New Critical gathers Roland Barthes's essays on classic texts of French literature, works by La Rochefoucauld, Chateaubriand, Proust, Flaubert, Fromentin, and Lori. Like an artist sketching, Barthes in these essays is working out the more fascinating details of his larger theories. In the innocuously names "Proust and Names" and "Flaubert and Sentences," Barthes explores the relation of the author to writing that begins his transition to his later thought. In his studies of La Rochefoucauld's maxims and the illustrative plates of the Encyclopedia, Barthes reveals new vistas on common cultural artifacts, while "Where to Begin?" offers a glimpse into his own analytical processes. The concluding essays on Fromentin and Loti show the breadth of Barthes's inquiry. As a whole, the essays demonstrate both the acuity and freshness of Barthes's critical mind and the gracefulness of his own use of language.
Roland Barthes (1915-1980) was born in Normandy, raised in Paris, and was educated at the Sorbonne and Centre national de la recherche scientifique. His first book, Mythologies, about myths in popular culture, was published in 1957. He was a central figure in schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, and post-structuralism. His works include S/Z, Camera Lucida, and the essay "The Death of the Author." Northwestern University Press is reissuing Barthes's New Critical Essays this season as well.