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Empire of Signs

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  1,283 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
With this book, Barthes offers a broad-ranging meditation on the culture, society, art, literature, language, and iconography--in short, both the sign-oriented realities and fantasies--of Japan itself.
Paperback, 128 pages
Published September 1st 1983 by Hill and Wang (first published 1970)
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Sep 19, 2011 Trevor rated it really liked it
Someone here on Good Reads recommended I read this, can't remember who now to thank them...

My daughter is doing her honours thesis on cute Japanese animal advertisements for eating meat and how these seem to skate incredibly close to what we in the West might consider to be food taboos. As part of that, I recommended she might read this book – which was brave of me, given I hadn’t actually read the damn thing. She returned the favour today by ‘requiring’ me to read this so we could talk about it
Sahar keshmiri
بارت در این کتاب به تحلیل برسی نشانه های مختلف اعم از غذا تا شورش های داخلی در کشور و فرهنگ ژاپن پرداخته. در مقدمه تاکید شده که ژاپنی که در این کتاب مورد بررسی قرار می گیرد ژاپنی خیالی و نامی است که صرفا او برای این نظام نشانه ای انتخاب کرده است و در ادامه هم نظراتش را بدون اینکه به آن جنبه علمی بدهد یا تلاش کند آن را توجیح کند بیان کرده است. در واقع اینها برداشت های شخصی رولان بارت هستند از دیدار او از ژاپن که خواندنشان خالی از لطف نیست. بارت به نظر من از معدود نویسنده هایی ست که می توانند نظر ...more
کتاب بیشتر مقایسهایست بین شرق و غرب. و این تفاوتها اجازه میدهند ژاپن را بهتر بشناسیم. گرچه؛ از نظر من کتاب رولان بارت بیشتر شخصینویسیهای آدمیست که ژاپن را با احساسش تجربه کرده. پس شاید آنچه از ژاپن در ذهنمان داریم(به عنوان یک برند، یک فکت) کمی متفاوت باشد با آنچه که در این کتاب میخوانیم. نقطهی قوتش هم همین است البته. ژاپن را مگر میشود فهمید؛ اگر آن را به درستی احساس نکرد؟ دوستش دارم و مثل یک کتاب درسی خواندمش. نکتههای مترجم درست و بجاست. اما برای اینکه کاملا آنچه را میخوانید، درک کنید، بهتر است ...more
Dec 07, 2009 mahatma rated it it was amazing
seneng bacanya, meski udah telat kok baru sekarang tahu ada buku sebagus ini. trims untuk kris budiman yang sudah ngomporin baca!
saya senang buku ini sebenarnya bener-bener penilaian personal saja.
pertama-tama, karena buku barthes ini ditulis dengan menggunakan jepang sebagai titik tolaknya. jadi, dengan demikian situasi saya sudah "sama": sama-sama orang luar yang kesulitan "membaca" atau memahami bagaimana sebenernya mekanisme yang menggerakkan bangsa ini.
barthes memulainya dari perk
Jonathan Chuang
Let us first agree that the post-modernists, of which Barthes can be called, were more or less all pedants, but then remember than what makes the most noise is not always an empty vessel.

Some of these passages were beautiful, chillingly accurate, sensuous descriptions of aspects of Japanese culture and Japanese life, as they would appear in the eyes of a foreigner. I particularly enjoyed the segments on the lightness of tempura, on the subtlety of beauty as can be observed only among masses of
Dec 03, 2007 James rated it really liked it
Shelves: criticism
Empire of Signs is an extended thought exercise about the relations between signifier and sign. In these chapters--which read more as connected essays--Barthes examines the functions and apparatuses of a fictional country he calls Japan, a society which is in every way the real country Japan, but which operates in a reality devoid of the complications of meaning his own Western society operates in. In remarkable examinations of chopsticks, food preparation, pachinko parlors, tea ceremonies, Kabu ...more
Dec 28, 2016 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essai, philosophie, art
Barthes s'extasie sur le Japon, il y a de quoi, bien sûr, et l'idée principale du bouquin c'est-à-dire que tous les signes sont vides de signifié au Japon, qu'il sont construits sur un vide central rappelle bien entendu les principes du Tao. C'est très agréable à lire, mais je trouve que l'opposition qu'il fait avec l'occident est un peu forcée et idéaliste. j'aurais aimé qu'il repère ce que nous avons acquis de l'Orient, le commun profond. Là où en Orient il y a un vide, là où l'occident cherch ...more
Read this for the purpose of a presentation in my Postmodern Theory class. I really enjoyed Barthes writing style and his skill as a linguist really shines in his descriptive prose.

