Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rallying its qualities

Should I keep a journal with a view to publication? Can I make the journal into a "work"? [...]  No, the journal's justification (as a work) can only be literary in the absolute, even if nostalgic, sense of the word. I discern here four motives.

The first is to present a text tinged with an individuality of writing, with a "style" (as we used to say), with an ideolect proper to the author (as we said more recently); let us call this motive: poetic. The second is to scatter like dust, from day to day, the traces of a period, mixing all dimensions and proportions, from important information to details of behavior [...]. Let us call this motive: historical. The third is to constitute the author as an object of desire: if an author interests me, I may want to know the intimacy, the small change of his times, his tastes, his moods, his scruples; I may even go so far as to prefer his person to his work [...] I can attempt to prove that "I am worth more than what I write" (in my books): the writing in my journal then appears as a plus-power (Nietzsche: Plus von Macht), which it is supposed will compensate for the inadequacies of public writing; let us call this motive: utopian, since it is true that we are never done with the image-repetoire. The fourth motive is to constitute the Journal as a workshop of sentences: not of "fine phrases," but of correct ones, exact language: constantly to refine the exactitude of the speech-act (and not of speech), according to an enthusiasm and an application, a fidelity of intention which greatly resembles passion: "yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things" (Proverbs 23:16). Let us call this motive: amorous (perhaps even idolatrous--I idolize the Sentence).

For all my sorry impressions, then, the desire to keep a journal is conceivable. I can admit that it is possible, in the actual context of the Journal, to shift from what at first seemed to me improper in literature to a form which in fact rallies its qualities: individuation, spoor, seduction, fetishism of language.
-Roland Barthes, "Deliberation," Tel Quel, 1979

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