In Mythologies (1957), Roland Barthes examines the process of modern myths creation.
While partially relying on de Saussure's socio-lingual theory of signs (semiotics), Barthes sets out for a far-reaching analysis of the mythological value some signs are being charged with in modern times and points out their role in the formation and sustenance of ideology.
One example of the signs Barthes considers is the mythological value common food ingredients, such as wine and steak, occupy in the collective imagination. Barthes portrays the image that has been built up around them in the service of French nationalism:
"to believe in wine is a coercive collective act. A Frenchman who kept this myth at arm's length would expose himself to minor but definite problems of integration, the first of which, precisely, would be that of having to explain his attitude. The universality principle fully applies here, inasmuch as society calls anyone who does not believe in wine by names such as sick, disabled, or depraved: it does not comprehend him [...] Conversely, an award of good integration is given to whoever is a practicing wine drinker: knowing how to drink is a national technique which serves to qualify the Frenchman, to demonstrate at once his performance, his control, and his sociability. Wine gives thus a foundation for a collective morality, within which everything is redeemed." (p. 59)
"To eat steak rare therefore represents both a nature and a morality. It is supposed to benefit all the temperaments, the sanguine because it is identical, the nervous and lymphatic because it is complementary to them. And just as wine becomes for a good number of intellectuals a mediumistic substance which leads them towards the original strength of nature, steak is for them a redeeming food, thanks to which they bring their intellectualism to the level of prose and exorcize, through blood and soft pulp, the sterile dryness of which they are constantly accused. The craze for steak tartare, for instance, is a magic spell against the romantic association between sensitiveness and sickliness; there are to be found, in this preparation, all the germinating states of matter: the blood mash and the glair of eggs, a whole harmony of soft and life-giving substances, a sort of meaningful compendium of the images of pre-parturition [...] (pp. 62-63)
The following Mythologies:
Wine and Milk: pp. 58 - 61
The New Citroën: pp. 88 - 90 (substitute the car with the iPhone)
Plastic: pp. 97 - 99
Questions to ponder:
* Is there a cultural item deprived of some mythological value? Doesn't the myth make culture as such?
* What is the place of mythology in the service of ideology?
* How does modern advertising promote the creation of myths?