Roland Barthes

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Barthes photographed by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1963.
Born November 12, 1915(1915-11-12)
Cherbourg, France
Died March 26, 1980(1980-03-26) (aged 64)
Paris, France
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Roland Gérard Barthes (1915–1980) was a French literary theorist, philosopher, linguist, critic, and semiotician. His ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, social theory, anthropology and post-structuralism.

Life and work[edit]

Barthes at the time of the publication of Le Degré zéro de l’écriture, photographed by Robert David, 1953.

Roland Barthes was born in Cherbough, Manche. His father died in a naval battle in Barthes' infancy, forcing his mother to move to Bayonne. Barthes spent his early childhood there, until they moved to Paris in 1924 where he attended the Lycée Montagne, followed by studies at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand from 1930-34. Life became difficult for them when Barthes mother had an illegitimate child, for their grandparents refused to give her financial aid, and so she took work as a bookbinder. Barthes was able to continue his studies at the Sorbonne, in classical letters, grammar and philology (receiving a degrees in 1939 and 1943 respectively), and Greek tragedy.

Barthes' doctoral studies were hampered by ill health. He suffered from tuberculosis, spending time in sanatoriums in the years 1934-5 and 1942-46, during the occupation. He continued to read and write, established a theatrical group, and in spite of his condition, managed to teach at lycées in Biarritz (1939), Bayonne (1939-40), Paris (1942-46), at the French Institute, Bucharest, Romania (1948-49), University of Alexandria, Egypt (1949-50), and Direction Générale des Affaires Culturelles (1950-52). His teaching career expanded: research positions with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (1952-59), a directorship of studies at the École Practique des Hautes Étude (1960-76), a teacher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (1967-68), and a chair of literary semiology at Collège de France (1976 to 1980). [1]

Barthes died in 1980 at the age of 64 from injuries suffered after being struck by an automobile. Several posthumous collections of his writings have been published, including A Barthes Reader (1982), edited by his friend and admirer Susan Sontag, and Incidents (1987). [2]



