Barthes' Vision of Japan Analytical Essay by Shaad

Barthes' Vision of Japan
This paper describes and explains Barthes' particular perspective of Japan from the point of view of semiology.
# 147130 | 821 words | 2 sources | MLA | 2010 | BD

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This essay shows how Barthes' view of Japan serves as a perfect illustration of his theory of signs, and obliquely, as a critique of Western bourgeoisie culture. First of all, it provides an overview of the author's semiology and looks at in what ways it exposes Western cultural absolutism. It then goes on to analyze Bathes' account of Japan found in his book "Empire of Signs". It shows how the author first encounters the culture as a pure sign. It then goes on to show the author recognizing how Japanese culture avoids absolutism in many aspects, and how many features of its art encourage the "reader-as-author" perspective.

From the Paper:

"Barthes visited Japan in 1966 and wrote about his impressions on the country in his 1970 publication Empire of Signs. However, the author explicitly states in the book that he does not intend to portray Japan as it is, but rather his impressions of it from the point of view of semiology. This is significant because he sees Japan as overflowing with ``empty signs'', i.e. signs that do not have absolute meanings imposed on them as is the custom in the West. By stressing the richness of Japanese thought and culture in this context, Barthes' aim is to strengthen his critique of Western bourgeoisie culture that is prone is absolutism.
"In terms of constructing meaning through language, Barthes aims to show that the Western rationalist tradition is fundamentally flawed. The basic premise of rationalism is said to be the drive to understand the world in positive terms. Barthes posits that this project is unfeasible since language does not allow for positive denotation. At the same time he contends that all communication takes place through language, and if language is incapable of positive communication then there are no other means open for rationalist project."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Barthes, Roland. Empire of signs. Jonathan Cape, 1983.
  • Moriarty, Michael. Roland Barthes. Stanford University Press, 1991.

Cite this Analytical Essay:

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Barthes' Vision of Japan (2011, February 27) Retrieved March 08, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Barthes' Vision of Japan" 27 February 2011. Web. 08 March. 2021. <>