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Mythologies [Hardcover]

Roland Barthes , A. Lavers
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 Feb 1972
A series of essays in which Barthes seeks to tear away masks and demystify the signs, signals, gestures and messages through which western society sustains, sells, identifies and yet obscures itself.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 159 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; 1st Edition edition (24 Feb 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 022400610X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224006101
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,702,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Roland Barthes was born in 1915 and studied French literature and classics at the University of Paris. After teaching French at universities in Rumania and Egypt, he joined the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, where he devoted himself to research in sociology and lexicology. He was a professor at the College de France until his death in 1980.

Product Description


"Barthes is an intellectual star, one of the very small group of maîtres à penser, such as Sartre, Levi-Strauss and Foucault... I readily proclaim that Mythologies is a kind of masterpiece, a fascinating book, the meaning of which sticks in the mind and can lend itself to all sorts of applications" (Observer)

"Essays on the codings that command our daily life (from hair-styles in the film of Julius Caesar through glossy photos of gourmet cooking, to the cult of foam in detergents)...Mythologies has penetrating gusto" (Christopher Ricks Sunday Times)

"Semiology is the study of the signs and signals, the symbols, gestures and messages through which western society sustains, sells, identifies and yet obscures itself by painting or powdering over its raddled, whore-like visage... Barthes' purpose is to tear away masks and demystify the signs, signals and symbols of the language of mass culture" (Dennis Potter The Times)

"All about the most ordinary things. He knew how to connect Racine and beach holidays, Freud and the anticipation of a lover's phone call. Like so many modern artists, he saw the deeper themes running through supposedly banal things." (Alain de Botton Daily Express) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

Beautiful reissue of this unique classic collection, featuring a newly translated essay not included in previous collections --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great 10 Jan 2002
...I was made to read this book as part of my Philosophy degree, a few years back. It was one of the few which had a lasting impression on me. Yes, you can compare it with the Tarantino Star Wars scene if you like ...but only if you read it superficially. The thing I figured out about French philosophy is that the way its worded initially strikes an Anglo-Saxon palate as being pompous, pretentious, and full of hot air. Maybe most of it is, I don't know - I loathe Derrida for these same reasons. But not this book by Barthes. Get past the initial culture shock and you find yourself starting to see how people mythologize just about everything. It's funny. It's illuminating. And it's also pretty salient, when you see how advertisers have tapped into these same impulses. Read it, and do yourself a favour. It's like an immunity shot against so much of the BS we seem to get fed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good essays... 1 Jun 2010
The book works in two parts, firstly as a journalistic foray into debunking the ideological underpinnings for a number of myths which have taken Barthes eye over a number of years, usually composed as counterpoints to mainstream bourgeois press like Elle magazine and L'express in France. And the second part of the book is espousing the theory of semiotics. If I start with the weakest, the later is a rather wordy and turgid read consisting of just over a third of the book, giving the background to the signalling process which conveys ideas and themes from a particular source within bourgeois society and its wider reverberations. The theory clearly could be an integral part of any cultural critic's arsenal, but suffers from not being lucid or over-concise. I would even go far as to say it reads academic and I was at pains to understand his point in some of the passages.

To the main core of the book, I would say almost the opposite. A number of cultural items come under Barthes cross-hairs; wrestling, plastic, steak & chips, margarine, etc, etc. He examines the cultural significance and the underpinning politics of the topic at hand. This works particularly well in pieces like, 'Poor and the Proletariat', 'Novels and Children', 'Striptease' and 'Astrology' where his better sensibilities are able to takeover and round on what the ideology espousing really reads like. I would suggest avoid reading the later 'Myth Today' piece unless you have a particular need.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barthes - a great thinker 13 Sep 2011
I first encountered Roland Barthes many years ago in a seminal "little" book, "Elements of Semiology" but "little" only in size. Rooted in the work of Ferdinand de Saussure, the modern father of semiotics, it fascinated; "semiotics" was first used in English by Henry Stubbes (1670), a precise medical term denoting the branch of medical science relating to the interpretation of signs, later in 1690 by John Locke. Derived from the Greek, "semeioikos", "observant of signs", modern linguistic used it in a different way. Charles Sanders Peirce in the nineteenth century, defined "semiotic" as "what must be the characters of all signs used by...an intelligence capable of learning by experience", (Peirce, C.S., Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, vol. 2, paragraph 227.)

