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Barthes Essay

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Olivia Alter

21/07/2011 Barthes

Analyse and discuss the rhetorical techniques used by Barthes to persuade his reader of the advantages of his theory of criticism in Critique et Vérité. Critique et Vérité was Barthes' riposte to the attack by Picard on 'la nouvelle critique' that he demonstrated in Sur Racine. Whilst he was engaging in a debate at the time, responding to Picard's comments, he was also trying to win people over to this new type of criticism, defending 'le droit du langage', and so the text must be seen in terms of an attempt to persuade. Critics have said that the way in which Barthes writes is too playful to be taken seriously, however this does not mean that the text fails in its aim to persuade, or to provoke some sort of response, or indeed to show that Barthes practises what he preaches. Barthes' view of critical language is that it is secondary to the text being analysed, yet it can have its own momentum and effects. He states that ' le critique devient à son tour écrivain', and goes on to discuss how there is a transgression between the writer and the critic; a new rhetoric means that the language of a critic can be just as literary and full of symbolism as that of an author. Thus there is an ambiguity in what someone writes, and literature, or a written work (Barthes classes criticism alongside novels and plays), is more about experimentation than finding one particular truth. So, when critics claim that Barthes' way of writing, his 'jargon', can not be considered as part of a sincere debate, he would respond that how he writes is precisely what he is arguing for; he seeks, not to entirely defeat the views of Old Critics, but to make people realise that there is a different way of looking at texts, without using standard language, such as 'l'objectivité'. Nevertheless, whilst Barthes upholds a right to be creative, and to search for various meanings in a text, not necessarily finding a truth, but at least an 'acceptabilité', his belief that we must liberate 'l'oeuvre des contraintes de l'intention' can be questioned in regards to his use of rhetorical language, for it is clear that he intends, in Critique et Vérité, to bring people round to his view of the advantages of his theory of criticism.

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