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p. 9810. Man of letterslocked

  • Jonathan Culler

Abstract

By the end of his life, Barthes had come to occupy the role of man of letters in a traditional sense. ‘Man of letters’ explains that he was not just a critic, but a literary figure whose pronouncements on cultural issues represented, for his contemporaries, a cultured, aesthetic attitude. A striking feature of Barthes's accounts of literature is how easily reader and text switch places in the stories he tells. For himself, as for us, Barthes is a collection of writings, whose contrasts or contradictions cannot be eliminated by determining which formulations or propositions are truly ‘Barthes's’ — except insofar as ‘Barthes’ is itself a construction formed to order these fragments.

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