Barthes was, in many ways, was the one who picked up de Saussure's baton. "Mythologies" is clearly divided into two sections; in the first, he covers an enormous amount of ground, putting semiology into practice in the modern world but, in part two, he steps back to write a deep analysis of "Myth Today".

The World of Wrestling - "American wrestling represents a mythological fight between Good and Evil" (P 23)
Romans in Films - "... these incessant fringes ... the label of Roman-ness"
The Writer of Holiday - Needless to say this proletarianization of the writer is granted only with parsimony ..."
Toys - " ... the adult Frenchman sees the child as another self ..."
Novels and Children - "A Jesuitic moarality: adapt the moral rule ... but never compromise about the dogma"
Face of Garbo - "...that moment in cinema when capturing the human face still plunged audiences into ecstasy"
Wine and Milk - " wine gives thus a foundation for a collective morality ...
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is brilliant! 28 Jan 2004
By ldxar1
This is a masterpiece of social critique, picking apart the ideological underpinnings of many of the things which a lot of people take as "obvious". The unifying theme is the idea of "myth" - basically, a type of signification which projects an additional meaning onto an existing concept so as to make it carry a second, ideological meaning. Because the second meaning is smuggled into the sign, it isn't argued by those who use it, but appears as an "obvious" connotation. Barthes identifies and exposes many such myths in a variety of short essays (originally newspaper columns) dealing with aspects of French society in his day. In addition, this volume contains the long essay "Myth Today", in which Barthes sets out the theoretical underpinnings of his critiques.
If you're one of the people who's taken in by myths, this book could change your life. If not, you'll hopefully appreciate Barthes's efforts enough to start making your own efforts to critique myths. The only slight problem with this book is that its reference points are rather dated. For this reason it's worth reading it alongside something more recent, such as Len Masterman's Television Mythologies collection or one of the Glasgow Media Studies Group books. All in all, though, this can't be faulted.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic
A really good read at a great price, ideal for my kindle, easy to buy and delivered instantly to my kindle, what's not to like!
Published 2 months ago by Westendboy
5.0 out of 5 stars Just a classic
Wonderful Roland Barthes makes us see the world around us in a new way - fantastic and quite easy to read.
Published 4 months ago by TildaB
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
A must read for everyone, especially those in the arts and cultural industries and research fields. Barthes is a legend and a must read.
Published 5 months ago by Bobby Moon
1.0 out of 5 stars It was in French
The language of this book was in French. I dont know who I got it from (second hand) but they sent me a French version. It never said that it would be in French. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mimi
5.0 out of 5 stars Daughter's gift
I bought this for my daughter who's at university. She loves the book, but unfortunately she over enthusiastically tore the dust cover whilst unwrapping it.
Published 19 months ago by Aly's Way
1.0 out of 5 stars waste of a tree
this book has been the cornerstone of visual studies for long enough.
Along with Foucault and Kant, these three writers will constantly be the reference for everything that is... Read more
Published on 19 April 2011 by carbon
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Mythologies' by Roland Barthes
This book is that rarity - a book on critical theory which is understandable! Short, informative chapters in a very readable style. Read more
Published on 14 Dec 2010 by RW
4.0 out of 5 stars A seminal text of semiology
This book is an edition of Jonathan Cape's 1972 translation from Roland Barthes's book originally published in 1957. Read more
Published on 7 July 2010 by Artsreadings
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative
Roland Barthes is a key figure in international intellectual life. He is one of the most important intellectual figures to have emerged in postwar France and his writings continue... Read more
Published on 4 Feb 2010 by Kenneth Mckeating
5.0 out of 5 stars why some reviewers hate this book
This book is a founding gesture in the history of semiotics. It carries a clear and precise recontextualization of Hjelmslev's theory of language (in the concluding section 'myth... Read more
Published on 22 April 2009 by R. Dudley-smith
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