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Roland Barthes Quotes

Roland Barthes was born on November 12, 1915 in Cherbourg, France.  He moved to Paris with his family in 1924. He attended Lycée Louis-le-Grand from 1930 to 1934, and afterwards studied classical letters and philology at Sorbonne. He entered the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique where he worked between 1952 and 1959. Barthes was also the first person to hold the chair of literary semiology at the College de France.

In 1947, he began publishing articles in the Newspaper Combat for which Jean-Paul Sartre was also a reporter and whose editor-in-chief was Albert Camus. His published articles would form his work Writing Degree Zero which concerns the logic of the text and literature. In it Barthes asks the question whether literature can be political and if there is something called revolutionary literature. The book will would establish Roland Barthes as one of the main literary critics of his generation.

In addition to Writing Degree Zero, Roland Barthes wrote several famous books and essays such as Mythologies in 1954, Criticism Essays,1966, The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies in 1964 and S/Z which appeared in 1970 among many others.

Roland Barthes contributed to the critical theory and tradition and his essay on the death of the author is to-date one of the most read and discussed in the academia. He believes that the author’s background and biography are unimportant, and that the interpretation of a literary work should be done without having to explore the author’s background.

Roland Barthes helped established the semiotics, structuralism and post-structuralism movement in France. Barthes texts have become a must-read whether one is talking about food, culture, language, the body, dress code, fashion, photography and advertising. Roland Barthes quotes offer us a perspective and understanding into all these topics.


The photographic image… is a message without a code.

Roland Barthes

The politician being interviewed clearly takes a great deal of trouble to imagine an ending to his sentence: and if he stopped short? His entire policy would be jeopardized!

Roland Barthes

The skyscraper establishes the block, the block creates the street, the street offers itself to man.

Roland Barthes

What the public wants is the image of passion, not passion itself.

Roland Barthes

Through the mythology of Einstein, the world blissfully regained the image of knowledge reduced to a formula.

Roland Barthes

There is only one way left to escape the alienation of present day society: to retreat ahead of it.

Roland Barthes

To try to write love is to confront the muck of language: that region of hysteria where language is both too much and too little, excessive and impoverished.

Roland Barthes

The New is not a fashion, it is a value.

Roland Barthes

What I claim is to live to the full the contradiction of my time, which may well make sarcasm the condition of truth.

Roland Barthes

To eat steak rare… represents both a nature and a morality.

Roland Barthes

The bastard form of mass culture is humiliated repetition… always new books, new programs, new films, news items, but always the same meaning.

Roland Barthes

A photograph is always invisible, it is not it that we see.

Roland Barthes

For the theatre one needs long arms; it is better to have them too long than too short. An artiste with short arms can never, never make a fine gesture.

Roland Barthes

I call the discourse of power any discourse that engenders blame, hence guilt, in its recipient.

Roland Barthes

I have tried to be as eclectic as I possibly can with my professional life, and so far it’s been pretty fun.

Roland Barthes

Language is legislation, speech is its code. We do not see the power which is in speech because we forget that all speech is a classification, and that all classifications are oppressive.

Roland Barthes

Literature is the question minus the answer.

Roland Barthes

Literature is without proofs. By which it must be understood that it cannot prove, not only what it says, but even that it is worth the trouble of saying it.

Roland Barthes

Myth is neither a lie nor a confession: it is an inflexion.

Roland Barthes

Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire.

Roland Barthes

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