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3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,670 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
S/Z is the linguistic distillation of Barthes's system of semiology, a science of signs and symbols, in which Balzac's novella Sarrasine is dissected semantically to uncover layers of hidden meaning.
Paperback, 271 pages
Published December 1st 1974 by Hill and Wang (first published February 1st 1970)
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Oct 21, 2007 pony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theory, lit-crit
While this does much to underscore the particular kind of terrorism that is structuralist criticism, Barthes' reading of Balzac's Sarrasine is still a most beautiful insanity, and demonstrates the particular efficacy of the structuralist method exercised to the nth degree.
Allow me some hyperbole: basically, once Barthes finished this, no one else needed to ever again attempt such a thorough structuralist reading. It is more or less the exhaustion point of the method.
Etienne Mahieux
Jul 25, 2015 Etienne Mahieux rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Où l'on parle à nouveau de "Sarrasine". C'est cette nouvelle de Balzac que Barthes a pris pour sujet de "S/Z" qui se présente comme son analyse intégrale. Barthes fait alterner des paragraphes numérotés en chiffres romains, qui présentent des propositions théoriques ou des bilans d'étape de l'étude, mais qui ne doivent pas être pris comme un découpage en chapitres — à la fin, il propose des tables variées offrant différentes constructions possibles de son travail — et le texte de Balzac découpé ...more
Czarny Pies
Feb 04, 2015 Czarny Pies rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Des gens qui s'interessent aux etats d'ames des milieux litteraires francais
Recommended to Czarny by: Tout le monde. Il a ete beacoup idolatre de son vivant.
Shelves: criticism
Faute de pouvoir donner cinq etrons, je lui donne une etoile.

Ce livre est evidement une fraude du debut a la fin. A la page 96, il a le culot de dire "ceci n'est pas une explication de texte". Au contraire, c'est exactement ce que c'est "S/Z". Je dirai en plus que c'est une tres bonne explication de texte. Ligne par ligne il decortique le texte de "Sarrasine" une conte de Balzac. Il identifie tous les elements du recit de Balzac. Il demontre avec brio que "Sarrasine" est un chef d'oeuvre, comple
S/Z: ACT. "To critique"; "to dissect"; "to autopsy": the Barthesian text serves as a scalpel and scale with which Barthes qua critic can cut off and weigh the devices, symbols and meanings [SEM. organs; part] of the unfortunate Balzac text "Sarrasine" [SEM. Body; total]. HER. The pattern of the slasher movie or Thunderdome: a plurality (under guise of simples: Barthes and Balzac; respective texts thereof) enters, a singularity (of pluralities; the readerly) leaves; economic-cultural treatise [ ...more
May 26, 2015 Salvatore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredible, almost overanalysis of a fantastic short story by Balzac. Through Barthes, we go line by line (or word by word) to understand why we react to the story in certain ways. Sometimes I wish Barthes would push further - and he could. Sometimes I wish he would just say A story is a story, that's that. But by reading this you can see how your mind creates expectations, how the expectations are deflated and replaced with something perhaps grander. Above all, I appreciate that Barthes says ...more
Michael Meeuwis
May 13, 2015 Michael Meeuwis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm never going to be objective about this book, since it was the first full volume of capital-T Theory I read as an undergraduate--thanks Professor Morgenstern!--and rereading it helps me retrace my own steps from antitheoretical cretin to whatever slightly reduced imbecile I am now. But, eh, come on everyone, this is really fun: a super-close reading of a short story in light of its various hermenutic codes, interspersed with wonderfully abstruse commentary on those codes. Were I inclined to b ...more
Oct 15, 2011 Gokanb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a good guide to see and have an idea on how to read a book.
Steve Owen
Oct 05, 2014 Steve Owen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Barthes is hilarious as he chops up the readerly text.
Mar 25, 2007 io rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
he munched distinctions...
Ian Caveny
May 13, 2016 Ian Caveny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another reviewer on Goodreads called S/Z a perfect (yet beautiful) example of "the kind of terrorism that is structuralist criticism." I feel as though this is a vast mis-categorization. Following the pattern of Propp's Morphology of the Folktale, Barthes reveals once and for all that the structuralist method (and I must underscore, as Piaget did, the word "method" here) is suitable for literary criticism. All of the terminologies of the Russian forebears (the Formalists) can be found floating a ...more
Tom Meade
I'm plodding through this at the moment for school - interesting, but as with a lot of this sort of stuff I'm often left poking amongst the digressions and delineations for the relevant points. Having flipped to the back and knocked-over "Sarrasine" my main impression is that, after this and "La Duchess de Langais", I should really, really, really be reading more Balzac.

EDIT: I have more-or-less finished this book, and my conclusion at this point is that while Barthes has some interesting ideas,
Eric Lind
Uh, well. It's difficult to say anything about this, as I don't believe that Barthes presents anything, which, at least to me, is profoundly new. As a work of theory it suffers under the French tendency of making things a tad too complicated, and thus many would probably see it as strewn with obstacles for their understanding. This, to me, is a big no-no, as I think that theory - something which is supposed to be informative or even scientific - is to be communicated in a manner which is underst ...more
Elote Erre
Feb 18, 2014 Elote Erre rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Una excelente lectura para aproximarse al análisis hermenéutico de distintos fenómenos comunicativos, todo esto a partir de el concepto "lo escribible" entendido como todos los textos posibles que se generan al momento de ser receptores que interpretan y construyen una respuesta al texto que leen.

