Compendium | Ask the Reanimated Corpse of Roland Barthes!

Famed French philosopher, now resurrected, dishes on Facebook

Dear Reanimated Corpse of Roland Barthes,

Lately, I haven’t been keeping up very well with the girl of my dreams. We usually communicate by Facebook chat, but these days, she’s taking a long time to respond, if at all. Now I feel as if I message her again, I will seem too eager. What am I to do, Rolly?

—Cautious in Cadillac

The Check Mark
face-book / Facebook

The subject is caught between showing nothing (meaningless gestures) and showing too much, which renders him in stasis, a paroxysm of non-action. 

  • I too have found myself on Facebook in my time back from the grave, though my ‘friends’ are few. But I too feel this desire you have, Cautious; for my loved object has been dead for nearly 33 years, yet I still accept that madness of love to her. But I will not speak of the ‘after-life’ or of what happens ‘after death.’
  • I realize that I died precisely when I should have. For Facebook (the internet) is the author of my despair. As I say in A Lover’s Discourse (or, as the figure says), as I imagine myself (the figure imagines himself) dying, “I see the lives of others continuing, without change.”
    When the relationship ends, in most cases, we are still ‘friends’ on Facebook (and this humorously mirrors the common refrain, “but let us remain friends”). Across our newsfeed (in my native tongue, «fil d’actualité»), the image of our past lover appears unexpectedly, and we are engulfed by pain, their life continuing without us, happily. «Fil d’actualité» – the wire of news, the wire by which the amorous subject is strangled.
  • The image of the other on Facebook is always accessible. Facebook has become somewhat sentient as it has progressed, so, as we go to type the first letter of a name, Facebook remembers what we typed before, when we were gripped in passion, and there appears the rest of the previous loved object’s name, a palimpsest. Will our desire fill this name?  Awash in sentimentality, nostalgia, we go back through their images. It is the new ones which strike the subject most, as he sees the new life, the life beyond their union.
  • ‘To like.’ In French, on Facebook, this is «j’aime». I love. And yet, like the avowal of love, it becomes tautology. I like because I like. «J’aime» or “I like” is missing the «t’», the recipient. I do not know if I am loved by the ‘like’ or merely my sentiment – my witty comment, my photo (my image) – is all that is loved by the amorous object.
  • When the subject of A Lover’s Discourse (only a fool would think that it is me, the (dead (more than just post-structurally)) author) writes letters to the amorous object, he is dismayed by the lack of response, but still clings to the idea that the amorous other does still care for him. To return to you, Cautious, you are caught in the ‘fade-out.’
    You are ‘abandoned by the other,’ yet you still labour under the idea of «pourquoi?» – “Why don’t you tell me that you love me?” It is in the check mark that this ‘fade-out’ resides. The check mark, that the loved has seen your message, but chooses not to respond: this is the scar. They respond with effort, after some time. To keep messaging is to be over-exuberant, to not properly hide our passions. But then there is no way to show our love either, for «j’aime» means nothing in this realm.
  • There is a zen koan: Eshun, an elderly monk, climbs to the top of her funeral pyre, ready to die, lighting it ablaze. “O nun!” shouts one monk, “is it hot in there?”
    “Such a matter would concern only a stupid person like yourself,” answered Eshun. The flames arose, and she passed away.
  • Facebook is the funeral pyre; we climb into it, and accept the painful nothingness that it inflicts.

Send questions to compendium@mcgilldaily.com so the Reanimated Corpse of Roland Barthes can answer YOUR questions about love!


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