chapter  9
19 Pages

Masochism and sentimentality

Barthes’s Schumann and Schumann’s Chopin
ByStephen Downes

This essay explores the link between sentimentalism and masochism by bringing into critical relationship Roland Barthes’s ‘sentimental’ approaches in Camera Lucida and A Lover’s Discourse with his writings on Robert Schumann. Sentimentalism is based upon the sympathetic response to spectacles of suffering, the adopting of the other’s agony as one’s own and, through that pain, a seeking of some state of union with that other. Barthes’s ‘punctum’ is a sentimental wounding which can open one up to another. The masochist stages their own suffering as a mode through which to achieve some desired, altered state of union. Schumann’s ‘Chopin’ in his Carnaval is analysed as a sentimental and masochistic identification with Chopin as a pained and suffering figure.