the archive and movement laboratory of A House Unbuilt... spending at least an hour a day, making space, marking time,—making enough room to feel, tremendously, again.


Additional Pages

HUB 258:

2. “As you see,” writes the Marquise de Merteuil, “when you write someone, it is for that person and not for yourself, so you must be sure not to say what you think, but rather what will please that person.” The Marquise is not in love; what she postulates is a correspondence, i.e., a tactical enterprise to defend positions, make conquests; this enterprise must reconnoiter the positions (the sub-groups) of the adverse group, i.e., must articulate the other’s image in various points which the letter will try to touch (in this sense, “correspondence” is precisely the word to use, in its mathematical sense). But for the lover the letter has no tactical value: it is purely expressive—at most, flattering (but here flattery is not a matter of self-interest, merely the language of devotion); what I engage in with the other is a relation, not a correspondence: the relation brings together two images. You are everywhere, your image is total, Werther writes to Charlotte, in various ways.

3. Like desire, the love letter waits for an answer; it implicitly enjoins the other to reply, for without a reply the other’s image changes, becomes other. This is what the young Freud explains so authoritatively to his fiancee: “Yet I don’t want my letters to keep remaining unanswered, and I shall stop writing you altogether if you don’t write back. Perpetual monologues apropos of a loved being, which are neither corrected nor nourished by that being, lead to erroneous notions concerning mutual relations, and make us strangers to each other when we meet again, so that we find things different from what, without realizing it, we imagined.” (The one who would accept the “injustices” of communication, the one who would continue speaking lightly, tenderly, without being answered, would acquire a great mastery: the mastery of the Mother.)

—from Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse, pp. 157-159 on “The Love Letter”… considering difference between correspondence and letter, see previous post (HUB 256)


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