Film Theory: Barthes, Roland–French Philosopher and Theorist (Ideology, Language)

This is part of a series of articles about the philosophers, sociologists, and their theories that have influenced my work as a film scholar and film critic.

Roland Gérard Barthes (November, 12 1915 – March 26, 1980) was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician.

Barthes’ ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of many schools of theory, including structuralism, semiotics, social theory, and anthropology.

His book “Mythologies” examines the specific and empirical ways in which ideology works.

The book has become the essential text of practicing the ideological-critical approach.

How hegemony works through interactions between various institutions, such as literature, law, and journalism.

Barthes later replaced mythologies with “discourse,” claiming that literature is not separate from everyday life.  Literature doesn’t just mean the literary canon.

The way discourse  is circulated  through society makes for a particular representation of the world to the point where it seems “natural” and “universal.”  And what’s outside it is perceived as “unnatural,” “perverse,” “exotic,” “abnormal,”and even “stupid.”

For example, judges use terms from literary clichés, and the journalists who report the cases turn them into yet more literature.

In analyzing the ways in which texts are read, Barthes distinguished between the readerly (le lisible) and the writerly (le scriptable).

The writerly defines the reader as an active producer of meanings rather than as a  passive consumer.

Barthes called our attention to the difference between a referential and transparent use of language.

Roland Barthes was born on November 12, 1915 in Cherbourg in Normandy. His father, naval officer Louis Barthes, was killed in a battle during World War I in the North Sea before Barthes’s first birthday. His mother, Henriette Barthes, and his aunt and grandmother raised him in the village of Urt and the city of Bayonne. In 1924, Barthes’ family moved to Paris, though his attachment to his provincial roots would remain strong.

Barthes showed great promise as student and spent the years of 1935 to 1939 at the Sorbonne, where he earned a license in classical literature. He was plagued by ill health, suffering from tuberculosis, which had to be treated in the isolation of sanatoria. His repeated physical breakdowns disrupted his academic career, affecting his studies and his ability to take qualifying exams. They also exempted him from military service during World War II.

His life from 1939 to 1948 was spent obtaining a license in grammar and philology, publishing his first papers, taking part in medical study, and continuing to struggle with his health. He received a diplôme d’études supérieures (equivalent to an MA by thesis) from the University of Paris in 1941 for his work in Greek tragedy.

In 1948, he returned to academic work, gaining short-term positions at institutes in France, Romania, and Egypt. During this time, he contributed to the leftist Parisian paper “Combat,” out of which grew his first full-length work, Writing Degree Zero (1953).

Knowing little English, Barthes taught at Middlebury College in 1957 and befriended the future English translator of much of his work, Richard Howard, that summer in New York City.

Barthes spent the early 1960s exploring the fields of semiology and structuralism, chairing faculty positions around France, and continuing to produce more full-length studies. Many works challenged traditional academic views of literary criticism and of renowned figures of literature.

His unorthodox thinking led to a conflict with a well-known Sorbonne professor of literature, Raymond Picard, who attacked the French New Criticism (a label he applied to Barthes) for its obscurity and lack of respect towards France’s literary roots. Barthes’s rebuttal in Criticism and Truth (1966) accused the old, bourgeois criticism of a lack of concern with the finer points of language and of selective ignorance towards challenging theories, such as Marxism.

Barthes contributed with Philippe Sollers to avant-garde literary magazine Tel Quel, which was developing similar theoretical inquiry to that pursued in Barthes’s writings.

In 1970, Barthes produced his most prodigious work, the dense, critical reading of Balzac’s Sarrasine entitled S/Z.

Throughout the 1970s, Barthes developed his literary criticism; new ideals of textuality and novelistic neutrality.

In 1971, he served as visiting professor at the University of Geneva. In those same years he became primarily associated with the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS).

In 1975, he wrote an autobiography titled Roland Barthes and in 1977 he was elected to the chair of Sémiologie Littéraire at the Collège de France.

On February 25, 1980, Roland Barthes was knocked down by laundry van while walking home through the streets of Paris. One month later, on March 26, he died from chest injuries he had sustained in the accident.

Writings and Ideas

Barthes’s ideas reacted to existentialist philosophy that was prominent in France during the 1940s, specifically the figurehead of existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre.

Sartre’s What Is Literature? (1947) expresses disenchantment both with established forms of writing and more experimental, avant-garde forms, which he feels alienate readers. Barthes’s response tried to discover what was considered unique and original in writing.

