Barthes: S/Z

S/Z is a book in which Barthes looks very closely at a story by Balzac, exploding the core-text’s 20 or so pages into something on the order of 200 pages of codes, unpacking of nested meanings, references and various other things that an author hides, both consciously and unconsciously, in a text. I read through the introduction where he makes an introduction to this project and talks a bit about his methods.

Like The Pleasure of the Text and Camera Lucida there is a romanticization (or indeed an eroticization) of the act of interpretation, but S/Z gives a lot less credence to the personal than either of those works. Barthes was the last and greatest haute-modernist and it is really on display here. Like some kind of super-Hegel he derives from Zola’s story not just its time, but subsequent history as well, all against a matrix of types of semes.

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