To Write: An Intransitive Verb? & Discussion: 19th October 1966: Roland Barthes

by Julia Evans on October 19, 1966

Presented at an international symposium, entitled ‘The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man’, at The Johns Hopkins Center, Baltimore, USA, on 18th – 21st October 1966.

Presenter: Roland Barthes

Title: To Write: An Intransitive Verb? & Discussion (Barthes & Todorov):

Available here

All the contributions to this symposium are published in: ‘The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man: the Structuralist Controversy’ edited by Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donato: The Johns Hopkins Press Baltimore and London: 1970

Contents, Preface, Contributors and Colloquists (as published in Macksey & Donato): copy on request.

Description of Roland Barthes as in 1970

Roland Barthes: is at present Directeur d’Études in the VIe Section of the École Pratique des Hautes Études, where he conducts seminars on “semio-criticism and the sociology of signs, symbols, and collective representations.” His early essays in ‘Combat’ were published in ‘Le Degré zero de l’écriture’, a landmark in contemporary criticism. He was also one of the founders of Théâtre Populaire and an early champion of Brecht in France. During the first term of 1967-68, he was a visiting professor at The Johns Hopkins University. He also participated in the Continuing Seminars under the Ford Grant.

Description of the symposium from p iv of Preface (Macksey & Donato op. cit)

Quote from the Preface – pix (the first two paragraphs)

‘Les théories et les écoles, comme les microbes et les globules, s’entre-dévorent et assurent par leur lutte la continuité de la vie.’ Marcel Proust

The papers and discussions collected in this volume constitute the proceedings of the international symposium entitled “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man,” [“Les Langages Critiques et les Sciences de l’Homme”] enabled by a grant from the Ford Foundation. The sessions were convened under the auspices of the Johns Hopkins Humanities Center, during the week of October 18-21, 1966, when over one hundred humanists and social scientists from the United States and eight other countries gathered in Baltimore. The symposium inaugurated a two-year program of seminars and colloquia which sought to explore the impact of contemporary “structuralist” thought on critical methods in humanistic and social studies. The general title emphasized both the pluralism of the existing modes of discourse and the interaction of disciplines not entirely limited to the conventional rubric of the “humanities”.

By focusing the discussions on the structuralist phenomenon, the organizers were not seeking to promote a manifesto nor even to arrive at a fixed and unambiguous definition of structuralism itself. To many observers there seemed already to be too many manifestos, while satisfactory definitions of such polymorphic activities, or cultural events, are generally only achieved after the principals are safely dead. The danger was clearly that of deforming a method or a “family of methods” into a doctrine. The purpose of the meetings, rather, was to bring into an active and not uncritical contact leading European proponents of structural studies in a variety of disciplines with a wide spectrum of American scholars. It was hoped that this contact could in turn, stimulate innovations both in the received scholarship and in the training of scholars.