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Image - Music - Text

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Image-Music-Text brings together major essays by Roland Barthes on the structural analysis of narrative and on issues in literary theory, on the semiotics of photograph and film, and on the practice of music and voice. Throughout the volume runs a constant movement from work to text: an attention to the very ‘grain’ of signifying activity and the desire to follow – in liter Image-Music-Text brings together major essays by Roland Barthes on the structural analysis of narrative and on issues in literary theory, on the semiotics of photograph and film, and on the practice of music and voice. Throughout the volume runs a constant movement from work to text: an attention to the very ‘grain’ of signifying activity and the desire to follow – in literature, image, film, song and theatre – whatever turns, displaces, shifts, disperses. Stephen Heath, whose translation has been described as ‘skilful and readable’ (TLS) and ‘quite brilliant’ (TES), is the author of Vertige du déplacement, a study of Barthes. His selection of essays, each important in its own right, also serves as ‘the best... introduction so far to Barthes’ career as the slayer of contemporary myths’. (John Sturrock, New Statesman)


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Image-Music-Text brings together major essays by Roland Barthes on the structural analysis of narrative and on issues in literary theory, on the semiotics of photograph and film, and on the practice of music and voice. Throughout the volume runs a constant movement from work to text: an attention to the very ‘grain’ of signifying activity and the desire to follow – in liter Image-Music-Text brings together major essays by Roland Barthes on the structural analysis of narrative and on issues in literary theory, on the semiotics of photograph and film, and on the practice of music and voice. Throughout the volume runs a constant movement from work to text: an attention to the very ‘grain’ of signifying activity and the desire to follow – in literature, image, film, song and theatre – whatever turns, displaces, shifts, disperses. Stephen Heath, whose translation has been described as ‘skilful and readable’ (TLS) and ‘quite brilliant’ (TES), is the author of Vertige du déplacement, a study of Barthes. His selection of essays, each important in its own right, also serves as ‘the best... introduction so far to Barthes’ career as the slayer of contemporary myths’. (John Sturrock, New Statesman)

30 review for Image - Music - Text

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lazarus P Badpenny Esq

    Thinks like an angel, writes like the Devil.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    What I sounded like at 20: (Bong rip) “The author's dead, fuckers.” (Turn left) “Hey wanna go back to mine?” (Sound of vintage ballet flats moving across the hardwood as far away from my pathetic ass as quickly as possible). So yeah, I'd read a bunch of these before. It's a lot of vintage Barthes, which is always a good time. Now, some of the deeper, semiotic dives – the ones where it gets into hardcore, full-contact structuralism – not for me. Nor are the essays about music, really, because with What I sounded like at 20: (Bong rip) “The author's dead, fuckers.” (Turn left) “Hey wanna go back to mine?” (Sound of vintage ballet flats moving across the hardwood as far away from my pathetic ass as quickly as possible). So yeah, I'd read a bunch of these before. It's a lot of vintage Barthes, which is always a good time. Now, some of the deeper, semiotic dives – the ones where it gets into hardcore, full-contact structuralism – not for me. Nor are the essays about music, really, because with rare exceptions, music seems damn near impossible to theorize about other than in explicit music-theory and musicological terms, and frankly I don't know enough about the canon of classical music to address his points intelligently. But the rest are very much worth your time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sezín Koehler

    Brilliant stuff. I want to be a French philosopher when I grow up.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Barthes is not as difficult as he initially seems to people [including myself]. The guy has what every great critic has: a sense of humour, pristine prose, and razor-sharp insight. And don't mistake him for a cut-and-dry New Critics-level formalist [I have nothing against them, let me note]; his reasoning is better and his ambitions greater. The New Critics can be seen as reductive in certain respects but if Barthes commits an act of apparent reduction, it is to open whole avenues of exploration Barthes is not as difficult as he initially seems to people [including myself]. The guy has what every great critic has: a sense of humour, pristine prose, and razor-sharp insight. And don't mistake him for a cut-and-dry New Critics-level formalist [I have nothing against them, let me note]; his reasoning is better and his ambitions greater. The New Critics can be seen as reductive in certain respects but if Barthes commits an act of apparent reduction, it is to open whole avenues of exploration [there are exceptions, but that is the rule]. The three really famous essays contained here are all worthy of their acclaim, especially "The Death of the Author," which has to be one of the most concise and cutting and connotation-packed essays in literary theory. Barthes is frequently misinterpreted and the victim of prejudice, especially from the Anglo-American academy [to which I profess allegiance, btw], and like many other continental thinkers is often thought of as plenty more pretentious and, well, obnoxious, than he actually is. The best thing about Barthes' writing is that it is loose and non-conformist to the usual 'rules' of academic writing; while this tendency can make him harder to follow than the clearer philosophers and critics in the Anglo-American tradition, Barthes is a cut above most of his contemporary continental thinkers and deserves the attention, but scarcely the vitriolic attacks, he receives.

