Discuss the terms plaisir/jouissance by Roland Barthes

The terms plaisir/jouissance are used with a special signification by Roland Barthes in his book Le Plaisir du texte (1973), a discussion of the lisible/scriptible or readerly/writerly text. The writerly text, he opines, offers two kinds of enjoyment: plaisir, pleasure’; and jouissance, ‘bliss’. Jouissance carries connotations of ecstasy and sexual delight, and Barthes offers an aesthetics based on the pleasure of the body. To clarify his distinction he suggests that the plaisir taken in a text comes through the more or less straightforward processes of reading, while the jouissance, a heightened form of pleasure, derives from a sense of interruption, a ‘breakdown’ or gap, where, perhaps, something unorthodox or unexpected occurs. The comforts of plaisir are compatible with texts which are lisible; while the  comforts and surprises of jouissance arise from the scriptible. He elaborates with a kind of erotic analogy, suggesting that the focus of erotic pleasure is the place where naked flesh meets a garment, where ‘the garment gapes’. This is analogous to jouissance. However, he also suggests that the ‘text of bliss’ may impose a ‘state of loss’; it is a text that discomforts and ‘unsettles the reader’s historical, cultural, psychological assumptions, the consistency of his tastes, values, memories, brings to a crisis his relation with language’.

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