trivial way, by introducing the narrator as a mediator between opposites.  The mediation is seen as monstrous in this story, as a matter of a chimera, or sometimes as whimsical [a composite food item] [and it is going to lead to the monstrosity of the castrato].

XV The full score.

The readerly text can be seen as comparable to a music score.  The semes, cultural citation and symbols are discontinuous, like eruptions of the brass or percussion.  The enigmas and proairetics flow like a musical theme or melody.  The flow has a determination of tone as in melody and harmony, and readers have to grasp this.  There are constraints in the narrative sequence, and these reduce plurality. Full plurality is blocked by 'truth' and 'empiricism', and it is against or between these constraints that we get modern texts. However, the five codes together reintroduce plurality, as polyphony.  The first three offer changeable and reversible connections.  Together, the classic text is tabular [and there is a diagram of a table on page 29], not just linear.

XIX Index, sign, money.

Money used to index something, it had an origin, and now it just represents, and this expresses the change from land based authority to industrial authority.  [This is reflected in the story because the wealth of the castrato is an object of curiosity].  Signs are no longer tied to origins and so they can become much more flexible, can become signified and then signifier alternately.

XXI Irony, parody.

It looks like we are quoting what someone has said when we are being or ironic, which abolishes the opposition between truth and falsity and thus introduces disrespect for origin or paternity.  This challenges multivalence.  There is an additional complication with writing which offers a series of voices anyway, so we are never certain if texts are intentionally ironic.  It is necessary therefore for parodies to actually advertise themselves as such.  Modern writings have struggled to challenge the notions of ownership and origins.

XXII Very natural actions.

Texts operate with a deliberate display of apparently insignificant or natural elements, to which they can add meaning in contrast.  However, linguistic structures do not divide up utterances in this way.  We can see this problem with the proairetics—a series of acts come to some logical conclusion, an end.  However the need for an end indicates that there is first some kind of crisis of inexplicability, and this points to a general issue, the issue of 'the knot'(52).  Readerly texts can only operate with denouement or unknotting at the end.  [I think the point is that this structure is another constraint on plurality, because to proceed backwards would be unnatural—we cannot end with a knot, or at least we cannot do so if we are to lose authorial voice—maybe, 52].

XV The portrait.

Portraits of people constrain the meanings of nature and rationality.  The portrait looks like a natural form, although its naturalness is achieved by a particular kind of work on meaning.  But portraits are really realistic representations, more 'related copy', made up of blocks of meaning, a diagram, and not a simple copy.  We need to read realist paintings as if they were cubist ones, an assemblage of cubes which do not just combines simply, but which add new meanings, producing a supplementary meaning.

XXVI Signified and truth. 

All the signifieds in the portrait are true, but the sum of the semes here are not sufficient.  Their incompleteness needs to be traced hermeneutically.


In order to build suspense, the writer can mix two codes, the symbolic and the hermeneutic.  It would be a mistake to prioritize one over the other, say in the name of explication.  There is a radical undecidability, an and/or, which should be preserved against 'secondary school explications', just as should figures of metaphors, with no need to say which is the dominant term (77).  This undecidability 'defines a practice, the performance of the narrator'.

XXXV The real, the operable.

It is not always possible to perform acts which are described in narratives [the example is an impossible vocal trill].  'The discourse has no responsibility vis a vis the real: in the most realistic novel, the referent has no "reality"' (18).  Realism is only ever a code of representation, and never of execution.

XXXVII The hermeneutic sentence

Truth is an effect of a sentence being well made, with a subject, a statement of the question, various subordinate clauses, catalysts, delays and then the ultimate predicate, disclosure.  These elements can be seen as hermeneutemes, and they must all be present even though there can be variations.  Sometimes hermeneutemes can be condensed into a single statement, or some can be left implicit.  The hermeneutic sentence is flexible because 'the classic narrative combines two points of view' (85), with two networks leading to two destinations, and one can remain even when the other is ended.  This actually adds to the the fullness of the [human] subject, as containing a number of possibilities, some of them accidental, finally being read only when the true predicate is revealed.

XXXVIII C ontract-narratives

Desire is the origin of narratives, but it must vary [become operationalized] through equivalents and metonymies—for example when 'A desires B, who desires something A has', so they can exchange their desires as a kind of contract.  The contract is often implicit, in every narrative.  Narratives do not just amuse and instruct, but offer an element in an exchange – they are therefore both 'product and production' (89).  This emerges particularly clearly in Sarrasine, with its structure (not a classic plot or plan, not an explication) and it has the effect of producing a single narrative:  more common instead is the divided text, a rhetorical hierarchy, '"nested narratives" (a narrative within the narrative)' (90). 

