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Interdisciplinary Barthes$
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Diana Knight

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266670

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266670.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 20 October 2020

The Intelligible versus the Real: Barthes’s Historiographical Option

The Intelligible versus the Real: Barthes’s Historiographical Option

Chapter:
(p.58) 4 The Intelligible versus the Real: Barthes’s Historiographical Option
Source:
Interdisciplinary Barthes
Author(s):

Stephen Bann

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197266670.003.0004

Roland Barthes’s ‘Le discours de l’histoire’ was first published in France in 1967, in a journal sponsored by the École pratique des hautes études where he was teaching at the time. It appeared in English translations in 1970 and 1981, and soon came to rank as a source comparable to Hayden White’s Metahistory (1973) in so far as it proposed a radically new mode of analysing historical writings. This chapter explains the broad international context in which the article was initially produced, and subsequently gained its reputation. Although critical approaches to the language of historiography were hardly practised at all in France in the 1960s, a fellow member of the Hautes Études such as Le Roy Ladurie was already coming forward as a spokesman for the new methods of ‘quantitative history’. Barthes’s own critical procedure was, however, notably indebted to the discourse analysis of the French linguistician, Émile Benveniste. It is argued that Barthes’s stated preference for the ‘intelligible’ as opposed to the ‘real’ as a criterion for historical analysis is a logical outcome of his cultural and political stance at the time. His seemingly perverse categorisation of the approach of the nineteenth-century historian Augustin Thierry is an unfortunate consequence.

Keywords:   Roland Barthes, ‘Le discours de l’histoire’, historiography, École pratique des hautes études, Hayden White, Le Roy Ladurie, Émile Benveniste, Augustin Thierry, the intelligible, the real

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