Roland Barthes pp 136-149 | Cite as


  • Philip Thody


In the article which he devoted in 1955 to Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Le Voyeur, Barthes recalled how an anthropologist had once shown the same film on underwater fishing to a group of Congolese negroes and to a number of Belgian undergraduates. The Congolese, Barthes observed, gave a ‘purely descriptive, precise and concrete account’ of what they had seen without making anything up [‘sans aucune fabulation’]. The Belgians, in contrast, had no clear recollection of what they had seen, could remember few details accurately, made up stories to explain what they imagined they had seen, filled their account with literary effects and tried to bring back the feelings and emotions which the film had inspired in them.1The novels of Robbe-Grillet, Barthes proceeded to argue, were aimed precisely at curing us of this habit of distorting what we see by constantly interpreting it through our memories of what we have read, and the example which Barthes used in this essay to explain Robbe-Grillet’s work might well provide a microcosm to illustrate the central ambition of his own. For in his most recent book of literary theory, Le Plaisir du Texte, he explains what he means by the new term l’inter-texte by coming back to what is basically the same idea. It is ‘the impossibility of living outside the infinite text—whether this text be Proust or the daily newspaper or the television screen: the book creates the meaning, the meaning creates life’.2


Literary Critic Modern Writer Century Linguistic Philosopher Baker Street Central Ambition 
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Chapter 10

  1. 28.
    See Max Charlesworth, The Existentialists, University of Queensland Press, 1976, p. 48.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Philip Thody 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Thody
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeedsUK

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