Thursday, January 1, 2009

Aimless Reading: The B's, Part 5

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Barthes, Roland

If I had to choose my top five favorite theory books, this would surely make the cut. Most of the theory books I have read I have either a) not understood or b) not cared enough about to read beyond a few pages (Anti-Oedipus, anyone?). Mythologies is one of those books from which I feel I actually learned something new when I read it and had to adjust my thinking and understanding of the world in order to accommodate this new knowledge. I believe I read it first for a Semiotics class I took at the New School with Marshall Blonsky, but then read it again several times on my own. The cover is smudged and sticky with some sort of brownish substance, which could be blood, or possibly hot chocolate. Anyhow, if you need an introduction into the wonderful world of structuralist and post-structuralist thinking, or if you just want to be entertained by some penetrating reflections on meaning in popular culture, this is the book for you.

Here's a passage I underlined from the preface:

The starting point of these reflections was usually a feeling of impatience at the sight of the 'naturalness' with which newspapers, art and common sense constantly dress up a reality which, even thought it is the one we live in, is undoubtedly determined by history. In short, in the account given of our contemporary circumstances, I resented seeing Nature and History confused at every turn, and I wanted to track down, in the decorative display of what-goes-without-saying, the ideological abuse which, in my view, is hidden there.


Aaron Armstrong Skomra said...

I thought you were going to say "Anyhow, if you need an introduction into the wonderful world of structuralist and post-structuralist thinking you should probably borrow someone else's copy." (Because of the stuff on the cover.)

Great quote from the book, I love how Barthes feels like a real person.

Michael Kelleher, Buffalo, NY said...

Agreed -- looking over this book again I am surprised not only by how much of it I remember but by how clearly I remember it all.