Barthes: A Very Short Introduction, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


This acclaimed short study, originally published in 1983, and now thoroughly updated, elucidates the varied theoretical contributions of Roland Barthes (1915-80), the 'incomparable enlivener of the literary mind' whose lifelong fascination was with the way people make their world intelligible.

He has a multi-faceted claim to fame: to some he is the structuralist who outlined a 'science of literature', and the most prominent promoter of semiology; to others he stands not for science but pleasure, espousing a theory of literature which gives the reader a creative role.

This book describes the many projects, which Barthes explored and which helped to change the way we think about a range of cultural phenomena - from literature, fashion, wrestling, and advertising to notions of the self, of history, and of nature.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area.

These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly.

Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 160 pages, 13 halftones and 5 line drawings
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Literary theory
  • ISBN: 9780192801593



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

Culler's introduction to Barthes is better than Barthes' actual ideas; the older Roland got the more nonsensical and silly his ideas got... and then he got hit by a laundry truck, one of the silliest deaths in intellectual history. Culler's analysis is sympathetic but also critical. It might be a good idea for most intellectuals to read this, because his criticism of Barthes' late infatuation with 'the body' is relevant to so many of them/us: why bother going through ideology critique, why bother revealing the way that we all treat out beliefs about the world as natural facts about the world, if you're just going to base your thought on a quasi-natural concept like the body? Nice for you that you can hold onto that liberal-conservative world-view and justify it by such a 'radical' epistemology; not so nice for those who don't benefit from that liberal-conservative world-view. <br/><br/>This isn't a substitute for reading Barthes, but it did a good job of encouraging me to read Mythologies and S/Z. Not much more you could ask for from a meta-literary-critic.

Review by

I am, I confess, not very good with literary theory. It seems strange that an MA in English Lit can assert that, or maybe I just knew a lot of literary theorists, but it's the case. Still, now I'm TAing for the SF/F course on Coursera, I find myself debating literary theory and understanding it more through trying to explain it, and being more interested in it as well. So I've started with Barthes -- 'The Death of the Author', at least, I've always understood reasonably well -- and I've got the short introduction to Derrida as well.Culler's introduction works reasonably well as a quick tour of Barthes' life, opinions, relevance, and even some of his sillier points and ideas. And it makes me want to cast my net a bit wider and pull in some Sartre too. Still, I can't say that it entirely converted me to literary theory -- even a summary of Barthes' ideas makes my head hurt a little at times.