In Writing Degree Zero (1953), Barthes argues that conventions inform both language and style, rendering neither purely creative. Instead, form, or what Barthes calls “writing” (the specific way an individual chooses to manipulate conventions of style for desired effect), is the unique and creative act. However, a writer’s form is vulnerable to becoming a convention once it has been made available to the public.

This means that creativity is an ongoing process of continual change and reaction.

In “Michelet,” a critical analysis of the French historian Jules Michelet, Barthes developed these notions, applying them to broader range of fields. He argued that Michelet’s views of history and society are flawed. One should not seek to learn from Michelet’s claims; rather, one should maintain a critical distance and learn from his errors, since understanding how and why his thinking is flawed will show more about his period of history than his own observations.

Barthes felt that avant-garde writing should be praised for its maintenance of such distance between its audience and itself. In presenting an obvious artificiality rather than making claims to great subjective truths, Barthes argued, avant-garde writers ensure that their audiences maintain objective perspective.

Barthes believed that art should be critical and should interrogate the world, rather than seek to explain it, as Michelet had done.

Semiotics and Myth

Barthes’s monthly contributions, collected in his Mythologies (1957), interrogated specific cultural materials in order to expose how bourgeois society asserted its values through them.

Barthes cited the portrayal of wine in French society. Its description as robust and healthy habit is bourgeois ideal that is contradicted by certain realities (that wine can be unhealthy and inebriating).

He found semiotics, the study of signs, useful in interrogations. He developed a theory of signs to demonstrate this perceived deception. The construction of myths results in two levels of signification: the “language-object”, a first order linguistic system; and the “metalanguage”, the second-order system transmitting the myth. The former pertains to the literal or explicit meaning of things, while the latter is composed of the language used to speak about the first order.

Barthes explained these bourgeois cultural myths as “second-order signs,” or “connotations.” A picture of full, dark bottle is a signifier that relates to a specific signified: a fermented, alcoholic beverage. However, the bourgeoisie relate it to new signified: the idea of healthy, robust, relaxing experience.

Motivations for such manipulations vary, from desire to sell products to simple desire to maintain the status quo.

These insights brought Barthes in line with Marxist theory. Barthes used the term “myth” while analyzing the popular, consumer culture of post-war France in order to reveal that “objects were organized into meaningful relationships via narratives that expressed collective cultural values.”

In “The Fashion System,” Barthes showed how this adulteration of signs could easily be translated into words.

In the fashion world, any word could be loaded with idealistic bourgeois emphasis. If popular fashion says that a ‘blouse’ is ideal for certain situation or ensemble, this idea is naturalized and accepted as truth, even though the actual sign could just as easily be interchangeable with ‘skirt’, ‘vest’ or any number of combinations.

Barthes’s Mythologies became absorbed into bourgeois culture, as he found many third parties asking him to comment on certain cultural phenomenon, being interested in his control over his readership. This turn of events caused him to question the overall utility of demystifying culture for the masses, thinking it might be fruitless attempt, and drove him deeper in search for individualistic meaning in art.

Structuralism and its Limits

His investigation of structure focused on revealing the importance of language in writing, which he felt was overlooked by old criticism. Barthes’s “Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narrative” examines the correspondence between the structure of a sentence and that of a larger narrative, thus allowing narrative to be viewed along linguistic lines.

Functions, Actions, Narrative

Barthes split this work into three hierarchical levels: ‘functions’, ‘actions’ and ‘narrative’. ‘Functions’ are the elementary pieces of a work, such as a single descriptive word that can be used to identify a character. That character would be an ‘action’, and consequently one of the elements that make up the narrative. Barthes was able to use these distinctions to evaluate how certain key ‘functions’ work in forming characters. For example, key words like ‘dark’, ‘mysterious’ and ‘odd’, when integrated together, formulate a specific kind of character or ‘action’. By breaking down the work into such fundamental distinctions Barthes was able to judge the degree of realism given functions have in forming their actions and consequently with what authenticity a narrative can be said to reflect on reality. Thus, his structuralist theorizing became another exercise in his ongoing attempts to dissect and expose the misleading mechanisms of bourgeois culture.

While Barthes found structuralism to be a useful tool and believed that discourse of literature could be formalized, he did not believe it could become strict scientific endeavor. In the late 1960s, radical movements were taking place in literary criticism. The post-structuralist movement and the deconstructionism of Jacques Derrida were testing the bounds of the structuralist theory that Barthes’s work exemplified.

