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

Carrie Watterson

Nothing is said of the mother, but this will not be held against us. (Derrida, 143)

Desire exists in the irrecoverable distance between the signifier and the signified. In "Plato's Pharmacy," it is Socrates' desire for "infinite self-presence" (109) which informs his preference of speech over writing.

"Behind the Western logos of presence, Derrida locates an archi-trace or differance which that logos would ideally forget, but this then requires a psychic account of how/why that forgetting takes place." (Rose, 21)
This psychic account occurs in the Oedipal family scene: "as a living thing, logos issues from a father." (Derrida, 143) Speech holds the privileged position of legitimate son; its exists only in the presence of the father. The father is always available to be interrogated, to defend the integrity of the son, the truth of the meaning and intention of logos. Writing, however, is the bastard son: "by the voice of its father it cannot be avowed, recognized." (148) It is the very impossibility of paternal recognition that defines writing as "weakened speech, something not completely dead." (143) Socrates' valorization of unity with the father is, however, illusory. The unity desired is the full presence of eidos; the father, as available through speech, is as much an intermediary of true presence as he is through writing. To desire his presence is to miss the point. "Language can only operate by designating an object in its absence." (Rose, 54) This is the moment of recognition illustrated in Freud's metaphor of castration; desire is born of the finality of separation. It is the perpetually unfillable desire for presence that infuses speech, and especially, writing with its power. The quest for presence drives the reader through the infinite possibility of signification to unearth the richness of multiplicity of meaning inherent in the signifier.

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