Roland Barthes The Death Of The Author Summary

Roland Barthes The Death Of The Author Summary

In this article, you will get to know in brief about Roland Barthes The Death of the Author summary which is basically an essay written by him.

Roland Barthes was a French literary critic and theorist. He wrote the essay The Death of the Author in the year 1967. In this essay, Barthes represents a different viewpoint to see the functions of an author and a reader and also talks about the birth and death of the author. 

Roland Barthes The Death Of The Author Summary

Well, Roland Barthes’ essay “The Death Of The Author” opposes this practice of the trends in Traditional Literary Criticism. 

In the practice of traditional literary criticism, whenever a text is studied, while retrieving its meaning and analyzing it, the intentions of the author and the biographical context of the author are also considered. This means that the meaning of a particular text depends upon the author’s intention, life, personality, and other biographical details to a great extent. 

Barthes believes that writing and its creator are completely unrelated to each other. Barthes opposes this method of reading and literary criticism where a literary work is analyzed on the basis of the information about the real-life person who created that work and not on the basis of what the text and the words used in it express.

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According to Barthes, though this method of reading might look tidy and convenient, in reality, it is quite insufficient and full of flaws. 

Barthes says that to give a text an author and assign a single, corresponding interpretation to a text is to impose a limit on that text. This means that believing a text is the creation of an author and giving a single explanation to that text as per the perspective of the author is like posing a limit on that text which otherwise can be a lot more than this. 

According to Roland Barthes, a reader needs to approach a literary work only after separating it from the influence of its creator, so that the text can be viewed from different perspectives and not just the one that the author wants to make the readers understand. 

There are multiple layers and meanings in every literary writing. Barthes also presents a similarity between text and textiles in his popular quotation by declaring that a text is a tissue or fabric of quotations drawn from innumerable centers of culture rather than from one, individual experience. 

This means that a text is just like a fabric of the quotation which is not made up of just one, but multiple layers, and these layers are taken up from varying cultures, that is, the text can basically have different meanings. 

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Barthes says that the reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost, a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination. 

By this, he means that the essential meaning of any literary work is completely dependent upon the approach of the reader and on the reader’s views on that work because that text has been written for the reader not depending upon the tastes or passions of the writer. 

The unity of a text is not in its origin or its creator but in its destination which means the audience for whom the text has been written so that they can read it. 

Because the author has done his job by writing the literary work, but if the reader doesn’t read it, then the text doesn’t have any significance, so, every text’s significance and meaning depends upon its reader. 

Barthes also supports the fact that a text can actually neither be created nor can it be original because the text is always made up of an arrangement of pre-existing quotations and ideas. 

That is why, according to Barthes, in reality, the author is not an author at all, in fact, he is just a Scriptor who arranges pre-existing texts and quotations into a single text and gives it a tangible, meaningful shape without controlling or limiting its meaning.

In this manner, the job of a Scriptor is to just produce a text with the help of the potential rather than producing it. And, right with starting to write a text, a Scriptor is born and as the writing process completes, the existence of that Scriptor also ends. 

So, we can see that an author always writes a text explicitly. He gives a specific meaning to that text, but a reader writes that text again with his understanding of reading and perceiving that text and gives it a new meaning. 

So, Barthes has given the main role to the reader in the completion of the process of meaning-making. 

An author presents a particular reality in a literary text, but after the completion of the author’s writing process, the text is not able to represent that reality which was going on in the mind of the author while writing it because when a reader will read that text, he will understand it from an entirely different perspective and not by reading the author’s mind. 

During Renaissance, God was replaced from the universe by Humanism, and this replacement was referred to as Reformation. This resulted in the creation of a man-centered world that only gave importance to man, his wealth, his potential, and his power. Gradually, the concept of God and Creator started getting weak.

This also impacted the literary texts and the concept of the author due to which the identity of the Creator started getting snatched from the author. In this essay, Barthes represents the author as a product of western society by saying that his narrative skills, his narrative mastery, and the geniuses of telling a story are not discussed that much.

However, some literary critics believed that any literary work should be called the product of the author and they classified the works into histories and bibliographies. The result of such classifications was that everyone started viewing the author in the form of a living voice who is sharing his views and experiences via language. 

So, the concept of the author by traditional literary critics is quite powerful but a lot of writers including Barthes have argued against it and criticized it. 

So, in conclusion, Barthes wants to say that whenever we read a literary text, we should not think about what the author is exactly trying to say, instead, we should think about what his words are actually expressing. 

The text employs symbols and the job of finding the meaning of these symbols belongs to the reader because the reader himself understands the functions of a text and with his understanding, he determines the meaning of that text, so the process of writing and the author becomes irrelevant in deciding the meaning for that text.  

So, this essay by Barthes marks the birth of the reader and his crucial role in the process of giving a new meaning to the text. 

This essay is an attack on the traditional philosophy of literary criticism according to which a text has only one and only one original meaning, the one that is determined by the author, and the reader should follow this meaning. 

But, according to Barthes, we should follow a text-oriented approach instead of this traditional approach which focuses on the interaction of the reader with the text and not on the writer or the text itself. 

In this manner, this essay presents the metaphorical death of the author and Barthes doesn’t consider an author anything more than a mere Scriptor or a Translator, who writes with the help of already existing language and symbols while assigning a creative role to the reader which gives meaning to a text. 

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