Roland Barthe: The death of the Author.

Origins of the “Author”.

Barthe argues that the conception of the “Author” first came about at the end of the middle ages, stemming from English empiricism, French rationalism, and later on, ideologies of capitalism resulting in attribution of prestige to the individual.


The critic and the “Author”.

The argument is made by Barthe that criticism serves to “discover” the “Author” – in the sense of society, culture, history, emotion, and politics behind the work. And, that until this is so, the text is unexplained and strands left open-ended, to interpretation. In discovering the “Author”, he argues the text becomes claimed to have been “explained”, and that the critic has conquered. He argues this should be overthrown – that essentially “everything is to be distinguished, but not to be deciphered”. He contests, writing should be traversed, not penetrated in criticism, and that writing aims to resume meaning but only in order to evaporate it, leading to “systematic exemption”. Ultimately, Barthe makes the argument that by refusing to arrest meaning in writing, counter-theological or fundamental activity becomes liberated – questioning society as a whole; God, science, technology, the law.


Media texts: Who creates meaning?

In continuation of Barthe’s concept, “Death of the Author”, it can be contested of which party really creates meaning in a text – the author or the reader. Arguably, while the author might shape an intended meaning or outcome through the production of a media text, it can be said that true meaning is really what the end-user (in this case, the reader of the text) makes of it – and how they choose or feel compelled to interpret the text. For example, in the case of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” it would not matter how Stoker had intended the text to be interpreted, as the criticism and meaning derived from the text by the reader is arguably the end result, as a direct consequence of being the last receiver of the message transmitted by the producer – there are academic readings of “Dracula” ranging from marking the novel as an exploration of class power in society, gender roles and power paradigms, theories of colonialism and fear of the foreign, and sexuality and sexual dominance.


Barthes, R. (1967). The Death of The Author. Aspen. 5-6. [Available
online at:].  


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