As with Barthes’ opening lecture of the Neutral on February 18, 1978, the first session of the online Neutral Reading Group will allow for some orientation and preliminaries….
SET READING: The Neutral, pp.1-19 (Preliminaries / Benevolence / Weariness)
** Preparation: Most important of all – ensure to get hold of a copy of Barthes’ The Neutral prior to our first session of Friday 18 February, 2011. You may wish to complete the reading prior to the day of the session or during the day. Either way, please aim to post up your thoughts and responses on the actual day of the session (from the afternoon onwards) and over the course of the weekend. I will post an initial entry by midday each Friday to start things off. NB. I will post a fuller entry on this page for the first session on Friday 18 – and a comments box will then be available, allowing ‘discussion’ to begin. This will be the format for each week. If you have any problems or suggestions (whether on the form or content of debate) please do not hesitate to contact.
Things to think about…
pp.1-6 provide bibliographic sources and four key excerpts or epigraphs. These texts are somewhat abstruse as ‘statements’ on the Neutral, yet Barthes clearly considers them significant.
Q: What ideas, thoughts, and associations do these epigraphs bring to mind?
pp.6-8 present the main argument – the Neutral as that which ‘outplays’ or baffles the paradigm. The establishing terms are structuralist, yet also ‘transposed’ into an ethical concern; ‘We are going to grant ourselves the right to treat all conditions…’ (p.7); ‘a manner – a free manner – to be looking for my own style…’ (p.8).
Q: What is the ethical dimension of the Neutral as a category ? And what might we say of the ethicality of the project to write about the Neutral?
pp.8-12 offer an account of processes and exposition.
Q: Given The Neutral is a posthumous and incomplete work we can ask what might it have looked like had Barthes’ continued, and/or ask whether its fragmentary nature is indeed its proper manifestation.
pp.12-14 – The Desire for Neutral, perhaps the most fertile pages for discussion, with a number of ‘interests’ intersecting (see: Yes!).
Q: How are we to understand and take forward the idea, the declaration of ‘a desperate vitality’?
pp.14-19 provide entries on keywords (as is the format of the majority of the remaining text). This case ‘Benevolence’ and ‘Weariness’.
Q: What do these words evoke and how might we begin to consider the unfolding of the argument through a series of keyword analysis?
On a more general level, some key questions that will no doubt persist throughout:
- What is the Neutral? (if such a question can be posed)
- Does the Neutral have application? If so, does that extend outside of literary and discourse analysis?
- Where does Barthes stand in all of this? What is his ‘tone’?
- Where do you stand vis-a-vis the Neutral? (…and is this a solitary mode, or something that can be shared?)