Dialectics of Love in the ‘Early’ and ‘Late’ Writings of Roland Barthes

Published: Dec 20, 2022
synthesis comparative literary studies Roland Barthes A Lover's Discourse letters Michelet early writings late writings myth dialectic love revolution marxism Hegel
Andy Stafford

It is well-known that Roland Barthes spent the Second World War in a sanatorium for tuberculosis; less appreciated is the voluminous and frank correspondence that he sent to his closest associates and lovers, often in moments of despair and distress. Some of these letters have been published in Album (2018); and, more recently, in Frédéric Goldbronn’s documentary Les fantômes du sana (2020). From these long and heart- felt communications with his friends emerge not only a complex account of illness and hope for recovery but also deep reflections on love, friendship and heartache. In January 1946, writing to his much-missed partner Robert David, Barthes described the “logical dialectic of Love” and its extraordinary power over everything. “In reason,” he confided, “logic has the power of royalty; in love, it is one of tyranny.” Having therefore to accept the panic caused by every “sign” generated in his amorous mind as an “absolute pressure of an internal dialectic,” this then “became confused with love itself.” How does this dialectic of love develop in Barthes’s published writings? Is it part of the “double grasp” that is at work in Michelet in 1954 and Mythologies in 1957, and in A Lover’s Discourse and the seminars on love twenty years later?

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Author Biography
Andy Stafford, University of Leeds

Andy Stafford is Professor of French and Critical Theory at the University of Leeds (UK), and was, in 2018-2019, Visiting Professor at the Université Paris Sorbonne Nord (Villetaneuse). He is co-editor, with Claire Lozier and Jivitesh Vashisht, of a special number of Paragraph, ‘Samuel Beckett and Roland Barthes: Unspoken Dialogues’ (July 2022). His latest book, Roland Barthes Writing the Political: History, Dialectics, Self has just been published by Anthem Press (Autumn 2022).

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