Derrida identified the flaw of structuralism as its reliance on transcendental signifier; a symbol of constant, universal meaning would be essential as an orienting point in such a closed off system. Without some regular standard of measurement, a system of criticism that references nothing outside of the actual work itself could never prove useful.

But since there are no symbols of constant and universal significance, the entire premise of structuralism as means of evaluating writing (or anything) is hollow.


Barthes considered the limitations not just of signs and symbols, but also of Western culture’s dependency on beliefs of constancy and ultimate standards.

He travelled to Japan in 1966 where he wrote Empire of Signs (published in 1970), a meditation on Japanese culture’s contentment in the absence of search for a transcendental signifier.

He notes that in Japan there is no emphasis on great focus point by which to judge all other standards, describing the centre of Tokyo, the Emperor’s Palace, as not a great overbearing entity, but silent and nondescript presence, avoided and unconsidered.

Barthes reflects on the ability of signs in Japan to exist for their own merit, retaining only the significance naturally imbued by their signifiers. Such a society contrasts to the one he dissected in Mythologies, which was revealed asserting a greater, more complex significance on top of the natural one.

The Death of the Author

Barthes saw the notion of the author, or authorial authority, in the criticism of literary text as the forced projection of an ultimate meaning of the text. By imagining an ultimate intended meaning of a piece of literature one could infer an ultimate explanation for it. But Barthes points out that the great proliferation of meaning in language and the unknowable state of the author’s mind makes any such ultimate realization impossible. As such, the whole notion of the ‘knowable text’ acts as little more than another delusion of Western bourgeois culture. Indeed, the idea of giving a book or poem an ultimate end coincides with the notion of making it consumable, something that can be used up and replaced in a capitalist market. “The Death of the Author” is considered to be a post-structuralist work,[17] since it moves past the conventions of trying to quantify literature, but others see it as more of a transitional phase for Barthes in his continuing effort to find significance in culture outside of the bourgeois norms[citation needed]. Indeed, the notion of the author being irrelevant was already a factor of structuralist thinking.

Textuality and S/Z

Barthes contends that there can be no originating anchor of meaning in the possible intentions of the author, so he considers what other sources of meaning or significance can be found in literature.

Since meaning can’t come from the author, it must be actively created by the reader through a process of textual analysis.

In his S/Z (1970), Barthes analyzed Sarrasine, a Balzac novella. The result was reading with five major codes for determining various significance, with numerous lexias throughout the text – a “lexia” here being defined as a unit of the text chosen arbitrarily (to remain methodologically unbiased as possible) for further analysis.

The codes led him to define the story as having a capacity for plurality of meaning, limited by its dependence upon strictly sequential elements (such as a definite timeline that has to be followed by the reader and thus restricts their freedom of analysis).

An ideal text is one that is reversible, or open to the greatest variety of independent interpretations and not restrictive in meaning.

A text can be reversible by avoiding the restrictive devices that Sarrasine suffered from such as strict timelines and exact definitions of events.

The difference between the writerly text, in which the reader is active in a creative process, and a readerly text in which they are restricted to just reading. The project helped Barthes identify an openness for interpretation.

Neutral and Novelistic Writing

In the late 1970s, Barthes was increasingly concerned with the conflict of two types of language: that of popular culture, which he saw as limiting and pigeonholing in its titles and descriptions, and neutral, which he saw as open and noncommittal.

He called these two conflicting modes the Doxa (the official and unacknowledged systems of meaning by which we know culture and the Para-doxa. While Barthes had sympathized with Marxist thought in the past, he felt that, despite anti-ideological stance, Marxist theory was just as guilty of using violent language with assertive meanings, as was bourgeois literature. They were both Doxa and both culturally assimilating.

He wrote The Pleasure of the Text (1975), a study that focused on subject matter that was equally outside the realm of both conservative society and militant leftist thinking: hedonism. By writing about a subject that was rejected by both social extremes of thought, Barthes could avoid the dangers of the limiting language of the Doxa.

The theory he developed claimed that, while reading for pleasure is a kind of social act, through which the reader exposes him-herself to the ideas of the writer, the final cathartic climax of this pleasurable reading, which he termed the bliss in reading or jouissance, is a point in which one becomes lost within the text.

This loss of self within the text or immersion in the text, signifies a final impact of reading that is experienced outside the social realm and free from the influence of culturally associative language and is thus neutral with regard to social progress.

