Writers Who Put Themselves in the Story: Roland Barthes, Dante Alghieri, Lieutenant Mary-Sue and Me

I Willis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

Abstract

In The Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes suggests that the surest path through the ideological determinations which structure our response to texts is to ask: 'and me, me, what am I doing in all this?' Later, towards the end of his life, in the lecture 'Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure', Barthes refuses to speak 'on Proust': he offers instead the formulation 'Proust and I' for the 'association of practice' he proposes between himself and the author of A la récherche du temps perdu. Through a discussion of his identifications with Proust and with Dante, Barthes begins to elaborate a new, utopian, affective and productive writing practice, into which he is initiated by Proust as Dante was initiated by Virgil – and into which I am initiated by Barthes. In this paper I will read Barthes’ work on writing, pleasure, and love together with Dante's encounters with Vergil and others in the Divine Comedy, and in the light of selected contemporary fannish texts and my own practice as a Mary-Sue writer. I do so in order to propose a model of reception which takes up Barthes' challenge to develop the 'loving or amorous power' of reading. I argue that when reception seeks to prove its intellectual maturity by distancing and delegitimating the 'subjective', it cuts itself off from one of the richest sources of thought: our love of, pleasure in, and identification with, fictional texts and imaginary worlds.
Translated title of the contributionWriters Who Put Themselves in the Story: Roland Barthes, Dante Alghieri, Lieutenant Mary-Sue and Me
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesiring the Text, Touching the Past: Towards an Erotics of Reception, University of Bristol
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2010

Bibliographical note

Conference Organiser: University of Bristol

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