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What Forms Can DoThe Work of Form in 20th- and 21st- Century French Literature and Thought$
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Patrick Crowley and Shirley Jordan

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620658

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620658.001.0001

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The Eclipse of Form in Roland Barthes’s

The Eclipse of Form in Roland Barthes’s

La Chambre claire

Chapter:
(p.67) Chapter Four The Eclipse of Form in Roland Barthes’s
Source:
What Forms Can Do
Author(s):

Johnnie Gratton

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781789620658.003.0005

This chapter charts the process whereby the text of Barthes’s La Chambre claire sidelines form as a critical concern applicable to photography. An overview of the value system he brings to photography (quite unlike the one he applies to the Novel in the lectures he was delivering contemporaneously) shows that the priority accorded to the referent over the photo as such, to authentication (“ça-a-été”) over representation, and to the disturbing punctum over the disturbed studium, necessarily entails the priority of force over form, not least because each dominant term in these pairs undermines the value of the photograph as something outwardly visual and concretely visible. Force, or intensity, can be tracked not just in the photograph, but also in Barthes’s emotions, whether as beholder of the photo, son in mourning, or essayist repudiating critical sterility, proposing instead to construct a personal phenomenology incorporating the force of affect. A short conclusion via the ideas of René Thom on salient and pregnant forms will suggest a way of bridging the gap between form and force.

Keywords:   Roland Barthes, Photography, Form, Force, René Thom

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