Barthes remained concerned with the difficulty of achieving truly neutral writing, which required avoidance of any labels that might carry an implied meaning or identity towards given object.

Even carefully crafted neutral writing could be taken in assertive context through the incidental use of a word with a loaded social context. Barthes felt his past works, like Mythologies, had suffered from this. He became interested in finding the best method for creating neutral writing, and he decided to try to create a novelistic form of rhetoric that would not seek to impose its meaning on the reader.

A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments in 1977, in which he presents the fictionalized reflections of a lover seeking to identify and be identified by an anonymous amorous other. The unrequited lover’s search for signs by which to show and receive love makes evident illusory myths involved in such a pursuit. The lover’s attempts to assert himself into a false, ideal reality is involved in a delusion that exposes the contradictory logic inherent in such a search. Yet at the same time the novelistic character is a sympathetic one, and is thus open not just to criticism but also understanding from the reader. The result is one that challenges the reader’s views of social constructs of love, without trying to assert any definitive theory of meaning.

Mind and Body
Barthes attempted to reinterpret the mind-body dualism theory. Like Friedrich Nietzsche and Emmanuel Levinas, he also drew from Eastern philosophical traditions in his critique of European culture as “infected” by Western metaphysics. His body theory emphasized the formation of the self through bodily cultivation.

The theory, which is described as ethico-political entity, considers the idea of the body as one that functions as a “fashion word” that provides the illusion of a grounded discourse. This theory has influenced the work of Jerome Bel.

Photography and Henriette Barthes

Barthes had an interest in photography and its potential to communicate actual events.

Many of his monthly myth articles in the 50s had attempted to show how a photographic image could represent implied meanings and thus be used by bourgeois culture to infer ‘naturalistic truths’. But he still considered the photograph to have a unique potential for presenting a completely real representation of the world.

When his mother, Henriette Barthes, died in 1977 he began writing Camera Lucida as attempt to explain the unique significance a picture of her as a child carried for him. Reflecting on the relationship between the obvious symbolic meaning of a photograph (which he called the studium) and that which is purely personal and dependent on the individual, that which ‘pierces the viewer’ (which he called the punctum), Barthes was troubled by the fact that such distinctions collapse when personal significance is communicated to others and can have its symbolic logic rationalized.

Barthes found the solution to this fine line of personal meaning in the form of his mother’s picture. He explained that a picture creates a falseness in the illusion of ‘what is’, where ‘what was’ would be a more accurate description. As had been made physical through Henriette’s death, her childhood photo is evidence of ‘what has ceased to be’. Instead of making reality solid, it reminds us of the world’s ever-changing nature. Because of this there is something uniquely personal contained in the photograph of Barthes’s mother that cannot be removed from his subjective state: the recurrent feeling of loss experienced whenever he looks at it. As one of his final works before his death, Camera Lucida was both an ongoing reflection on the complicated relations between subjectivity, meaning and cultural society as well as a touching dedication to his mother and description of the depth of his grief.

Posthumous Publications

It contains fragments from his journals: his Soirées de Paris (a 1979 extract from his erotic diary of life in Paris); an earlier diary he kept which explicitly detailed his paying for sex with men and boys in Morocco; and Light of the Sud Ouest (his childhood memories of rural French life).

In November 2007, Yale University Press published new translation into English (by Richard Howard) of Barthes’s little known work What is Sport. This work bears considerable resemblance to Mythologies and was commissioned by  Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as the text for documentary by Hubert Aquin.

In February 2009, Éditions du Seuil published Journal de deuil (Journal of Mourning), based on Barthes’s files written from  November 26, 1977 (the day following his mother’s death) up to September 15, 1979, intimate notes on his terrible loss:

The (awesome but not painful) idea that she had not been everything to me. Otherwise I would never have written a work. Since my taking care of her for 6 months, she actually had become everything for me, and I totally forgot of ever have written anything at all. I was nothing more than hopelessly hers. Before that she had made herself transparent so that I could write…. Mixing-up of roles. For months long I had been her mother. I felt like I had lost a daughter.

He grieved his mother’s death for the rest of his life: “Do not say mourning. It’s too psychoanalytic. I’m not in mourning. I’m suffering.” and “In the corner of my room where she had been bedridden, where she had died and where I now sleep, in the wall where her headboard had stood against I hung an icon—not out of faith. I always put some flowers on a table. I do not wish to travel anymore so that I may stay here and prevent the flowers from withering away.”

