Synopses & Reviews
“No denunciation without its proper instrument of close analysis,” Roland Barthes wrote in his preface to Mythologies. There is no more proper instrument of analysis of our contemporary myths than this book—one of the most significant works in French theory, and one that has transformed the way readers and philosophers view the world around them.
Our age is a triumph of codification. We own devices that bring the world to the command of our fingertips. We have access to boundless information and prodigious quantities of stuff. We decide to like or not, to believe or not, to buy or not. We pick and choose. We think we are free. Yet all around us, in pop culture, politics, mainstream media, and advertising, there are codes and symbols that govern our choices. They are the fabrications of consumer society. They express myths of success, well-being, or happiness. As Barthes sees it, these myths must be carefully deciphered, and debunked.
What Barthes discerned in mass media, the fashion of plastic, and the politics of postcolonial France applies with equal force to todays social networks, the iPhone, and the images of 9/11. This new edition of Mythologies, complete and beautifully rendered by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, critic, and translator Richard Howard, is a consecration of Barthess classic—a lesson in clairvoyance that is more relevant now than ever.
"This new edition brings into English for the first time all of the essays in the groundbreaking Mythologies by French semiotician and critic Barthes, translated by the redoubtable Howard (Flowers of Evil), and joins them with Lavers's earlier translation of Barthes's accompanying analytical essay, 'Myth Today.' Barthes examined mass culture, its ads and hidden or disguised messages, its icons and politics, its desperate speed in the mid-1950s. With several exceptions, these pensÃ©es are in delectable, bite-sized pieces. Though very much of their time, these essays tell us a lot about how we might intellectually navigate our own century. When the specifics are unfamiliar to a non-French reader, unobtrusive and cogent notes identify the individuals and issues. By framing the mythic in the quotidian, Barthes examines everything from detergent ('dirt is a sickly little enemy which flees from good clean linens at the first sign of Omo's judgment') to professional wrestling ('Wrestling is not a sport, it is a spectacle'), Garbo's face ('virtually sexless, without being at all Ã¢Â€Â˜dubious'Â '), Billy Graham, the Tour de France, a French striptease, plastics, and onward. With so much new material now included, this volume is not an unabridged reissue so much as a celebration anew. 16 pages of b&w illus." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“My claim is to live to the full contradiction of my time.” —Roland Barthes, preface to the 1957 edition
“Teacher, man of letters, moralist, philosopher of culture, connoisseur of strong ideas, protean autobiographer . . . of all the intellectual notables who have emerged since World War II in France, Roland Barthes is the one whose work I am most certain will endure.” —Susan Sontag
"Teacher, man of letters, moralist, philospher of culture, connoisseur of strong ideas, protean autobiographer . . . of all the intellectual notables who have emerged since World War II in France, Roland Barthes is the one whose work I am most certain will endure" —Susan Sontag
"One of the great public teachers of our time, someone who thought out, argued for, and made available serveral steps in a penetrating reflection on language sign systems, texts —and what they have to tell us about the concept of being human" —Peter Brooks
"With so much new material now included, this volume is not an unabridged reissue so much as a celebration anew." —Publishers Weekly
"Barthes was one of the major French critics of the 20th century, and this fuller translation will be of interest to English-speaking students of French and comparative literature as well as to cultural anthropologists." —Library Journal
"As this new translation and expansion of a seminal work by the French semiotician and philosopher demonstrates, Barthes remains ahead of his time, and our time, more than 30 years after his death.... It's remarkable that essays written more than a half-century ago, on another continent, should seem not merely pertinent but prescient in regard to the course of contemporary American culture." —Kirkus Reviews
What is astrology? Fiction for the bourgeoisie. The Tour de France? An epic. The brain of Einstein? Knowledge reduced to a formula. Like iconic images of movie stars or the rhetoric of politicians, they are fabricated. Once isolated from the events that gave birth to them, these “mythologies” appear for what they are: the ideology of mass culture.
When Roland Barthess groundbreaking Mythologies first appeared in English in 1972, it was immediately recognized as one of the most significant works in French theory—yet nearly half of the essays from the original work were missing. This new edition of Mythologies is the first complete, authoritative English version of the French classic. It includes the brilliant “Astrology,” never published in English before, as well as gorgeous photographs of 1950s France to help readers visualize the myths Barthes masterfully decrypts.
Mythologies is a lesson in clairvoyance. In a new century where the virtual dominates social interactions and advertisement defines popular culture, it is more relevant than ever.
About the Author
Roland Barthes was born in 1915. A French literary theorist, philosopher, and critic, he influenced the development of various schools of theory, including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, and post-structuralism. He died in 1980.