Roland Barthes, Eiffel Tower & Other Mythologies

There's something compelling for me still about Barthes: not his insight, crystalline as it might be, but his insider's tone on subjects I've never experienced directly. Monsieur Poujade is who, exactly? And I've never been to Paris, so that rules out just about every subject in The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies. He knows his milieu so well that I feel brought into it, in spite of my ignorance, much as I do with really good medieval historians and music journalists.

In the end, though, I'm just not ... excited by Barthes anymore. I'll teach some of his more hardcore semiotics work this summer (to legal studies students currently over-confident in their interpretive skills), but I thought maybe there'd be something less intense that could work as well. Nope.

For me, at last, it's that we all do Barthesian interpretive work all the time now. So successful was his analytical mode that most of us have incorporated it into our daily approach to the world -- and hence made it difficult to approach Barthes' own daily work with excitement.

I grow old, I grow old...
I shall wear my trousers rolled.


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