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Writing about the text, writing with the text: metalanguage and writing in the works of Roland Barthes

Grant number: 18/03933-1
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): August 01, 2018
Effective date (End): October 31, 2021
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Literature - Modern Foreign Literatures
Principal researcher:Claudia Consuelo Amigo Pino
Grantee:Paulo Procopio de Araujo Ferraz
Home Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


Metalanguage is, generally, seen as a way of describing an object-language. Nevertheless, during our thesis, in which we studied the works of Roland Barthes, Lucien Goldmann and Charles Mauron, we noticed that the separation between the metalanguage and the object-language is not so simple to establish. Barthes reflected intensely on the subject, adopting an ambiguous position: he defended the necessity of a purely descriptive metalanguage, which should remain separated from the object-language and, at the same time, he insisted on the impossibility of distinguishing them. Many commentators of Barthes' works have noticed this ambiguity. However, this discussion never resulted in a description of the ways in which the author's writing accomplishes this without directly contradicting itself. To understand this, we examined his use of the word "palinode". The palinode, normally seen as a correction of previous opinions, is used by Barthes as a method of creating an instability in his speech. Yet, the author changes opinions between two sentences rather than between two different speeches. To understand these changes, "epanorthosis", a figure of speech that operates in a much smaller scale, seems to be a more adequate concept. This figure generates constant shifts that prevent readers from interpreting the totality of Barthes' works as a metalinguistic effort, without necessarily invalidating its conclusions. When trying to utilize the concepts developed by this author, the reader must acknowledge that these concepts cannot be seen as a part of a coherent system of thought. A reflection on the metalanguage in Barthes' texts and the strategies the author uses to negate some of its effects can help researches ponder on the multiple aspects of the way we write about knowledge. (AU)

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