The Veiling of Homoerotic Desire in Roland Barthes' S/Z

Carrie Watterson

The first reference to Zambinella's protector occurs in the dark outside the theater: Sarrasine is accosted by a strange man, who warns him of the risk to his life in crossing Cardinal Cicognara. Although the sinister nature of the encounter amplifies the suspicion inherent in a suggestion that a man of high rank in the church is willing to murder on Zambinella's behalf,* Barthes fails to find anything of note in such a strong bond between holy man and castrato. Despite Balzac's allusions to the corruption and of the Church, Barthes only comments on it in reference to the mood of an isolated scene. When confronted by the information that the orgy has relocated to the Cardinal's estate, he explicitly enscribes the episode's irrelevance. When the Cardinal is finally identified as Zambinella's " amorous protector," (S/Z, 186) Barthes notes this revelation, not in his direct commentary on the primary text, but as a passing comment in a larger exposition on the revelatory consequences upon Sarrasine. The Cardinal's outrageous moral status culminates in his involvement in murder, which Barthes has prolonged through careful dissection of the ACT. throughout his commentary. With Sarrasine's dying words, Balzac explicitly states the irony of the Cardinal's involvement in a mortal sin, yet Barthes can only read that statement in relation to Sarrasine's passive acceptance of death as the final castration.

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