Barthes, Roland (Gérard)

Barthes, Roland (Gérard)

biographical name

(born Nov. 12, 1915, Cherbourg, France—died March 25, 1980, Paris) French social and literary critic. His early books examined the arbitrariness of the constructs of language and applied similar analyses to popular-culture phenomena. He analyzed mass culture in Mythologies (1957). On Racine (1963) set off a literary furor, pitting him against more traditional French literary scholars. His later contributions to semiotics included the even more radical S/Z (1970); The Empire of Signs (1970), his study of Japan; and other significant works that brought his theories wide (if belated) attention in the 1970s and helped establish structuralism as one of the leading intellectual movements of the 20th century. In 1976 he became the first person to hold the chair of literary semiology at the Collège de France.

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