The aim of this book is to ask: why should the reader of today (or tomorrow) attend to the text of Roland Barthes? It is not in a straightforward sense an ‘introduction’ to Barthes as an explication of the basic theories and paradigms to be found in Barthes’ work. There are two very fine books that already fill this niche: Jonathan Culler’s Barthes: A Very Short Introduction (2002) and Graham Allen’s Roland Barthes (2003). There have been posthumous publications by Barthes since these books first appeared but these late books ‘signed’ by Barthes do little to undo the lucid comprehension of his work offered by Culler and Allen. These books should be read alongside this present study by any student reader wishing to gain a foothold in Barthes’ text. The opening chapter of this book is an account of the life and textual production of Roland Barthes. This introduction is necessary because this ‘bio-bibliography’ directly impinges upon the work that follows as an account of the complexities of the theory-writing life. Readers who feel themselves to be suitably familiar with Barthes’ biography might wish to proceed straight to Chapter 2, ‘Reading Roland Barthes in a Time of Terror’.
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