As Neil Badmington observes in his Introduction, 2015, the centenary of Barthes’s birth, saw an exhausting plethora of events and publications devoted to the author of Mythologies, including a new journal edited by Badmington himself: Barthes Studies. In some ways this was just a peak moment in the unending accumulation of posthumous publications and critical studies since Barthes’s death in 1980. Rather than offering us ‘the whole Barthes’, however, the posthumous material has served to scatter Barthes further, to intensify an effect of dissemination already at work in the publications of his lifetime. Badmington’s book enthusiastically follows this arc. Its aim is deceptively straightforward: to offer an account of Barthes through a focus on the substantial body of work published after his death, thus to ask ‘how the established body [is] reshaped repeatedly by the posthumous body’ and to consider the ‘shifting legacy’ mobilized by the release of previously inaccessible material (p. 5). Badmington’s key focal points are the Journal de deuil, the fragments of the Vita nova, the Collège de France lecture notes (principally Le Neutre and La Préparation du roman), and the Carnets du voyage en Chine. A final chapter takes advantage of the almost total absence of any reference to Hitchcock in Barthes’s writing, to offer a reading of the one film Barthes does mention, Under Capricorn (1949), somewhat in the mode of Barthes’s reading of Balzac’s ‘Sarrasine’ in S/Z, as a classical ‘readerly’ text nevertheless sprinkled with a parsimonious plurality. This last element may indicate the extent to which Badmington’s approach is Barthesian in spirit, paradoxical, brushing against the grain of the doxa established even within and across the œuvre itself, playful and yet acutely serious in its restless urge to displace. Within the chapters the overall aim is distilled down into a finer series of critical observations. Badmington proposes a reading of the Journal de deuil in relation to a plausible intertext in Mallarmé’s similarly fragmentary notes on his son’s death, published posthumously as Pour un tombeau d’Anatole. Chapter 3 traces the origin of the notion of the punctum in the Journal de deuil, detecting its ‘cinematic roots’ (p. 54) in Barthes’s responses to films, thus introducing a productive ambivalence into Barthes’s emphatic ‘resistance to cinema’ (p. 46). The fourth chapter attends to Barthes’s predilection for the ‘materials and materiality of […] inscription’, proposing the ‘ink-blot’ as the vehicle for an ‘anti-mythological’ (p. 67) and ‘non-arrogant’ (p. 72) mode of signification. Finally, before the coda on Hitchcock, the boredom that emerges from the pages of Barthes’s notebooks on the 1974 Tel quel trip to China provokes a consideration of what it means to be ‘Bored with Barthes’ (the title of the chapter), to share this affective mode, through writing. Badmington’s mode of address, across these diverse topics, is engaging and nuanced, and supported by a wealth of textual, theoretical, and biographical detail. Barthes emerges as one supposes he might have preferred, as a body susceptible to infinite variation. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com
French Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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