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The Death Of The Auteur Essay

2665 words - 11 pages

“The Death of the Auteur”
2
The concept of ‘author’ is originally derived from the Latin word for
authority. From the theoretician’s standpoint, the author carries power over the
text only to the extent that the ideas and scenarios within it are originally those of
the author. French literary theorist Roland Barthes argues that the function of an
author is to provide the semblance of originality and meaning in The Death of the
Author.
“Writing is the destruction of every voice, of every origin. Writing is
the neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away,
the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity
of the body writing.” (Barthes 1466)
The basis for Barthes’ argument is the writing of Ferdinand de Saussure,
particularly the discourse on signification and authorship in Course in General
Linguistics. Within the scope of Saussurean theory, a viewpoint can be
ascertained that is conceptualized for applicability to The Death of the
Author. Saussure begins his introduction to this topic by defining language
in a way that concurs with Barthes’ use of it. Language is the “social side of
speech, outside the individual who can never create or modify it by
himself.” This is concomitant with Barthes’ work, particularly in his concept
of the author as the subject of a text. Barthes stresses the impersonality of
any work, due to the essence of language, that it is the quintessence of the
performance and not the author’s subjectivity. In one of his most poignant
assignations of profound semiological characterization, Saussure posits the
nature of the linguistic sign as the unity of a concept and a sound-image.
3
For this assumption to be relevant, it follows that language must be
principally a naming process, which would necessitate the assumption that
the entire world of ideas is already in existence, has already been enabled
in some Ecclesiastical precondition. (Saussure 972-977)
“Everything that has been said up to this point boils down to
this: in language there are only differences. Even more
important, a difference generally implies positive terms
between which the difference is set up; but in language there
are only differences without positive terms. Whether we take
the signified or the signifier, language has neither ideas nor
sounds that existed before the linguistic system, but only
conceptual and phonic differences that have issued from the
system.” (Saussure 972)
The application of this idea to Barthes’ work is in the very essence of the
idea of the death of the author: the rejection of the assumption that the
ideas we commit to a certain name are the product of solely their own
conjecture and its manifestations.
“As soon as a fact is narrated no longer with a view to acting
directly on reality but intransitively, that is to say, finally outside of
any function other than that of the very practice of the symbol itself,
this disconnection occurs, the voice...

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