  5. 4 out of 5

    George

    I think like many people I first read "The Death of the Author" as a stand-alone essay a while before taking the time to engage with Barthes' project -- it's easy to take that particular essay as a kind of synecdochic stand-in for the whole of Barthes' work, and also to slide immediately from the death of the author and the refusal of "God and his hypostases - reason, science, law" into poststructuralism. (147). But trite as this may be to point out, the other essays are also good. I think "Intr I think like many people I first read "The Death of the Author" as a stand-alone essay a while before taking the time to engage with Barthes' project -- it's easy to take that particular essay as a kind of synecdochic stand-in for the whole of Barthes' work, and also to slide immediately from the death of the author and the refusal of "God and his hypostases - reason, science, law" into poststructuralism. (147). But trite as this may be to point out, the other essays are also good. I think "Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives" is actually the heart of this book, its longest and most systematic essay. It could be read as a less provocative version of "The Death of the Author." It also pairs very well with "The Struggle with the Angel," which I actually thought was the most enjoyable essay in here. He clarifies that his reactions to this text are those "of a reader today," which means he approaches the biblical passage in a way that reproduces certain impressions and reactions that we can much more easily recognise in ourselves, even if he works them out in sophisticated detail. This is partly a consequence of an approach that as he admits is only the working out of a new system of analysis, maybe even one that just collages "what is being developed round about him" (164). He is staking out new ground in the practice of reading and you can follow his process pretty closely and with a reasonable degree of satisfaction even 50 years later. I feel like the essays that deal with music -- "Musica Practica" and in particular "The Grain of the Voice" - go underappreciated in the musicological sector of the academy. There's naturally a story about the slow speed at which musicology has paid attention to semiotics as a discipline, but it's interesting over and above this to read Barthes explicitly make the claim in 1972 that "the simple consideration of 'grain' in music could lead to a different history of music," a history that would totally recast the centrality of tonality to musical history (189). Like, he just comes out and says this; no need for a musicologist to 'draw interdisciplinarily' on his work, they could just read it. To be fair, 'grain' is an unusual concept for literary theory too, thus the innovativeness of Barthes for all who read him, but it's interesting that he effectively develops this concept out of an immanent problem with music criticism, the problem of music criticism's reliance on the 'adjective,' on its inability to analyse music in a way that moves beyond a superficial paradigm of representation. 'Grain' means here the gap that opens up between the music and the language - as if they were recto and verso of a sheet of paper called 'lied' - or in other words the gap between the level of the sign (what I have called the paradigm of representation) and the underlying level of the pure signifiers, its physical dimension. There's maybe an interesting unstated similarity between the concept of grain and the layers of meaning that Barthes identifies in the first two essays in this collection about the photograph; the opening up of a grain is analogous to the opening up of the photograph into its linguistic or cultural messages and its "photograph message," which, perhaps like the grain, is a message without a code (17). This grain admits of an erotics but is also the domain for the application of a more systematic structural investigation, which would be not just a solution to one of music criticism's big problems but which was also a historical moment of development for the history of literary criticism. So literary criticism was listening to the innovations of music criticism, one might say, while musicology was not reciprocating!

