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The essays in this volume were written during the years that its author's first four books were published in France. They chart the course of Barthe's criticism from the vocabularies of existentialism and Marxism (reflections on the social situation of literature and writer's responsibility before History) to a psychoanalysis of substances (after Bachelard) and a psychoanalytical anthropology (which evidently brought Barthes to his present terms of understanding with Levi-Strauss and Lacan).
From the Back Cover
Most of the work in Critical Essays marks and apparently decisive conversion to structuralism understood in its strictest sense, whereby literature and social life are regarded as 'no more than' languages, to be studied not in their content but in their structure, as pure relational systems.