My tutor suggested I read Mythologies for part 3 of UVC1, Can’t say I was looking forward to it, so I’m doing notes chapter by chapter.
The structure is essays written one a week over a 2 year period, and from the first, it seems like its the Bill Bryson article that used to be at the start of the weeks TV guide in the Mail on Saturday.
The world of wrestling
ITV on Saturdays used to have wrestling. It was showmanship and false. Barthes likens it to classical drama with key characters where the justice is a stronger requirement than the fair play. And he was right, the spectacle was everything, the wrestlers themselves, cast as good or evil.
The Romans in film
The sign of a roman, a fringe, the sign of just woken up, unkempt hair or asymmetry of the plait.
This essay is dealing with artifice, the obvious sign shouting from the rooftops and having little meaning, whereas the subtle use of signs (the flag in Chinese theatre) to highlight an overlooked aspect.
The writer on holiday
Sarcastic little piece about how writers don’t stop being writers even on holiday or dressed in PJ’s.
The Blue blood cruise
About how royalty are reported as being special and normal at the same time then rule. The french did believe there king was a god though, pinch of salt required reading that one.
Blind and Dumb criticism
I’m guessing during this week Barthes read a book critique he didn’t like. The comments run something along the lines of critiquing based on linguistic response, philosophic or its relevance to life. Then purporting to know none of these (which is supposed to draw the reader of the critique in), whilst still critiquing on a book.
At this point he notices the text understands the reader better than the reader understands the text.
Soap powders and Detergents
He looks at 2 washing powders and the words used in their adverts, assimilating the actions of washing as being the same as those of a washerwoman and their difference as a powder from a cream. (importance of language)
Whilst both being owned by Unilever
The poor and the proletariat
Charlie Chaplin portraying the proletarian in films and handing prize money to proletariat causes, the obvious contradiction here is that he had great wealth. as much as he played the bum, his bum lived quite comfortably and always seemed to have access to whatever he needed. I think Barthes is praising the character for opening political debate around what you have to offer.
The ills of an institution are what saves it, Barthes uses 2 examples, the army and the church
The army is run by a bunch of puppets, to an order with a hierarchy, however someone joins up and gets turned from average into another member of the army, which they learn to follow with a zeal.
Army again, all it destructs in the name of science is then used to explain its necessity.
The church, narrow minded about those outside of the faith yet protective of this within it.
Then skips to a margarine advert that tries to persuade you your prejudice against the product is wrong in the same way Barthes arguments with the army and church work.
That you are better off with the prejudice and an open mind.
Dominici or, the Triumph of literature
The Murder trial of a landowner accused of killing a family camping near his land.
Barthes is disparaging about the fact this lowly chap was by a raft of literate wordy types who condemned him without physical evidence.
The iconography of the Abbe Pierre
The many images of Franciscan monks and how we define what they are like by this.
From the haircut to whether they have a beard.
I don’t think Barthes likes religion very much….
Novels and children
after seeing a piece in Elle about female writers all of whom are announced with how many children they have had, Barthes writes about this link in Elle’s mind between childbirth and creative ideas to write. Noting that while men are not discussed in the magazine, they are a watching subject that haunts all the articles.
Are we defined by our overriding procreation capability?
Moaning about how toys aid playing at life, not creativity.
This then conforms to social stereotyping, playing mum, soldier etc.
Then about what they are made from, and the time it takes to make them, finishes with old farm toys, the carefully created animals. Or the stereotype of playing at being a farmer.
He does like to contradict himself.
The face of Garbo
“Existential form from an essential beauty” I’m guessing he found Audrey physically pleasing to look at.
Wine and milk
Wine is French. Levels the brainy with the not so, and makes the blue collar workers job more bearable.
The french don’t drink to get drunk, thats just going to happen because its alcohol. Its also been talked about and philosophised over so much that even the thought of wine is as French, also if you don’t ascribe to this view you are a touch stuffed because of the large proportion of the population to whom this view is sacrosanct.
Water was suggested as the opposite of wine, Barthes suggests thats actually milk.
Also points out that if you can forget the land grabbing(?) then wine can remain the joyous drink.
Steak and Chips
Bearing in mind the love of French food that would kick after use of jump leads, Barthes links steak to life and its consumption to strength
Eulogising over the rarity of steak and its associations to our blood, taking steak and chips as a national dish.