  6. 5 out of 5

    José

    "Image-Music-Text" comprises a number of texts by Roland Barthes, with edition and selection by Stephen Heath. The topics covered are broad in both content and subject, ranging from considerations on Eisenstein's photograms (with particular incidence and considerations on Eisenstein's decorative meaning) to a textual analysis of "The struggle with the angel", a passage from Genesis. Barthes is with no question both a writer and a teacher, despite and in concordance with the sort of dichotomy crea "Image-Music-Text" comprises a number of texts by Roland Barthes, with edition and selection by Stephen Heath. The topics covered are broad in both content and subject, ranging from considerations on Eisenstein's photograms (with particular incidence and considerations on Eisenstein's decorative meaning) to a textual analysis of "The struggle with the angel", a passage from Genesis. Barthes is with no question both a writer and a teacher, despite and in concordance with the sort of dichotomy created by him in the last text in the book, "Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers". Here, he argues that the fundamental differences between writing (static) and discourse (dynamic; with teaching as an example) make the former explicitly different from the latter, even though writing always tries to model discourse. In spite of this, Barthes writing still feels fairly modern as far as essays are concerned; for a static piece of text, "Image-Music-Text" does not feel old. The first few (four) essays are devoted to the analysis of images with focus on semiology and attempting to establish a structural analysis framework for images. "Rhetoric of the Image" is especially good and a good example of this, while being a worthy introduction to the basic principles of the semiology in images. Apart from this, "The Third Meaning" also stands out as a new way to read/interpret images using Eisenstein's photograms with an additional meaning (the first two here are the "obvious" meanings, as they come to seek out the reader) - the "obtuse" meaning, that of the signifier without a signified, that which makes the distinction between the expression (authentic) and the disguise (inauthentic) thinner, the "filmic" meaning. This segues nicely into "Diderot, Brecht, Eisentstein" which would, in a way, combine this "third meaning" (and the other two as well) into a new form of criticism, which considers simultaneously the "vertical" (i.e. which and how different elements/signifiers/signifieds are arranged in an image) and "horizontal" axis (i.e. a "time" characteristic that allows the image to move from the "pregnant moment" where it permanently lies). The fifth essay, "Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narrative" is one of my favourite pieces in "Image-Music-Text", as this was my one true introduction to structural analysis in general (this, to me, should have been the first text in the book). Oddly enough, this transitions into "The Struggle With the Angel", a textual (i.e. the possible interpretations of what is written in the text), and not really structural (as Barthes mentions), analysis. "The Death of the Author" comes next, which is Barthes's best known work. In essence, it is the first push against the critic's inherent necessity (still very much alive today) to "link aesthetics to ethics" and to incorporate an author's life and intentions into whatever work he is reviewing; Barthes is firmly against this because it greatly reduces the search space for a text's interpretations, trying to create objectivity where, to him, there should be none. I have absolutely nothing against this perspective and can happily agree with it - in fact, this stands out as one of my favourite texts from the book. This makes way for "From Work to Text", where Barthes further develops this thought, calling for the shift from the interpretation of the "work" (i.e. something that, semiologically, holds a single, correct interpretation), to the "text" (i.e. something that holds not only several meanings, but also several layers of meanings, arranged into several different levels, creating what, to me, feels a lot like a [nicely done] marriage between reductionism and emerging properties). The remainder of the texts that I did not mention did not cause much of an impression on me when compared with the ones mentioned. In particular, those about the analysis of "audio aesthetics" were perhaps the dullest (good reads, nonetheless, but they do break the natural flow of "Image-Music-Text"). This is, of course, a consequence of how comprehensive this book is (something that, if you try to summarise Barthes work, is not really a choice but a necessity). In summary, I can safely say this was one hell of a journey - but definitely a worthy one if the topic of structuralism/semiology interests you. Barthes is a giant on these fields, and while it may be a complicated read, it is also a very worthy introduction. Alas, it does have it's shortfalls: The language, while clear, holds several terms that made me reread the same sentence several times/eventually give up and Google whatever they meant. A small glossary for these terms would have been more than welcome, but not strictly necessary with the advent of the Internet. Something that also made this a bit more complicated to read were references to the work of others contemporary to Barthes which, if you have no particular clue about who they are, only make the whole thing a bit more confusing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    This is a classic work of critical theory by the French writer Roland Barthes. It is by turn illuminating, bewildering, infuriating, contradictory, and revelatory. For graphic designes, the most relevant essays are "The Rhetoric of the Image," about the signification of commercial photography, and "The Death of the Author" and "From Work to Text," about new models of reading and writing. The last two piece in particular had a big impact on experimental design in the late 80s and early 90s. Those This is a classic work of critical theory by the French writer Roland Barthes. It is by turn illuminating, bewildering, infuriating, contradictory, and revelatory. For graphic designes, the most relevant essays are "The Rhetoric of the Image," about the signification of commercial photography, and "The Death of the Author" and "From Work to Text," about new models of reading and writing. The last two piece in particular had a big impact on experimental design in the late 80s and early 90s. Those were some inventive times.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Zanna

