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Barthes, Roland

Roland Barthes (rôläN´ bärt), 1915–80, French critic. Barthes was one of the founding figures in the theoretical movement centered around the journal Tel Quel. In his earlier works, such as Writing Degree Zero (tr. 1953) and Mythologies (1957, tr. 1972), he argued that literature, like all forms of communication, is essentially a system of signs. As such, he argued that it encodes various ideologies or "myths," to be decoded in terms of its own organizing principles or internal structures. He was strongly influenced by the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, and his ideas, as expressed in works such as S/Z (1970, tr. 1974) and Empire of Signs (1970, tr. 1982), became more eclectic. Barthes has had an enormous influence on American literary theory.

See studies by J. Culler (1983), P. Lombardo (1989), and M. B. Wiseman (1989).

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Barthes, Roland

Barthes, Roland (1915–80) French academic, writer and cultural critic. A leading proponent of structuralism and semiotics, his notion of the literary text as a “system of signs” was informed by Ferdinand de Saussure. Perhaps his best-known contribution to literary theory was the notion of the “death of the author”, in which the meaning of a text is generated by the reader, rather than by reference to biographical detail. His diverse works include Writing Degree Zero (1953), Mythologies (1957), S/Z (1970) and Camera Lucida (1980).

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