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Mythologies by Roland Barthes
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Mythologies (original 1957; edition 1999)

by Roland Barthes

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Title:Mythologies
Authors:Roland Barthes
Info:Hill and Wang (1999), Paperback
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Mythologies by Roland Barthes (1957)

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English (18)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  French (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
The first part of Mythologies is a collection of short individual pieces written by Barthes on the semiology - the underlying symbolism and meaning, of a selection of commonplace phenenomena of contemporary society in the 1950s.
What Barthes reads into things is frequently amusing and often enlightening. The reason that the book is entitled "Mythologies" is that he aims to expose the modern myths and demystify the symbolism of contemporary mass culture. Sometimes the targets of his pieces come off worse than others, and on the whole this provides an interesting sociological insight on things, and sometimes even scope for some philosophical reflection.
Whether the topic is Wrestling, Margarine, the latest Citroen model, French attitudes to Wine, Soap powders, Steak and Chips, or the Brain of Einstein, they are made consistently interesting topics and analysed intellegently and concisely. Many of the pieces just a couple of pages long.
The last third of the book ties up a number of themes and provides a more over-arching perspective on the modern mythologies and their semiological analysis. This is a lot denser than the individual pieces and often lacks their clarity, but does provide a vaguely useful theoretical framework for the understanding of semiology.
He presents mythology as a category of language that has a specific semiological meaning, that has a second layer of meaning compared to the first order meanings found in ordinary language and word. This expands the usage of the term mythology beyond its traditional meaning, but this makes sense in the way that the word is used currently in phrases such as "urban myths", which are analagous to the cultural myths presented in the first section - though they are not usually identified as such. Gives a new way of looking at popular culture. ( )
2 vote P_S_Patrick | Mar 12, 2018 |
Myth today is a type of speech. It is everywhere. No one is completely immune to its effects.

Barthes is a Marxist to the core. I'm not. But this book--my intro to semiotics--is well worth the read. Language is powerful, mysterious, and downright scary. I didn't think I would enjoy a book on language. I was wrong.

Perhaps I believe the myth that if I post on Goodreads I must be some sort of intellectual. Reading books on semiotics does mean I'm smart, right?
  ryanone | Jan 3, 2018 |
Mythologies (1957) is one of Barthes' first major works, following on from Le degré zéro de l'écriture of 1953 and taking its ideas beyond literature into the area of culture in general. If you have only come across it in the form of excerpts before, its structure is a little unexpected: part one "Mythologies", which takes up about two-thirds of the book, is a loose and rather random-looking collection of around fifty short essays on themes taken from contemporary culture, and we don't get into the brain-frying theoretical analysis until part two "Le Mythe, aujourd'hui". When, of course, we realise that the essays in part one are there precisely as real-world examples of the kind of analysis you can do with the techniques he discusses in part two.

The essays draw their subject-matter from all kinds of different areas, mostly steering clear of "literature". The pieces on professional wrestling, the Tour de France as an epic, strip-tease, the new Citroën DS, and detergent advertisements are probably the most famous, but we also get pieces on current murder trials, photography, wine vs. milk, steak & chips, Garbo, Brando, Einstein's brain, jet pilots, Billy Graham, and much more. Just at present, there is a special resonance in the pieces about the populist leader of the time, Poujade (Le Pen père started out as a Poujadist) and the way his particular type of ideology works. Everyone confronted with the current type of populist imbecility should read "Poujade et les intellectuels" and decide for themselves whether there is anything new under the sun...

The essays are for the most part a straightforward, easy read, and lull you into a slightly misleading sense of security, but of course your brain has to start working sooner or later, at the latest when you get to part two. To be fair, it's not quite as tough as you might suspect: Barthes writes very clearly, without much in the way of jargon, and he builds his ideas up in easy stages, starting out from the basics of semiology as set out by Saussure. What he means by a "myth", it turns out, is the extra, culturally-defined layer of meaning that co-exists with the literal meaning expressed by a sign. He uses two famous examples, a sentence from a Latin grammar (which stands as an example of a particular construction, not for its literal meaning) and the Paris-Match cover he came across at the hairdresser's whilst having his highlights done, which shows a young black soldier saluting, and which he decodes as conveying messages about colonialism and militarism. He would probably be highly amused that those messages have now been pushed into the background for most people who see this image today by their awareness of its importance in the history of semiotics! There's a very interesting discussion about the extent to which the two meanings of the sign coexist (Barthes uses the metaphor of the revolving door to illustrate how you can't fully see both at once).

Needs a lot of digging into, but definitely worth spending a weekend on.