As someone who lives in Japan currently, this book is hard to analyze because it simultaneous IS and ISN'T Japan. This book is meant to explore the relationships of signifiers and the signified (as proposed by Ferdinand de Saussure) thus Barthes adds a disclaimer at the beginning of the book explaining that this book
míol mór
Per Barthes il Giappone �� l'impero dei segni vuoti, cio�� senza (poich�� privati di) significato. Barthes riconosce nello zen una risposta possibile, la pi�� efficace, al "disgusto per la semiocrazia occidentale" e all'ossessione per la semantica. Il viaggio in Giappone diventa quindi per l'autore un itinerario fuori dalla semiologia.

Stop Making Sense, come direbbe David Byrne.

Come sempre le osservazioni di Barthes sono acute, originali e profonde, anche su argomenti triti come gli haiku, e a
Sharon Bautista
Sep 10, 2016 Sharon Bautista rated it it was amazing
Imagine a world where instead of Fodor's guides to cities and countries, we read Barthes and prepared only for the rendezvous of our travels!
Saeedeh Asadipour
Nov 03, 2016 Saeedeh Asadipour rated it liked it

Take Empire of Signs only as a brief exercise of contemplation in the semiotics discourse. The book allows readers who have acquired some familiarity with semiological discourse, especially as practiced by Barthes, to see variety of signifying practices in Japanese culture by the author. If you are interested in Japan and Japanese culture, probably this book has the least relevancy to your interest. The words “Japan” or “Japanese” do not appear in the title, because this is not a book about Japa
Aug 03, 2011 Michael rated it it was amazing
A not-so-secret secret about this book: Japan isn't Japan. Japan is a screen upon which Barthes projects all his desires about escaping meaning to a pure engagement with signs. His musings on the haiku are most rewarding, giving Barthes the most capital to talk about language, where his genius really shows.
Jul 11, 2016 Léa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
J'ai trouvé par hasard à la bibliothèque une édition du Seuil qui reproduit à l'identique la parution en 1970 chez Albert Skira avec les illustrations. Très bel ouvrage, réflexions passionnantes sur le Japon. Lecture enrichissante.
Dec 23, 2016 Caroline rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
What an interesting little journey that packs a punch. I can't think of anything I relate to more, while living in the disastrous socio-political-non-intellectual discourse of the USA, than a flight of rigorous semiotic fancy from someone who has legitimately experienced another culture, in this case Japan/not Japan. I also really need to read this in French now.
Dec 31, 2016 Genndy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very unique book. It is something between an anthropological study of japanese estethics, mixed with the litterature theory by which Barthes is most well known. He is trying to read japanese cultural signifiers as a text in here. The book is constantly on the verge of becoming a pretentious academic masturbation, but never crosses that fine line.
Chin Jian Xiong
Feb 06, 2016 Chin Jian Xiong rated it really liked it
I think Simon Leys has this essay on how Barthes, like the other French intellectuals at the same time, were completely bought into the whole idea that Maoist China was like a totally okay thing. At the very least, that gives some trouble to the completely aestheticized vision of Japan that Barthes has.

The writings of W David Marx, and living in a country that functions on the same kind of Confucian hierarchy, also kills some of the exoticism I have towards the place.

But Barthes himself admits t
Seán Hudson
Oct 13, 2015 Seán Hudson rated it really liked it
What may seem outdated in our post-Said, Orientalism-savvy climate is in fact still relevant, though easily susceptible to fetishistic and (ironically) essentialist readings. Barthes's travel-book is personal; the hand-written language notes, photographs, poems, newspaper clippings, and sketch-like chapters create the impression that you are travelling through Japan with him, jotting down impressions rather than lingering on profound contemplations of difference. Nonetheless, the impressions all ...more
No Books
L'esenzione del senso

Per Barthes il Giappone è l'impero dei segni vuoti, cioè senza (poiché privati di) significato. Barthes riconosce nello zen una risposta possibile, la più efficace, al "disgusto per la semiocrazia occidentale" e all'ossessione per la semantica. Il viaggio in Giappone diventa quindi per l'autore un itinerario fuori dalla semiologia.

Stop Making Sense, come direbbe David Byrne.

Come sempre le osservazioni di Barthes sono acute, originali e profonde, anche su argomenti triti c
Jun 21, 2009 Matt rated it really liked it
A pretty enjoyable read.... I meant this to be my follow-up to reading _Raw and the Cooked_ earlier in the summer, thinking reading them both would help me to understand structuralism better. I think it's doubtful it will work out quite that way:)

This reads like most Barthes books (and here I guess I mostly mean _Mythologies_, but you know what I mean)-- short essays on subjects delivered in a witty and self-consciously odd style. All the essays here are demonstrations of the same thing, the arb
Apr 09, 2013 Marco rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Tutto il pensiero Zen, di cui lo haiku non è che l'aspetto letterario, appare così come una immensa pratica votata a sospendere il linguaggio, a rompere questa sorta di radiofonia interiore che risuona continuamente in noi, sin dentro il nostro sonno, [...] una pratica votata insomma a svuotare, a sconcertare, a prosciugare il chiacchericcio irrefrenabile dell'anima..."

