Barthes Roland


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Barthes Roland

(1915-80) French social theorist and leading exponent of SEMIOLOGY. Usually associated with the structuralist approach, his work was also influenced by social anthropology and Marxism. His most notable contributions include works on myth, IDEOLOGY and popular culture. He was an influential figure in cultural studies because of his contribution to semiology and his concentration upon the TEXT, rather than its author, as the object of study. He wrote about commonplace events, images and activities in order to show the prevalence of ideology in areas sometimes considered free of any political significance (e.g. posters advertising wine or margarine). He enlarged on the anthropological definition of myth by describing it as one of the ways in which the norms of a society are endowed with a taken-for-granted status as facts of nature. He regarded myth as a prevalent aspect of culture; composed of the SIGN systems through which we understand and express ourselves. FASHION, for example, can be regarded as a system of meanings, one which differentiates between clothes by stressing the significance of detail, and locating the wearer within a constantly changing symbolic order. Barthes argued that cultural forms are essentially ambiguous and permit varied interpretations or readings. Among the key works by Barthes are Mythologies (1957) and Elements of Semiology (1964).
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