Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Posts Tagged ‘Roland Barthes

The algebra of wrestling

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Roland Barthes

The logical conclusion of the contest does not interest the wrestling fan, while on the contrary a boxing match always implies a science of the future…The function of the wrestler is not to win; it is to go exactly through the motions which are expected of him. It is said that judo contains a hidden symbolic aspect; even in the midst of efficiency, its gestures are measured, precise but restricted, drawn accurately but by a stroke without volume. Wrestling, on the contrary, offers excessive gestures, exploited to the limit of their meaning. In judo, a man who is down is hardly down at all, he rolls over, he draws back, he eludes defeat, or, if the latter is obvious, he immediately disappears; in wrestling, a man who is down is exaggeratedly so, and completely fills the spectators with the intolerable spectacle of his powerlessness…

It is obvious that at such a pitch, it no longer matters whether the passion is genuine or not. What the public wants is the image of passion, not the passion itself. There is no more a problem of truth in wrestling than in the theatre. In both, what is expected is the intelligible representation of moral situations which are usually private. This emptying out of interiority to the benefit of its exterior signs, this exhaustion of the content by the form, is the very principle of triumphant classical art. Wrestling is an immediate pantomime, infinitely more efficient than the dramatic pantomime, for the wrestler’s gesture needs no anecdote, no decor, in short no transference in order to appear true.

Every moment in wrestling is therefore like an algebra which instantaneously unveils the relationship between a cause and its effect. Wrestling fans certainly experience a kind of intellectual pleasure in seeing the moral mechanism function so perfectly…When the hero or the villain of the drama, the man who was seen a few minutes earlier possessed by moral rage, magnified into a sort of metaphysical sign, leaves the wrestling hall, impassive, anonymous, carrying a small suitcase and arm in arm with his wife, no one can doubt that wrestling holds that power of transmutation which is common to the Spectacle and to Religious Worship. In the ring, and even in the depths of their voluntary ignominy, wrestlers remain gods because they are, for a few moments, the key which opens Nature, the pure gesture which separates Good from Evil, and unveils the form of a Justice which is at last intelligible.

Roland Barthes, “The World of Wrestling”

Written by nevalalee

February 12, 2017 at 7:30 am

The lacemaker’s fingers

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Roland Barthes

The text [of the story], while it is being produced, is like a piece of Valenciennes lace created before us under the lacemaker’s fingers: each sequence undertaken hangs like the temporarily inactive bobbin waiting while its neighbor works; then, when its turn comes, the hand takes up the thread again, brings it back to the frame; and as the pattern is filled out, the progress of each thread is marked with a pin which holds it and is gradually moved forward: thus the terms of the sequence: they are positions held and then left behind in the course of a gradual invasion of meaning…

These braided—or braiding—voices form the writing: when it is alone, the voice does no labor, transforms nothing: it expresses; but as soon as the hand intervenes to gather and intertwine the inert threads, there is labor, there is transformation.

Roland Barthes, S/Z

Written by nevalalee

March 19, 2016 at 7:30 am

Posted in Quote of the Day, Writing

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