Dreams of the Neutral

In a set of lectures given in 1977-78, Roland Barthes envisions the Neutral: that which, when confronted with a binary such as masculine/feminine or light/dark, “outplays the paradigm”, baffles it, suspends the conflict, introduces a third term.

His language is, importantly, not of ‘rejecting’ the binary, which would employ (if in a negative way) the language of assertion — Barthes is suspicious of language itself and its creation of conditions of opposition. “Rejection” feels plodding, dogmatic: one can see within the idea its outline of another paradigm, binary versus non-binary, with its frequent conversion into conforming versus transgressive.

Consider the following routine on Cyr wheel (that part starts at about 0:55) with a ‘traditionally’ feminine routine below for comparison: