The Pleasure of the Text – Barthes

Barthes, Roland. The Pleasure of the Text. New York: Hill and Wang, 1975. Print.

In The Pleasure and the Text, Barthes distinguishes between texts that give pleasure to the reader and texts the provide bliss to the reader. To make this distinction, Barthes further separates texts into two types: readerly/readable texts and the writerly/writeable texts. While readerly texts can derive pleasure, writerly texts can derive bliss. The difference between a readerly text and a writerly text is the reader’s position within the text. Texts that maintain readers as a subject are strictly readerly texts while texts that challenge convention, literary codes, cultural positions, etc. can be writerly texts which, in turn, give bliss. A writerly text is one that allows the reader to leave his or her subjective position. A writerly text allows the reader to extend past his/her own body, conscious, and even language to understand the text as something beyond any of those things, but which is also reflective of the self and of each of those things too. Additionally, a writerly text allows the reader to commune, in a way, with the author in such a way that their minds meld together as if in union. This union, however, is perhaps more blissful than physical union, as it transcends space and time as a result of the text. The text, via this union, becomes the product of their experience – the offspring of their collective joining.

Barthes distinction between what constitutes the reader as a subject opens the floor for interesting discussion of the player’s position in games. The first debate to be had, however, is how we define subject between text and game. Some might argue the readers’ position in a text is not unlike the player’s position in a game. Other would say that the key difference is one of agency. The agency of a reader is kept outside the text. The reader is free to start and stop, to skip pages, to change pace, etc. On the other hand, the player’s agency exists both in and outside of the game. His or her choices not only impact the external experience, but the internal experience of the code and its representation to the player. Given this second understanding, the player constitutes meaning beyond his/her subjective position and enters into a state of flow – a union between him/herself and the game.

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