Roland Barthes and the Reception of French Structuralism in Socialist Romania

Alexandru MATEI


This article discusses French literary structuralism following the perspective of the history of ideas and the problematic of cultural transfers. The interest in structuralism is here primarily political/ideological, in so far as, during the 1960s, the structuralist approach to literature played an important role in the advent of a new generation of literary theorists and a new doctrine in Romanian literature which lasted till the years 2000 and is still dominant. The ambivalent attitude of the Romanian intellectuals living under the socialist regime towards the French structuralism is symptomatic: upstream, of political views typical for the “Eastern intellectual”, and downstream, of an intellectual background which could manifest itself only once some of these intellectuals went on to pursue an academic career in the United States. Insisting further on Roland Barthes as a ļ¬gurehead of French literary structuralism, the article intends to show why the double-sided approach to structuralism (in France, on the one side, and in Romania, on the other) rendered structuralism as an impossible mental practice in Socialist Romania.

Keywords: French structuralism, Roland Barthes, literary theory, Eastern European intellectuals, Virgil Nemoianu, Mihai Botez, Thomas Pavel.

DOI: 10.24193/ekphrasis.19.5