Is myth a type of speech?

Essay by paussieUniversity, Bachelor'sB, May 2003

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Barthes views society as a dynamic construction that is perpetuated by signs of the dominant values within a culture. He implies that myths are derived from these signs, and hence these social myths come to regulate what we perceive as natural in our society. In Barthes' context myth does not refer to ancient myths. As Roland Barthes explains it, myth is a type of speech, a system of communication evoked to carry a message. Though it is not confined to written discourse, myth can take many forms including images, film, and sport. But that is not to say that these materials define myth, it is the way that these forms are represented that produce myths.

Barthes envisaged myth as a semiological system. (R. Barthes, 1995, 28) He drew upon Saussure's work and concurred that signs arise from a relation between what he termed signifier and signified. Barthes delves deeper into this concept by developing the notion of signification on a second level, which is grafted onto the first.

At this level, the myth becomes prominent.

The signifier occurs on two levels, the language level, and the mythical level. At the linguistic level, it is given the term 'meaning'. At this stage it represents only a denotative meaning. "The meaning is already complete, it postulates a kind of knowledge, a past, a memory, a comparative order of facts..." (R. Barthes, 1995, 33) The meaning is derived from the facts of life and bears no personal association. With reference to the Polo Jeans advertisement, there are limitless signifiers, but the focus is of the couple. The signifier is the image of the couple. The signified is the concept of the couple. The sign is the representation of a couple in a pictorial form.

At the mythical level the signifier is termed 'form'.