"Myth Today" – Roland Barthes
Barthe takes myth as a system of communication that is a message. This allows one to perceive myth as an object, concept, idea or a mode of signification. Since Myth is seen as a type of speech, everything can be a myth provided it is conveyed by a discourse. Myth is not defined by the object of its message but by the utterance.
Barthe said that the motivation for his book "mythologies" was resentment at the bourgeois confusion of nature and history as in the attempts of the bourgeois to pass of their values and agendas which were historically produced. His most fundamental suggestion is that myth is not an object but a concept or an idea, but language is a type of speech. It is a mode of signification and is defined by the utterance in which it utters a message. He contains the view that there are no eternal myths; it is human history that converts "reality into speech".
Ancient or not, mythology can only have historical foundation for myth is a type of speech chosen by history. Mythical speech says Barthe is composed of a material that has already been worked on to make it suitable for communication.
In explaining the nature of myth Barthe reiterates Saussure's view that semiology is composed of three terms. The signifier which is acoustic image, the signified which is concept and a sign which is a word and which consists of signifier and signified.
In other words sign is a relation. The structure of myth repeats the tri-dimensional pattern: myth is a second order semiological system.
Hence in myth there are two semiological systems, one being staggered: the object of first being language and the object of second being myth as a metalanguage. In other words myth becomes a language in which one speaks about the first language.
Barthe reminds us that the entire sign of the first system, the signifier is equivalent to the meaning. But as the first term of the second system the signifier is a form. Barthe calls the final term of the mythical system "signification" so as to distinguish it from sign which is final term of the linguistic system.
Extract of Myth Today from the Norton Anthology
A, Vijayganesh. Class Lecture. Twentieth Century Critical Traditions. Christ University. Bangalore, India. 6 December. 2013.
(Notes of the lecture delivered on 6 December 2013. Prepared by Zakaria Vargis John)