The Pleasure of the Text  

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Is not the erotic portion of the body where the garment gapes? In perversion (which is the realm of textual pleasure) there are no "erogenous zones" (a foolish expression, besides); it is intermittence, as psychoanalysis has so rightly stated, which is erotic: the intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing (trousers and sweater), between two edges (the open-necked shirt, the glove and the sleeve); it is this flash itself which seduces, or rather: the staging of an appearance-as-disappearance. —Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text (1973)

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Pleasure of the Text is a short book published in 1973 by Roland Barthes. In the book, Barthes divides the effects of texts into two: pleasure and bliss.

The pleasure of the text corresponds to the readerly text, which does not challenge the reader's subject position.

The blissful text provides Jouissance (bliss, orgasm, explosion of codes) which allows the reader to break out of his/her subject position. This type of text corresponds to the "writerly" text.

The "readerly" and the "writerly" texts are identified and explained in Barthes's S/Z: An Essay (ISBN 0-374-52167-0). Barthes feels that "writerly" is much more important than "readerly" because he sees the text's unity as forever being re-established by its composition, the codes that form and constantly slide around within the text. It is thus that one may passively read, but actively write, even in a fashion that is a re-enactment of the writer himself. The different levels of codes (hermeneutic, action, symbolic, semic, and historical) inform and reinforce one another, making for an open text that is indeterminant precisely because it can always be written anew.

As such, although one may experience pleasure in the readerly text, it is when one sees the text from the writerly point of view that the experience is blissful.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Pleasure of the Text" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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