rhizomes.07 fall 2003

Michelle Kelly

This essay is concerned with all manner of readerly pause and interruption, and this presentation contains elements of enforced textual blockage, including flickering words or paragraphs, altered coloration of text (sometimes necessitating highlighting the text in question in order to make it viewable), and variations in font. Since some reader labour is required for this version, a text version of this essay is also available from the table of contents.

[1] I was in Paris in July 1979, one month before the period Roland Barthes chronicles in "Soirées de Paris." Fifteen-months old, I was with my parents; for all, it was the first time on the Continent. Et voilà: here, retro-activated, is my D. A. Miller moment ("Twenty years ago in Paris, long before I, how you say, knew myself, a fellow student told me he had seen Roland Barthes late one evening at the Saint Germain Drugstore...Although in frequenting the Drugstore by night (as soon after this intelligence I began to do), I may initially have hoped to see Barthes, I eventually contented myself with doing Barthes, experiencing this promiscuous emporium as I imagined he might"). [1] Miller and I share mutual moments coddled as stellar, vital, precious: museum-pieces of proximity. [2] The same city, the same year: these are parentheses with which I am comfortable, and I do Barthes now, in this essay. I am enamoured of Roland Barthes was my public proclamation some two decades later upon discovering The Pleasure of the Text, and now I know I was with him, in the French capital, many years ago. [3]

[2] My own and Miller's urges to Barthesian affinity are eminently scrutable. Barthes' 'genius' is this: he has so unfurlingly theorised the experience of readership. In treating of reading's moments discretely, esoterically and with an attention which is ardent and complete, he effects a plaisir which integrates – even insinuates – itself within one. It is reading theorised metatextually: repelling exposition's exordium through peroration, it enacts instead Geneva School theorist Georges Poulet's conception of reading as a hijacking of mental activity: "My consciousness behaves as though it were the consciousness of another." [4] The compulsion is explicable, very plainly, as a reflex equivalent to that underpinning working class consensus to capitalism: one labours for Barthes and so, at the last, one wants to claim. The urge crystallises itself in various inventions of affinity, and the possibilities herein are unbounded. Temporal, locational, relational, sexual, metaphysical: the options are fluid and discovery of some suitable permutation probable. As a gay male, Miller "doing" Barthes can do Barthes (behold the first rupture: here I, female, am severed from experiences which Miller can imagine: unallied, truncated, small). [5] Barbara Johnson suggests that Miller's Bringing Out Roland Barthes is concurrently a narrative about a missed encounter with Barthes as well as "the structuring role of the changing desire for one." [6] This essay will take as its point of departure this sinuous desire for author – its structuring role – and how this may exhibit itself in negative textual gestures. So, then: how else does D. A. Miller do Barthes in a way that I cannot? Or – to rearticulate the same question – how are each of us, as individuals, arrested by reading, and how do we, as individuals, arrest reading? For Barthes is reading, and only reading (a damaging revelation for Miller and myself both): he is solely available to me through this apparatus, and – as photographs are mediated by the lens – so too must we acknowledge the refraction of readership. What, then, of reading's dark underbelly, against plaisir and jouissance, where manifested instead is reluctance, external interference and inhibition?

[3] Poulet advocates an absolute readerly intergradation: when reading, Poulet argues, the book as object in the world disappears within the experience, to be usurped by the inchoate existence of words, images and ideas which can only exist in the "innermost self" (57). Poulet herein is emblematic of a cult of fluency, the urge to establish and champion a synaesthesia of text and mind. Pervasive but unformulated, this urge to flow is so abundantly visible that it can be evidenced almost arbitrarily: the disparate cases of, for instance, the universality of libraries' policy of silence, the order of praise that 'unputdownable' or 'riveting' confers upon new book releases, and Stephanie Merritt's review of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix entitled "'I stayed up all night. It's a beast of a book, a real page-turner'" all serve to demonstrate how reading is corresponded with a notion of uninhibited temporal flow. [7] Recalcitrance is desirable in the face of such overarching prejudice towards readerly mobility. In this spirit I propose an account – necessarily picaresque and incomplete – of ruptures, breakages, blockages, textual constipations. I propose, in short, to plumb this Barthesian image:

the text: it produces, in me, the best pleasure if it manages to make itself heard indirectly; if, reading it, I am led to look up often, to listen to something else. I am not necessarily captivated by the text of pleasure; it can be an act that is slight, complex, tenuous, almost scatterbrained: a sudden movement of the head like a bird who understands nothing of what we hear, who hears what we do not understand (The Pleasure of the Text 24-5).