Le degré zéro de l'écriture, 1953.
  • Le degré zéro de l'écriture, Paris: Seuil, 1953; repr., Paris: Denoël/Gonthier, 1965; new ed., Paris: Seuil, 1972, ARG 2up, HTML.
    • Writing Degree Zero, trans. Annette Lavers and Colin Smith, London: Jonathan Cape, 1967; New York: Hill and Wang, 1968, ARG 2up. (English)
    • Nulový stupeň rukopisu: základy sémiologie, trans. Josef Čermák and Josef Dubský, Prague: Československý spisovatel, 1967, xxi+88 pp. (Czech)
    • Yazının Sıfır Derecesi, Metis Yayınları, 2006, PDF. (Turkish)
    • Gradul Zero al scriiturii. Noi eseuri critice, trans. Alex. Cistelcan, Cartier, 2006. (Romanian)
  • Michelet par lui-même, Paris: Seuil, 1954.
Mythologies, 1957, ARG, PDF.
  • Mythologies, Paris: Seuil, 1957, ARG, PDF, PDF; 1970.
    • Mythologies, trans. Annette Lavers, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1972, ARG, PDF. (English)
    • Mitologías, trans. Hector Schmucler, Madrid: Siglo XXI, 1980, PDF. (Spanish)
    • Mytologie, trans. Josef Fulka, Prague: Dokořán, 2004, 170 pp. (Czech)
    • Mythen des Alltags. Vollständige Ausgabetrans, trans. Horst Brühmann, Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2010, PDF. (German)
    • Mythologies: The Complete Edition, trans. Richard Howard and Annette Lavers, New York: Hill and Wang, 2012. (English). Review.
  • Sur Racine, Paris: Seuil, 1963; 1979.
    • On Racine, trans. Richard Howard, New York: Hill and Wang, 1964, xii+172 pp. (English)
  • "Éléments de Sémiologie", Communications 4, 1964, pp 91-135, HTML; repr. as Eléments de sémiologie, Paris: Denoël/Gonthier, 1965. MIA, excerpts. (French)
    • Elementos de semiología, trans. Alberto Méndez, Madrid: Alberto Corazón, 1971, PDF. (Spanish) [3].
    • Elementos de semiologia, trans. Izidoro Blikstein, São Paulo: Cultrix, 1971, PDF. (Brazilian Portuguese)
    • Elements of Semiology, trans. Annette Lavers and Colin Smith, New York: Hill and Wang, 1977, ARG, PDF. (English)
  • Critique et vérité, Paris: Seuil, 1966; rev. ed., 2002, PDF, IA, ARG.
    • Crítica y verdad, trans. José Bianco, Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 1972, PDF. (Spanish)
    • Criticism and Truth, trans. Katrine Pilcher Keuneman, Athlone Press, 1987; London: Continuum, 2004; 2007, ARG. (English)
    • Kritika a pravda, trans. Josef Čermák, Josef Dubský and Julie Štěpánková, Liberec: Dauphin, 1997. (Czech)
    • Crítica e verdade, trans. Leyla Perrone-Moisés, 3rd edition, Sao Paulo: Perspectiva, 1999, PDF. (Brazilian Portuguese)
  • Système de la Mode, Paris: Seuil, 1967.
    • The Fashion System, trans. Matthew Ward and Richard Howard, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983; University of alifornia Press, 1990, ARG. (English)
S/Z, 1970.
  • S/Z, Paris: Seuil, 1970; 1976.
    • S/Z, trans. Richard Miller, intro. Richard Howard, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1974; Blackwell, 1990; 2002, ARG, PDF. (English)
    • S/Z, trans. Josef Fulka, Prague, 2007, 431 pp. (Czech)
L'empire des signes, 1970.
  • L'empire des signes, Paris: Skira, 1970; Paris: Flammarion, 1980.
    • Empire of Signs, trans. Richard Howard, New York: Hill and Wang, 1983; 1989, ARG, PDF. (English)
    • Imperiul Semnelor, trans. Alex. Cistelecan, Cartier, 2007. (Romanian)
    • Říše znaků, trans. Petr Zavadil, Prague: Fra, 2012, 168 pp. (Czech)
  • Sade, Fourier, Loyola, Paris: Seuil, 1971; 1980.
    • Sade, Fourier, Loyola, trans. Richard Miller, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1974, University of California Press, 1989, ARG, PDF. (English)
    • Sade, Fourier, Loyola, trans. Josef Fulka, Prague: Dokořán, 2005, 190 pp. (Czech)
  • Le Plaisir du texte, Paris: Seuil, 1973, ARG; 1982.
    • The Pleasure of the Text, trans. Richard Miller, New York: Hill and Wang, 1975, ARG, PDF, PDF. (English)
    • "El placer del texto", trans. Nicolás Rosa, in: El placer del texto, seguido por Lección inaugural, México: Siglo XXI, 1982; 1993, pp 7-107. (Spanish)
    • Plăcerea textului. Roland Barthes despre Roland Barthes. Lecţia, trans. Marian Papahagi and Sorina Dănăilă, Cartier, 2006. (Romanian)
    • Rozkoš z textu, trans. Olga Špilarová, Prague: Triáda, 2008, 96 pp. (Czech)
    • Die Lust am Text, trans. Ottmar Ette, Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2010. [4] (German)
  • Alors la Chine?, Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1975.
  • Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes, Paris: Seuil, 1975.
    • Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, trans. Richard Howard, University of California Press, with New York: Hill and Wang, 1977, 188 pp, ARG, Log. (English)
    • Barthes Roland Barthes por Barthes, trans. J. Sucre, Barcelona: Kairós, 1978. (Spanish)
    • Roland Barthes o Rolandu Barthesovi, trans. Josef Fulka, Prague: Fra, 2015. Excerpt. (Czech)
'Fragments d’un discours amoureux, 1977, PDF, PDF.
  • Fragments d’un discours amoureux, Paris: Seuil, 1977, PDF, PDF.
    • A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, trans. Richard Howard, New York: Hill and Wang, 1978, ARG, PDF, OL.
    • Fragmentos de un discurso amoroso, trans. Eduardo Molina, Madrid: Siglo XXI editores, 1982; 1993, PDF, 1, PDF, 2. (Spanish)
    • Fragmente einer Sprache der Liebe, trans. Hans Horst Henschen, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1984, ARG 2up. (German)
    • Fragmenty milostného diskurzu, trans. Čestmír Pelikán, Červený Kostelec: Pavel Mervart, 2007, 290 pp. (Czech)
    • Fragmente dintr-un discurs îndrăgostit, trans. Sorina Dănăilă, Cartier, 2007 (Romanian).
  • Sollers, écrivain, Paris: Seuil, 1979.
    • Sollers Writer, trans. Philip Thody, London: Athlone, 1987, ARG 2up. (English)
La chambre claire: note sur la photographie, 1980, PDF, Log.
  • La chambre claire: note sur la photographie, Paris: Gallimard/Seuil, 1980, 194 pp, PDF, Log.
    • Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1982, 119 pp, Log, ARG. (English)
    • A câmara clara: Nota sobre a fotografia, trans. Júlio Castañon Guimarães, 1984, Log. (Portuguese)
    • Ο φωτεινός θάλαμος: Σημειώσεις για τη φωτογραφία, trans. Γιάννης Κρητικός, 1984, Log. (Greek)
    • Világoskamra: Jegyzetek a fotográfiáról, trans. Ferch Magda, 1985, Log. (Hungarian)
    • La cámara lúcida: Nota sobre la fotografía, trans. Joaquim Sala-Sanahuja, 1990, Log, ARG. (Spanish)
    • La camera chiara: Nota sulla fotografia, trans. Renzo Guidieri, 1992, Log. (Italian)
    • Světlá komora: Vysvětlivka k fotografii, trans. & afterw. Miroslav Petříček jr., 1994, Log; 2nd ed., rev., as Světlá komora: poznámka k fotografii, Prague: Fra, 2005, 123 pp. (Czech)
    • Camera luminoasă. Însemnări despre fotografie, trans. Virgil Mleşniţă, Cluj-Napoca: Editura Ideea Design & Print, 2005; 2nd edition, 2009, PDF, IA, ARG. Review. (Romanian)
    • Camera Lucida: Комментарий к фотографии, trans. Михаил Рыклин, Москва [Moscow]: Издательство "Ad Marginem", 1997, Log. (Russian)
    • Światło obrazu: Uwagi o fotografii, trans. Jacek Trznadel, 2008, Log. (Polish)

