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Barthes, Roland (1915–1980)


Subject Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art » Aesthetics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405169226.2009.x


French semioticist and literary and cultural critic; a leading representative of structuralism. At the Pavillon des Arts in Paris in 1986 there was an exhibition called Roland Barthes: Le texte et l'image . It consisted of paintings, photographs, and posters, accompanied by Barthes's writings about them blown up large enough to be comfortably seen from the viewing distance called for by the images. The words overpowered the images, which in turn became illustrations of them, in a fitting exhibition for one for whom words, written or spoken, sounded or seen, were material, physical, affecting each other and whatever encountered them as do all material things. Words had for Barthes a power akin to that of tribal carvings or icons and to that he found in certain photographs. It was the power of the past and of the form without which nothing could work or take effect or make its mark, including the brute, dumb, blind energy of the unconscious and its instincts. Barthes was a writer for whom writing was the quintessential human activity, because through it the individual participates in the production of sense and experiences the limits of the intelligibility hard won by productive labor; through it she imbricates herself in the structure of birth and death common to meaning and nature alike. By the death of meaning or sense is meant escape from the systems of difference that alone ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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