...All the toys one commonly sees are essentially a microcosm of the adult world; they are all reduced copies of human objects, as if in the eyes of the public the child was, all told, nothing but a smaller man, a homunculus to whom must be supplied objects of his own size....
French literary theorist and cultural critic. Born in the French town of Cherbourg, Barthes grew up in Normandy and later Paris. Despite showing great promise as a student of French literature and the classics, he suffered from ill health that hampered his education and made him something of an outsider in academia. His best-known essay, The Death of the Author (1968), draws upon the intellectual currents of his day-existentialism, Marxism, semiology, and structuralism, for example-to assert that literary texts exist outside authorial intention or control; thus readers, not writers, create meaning. Barthes's fiercely anti-bourgeois views on modern society and literature-developed in essay collections such as Mythologies (1957) and S/Z (1970)-were controversial when first published, but his methods have greatly informed those employed by contemporary cultural critics. See also egs.edu/library/roland-barthes/biography.