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Barthes Notes

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Barthes Context


Barthes took no clear philosophical line, he was aware of thinkers like Freud and Marx, but was happy to ignore the philosophical element - his work is often more creative/literary (word play etc), and not all he says if true or rationally argued, more of an experiment


Sur Racine (his most controversial work) - B. categorised all plays so they all had stuff in common o Used modern psychoanalytical line o Unifiying formulae to sum up all the plays o Irrelevant that the reading was formed by theories made long after the plays were written because it worked o Attitude towards language - Racine's work based on language to lead to action ('parler c'est faire'), and its misuse lead to tragedies, but not based on external things


Picard was scandalised by B.'s style of criticism, he preferred a scholarly traditional critique o Goes through Racine to show how B.'s theory doesn't work o Denounces 'jargon' o Says that critics must aim for clarity and B. is unclear o B.'s text isn't grounded in an objective truth, he says whatever he wants and just looks for evidence to support his ideas - 'un impressionisme idéologique qui est d'essence dogmatique' o Thought it could corrupt future readers of Racine


B. believed an author should be detached from his work, mustn't make links between the work and his 'unproductive' life - there are connections but they are not always reliable


La Mort de L'auteur - wrote this text in which he states that the authorial persona behind the work shouldn't decide how we read the text - author's intentions are not only irrelevant, but can limit diverse interpretations of the text - 'donner un Auteur à un texte…c'est fermer l'écriture'


Author = convenient tool for the critic to categorise the text and possibly make it less threatening - BUT B. says language has to be used by the author, but not to access a pre-linguistic persona - 'Linguistiquement, l'Auteur n'est jamais rien de plus que celui qui écrit, tout comme je n'est autre que celui qui dit je: le langage connaît un 'sujet', non une 'personne'…'


Hoped readers would see texts as internal systems Critique et Vérité (1966)


Part of intellectual debate, so has to be read in terms of debates at the time, not as part of B.'s life - 'C'est donc au niveau des functions liiéraires…que l'histoire peut seulement se placer, et non au niveau des individus qui les ont exercées.'


Published after fierce debate on 'new criticism', this was B.'s manifesto on it, mainly in response to Picard's critique of Sur Racine

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