S/Z – Roland Barthes (1970)

1960s: Days of Rage


S/Z, published in 1970, is Roland Barthes‘ structural analysis of ‘Sarrasine‘, the short story by Honoré de Balzac. Barthes methodically moves through the text of the story, denoting where and how different codes of meaning function. Barthes’ study made a major impact on literary criticism and is historically located at the crossroads of structuralism and post-structuralism. Barthes’s analysis is influenced by the structuralist linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure; both Barthes and Saussure aim to explore and demystify the link between a sign and its meaning. But Barthes moves beyond structuralism in that he criticises the propensity of narratology to establish the overall system out of which all individual narratives are created, which makes the text lose its specificity (différance) (I). Barthes uses five specific ‘codes’ that thematically, semiotically/semiologically, and otherwise make a literary text reflect structures that are interwoven, but…

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