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Mythologies (Vintage classics) Paperback – 15 Jul 1993

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New edition edition (15 July 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099972204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099972204
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 353,046 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 an alternate 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 an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By abclaret on 1 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By RR Waller TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
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 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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67 of 73 people found the following review helpful By J. Tuffin on 10 Jan. 2002
Format: Paperback
...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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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By ldxar1 on 28 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
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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