XL The birth of thematics

The story specifies a number of elements of the character of Sarrasine and invites the reader to name him, to choose among several names.  The name appears as part of the' synonomic complex' (92).  Readers get some idea of the common nucleus as particular readings accumulate as 'a kind of metonymic skid' [cf sliding signifiers in Lacan].  Meanings proceed through expansion and simultaneous advance, and this is the proper object of semantics, not the analysis of individual words.  This is thematics, following synonomic chains, accumulating, and then attempting to find some constant form.  Semes need to be repeated, and the meaning can be accumulated across several occurrences.  In classic texts, thematizing involves a retreat from literal or simple meaning.  This retreat, finding more and more elements attached to names, only ends with the discovery of apparent truth, 'the work's secret' (93).  In modern writing, this is often produced by some throw of the dice stopping this skidding of names.

XLII Codes of class

Particular cultural codes found in an epoch can be seen as 'a kind of scientific vulgate which it will be valuable eventually to describe' (97). Individual codes, relating to what we know about art or about youth, together make 'a monster…  ideology' (97), which loses its social references and becomes natural or proverbial.  Ideology is like 'didactic language and political language, which also never question the repetition of their utterances (their stereotypic essence)'(98).  Ideology is intolerant, A 'residual condensate of what cannot be rewritten'.  Even irony only adds to it and strengthens its stereotypes.  It can not be parodied by writing.  Writers must just participate in it, as in '"stupidity"' [that French term bêtise? which also seems to mean contented ignorance which intellectuals identify in normal people].  However, this can have the effect of making the vulgarity or stupidity seem circular, where not even the author has an advantage over anyone.  It implies [wrongly] there can be no metalanguage.  This is in fact the function of writing, to make metalanguage ridiculous.  [I am not sure I understand this.  I can see that by participating in ideology, writers deny any attempt to comment on it from the outside.  Writers must do this, presumably, in order to draw upon the power of ideology and stereotype to convey popular meanings? And to do realism? Or else they will look ridiculous?]

XLVI Completeness

The readerly text implies a conventional journey towards a destination or some unity, and 'the journey is saturated' (105).  There is a fear of omitting any connection, or of forgetting anything, hence the tight continuity of the text—'as if the readerly abhors a vacuum'.


[Wonderful examples of literary pseudery here].  Replacing the S with a Z in Sarrasine brings additional meaning.  'Z is the letter of mutilation' (106) and deviation, clearly alluding to castration.  Z is also 'an avenging insect; graphically, cast slant wise by the hand across the blank regularity of the page, amid the curves of the alphabet, like an oblique and illicit plague, it cuts, slashes, or, as we say in French, zebras'. The castrato's name—Zambinella--is first written without a definitive article, to conceal further the gender [it would normally be feminine]

LIII Euphemism

When Sarrasine first enters the theatre he is overwhelmed by the sensual music and filled with desire, and this story is written once in a fairly straight way, and another time in clearly sexual terms.  It is all about sex and orgasm, substituted by euphemism.  The whole text involves a cohesion between these different stories, and this is its meaning.  Sometimes, the author's account looks literal and takes on the mantle of truth or reality, but a literal text is a system like any other, euphemism is a  metalanguage like any other.  It is the plurality of the texts that offers its meaning, with no primary language.  It would be to close the text to rely on definitional the readings from the dictionary.

LVI The tree

Codes can be superimposed on other codes, for example rhetorical codes on proiaretic ones.  Descriptions of sequences take on other meanings, as alibis or resumes.  The result is a tree, whose forks and joints transform individual sentences 'into textual volume' (128) [nice diagram on 129].  Rhetorical codes govern a lot of this in the readerly text, through summary or enumeration, for example.  There can be an oscillation, for example between 'generic and special names' (129).  Readerly texts can also introduce a meaning through using terms such as 'hallucination', 'pre-demonstrative nominations which ensure the text's subjection' [position the reader in moderm parlance] (130), although a side effect might be 'the nausea brought on by any appropriative violence'.  [Skilled?] Readers can supply their own names for particular sequences, 'reversing the appropriation effected by the text itself' [compare with Bourdieu on symbolic violence].

LVIII The story's interest

Texts can offer characters structural freedom, but there are the needs of the story, of discourse itself, thus 'the characters' freedom is dominated by the discourse's instinct for preservation'(135), so the characters have to do obstinate or self-denying things.  Characters have to avoid 'paper death' which is the only other alternative and which is highly undesirable.  At the same time, the choice of characters has to be seen as internal only, driven by some character flaw, passion or destiny.  These flourishes provide the character with a plausibly full personality and conceal 'the implacable constraint of the discourse'.  They often are provided in excess for the character, as excessive passion, calling or destiny, 'the noblest of images' (136).  [And there is a hint of the economic mechanism here, where the cost of alternatives are calculated, with discourses kept going in order to provide future articles of merchandise].

