When he died Roland Barthes had become famous for incisive and irreverent analyses of French culture. ‘Man of parts’ asks: What is Barthes master of? What is he celebrated for? The most prominent promoter of semiology, the science of signs, he outlined a structuralist ‘science of literature’. He is famous as a champion of the avant-garde, yet the writing for which he is best known deals not with contemporary, experimental authors but with classic French writers. Barthes is famous as an agent of what he calls ‘the death of the author’ — the elimination of this figure from the central place in literary studies and critical thinking.