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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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Barthes and the Visibility Turn: For a Non-Mimetic Image

Barthes and the Visibility Turn: For a Non-Mimetic Image

(p.84) 6 Barthes and the Visibility Turn: For a Non-Mimetic Image
Interdisciplinary Barthes

Éric Marty

British Academy

With Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes (1975), Barthes broke with a taboo on the image shared by most Modern thinkers: a Marxist and structuralist puritanism closely associated with a violent critique of mimesis. The break Barthes introduced derived primarily from his uncoupling of mimesis from the regime of visibility particular to the image. The importance of Barthes’s little book will be explored by placing it in the context of Modernity. On the one hand, it will be read in relation to readings of the image associated with Barthes’s contemporaries (for example, Foucault on Velazquez’s Las Meninas); on the other, it will be read alongside his earlier and later proclamations relative to the image, from Mythologies to La Chambre claire. A shift will be traced from the rejection of mimesis in favour of non-figuration, to the emergence of a more fundamental visual paradigm for Barthes of animate/inanimate, initially accounting for his stated preference for photography over cinema, but ultimately neutralised, in the second part of La Chambre claire, through his discussion of the female automaton sequence in Fellini’s Casanova, and its fetishistic relation to the invisible/visible presence of the Winter Garden photo of Barthes’s mother as a child.

Keywords:   Roland Barthes, mimesis, Modernity, visibility, Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes, animate/inanimate, cinema/photography, La Chambre claire, fetishism

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