    Inevitably profound, political, lucid and richly personal. I was particularly struck by his idea of 'the third meaning', the obtuse meaning and 'the filmic', something I have never seen or heard mentioned, but ALWAYS EXPERIENCED. It is as if the secret life of art were suddenly illuminated.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    Mostly bullshit, special interest, vague unproductive theories, bad writing style, lack of logic and layman readability. Even with the non-special interest essays, I wasn't impressed. The writing style is simply bad in my opinion, there are way too many parentheses, sometimes as many as normal text, and his arguments lack structure (ironically) and logic. If i recall correctly, i never saw a single definition of a term, even in "The 'Grain' of the Voice" he only defines 'grain' very late after us Mostly bullshit, special interest, vague unproductive theories, bad writing style, lack of logic and layman readability. Even with the non-special interest essays, I wasn't impressed. The writing style is simply bad in my opinion, there are way too many parentheses, sometimes as many as normal text, and his arguments lack structure (ironically) and logic. If i recall correctly, i never saw a single definition of a term, even in "The 'Grain' of the Voice" he only defines 'grain' very late after using it, and only vaguely. Barthes simply likes to let his creative associative powers loose on adjectives, terms and relations, jumping from one to the next, without showing a logical connection between them. And even in The Death of the Author, which seems to have become famous, and whose idea he seems to be credited with, an idea i like a lot, he just mostly writes - sorry - meaningless bullshit. With special interest I mean two things: First of all most of these essays serve to support the theoretic system of semiology, with its own specific terms. If you are not aquainted with this special field, even with the translator's introduction explaining the different french terms, that often don't have exact english counterparts, you will likely not understand or be interested in much of what Barthes writes. This was my introduction to semiology, and it strikes me as arbitrary. It doesn't explain much of literature or visual art forms, it just tries to fit them into its own system of terms. Maybe it's a good system of description, maybe not, but it doesn't have any meaning to me. And i'm not averse to theory, I've happily gone my way through university and delved into theories in literature and other fields not my own. With Image, Music, Text, I expected interesting ideas for the layman, like Hawkings' A Brief History of Time, but I got academically entrenched papers instead that require a lot of background knowledge in their unexplained references. The second way this collection is special interest is by its subjects: 6 of 13 essays deal with objects that are likely not familiar to most readers. Eisenstein film stills, a biblical passage, Beethoven's piano music, two classical singers in Panzera and Fischer-Dieskau (the former, more obscure, being the object of his admiration), and japanese Bunraku theatre. Let me criticize some examples: "Now even - and above all if - the image is in a certain manner the limit of meaning" what does that mean? that there can be no more meaning than in an image? what is the limit of meaning and why would it be the image? Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives - Introduction "The narratives of the world are numberless." (...) [almost a page of meaningless introduction] "Must we conclude from this universality that narrative is insignificant?" Ridiculous idea, not worthy to be discussed, which he goes on to do. Why would significant things need to be rare? We can easily conjure counter-examples: literature, love, any artworks, humans, stylistic elements... In short, this introduction is not only pointless, but also stupid. "Where then are we to look for the structures of narratives? Doubtless, in narratives themselves." This sentence joins the introduction in being one of the most stupid things i read for a long time. "The sentence, being an order and not a series" how? what is an order or a series here? I guess he means that there's order in a sentence, it's not just a random series. but a series can also have order. This is just another example of Barthes throwing terms at you without explanation. Like the following completely unexplained equation: "The levels are operations." At some point Barthes makes the point that linguists only look at single sentences, and that discourse operates as a higher level of language than linguists by being organized over multiple sentences. Then he contradicts himself by saying that this higher discourse conception is now developed by linguists. It seems Barthes has a naive view of linguistics. "According to this code, the fantasmatic (that is to say corporal) image which guided the performer was that of a song ('spun out' inwardly)" phantasmatic, whyever Barthes or the translator chose that word, means incorporeal. so, a contradiction. Also, piano pieces are not songs, especially not Beethoven piano pieces. This whole essay is a bit naive musically. Why does Barthes try himself in writing about music and even in music criticism in "The Grain of Voice"? "to want to play Beethoven is to see oneself as the conductor of an orchestra." Nope. Polyphonic piano pieces and orchestral works are two completely different worlds. I don't see how this collection of essays is so popular, even the film theory is completely isolated and teaches you nothing about how film works. Though i was too disgusted not to skim some of the essays about visuals after a while, so I'd be glad to be corrected.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tasniem Sami

    It's my firist time to read critical essays so it's alittle bit hard to juge . The firist two articles are about photographey but the most amazing essays was the death of the author and music practisa The death of the author is adopting what most modern critics like T.S Eliot adopted about focusing on the work of art itself rather than the author , his motives or feelings , it was something I used to believe that the authors personality is showing in his writes but actully writing is escaping fr It's my firist time to read critical essays so it's alittle bit hard to juge . The firist two articles are about photographey but the most amazing essays was the death of the author and music practisa The death of the author is adopting what most modern critics like T.S Eliot adopted about focusing on the work of art itself rather than the author , his motives or feelings , it was something I used to believe that the authors personality is showing in his writes but actully writing is escaping from the writers personality. music practisa is involving bethoven's works and it drew mt attentiont to very important thing is the disappearance of the ameutres and it's only the pure professionals and only listners which threatnes the music education issues .

