Barthes, Roland (rôläNˈ bärt) [key], 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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