In view of Barthes’s suggestion in 1972 that his semiological fantasy has given way to the solicitations of a ‘theory of the signifier, of the literary erotic’, Chapter Two provides further evidence of the supple and variegated materials of which both À la recherche and Barthes’s writing on it are made. It considers the relationship between Barthes’s understanding of the erotic as an intermittent flicker of meaning (of signifiance), the enigmatic idea of variations without a theme, and his discussion, in Comment vivre ensemble:simulations romanesques de quelques espaces quotidiens, of rhythm and of what he calls the ‘Charlus-Discourse’. In so doing, it reveals not only that, for Barthes, the tirelessly mobile, erotic rhythm of Proust’s novel is such that it is only partially amenable to the fantasies of structural analysis (of the kind that, according to Barthes, inform his reading of Balzac in S/Z), but also that it demands an unprecedented critical activity that takes both logical or thematic developments and explosions of affect into account.
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