For Barthes herein, readerly interruptions meliorate the experience: arrest operates as a sign of gleeful immersion. Embraced or rejected, this motion – the distraction encapsulated by the image of a bird's head moving upwards – is a readerly reflex obfuscated by the very exercise of literary criticism itself, which prefers reading over not reading. It is a question of critical merit, then, and critically self-reflexive too: how is reading coaxed to pause?

[4] Barthes' Incidents – a slim, posthumously published collection of essays and diary fragments – demonstrates how to stop reading. In "Soirées de Paris" (Barthes' account in Incidents of a series of evenings spent wandering through the French capital), his is a chronic harbouring of an internal seed of revolt, instigated by the incumbency of labour (an analogous case to evoke: the Disney cartoonists who, legend may have it, inscribed the word 'sex' in a cartoon cloud). [8] Barthes' is an impromptu yet reflexive undermining – even dismantling – of one's own work as reader and writer, which manifests itself in the deferral of flanęrie. Stefan Morawski identifies the flâneur as "a delegate, a 'deputy' of the artist (the intellectual)...an extraction of the artist sent into the surrounding world to get to its guts." [9] The facility of Morawski's definition is its (potentially metaphysical) cleft between ambler and artist. With "deputy", Morawski enacts a petit-bourgeois professionalisation, a severance from usual bohemian adumbrations of flânerie: the association of the flâneur with exclusively aesthetic and literary climates is thus enervated, potentialising an emphatic removal from the sphere of reading. That is: the activity of flânerie enacts readerly intermittence more perilous and resolute than other reading pauses which this essay will consider, many of which will be subsumable within Barthes' metaphoric looking up. Flânerie is moving away. The reader/writer and the flâneur's respective occupational discontents and fatigues are dissymmetric. Two Barthesian illustrations pronounce the incommensurability: "We hesitate over the restaurant, interminably," and

[a]lways this difficulty about working in the afternoon. I went out at around six-thirty, for no good reason; in the Rue de Rennes noticed a new hustler...I gave him some money, he promised to be at the rendezvous an hour later, and of course never showed (Incidents 59). [10]

Embodied in the former is a postponement by hyperbole ("interminably") which suggests the flâneur's privilege of situating an endlessly projected moment at a site of non-production; embodied in the latter is a temporal dictatorship prompting flight (in "[a]lways this difficulty about working in the afternoon", "this" is unspecified, denoting nothing but a veritable complex towards afternoon work: reading impeded by an admixture of habit and recoil); and embodied in both is vacillation on a cusp of non-textual consumption (cuisine, copulation). This perennial wavering is so omnipresent that it pervades the very marrow of Barthes' language: Ross Chambers characterises his writing as "all stops and starts." [11] And yet, are these bald bodily demands represented as so insistent? Vacillation on the periphery of non-textual non-consumption is more precise: Barthes wavers over food; the hustler is absent. A series of unexecuted activities thus asserts itself throughout "Soirées de Paris." Of his failed rendezvous, Barthes writes "the result was the same: sex or no sex, at eight o'clock I would find myself back at the same point in my life" (59), revealing that a counterpoint to (readerly/sexual) break is (readerly/sexual) retention. Prompted by Barthes' patterning of non-fulfilment is this question: can text be retained in a way that sex is not? If Barthes had intended to read instead of meet the hustler and had failed in this as well, would at eight o'clock he still be in his apartment, at the same point in life? Does the reader/writer overcome with lassitude collapse corporeal consumption and non-consumption into the activity of literature, thus implicating ultimate textual non-performance as well?

[5] In such "Soirées de Paris" moments, it is a psychology of reading-as-work which activates Barthes' reading stoppages. Pierre Saint-Amand suggests that "[t]he Soirées are a succession of wasted time," but Morawski's distinction gestures towards another interpretation. [12] Barthes in "Soirées de Paris" may be the procrastinating ambler, but this is not all: "Soirées de Paris" shelters another Barthes, and this other is the inscriber – the figure fashioning Barthes the cruiser – who is most demonstrably active and productive. Morawski's configuration of the flâneur allows for the possibility of two Barthes united in one body: the stroller and the scribe, with material and textual duties shared between them. Emulsified, then, are the sites where writing is impeded or suspended: writing is implicated as an activity of flâneur and artist both. In the case of this posited Barthes/Morawski flâneur, writing is posed as a concrete activity; that is, its retainability is heralded. In contrast, reading is problematised – even resolutely stopped – in the figure of the flâneur. Ironically (in light of this essay's purpose to dispute textual flow), reading fluency of a different order is implied herein: the activity's fluidity in terms of its extractability, its ability to escape from the mind; a propensity – which writing, tangible thing!, does not possess – to pass unheeded through material existence itself.