Collected works[edit]

  • Œuvres complètes, ed. Eric Marty, Paris: Seuil, 1993-95; 2002.
    • I, 1942-1965, 1993.
    • II, 1966-1973, 1994.
    • III, 1974-1980, 1995.

Selected works[edit]

Image Music Text, 1977, ARG, PDF, Log.
  • Essais critiques, Paris: Seuil, 1964; 1981.
    • Critical Essays, trans. Richard Howard, Northwestern University Press, 1972, 279 pp, OL. (English)
  • Nouveaux essais critiques, Paris: Seuil, 1972.
    • New Critical Essays, trans. Richard Howard, University of California Press, 1992. (English)
  • Image Music Text, ed. & trans. Stephen Heath, London: Fontana, 1977, ARG, PDF, Log.
  • L'obvie et l'obtus: essais critiques, III, Paris: Seuil, 1982, PDF.
    • The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art, and Representation, trans. Richard Howard, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1985; University of California Press, 1991, ARG 2up. (English)
    • Lo obvio y lo obtuso: imágenes, gestos, voces, Barcelona: Paidos Iberica, 1986, PDF. (Spanish)
  • A Barthes Reader, ed. Susan Sontag, New York: Hill and Wang, 1982; new ed. as Selected Writings of Roland Barthes, Vintage, 1993. (English)
  • Le bruissment de la langue: essais critiques IV, Paris: Seuil, 1984, PDF.
    • The Rustle of Language, trans. Richard Howard, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1986; University of California Press, 1989, PDF, ARG 2up; 1992. (English)
  • L'Aventure sémiologique, Paris: Seuil, 1985.
    • The Semiotic Challenge, trans. Richard Howard, New York: Hill & Wang, 1988. (English)
  • Incidents, Paris: Seuil, 1987.
    • Incidents, trans. Richard Howard, University of California Press, 1992, HTML, ARG. (English)
    • Incidente, trans. Iolanda Vasiliu, Cartier, 2007 (Romanian).
  • Romanul scriiturii. Antologie, trans. Adriana Babeţi and Delia Şepeţean-Vasiliu, Bucharest: Univers Publishing House, 1987, 380 pp, Scribd. (Romanian)
  • Écrits sur le théâtre, Paris: Seuil, 2002.
  • The Language of Fashion, trans. Andy Stafford, eds. Andy Stafford and Michael Carter, Berg, 2006; Bloomsbury, 2013, PDF, ARG. (English)


  • Leçon, Paris: Seuil, 1978. MP3. Inaugural lecture at the Collège de France, given 7 January 1977.
  • Comment vivre ensemble: cours et séminaires au Collège de France 1976–1977, Paris: Seuil/Imec, 2002. MP3.
  • Le Neutre: cours et séminaires au Collège de France 1977–1978, ed. & annot. Thomas Clerc, Paris: Seuil/Imec, 2002, PDF, IA, ARG. MP3.
    • The Neutral, trans. Rosalind E. Krauss and Denis Hollier, Columbia University Press, 2005, PDF. (English)
  • La Préparation du roman: I et II, cours au collège de France 1978–1980, Paris: Seuil/Imec, 2003, PDF. MP3.


