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Small Memories Loosely Joined

Time to flip the calendar, belatedly.

For my presentation at Computers and Writing this year, I read a paper (yes, I know) that had at its heart the idea that Roland Barthes' autobiography, Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes (Amazon), was a text that resulted from a process not unlike that of blogging. My paper basically looked at various passages from the book (and a couple from Camera Lucida) and argued that RB by RB had something to teach us about blogging.

I cited a passage from it a while ago that struck me, but honestly, I've always been taken by the whole thing. It's a book that, for me, fits with almost everything else that he was writing towards the end of his career, and it offers short glimpses of the process behind it. As far as I can tell, it was composed in various pieces, like blog entries, that were later compiled (and alphabetized, a la Lover's Discourse) into the book. Here's a page or so from my talk:

[Barthes] says flat out that the aim of his discourse is not truth; rather, his aim appears to be the construction of this pseudonym with whom he shares a name. And that construction is undertaken not in the spirit of precision or consistency, but of proliferation. One of the longest entries in the book regards the “circle of fragments�—he describes his entries as stones along the perimeter of a circle. “Liking to find, to write beginnings, he tends to multiply this pleasure,� Barthes explains. “That is why he writes fragments: so many fragments, so many beginnings, so many pleasures (but he doesn’t like the ends: the risk of rhetorical clausule is too great: the fear of not being able to resist the last word� (94). It is that fear that Barthes ultimately works against in his later work—professional, scholarly discourses seek the “last word,� to eliminate the need for more writing. Barthes’ turn towards subjectivity is a turn precisely away from such discourses. He explains that “What I write about myself is never the last word. Open to these different futures, my texts are disjointed, no one of them caps any other; the latter is nothing but a further text, the last of the series, not the ultimate in meaning: text upon text, which never illuminates anything" (120).

That line about constructing a pseudonym with whom he shares a name was my favorite line in the entire paper, I must admit. But the quotes from Barthes may give you some sense of why I like this book, and find some resonance in it.

Anyhow, after the conference, I made a decision that I hinted at a couple of entries ago. I'm going to try something a little different with my blog this summer. First, I need a new 100 things--I'll probably sweep through and amend the one I've got, but it's old old old. Second, I need to take a break from the "real world"--for various reasons, I couldn't really blog about the stuff that was on my mind for much of the year, and it made blogging a much more difficult activity for me. And soooo, my plan is to blog autobiographically in the same way that Barthes does in his book. Short entries, telling details, memories...in other words, small pieces. I'm going to shoot for 100 of them, but we'll see. I'm going to try and do it everyday, but I won't hold myself to that. I probably won't write them in third person (like Barthes does), but otherwise, I'm going to try and just inhabit the style of that book for a while.

I'm going to pick up pace over at Rhetworks, and may interrupt my autoblogography here on occasion, but otherwise, that's the plan. And I expect it to begin on Monday. See you then.


i'd love to read your paper, Collin. i support your autobiographical/blogging/fragments effort. sounds fabulous. do it.

looking forward to your autobiographical entries! i'm trying to do something similar, but short entries seem to be a big challenge for me. can't wait to read monday!

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