Roland Barthes as translated by Richard Miller reflects at one point in the Pleasure of the Text upon passages that are skipped over boldly or skimmed only. And as the eye roves over the page, tempted to fly in concert with the hand holding the finger behind the leaf and ready to turn, poised to flip on, a term arrests attention. Hooked, the reading slows.
Tmesis, source or figure of pleasure, here confronts two prosaic edges with one another; it sets what is useful to a knowledge of the secret against what is useless to such knowledge; tmesis is a seam or flaw resulting from a simple principle of functionality; it does not occur at the level of the structure of languages but only at the moment of their consumption; the author cannot predict tmesis: he cannot choose to write what will not be read. And yet, it is the very rhythm of what is read and what is not read that creates the pleasure of […]
Technically, tmesis is not the joining of edge to edge. Tmesis is an incision. The suture effect relies upon re-connecting. Between the parts of a compound word other words are inserted.
Barthes is being naughty. As a figure of pleasure, tmesis marks a source of castration. Oddly given the context the power seems to be on the reader’s side to abuse the integrity of the text. The reader can choose what parts to read. Barthes underscores such practices as pleasurable. But the poor reader is deluded if said poor reader understands “he [the author] cannot choose to write what will not be read” as referencing the passages that may be skipped. The “will not be read” is far more categorical. The will not be read by the reader is not symmetrical to the will not be written by the author. The author cannot choose to write it. He cannot write it.
But that doesn’t mean that through the agency of the writer the will-not-be-read will not be written.
Confused? There are two types of will-not-be-read. One read at least once by the author and not by the reader (or at least not read in a given time interval or gathering of such intervals). The other will-not-be-read has not been read by either author or reader. And by definition will not be read. But that doesn’t mean it will not be.
A short cut through all this is to pay attention to the gender of the pronoun and transcode the statement about choice. She cannot [but] choose to write what will not be read. And why not bend it further with use and mention and a proper name: Barthes cannot but choose to write what will not be read.
And so for day 8