[6] In these examples – Barthes as flâneur and Barthes as reader/writer – conceptualisations of textual impediments are investigated through the moderately limpid lens of subject matter. This recognisably narrative approach (a character study, illustrating a reader/writer's pause) shrouds textually intrinsic impediments to flow discernible in Incidents. In service of exploring the possibilities of these, I had intended to invoke a code of punctuation in "Soirées de Paris." 'Code,' however, is invested too wholly in volition – a code can be come to; a code can be looked for – whereas punctuation is ineluctable. Barthes' punctuation betrays a latent metatextuality which indubitably insinuates itself within the "Soirées de Paris" reader's experience, and so I propose an anatomy of punctuation – the body being equally unavoidable – where one may trace the semi-colon as legitimately as the leitmotif, or the work's attributes as a critical texte scriptible, or the theme, or the setting (that is, as a thing pervasive within the text: punctuation as a strain, and a stain).

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Veritably wedded to the parentheses, he nonetheless engages in regular torrid affairs of the colon, semi-colon and em-dash. But with brackets he is enthralled; parentheses are, moreover, explicitly and typographically foregrounded as exalted in the English translation of "Soirées de Paris", the closing bracket after Barthes' opening phrase – "Last night.)" (51) – having no proper twin except for the exhibitionist birthed of the epigraph. The parenthesis is an apposite Barthesian preference for this essay to explore, given the mark's investiture in discontinuity. This discontinuity is both oratorical (necessarily staccato) and semantic (it closes potential meanings). As is functionally proper, Barthes' parentheses repeatedly generate intervals, interjections and asides, but semantically prominent is his assignment of the parenthesis to the office of a kind of descriptive supplementation. Exemplar of Barthes' illustrative use of parentheses is this "Soirées de Paris" observation: "On a kiosk, a huge poster for a film; the actors' names (Jane Birkin, Catherine Spaak) printed in huge letters" (58). A "huge poster for a film" is unattributed and fluid; his "(Jane Birkin, Catherine Spaak)" is imaginatively debilitating, rendering the poster immutable, determined, hermetic. Felicitously, given the subject of "film poster", the distinction manifested herein is representative of rudimentary adaptation polemics in film studies: how visual representation can occlude potential meanings, and the divergence between the novel and the film's foregrounding and emphasis of detail. Seymour Chatman explains:

The key word in my account of the different ways that visual details are presented by novels and films is "assert."...When I say, "The cart was tiny; it came onto the bridge," I am asserting that certain property of the cart of being small in size and that certain relation of arriving at the bridge. However, when I say "The green cart came onto the bridge," I am asserting nothing more than its arrival at the bridge; the greenness of the cart is not asserted but slipped in without syntactic fuss. It is only named. Textually, it emerges by the way. Now, most film narratives seem to be of the latter textual order: it requires special effort for films to assert a property or relation. [13]

Barthes' parentheses tread a curious filmic axis: cinematic in their function of illustrating meaning as an aside, they are, however, novelistically insistent, in the vein of Chatman's assertiveness. As iambs and anapests end on a stressed syllable, so too do Barthes' parentheses end with avowal. Consider further instances of descriptions reduced to parenthetical flippancy: "a guitarist (American folk songs)" (51), "he had made a roast (overcooked)" (61), "[a]t the Museum of Modern Art (a grim neighbourhood)" (70), "his (new) Italian friend, Ricardo" (66), "I hang around the house (eating some toast and feta)" (68) and "a Yugoslav (very mild, very simple)" (67). Each clause becomes gravid with injunction: each like parenthetical insertion necessitates the realisation that Barthes offers us a plethora of interpretive possibilities only to retract them at the very point of "(". Materialising this most potently is Barthes' profile of men in a bistro: "three indefinable creatures (half-pimps, half-queens)" (53). The parentheses of this observation are employed to revoke a readerly contract: they realise an oxymoron. Despite his profession of the men's "indefinable" nature, Barthes not only defines them but quantitatively accounts for their composition. Barthes' amours of punctuation are, furthermore and finally, reflected through the subject matter of the text itself: radically uncloaked in "Soirées de Paris" is Barthes the reader, for whom books bracket the day. Nine out of the sixteen days recorded in "Soirées de Paris" finish with him reading: a hyper-textual period ('.'), conscious cognition slowed to sleep by perusal.

