Roland Barthes Analysis


Barthes is one of those rare individuals who made significant contributions to many fields. He was one of the first to see the applicability of semiology to a wide range of topics. He was not the first to discover how the structures of linguistics could be applied to all of the human sciences, but he was one of its most elegant practitioners. S/Z is one of the finest and fullest structuralist analyses extant. Furthermore, Barthes pointed the way for poststructuralism and showed how literary criticism could reveal not unity but fragmentation. He also never lost sight of the importance of emotion in literature and life and of the dangers of completing and fixing any system of thought. He freed criticism from a narrow academic view and led it to the multiplicity of voices it currently enjoys.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Calvet, Louis Jean. Roland Barthes: A Biography. Translated by Sarah Wykes. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995. This comprehensive account of Barthes’s life frequently provides connections between Barthes’s biography and his literary production. Includes numerous photographs, a bibliography, and an index.

Culler, Jonathan. Roland Barthes. Bridgewater, N.J.: Replica Books, 2001. A lively and accessible introduction to Barthes, the man and the critic. Contains clear, direct, and insightful discussions.

Freedman, Sanford, and Carole Anne Taylor. Roland Barthes: A Bibliographical Reader’s Guide. New York: Garland, 1983. An extensive Barthes bibliography.

Knight, Diana. Barthes and Utopia: Space, Travel, Writing. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1997. Knight thoroughly examines Barthes’s work, thereby placing his work into larger political and theoretical contexts.

Knight, Diana, ed. Critical Essays on Roland Barthes. Boston: G. K. Hall, 2000. A volume in the series Critical Essays on World Literature.

Lavers, Annette. Roland Barthes: Structuralism and After. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982. A detailed study of Barthes’s literary criticism. Lavers discusses not only Barthes’s thought but also critics who influenced and were influenced by him. Scholarly.

Moriarty, Michael. Roland Barthes. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1991. A lucid introduction to Barthes’s writings, usefully equipped with definitions, illustrations, and relevant contextual background for the benefit of new readers of his work. Includes primary and secondary bibliographies and a brief “Biographical Appendix.”

Payne, Michael. Reading Knowledge: An Introduction to Barthes, Foucault, and Althusser. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1997. Barthes’s principal works are introduced and carefully examined. Payne also devotes a section to the study of Barthes’s important work S/Z.

Sontag, Susan. “Writing Itself: On Roland Barthes.” In A Barthes Reader. New York: Hill & Wang, 1982. Sontag provides a sympathetic and revealing introduction to Barthes’s thought and an excellent selection of Barthes’s writing. Students who wish to read Barthes might begin here.

Stafford, Andy. Roland Barthes, Phenomenon and Myth: An Intellectual Biography. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press, 1998. Stafford examines the influences on Barthes’s work and how that work was received.

Wasserman, George. Roland Barthes. Boston: Twayne, 1981. A brief biographical section is followed by a critical overview of Barthes’s works. Includes a bibliography, a chronology, and an index.