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    Roland Barthes on Sound and Vision (to quote the great David Bowie). I can't imagine if you love the cinema you haven't read this book. Do read it, I think it's essential work in film studies as well on aesthetics in general.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rich

    *This isn't all I have to say but it's a part of it. This is an incomplete review.* Barthes extrapolates too much. He admits in one part of the book "This discussion has been limited to 'classical music'." Yeah, it was plainly obvious that his scope was too limited. Furthermore, he's just cheerleading for Beethoven part of the time after constructing an argument that makes Beethoven's music appear at some apogee of music. I can't buy this. Beethoven is confined by his biography just like every ot *This isn't all I have to say but it's a part of it. This is an incomplete review.* Barthes extrapolates too much. He admits in one part of the book "This discussion has been limited to 'classical music'." Yeah, it was plainly obvious that his scope was too limited. Furthermore, he's just cheerleading for Beethoven part of the time after constructing an argument that makes Beethoven's music appear at some apogee of music. I can't buy this. Beethoven is confined by his biography just like every other artist is. And don't even think about saying The Death of the Author applies only to literature. He uses Van Gogh and Tchaikovsky as examples of authors in that essay. He also refers to a reader and listener equally (but puts the listener in parenthesis, does this indicate something? why make the argument about "authors and readers" because it's just easier that way or what?) On music, he says that, "playing has ceased to exist; musical activity is no longer manual, muscular, kneadingly physical, but merely liquid, effusive, 'lubrificating'..." "disappearance of practitioners (no more amateurs)" "The modern location for music is not the concert hall, but the stage ion which the musicians pass, in what is often a dazzling display, from one source of sound to another." "Such is the utopia that a certain Beethoven, who is not played, teaches us to formulate - which is why it is possible now to feel in him a musician with a future." He's saying that making and doing music is no longer important. To whom is it not important? Everyone? Is is so concerned with statistics that he'd deny there are musicians and audiences who go against these trends? Has he taken a survey? He only describes what a piano player looks like while the player's playing and how the player's manipulating the instrument. This is his interest. This isn't the interest of some other people. If he's so obsessed with the work of the performer, perhaps he should know one, or, oh I don't know, play an instrument before delving so far into what the difference is from the "bourgeoisie" instrument of the piano and the non-bourgeois instrument of the trumpet and harpsichord. Look who's calling an instrument bourgeoisie and attacking classical critics, it's Barthes, a person who's calling everyone "he" and only critiquing classical, and even more specifically, Romantic Period classical music. He talks about how he noticed that r's are being rolled "but the roll had nothing peasant-like or Canadian about it." Barthes is too precious. He is too detached. He's talking about only the pieces he notices and pretending that's enough to build up or tear down the entire art of _fill in the blank_ and caught up in the bullshit he brewed in his head. He's talking only about the music he has a cultural point of reference to. That's looking into the biographical context he says to ignore. He is interpreting the r's being rolled and contextualizing them socially. Is he the only one who's qualified to do this? If this is only Barthes interpretation, why should we even listen to him? Likewise, he says a Japanese marionette has an aim but what if its aim is not true and the audience does not appreciate all of the values he's assigning to it? Has the audience failed or does that change the purpose of the marionette? Whose meaning is this? He warned against not look to the author's aim earlier. He warns us later that words aren't sufficient in describing art, even. Surely there are degrees of this. Every time he mentions an aspect of each performance, western and japanese, he makes the art more restricted and confined by description. He says, "The Western marionette too is a by-product of fantasy: as reduction, a grating reflection with an adherence to the human order ceaselessly recalled by a carictural simulation" He says, a Japanese marionette is "not the simulation of the body that it is after, but, as it were, its concrete abstraction [...] Bunraku puppet: fragility, discretion, sumptuousness, extraordinary nuance, abandonment of all triviality, melodic phrasing of gestures" He's clearly seeing differences in the purposes of the art and how different cultures appreciate different things, but comparing Bunraku to Western marionettes is like comparing The Epic of Gilgamesh to American Pie 3. His Death of the Author theory is also flat here because the purpose of the author is obsessed over by the Bunraku audience. Without interpreting the author, the highly formal Bunraku performances lose meaning. They are coded such that without knowing a set of semiotics AND a set of references from prior performances in Bunraku history, the language of the performance itself is meaningless. What if the people don't WANT the author to be dead to them? He famously says "a text's unity lies not in its origins, but in its destination." But in Bunraku, and a million other art forms, origins matter greatly. Barthes does not talk about this with Bunraku though. He skirts the issue by instead talking about the fact that people ignore that they can see the people manipulating the puppets. Is he trying to prove that this is the death of the author in Bunraku? He has made a MAJOR flaw in the argument by saying that the audience "reads nothing" in the practitioner. The practitioner did not write the play. The author IS INDEED studied. Plays from the past are interpreted. There is a form that everyone knows about and studies that carries from one play to the next. This is not good for Barthes. Barthes has become caught up in interpreting the performer's actions too, even though he says the audience meant not to. He's describing how the purpose of the performer's face is to be ignored but he's obsessed with it. Later, he says there's eroticism in the performers who play pianos and describes their fingers, wrists and arms but not the fingers, wrists and arms of of the practitioner with the puppets, but I guess the practitioners' features aren't that important when it comes to puppets, but are when they come to pianos. I doubt anyone could provide an answer as to why it is worth discussing those aspect of one and not the other. He is woefully limited by his over analysis of some aspects of what he talks about while making vast generalizations about others. The Death of the Author only realizes that there are certain western biographies that cloud works. While there are certainly critics who inaccurately paint certain authors and artists as the following is NOT TRUE: "The explanation of a work is always sought in the man or woman who produced" Who's responsible for this? He says "Classical criticism" is. This is a very ambiguous broad strawman. He does not engage with very many particular critics. He gives a general survey and concludes that "The explanation of a work is ALWAYS (emphasis added) sought in the man or woman who produced it." I feel like this essay is so popular because it makes such broad and aggressive statements and that's where it derives its power from. Barthes is not the first to divide authorship and text, or performance, and, to make matters worse, he is a bad critic known mostly for his theory of allowing the reader to be born.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Slava Winterfield

