chapter  2
29 Pages

Dubliners: The City Betrayed

In “Semiology and Urbanism,” Roland Barthes attempts a semiotics of the city in response to the abiding significance of human and physical space.1

In the first instance, Barthes notes the relative failure, on the part of many urban theoreticians and their functional studies, to explicate fully the infinity of meaning the modern city affords. At the same time, he assures the reader in more encouraging terms that urban studies also shows a growing awareness of the function and importance of symbols in the study of urban space, or what Barthes terms “significant space.”2 Before proceeding to consider central Paris in semiotic terms, Barthes notes that, in historical terms, the study of geographical space in general has always been charac terized by relativism in terms of its denotation and study. For example, from the identification of human habitations in Greek antiquity

in the maps of Anaximander and Hecataeus to the “mental cartography” of paradigmatic maps of the known world by Herodotus to Claude LeviStrauss’s semiological study of an African Boro Village, the notion of human space (geographical space) in western cultural history has always constituted a structurally grounded and contested discourse.3