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

Beyond denoting the truth, Chigi's little speech is fatal in two other ways, according to the images it releases. First, it denominates the boy in Zambinella, forces Sarrasine to retreat from the superlative Woman to the scamp (the Neapolitan boy with kinky hair) : he produces in the subject what we might call a paradigmatic fall : two diametrically opposed terms (on the one hand the Super-Woman, end and foundation of Art, and on the other a dirty, tattered Neapolitan street boy) are suddenly brought together in one person: the impossible conjunction (to use Machiavelli's phrase) occurs; meaning, statutorily based on difference, is abolished: there is no more meaning, and this subversion is fatal.* Further, by evoking the time prior to Zambinella's castration (this is not speculation on our part but merely a development of the connotation), Chigi releases a scene, a whole little anterior novel: the ragazzo taken in and kept by the old man who takes charge of both his operation (I paid for everything ) and his education, the ingratitude of the protégé on his way to stardom, cynically taking a richer, more powerful, and visibly more amorous protector (the Cardinal). The image clearly has a sadistic function: it forces Sarrasine to read his beloved as a boy (the only touch of pederasty in the entire story)*; it vulgarizes castration, situated as a perfectly real surgical operation (dated, endowed with a before and after ); last, it exposes Chigi as the literal castrator (the one who paid for the operation); now it is this same Chigi who leads Sarrasine to castration and death through the insignificant froth of his prattle: a colorless mediator, lacking symbolic scale, engulfed in contingency, a self-assured upholder of the endoxal Law, but one who, precisely because situated outside meaning, is the very figure of "fate." This is the aggressive function of chatter (Proust and James would say: gossip ), the essence of the discourse of others, and thereby the deadliest language imaginable. (S/Z, 186)

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