The Preparation of the Novel: Lecture Courses and Seminars at the College De France (1978-1979 and 1979-1980)

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2010-11-02
  • Publisher: Columbia Univ Pr

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Completed just weeks before his death, these lectures mark a critical juncture in the career of Roland Barthes, declaring the intention, deeply felt, to compose a novel through an entirely untested method of writing. Unfolding over the course of two years, Barthes engaged in a unique pedagogical experiment: he would combine teaching and writing to "simulate" the creation of a novel, exploring every step of the collaborative process along the way.Barthes's lectures move from the inception of an idea and the need to write somethingto the actual decision making, planning, and material act of producing a book. He meets the difficulty of transitioning from short, concise expressions (exemplified by his favorite literary form, haiku) to longer, uninterrupted flows of narrative, and he encounters a number of trials and setbacks. Barthes takes solace in a diverse group of writers, including Dante, whose own opus was similarly inspired by the death of a loved one. He also turns to classical philosophy and Taoism and the works of Chateaubriand, Flaubert, Kafka, and Proust. This volume includes eight elliptical plans for Barthes's unwritten novel, which he titled Vita Nova, and notes that shed light on the critic's view of photography. Along with Columbia University Press's The Neutral: Lecture Course at the College de France (1977-1978)and a third forthcoming collection of Barthes lectures, this volume completes a profound exploration into the labor and love of writing.


A group of us go in two cars to the Waterfall (a pretty little valley on the way to Rabat). The same, uninterrupted sadness, a kind of listlessness that (since a recent bereavement) bears upon everything I do, everything I think. Return, an empty apartment, a difficult time: the afternoon (I'll speak of it again). Alone, sad? Marinade. I reflect with enough intensity. The beginnings of an idea: something like a "literary" conversion -- it's those two very old words that occur to me: to enter into literature, into writing; to write, as if I'd never written before: to do only that.

Will I really write a novel? I'll answer this and only this. I'll proceed as if I were going to write one.

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