A Barthes Reader (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
At the time of his death in early 1980, Roland Barthes was undoubtedly the best-known French intellectual of his day and perhaps even the most highly regarded critic and theorist working within the confines of Western literary culture. A prolific writer whose favored form was the essay, Barthes differed from almost all of his predecessors as well as from most of his contemporaries in that he did not so much explore the writings of others as the processes of reading and writing themselves. Both his formulation of new principles for the reading of literature and his rejection of older notions of literary understanding are articulated in a manner which unites the best in critical and creative writing, the result being that the reader finds his mind enlivened at the same time as many of his, perhaps cherished, ideas are challenged.
Barthes did not attempt to build a theoretical system or to formulate principles which can be codified into a rigid approach to literature. Each of his successive texts can be regarded as a departure from the previous one rather than as an attempt at refining and consolidating previously advanced arguments. His work is not, however, lacking in internal consistency; it is possible to point to the presence of considerable unity while recognizing that fundamental differences exist, for example, between the earlier “Structuralist” and the later “post-Structuralist” stages of his literary production.
(The entire section is 1967 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Commonweal. CIX, December 3, 1982, p. 666.
Library Journal. CVII, August, 1982, p. 1463.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. September 5, 1982, p. 3.
Nation. CCXXXV, November 20, 1982, p. 525.
The New Republic. CLXXXVII, october 11, 1982, p. 27.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVII, September 12, 1982, p. 1.
Newsweek. C, October 11, 1982, p. 106.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXI, June 11, 1982, p. 55.
Times Literary Supplement. December 10, 1982, p. 1372.
(The entire section is 49 words.)