[8] In spite of foreseeable and fierce remonstrance by publishers, romantics, optimists, Harry Potter readers and secondary school pedagogues everywhere, I must thus insist that Barthes incontrovertibly identifies internal mechanisms within text which veritably arrest interpretation, imagination and even reading's own activity, giving rise to reading practices uncomfortable and kamikaze both. His relish in thus belabouring prose is evidenced further by the dearth in "Incidents" (a piece from the eponymously-titled Incidents composed of observational fragments on Morocco) and "Soirées de Paris" of punctuation marks and language tools such as ellipses and etceteras, which intimate invitation, inducement and irresolvability. With his punctuation schema, Barthes extends the sense of readerly arrest: he alleviates it from the limited temporal cessation fostered by the urge to look up, facilitating and importing the halt not only of reading's motion but its plurality.

[9] An impasse, a cause for awe, a veritable sacrament for Georges Poulet is this paradox: when reading, he suggests, "I am thinking the thoughts of another" (59). Poulet's already-identified instinct to undo the palpable (the book disappears in his hands) would thus seem to extend to writerly processes as well. A stunning abbreviation on Poulet's part: this commeasurement of thoughts and writing, reducing the function of text to a cognitive transliteration. Journaling – as in "Incidents" and "Soirées de Paris" – galvanises this paradox because the reader is "thinking the thoughts of another" which are specifically not engineered to intertwine themselves into consciousness as their own: journals continually assert themselves as products of an/other. Of interest to this essay, then, in regard to Poulet's assemblage of writing and thought, is the way in which journals mark themselves as scripted documents. How do "Incidents" and "Soirées de Paris" establish readerly distance and textual ownership?

[10] Notable is their mutual elision of the processes of their own creation. In journaling – ostensibly a practice which logs significant events du jour – Barthes cloaks the very machinations of the diary: the act of chronicling is never chronicled. "Incidents" is further notable for the near total absence of a record of Barthesian reading activity; moreover, Barthes' professional investment in textual experience remains almost entirely unspoken in this text: a cunning camouflage of Barthes' status as reader/writer has been enacted. All these neglects signify that Barthes' acknowledgement of temporal disjunction in the diaries (temporal disjunction consisting of language constructs which heed the distance between action and writing) necessarily becomes animated, as such acknowledgment is one of the few instruments left with which the text can distinguish itself as scripted, and not represent itself as a cosy disclosure of consciousness. The peculiar typographical sealing off of "Last night" in "Soirées de Paris" mentioned previously is thus of moment: Barthes, in bracketing the phrase, suggests that his journaling is self-effacing and only nominally registers itself as writing (a sleight of hand which, due to its context of journaling's patent textuality, confronts Poulet's predication of writing as thought by simultaneously and slyly manifesting/masking temporal disjointedness). "(Last night)" is the last such temporal evidence to appear at the beginning of a journal entry until Barthes' return from Urt, a town near where his mother is buried. His arrival in Paris unleashes an orgy of recognising writing as distance: Urt's "yesterday afternoon" (61) becomes a precedent for several of the subsequent days' entries to blazon their status as text by employing explicit markers of temporal dislocation and in some cases adopting – ironically enough – a journalistic lexicon in the process: "[l]ast night" (66), "[y]esterday, late in the afternoon" (68), "[f]utile [e]vening" (70) and "[y]esterday, Sunday" (72). A quixotic interpretation of this sudden and furious unleashing would be to attribute Urt with the power to dismantle: the most nostalgic and sentimental moments of "Soirées de Paris" are during his sojourn to this town ("My heart filled with sadness, almost with despair; I thought of Mam, of the cemetery where she was, quite close by, of "Life."" (60)): the visit unravels Barthes, who consequently shows us his hand – reveals his own writerliness – overwhelmingly, all at once. The final set-piece in this construction of Barthes' relationship to the artificiality of journaling is the nature of the fragments in "Incidents". These textual concentrates are often pure description: "The young pied-noir, a reconstructed petit bourgeois, wears his sweater draped over his shoulders..." (26); "A girl begging: "My father's dead. It's to buy a notebook," etc." (37). The verisimilitude of the figures thus described, and the starkness of the vision which depicts them – framed by so much white space on the page – renders these "Incidents" into tableau vivants. Characters become actors: as a playwright surrenders some concept of authorship when his work is staged, so too does Barthes capitulate aspects of his agency with these illustrations.

