Wow! Roland Barthes' "The Pleasure of the Text" was truly an interesting and informative book. Though originally published in 1973, it was humorous to read a "Frenchman's" take on literary pleasure - reading a book and the enjoyment we get. Where does it come from? How does it come to be?
It seems that French critics are more Romanticists than anything. He used quite a bit of references to erotica and sexual desire to explain the allegory of stories and poems. It was a far different take than the American literary criticism I was used to, and definitely opened my eyes to a new way of looking at text.
He gave great insight on how to be a transparent voice: how the reader is aware of the author, but allows the author entry into their mind and heart to tell the tale, all the while keeping their presence alive in their subconscious. "The reader (must cruise him) without knowing where he is" (p. 4).
He said and I quote, "it is the IDEA of possibility that excites, not the possibility being possible" (p. 10). Going back to his erotic interpretation, he wrote that "society lives according to a cleavage" (p. 24), which opened my mind to an interesting perspective. The reader doesn't get the most satisfaction from the impossible becoming possible. The most excitement comes from the IDEA that it may be possible, the excitement of adventure in front of you, but not actually grasping it.
He mentioned something that I really felt deep down. On page 41, he wrote that "the bastard form of mass culture is humiliated repetition". This really resonated with me, because I feel it accurately describes our current cultural notion of what poetry and art is. Most of the "poems" on social media that I see, limited to 4-line stanzas at best, are more pick-me-ups than actual art.
I firmly believe that keeping a subjective viewpoint towards art and literature is the only way to keep our society progressing as intellectuals.
An older breakdown of literary criticism, but ultimately eye-opening and not outdated.