Roland Barthes – The Study of Modern Myth In de Beauvoir’s France

Posted: April 16, 2019 in Uncategorized

Not sure I agree with the opening paragraph of the article below, though the statement as a whole is worth considering. In fact, Roland Barthes adopts his interest in mythology from the illustrious Claude Levi-Strauss, whose Structural Anthropology is the unspoken complement, in Beatriz Colomina’s “Split Wall”, to the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud. Barthes merely directs Levi-Strauss’s method of analysis away from archaic cultures and towards contemporary French society. But what is myth anyway? For Barthes, myth is a way of thinking automatically and in shorthand, as if in a dream. Here, though, thought does not take the form of complete syllogisms and conscious inferences. Rather, it takes the form of powerful condensed images which are heavily laden with readymade meanings and foregone conclusions – “the brain of Einstein is the very embodiment of intelligence”.

Indeed, so powerful are such images that, for Barthes, we do not think them so much as they think us. It requires great awareness and continuous effort for us ‘subjects’ (the technical term for the location of human consciousness within a larger culture apparatus or structure) not to function as a mere passive objects of such generalized sign systems.

In this appealing and luminous collection of essays, Roland Barthes examines the mundane and exposes hidden texts, causing the reader to look afresh at the famous landmark and symbol of Paris, and also at the Tour de France, the visit to Paris of Billy Graham, the flooding of the Seine—and other shared events and aspects of everyday experience.


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