Roland Barthes


  • ''The photographic image ... is a message without a code.''
    Roland Barthes (1915-1980), French semiologist. repr. In Image Music Text (1977). "The Photographic Message," no. 1, Communications (Paris, 1961).
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  • ''Ensnared in his starvation, Chaplin-man is always just below political awareness. A strike is a catastrophe for him because it threatens a man truly blinded by his hunger; this man achieves an awareness of the working-class condition only when the poor man and the proletarian coincide under the gaze (and the blows) of the police.''
    Roland Barthes (1915-1980), French semiologist. "The Poor and the Proletariat," Mythologies (1957, trans. 1972). Of Charlie Chaplin's character on film.
  • ''There are people who think that wrestling is an ignoble sport. Wrestling is not sport, it is a spectacle, and it is no more ignoble to attend a wrestled performance of suffering than a performance of the sorrows of Arnolphe or Andromaque.''
    Roland Barthes (1915-1980), French semiologist. "The World of Wrestling," Mythologies (1957, trans. 1972). "What wrestling is above all meant to portray," Barthes added, "is a purely moral concept: that of justice. The idea of 'paying' is essential to wrestling, and the crowd's 'Give it to him' means above all else 'Make him pay.'..."
  • ''To endow the writer publicly with a good fleshly body, to reveal that he likes dry white wine and underdone steak, is to make even more miraculous for me, and of a more divine essence, the products of his art. Far from the details of his daily life bringing nearer to me the nature of his inspiration and making it clearer, it is the whole mystical singularity of his condition which the writer emphasizes by such confidences. For I cannot but ascribe to some superhumanity the existence of beings vast enough to wear blue pajamas at the very moment when they manifest themselves as universal conscience.''
    Roland Barthes (1915-1980), French semiologist. "The Writer on Holiday," Mythologies (1957, trans. 1972).
  • ''A language is therefore a horizon, and style a vertical dimension, which together map out for the writer a Nature, since he does not choose either. The language functions negatively, as the initial limit of the possible, style is a Necessity which binds the writer's humour to his form of expression. In the former, he finds a familiar History, in the latter, a familiar personal past. In both cases he deals with a Nature, that is, a familiar repertory of gestures, a gestuary, as it were, in which the energy expended is purely operative, serving here to enumerate, there to transform, but never to appraise or signify a choice.''
    Roland Barthes (1915-1980), French semiologist. "What Is Writing?" Writing Degree Zero (1953, trans. 1967).
  • ''Other countries drink to get drunk, and this is accepted by everyone; in France, drunkenness is a consequence, never an intention. A drink is felt as the spinning out of a pleasure, not as the necessary cause of an effect which is sought: wine is not only a philtre, it is also the leisurely act of drinking.''
    Roland Barthes (1915-1980), French semiologist. "Wine and Milk," Mythologies (1957, trans. 1972).
  • ''Wine is a part of society because it provides a basis not only for a morality but also for an environment; it is an ornament in the slightest ceremonials of French daily life, from the snack ... to the feast, from the conversation at the local cafĂ© to the speech at a formal dinner''
    Roland Barthes (1915-1980), French semiologist. "Wine and Milk," Mythologies (1957, trans. 1972).
  • ''The skyscraper establishes the block, the block creates the street, the street offers itself to man.''
    Roland Barthes (1915-1980), French semiologist. repr. In The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies, trans. by Richard Howard (1979). "Buffet Finishes off New York," Arts (Paris, 1959).
  • ''New York ... is a city of geometric heights, a petrified desert of grids and lattices, an inferno of greenish abstraction under a flat sky, a real Metropolis from which man is absent by his very accumulation.''
    Roland Barthes (1915-1980), French semiologist. repr. In The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies, trans. by Richard Howard (1979). "Buffet Finishes Off New York," Arts (Paris, 1959).
  • ''To hide a passion totally (or even to hide, more simply, its excess) is inconceivable: not because the human subject is too weak, but because passion is in essence made to be seen: the hiding must be seen: I want you to know that I am hiding something from you, that is the active paradox I must resolve: at one and the same time it must be known and not known: I want you to know that I don't want to show my feelings: that is the message I address to the other.''
    Roland Barthes (1915-1980), French semiologist. "Dark Glasses," sect. 2, A Lover's Discourse (1977, trans. 1979).

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