    I wish Goodreads had a 4.5 rating, because that's where this book fits. Barthes is evidently a cultured intellectual, commenting on many aspects of society, from Brechtian theatre to Eisensteinian cinema, he critically analyses and discusses, covering almost all aspects of modern culture. Read it as a recommendation from a friend, in my opinion his best essays were: The Photographic Message, The Third Meaning, The Death of the Author, Musica Practica, From Work to Text. Some essays are extremely I wish Goodreads had a 4.5 rating, because that's where this book fits. Barthes is evidently a cultured intellectual, commenting on many aspects of society, from Brechtian theatre to Eisensteinian cinema, he critically analyses and discusses, covering almost all aspects of modern culture. Read it as a recommendation from a friend, in my opinion his best essays were: The Photographic Message, The Third Meaning, The Death of the Author, Musica Practica, From Work to Text. Some essays are extremely short yet effective (Change the Object Itself) whereas other ones, while it begins interesting, go through a long and convoluted path that seemingly reaches little conclusion (Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives). Barthes writes in an extremely prosaic style that is reminiscent more of a poet than a structural philosopher, at once utilising Lacan but also recognising that which goes beyond said structure. Oftentimes it can therefore be quite difficult to rid of that stylistic flair (in an act of 'summarising', as Barthes would say) but nonetheless, getting through the heavy French-philosophical-writing, one can find highly useful concepts and strategies for cultural analysis and theory.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Quiver

    Barthes is at his best when he writes about text; he is the author for authors, the meta-textual god. His 'Introduction to Structural Analysis' is vital for anyone interested in the philosophy of reading (and writing). 'The Death of the Author' is a classic. The others are invaluable, if dense and hardly repeatable without generous doses of warping due to personal interpretation. Barthes cannot be explained objectively; he cannot be understood consistently either. His fluidity is his master stro Barthes is at his best when he writes about text; he is the author for authors, the meta-textual god. His 'Introduction to Structural Analysis' is vital for anyone interested in the philosophy of reading (and writing). 'The Death of the Author' is a classic. The others are invaluable, if dense and hardly repeatable without generous doses of warping due to personal interpretation. Barthes cannot be explained objectively; he cannot be understood consistently either. His fluidity is his master stroke. The visual or aural components are far more abstruse than I know how to make use of at this stage.

