Racine's theater is highly stylized and formulaic. As formulaic and rule-driven as a soap opera. All Barthes does is point out the patterns. He is not even that psychoanalytic, considering Racine's obsession with kinship, incest, and rivalry (once again, like the soap opera plots). It is hard to see what Barthes would have seemed so controversial: he isn't even applying a structuralist method to Racine, as much as he is pointing out parallelisms and recurring structures. I'm almost finished reading Sur Racine, with only the analyses of the individual plays remaining. Here he intelligently discusses each play and looks for its distinctiveness within the rule-bound structures. Like any intelligent critic ought to do. He never seems to be forcing a plot into a particular interpretative straight-jacket.
What was all the fuss about? Was there really that much difference between Barthes and his detractors?