Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 2 | Words: 354
Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Roland Barthes (12 November 1915 – 25 March 1980) was a French philosopher, critic and writer. His work Mythologies gained popularity which is a collection of 54 essays and a longer essay on ‘Myth Today’. In his book Mythologies, Barthes has written a number of short stories in which he tries to highlight the conditions of France in the post war era by use of symbolic language. These texts were written between 1954 and 1956 for the left-wing magazine Les Lettres nouvelles and very clearly belong to Barthes’s `période “journalistique”‘ (Calvet: 1973 p.37). He speaks of a language of signs which define many things according to his theory. He elaborates that instead of taking things in their stride people should take into account different signs and gestures that are telling their own stories. He has depicted the signs present in the normal looking situations that when deciphered points in a different direction showing the real truth and not the implied one.

According to him we inhabit a world, then, of signs which support existing power structures and which purport to be natural. The role of the mythologist, as Barthes sees it, is to expose these signs as the artificial constructs that they are, to reveal their workings and show that what appears to be natural is, in fact, determined by history. Many have claimed, and with good reason, that Mythologies is one of the principal texts of contemporary cultural studies. John Storey has described it as `one of the founding texts of cultural studies’ (Storey: 1992 p.77) and Antony Easthope as one of the two books (the other being Raymond Williams’s Culture and Society) that `initiate modern cultural studies’ (Easthope: 1991 p.140). Barthes is fundamental to contemporary cultural studies because he was amongst the first to take seriously `mass culture’ and to apply to it methods of analysis formerly the preserve of `high culture’.

Barthes’s attitude towards constituted theoretical thought in Mythologies – and elsewhere – could be described as cavalier, in the best sense of the word: he picks up concepts, uses them, and drops them when they have outstayed their welcome. (Leak: 1994 p.38).

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