One of my favorite poststructuralists Roland Barthes in Pleasure of the Text, 1975, creates a very complex binary of literary pleasure (I also have a more involved continuum here):


Text of Bliss

Text of Pleasure

crisis (puts the reader in crisis with her relationship with language)

comfortable (the comfortable practice of reading)

imposes a state of loss, shock, disturbance




may even bore (it isn’t a heart-stopping ride with a bang a minute)

grants euphoria

unsettles the reader’s historical, cultural, psychological assumptions, the consistency of her tastes, values, memories

comes from culture and does not break with it; culture penetrates freely

orgasmic, erotic (the flash of skin between two pieces of clothing)

worn-out language


automatic, frigid

perverse focus on language

the world of criticism—seeks to create frigid, static texts of pleasure