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However, it does this in a repressive way, concealing the construction of signs.

The system of myths tends to reduce the raw material of signifying objects to similarity. They always contain some kind of analogy which motivates them.

For instance, it uses a photograph and a book in exactly the same way. In contrast to ideas of false consciousness, myths don’t hide anything. Barthes’s main objection to myth is that it removes history from language. It usually does this by reducing a complex phenomenon to a few traits which are taken as definitive.

It is crucial to emphasise that Barthes is not saying that all language-use is myth. But a semiotician can only study the signs or myths, not the things.

According to Barthes, he can tell us about the myth of the goodness of wine, or the way wine is signified as an essence it doesn’t really have.

Wine may, in fact, for contingent reasons of sense-experience, be good. In a sense, therefore, this is a negative approach to myth: it breaks down rather than replacing.

One might speculate that eventually, language would need to be reconstructed in a non-mythical way, in order to move beyond myth – perhaps by talking directly of situated experiences, rather than essences.

But this is outside the scope of Barthes’s project.


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