[11] I have demarcated these three chronicle considerations in order to propose a juxtaposition which is highly artificial but nonetheless very revealing. Poulet argues that "[n]othing external to the work could possibly share the extraordinary claim which the work now exerts on me. It is there within me, not to send me back, outside itself, to its author, nor to his other writings, but on the contrary to keep my attention riveted on itself" (62). In light of such readerly affirmation, Barthes' gestures of undoing textual ownership can be seen to be simultaneously parodic and subversive. Barthes has manifested a ploy to instantaneously hide and reveal the apparatus of journal as product ("(Last night)"); he has undertaken a fervid and frantic reaffirmation of subject after a moment of intense – and recorded – subjectivisation (upon his return from Urt); he has established players who – alive but crystallised within the tableau vivant – implicitly assert their own subjectivity, in a way which figures on a canvas are unable to. Counterpoised, these aspects of Barthes' text pose a marked challenge to Poulet's claim that the text "is there within me...to keep my attention riveted on itself": in a context of intensely personalised discourse, Barthes – by asserting the impossibility of ever returning to petrified, recorded and complete moments ("(Last night)", "yesterday afternoon"), as well as by suggesting the subject-ive self-containedness of the tableau vivant – gestures towards the text's median status. In spite of Poulet's protestations of the text's integration within himself, Barthes insists upon its rupture from author and reader both. The circuitousness of these moments arbitrates textual possession between author and reader by foregrounding and problematising the space (the stop; the distance) between text and any one human figure: they act to orphan the work.

[12] Barthes' skittish and nihilistic impulse to betray reading's destructiveness and write the destruction of reading escalates still further. Once more figuring the reflexive urge to undo his own occupation, Barthes represents criticism as a rupture of reading because of its function of temporal interposition:

In this arrangement, literature ('texts') is prized as the centre of reading: it is presented as a place proper, where the individual may – temporally – arrive, move through, experience bliss (or not), and depart. [14] Literature in Barthes is explicitly equated with locomotion. But criticism is denied this mobilisation, for Barthes excludes the following experience from the consumption of criticism: you are reading now. Criticism in Barthes is a speaking, not a language: bounded within a satellite state, it revolves around the experience of reading but is refused its licence. Most significant for this essay's purposes, however, is that Barthes' conception of criticism offers a site of impeded reading where – ostensibly, obstinately and paradoxically – reading is still taking place. Barthes' criticism is reading's grout: functionary only in its adhesiveness, it connects the consciousnesses of reader-performers between engagements. Criticism, then, is a crevice which is filled with itself, but not with the bliss afforded the perusal of literature, nor with the 'reading' which constitutes this literary consumption. Barthes' conception of criticism: a further indication that ruptures of readership are not necessarily purged of the motion of reading itself.

[13] How does one arrive at a Barthesian concept of criticism? Of course: via conceiving of criticism's antecedent processes as couching similar hindrances to reading. Literary pedagogy must be probed as a site necessarily and rightly ensconcing unformulated textual pauses. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's "Some Heuristics for Reading 19th-Century Fiction" evidences the friction between teaching literature and readerly flow. The matrices which Sedgwick propounds (an example: "In what histories is the narrative embedded? What would you want to know "the history of" in order to feel you understood the novel?") activate the ambivalence latent within heurism along the axis of involvement (heurism as student independence; heurism as guidance). [15] As a critical approach apparently encouraging student autonomy (the underlying urge of Sedgwick's piece is to propel discovery), her proffering of "axioms or advice you might find useful" divulges her style as one properly patronal. "Some Heuristics for Reading 19th-Century Fiction" is a document which couples pretensions to parody ("Calculating the Gross Novelistic Product"; the disparaging identification of "Authorial Surrogate Sweepstakes") with genuine promise as a primer text (I anticipate a symbol such as , but, sadly, am disappointed). To this patronal edge Sedgwick, nominative author, removes herself from her own readerly experience: she abstracts her engagement with the text. We are not offered Sedgwick's own reading (which takes place irrevocably within the moments of the textual encounter), rather her universalised configuration of a possible reading practice (a further removal: a Sedgwickian method of stopping reading). It is a text, then, twice stopped: halted by the severance and analytical distance inherent in parody, and halted by Sedgwick's conceptualisation (and hence, ossification) of the reading process. In relation to this essay's project of identifying readerly burden, the most apt question to pose is this: how does Sedgwick's document see itself being read? Within any one individual's experience of reading 19th century novels, how does it entreat its own accommodation? Here, it is imperative to note initially that reading is the site where dissimilarity between student and teacher dissolves: together, under the auspices of institution, and – more vitally – under the impetus of production, they read with pen in hand. The pen in hand is metonymic: it animates in miniature the problematic of retention – of holding – once more. How can this document with its format of a plethora of questions – an amalgamation of pedagogical benevolence and critical rigor – be held in one's consciousness whilst reading? "Some Heuristics for Reading 19th-Century Fiction" necessarily integrates itself as an interstice: questions such as "How are the (perhaps competing) claims of medicine, law, religion, science, state administration, education etc. adjudicated in the novel and by it?" present themselves as unavoidably outwardly referenced, and confirm that to enact utilisation of Sedgwick's pedagogical tools requires a hampered and sporadic encounter with the source text. And thus we return to reading as grout, as mortar: cognitively opposed to becoming immersed in the flow of (primary-textual) readerly consciousness, Sedgwick's heuristics can validly be represented as another configuration of readerly encumbrance.

