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Shvoong Home>Books>The Death of the Author Review

The Death of the Author

Book Review   by:Chantal     Original Authors: Barthes; Roland.
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In his essay, 'Death of the Author' Roland Barthes criticizes the inherent implications of considering the author when examining a text. Barthes argues that the author is merely a vehicle in which a story is told. He does not create or form the story, but rather mediates, relates and performs the story as it already exists. The author himself exists only at the point at which he is telling the story and thus, his history, culture and values are without influence and even further, nonexistent in relation to the analysis of the text. Believing this, Barthes condemns the practice of attributing the success of a text to the genius of the author. In the same vein, he also believes that a failing in a text cannot be ascribed to the failings of the writer because he is but an image representing the text and their strengths and weaknesses are separate because they are separate entities. In considering the author simultaneously with the analysis of the text, Barthes believes that the text becomes automatically limited. The reader examines the text in terms of the authors perspective, searching for the author's interpretations and motivations rather than seeking his own understanding.
Language itself is just the repetition of a system created long ago. Writing it essentially the manipulation and transcription of thoughts and ideas already discovered. By looking at the text through the eyes of the author, the reader acquires nothing original as he is only digesting predetermined explanations. Barthes bases his entire principle on this idea claiming that it is only the status of the reader not the author that should be elevated. It is the reader who brings meaning to a text using their own experiences and knowledge to achieve a new and unique understanding of the words. This being so, a text can have an unlimited number of possible interpretations because each reader that approaches a piece of writing unsullied by preliminary knowledge of the author has the liberty to extract any meaning from the text. Barthes cleverly concludes that "the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author."
Published: July 12, 2005   
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