Roland Barthes: The language of love and the lover: Language is a madmanJune 27, 2021
The strangest but most popular book written by the philosopher and literary critic Roland Barthes is Fragments of a Love Discourse.
Fragments d’un discours amoureux, in French, is reminiscent of German philosopher Walter Benjamin’s essay “One Direction”, as it is written in fragments and snapshots. “Pieces of a Love Discourse” is not like a philosophy book because it is a love story; but it is a love story without a true story. There are no heroes in the book, nothing like fiction. It contains only the reflections of a lover in what Barthes calls “extreme solitude.” At the beginning of the book, Barthes makes it clear that a plot is impossible, because a lover’s thoughts are often contradictory and out of order outbursts. Barthes says that as a lover, I might find myself knitting socks by myself. A lover is a person who can be described as “lost the plot”. Therefore, instead of using a plot or fiction, Barthes organized his book as an extraordinary encyclopedia of contradictory and irregular explosions. And each of these bursts serve as points at which the reader will suddenly scream, “That’s so true! I remember this scene…”
It is in this context that Barthes argues that language is a skin. Language, at least the language of lovers, is not just something that speaks neutrally about the world, it “vibrates with desire,” as Barthes put it. Barthes describes this process: “I rub my tongue against the other. It’s as if my fingers have been replaced by words or I have words on my fingertips.” Even if Barthes writes a cool, philosophical piece about love, he says in his philosophical composure that he will secretly address a certain person, the object of his desire, even if that person is “a ghost, a creature that has yet to come.”
Barthes gives an example from Plato’s dialogue “The Feast” (although not particularly in the context of philosophical debates) to address this covertly. This is the story of a discussion on love at the home of the poet Agathon. A statesman named Alcibiades joins the discussion late and drunk; sits on a sofa next to Agathon and the philosopher Socrates. The speech he made with his drunken head is full of praise to Socrates, but it is actually Agathon that Alcibiades desires. To put it another way, it is actually Agathon that the tongue of Alcibiades rubs against.
But what about the language we use when we talk about other things? Is it just the lover’s skin that trembles with desire? Or does this apply to other types of languages as well? Barthes, who did not comment on this issue, left the matter to us.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook