Roland Barthes was born in 1915 in Cherbourg in France. He spent much of his life teaching and researching, but later turned to writing where he developed his structuralist approach to French culture and become a contemporary French literacy critic, philosopher and educator. Bathes then become greatly recognised as French semiotician in 1960’s where he was famous for his ideological approach to popular culture in France, following the influential work of Marx. His work then extended over many field the analysis of photographic images, style of literacy texts and the denaturalization of French ‘Myths’.
In discussion in this essay I have explored what I believe to be the most important and influential key theories developed by Barthes, with clear reasoning and personal opinion. In the 1940’s Barthes focuses on the style of writing, it is here that Barthes focuses on externalist philosophy in his first book’ Writing Degree Zero’ where he analyses the style of French writing. He argues that, ‘Such a ecriture was in fact a style at all… a particular deliberately adopted way of writing developed at a particular time and place…
an innocent reflection of reality’ (Hawkins,1977,107) This attack on the style of French writing outlines Barthes reinforcement that in fact that style is not creative and unique, but built but on social and radical changes in society, where then the style is adapted to this change, thus the author is not creative. This indicates that bourgeois style is not creative but neutralised and naturalised. Bourgeois style can then be seen as been innocent, which I would disagree on, as ideological interpretations shape reality.
In addition I would agree with Barthes notion that style changes when society changes as surely the style of writing would have changed during the World War Two when, the style would have been adapted to support the propaganda around during the time of the war. One of Barthes most famous and influential prices of work was his collection of essay written in 1957 titled ‘Mythologies’ Bathes expanded on the work of Saussure and added a higher order of signification which Barthes refers to as ‘myth’
In particular Barthes focuses on the ideological positions of national symbolism in France. Barthes describes myths as ‘ the dominant ideologies of our time'(Chandler, 2000,144) This re moralises the manipulation of French mass media who evidently put out ideological messages about popular culture in France, reinforcing it as been innocently presented. I would agree that this can be applied to society today as bourgeois want to portray national symbolism as innocent as so that people buy the mediums and support their views.
Barthes strongly believes that the French mass media dress up reality portraying naturalness of the message. Barthes in particular focuses on wine and food as symbolism of French culture, he says ‘It exalts all climates of whatever kind; on cold weather it is associated with the myths of been warm and at the height of summer, with the images of shade… cool and sparkling. ‘ (Barthes, 2000, 60) Barthes here is portraying wine in France as been neutralised and seen in a good light, suggesting it is a refreshing beverage.
However Barthes hides the reality of the message that in fact wine is a harmful and dangerous beverage, therefore reinforcing the ideological message of French culture been innocently presented. I would say that this can be applied universally to people in different countries as wine can be seen as a famous south African and Italian drink, therefore it is dressing up reality of wine not French symbolism. A later instance of critical application was Barthes analysis of ‘Paris Match’ magazine, where he breaks down the image of French solider into bits analysing the ideologies behind the picture.
Barthes states in a clear bold statement, ‘ … I see very well what it signifies to me, that Frances a great empire that all her sons, without any colour discrimination, faithfully serve under her flag’ (Barthes, 1957,. 116). Here Barthes has broken the picture down into bits, the denotive meaning a man saluting looking confidently and the connective meaning- a manipulation that the man is saluting the French flag. The message indicates the proudness of the French military portraying French symbolism and indicating that the French empire is ‘right’ and ‘natural’.
I would say that different people of different cultures are surely going to interpret the message differently therefore everyone is not lead to believe that French empire is naturalised, I believe it is based on the inheritance of history apposed to ideological messages that would influence peoples assumptions of the picture. To the end of his writings on mythologies Barthes looks at the Fashion System. Barthes looked at the captions and the photographic images in fashion magazines and exposes how bourgeois used them to influences the masses, by asserting their values upon them.