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Empire of Signs
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Empire of Signs

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3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  1,005 ratings  ·  36 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, 122 pages
Published September 1st 1983 by Hill and Wang (first published 1970)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,129)
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Trevor
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
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mahatma
siip...
seneng bacanya, meski udah telat kok baru sekarang tahu ada buku sebagus ini. trims untuk kris budiman yang sudah ngomporin baca!
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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
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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
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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 cominci
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James
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
Michael
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.
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
...more
Matt
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
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Martin
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.
Marco
"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
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Kat
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
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Compagno di Baal
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
Scott
Oct 30, 2007 Scott rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Eva
le riflessioni sul senso, sullo zen e sul linguaggio sono fenomenali
Nassos Kontonatsios
most difficult -and meaningful- english
Tosh
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
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Luisa
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
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.
Tara
This book is not really about Japan, or rather not about the real Japan, but about signs and meaning and language and absence and all the usual preoccupations of Barthes. I especially like the chapter on haiku: "The haiku wakens desire: how many Western readers have dreamed of strolling through life, notebook in hand, jotting down 'impressions' whose brevity would guarantee their perfection?"
Margot Note
"The text does not 'gloss' the images, which do not 'illustrate' the text. For me, each has been no more than the onset of a kind of visual uncertainty, analogous perhaps to that loss of meaning Zen calls a satori. Text and image, interlacing, seek to ensure the circulation and exchange of these signifiers: body, face writing; and in them to read the retreat of signs" (xi).
Michael Pronko
The classic work on Japan that digs into the meanings, not just information, of experiencing the culture. How to read a city, to find the hidden meanings of a culture, is what Barthes does so well here.
Ashley
i really adore this book. very little theory can be read in bed at night; this can. it reads, to me, like little fairytales about the stories we tell ourselves and the symbols we lived enmeshed in every day. i especially recommend the section on the haiku if you pick it up in a bookshop and decide not to buy it, read that section at least!
Pyqos
Le style de Barthes est souvent insupportablement coquet, mais il y a des passages vraiment profonds et charmants, sur le satori, sur l'écriture et des comparaisons pleines d'esprit entre Japon et Etats-Unis (aux EU, le sexe est partout sauf dans la sexualité, au Japon, le sexe n'est nulle part sauf dans la sexualité).
Nicola
Barthes is so mischevious! I found myself drawn into his writing persona as much as his strange insights. For someone who believed that the author is dead, he has quite an authorial presence. Though I'm still wrapping my head around much of his ideas, I thoroughly enjoyed this text and its quirks and kinks and gestures.
Chelsea Szendi
It ain't "Mythologies," but Barthes' take on the Zengakuren is fun for me. Recent debates about Japan being "postmodern" before it was ever modern seem to suggest that some people have read these vignettes without realizing that the exoticism and emptied content of the subjects are kind of Barthes' idea of a joke.
GONZA
Bello, anche se avendo un background più filosofico sono sicura l'avrei apprezzato anche di più. Barthes affronta la scrittura e il teatro giapponese con un approccio strutturalista rivelando al lettore una profondità nascosta dietro agli ideogrammi, agli Haiku e al teatro Nò.
Leonardo
If Japan didn't exist, the author of this book could have invented it. Dreamlike exploration of traditional Japanese cultural makeup, explaining core things like bowing, eating, why small things are very important, the way they experience art, and other cool stuff.
Willow
Mind - BLOWN.

By far, one of the most brilliant author I've come across. The way in which he strings together words is just indescribable. Definitely a must read.
Yupa
Uno dei capisaldi di certo "orientalismo" nippofilo, utile soprattutto a riconfermare i pregiudizî estetizzanti di certi intellettuali continentali.
Andy
Aug 23, 2007 Andy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: japan
I wasn't much of a Barthes fan until I read this book. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in Japanese art, cinema or literature.
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Goodreads Librari...: Carstvo znakova 2 15 Sep 12, 2013 06:44AM  
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Roland Barthes was a French literary critic, literary and social theorist, philosopher, and semiotician. Barthes' work extended over many fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, Marxism and post-structuralism.
More about Roland Barthes...
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