  • with Tzvetan Todorov, et al., Communications 8: "L’analyse structurales du récit", 1966.
    • El análisis estructural del relato, trans. Beatriz Dorriots, Buenos Aires: Tiempo Contemporáneo, 1970, PDF. (Spanish)
  • with Tzvetan Todorov, et al., Communications 11: "Le Vraisemblable", 1968.
    • Lo verosímil, trans. Beatriz Dorriots, Buenos Aires: Tiempo Contemporáneo, 1970, PDF. (Spanish)

Selected essays[edit]

  • "Le message photographique", Communications 1:1 (1961), pp 127-138, PDF.
    • "The Photographic Message", trans. Stephen Heath, in Barthes, Image Music Text, 1977, PDF; repr. in A Barthes Reader, ed. Sontag, 1982, pp 194-210. (English)
  • "Rhétorique de l'image", Communications 4:4 (1964), pp 40-51, PDF.
    • "Rhetoric of the Image", in Classic Essays on Photography, ed. Alan Trachtenberg, New Haven: Leete's Island Books, 1980, pp 269-285, PDF, PDF. (English)
  • "La mort de l'auteur", Manteia 5, 1968; repr. in Le Bruissement de la langue, Paris: Seuil, 1984, pp 61-67, PDF.
    • "The Death of the Author", trans. Richard Howard, Aspen 5-6, 1967, HTML. (English)
    • "The Death of the Author", trans. Stephen Heath, in Barthes, Image Music Text, 1977, pp 142-148, PDF. (English)
    • "Smrt autora", trans. Tomáš Jirsa, Aluze 3 (2006), pp 75-77, PDF; repr. in Společenské vědy a audiovize, eds. Helena Bendová and Matěj Strnad, Prague: AMU, 2014, pp 263-269, PDF. (Czech)
  • "The Third Meaning: Research Notes on Several Eisenstein Stills", 1970, PDF; repr. in Barthes, Image-Music-Text, 1977, pp 44-68; repr. in Barthes, The Responsibility of Forms, 1985. (English) [5]


  • Carnets de voyage en Chine, Paris: Christian Bourgois, 2009. Diary from a 1974 trip to China.
    • Travels in China, Polity, 2012, 240 pp. (English)
  • Journal de deuil (26 octobre 1977 - 15 septembre 1979), [1977-1979], text by Nathalie Léger, Paris: Seuil/Imec, 2009, PDF. Review, [6].
    • Jurnal de doliu (26 octombrie 1977 - 15 septembrie 1979), trans. Em. Galaicu-Păun, Cartier, 2009. (Romanian)



  • Le grain de la voix: entretiens 1962-1980, Paris: Seuil, 1981; 1999.
    • The Grain of the Voice: Interviews, 1962-1980, trans. Linda Coverdal, Hill and Wang, 1984; 1985, OL; University of California Press, 1991; Northwestern University Press, 2009. (English)



  • Louis-Jean Calvet, Roland Barthes, un regard politique sur le signe, Paris: Payot, 1973.
  • Colloque de Cérisy, Prétexte: Roland Barthes, Paris: Union générale d'éditions, 1978.
  • George R. Wasserman, Roland Barthes, Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1981. (English)
  • Annette Lavers, Roland Barthes: Structuralism and After, London: Methuen, 1982, PDF. (English)
  • Jonathan Culler, Barthes, London: Fontana, 1983; repr. as Roland Barthes, Oxford University Press, 1983; rev. ed. as Roland Barthes: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2001. (English)
  • Réda Bensmaïa, The Barthes Effect: The Essay as Reflective Text, trans. Pat Fedkiew, University of Minnesota Press, 1987. (English)
  • Louis-Jean Calvet, Roland Barthes 1915-1980, Paris: Flammarion, 1990.
    • Roland Barthes: A Biography, trans. Sarah Wykes, Indiana University Press, 1994. (English)
  • François Dosse, Histoire du structuralisme 1, Paris: La Découverte, 1991.
    • Geschichte des Strukturalismus. Bd 1: Das Feld des Zeichens, 1945-1966, trans. Deborah Glassman, Hamburg: Junius, 1996, Log. (German)
    • History of Structuralism, Vol. 1: The Rising Sign, 1945-1966, trans. Deborah Glassman, University of Minnesota Press, 1997, Log. (English)
  • Jean-Michel Rabaté (ed.), Writing the Image After Roland Barthes, University on Pensylvania Press, 1997. (English)
  • Allen Graham, Roland Barthes, London: Routledge, 2003, PDF. (English)
  • Jean-Claude Milner, El paso filosófico de Roland Barthes, Buenos Aires: Amorrortu, 2004. (Spanish)
  • Eric Marty, Roland Barthes, le métier d'écrire, Paris: Seuil, 2006.
  • Margaret Iversen, Beyond Pleasure. Freud, Lacan, Barthes, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007. (English)
  • Geoffrey Batchen, Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida, MIT Press, 2009. (English)
  • Roland Badmington (ed.), Roland Barthes: Critical Evaluations in Cultural Theory, 4 vols., Routledge, 2009, 1600 pp. [7]
  • Lucy O’Meara, Roland Barthes at the Collège de France, Liverpool University Press, 2012. (English). Review.
  • Peter Geimer, Bernd Stiegler (eds.), Auge in Auge. Kleine Schriften zur Photographie, Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2015. [8] (German)

Journal issues[edit]

Book chapters, papers, articles and dissertations[edit]