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A Lover's Discourse: Fragments by Roland…

A Lover's Discourse: Fragments

by Roland Barthes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Love has been written and sung about since our species first learned to produce language, and its effects on the emotions, the heart, the personality and the body have been studied, recorded, analysed and celebrated from the dawn of history. What interests Barthes more than these however, is the effect of love on the mind, on the intellect, specifically that part of the mind which produces language. For Barthes, love exists as an outpouring of language: “I’m so in love!” “I love you so much!”, “I love him”, “I love her” etc. Love exists, then, in its most developed form, as an ejaculation, as discourse produced by the lover, whether mental or uttered. What Barthes does is to focus on this discourse, but in such a way as to enact it rather than to analyse it.

Read the full review on The Lectern. ( )
4 vote tomcatMurr | Sep 28, 2013 |
The rumours are true: it's all here, every ludicrous pattern of behaviour love has pushed you into, every thought you've had about it, then quickly pushed away for being a little too true. "X once told me that love had protected him against worldliness: coteries, ambitions, advancements, interferences, alliances, secessions, roles, powers: love had made him into a social catastrophe, to his delight."; "Someone tells me: this kind of love is not viable. But how can you evaluate viability? Why is the viable a Good Thing? Why is it better to last than to burn?"; "Even as he obsessively asks himself why he is not loved, the amorous subject lives in the belief that the loved object does love him but does not tell him so."; "...even an object, a book for instance, in which the other is absorbed (I am jealous of the book)." I soon stopped noting down passages or I would have copied out the entire book. And despite all those frightening LibraryThing tags (semiotics, poststrcuturalism, theory) it isn't difficult to read. Sure, the capitalised Other makes many appearances, but you don't have to trouble yourself with Lacan; you can just read it as the plain old "other". And there is a lot of Werther, but only because Barthes likes to summarise it (does anybody read Werther these days?).

So the only question I have is this: do I want the patterns of love's behaviour to be picked over and analysed at all? The question is irrelevant to me, perhaps: I have read the book, there's no going back; and my instinct, of course, is to answer loudly "no" to anything that suggests a little less knowledge might be a good thing. But I am a small man and wonder if there are some things it is better not to know (I am wary of Facebook because I do not want to know about your current boyfriend, and I do not even want the option of being able to sigh over hundreds of photos of ex- or never-were-lovers; isn't much of life about refusal, deliberately turning away from things, in short, choosing? How else do we account for so many people being out in the world working rather than lying all day between foetid sheets?). And with this comes the thought that I do not want my ridiculous madness reduced to a type; I would prefer to believe that it is unique, that I suffer as nobody else has (not just by quantity, but also quality). Yes, of course, it can be a comfort to know others have been pained by the same things as yourself; it is always welcome to be reminded that one is not alone. But to be told that one's mental torture is commonplace, ordinary: is this what I want to hear? I remmeber one of BS Johnson's stories: "I would not actually commit suicide, I had thought, but I would just see what the pain was like, of a razorblade cutting my flesh. Whether it was worse than the pain of not having Jo.... Perhaps the Head would remmeber me now.... But he might be used to schoolboys with self-inflicted injuries: the interview had not semed to disquieten him very much. The thought that I was not original even in this respect made me feel yet more depressed." But of course I know that "commonplace" does not equal "futile". Goethe surely knew that Werther's sorrows were commonplace (isn't that just another way of saying "True"?), but wrote the book anyway. Wasn't that because other didn't realise how commonplace it was, though? Perhaps the difference now is just that the secret is out: Goethe suggests how commonplace this is, Barthes proves it with the aid of illustrative examples, I sit and think how commonplace it seems to consider this as commonplace. Is that postmodernism? Is it time to find new commonplaces?

Well, this has become confused, and it's all madness either way, I suppose. Time to read another book. ( )
  stilton | Aug 17, 2011 |
Not Read
  wlchui | Aug 2, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roland Barthesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Howard, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pelikán, ČestmírTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374521611, Paperback)

"Barthes's most popular and unusual performance as a writer is A Lover's Discourse, a writing out of the discourse of love. This language—primarily the complaints and reflections of the lover when alone, not exchanges of a lover with his or her partner—is unfashionable. Thought it is spoken by millions of people, diffused in our popular romances and television programs as well as in serious literature, there is no institution that explores, maintains, modifies, judges, repeats, and otherwise assumes responsibility for this discourse . . . Writing out the figures of a neglected discourse, Barthes surprises us in A Lover's Discourse by making love, in its most absurd and sentimental forms, an object of interest."—Jonathan Culler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:33 -0400)

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