French and Francophone Language and Literature | Modern Languages | Modern Literature
Published in Dalhousie French Studies, Volume 58, Spring April 1, 2002, pages 66-76.
This article has been peer reviewed.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Brian Kennelly was affiliated with Webster University. Currently, April 2008, he is Chair and Associate Professor of the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo.
A year before his untimely death in 1980, in the days before the internet, before even the minitel bleu or rose, Roland Barthes compared the personals – at that time still print-based – of two popular French dailies. On the one hand, the advertisements in Le Nouvel Observateur belied artifice, he noted. The information their writers shared publicly with potential mates revealed a certain banal artificiality. Despite the obvious effort the creators of the ads had put into catching the eye of possible matches, in spite of the care with which they had weighed the words before ultimately selecting them and the metaphors underpinning the printed communication for inclusion in the classified section, in the eyes of France's foremost semiotician at the time, a characteristic anthropomorphism all too often functioned as a euphemistic code that got in the way – so much so that it made reading these personals awkward. As a result, Barthes saw in them "une espèce de rédaction enjouée, à prétention spirituelle, avec des métaphores un peu sophistiquées, en même temps qui sont toujours les mêmes [....]" ("Mes petites annonces" [III:1092]).