A few phrases that caught my eye:

On modern poetry: "...il est certain que sa beauté, sa vérité viennent d’une dialectique profonde entre la vie et la mort du langage, entre l’épaisseur du mot et l’ennui de la syntaxe."

The scope of myth: "Tout peut donc être mythe? Oui, je le crois, car l’univers est infiniment suggestif."

Images versus text: "L’image devient une écriture, dès l’instant qu’elle est significative : comme l’écriture, elle appelle une lexis."

Literature: "Le langage de l’écrivain n’a pas à charge de représenter le réel, mais de le signifier."

Ideological function of myth: "Le mythe ne nie pas les choses, sa fonction est au contraire d’en parler ; simplement, il les purifie, les innocente, les fonde en nature et en éternité, il leur donne une clarté qui n’est pas celle de l’explication, mais celle du constat ..." ( )
  thorold | May 14, 2017 |
058608164X
  Jway | Apr 18, 2016 |
This was a really great read. Having previously read Barthes' "Elements of Semiology," I was left intrugued but dissatisfied with his theory. It was a very bare bones, though easy to follow, extension of Saussure's demand for a study of symbols.

That being said, I highly recommend reading the two of these as a pair. After having laid the linguistic foundation in his "Elements," "Mythologies" comprises a series of essays using this very technique to perform social criticisms via the structuralist approach to understanding language (with its implications on "meaning") by extending the possibilities into the ephemeral realm of the "symbol" (or as Barthes would qualify it, the "signification"). These essays range from the comical/entertaining ("The writer on holiday," "Striptease," etc.) to more salient topics ("Photography and Electoral Appeal," "The Great Family of Man," and so on).

Above all though the final section, "Myth Today," is a really thought provoking read. Though Barthes concedes that the "science" of semiology has yet to be fully understood, the methods of its criticism allow for at least a retropsective understanding of the function of the myth - which can be anything from kitchenware to Stalin - and subsequently offer a big step towards understanding the cognitive/linguistive construction of the social world - i.e. the world of symbols.

The beauty of the theory, unlike many slanted theorists, is in its refusal to be an ethics. It does not try to assert what the myth should or should not represent, should or should not be.
So long as we confuse metalinquistic forms for reality itself, the more we deprive ourselves of "reality"'s maleability; the understanding that forms can and do change (all of this, of course, given that you sign onto the non-existence of absolute meanings behind things - and that language is the very vessel that introduces "meaning" itself into the world).
( )
2 vote PhilSroka | Apr 12, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Pour ces chroniques, succès durable ­depuis cinquante-trois ans, Roland Barthes partait tout simplement d'images de la vie quotidienne ou d'articles de presse, dont certains publiés dans Le Figaro. Ainsi est venue l'idée d'une réédition sous forme d'album des Mythologies, contenant 120 illustrations. Loin de l'austère «Point» Seuil, l'album se regarde autant qu'il se lit. Jacqueline Guittard, maître de conférence à l'université Picardie-Jules Verne, qui a établi la nouvelle édition, a choisi des documents authentiques, essayant parfois de deviner ceux que Roland Barthes avait eus sous les yeux et qui avaient pu déclencher sa réflexion.
added by NeueWelle | editLe Figaro, Claire Bommelaer (Oct 15, 2010)
 

» Add other authors (65 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roland Barthesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Badmington, NeilIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
秀夫, 篠沢Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fulka, JosefTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lavers, AnnetteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Madžule, SarmīteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scheffel, HelmutTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The grandiloquent truth of gestures on life's great occasions.
Baudelaire
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The virtue of all-in wrestling is that it is the spectacle of excess.
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I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals: I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374521506, Paperback)

"[Mythologies] illustrates the beautiful generosity of Barthes's progressive interest in the meaning (his word is signification) of practically everything around him, not only the books and paintings of high art, but also the slogans, trivia, toys, food, and popular rituals (cruises, striptease, eating, wrestling matches) of contemporary life . . . For Barthes, words and objects have in common the organized capacity to say something; at the same time, since they are signs, words and objects have the bad faith always to appear natural to their consumer, as if what they say is eternal, true, necessary, instead of arbitrary, made, contingent. Mythologies finds Barthes revealing the fashioned systems of ideas that make it possible, for example, for 'Einstein's brain' to stand for, be the myth of, 'a genius so lacking in magic that one speaks about his thought as a functional labor analogous to the mechanical making of sausages.' Each of the little essays in this book wrenches a definition out of a common but constructed object, making the object speak its hidden, but ever-so-present, reservoir of manufactured sense."--Edward W. Said

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:15 -0400)

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"This new edition of MYTHOLOGIES is the first complete, authoritative English version of the French classic, Roland Barthes's most emblematic work"--

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