A Lover's Discourse: Fragments Summary & Study Guide

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A Lover's Discourse: Fragments Summary & Study Guide Description

A Lover's Discourse: Fragments Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on A Lover's Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes.

The book "A Lover's Discourse, Fragments" is a work by Roland Barthes, translated from French to English by Richard Howard. As suggested by the title, the work covers Barthes' thoughts and feelings about the internal lover's language. This language is silent and is more aptly described as the thought process a lover goes through in dealing with his relationship. Barthes further defines the process as an Image-repertoire; that is, a set of realities that exist in the lover's mind about his relationship. This image-repertoire is the reality of the lover whether actually true or not outside his internal discourse. It is fragile and vulnerable to disruption. The writings offer an interesting analysis of the lover's discourse for everyone—those having been in love as well as those anticipating the eventuality.

Barthes describes how the lover positions himself for misery as his thoughts fight against one another. For example, the man waiting in a restaurant for his tardy lover begins to wonder if there was a miscommunication. Was this the correct meeting time? Place? Will the man look too needy, too anxious if he telephones his lover as to her whereabouts? Wonder can soon turn to anger. How could the other behave so carelessly? How could the other behave so rudely? However, with the continuing absence of the loved one, this pique then devolves into anxiety and desperation. The relationship is dead. The other has found someone else; it is over. Each developing phase of this lover's one-sided discourse becomes the reality—all blown to shatters when the other finally appears.

The internal conflict over how to deal with the other is infinite and feeds upon itself. One's words, the thoughts in his mind, defining one's misery, insecurity in the other are driven back down by counter other words. However, it is an endless cycle: the bad thoughts are tamped back down by the good thoughts which give way to more negative words. It is a self-induced misery which has no end and no winner. The insecure lover in a self-perceived lop-sided relationship is the victim of his own internal debate.

The self-expressions of waiting, anxiety, memory, exuberance, dependency as presented by Barthes are food for thought. Each lover experiences his unique joy along with that of his misery in his own relationship. The discourse offered in this tome may be considered as suggestions in some cases and as affirmations in other experiences. The reader has a wide-ranging plethora of thought and emotion to which he can relate.

Barthes ties in some lover's discourse to childhood reactions and relationships. He makes quite a few references to the fear of abandonment by the child. When the mother is away, the child may think she is never coming back—she is dead. The mother returns and the child is satisfied for the time being. The mother will depart again. The child becomes accustomed to the feelings of abandonment but never comes to like them. Likewise, the adult lover applies many of these childhood feelings to his love relationship. While he normally cannot react to a situation like a child, his feelings of abandonment and of the death of the other (end of the relationship) are just as strong as the child's.

Barthes uses many references not generally direct quotes but more generally. He bases some of his thoughts and writings on Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, Plato's Symposium, Nietzsche, Freud and many others. His use of these references is his way of reaffirming his own thoughts and conclusions about the mystical discourse of lovers. It is not one literal language but is the same virtual language of lovers from all corners of the earth.

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