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on February 26, 2006
In Mythologies, Barthes offers a series of snapshots with titles such as "Plastic," "Striptease," "Toys," "The World of Wrestling," and "Operation Margarine." His aim is to reveal the ideological abuse hidden in these myths, which are manufactured to read as reality.

Though complex, Barthes essays are accessible, charming, and funny. I have taught Mythologies to first-year college students, because it does not require its reader to have read volumes of theory to engage in Barthes' clever reflections.

My favorite essay might be "Toys," which demystifies modern (1954-56) French toys as designed to produce consumers ("users") rather than creators. "Toys" exemplifies how, 50 years later, Barthes' myths are still alive and worth reading.
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VINE VOICEon May 23, 2001
As scholars of folklore and mythology were looking at their own past as well as currently to explore the narratives of the past and of "primative" peoples, Roland Barthes was looking at the world around him in France in the 1950s to the early 1970s. Why are human beings drawn to folktales, fairy tales, mythic figures? Barthes discovers that this draw surrounds us everyday, used both commerically and unconsciously from the personas of professional wrestlers (who resemble those seen on American television today) to our discussions of public figures. Mythology, Barthes argues, is a vital and living part of our society but it is also one used without real understanding because it is so deeply ingrained in the human mind and heart. The essays are light so that the non-specialist can enjoy but deep enough that the scholar can see and understand the theory underneath.
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VINE VOICEon November 29, 2003
When I finished this latest re-read of Mythologies I was initially struck by how funny it was. This was something of a big realization for me, stemming from a memory of burning brain cells with a furrowed brow, trying to understand what he was saying and being almost afraid to enjoy it. So there's one of the consolations for growing older for you-- I'm getting confident enough to really enjoy Barthes.

I'm not saying that I fully understand him yet. I'm not sure that I ever will. I think that "Myth Today"(the book's final and most central essay) still remains fairly firmly out of reach. But it's true that each time I re-read Barthes, I get something more out of it-- I manage to scale heights that I didn't think I would ever get to the last time around.

Isn't it the mark of a brilliant book that it grows with you?

Particularly recommended this time are the essays "Soap Powders and Detergents" and "Operation Margarine".
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on September 28, 2012
Roland Barthes' MYTHOLOGIES is central to a reader trying to understand the philosophy of everyday life and the problem of signification in our society. Barthes draws from the inexhaustible source of mythology and the ancient meanings of myth, and demystifies whatever he touches. Barthes as a cultural critic creates something new out of the stories about familiar objects and icons, such as Greta Garbo's face, toys, soap powder or Citroën. The book (2012) is a new translation of the 1957 work and it completes the previously untranslated essays to fifty-four, as in the original. The book shows that Barthes' work has stood the test of time very well. And though his comments hardly shock any longer, his thinking is as lucid as it must have been to the first readers when the essays were published in Lettres Nouvelles.
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on August 9, 2006
I was assigned this text as the final leg of a Greek and Roman Mythology course. Having no idea what to expect, I easily read through the collection of short essays and was thoroughly entertained. Even in translation, Barthes is graceful, lighthearted, and humorous in telling of the modern myths surrounding him in 1950s France. A very well-educated philologist, lexicologist, and sociologist, it wasn't until after writing the short essays here compiled that he rigorously developed his semiological/structuralist theories. Those with knowledge of structural linguistics and semiology and those without such a background alike will certainly enjoy every essay of this brief collection.

Furthermore, the longer essay, "Myth Today," which follows the shorter essays published originally in the 50s is replete with extremely interesting, albeit dense, critical theory. While someone with little knowledge of structural linguistics or semiology will have some difficulty with this final essay, it is certainly worth the struggle.
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on November 16, 1999
I'm French, and I read it in French. This book is an absolute must for any who wants to understand our Society. Although it's been written 45 years ago, it's more than ever actual, just like if that guy, as a clairvoyant, had been able to decode our present society (and all its incredible deviante face )half a century before. I must say I'll never see the world and medias like before again. More than a book, this is an enthralling weapon against mass passivity.
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on September 24, 2005
This thin book is a collection of Roland Barthes' short pieces on culture. The style of much of the book is journalistic and easy-to-read.