Apr 23, 2011 wally rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: barthes

this was not easy for me...i think most of it has vanished from my brain....

i'm looking at this paper i wrote for a class...way way peabody sent me back in the wayback machine...and i can't for the life of me understand wth i was trying to say, although i suspect at the time, i had some kind of handle on it....

....the paper was trying to imitate S/Z for a critique of faulkner's the hamlet....

heh heh! looks like a got a "d" on the paper.

yeah, best move along.

I've got these SEM
Melusine Parry
J'avais vaguement parcouru S/Z quand j'étais en prépa mais je n'avais pas du tout pris conscience de l'ampleur de cet ouvrage que je considérais à l'époque plutôt comme un exercice académique plaisant. Mais en réalité c'est un livre incroyablement riche et beaucoup plus qu'une leçon d'analyse.
Joe Nelis
An undeniably important piece of literary theory. By breaking up Balzac's "Sarrasine" into lexias of varying length, Barthes reveals the way various narrative features and functions weave together to form a cohesive and symbolically resonant experience for readers (though it is not necessary for a reader to be aware of these workings for them to work). A truly fascinating idea. That said, the manner in which it is written (or perhaps translated) is infuriatingly convoluted and confusing. I had t ...more
Dec 15, 2014 Phil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book for understanding structural analysis. Also a great way to comprehend the difference between the classic and modern text. Though he says little about the modern text per se, you are able to locate the conventions inherent to the classic text and therefore better appreciate what today we would call the post-modern text. Some may find it a bit drawn out, but that is merely because it is comprehensive. It is in fact a thorough reading and so is well worth the time. Even though the five c ...more
Jan 13, 2009 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-theory
A readable text on the writable text. Balzac's short story "Sarrasine," as "written" by Roland Barthes.

Probably rather technical for those without a background in literary theory, particularly structuralism. However, much less demanding for a reader than the work of thinkers like Jacques Lacanor Jacques Derrida. Moreover, it should be of particular interest to those who have already read Balzac's "Sarrasine."
Apr 13, 2014 Kenneth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Utterly sublime. I love this book. After reading it, you should understand everything you need to know about how literature works and how to write an essay.
Daniel Trejo
Ejemplifica la lectura crítica y como una interpretación no es suficiente para determinar un trabajo formal. Además, eleva el texto de Balzac que se incluye en el mismo libro.
Ena Alvarado
May 29, 2016 Ena Alvarado rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think Barthes is a little over my head... Nevertheless, I am certainly awed by the nature and scope of his ambitions in writing S/Z.
Oct 16, 2014 Jm_oriol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
El sueño del "close reading" y por que una relectura puede hacerte disfrutar más de un libro.
Oct 30, 2007 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literarytheory
If you want to innocently read Balzac then do not read this book. In simple this book is 200 plus pages annotating Balzac's short story Sarrasine. Of course it is much more than annotations and will likely render you unable to just simply enjoy literature again. But that's not such a bad thing if you care to be an active reader and engage in the creative processes of writerly text and add to the plurality of meaning.
Lola Wallace
the next time someone implies that my discipline well, isn't a discipline, I'm going to throw this book at them. while I don't think I'll ever totally emulate Barthes (a singular soul indeed), this book is doing a lot to explain to me how the close reading I already do works, and how I might be more rigorous in my practice. and his insights are always a joy.
Oct 19, 2008 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For true literary and philosophical geeks. This isn't your average page-turner. This is if you want a mental workout. The opening story is intriguing and worth reading, but the following analysis is what will leave the lasting impression.
Oct 31, 2008 Nate marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Been meaning to read this for a while since a loose blond poetry masters student was harping about it on the way to see Phillip Glass. It was quite possibly my most pretentious evening to date. Haven't heard from her since.
Jacques le fataliste et son maître
Vivisezione allo stato puro. Un racconto di Balzac “fatto a pezzi” (561, per la precisione) per individuare tutti i tutti i piani sui quali avviene la comunicazione col lettore. Davvero lo adoro.
Jun 02, 2007 Anna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
ONLY read this if you are into literary theory and are interested in the art of reading, re-reading, re-reading some more, and then still wondering what in the hell the author was trying to say.
Wendy smith
Jan 14, 2009 Wendy smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
harder to get through, but an amazing experience. this is teacher barthes revealing the world of literary codes. the story is told in double: there is the text, then analysis/code
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Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, linguist, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, social theory, design theory, anthropology and post-structuralism.
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“The text, in its mass, is comparable to a sky, at once flat and smooth, deep, without edges and without landmarks; like the soothsayer drawing on it with the tip of his staff an imaginary rectangle wherein to consult, according to certain principles, the flight of birds, the commentator traces through the text certain zones of reading, in order to observe therein the migration of meanings, the outcropping of codes, the passage of citations.” 1 likes
“Meanings can indeed be forgotten, but only if we have chosen to bring to bear upon the text a singular scrutiny. Yet reading does not consist in stopping the chain of systems, in establishing a truth, a legality of the text, and consequently in leading its reader into "errors"; it consists in coupling these systems, not according to their finite quantity, but according to their plurality (which is a being, not a discounting): I pass, I intersect, I articulate, I release, I do not count. Forgetting meanings is not a matter for excuses, an unfortunate defect in performance; it is an affirmative value, a way of asserting the irresponsibility of the text, the pluralism of systems (if I closed their list, I would inevitably reconstitute a singular, theological meaning): it is precisely because I forget that I read.” 0 likes
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