“Retreat Ahead”? F. Scott Fitzgerald, Andy Warhol, and J.G. Ballard.

Alienation, atrocity, and a possible path to salvation

Marc Barham
Counter Arts

--

The Great Gatsby (1974) (Wikimedia)

There is only one way left to escape the alienation of present-day society: to retreat ahead of it.”
Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text

When I read Barthes’ quote above it was, of course, anything but straightforward to understand what he was getting at. Of course, its point and significance lie in our attempt — if so inclined and of course interested enough — to deconstruct what Barthes was trying to tell us. That is the very essence of Roland Barthes.

I do not want to look at Barthes’ oeuvre but wish to unravel his prognostication upon alienation in the modern world in this one particular line.

It is a line so pregnant with meaning that it reminds me of Shakespeare and the words and constructs he creates and uses to release the sign — imprisoned inside a word — from its base meaning into innumerable connotations and applications beyond the immediate definition. There is always a semantic chain reaction.

For me, this is the wonder of Barthes — and of course the genius of Shakespeare — that this description of ‘alienation, as requiring us to ‘retreat ahead of it’ is so cryptic and profound.

--

--

Marc Barham
Counter Arts

Column @ timetravelnexus.com on iconic books, TV shows/films: Time Travel Peregrinations. Reviewed all episodes of ‘Dark’ @ site. https://linktr.ee/marcbarham64