Coverlet: A Lover’s Discourse

… A situation in which it’s not just another’s languages that we don’t understand but not even our own.   — Emre Kertesz, from Dossier K.


Coverlet: A Lover’s Discourse (2013).  54×82″ Book pages, quilt batting, cotton fabric, thread, and satin binding tape.

The idea for a quilted coverlet simmered for weeks before I could come up with a method to actually make it work. This coverlet is made from the pages of Fragments d’un discours amoureux ( or A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments) by Roland Barthes. I used a French edition published in 1978 by Editions du Seuil, Paris.  It looks identical to my own copy in English, including the multiple fonts used for headers, footnotes, and author references used throughout.

The pages are soft and feel like flannel. I carefully crumpled each page until the paper was pliable and flexible enough to sew together. I learned this method as a child in Texas making “Indian clothes” from brown paper grocery bags. The rigid paper bag gets more flexible as it is repeatedly crumpled and distressed, creating a  leather-like fabric. The quilted pages are sewn in straight rows of rectangles (trimmed minimally) from the original pages. There is a felt layer and cotton batting between the readable surface and the cotton backing. The edges are trimmed with blanket binding tape.


Two details show the texture of the pages.


A Lover’s Discourse is an amazing text –smart, funny, and wildly associative– that created a deep impression on my 20s. The study (and creative application) of semiotics and representation were just beginning to percolate (in English, at least) and there was a huge ocean of theoretical ground to cover. Wading into that ocean was to be steeped in the confluences of feminism, reflexivity, representation, and language theory. Barthes is, to my mind, one of the more generous in this era of radical thinkers. His later focus on the pleasures of the text and the role of the reader in the ultimate meaning of a work still ring true for me.

Barthes lived with his mother for much of his adult life, and wrote extensively about mourning her after her death (See Mourning Diary) . He continued to live in her house until his own death a few years later. This coverlet is a love letter to Mr. Barthes, and would have graciously fit his twin-sized bed.


I am a librarian and artist living in Eugene, Oregon — where it is often damp and always green.