Roland Barthes: Mythologies

Barthes’ Mythologies might just be the funniest book I’ve ever read – I’m actually only halfway through it but am enjoying it so much I’m reading it slowly so it doesn’t end too soon. Most chapters are only a couple of pages long, and they cover subjects as diverse as wrestling, the royal yacht, hairstyles (on monks and in Hollywood movies), sweat, wine, writers’ holidays, steak and chips and much more – basically any subject in which Barthes detects pompous absurdities. He then unravels the pretensions simply by describing the subject in forensic detail – a process whereby he spells out all the associated cultural assumptions and implied values and brings their ludicrousness into full view. Apart from the entertainment value involved in these skewerings, from which he obviously derives great enjoyment, Barthes is making a serious point about the need for a cultural observer of any description to be able to recognise and deconstruct these ubiquitous fallacies and myths, and provides a series of masterclasses in how to do so.

References and resources

Barthes, R. (1993) Mythologies. London: Random House.