It is language that is everything

Language is legislation, speech is its code. We do not see the power which is in speech because we forget that all speech is a classification, and that all classifications are oppressive. (Roland Barthes)

Susan Sontag (1982: xx) argues that Barthes “might be charged with overestimating literature — with treating literature as ‘everything’ — but at least he made a good case for doing so.” We, too, may conclude that “Barthes understood (as Sartre did not) that literature is first of all, last of all, language. It is language that is everything. Which is to say that all of reality is presented in the form of language — the poet’s wisdom and also the structuralist’s” (Sontag, 1982: xx).

Barthes, R. 1982. A Barthes Reader : Edited and with an Introduction by Susan Sontag.London: Jonathan Cape Ltd.


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