Saturday, July 10, 2021

Mythologies by Roland Barthes - short summary

In Mythologies  Roland Barthes writes:

“[…] One of our major constraints: the overwhelming divorce of mythology and knowledge . The science goes quickly and right in its path; but the collective representations do not follow, they are centuries behind, kept stagnant in error by the power, the big press and the values ​​of order. "

In Mythologies, Roland Barthes describes myths as diverse as the Citroën DS , wrestling , wine , the face of Greta Garbo , steak frites and French colonial discourse. But he also analyzes the very phenomenon of the myth . For him, the myth is a tool of ideology , he realizes beliefs , of which the doxa is the system, in speech: the myth is a sign. Its signified is an ideologeme, its signifier can be anything: “Each object in the world can pass from a closed, silent existence, to an oral state, open to the appropriation of society . " (Mythologies, 31)

In myth, Barthes writes, the semiological chain "  signifier / signified = sign  " is doubled. The myth is constituted from a pre-existing chain: the sign of the first chain becomes the signifier of the second. Barthes gives the example of a sentence appearing as an example in a grammar: it is a sign composed of signifier and signified, but which becomes in its grammar context a new signifier whose signified is "I am here as an example of a grammatical rule ” (Mythologies, 32) 

A purely ideological example in this collection is the photo of a black soldier looking at the national flag, where the sign as a whole becomes the signifier of the myth of the accession of colonized populations to the French Empire.

In the final analysis, the doxa propagated by the myth , for Barthes, is the image that the bourgeoisie has of the world and that it imposes on the world. The bourgeois strategy is to fill the whole world with its culture and its morals, by making people forget its own historical class status:

“The status of the bourgeoisie is particular, historical: the man it represents will be universal, eternal; […] Finally, the first idea of ​​the perfectible, mobile world will produce the inverted image of an immutable humanity, defined by an infinitely renewed identity (Mythologies, 35) . "

Continue to a detailed summary of Mythologies by Barthes (forthcoming) or a summary of its theoretical part Myth Today. See also a critique of Mythologies.

Additional summaries and articles on Roland Barthes: