Barthes: A Very Short Introduction
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Roland Barthes was the leading figure of French Structuralism, the theoretical movement of the 1960s which revolutionized the study of literature and culture, as well as history and psychoanalysis. But Barthes was a man who disliked orthodoxies. His shifting positions and theoretical interests make him hard to grasp and assess. This book surveys Barthes' work in clear, accessible prose, highlighting what is most interesting and important in his work today. In particular, the book describes the many projects, which Barthes explored and which helped to change the way we think about a range of cultural phenomena--from literature, fashion, wrestling, and advertising to notions of the self, of history, and of nature.
‘individual’, the given which makes my body separate from other bodies and appropriates suffering or pleasure to it: it is my enjoying body [ corps de jouissance] I encounter. And this enjoying body is also my historical subject; for it is at the end of a very complex process combining biographical, historical, sociological and neurotic elements (education, social class, childhood configuration, etc.) 77 that I balance the contradictory interplay of (cultural) pleasure and (non- cultural)
subject is not master of the language that it speaks. I ‘know’ English in the sense that my body can speak, write, and understand English, but I cannot bring to consciousness the vast and complex system of norms that constitute my knowledge. Noam Chomsky argues that we should not speak of children ‘learning a language’, as if this were an act of consciousness, but of language ‘growing’ in them. He calls language a ‘mental organ’, relating it to the body so as to stress that much more than
boy. pp. 115–16/73 This is how the book concludes: not ‘no more boys’ but no more possibility of love for or the love of any single boy. If François Wahl was thought to have made a dubious decision in publishing these texts, which altered the image of Barthes, he was less forthcoming in other respects: he did not give Louis-Jean Calvet, author of a well-researched and informative biography, permission to quote from Barthes’s extensive correspondence, and he refused to allow thes
moment of the day. Only when you are sleeping are you sure of not sinning.’ A book should be written, he says, ‘about the phenomenon and the mythology of dieting’.28 There is still a critical edge, but the target is more likely to be assumptions and habits of Americans (as in the dieting interview) or possibly of French intellectuals than of the French bourgeoisie, as had been the case in the days of Mythologies. Barthes writes that for a long time he believed that intellectuals should
best students pursue their university education. But tuberculosis made its first appearance and he was sent to the Pyrenees for a cure. A year later he returned to Paris and worked toward a university degree in French, Latin, and Greek, devoting much time to performing classical plays with a group he helped to found. When war began in 1939, Barthes, who had been exempted from military service, worked in lycées in Biarritz and Paris, but in 1941 a recurrence of tuberculosis put an end to