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Mythologies (1957)

by Roland Barthes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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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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» See also 47 mentions

English (25)  French (2)  Dutch (1)  Portuguese (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Seen as a series of monthly essays, Barthes’ Mythologies makes a narrative sort of sense. In twenty nine pieces, Barthes moves to consolidate observations about the messages of culture into a coherent system of myth. The short topical essays occasionally give way to essays of analysis, presenting ideas he eventually unites in the last and longest, “Myth Today,” and this creates an almost narrative arc. I’m not sure if the essays were arranged in the order they were written, but it seems as if they grow and wander until they are mature enough to be fully articulated.
First of all, I hate the way Barthes represents his signifier/signified/sign system. Thanks to a relative clarity of writing and translation, his examples serve to illuminate the idea, but my god, it’s unattractive as a visual, and he replaces half the words with more accurate ones in the next few paragraphs, so what the hell is it good for? On the other hand, I think by this third time I’ve seen the graphic I actually understand the concept, although I’m inclined to think that’s because of the clarity of writing rather than any graphic excellence.
His idea is that communication in culture happens through myth, a system which overlays the actual text (or photo, or audio recording) with a motivated concept. He offers three perspectives on myth: that of the mythmaker, who sees the myth as literal, the words or image as an example of the concept, like a journalist who writes a charged headline; that of the mythologist, who separates the meaning from the form it’s presented in and understands the distortion; and the reader of myths, who accepts the unification of the object and the concept, or most of the audience of a given piece of content.
The most useful ideas Barthes presents are his seven principal figures of myth, roughly:
1. The inoculation: an acknowledgement of a small evil to compensate for the preservation of a majority of the status quo
2. Privation of history: origin, choice, and context of the original object removed, to enable irresponsibility and possession without qualm
3. Identification: an inability to coexist with or understand the Other
4. Tautology: a murder of rationality and language; motionlessness
5. Neither-norism: creation of a false binary with the rejection or acceptance of both, for a solution to the problem based on bourgeois premises
6. Quantification of quality: evaluating worth based on quantities of unmeasurable things (talent, emotion, etc.)
7. The statement of fact: solidification of active speech, about tools and phenomenon that the speaker knows and uses, to reflexive speech, often proverbs or “common sense”
Even without lengthy mythological analysis, it’s easy to see where these techniques come into play in our contemporary society. I nearly overdosed on 3, 6, and 7 while hacking my way through a New Yorker issue this morning.
His conclusion is almost martyr-like. The study of myth, he says, isolates the mythologist from the rest of society. His concluding paragraph presents the mythologist as an academic Atlas, his responsibility a vast task of reconciliation, perhaps more bridge than man: “And yet, this is what we must seek: a reconciliation between reality and men, between description and explanation, between object and knowledge.”
I’m sure this would give my mother flashbacks to my visits home from college during the trial that was Lit Theory. It’s easy to get stuck in the existentialist babble phase of reading theory, the desire to explain and analyze every myth we come across, which is essentially all of it. Mom’s saintly patience in listening to me was dotted with optimistic and practical suggestions that perhaps there was more to think about than what it all means. It might be a contrary interpretation after the preceding essays, but “Myth Today” seems more like a call to live a more aware and articulated life than as a command to record and dissect individual myths. ( )
  et.carole | Jan 21, 2022 |
If it wouldn't be too much to ask I would like to know what the significations of the articles in this book were. I'll keep my dictionary handy.
  wbell539 | Dec 22, 2021 |
em português
Mitologias
  fibriansarax | Dec 8, 2021 |
I can't but marvel at Barthes's talent as a critical thinker, and there are a handful of short articles in this book that really sparked my intellectual senses. At the same time, reading books like this one reminds me why I didn't pursue further efforts in criticism. After a few essays, it's starts to get tiresome and even irritating having everything dissected--usually to point out the negativity in everything. In my days of applying literary theory and other critical lenses to different subjects, you eventually find that you can't really sit down and enjoy anything, be it a book, movie, shopping trip, travel, etc., because you're so busy wanting to point out all the flaws and patterns that seemingly no one else sees. ( )
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
A sort of 1960's George Monbiot.

Barthes has some pretty interesting ideas; particularly, if one considers that these pieces were written in the 1950's. The language is a little forced and flowery but, that may be because I am reading this in translation. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Dec 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (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 (94 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barthes, Rolandprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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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Epigraph
The grandiloquent truth of gestures on life's great occasions.
Baudelaire
Dedication
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The virtue of all-in wrestling is that it is the spectacle of excess.
Quotations
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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