Roland Barthes at the Collège de France

Roland Barthes at the Collège de France

Roland Barthes at the Collège de France

Roland Barthes at the Collège de France

Excerpt

Il essaye (ou il ne peut s’empêcher) de tenir un discours qui ne s’énonce pas
au nom de la Loi et/ou de la Violence; c’est-à-dire qui ne soit ni politique,
ni religieux, ni scientifique. Il ne lui reste donc plus que le discours esthétique.
Comment pourrions-nous encore appeler ce type de discours? Tout
simplement le discours individualiste.

Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes (inédits)

The shield of the Collège de France shows a book resting on a leafy background, with the legend ‘Docet Omnia’ – ‘Everything is taught’ – framed by stars. It is inlaid in the floor of the Collège’s main entrance on Rue des écoles in Paris. Elsewhere in the building, Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phrase describing the institution’s promotion of experimental, unregulated teaching is carved in large gilded letters into the wall: ‘Ce que le Collège de France, depuis sa fondation, est chargé de donner à ses auditeurs, ce ne sont pas des vérités acquises, c’est l’idée d’une recherche libre’. Roland Barthes taught at the Collège de France from 1977 to 1980 as holder of the Chair of Literary Semiology. He imagined having his own motto for his lectures. Not carven, but effaceable, it would be a sign hung beside the bust of Henri Bergson in the lecture theatre where Barthes lectured on Saturday mornings. The sign would feature a quotation from Montaigne’s Essais: ‘Je n’enseigne point. Je raconte’. Montaigne was an enthusiastic adopter of mottoes, having Greek and Latin maxims, many of them drawn from Sceptic texts, cut into the rafters of his study: ‘Iudicio alternare’, he reminded himself, and ‘Que sçay-je?’ The carvings at the Château de Montaigne prioritise inquiry, reflection, and abstention from quick decisions. Barthes is drawn to this intellectual spirit: he reminds his audience in 1978 of the medal that Montaigne had had struck in 1576, which depicted a set of balanced scales, and the Pyrrhonian legend ‘Epokhe’: I hold back. Barthes imagines erecting a notice which would demonstrate that he too will abstain from judgment: ‘Comment mettre sur ma demeure ou mon entreprise intellectuelle un écriteau: “Fermeture de jugement pour congé annuel”?’ (N, 254).

The imagined mottoes that Barthes wishes to display upon his . . .

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