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

Carrie Watterson

Barthes is so eager to find evidence for Sarrasine's licentious character that kneading's arcane sexual connotation does not slip by him. When confronted, however, with the irony of "evil tongues" (S/Z, 96) which presume to accuse the older priests of tolerance of scandalous behavior, Barthes' only response is a very specious stereotype of the inverse relation between severity and age. He does not choose to explore the potential REF. from "shock" (96) to incidences of physical abuse or indulgence of lewdness to sexual abuse in parochial schools by clergy. In a later passage, in noting an even more abstract interpretation of Sarrasine's awareness of Zambinella's castration to pederasty, Barthes excludes the possibility of pederasty from the rest of the narrative. Barthes exhibits a pointed blindness in overlooking any suggestion of lapse in the sexual rigidity of of the Fathers within the primary text.

Moreover, Sarrasine spends an indeterminate but formative time under the care of the Jesuits. During this period, his artistic and sexual energies are channeled through pornographic and blasphemous carvings and drawings. Yet Barthes never suggests that the priests play the role that Bouchardon plays in castrating Sarrasine. If their power over him is incomplete, it is no less so than Mme de Rochefide's power over the narrator. Yet, even though they have also conspired to prevent him from sexual contact and have certainly kept him under their surviellance, the priesthood is not sullied by even a provisional contact with the castration camp.

Cyberspace Web Gender Matters Origin