To Roland Barthes Experts (first letter)


Dear Barthes Experts,
This letter I’ve written, this letter you’re reading now, is probably without proofs.  I’m not pointing this out in the hopes of improving your assessment of my efforts (through an association with the cultural capital to be had in evoking Barthes’ ideas about literature or anything else).  The only thing that concerns me about your opinions is the disservice they inflict upon others, those who haven’t yet engaged with his work for themselves, but of course, that’s just it, isn’t it?  They’re not meant to be works at all.
Wouldn’t it be more accurate to claim that they were never works, regardless of what was meant or not meant by Roland Barthes?  Any paradox of authorial intent within the text, any text, any suggestion of a concealed fixity, would give you license to pontificate, name, ossify and colonize, to negate all agency beyond your own.  Why would you want to do this in his name?  Why not in somebody else’s name, someone else trying to write a body of works, to defeat the erasure of established knowledge, archives, contexts, someone else trying to be instated within a canon?
You think you’re absolved from power whoring because of your choice of specialization, that it can redress the very structures of hierarchical control and exploitation you’re complicit in.  His texts and mine are like any others.  Each is unable to verify anything beyond a current persistence that takes whatever form with whomever.  Have you ever considered this in relation to your own efforts?  Surely you must deduce that this letter will never justify anything, not only about what I’ve written and why, but also about whether it has been worth the trouble of writing it, and to you, at all.
Only you can verify what I am writing about, but not as an authority, not by asking, then deciding and answering, who I am, where I’ve come from, what has happened to me in my life and what I’ve meant because of these things.  You will validate the meaning I have wanted to convey through this letter, this text, even though it cannot do so in and of itself, even though it has, in the end, nothing to do with me.  You will do so as a reader and not as an expert.  You will be a site, a ground, a consolidation of fragments and traces of signification reforming this text, all of these things which cannot hold and have never held.  They will grow again from you into new forms and arrangements.
Don’t try telling me what Barthes was doing and why he was doing it.  In my humble opinion, you should risk being an intellectual instead, if only because the living world around us needs all the help it can get.
jeremy