History of forms and the tones of criticism: on Roland Barthes' Writing Degree Zero

Márcio Renato Pinheiro da Silva

Initially, Writing Degree Zero (1953), the first Roland Barthes' book, consists of a history of modern literature from mid-nineteenth century to mid-twentieth. However, Barthes provides very few data about general history as well as about history of literature, what makes his first book hard to understand even today. This paper intends to discuss the possible meanings of these gaps, linking them to Barthes' aim (a story of modern literary forms). Then these possible meanings will be compared to the tone assumed by the essayist' writing on the history narrated by himself, in an attempt to identify and discuss their possible ambivalences.

Literary history; modernity; rhetoric; Roland Barthes


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