3 Answers

  1. Roland Barthes, who coined this expression, wrote that it is difficult to do this, and they do not particularly try. He speaks of the “zero degree of writing “in relation to Camus's” white writing”, when he tried to present a kind of abstraction instead of literature. But the denial of literature is a utopia that is rarely achievable in literature (and is it really necessary)?

    Camus's novella “The Outsider” is written in the first person in short, clear phrases in the past tense. The reader looks at events through the eyes of Meursault and for this reason identifies with him. Researchers described the inevitable unfolding of the action, as if in an ancient Greek tragedy, as a “new classicism”, and noted the author's” rational, cold, disciplined style”.

    I wonder, though, why they tried to get rid of literature? “Writing” is the techniques that writers use-imagery, a certain style, manner, etc., everything that connects a person with the past and present. Social status, events in society affect the writer, the letter turns into a kind of fossil. How do I make an email free? Imagine it in a negative way, that is, get rid of all these fossils. So what? Writing will then appear in an inert and neutral form, where all social features of the language will be destroyed, but will Literature find a place in this series of equations?

  2. Zero degree writing is primarily a metaphor. This is not a scientific concept. There is no point in trying to “embody a metaphor”, to achieve a zero degree of writing.

    However, it would be necessary to understand its meaning.

    The meaning, as I understand it, is simple:

    a) any narrative (including this one) says something. Here the preposition “O” is important, which is highlighted by a capslock. It tells about some events, heroes, things, their locations, the vicissitudes of heroes, etc. These events are not given directly to the reader, he is not a participant in them, he does not sail with the Greek ships to Troy. He is a reader;

    b) but simultaneously with the” narrative about”, an event of the narrative itself occurs, and this event actually occurs. You sit in a chair, lie on the couch, ride the subway and you – what are you doing? – they are immersed in some kind of story, narration.

    This situation can be (also metaphorically) designated as a letter of the “first degree”: there is what is being told, and there is the story itself. We are all masters of the first degree of writing (at least, even if we didn't know that we were speaking in prose).

    The zero-degree metaphor of writing proclaims the (truly utopian) goal of disposing of the “o”. That is, to achieve” pure ” writing.

    I am not sure that the example (Camus ' text) was chosen by Barthes in the most successful way to demonstrate his theoretical idea. But what is there is there.

    Bart himself could not help but understand that his very description of “pure writing”, letters of the zero degree, is a traditional letter, a letter of the “first degree”.

    Why was it “necessary” at all (and not just for Bart)?

    In addition to cultural and historical foundations and traditions (this is France, the birthplace – in a sense-of symbolism, the birthplace of surrealism), there are metaphysical, undeclared grounds for the zero degree of writing as a goal.

    If I am not mistaken, somewhere in Barth's later-already completely metaphorical – works we are talking about the hum of language, the hum of signifiers. This buzz is provided by the sliding of signifiers over denotations, it is non-repetitive and is an inexhaustible source of pleasure from the text.

    I suspect that this hum of language is immortal.

    Zero-degree writing is essentially a religious metaphor. Trying to “reach” it is equivalent to creating a world out of the ten utterances of Genesis. Here, of course, there is a fully modernist message that is common to so many in the 20th century.

  3. As an example of attempts to get to the zero degree, we can offer first of all the prose of Maurice Blanchot, then representatives of the “new novel”, especially Alain Robbe-Grillet, to some extent part of the work of John Barth and Thomas Pynchon can also be considered as a movement in this direction. Although I don't think all of these are very convincing attempts.

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