[14] There are readerly dislocations one wants to disown (as there are readerly experiences necessary to conceal: surely at some level it is as shaming to admit being rapt in Roland Barthes' parentheses as it is to read One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom on the bus). But, nevertheless, I revisit Barthes' parentheses; their preponderance is overwhelming and I hesitate, wondering why a textual quantity should disarm me so. This, however, is the parenthetical construction which finally arrests me: "a thin boy with a very pale, glabrous face, good-looking and strange, unsensual (fake leather trousers)" (68). It is a moment of readerly recess prompted by registration of the uncanny (the uncanny being a sensation always unbidden). Barthes' punctilious punctuation becomes revealed to me as sinister: this weirdness provokes a motion of halting which is beyond mere stopping to arrive at an instant of internally rewriting the text (the first time this essay has evidenced the meliorating moment which Barthes assigns to the upward motion of the head: enriching because productive). "[U]nsensual (fake leather trousers)": this young Frenchman of the late 1970s incarnates Barthes' proclivity for the synecdochic reduction of persons, formulated with mathematical precision and marked by that science's symbols (( and )): an affront to humanism. (Does fleeting ethical disgust always effect readerly stagnation? I certainly looked up from the page for many moments.) My instant of object identification with Barthes' "thin boy" – so profoundly inexorable that it was very nearly antithetical to the Poulet readerly experience – is above all swampy, a textual quagmire. For object identification requisitely speaks of utter literary identification – a capitulation to textual flow beyond the level of consciousness (Poulet would be proud) – coupled instantaneously, however, with the acute implication of self foregrounded by the cognitive process of empathy. That this place of paradoxical pause exists, and can be constructed textually, encourages me to pose a further potential readerly encumbrance which is similarly uneasy (that is, confessional). Does the forestalling of subjective identification by the text interfere with the reading experience? Or, put another way: where is the space in Incidents for me: female, twenty-five, Australian? (For, as Barthes is reading to me, so too do I become a figure of text in my encounter with him: I am always my present self when I enter his Paris through "Soirées". The juxtaposition of my fifteen-month old self is a mental construct facilitated by removing myself from reading Barthes, to writing about him for this essay: more pause; greater dislocation). Barthes' public Parisian landscape potentialises a place for me: my sociological profile and geo-temporal status do not. Such is the thrall of reading that I would even attempt to insert myself thus. Hence the question: how would Barthes' assign me synecdochically? What would be my parentheses? I ask this because I foresee my invisibility in "Soirées de Paris". (The way here is unstable: I must remain reserved, alert to the possibility of the most blistering accusation, that of hysteria). It is a complex after Sedgwick: as instability can be figured around her dual status as heterosexual woman and queer literary theorist, so my hesitation has its genesis in wanting to significantly figure my female self within a male homosexual landscape. Thus, unlike Sedgwick, my response is narcissistically inverted and involved not with authority but redaction: a centring of self in text which seeks to configure texts as contingent upon and liable to subjective mental vistas. On this count I am cleaved (rather, with my hesitation, I cleave myself) from the text because it doesn't concern me (the ambivalence of 'concern' here is operative). Proliferating rapidly, then, are various evidences that 'reading stops' do not have to manifest themselves physically, temporally or with ideological geniality: this is how I can justify the hideous and ungainly subjectivity of my own Barthesian intermittence. Readerly abeyances can be characterised by an interior interruption of liquidity, a loss of textual innocence: it is the rupture when text reveals itself as text, or – more damningly – when (as a method of repudiating work; as a reaction against an unwanted pedagogical stymie; as narcissistic self-validation in the face of imperilled identity), the reader resolves to believe that the text reveals itself as 'just text'.

