'Simply a Particular Contemporary'

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Roland Barthes, whose centenary falls in 2015, was a restless, protean thinker. A constant innovator, often as a daring smuggler of ideas from one discipline to another, he first gained an audience with his pithy essays on mass culture and then went on to produce some of the most suggestive and stimulating cultural criticism of the late twentieth century, including Empire of Signs, The Pleasure of the Text and Camera Lucida. In 1976, this one-time structuralist outsider was elected to a chair at France’s preeminent Collège de France, where he chose to style himself as professor of literary semiology until his death in 1980.

The greater part of Barthes’s published writings have been available to a French audience since 2002, but here, translator Chris Turner presents a collection of essays, interviews, prefaces, book reviews and other journalistic material for the first time in English. Divided into five themed volumes, readers are presented in volume five, ‘Simply a Particular Contemporary’: Interviews, with four interviews Barthes conducted between 1970 and 1979, varying widely in style and content.

This fifth volume is entirely given over to four interviews with Barthes conducted between 1970 and 1979. Varying considerably in style and content, they include a filmed interview made for a French archive, an appearance on a popular French radio programme, an interview with one of East Asia’s leading cultural theorists for a Japanese literary magazine and another for an academic journal in the USA.

Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes, French philosopher, critic, linguist and semiotician, had a profound influence on twentieth-century literary theory. His best-known works include Mythologies (1957), S/Z (1970), Pleasure of the Text (1973), A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments (1977), Camera Lucida: Reflections of Photography (1980) and the posthumously printed Incidents, published in English