LIX Three codes together

Codes repeat and overlap each other , and this can bring on nausea, especially with the boredom and conformism that ensues.  The classic remedy is irony, expressing a distance with these codes, although limits have already been suggested.  In modern texts, this distance itself can be extended repeatedly.  In one case [not sure if this is actually in Sarrasine], one code describes the passion which the character is supposed to feel, then there is a commentary using a second code which transforms this feeling into literature, which assumes that passion is expressed in this natural and valuable way, then an ironic code seeing the first two as naive, or in particular that the novelist is  naive.  This shows that writing is a game.  It's not usual for classic writing to pursue it very far.  Writers like Flaubert, however, constantly play and illustrate irony, so 'we never know if he is responsible for what he writes (if there is a subject behind his language)', and it is common to constantly conceal who it is who is speaking (140).  [ LX goes on to talk about casuistry, with discourses trying 'to lie as little as possible in order to keep the interest going' (141), displaying the level of morals acceptable to particular civilisations].

LXII Equivocation I: double understanding

Two very different meanings can be expressed in the same equivocation, often arising from two voices which interfere.  [The example is one of Zambinella's accomplices who tells Sarrasine that he has no rival for her affection, both because she loves him, which is what he thinks, and because she is a castrato, which is what the accomplice knows].  It is not just that there are two signifiers for the one signifier, since there is only one recipient.  Instead, the recipient, such as the reader, is imagined as being divided, occupying two positions.  Ambiguity is often seen as noise, a source of uncertainty, yet here, it actually communicates.  All classic writing is polysemic by 'vocation'[must be if it is to appeal to different audiences].  In fact, noise is essential to literature. [I thought of classic academic realism where noisy bits are introduced in order to contrast them with the privileged narrative posing as 'prime knowledge']   The reader is required to be an accomplice, however, in the discourse itself, so the discourse, not any character, 'is the only positive hero of the story' (145).

LXIV The voice of the reader

The reader is addressed in various formulations, including one that says 'as though terror struck' (151).  It cannot be the character who is terror struck, since we already happen to have an alternative explanation, and it cannot be the narrator who always knows what happens.  The formulation, 'as though' conveys ambiguity to the reader, the ambiguity here turning on whether it is the case or just an appearance.  This is so because discourses speak to the reader's interests, and it is important to develop this 'voice of reading itself' to communicate messages from authors to readers.  Readers do not just receive the text or participate in it vicariously.  This was indicated in ancient Greek by having two opposing voices in writing, one relating to the agent, one explaining what is going on for the benefit of other readers.  The public scribe acts for the reader.

LXVI The readerly 1: "everything holds together"

The discourse displays consistency, where everything holds together, and that is the readerly.  Contradiction is avoided, but more, circumstances arde made compatible, narrated in a way which makes them cohere.  This is done almost obsessively, to avoid any contradictions, even anticipating preparing a defence against any critic who points out illogicality or breach of common sense.

LXVIII The braid

Several actions are being pursued at the same time, producing a structure for the text like a piece of lace—one sequence hangs while its neighbour works, and then the opposite, a braid.  Voices are woven together, especially when they interact.  Barthes notes that Freud saw weaving as a sexual activity, weaving pubic hairs to produce a missing penis.  'The text, in short, is a fetish', and cutting the braid by reducing its meaning to a single one is 'a castrating gesture' (160).

LXIX Equivocation II: metonymic falsehood

The simple statement of the genus to which the character or event belongs [metonym] can be equivocal, indicating different truths, with one indicated by a kind of pregnant silence, sometimes referring to some neglected specific characteristic.  Thus metonyms never tell the whole truth, and this can be used strategically [the example is seeing Zambinella as an excluded person, while concealing for now the specific reason for that exclusion].

LXXI The transposed kiss

We need to offer a second reading to such texts, in order to avoid the narrative structure of suspense and anticipated knowledge.  We can then see a particular significance for isolated incidents.  This adds to the pleasure.  Rereading is not just a matter of intellectual advantage, it helps us 'multiply the signifiers, not to reach some ultimate signified' (165).

LXXII Aesthetic proof. 