[15] In conclusion, I would like to consider how these readership baulks – themselves accounted for capriciously and experienced with volatility – can be rationalised and reintegrated within readership's activity. A metaphor is, appropriately enough, embodied lexically in distraction, wherein both track and tract are inferable. Track is the text: its property is progression and its function guidance. The reader, however, occupies not only the place of the track but the region above it and the time spent therein: a vacated, conceptual and temporal tract where agency can be animated (that is, where the reader can stop). The tract (the moment, the space) and the track are indissoluble:

[16] Interruption, however, is not a pure place: not a vacated space of stop. Conglomerate, convoluted, irregular and always gnarled, this essay has aimed to evoke a sense of how these moments of textual arrest can simultaneously be raised in literature (as in the case of Barthesian flânerie and the status of criticism as partition-from-text), as well as being intrinsic and vital to it (as with Barthes' punctuation, journaling, the pragmatic ramifications of utilising Sedgwick's heuristics, and subject-identification severance). This essay can be understood as prompted by a profound malaise about readerly dormancy, underpinned by anxiety regarding the economics of reading (how much; how quick; how far; how thoroughly; how well), and anxiety regarding reading's metaphysics (that Barthes, professional reader and writer, manifests intense anxiety about reading – evidenced by his election of walking, eating, conversing or sex over work in "Soirées de Paris" – provokes in me the horror of this question's realisation: what if reading is a false pleasure, a simulacrum?). These vacillations all operate to flaunt the ultimate inability of reading to be sustained. Is it hyperbole to speak of this revelation as trauma?

[17] It is trauma only so far as the readerly cult of flow has become orthodox. Foundational to this essay, however, has been a challenge to hysterical or idealistic representations of readerly fluency. It has found statements such as the following overwrought, and thus damaging: "It is the work which forces on me a series of mental objects and creates in me a network of words, beyond which, for the time being, there will be no room for other mental objects or for other words" (Poulet 62, emphasis added). The significance of Poulet's apprehension of the book-object's disappearance from the world illuminates further: the cult of fluency disavows the materiality of reading. Proceeding from the desire to affront such ideology is the impulse to demarcate text blockages a function. The labour of reading emphasises our remove from reading (such as Poulet erects it) by facilitating the crucial – and liable to be elided – sense of I-am-not-text (the individual, reading, is truly theory's other): moreover, it establishes and maintains critical distance. It contravenes the immediacy of Barthes' Nietzschean "that's it for me!" (The Pleasure of the Text 13): readerly interstices mark a fissure and an alienation, undoing identification and recognising and confronting the attendant urge to author proximity. It reinstates, in short, bodies (Barthes on the streets of Paris), irritation (the benevolence-cum-insistence of Sedgwick's pedagogy) and sexuality (a convenient rupture with which to throw literary subject identification into relief) as visceral states and motions integral to the readerly experience. Textual dislocation, finally, attests to the compulsive, almost manic relationship of reader to text. Compulsion is an elemental motion in readership because it simultaneously compasses being impelled (onwards and through a text) and the unbidden nature of reflexive recoil (like Barthes' reader who, analogous to a bird, looks up because they hear something textually removed).

[18] Stopping reading is – in one sense – itself an oxymoron (stopping / reading: two states which would seem to be separate and coterminous by definition, and as inane as the notion of filled interstices, or the flâneur as writer and non-writer simultaneously). But it is precisely this contradictory import which facilitates critical neglect of it. To animate the experience of not-reading in relation to reading is very much like a séance: it represents the impulse to enliven a dead time. A metaphor expansive, certainly, but its scope gestures towards a final conjecture: readerly ruptures are experiences which can be theorised in regard to individual works (Incidents, "Soirées de Paris," "Some Heuristics for Reading 19th-Century Fiction," Bringing Out Roland Barthes) as well as trans-textually. Breaks in readership galvanise the issue of readerly retention, thus foregrounding reader infidelity to the hermetic condition of individual written works.

Barthes, Roland.  Incidents. Trans. Richard Howard. Berkeley: U of California Press, 1992.

Barthes, Roland.  The Pleasure of the Text.  Trans. Richard Miller. New York: Hill and Wang-Farrar, 1975.  Trans. of Le Plaisir du texte.  Paris: Seuil, 1973.

Chambers, Ross.  "Pointless Stories, Storyless Points: Roland Barthes Between "Soirées de Paris" and "Incidents"."  L'Esprit Créateur.  34.2 (1994): 12-30.

Chatman, Seymour.  "What Novels Can Do That Films Can't (and Vice Versa)."  Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings.  Ed. Gerald Mast, Marshall Cohen and Leo Braudy.  4th edn.  New York: Oxford UP, 1992.  403-19.

