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Le Degré zéro de l'écriture suivi de Nouveaux essais critiques

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,403 ratings  ·  58 reviews
« C’est parce qu’il n’y a pas de pensée sans langage que la Forme est la première et la dernière instance de la responsabilité littéraire, et c’est parce que la société n’est pas réconciliée que le langage institue pour l’écrivain une condition déchirée. »

Roland Barthes

Intellectuel, écrivain et théoricien de la littérature, par la publication en 1953, de son premier livre,
Paperback, Seuil Points, 192 pages
Published October 1st 1972 by Seuil (first published 1953)
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Mar 28, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Often just as impenetrable and abstruse as you fear - Susan Sontag's introductory essay to the 1968 English translation is enormously helpful in suggesting what to look for and laying out the ground rules of Barthes' thought - also by suggesting which essays to start with (not at the beginning).
Inevitably a reader educated in the Anglo-American tradition, first language English, is going to retain a bit of ethnocentrism, so it is good medicine to read someone for whom "literature" means "French
May 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: critical-essays
Roland Barthes succinctly expresses his concern about the separation between the (writer’s) individual “style” and the “language” of society. According to him, these two “objects” of convention (“style” and “language”) escape the writer’s control. The writer cannot choose them; they are given to him. Style results from one’s habits formed over the passage of time in his personal and biological conditions, and is alien to language which results from social convention, common to all social members ...more
Peter Landau
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
WRITING DEGREE ZERO isn’t a poem, though the title is as inscrutable and evocative as one. Roland Barthes’ first book is an essay on literature, that much I got. Even Susan Sontag notes in her revealing preface that it’s not a good place to start in Barthes’ oeuvre. The prose is academic, difficult and assumes that the reader has already done the homework. I didn’t even know there was a test! Like having a dream where I’m in my underwear, totally unprepared, I figured I might as well go with it ...more
Mar 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comps
Barthes' primary allegiance is to the impulse that leads an artist to write. The language the writer uses, his style, is an organic response to what he feels needs to be said. It all seems so simple. And what I'm especially interested in is his statement describing accessibility in literature. It is merely a decision, for the writer, to participate in the dominant (for Barthes, this reads "bourgeoisie) rhetoric of that time. The writer is the one in control, then. There is no one language system ...more
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read only the title essay. Barthes is concerned about the relationship writing has to power. He argues that writing is always a question of power not only in the content it communicates but even and especially in its style. The utopian ideal is a neutral blank writing style, but that’s unattainable.
Nikola Tasev
Nov 12, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Written in a style heavy with complex, unneeded, heavy expressions and clumsy similes. Using words outside their normal definitions without providing his own definition. Using different meanings of a word without clarifying which one he means (Language, History - personal and societal). Talking about Literature and meaning just French literature. A whole lot of fluff you need to go through before you can see what he means. The author never states clearly something he can dance about - "let me te ...more
Stefan Szczelkun
Sep 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
In 1953 I was five and the coronation of Queen Elisabeth II of England was the main event. There was a surge in TV buying as the ceremony was relayed live and someone on our street got one and soon after we got our own black and white set and I was watching Bill & Ben the Flowerpot Men and Andy Pandy and Hopalong Cassidy.

Meanwhile over in Paris the renegade critic Roland Barthes had his first book of essays printed - Writing Degree Zero. These essays contained startling and brilliant insight int
The introduction helps a little, but you really don't need it.

If people spent more time reading the fucking books and less time bitching about how the books were unreadable, then people might actually be able to read the books. There's so much crap about so much French literature being unreadable. I'm about 90% sure it's because everyone is taught to be terrified of Marx and so there's a massive chunk of world literature to which no one understands a significant section of the influence.