  15. 4 out of 5

    JP

    “the adventure of language, the unceasing celebration of its coming.” I found “Image, Music, Text” while researching my thesis. Through Bond scenes, grocery ads, and Beethoven symphonies, Roland Barthes teases out the weird magic of seeing, hearing, and interacting with culture. The writing is dense and knotty – Barthes trained as a linguist – but the ideas are insightful. His explorations of “the infinity of language” and how photographs are “floating chains of signifieds” are indeed adventurou “the adventure of language, the unceasing celebration of its coming.” I found “Image, Music, Text” while researching my thesis. Through Bond scenes, grocery ads, and Beethoven symphonies, Roland Barthes teases out the weird magic of seeing, hearing, and interacting with culture. The writing is dense and knotty – Barthes trained as a linguist – but the ideas are insightful. His explorations of “the infinity of language” and how photographs are “floating chains of signifieds” are indeed adventurous, lingering with you like charge in the air.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Smith

    I read a lot of Barthes all at once, and something that seems pretty clear is that this is, so far, the least clear thing I've read by him. I have no idea what the goal or organization of this work is. That said, the first chapter is an excellent structuring of how to begin thinking about image analysis even if I wasn't entirely sold on all the details. It very simply introduces problems that still exist in image analysis.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nikola Novaković

    Although some of Barthes' structuralist methods of reading may nowadays strike the reader as outdated, many of the essays collected here remain relevant and vigorous. Regardless of the topic, Barthes provides a flurry of surprising ideas and a type of writing that is exciting and highly contagious.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    Maybe add a half star for linguistic balls.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mumtaz Ritonga

    Thought provoking

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alex Asay

    The Death of the Author From Work to Text Change the Object Itself Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers

  21. 5 out of 5

    Claire Davis

    If you don't have a good grasp on semiotics, it's rough going. still worth it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    "The Death of the Author" (Some classics are classic for a reason.)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Oakley Merideth

    While there is some inconsistency in quality (a few essays felt either rushed, tacked on to the overarching theme, or simply unmemorable) this general collection is beyond edifying. Barthes' unique exegesis of Genesis 32:22-32 is not only pedagogically savvy (using a beyond familiar biblical text to explore the intricacies of structuralism) it is also serves to totally defamiliarize this short, powerful narrative. "Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers" is likewise a stunning portrait of structuralis While there is some inconsistency in quality (a few essays felt either rushed, tacked on to the overarching theme, or simply unmemorable) this general collection is beyond edifying. Barthes' unique exegesis of Genesis 32:22-32 is not only pedagogically savvy (using a beyond familiar biblical text to explore the intricacies of structuralism) it is also serves to totally defamiliarize this short, powerful narrative. "Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers" is likewise a stunning portrait of structuralist epistemology and how it conforms/deforms to this traditional tripartite conception of "profession dealing with the written word." Perhaps most satisfying about the book entire, however, is Barthes ever present but subtle polemicism, his often prescient and always incisive criticisms of mass culture, ideology, and romanticism leave the reader consistently invested in his efforts.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Yuval

    The only other Barthes i've read was MYTHOLOGIES, which I loved. I loved how rooted that was in the real world, while this book felt completely insular and abstract. I'm also disappointed how little this book, with "music" in the title, actually spoke about music. There is one rather obnoxious essay about the difference between the active practice of music and the consumption of music as a passive listener, which seems to me like the work of someone with a very limited imagination of music's pow The only other Barthes i've read was MYTHOLOGIES, which I loved. I loved how rooted that was in the real world, while this book felt completely insular and abstract. I'm also disappointed how little this book, with "music" in the title, actually spoke about music. There is one rather obnoxious essay about the difference between the active practice of music and the consumption of music as a passive listener, which seems to me like the work of someone with a very limited imagination of music's power. I did, however, really like the first few essays about photography and reading images. But while I could recommend MYTHOLOGIES to most of my reading friends, I would have a hard time recommending anyone to put this on their reading list. (I should admit that perhaps my less than enthusiastic response has more to do with the fact that this is the complete antithesis of a summer book, and it's possible I might simply not be in the mood.)

