Discussion Of Roland Barthes' "Death Of The Author" And Michel Foucault's Response To This Proclaimation In His Text Of The Same Name.

2020 words - 8 pages

In 1968, the French social and literary critic, Roland Barthes, pronounced the death of the Author. What does this so called death mean? Furthermore, what is the author that Barthes claims is now dead?Barthes develops his assertion by describing writing as the 'destruction of every voice, of every point of origin. Writing is ... the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing' (121). Barthes assertion of the death of the author refers not to the empirical or literal death of a given author therefore, but to the fact that, in a radical sense, the author is absent from the text.Barthes argues that the voice of the author becomes unimportant once the act of narrating has taken place. The thing narrated comes to function in the symbolic world. The notion of the author is a modern invention, and is discovered in the 'prestige of the individual' (Barthes 121). As such, the modern author functions as an ideological figure. Barthes, in part, is arguing against the common ascription of authority to the figure of the author.Barthes refers to some of the implications of twentieth-century linguistics as regards the question of the author and his or her authority. He quotes the French nineteenth century symbolist poet, Mallarme, in saying that 'language speaks, not the author' (121), that is to say, he considers the idea that the language is in control of the author, rather than conceive of the author being in control of the language that he or she uses. In this respect, language can be thought of as a kind of system within which any writer must take a designated place: the system and rules of language inevitably dictate the possibilities of what someone can say. 'Linguistically', he argues, 'the author is never more than the instance of writing. Language knows a 'subject', not a 'person'' (Barthes 121).The modern conception of the author, Barthes argues, is in effect placing him/her in the realm of God as the 'final signified' (Barthes 122). The author in this function becomes the limit of the work. The function of the critic is to seek out the author, (his/her society, history, psyche) to define, explain and understand the text. The author functions in this system as the point of origin of the text.Barthes argues, however, that the author cannot be the point of origin of the text. The text is a 'multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writing, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture' (Barthes 122). The author can never be original as he/she is always operating within a system of language that pre-exists him/her and as such can only 'imitate a gesture that is always anterior' (Bathes 122). The author's intention of 'expressing him/herself' must take place within this system and is the only medium for communication.Any analysis of the text, in Barthes view, therefore, requires the process of disentangling rather than deciphering....

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