Affascinante analisi del mondo giapponese attraverso il concetto di 無 (mu, vuoto). Particolarmente piacevoli le parti dedicate
Aug 04, 2014 Katrina rated it really liked it
I read this while very hungry. The section on sushi nearly undid me.
Barthes inciteful series of essays compares Western to 'Eastern' or Japanese culture. Japanese culture has been a source of inspiration, if I may use so vague a work, to French art and artists. Yet, Barthe's essays reveal, through a semiotic analysis, that the assimilation of Eastern culture by the French was really very limited. Indeed, he explores the dramatic arts and, as mentioned above, food. The cooked food of the west ve
Compagno di Baal
Dec 16, 2014 Compagno di Baal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: preferiti
è il mio primo Roland Barthes e già mi si schiude un mondo di letture possibili che mi fa brillare gli occhi. sono a digiuno di testi accademici votati alle scienze di cui Barthes era considerato un maestro/innovatore, e pure trovo che la sincresi del tutto, molto esperenziale e molto poco dottrinale, lo rende una lettura appagante e piena di spunti per chiunque. ad esempio questo, un taccuino per metà fotografico e per metà di viaggio, alla scoperta di un altrove (il giappone) preso come pretes ...more
Oct 21, 2007 Tosh rated it it was amazing
Roland Barthes wrote a great book about Japan. It is not a 'realistic' picture of Japan, but what many foriegners feel when they first go to that country. A collection of beautiful essays by a brilliant thinker. That's it! Barthes is a thinker, and one can learn or be exposed to another world due to his thinking.

When I first went to Japan, this was one of the books I brought with me. Him and Donald Richie are the best, with respect to a foreigner writing about another country. Because a lot of f
May 12, 2016 Zana rated it it was amazing
You will want to eat Japanese food after you read his fragments about sashimi. One moment I am in the library, the next I'm sitting in Japanese Canteen on Tottenham Court Road. A wonderful read and great for Barthes beginners approaching the fragment for the first time (as I was at the time). Also by far one of my favourite texts to write about, the structure is classic Barthes: fragments, non-linear and disconnected. I think the best way to approach the text is to dip straight into it and read ...more
Oct 30, 2007 Scott rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: students of signs
Shelves: non-fiction
Japan as an unknown language. Japan that is just made up and not really real. But then again what, where, and how is the real Japan? This books seems to be a critique of western civilization by way of showing what it lacks when held up against a fictitious east. It is a book of signs and the posts or non-posts that hold them. To go downtown in the western city is to "encounter the 'social" truth" and "reality" of that city, but in this fantasy Tokyo one finds a center, "but this center is empty. ...more
Israel Montoya Baquero
Es cierto que este libro, escrito en los años 70, puede estar bastante desfasado en comparación con la sociedad nipona actual. No es menos cierto que, en algunos casos, difiero completamente de la visión que el autor tiene de un país como Japón. Pero tampoco puedo negar que, con acuerdos y desacuerdos, es un más que excelente libro para aproximarse (siempre desde la sesgada visión de un "turista" occidental) a aquello que hace que la sociedad nipona nos resulte tan atrayente, y a la vez, tan ali ...more
May 14, 2014 Martin rated it liked it
Roland Barthes writing on Japan! What could be better? Reading it now though one can detect a certain sense of anachronism, as well as suspect an orientalism at work in this series of essays. Barthes focuses on reading Japan and Japanese culture as a culture of 'empty signs', from 'bunraku' doll theatre, 'no' drama, haiku, food, and writing. Though I have my reservations, it is nontheless a very interesting read, and as always, Barthe's writing is charming and dangerously seductive.
Sep 23, 2013 Luisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saggi
3 e mezzo.
"...sulla tavola, sul vassoio, il cibo non è mai altro che una collezione di frammenti in cui nessuno appare privilegiato da un ordine di indigestione; mangiare non significa rispettare un menù, ma prelevare con un tocco leggero del bastoncino, un colore, un altro, in balia di una sorta di ispirazione che appare nella sua lentezza come l'accompagnamento distaccato, indiretto, della conversazione (che può essere essa stessa molto silenziosa)"
Isla McKetta
Nov 05, 2013 Isla McKetta rated it really liked it
One of the things I love most about reading great thinkers is learning new ways to look at the world. What I was most inspired by in this book were the layers of linguistic meaning as I read a copy in English but annotated in Japanese by another reader. This experience made me think about how meaning is constructed and I thought how much I'd like to discuss it all with Barthes over coffee.
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Goodreads Librari...: Carstvo znakova 2 17 Sep 12, 2013 06:44AM  
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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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