In 2012 the book Travels in China was published, consisting of notes from 3-week trip to China he undertook with a group from the literary journal Tel Quel in 1974. The experience left disappointed, as he found China “not at all exotic, not at all disorienting.”


Barthes’s criticism contributed to theoretical schools such as structuralism, semiotics, and post-structuralism. It is also felt in every field concerned with the representation of information and models of communication, including computers, photography, music, and literature.  One consequence of Barthes’s breadth of focus is that his legacy includes no following of thinkers dedicated to modeling themselves after him. The fact that Barthes’s work was ever adapting and refuting notions of stability and constancy means there is no canon of thought within his theory to model one’s thoughts upon, and thus no “Barthesism.”

Key Terms

Readerly and writerly are terms Barthes employs to delineate one type of literature from another and to implicitly interrogate ways of reading, like positive or negative habits the modern reader brings into one’s experience with the text itself.

Readerly Text
A text that makes no requirement of the reader to “write” or “produce” their own meanings. The reader may passively locate “ready-made” meaning. Barthes writes that these sorts of texts are “controlled by the principle of non-contradiction” (156), that is, they do not disturb the “common sense,” or “Doxa,” of the surrounding culture. The “readerly texts,” moreover, “are products [that] make up the enormous mass of our literature” (5). Within this category, there is a spectrum of “replete literature,” which comprises “any classic (readerly) texts” that work “like a cupboard where meanings are shelved, stacked, [and] safeguarded”

Writerly text
A text that aspires to the proper goal of literature and criticism: “… to make the reader no longer a consumer but a producer of the text” (4). Writerly texts and ways of reading constitute, in short, an active rather than passive way of interacting with a culture and its texts. A culture and its texts, Barthes writes, should never be accepted in their given forms and traditions. As opposed to the “readerly texts” as “product,” the “writerly text is ourselves writing, before the infinite play of the world is traversed, intersected, stopped, plasticized by some singular system (Ideology, Genus, Criticism) which reduces the plurality of entrances, the opening of networks, the infinity of languages” (5). Thus reading becomes for Barthes “not a parasitical act, the reactive complement of a writing”, but rather a “form of work”

The Author and the scriptor
Author and scriptor are terms Barthes uses to describe different ways of thinking about the creators of texts. “The author” is our traditional concept of the lone genius creating a work of literature or other piece of writing by the powers of his/her original imagination. For Barthes, such a figure is no longer viable. The insights offered by an array of modern thought, including the insights of Surrealism, have rendered the term obsolete. In place of the author, the modern world presents us with a figure Barthes calls the “scriptor,” whose only power is to combine pre-existing texts in new ways. Barthes believes that all writing draws on previous texts, norms, and conventions, and that these are the things to which we must turn to understand a text. As a way of asserting the relative unimportance of the writer’s biography compared to these textual and generic conventions, Barthes says that the scriptor has no past, but is born with the text. He also argues that, in the absence of the idea of an “author-God” to control the meaning of a work, interpretive horizons are opened up considerably for the active reader. As Barthes puts it, “the death of the author is the birth of the reader.”

In 1964, Barthes wrote “The Last Happy Writer” (“Le dernier des écrivains heureux” in Essais critiques), the title refers to Voltaire. He commented on the problems of the modern thinker after discovering the relativism in thought and philosophy, discrediting previous philosophers who avoided this difficulty. Disagreeing roundly with Barthes’s description of Voltaire, Daniel Gordon, the translator and editor of Candide (The Bedford Series in History and Culture), wrote that “never has one brilliant writer so thoroughly misunderstood another.”

The sinologist Simon Leys, in a review of Barthes’s diary of a trip to China during the Cultural Revolution, disparages Barthes for his seeming indifference to the situation of the Chinese people, and says that Barthes “has contrived—amazingly—to bestow an entirely new dignity upon the age-old activity, so long unjustly disparaged, of saying nothing at great length.”[28]

Popular Culture

Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments was the inspiration for the name of 1980s new wave duo The Lover Speaks.

Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot draws out excerpts from Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments as a way to depict the unique intricacies of love that one of the main characters, Madeleine Hanna, experiences throughout the novel.

In the film Birdman (2014) by Iñárritu, a journalist quotes to the protagonist Riggan Thompson extract from Mythologies: “The cultural work done in the past by gods and epic sagas is now done by laundry-detergent commercials and comic-strip characters.:

In the film The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996) by Michael Lehmann, Brian is reading an extract from Camera Lucida over the phone to a woman whom he thinks to be beautiful but who is her more intellectual and less physically desirable friend.

