Roland Barthes is a central figure in the study of language, literature, culture and the media, both as innovator and guide. This book prepares readers for their first encounter with his crucial writings on some of the most important theoretical debates of the 20th century, including: existentialism and Marxism; semiology, or the "language of signs"; structuralism and narrative analysis; post-structuralism, deconstruction and "the death of the author"; and theories of the text and intertextuality. Tracing his engagement with other key thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Ferdinand de Saussure, Jacques Derrida and Julia Kristeva, this volume offers a clear picture of Barthes' work in context. Having explained in detail Barthes's most influential ideas and their impact, Graham Allen concludes with a guide to easily available translations of his work and to useful further reading. The in-depth understanding of Barthes offered by this guide is essential to anyone reading contemporary critical theory.