The Nautilus and the Drunken boat
Jules Verne and his own little world with its own physics. Barthes likens him to a child creating dens and hiding from uncertainty and the infinite. Verne uses ships as a means to carry his characters, the lead owns the ship and is surrounded by all they need, take away the ship and Barthes likens whats left to an eye roving around. Then discusses the opposite of this as Rimbaud’s Drunken Boat. (deconstruction theory dealing with the opposite that isn’t present to compare?)
The Brain of Einstein
Einstein is signified by his brain. He is mythologised, he almost found the secret of the universe and then he died.
This is about (I think) a film or comic? The idea its based on is the mythical jetman who dons a nylon suit and against the laws of physics shoots through everywhere without the adverse effects of gravity or bug splatter mucking him up. How they forsake a normal life with religious values and as an inventor (?) seclude themselves and worship the myth of being the jet-person. Discusses the god like nature of the elderly mentor?
The Blue Guide
The picturesque is found any time the ground is uneven. I like that.
This essay is a review of a series of guide books called Guide Blue Its a bit condescending, in part because of Barthes slightly scathing view of hills (he sites our love of them as historic restorative) but he’s right, any time you reduce the entire population of an area to an extended noun phrase and downgrade them as lower than yourself, I would say its a book to avoid.
He goes on to point out how the countryside of Spain is reduced to its historical buildings of churches and misses out the modern town around them or the fact that the building of any of it desecrates the picturesque landscape initially discussed.
He notes that had the authors been from other publications, the emphasis would have been on something else.
Elle again, cookery recipes that look great but are outside the financial expectation of its demographic, and are dressed for the picture in a fashion suitable to the time this article was written.
Suggests that an anonymous view Barthes read in the paper, about how criticism had to be so equal in all ways, as to be not possible to do.
This over equal view had to have no historical knowledge, in anyway, shape or form, in fact the person doing the critique should have done nothing with their life prior to writing.
This reads like Derrida’s “Of Grammatology” extract we are asked to read in Project 5 only its more openly saying that its not possible to be that bipartisan.
Barthes looks at the act of striptease, suggesting its only erotic in the initial removal of clothing and accessories, that the dance itself with its constant movement removes that eroticism. Amateurs who fumble removing their clothing and stop moving gracefully throughout the process are unwittingly erotic.
That the Moulin Rouge has turned the striptease into a profession, with aspirations which is in Barthes mind what nationalises the art of striptease. Not sure I’d be too proud of that, even if its supposed to be an empowering act.
The New Citroen
How new cars are like cathedrals, made objects seem dropped from heaven as you cannot see the making process in them, the sides smooth metal and glass.
The inside is likened to household space, the dashboard a fitted kitchen, then trying the car out demystifies everything through the reality of touch.
Photography and the Electoral Roll
Sarcastic piece about what the photo of a candidate on electoral propaganda means, from mirroring the public into believing ‘I’m just like you’ to reflecting their background in clothing or their views in where they are looking and how they are posed.
The Lost Continent
Reviews a film(?) about an expedition into somewhere Eastern. Scathing about anything you could learn as its in colour, has a christian bent to its explanation and non authentic music in the background. It also uses typical signs to strengthen and support stereotypes.
Elle again. Horoscopes as a description of their shared ambiguities and relation to the majority of the female working woman.
The endless mutation possibilities of plastic. How it can’t seem natural and is now so ubiquitous its filled our houses, and potentially us with replacement heart valves.
The Great Family of Man
Review of an exhibition transplanted from USA, how its meaning changed with the addition of the word Great to the title and the constant use of similarities across the world in various processes are supposed to draw us together.
Then refers to a black girls murder and asks if her family feel so in tune with this view of togetherness given her killer was white.
Whats the point of reviewing birth and death, they are factually unavoidable and if you take history out of the discussion, have nothing to offer the exhibition.
Suggests that in discussing birth, the background story of the pain, infant mortality and future prospects would be more useful. That its only natural as much as it is profitable.
The Lady of the Camellias
Review of a play and about how its not a love story, as the heroine has a different placement to the love involved than the man who is supposed to be her lover, what she is looking for from him is recognition.
Myth is a type of speech
The signified is the picture of the subject, what it signifies is the meaning, and the sign is the word that means the whole thing?
The myth is the sign emptied of meaning added to the new story and combined to become a new sign. The previous history glossed over and ignored to embody something whole and complete in itself.
Barthes, R(1957) Mythologies. Translated revised Vintage edition 2009.London: Vintage