In the film Elegy, based on Philip Roth’s novel The Dying Animal, Consuela (played by Penélope Cruz) is first depicted in the film carrying a copy of Barthes’s The Pleasure of the Text on the campus of the university where she is a student.

Laurent Binet’s novel The 7th Function of Language is based on the premise that Barthes was not merely accidentally hit by a van but that he was instead murdered, as part of conspiracy to acquire a document known as the “Seventh Function of Language.”


(1953) Le degré zéro de l’écriture
(1954) Michelet par lui-même
(1957) Mythologies, Seuil: Paris.
(1963) Sur Racine, Editions du Seuil: Paris
(1964) Éléments de sémiologie, Communications 4, Seuil: Paris.
(1970) L’Empire des signes, Skira: Geneve.
(1970) S/Z, Seuil: Paris.
(1971) Sade, Fourier, Loyola, Editions du Seuil: Paris.
(1972) Le Degré zéro de l’écriture suivi de Nouveaux essais critiques, Editions du Seuil: Paris.
(1973) Le plaisir du texte, Editions du Seuil: Paris.
(1975) Roland Barthes, Éditions du Seuil: Paris
(1977) Poétique du récit, Editions du Seuil: Paris.
(1977) Fragments d’un discours amoureux, Paris
(1978) Préface, La Parole Intermédiaire, F. Flahault, Seuil: Paris
(1980) Recherche de Proust, Editions du Seuil: Paris.
(1980) La chambre claire: note sur la photographie. [Paris]: Cahiers du cinéma: Gallimard: Le Seuil, 1980.
(1981) Essais critiques, Editions du Seuil: Paris.
(1982) Littérature et réalité, Editions du Seuil: Paris.
(1988) Michelet, Editions du Seuil: Paris.
(1993) Œuvres complètes, Editions du Seuil: Paris.
(2009) Carnets du voyage en Chine, Christian Bourgeois: Paris.
(2009) Journal de deuil, Editions du Seuil/IMEC: Paris.

Translations to English
The Fashion System (1967), University of Ca Press: Berkeley.
Writing Degree Zero (1968), Hill and Wang: New York. ISBN 0-374-52139-5
Elements of Semiology (1968), Hill and Wang: New York.
Mythologies (1972), Hill and Wang: New York.
The Pleasure of the Text (1975), Hill and Wang: New York.
S/Z: An Essay (1975), Hill and Wang: New York.

Sade, Fourier, Loyola (1976), Farrar, Straus and Giroux: NY
Image—Music—Text (1977), Hill and Wang: New York.
Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes (1977) (In this so-called autobiography, Barthes interrogates himself as a text.)
The Eiffel Tower and other Mythologies (1979), University of California Press: Berkeley.
Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (1981), Hill and Wang: New York.
Critical Essays (1972), Northwestern University Press
A Barthes Reader (1982), Hill and Wang: New York.
Empire of Signs (1983), Hill and Wang: New York.
The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962–1980 (1985), Jonathan Cape: London.
The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art, and Representation (1985), Basil Blackwell: Oxford.
The Rustle of Language (1986), B. Blackwell: Oxford.
Criticism and Truth (1987), The Athlone Pr.: London.
Michelet (1987), B.Blackwell: Oxford.
Writer Sollers (1987), University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis.
Roland Barthes (1988), Macmillan Pr.: London.
A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments (1990), Penguin Books: London.
New Critical Essays (1990), University of Ca Press: Berkeley.
Incidents (1992), University of California Press: Berkeley.
On Racine (1992), University of California Press: Berkeley

The Semiotic Challenge (1994), University of California Press: Berkeley.
The Neutral: Lecture Course at the Collège de France (1977–1978) (2005), Columbia University Press: New York.
The Language of Fashion (2006), Power Publications: Sydney.
What Is Sport? (2007), Yale University Press: London and New Haven. ISBN 978-0-300-11604-5
Mourning Diary (2010), Hill and Wang: New York. ISBN 978-0-8090-6233-1[35]
The Preparation of the Novel: Lecture Courses and Seminars at the Collège de France (1978–1979 and 1979–1980) (2011), Columbia University Press: New York.
How to Live Together: Notes for a Lecture Course and Seminar at the Collège de France (1976–1977) (2013), Columbia University Press: New York.

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