Some bibliographical questions about Roland Barthes [with some answers]

Some bibliographical questions about Roland Barthes. Any answers much appreciated – and with the first three will hopefully interesting to others; the final one is more a remark (or, as the cliché goes, more of a comment than a question).

[Update: I had some very useful answers to these questions, or suggestions of people to ask, from Lisa Downing, Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan, Sunil Manghani, Oliver Davis and Naomi Waltham Smith. In particular, Patrick ffrench and @BelseyMemorial provided a lot of useful information. I’ve shared all of this below.]

1. Barthes’s Collège de France courses seem to be complete in French, and all are translated into English [How to Live Together, The Neutral and The Preparation of the Novel], but some of his EPHE courses are edited in French, i.e. Le Discours amoureux, but far from all. As far as I know, none of the EPHE courses are translated. Some of the courses are out of print in French, possibly because they are being gradually reprinted in the Seuil Points series. Any plans for more courses in French and/or translations of what we have already?

[Update: As well as Le Discours amoureux, seminars from the EPHE on Sarrasine de Balzac (1967-68 and 1968-69) and Le Lexique de l’auteur (1973-74) have been published.

Other seminars have been discussed, but not published. Apparently there are no plans to translate those that are published.

Barthes’s 1966-67 seminar Recherches sur le discours de l’Histoire is discussed and part-presented in Maria O’Sullivan, “Roland Barthes: genèse d’un séminaire inédit“, Avant-Dire, 133-64. This contains some of Barthes’s notes in facsimile and transcription.

There is a useful discussion of Barthes’s 1964-69 seminars on rhetoric – Claudia Amigo Pino, “The Rhetorical Mission: Barthes’s Seminars from 1964 to 1969“, Barthes Studies 5, 2019, 53-71]

2. At least some lecture courses have been edited twice – once on the basis of manuscripts and later with the addition of material from recordings. That’s certainly the case with La préparation du roman. The English translations with Columbia University Press are based on the former. Are there plans to update the translations?

[Update: the English translator of The Preparation of the Novel, Kate Briggs, discusses the updated French edition in an essay: “Augmentation infinie de la mayonnaise: On the New Edition of Roland Barthes’s La Préparation du roman“, Barthes Studies 7, 2021, 49-64. This is a great analysis of the difference between the written and transcribed texts, with reflections on lecturing and translating. It indicates that she “would love to see the new edition translated into English”, but does not indicate that this is being done. It also, persuasively to my mind, shows why the two French editions should be consulted, and that the new one does not make the old one “obsolete”. The same would therefore be the case with a new translation. “Crucially, what we don’t have in the new edition, what is missing, along with (Natalie) Léger’s original editor’s introduction and the materials for the seminars, are precisely the notes. We no longer have Barthes’s notes qua preparatory notes” (p. 61)]

3. Is there a comprehensive list of translations of short pieces by Barthes, ideally keyed to the Oeuvres complètes? It’s easy enough to find translations of books, but not always of articles. I’m looking for the sort of thing Richard Lynch has done with Foucault, or I did with Georges Bataille or Ludwig Binswanger. I can reference things just in French, but if there is a translation I’d like to consult and reference that too.

[Update: there is a comprehensive bibliography, doing exactly what I was looking for. Neil Badmington, “Roland Barthes in English: A Guide to Translations“, Barthes Studies 7, 2021, 149-223. ]

4. Why did nobody tell me that Barthes discusses territory in Comment Vivre Ensemble/How to Live Together? Most of it is based on animal ethology, but there are some interesting parts.

While I discuss Barthes in relation to Foucault in my books on Foucault, I started going back to some of his work because of his appreciation for the work of Émile Benveniste, who is part of my new project on Indo-European thought in twentieth-century France.

This entry was posted in Emile Benveniste, Georges Bataille, Indo-European Thought, Ludwig Binswanger, Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Some bibliographical questions about Roland Barthes [with some answers]

  1. Pingback: Indo-European thought project update 8: working on Barthes, Lévi-Strauss and the Mission Paul Pelliot | Progressive Geographies

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