Tuesday, May 1, 2018

French Pleasure & American Pain

     Both Barthes and Derrida understand the great seriousness of pleasure, the profundity of pleasure. We generally think of pleasure as being Q.E.D. superficial or transitory. They understand that pleasure is the most profound of human experiences. If literature is to be profound, then the text must be a kind of pleasure – just as the flesh of your beloved is profound. That’s what makes marriage, or any kind of friendship, sacred. Because there is pleasure. Auden had that great line, “My friends, people I like, I like for different reasons, but everyone I love, I love for the same reason – they make me laugh.”
     We have to re-adjust our understanding of pleasure. I admire and revere Barthes and Derrida for the seriousness with which they treat pleasure. Their understanding of the pleasure of the text is nothing flippant or irreverent, but really a form of reverence. We should approach our pleasure with reverence, which we seldom do in this country. We approach our pain with reverence. We revere our suffering. A lot of people think contemporary French writers are flip. That’s because the French are revering something we perhaps haven’t the maturity to revere. – Donald Revell