We might begin our investigation of the questions raised at the end of the last section by returning to consider some of the issues raised in the work of Barthes, reported earlier. He attempted to show, in S/Z, how the text exploits codes which reflect the negotiation of ideological assumptions between text and reader. They are made to seem 'natural', whereas they are really, and more sinisterly, 'entièrement livresque' and part of the dominant bourgeois ideology.1 We might raise a rather simple objection to this type of argument, by agreeing that the codes Barthes discusses were indeed implicit in the text, but denying, since the reader can as easily adopt as superior a notion of mimetic adequacy as Barthes himself, that we need necessarily be taken in by such artificial conventions, whether in literature or in advertising. But whatever the facts may be concerning our ability to resist such blandishments, with or without the benefits of critical interpretation, Barthes would be correct in pointing out that within any given historical period, everyday language and literature, advertising, photography, and so on, do convey these hidden ideological assumptions, precisely at the point at which they seem most transparent. It is indeed an important function of critical interpretation to make us aware of their ideological nature.
Thus for most of us a certain way of thinking about sex differences was, until a while ago, 'natural'. Distinctions were encoded in the language that men and women did not dispute, having no external perspective from which to challenge them.2 But they became much less transparent and less acceptable once they were seen to support distinctions and differences which had become objectionable. And so the language system itself has had to give at certain points (for example, by the insertion of 'Ms' into the system 'Mr', 'Mrs', 'Miss'): 'we are aware of the connection between language and ideology in these instances because the position of women in the social structure and ideology is currently in transition.'3
Our awareness of ideology is thus most clearly focused when it is foregrounded by historical change or discovery. This has always been the case, for example in Julien Sorel's immense sensitivity to the language of liberalism and conservatism in Le Rouge et le Noir, or Frédéric Moreau's to the changing rhetoric of 1848 in L'Éducation sentimentale. However, there may be far less of significance to be