The novel displays three particular enthymemes ['an argument in which one premise is not explicitly stated' -- online dictionary], taking the form of different proofs—narcissistic '(I love her, therefore she is a woman)'; psychological '(women are weak, La Zambinella is weak, etc.)'; aesthetic proof '(beauty is solely the province of woman, therefore…)' (167).  These are false or partial syllogisms, and they can add together.  The cumulative effect explains why Sarrasine discounts all the hints he's been given and rationalizes them.  He sees this as an appeal to reality, indicating again that the real means 'an already written real, or prospective code, along which we discern, as far as the eye can see, only a succession of copies' (167).  The reality in his case is one that sustains underlying beauty and love, a supreme code of art, enabling him to cite artistic reasons for what people say.  In this way, artists claim to be the authors of reality, claiming their own rights to categorize, even to alter the determination of the sexes, while other mere characters see only phenomena.

LXXIV The mastery of meaning

A classic narrative gives the impression that the author has thought of something to be signified, then chosen good signifiers for it.  However, good writers choose ambiguous or 'doubly articulated' signs to appeal to the readerly, especially to the readers activity—'the closer and better calculated the anastomasis [a cross-connection between adjacent channels, tubes, fibres, or other parts of a network -- online dictionary] of the signifiers, the more the text is regarded as "well written"' (173 -4).  Authors see themselves as conducting meaning in a particular direction.  This permits two classic functions for the classic text—the author goes from signified to signifier, content to form, idea to text, while the critic goes the other way to work out what the signifiers are trying to signify.  This mastery of meaning makes the author divine, while the critic is a priest deciphering the writings of god.

LXXVII The readerly II: determined/determinant

Everything must hold together in the readerly, even if it does not seem that way when things first appear in the story.  However our expectations of coherence help us recognize characters or events and their role, 'the law of value of the readerly, is to fill in the chains of causality' (181), to link determinants and determineds.  These causal sequences progress and develop linking in more and more detail in the form of expanded explanations, and what can look like natural anastomasis.  The whole fabric of the narrative weaves together what looks like disconnected elements, producing 'the reality affect' (182).  Of course these are really pseudo-logical links or relays, they are calculated, only seeming to be independent before being collected together.

LXXIX Before castration

A particular description of the castrato unites two apparently disparate terms, the woman and the scamp which she once was.  This produces a whole change of paradigm, a 'paradigmatic fall' (186), a fatal subversion of the normal ways of constructing meaning [the light dawns on Sarrasine] .  In this case, it is sadistic, deliberately forcing Sarrasine to face the truth, and also implying an attraction for boys.  This description seems to emerge from a fairly marginal character towards the end of the story, who is not doing anything significant, just prattling or gossiping.  But this shows how chatter can be aggressive, 'the essence of the discourse of others, and thereby the deadliest language imaginable'[because it seem so innocent yet can be so loaded and revealing—like Casey's seemingly idle gossip about Munton's supposed nickname among the students] (186).

LXXI Voice of the person

We have read different voices interlaced in the text, and at the end of the text is a moment to think about what has been learned.  Semes have acted as connotators of persons places and objects, although readers are also aware that the connection between connotation and signified is uncertain and unstable.  There are avenues of meaning arranged in various thematic landscapes.  Sometimes semes refer to objects or atmosphere, but mostly they refer to the ideologies of persons.  In classic texts, we can uncover ideology by just collecting the semes.  In more modern texts, semes can migrate from one person to another, through the level of the symbolic.  Even in classic texts, individuals could not be seen just as a collection of semes, and there had to be some additional individuality.  This is the Proper Name, so-called, because it displays what is proper to it, hinting that something exists outside the semes, even though the sum of the semes describes it.  The Name becomes a subject, and the semes are ways of getting to the truth of the subject.  In this way it's possible to read narratives as not just about action, but about the characters of Proper Names, while the semantic activity fills out this name.  This permits psychological criticism, although it is not much good to thematic or psychoanalytic criticism: to do those, we have to proceed beyond 'the nomination of the seme' (192).

LXXXIV Literature replete

The revelation of castration is so catastrophic for Sarrasine that normal notions of sex, art and language also collapse.  For Sarrasine, these all form a single chain of signification, 'the replete' (200).  The story itself is replete, developing narration, a polysemic system, and the thematics of sex in the expansive way that we have noted.  It also shows the confusion of plenitude.  The notion of being replete is demonstrated in any classic readerly text.  The text is stacked with meanings, nothing is ever lost, criticism will deliver the ultimate signified.  Readerly literature is replete literature.  However, it 'can no longer be written' (201).  It culminated in romantic art and has no place in modern culture.  It is 'the last avatar of our culture'[and now there are only simulations?  Or perhaps the new semiology?] [I think it persists in the 'right first time' educational text as a kind of ludicrous throwback].

