What is it that we do when we enjoy a text? What is the pleasure of reading? Barthes's answers to these questions constitute, as Richard Howard has said, "perhaps for the first time in the history of criticism . . . not only a poetics of reading . . . but a much more difficult achievement, an erotics of reading . . . Like filings which gather to form a figure in a magnetic field, the parts and pieces here do come together, determined to affirm the pleasure we must take in our reading as against the indifference of (mere) knowledge."
"Barthes repeatedly compared teaching to play, reading to eros, writing to seduction. His voice became more and more personal, more full of grain, as he called it; his intellectual art more openly a performance, like that of the other great anti-systematizers. But whereas Nietzsche addresses the reader in many tones, mostly aggressive, Barthes invariably performs in an affable register. There are no rude or prophetic claims, no pleadings with the reader, and no efforts not to be understood. This is seduction as play, never violation. All of Barthes's work is an exploration of the histrionic or ludic; in many ingenious modes, a plea for savor, for a festive (rather than dogmatic or credulous) relation to ideas. For Barthes, as for Nietzsche, the point is to make us bold, agile, subtle, intelligent, detached. And to give pleasure."—Susan Sontag