Michael Payne introduces the principal writings of Roland Barthes, Michael Foucault and Louis Althusser by means of a detailed focus on their common interest in the forms and conditions of knowledge. His careful reading reveals their profound commitment to a critical understanding of how truth, meaning, and value are constituted in language and in non-verbal texts.
In his first three chapters, Payne examines in considerable detail brief texts by Barthes, Foucault, and Althusser that seem to be their own strategically designed introductions to their projects. The next three chapters take up the most important books by each of these writers: Foucault's "The Order of Things," Barthes's "S/Z," and Althusser's "Reading Capital." Chapter 7 examines a specific text by each author writing on one of the visual arts, in an effort to investigate the assumption that knowledge - whether as theory, enlightenment, vision, illumination, or insight - is in some sense visual. The last chapter briefly examines the work of Gilles Deleuze.
Payne writes here with the same lucidity and acuity to be found in his highly successful companion to this volume, "Reading Theory: An Introduction to Lacan, Derrida, and Kristeva" (1993).