Unique Writings

I cannot write myself. What, after all, is this “I” who would write himself? Even as he would enter into the writing, the writing would take the wind out of his sails, would render him null and void (Barthes 98)

Spectacle, unlike any other text we have read for this class, challenges the reader to think deeply about another one of Barthes’ essays, and ideas: the death of the author. During our class discussion and included in several blog posts (mine included), we have constantly been assigning the narrator(s) to Steinberg and asking what Steinberg is doing by having her narrator(s) narrate in whatever way it is that Spectacle‘s narrator(s) are narrating. “[Terms like ‘lyric’ and ‘hybrid’] alleviate some of the mystery. But I think I prefer the term experimental. Because it relates to an act. It lets one consider experimental writing as a practice. Not as a genre” (Steinberg, publishersweekly.com). The part of this quote that reveals what sort of thinking was behind the writing and narrative of Spectacle is the line “Because it relates to an act.” Throughout the book, we see references to the performances of males and females, the act of our narrator(s) struggling to find the right cliché to use in order to describe how s/he is feeling, which spirals into a chaotic mess of cliché, leaving both the narrator(s) and reader no less close to discovering the true emotion behind what is being told. But that’s the point.

As Barthes explained in “Adorable,” to use the word adorable gives whatever is being called adorable all of the attributes of that word along with all of the meaninglessness that comes with having every attribute of the word. This is what we see Spectacle‘s narrator(s) struggle against with all of the clichéd statements. How do you describe something entirely personal, entirely unique, into a language that is shared by everyone, something that is entirely not unique? When the narrator(s) describe(s) “killing” their/hers/his father with their/her/his whole family on the phone with a doctor, that is clearly some very unique experience that few have experienced, but how does that unique experience get brought into language that doesn’t subject that uniqueness to generality and cliché? It appears to be a nearly impossible feat, which begs the question of why is it even attempted? This leads me to ask the question of what is the purpose of bringing experience into language if language cannot do anything but strip emotions and experiences of their very essence?

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