8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 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.
67 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on 10 January 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.
25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2004
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 2015
A judicious grab-bag of slyly assembled insights, light where most Structuralist prose is lumpy and written in a spry manner that is often droll and perceptive. Most of the book comprises essays examining aspects of modern culture, film, magazine, a royal family disporting itself afloat... and margarine. Barthes' trick is to reveal by sharp analysis, how often simple things, adverts or news reports or photo's, conceal a deeper, ideological meaning. He is amusing, clever and very readable; he also makes you think. The final third, 'Myth Today', consists of a more analytical study of his method and is somewhat turbid, much less entertaining, than the demonstrations of it in the essays themselves. Unusually for structuralist books, they tend to obscurantism, this one is a delight, the only one that I return to with pleasure. And you can supplement it by trying to compose analyses of contemporary cultural artifacts, great fun and very rewarding. You can then become your own mini-mythologist! A treat.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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 ..."
Striptease - "Parisian striptease - woman is desexualised at the very moment she is stripped naked"
The New Citroen - "cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals"
"Myth Today" - "Myth is not definied by the object of its message but by the way in which it utters this message. There are formal limits to myth, there are only 'substantial' ones." (P 109)
Barthes re-examines and re-defines myth as well as writing a master-class in ways to use it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 July 2010
This book is an edition of Jonathan Cape's 1972 translation from Roland Barthes's book originally published in 1957.
The body of the book is short bites of stimulating thoughts - usually around 3-4 pages - about popular culture items such as 'novels and children', 'toys', 'wine and milk', 'striptease', etc.
The volume ends on a 50-page development on the nature of myths, discussed in terms of semiology, which is most interesting.
One should keep in mind that this book is a selected translation, and not integral.
on 9 May 2015
Roland Barthes was one of the leading French intellectuals of the mid 20th Century. In the 1950s he wrote one short essay a month on mythology in contemporary life. Barthes completed a total of 54 of these works, however when a collection was published in English as ‘Mythologies’ only about 30 were present. The remaining essays can be found in ‘The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies’. Alternatively a complete set of essays is also available in ‘Mythologies: The Complete Edition in a New Translation’.
The author writes about many, varied subjects including wrestling, the Romans in films, steak and chips and striptease. His analysis of the semiology of these topics is often revealing and occasionally amusing. Despite his prose style being rather idiosyncratic and academic, in many instances the essays are still quite appealing to a general reader.
A longer essay, ‘Myth Today’, which describes his approach to signs and their meaning, completes this volume but it is much more academic. In it he uses the ideas of semiology developed by Ferdinand de Saussure which described the connections between an object (the signified) and its representation in language (the signifier) and how the two are connected. Within this framework Barthes shows that his concept of a myth is based on creating a further sign to which something has been added.
on 11 April 2015
A seminal piece of writing that has influenced many since it's initial release. You will read many a book and article who still site a quote from this very publication, from Marilyn Manson biography to sociology and media books. He covers subjects as diverse as wrestling, margarine and red meat and digs deep, getting behind the meaning and myth leaving you feeling a little more informed and enlightened. It's brief size makes you yearn for more but also grateful that you weren't dragged through 400 pages of self indulgent rambling that many philosophers and theorists do when they try to develop (read: pad out) some basic theories ie Malcolm Gladwell.
on 4 February 2010
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 to have an influence on critical debates today
Mythologies is a text which contains short journalistic articles on a variety of subjects that focus on various manifestations of mass culture, la culture de masse: films, advertizing, newspapers and magazines, photographs, cars, children's toys, popular pastimes and so on.
I'd recommend this to anyone who is studing Media, or Photography as am I. The text is highly informative.
on 16 August 2015
Bought for my university course, a fantastic book with barthes most famous essays included.
although I have been using the essays online I preferred my own version where I could write in the margins etc. I found I had a great interest in the essays and began a more in-depth study of them through this book.
Book was as described and in perfect condition