“The Last Stop of Desire”: Roland Barthes Goes Shopping

  • Mikita Brottman


In this chapter, I try to understand some of the pleasures of shopping in relation to Barthes’s ideas in S/Z and The Pleasure of the Text about plural texts, looking at the activity of shopping as a particular example of a plural text. I pay attention to the history of shopping, the relationship between women and shopping, shopping as an example of process as opposed to stasis, and the idea of the active shopper as a blank space or empty page to be “filled in.” This also involves consideration of the activity of shopping as a network of analogies and affiliations, especially in relation to Barthes’s version of the plural text in S/Z as a collocation of ideological values, ontologies, and statements. In this light, it seems also important to consider some of Barthes’s ideas about encratic language, and to think about the language of advertising and consumption and the typography of the marketplace as examples of encratic language—that is, language produced and spread under the protection of power. Finally, I want to discuss the activity of shopping as a text of jouissance. While many writers and critics confess to feelings of angst and paranoia in the marketplace, others, particularly the Futurist writers of the early twentieth century, have regarded shopping as a magical, sublime homecoming to a rediscovered self.


Shopping Mall Shopping Process Consumer Culture Shopping Environment Consumer Society 
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© Mikita brottman 2005

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  • Mikita Brottman

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