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tom Dolan

    Last night, I poured myself a nip of scotch and was all settled in to watch disc 3 of The Prisoner (Fellow Lost fans, you ain't seen shit), when I discovered the disc was missing. Miffed, I swiped up this little volume from my coffee table (where it had sat for 2 months unopened), unsheathed the OED and finally read Barthes' famous essay, "The Death of the Author." Utterly fucking brilliant. Spectacular intellectual brio and huge ideas. My only problem was its conclusion, with which I can't say Last night, I poured myself a nip of scotch and was all settled in to watch disc 3 of The Prisoner (Fellow Lost fans, you ain't seen shit), when I discovered the disc was missing. Miffed, I swiped up this little volume from my coffee table (where it had sat for 2 months unopened), unsheathed the OED and finally read Barthes' famous essay, "The Death of the Author." Utterly fucking brilliant. Spectacular intellectual brio and huge ideas. My only problem was its conclusion, with which I can't say I don't agree; I just don't WANT to agree, you know? But what can you do? I guess just can't stand the New Critics. Except this guy, apparently. Anyone else read this thing? Thoughts?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Theryn Fleming

    This time I read "Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives" (1966). Barthes uses linguistics as a model for the structural analysis of narrative and identifies three levels of description in narrative: functions, actions, and narration. Previously I’ve read—and found useful—"Death of the Author" and "From Work to Text." Both of those are short, to-the-point essays. "Structural Analysis," on the other hand, seems to consist of his whole unsorted thought process, rather than the synth This time I read "Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives" (1966). Barthes uses linguistics as a model for the structural analysis of narrative and identifies three levels of description in narrative: functions, actions, and narration. Previously I’ve read—and found useful—"Death of the Author" and "From Work to Text." Both of those are short, to-the-point essays. "Structural Analysis," on the other hand, seems to consist of his whole unsorted thought process, rather than the synthesis of his thoughts. I found it an agonizingly slow read. However, I did enjoy that he kept using James Bond as an example.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Its been awhile, I remember struggling with Barthes, but the main thing I took away, which drew me to Bordwell's even more opaque "Film Narrative", is the breakdown of narrative into Cardinal points and quotidian points (I dont remember it called that). There were two other dimension, but these were subset to the Cardinal and Quotidian. This part was in the Text part of the essays. Eco's Theory of Semiotics was superior, in fact, I think there is a analogue written with far less worry and algebra Its been awhile, I remember struggling with Barthes, but the main thing I took away, which drew me to Bordwell's even more opaque "Film Narrative", is the breakdown of narrative into Cardinal points and quotidian points (I dont remember it called that). There were two other dimension, but these were subset to the Cardinal and Quotidian. This part was in the Text part of the essays. Eco's Theory of Semiotics was superior, in fact, I think there is a analogue written with far less worry and algebra in Eco's most masterful tome.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    contains the excellent Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers and the seminal Death of the Author and, as such, is worth reading for those reasons alone. Structural Analysis of Narratives was a bit technical for me not coming from an academic-linguistic background. Walked away from it with the same feeling I get from most of Barthes's writing: a compendium of great ideas, none developed to any satisfactory level of depth. I often get the sense Barthes intended these essays to be provocations and preli contains the excellent Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers and the seminal Death of the Author and, as such, is worth reading for those reasons alone. Structural Analysis of Narratives was a bit technical for me not coming from an academic-linguistic background. Walked away from it with the same feeling I get from most of Barthes's writing: a compendium of great ideas, none developed to any satisfactory level of depth. I often get the sense Barthes intended these essays to be provocations and preliminary writing than self-contained or holistic theories.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Runa

    Migraine-inducing-ly dense, working with concepts tenuously defined a few pages prior in order to tenuously define new concepts - which is partly understandable, when you're dealing with such matters, but not ideal in (post)structuralism. I found Derrida easier to read and more cohesive, which is very telling. That being said, the intelligible bits were thoroughly enjoyable, and I have a feeling other essays would've become as famous as The Death of the Author, had they been as clear and straigh Migraine-inducing-ly dense, working with concepts tenuously defined a few pages prior in order to tenuously define new concepts - which is partly understandable, when you're dealing with such matters, but not ideal in (post)structuralism. I found Derrida easier to read and more cohesive, which is very telling. That being said, the intelligible bits were thoroughly enjoyable, and I have a feeling other essays would've become as famous as The Death of the Author, had they been as clear and straightforward.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Denis

    In "getting through the day" we often neglect key distinctions in our lives. For example, we perceive speech as spoken text, and text as reported speech. Enter, Roland Barthes to point out differences between speech and text which are not just academic, but politically important with regard to social change as well (since time-limited speech fails to be dialectical and can only lead to change if supported by timeless text). There is much hair-splitting, but it's worthwhile.

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