When was this essay written? (1968) Are there other works expressing similar views which appeared at about the same time?
What is the point of adducing the example of a narrator who describes the “womanly” character of a castrato disguised as a woman? (1466) Are there interpretations which Barthes fails to consider?
What according to Barthes is the nature of writing? (1466) What does it mean to say that writing “destroys” voice?
On what grounds does Barthes consider “the author” as a recent development? (the final result of positivism and capitalist ideology, 1462) Is he correct?
What does he mean by the cult of the author? What kinds of writing does he see as most subject to this alleged vice? (1466)
Which writers does he believe have emphasized language over authorship? (1466-67, Mallarme, Valery, Proust) Can you think of others?
Does language require a speaker? (1467) What distinction is made by the statement, “Language knows a subject, not a person”?
What are some implications of the “removal of the author”? (1467-68; there is no other time than that of the enunciation, 1468) What does it mean to say that the author precedes his[her] book? (1468)
What interpretations of the artistic process does it remove (1468)
In what ways is writing a performance? (1468)
What does it mean to say that the text is a tissue of quotations? (1468) In what way is it always referring to something else? (1468-69; book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred, 1469)
Why cannot we decipher a text? (1469; writing ceaselessly posits meaning ceaselessly to evaporate it) If there is no “author,” what happens to literary criticism, according to Barthes? (1469)
What is the goal of writing, according to Barthes? What is its relationship to meaning? (1469; to refuse to fix meaning is, in the end, to refuse God and his hypostases, 1469)
What role does the reader play in this process? (1469, “a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination”)
What does it mean to say that the reader is not personal? (lacks history, biography, psychology, 1469) How can this be true?
What are some advantages of Barthes’s viewpoint? Is it an appropriate one for someone of his occupation?
Which thinkers seem to have influenced Barthes’s ideas? Would he have influenced or been influenced by Lacan? Might he have influenced Derrida?
Which aspects of Barthes’s thought are echoed by other critics such as Judith Butler?
Which types of literary works are particularly amenable to a Barthesian approach? If you were to write a treatise/work of criticism/piece of writing in accord with Barthes' principles, what might it be like?
Are there ways in which his viewpoint can be critiqued?
"From Work to Text"
What might be unusual aspects of this essay in the context of the period in which it was written? (1971)
What does Barthes believe has been a recent effect of an interest in interdisciplinarity? (1470; a new attitude toward the text, now seen as a methodological field, a process of demonstration, which "speaks according to certain rules," 1471)
What does Barthes mean in contrasting "text" and "work"? How can we discern the text from the work? Are all works potential texts for him? And/or the reverse?
What is meant by his claim that the text cannot be hierarchicalized or confined to good literature? (1471) What does it mean to say that the Text goes to the limits of the rules of enunciation? (1471) What might be an example of this?
Why is a Text always paradoxical? (1472; attempts to pass beyond limits of the conventional)
What does it mean to say that the Text can be approached in opposition to the sign? (1472; practices the infinite deferral of the signified)
In what way is the logic of the Text not comprehensive but metonymic? (1472; structured but off-centered, without closure)
Why does Barthes capitalize the word "Text"? Is this consistent with his desire to eliminate all absolute signifiers?
What is meant by saying that the Text is irreducibly plural? ("The Text is not a co-existence of meanings but a passage, an overcrossing; thus it answers not to an interpretation, even a liberal one, but to an explosion, a dissemination," 1472)
What is the importance of the metaphors of a "tissue" and the "weave of signifiers"? (1472) And later, the "network" (1473)?
In Barthes' view, what is the relationship between a Text and its sources and embedded quotations? (1473, "the citations which go to make up a text are anonymous, untraceable, and yet already read: they are quotations without inverted commas")
What can be the effect of a "textual" reading brought to a "work"? (fundamental changes in reading, 1473)
As opposed to a "work" and its alleged relationship to "filiation," what would Barthes desire of a Text? ("it reads without the inscription of the Father," 1473) What are some results of the deposing of the "Father"? ("no vital 'respect' is due to the Text," 1473) Under what guise may the "Author" then reappear in the text?
What contrast is made between the "Work" as consumption and the "Text" as play? (1474) What kind of "play" is intended" (cmp. Wittgenstein's "language-games") ("play, activity, production, practice," 1474)
Is each act of reading a simple repetition, and if not, what is it? (leads to and coexists with creation, 1474-75) What analogy does he make with musical composition?
What final response to the Text does he propose? (1475) In this context, what are some connotations of the term "pleasure"? What does it mean to say that the Text participates in a "social utopia"?
What is Barthes' conclusion? Does it surprise you? How do you interpret the claim that "the discourse on the Text should itself be nothing other than text, research, textual activity, since the Text is that social space which leaves no language safe. . . ." By this view, Is it no longer possible to write literary criticism?
If not, what "practice of writing" seems to be summoned here?
from Mythologies (1957) "Soap Products and Detergents"
What would have seemed novel about Barthes' subject and approach in 1957?
What are the different kinds of soap, and what is his purpose in describing them? (1463-64)
What is added to the essay by its conclusion? Does the knowledge that the same company produces competing forms of soap affect our view of the means of presentation?
What in the text indicates that Barthes is not celebrating the delights of consumer choice?
"The Brain of Einstein"
How may public reaction to the "brain of Einstein" be considered a myth? What are its oversimplications?
Is the myth one of knowledge or of its limitations? What seems to be Barthes' attitude toward the view that in Einstein's inability to frame a general theory for all reality, "the secret closed again," "the code was incomplete"? (ironic distance? definition of a partial truth? 1464
"Photography and Electoral Appeal"
What tone pervades Barthes' descriptions of candidate photographs?
What does he object to in such presentations? (their distortions, their hypocritical appeal to a common identity with the voter)
What values do they most often embody? ("moral values: country, army, family, honour, reckless heroism," 1465)
According to Barthes, what claims seem implied in such photographs? (ability to reconcile opposites, e. g., "peace and war in Algeria," 1465)
Was Barthes exaggerating, do you think? Are such images pervasive and influential in election processes today?
In the absence of such photographs and media images, how might campaigns be conducted?
Selections are from the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2001.