In this book, Barthes tries to uncover the mythmaking latent in advertising, films, media articles, exhibitions etc. The selection spawns across diverse subjects to explain why and how Romans are defined as Romans in films (with a fringe cut as a standardized technique), mythmaking inherent in celebration of the mystique of Greta Garbo's face, the use of language to dominate and condemn the illiterate, the rhetoric of advertising margaraine, the meaning and rhetoric of plastic, striptease and wrestling as spectacles etc.

At the end of the book, Barthes explains his concept and theory of myth as a sign that has become a signifier for another signified. This portion is of special relevance to those wanting to be initiated into semiology.
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In the mid-1950s French intellectual Roland Barthes shocked and amused a mass French readership by publishing a slew of these little two-to-eight page "Mythologies" in the popular French press. More surprising yet, these miniature and almost stunningly apt assaults on postwar French culture (subjects like "Toys," "Strip Tease" and the mythical complexities of laundry soaps, detergents, and bleach), got bound up in a little book called MYTHOLOGIES, enabling the man who took semantics (the meanings of words) into semiotics (the meaning of the meanings of words) to get a leg-up not only on the motifs of mass-consumption he understood so well, but a classic in its own right. Barthes became France's leading "public intellectual," a term that has almost no meaning even now in the USA, where the academic elite seem more intent on upsetting the applecart rather than giving people fresh insight into what the latest Delicious is they're being offered to choke down.

Clearly MYTHOLOGIES is still relevant today, and even in the USA, where current American toys out of Denmark or Hong Kong or even France, just as in the Bartesian Fities, have little to do with abstract play or learning (Barthes cites the ubiquitous alphabet block as a rare example of non-directed play). There, as here, toys were and are designed to convert little children into ideal consumers (play stores with play check-out lanes) or workers (tools, kitchens), or even citizen-soldiers (he was probably the first to notice that sci-fi "Martians" became the first alien race for children to confront severely on their way to becoming eager and compliant citizen-soldiers as adults). But the point to stress is that all these things are also FUNNY, and still fresh with the shock of recognition. The bit called "Steak Frites" concerns not only red meat but red wine, and their symbolic effectiveness to diners, and alone is almost worth the cost of this book.

I am of two minds concerning this latest translation and enlargement of the "little book" that amused students from the late Fifties into the Eighties. A good chunk of this book consists of a long essay, a kind of theoretical discourse designed to emphasize the underpinnings of what Barthes did with such apparent *elan* in the little "Mythologies" essays themselves. (Really, I suspect, it was designed in the best American tradition to turn intellectual play into intellectual work in order to assign it to American undergraduates.) But that second (and concluding, note) section is not vital to this book. The wit is. I also notice that a new translation which turns "Soaps" into "Saponids" may be more in line with the French flair for synechdochic reasoning, and conceivably "Saponicants" conveys a more faithful translation of the slightly prickly quality of Barthes' prose--but "Soap," along with detergents and bleach, is what he wrote about. At any rate, MYTHOLOGIES is not a book to be missed. Many thanks to my correspondent Ian on the West Coast who sent me this still-delightful *jeu d'esprit* as an early birthday present.
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on March 16, 2015
Good, thought-provoking book. I know nothing about French culture from the time this book was read, but so much of it still made perfect sense. I guess western "middle class" culture hasn't changed much.
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on January 31, 2016
This is not a novel and therefore I challenge Amazon's forcing the reviewer into novelistic descriptions e.g., How would you describe the characters, etc. Mythologies is a critique of Frenchsocial systems and larger interpretations. The categories Amazon proposes should be dropped and replaced my questions more appropriate for a book on linguistics and social critique.
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