Volume 56, Issue 4, December 2016
Jeffrey Dirk Wilson
A Consideration of Roland Barthes’s The Pleasure of the Text
From an Erotics to an Agapics of Reading
Richard Howard calls Roland Barthes’s The Pleasure of the Text the first “erotics of reading” in which we, as readers, “instance our ecstasy, our bliss in the text.” Yet Barthes writes as if his erotic reading of texts were an analogue to some other relationship, perhaps to an unnamed, even unwritten text. Thus his is a transcendent eroticism in which the encounter with the text points beyond the text. As alternative to an erotics of reading, this paper proposes an agapics of reading, also called Christian textualism. It seeks to establish, first, the relationship of agape and eros as substance and its shadow, and arguing, second, that every text can be read agapically, i.e., to discover the substance of which the text is a shadow. The paper concludes by exemplifying the method of Christian textualism through an agapic reading of The Pleasure of the Text’s final paragraph.