Johnson, Barbara.  "Bringing Out D. A. Miller."  Narrative 10.1 (2002): 3-8.

Merritt, Stephanie.  "'I Stayed Up All Night. It's a Beast of a Book, a Real Page-Turner'."  Rev. of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J. K. Rowling. Guardian Unlimited 22 June 2003.  31 August 2003 «http://books.guardian.co.uk/harrypotter/story/0,10761,982480,00.html».

Mikkelson, Barbara and David P. Mikkelson.  "The Lion King."  Urban Legends Reference Pages 31 December 1996.  31 August 2003 «http://www.snopes.com/disney/films/lionking.htm».

Miller, D. A.  Bringing Out Roland Barthes.  Berkeley: U of California P, 1992.

Morawski, Stefan.  "The Hopeless Game of Flânerie."  The Flâneur.  Ed. Keith Tester.  London: Routledge, 1994.  181-197.

Poulet, Georges.  "Criticism and the Experience of Interiority."  The Structuralist Controversy: The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man.  Ed. Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donato.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1972.  56-72.

Saint-Amand, Pierre.  "Barthes's Laziness."  Trans. Jennifer Curtiss Gage. Yale Journal of Criticism 14.2 (2001): 519-526.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky.  Some Heuristics for Reading 19th-Century Fiction. Duke U.  31 August 2003 «http://www.duke.edu/~sedgwic/PROF/vicqst.htm».

[1] D. A. Miller, Bringing Out Roland Barthes (Berkeley: U of California Press, 1992) 3.

[2] The construction of degrees of separation provides a reassuring type of fatality. Degrees of separation are always purposed. Fashioning nearness to an admired figure is commonplace, revealing the upward mobility of all.

[3] The decision not to elide 'I am' in 'I am enamoured' a signifier: emphatic, articulated and representing a not real love, instead a scripted infatuation with its extempore and overweening performance (but not the less respectful nor awed for that).

[4] Georges Poulet, "Criticism and the Experience of Interiority," The Structuralist Controversy: The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man, ed. Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donato (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1972) 59.

[5] And here, paradoxically, am I aligned with Miller again (although, like Barthes in The Pleasure of the Text, "I couldn't care less" [5, emphasis added]): we both perform gestures of appropriation born of hideous and colonising narcissisms, and we are both somewhat complacent about the validity of our own separate claim upon the figure of Barthes. Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text, trans. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang-Farrar, 1975), trans. of Le Plaisir du texte (Paris: Seuil, 1973).

[6] Barbara Johnson, "Bringing Out D. A. Miller," Narrative 10.1 (2002): 4.

[7] Stephanie Merritt, "'I Stayed Up All Night. It's a Beast of a Book, a Real Page-Turner'," rev. of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling, Guardian Unlimited 22 June 2003, 31 August 2003 «http://books.guardian.co.uk/harrypotter/story/0,10761,982480,00.html».

[8] Barbara Mikkelson and David P. Mikkelson, "The Lion King," Urban Legends Reference Pages 31 December 1996, 31 August 2003 «http://www.snopes.com/disney/films/lionking.htm».

[9] Stefan Morawski, "The Hopeless Game of Flânerie," The Flâneur, ed. Keith Tester (London: Routledge, 1994) 183.

[10] Roland Barthes, Incidents, trans. Richard Howard (Berkeley: U of California P, 1992) 56.

[11] Ross Chambers, "Pointless Stories, Storyless Points: Roland Barthes Between "Soirées de Paris" and "Incidents," L'Esprit Créateur 34.2 (1994): 15 (emphasis added).

[12] Pierre Saint-Amand, "Barthes's Laziness," trans. Jennifer Curtiss Gage, Yale Journal of Criticism 14.2 (2001): 521.

[13] Seymour Chatman, "What Novels Can Do That Films Can't (and Vice Versa)," Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, ed. Gerald Mast, Marshall Cohen and Leo Braudy, 4th edn. (New York: Oxford UP, 1992) 407-8.

[14] And again, in Pleasure: "There can be tranquil moments in the war of languages, and these moments are texts ("War," one of Brecht's characters says, "does not exclude peace...War has its peaceful moments...Between two skirmishes, there's always time to down a mug of beer...")" (29-30). The paradox of leisure: a still moment – arrested, serene – brimful with activity, brimming with consumption.

[15] Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Some Heuristics for Reading 19th-Century Fiction, Duke U, 31 August 2003 «http://www.duke.edu/~sedgwic/PROF/vicqst.htm».