Barthes’ Irreversible Codes: An Intertextual Reading of James Joyce’s “Araby”

Seyed Ali Booryazadeh, Sohila Faghfori


Roland Barthes believes that semiology is the study of how language embodies the world. Semiotic codes, the paths of this embodiment, accordingly arouse his attention. Barthes in a structural analysis of Balzac’s “Sarrasine” in S/Z expounds five types and functions of these codes: proairetic (basic narrative actions); hermeneutic (narrative turning points); cultural (prior social knowledge); semic (medium-related codes) and symbolic (themes). This research in a parallel manner explicates that “Araby,” one of the most widely read of James Joyce’s short stories, is abounded with two of these irreversible codes (proairetic and hermeneutic). The present study furthermore tries to show how with resort to a series of signs and the idea of intertextuality a literary text can provide probable answers for some ambiguous and questionable lexias that comprise the story’s hermeneutic code. It demonstrates that not only can the text of “Araby” be encoded by the same criteria Barthes encoded “Sarrasine” but also Joyce himself presents particular names for these codes.



Semiology, hermeneutic code, proairetic code, intertextuality, gnomon, simony, Araby, Dubliners

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