Relatively interesting book but I’m not sure I totally understood it to be honest. It’s about writing and literature. And had some interesting chapters like what is writing, writing and the novel, poetic writing, writing and revolution, writing and silence, the utopia or writing and bourgeois writing!
A few of my best bits:
• Poetry = prose +a+b+c
• Prose = Poetry – a-b-c
• These unrelated objects – words adorned with all the violence of their irruption the vibration of which though wholly mechanic
Bruce Johnson
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short, strange, uneven, and often fascinating book. Some of it is quite difficult to follow unless you know a lot about French literature, since 100% of the writers he cites are French. But the latter half's analysis of the traps fiction writing has found itself in for the last two hundred years is definitely worth the read.
Christopher McCaffery
A whole lot of fun even though I don't know anything about French literature.
Dec 10, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended reading by English prof
Gilbert Wesley Purdy
"I was recently at a bookstore to pick up a copy of Writing Degree Zero I had ordered. The bookstore was a franchise of one of the old chains being driven out of business by the new mega-stores. In the particular area there are few privately owned bookstores and all are at a considerable distance. My desire to keep alive diversity and to prevent the publishing industry from descending to a mere commodity exchange would have to be satisfied by this ambivalent and surely inconsequential act.

I felt
Oct 30, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literarytheory
Cryptograms of the writing of novels and histories with an singular approach using the styles of Flaubert, Camus, Balzac, Voltaire, Rousseau, Cayrol, Gide, Borges, Beckett, and on and so forth, to make some point about the Novel, History, and the languages found and made. It's a dense book, and it even seems that Susan Sontag is trying to make you not read it in her preface. This book was probably too much for the heavy American literary audience at one time, but I'm not so sure now. Then again ...more
Jun 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my favorite of the Barthes book, but the "Empire of Signs" is the one that springs to mind as being a masterpiece of some sort - as well as his great "Mythologies." Nevertheless, a very dense piece of work and an early Roland title as well. Geared totally to French literature, it is interesting in how it conveys a thoughtfulness on the art of reading and writing literature. There's text, and then there is how Barthes looks at that text. He is the scientist of the mood, and therefore probably ...more
I only feel like reading Barthes mid-morning, at the caffeine crest. I'm skimming this as part of an obligatory lit-survey. His particular statement of 'classic vs. romantic' is perceptive (smooth, monotonous, compacted 'relational' diction as opposed to a more various and individually colorful word-choice) but needlessly elaborate; Strachey says the same thing, but in less than half the page-space.
Dec 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Barthes was trained as a philosopher, so his account of French literary history is a little dated. Also, his lectures are too brief and one-sided to be compelling. That said, this presents a provocative counterargument to Jean-Paul Sartre's equally relevant What is Literature?, pointing up some of the weaknesses in Sartre's case for a "committed" or "engaged" literature.
Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed feeling like I actually understood most of his book, and Susan Sontag's introductory essay helped. I don't actually like the schema that Barthes uses of language, style, and writing: the idea that the first two are immutable givens (linguistic/social and biological, respectively) doesn't make sense to me in light of later theory. But the rest of the book is a great read.
Jan 15, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-non_fiction
Not exactly what I expected, but not a bad time either. I really only liked the later half when Barthes talks about the drive toward fresh language in the novel. One wonders what he'd make of something like Ridley Walker.
Sep 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wouldn't recommend this book as an intro to Barthes. Susan Sontag even seems to think the same. She wrote the preface. I might rather recommend Mythologies if you want to ease into Barthes. Of course, how you read is up to y o u.
Aug 07, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The introduction, by Susan Sontag, gave me a clear picture of what to expect. This was a really tough read. I think it's something I will read again when I have a little more background, more than likely after I've read Sartre's What is Literature?
Feb 27, 2008 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
recommended by my secret obsessions
May 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Barthes is pure intellectual pleasure. Here he combines a history of the actions of writing that are applicable to many areas of life. A must read for the arts.
Leonard Pierce
May 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-theory
If this is less staggeringly powerful than "Mythologies" and "S/Z", it's only by an eyelash. A must-read for any serious writer -- or reader.
Jul 05, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure of my view of this book. I probably ought to reread it.
Mar 08, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: criticism
Aug 04, 2010 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you, Matthew for taking me up on the suggestion to read something at the same time. The conversations are proving very fruitful! And Barthes to be a wonderfully lucid craftsman.
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good and modern insight to poetry.
Dokunmatik Beyin
This book is the most important for academic study. Because of everbody must read it
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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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