From the archive
Barthes has always been one of my favorite authors. He is really a writer, not just a theorist or critic. What I particularly like is that he is really a 19th century sensibility trying to deal with 20th century avant-garde, or maybe vice-versa. This tension can lead to very irritating moments in Barthes too, when he’s hammering home some arbitrary distinction he wants to make.
The way Barthes has dated (or not) is also interesting to me. You can go back and forth between “did people really ever believe this” to “this could have been written yesterday,” and back again. To simplify, the theoretical Barthes is dated, but the personal Barthes is not. The Barthes who believed semiology was scientific, and the one who used fountain pens and painted water colors.