Roland Gérard Barthes (12 November 1915 – 26 March 1980) was a French literary theorist, philosopher, linguist, critic, and semiotician. Barthes’ ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, social theory, design theory, anthropology and post-structuralism.
Roland Barthes is a central figure in the writing and thinking of post-war France. In critical theory, this period of innovation involves the passage from structuralism to poststructuralism which has been a dominant influence on thought and practice in the arts in Europe as well as in the USA. Barthes’s engagement with this thought involves continental philosophy, anthropology, psychoanalysis, as well as literary studies and the arts generally, including music, film and photography.
In the late 1970s Barthes was increasingly concerned with the conflict of two types of language: that of popular culture, which he saw as limiting and pigeonholing in its titles and descriptions, and neutral, which he saw as open and noncommittal. He called these two conflicting modes the Doxa and the Para-doxa. The theory he developed claimed that, while reading for pleasure is a kind of social act, through which the reader exposes him/herself to the ideas of the writer, the final cathartic climax of this pleasurable reading, which he termed the bliss in reading or jouissance, is a point in which one becomes lost within the text. This loss of self within the text or immersion in the text, signifies a final impact of reading that is experienced outside the social realm and free from the influence of culturally associative language and is thus neutral with regard to social progress.
Did You Know?..
Barthes raged war against consumerism and soap powders.
Barthes was analysing a world of booming consumerism in which French housewives could choose from a greater range of detergents than ever before. He hoped that his essays would uncover the ‘ideological abuse’ concealed in packets of soap flakes. For Barthes the function of the mythologist is to counter myths by exposing them as lies.