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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  2,027 ratings  ·  39 reviews

Preface by Richard Howard. Translated by Richard Miller. This is Barthes's scrupulous literary analysis of Balzac's short story "Sarrasine."

Mass Market Paperback, 250 pages
Published December 31st 1970 by Points French (first published February 1st 1970)
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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.
Couldn't appreciate Sarrasine 'til I read S/Z. Now I feel like an ass.
It is a good guide to see and have an idea on how to read a book.
Steve Owen
Barthes is hilarious as he chops up the readerly text.
he munched distinctions...
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
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.


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
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 treatis ...more
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
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
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."
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.
Jeremy Hauck
Lit theory. Barthes breaks up the Balzac story, "Sarrasine," into chunks he calls lexias and identifies what purposes they serve in the story by dropping them into five boxes. He classifies each lexia as part of: 1. The Hermeneutic Code (The Voice of Truth--part of the revealing of the mystery behind the story), 2. The Proairetic Code (The Voice of Empirics--Actions), 3. The Semic Code (The Voice of the Person--character attributes), 4. The Symbolic Code (The Voice of Symbol), 5. The Cultural Co ...more
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.
El sueño del "close reading" y por que una relectura puede hacerte disfrutar más de un libro.
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.
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.
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
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
Geoff McDonald
What I understood I loved. But there's some patent post-structuralist jargon in this book that flew fast over and far beyond my head. That said: a small price to pay for the gems.
Sarrasine is great and should be read. Barthes is Barthes and this dismantling of Sarrasine is simultaneously cool and painful -- one of those hills you only climb once.
Libby Stott
Oops--haven't read this, so can't rate, but not sure how to remove the rating. I am not inclined to pick this up, though--not my style.
Has the best translation of Sarrasine. While Barthes formulaic analysis can be quite annoying, he comes to some insightful conclusions.
Reading this in undergrad changed how I think about language - Thank you D.A. Miller. I hope Berkeley was worth it
Probably my favorite book by Barthes. A wonderful in-depth (re-)read of Balzac's "Sarrasine."
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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.
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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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