LXXXVII The voice of science

The cultural codes in Sarrasine end with the end of the story, or rather are allowed to emigrate to other texts.  They are not original themselves, of course, because they cite a whole series of other books, of empirical observations, of wisdoms, and even of didactic material [didacticism sometimes intrudes to lend a 'written authority to emotions' (205)].  It's even possible to identify the seven or eight classics of the bourgeois educational system [listed on 205].  The codes which come from these books are transformed into an ideology, seemingly natural and establishing reality, of "life" itself, becoming 'a nauseating mixture of common opinions, a smothering layer of received ideas' [also referred to as ideology] (206).  It is the presence of these codes that makes the story look outmoded, and this is common with replete literature [cf Eco on the exhausting relentless significations of the Hirst castle] .  It makes classic texts difficult to criticize [because critics share the codes?], except through irony, and that rapidly offers new stereotypes.  The cultural codes represent stupidity.  It is hard to criticise except by seeming to impose some other code and claiming personal superiority.  Insisting on plurality in texts, 'the largest possible plural' (206) is the only way to expose 'the imperialism of each language'.

LXXXIX Voice of truth

At the end of the story, the hermeneutic ends, although there are still bits about the implications of all this.  We can now see how the hermeneutic code works, through 'thematization…  emphasizing of the subject which will be the object of the enigma'; 'proposal', which shows that an enigma exists, often in many and complex ways; the formulation of the enigma; the promise of an answer; the 'snare', revealing itself as offering an alternative destination for the character, which the reader can perceive; equivocation; 'jamming', where the enigma looks insoluble; suspended answer; partial answer, where only one of the clues is given; disclosure or decipherment, the final nomination 'the discovery and uttering of the irreversible word' (210).

XC The Balzacian text

Balzac pursued the characters in the story in some of his other writings, producing 'the Balzacian text' (211).  This shows that any one text can contact any other system, that intertextuality is infinite.  The figure of the author was important to the old criticism, but we can see this figure becoming a text like any other.  We will have to abandon the notion of the author as the origin or authority, or Father, who simply expresses himself in his work.  Instead, authors can see themselves as beings 'on paper', as having a 'bio-graphy', 'a writing without referent'(211).  Criticism will become a matter of turning the documentary figure of the author into a novelistic one, caught up in the plurality of text.  Some authors, like Proust or Genet have done this themselves [and Barthes did, writing his autobiography in the third person]

XCI Modification

The storyteller in Sarrasine offers to tell the story of the castrato in exchange for sexual access to his young female companion, but apparently the story so disgusted her that she cannot comply.  This shows the force of narration itself, how narration modifies subsequent narration, how there can be a cost, requiring a certain calculation of price and return.  Sarrasine is not just a story about the castrato, but a revelation about telling: 'ultimately, the narrative has no object: the narrative concerns only itself: the narrative tells itself' (213).

XCII The three points of entry

The symbolic field is structured around a single object, which has to be named and described, and in this case this is the human body itself.  There are all sorts of descriptions of the inner and outer, of copies and of desire.  We can get to the symbolic field in three equal ways, since the textual network is itself multiple: the 'rhetorical route' through the notion of transgression of normal categories differences and opposites; the 'route of castration', which shows the void of desire and eventually collapses the creative chain; the 'economic route' which exposes the artificiality of the narrative currency and its eventual corrosion.  All of these show us the risks of disturbing normal classifications, removing the dividing line or slash mark, between antithesis, the connections between reproduction and sex, the boundaries around property.  As a readerly text, this story represents the collapse of economies of language, gender, the body, and money [modern money seems to have no origin, unlike landed money—apparently, the French word indicates both possession and the correction of meaning, property and propriety].  The collapse that ensues takes the form of 'unrestrained metonymy' (216), producing unrestricted substitution, no longer governed by regular opposites.  This threatens representation itself which becomes confused in the 'unbridled (pandemic) circulation of signs, of sexes, of fortunes' (216).

XCIII The pensive text

The classic text is pensive and replete, seemingly holding things in reserve, an ultimate meaning that is not actually expressed but which has its place nevertheless.  It is something implicit, supplementary and unexpected.  This is pensiveness, 'the signifier of the inexpressible, not of the unexpressed' (216). The classic text lets it be understood that something remains, it alludes to pensiveness.  This is an anxiety that after all, it has not filled its place within meanings, that there is a supplement, that this can be expressed as something interior and deep, something that will not be disclosed immediately, but remains suspended [although not exactly denied either—very 'wily'].

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