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The Death of the Author (1968) - Roland Barthes

Related: author - 1968 - cultural criticism - literary theory - Roland Barthes - author's intention

Image-Music-Text (1977) - Roland Barthes (essays selected and translated by Stephen Heath)
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In Image-Music-Text Stephen Heath collects Barthes's best writings on photography and the cinema, as well as fascinating articles on the relationship between images and sound. Two of Barthes's most important essays, "Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narrative" and the 1968 "The Death of the Author" are also included in this fine anthology, an excellent introduction to his thought.


In his 1968 essay "The Death of the Author," Barthes made a strong, polemical argument against the centrality of the figure of the author in literary study. (Michel Foucault's later article "What is an Author?" responded to Barthes's polemic with an analysis of the social and literary "author-function.") --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_Barthes

Death of the author is a theory proposed by French literary critic Roland Barthes in 1968. It states that the intentions of the author are meaningless to the interpretation of a text.

Because this theory claims that the author's intentions are not relevant, it gives power to the readers to interpret as they will. Barthes concluded that the Death of the Author was the Birth of the Reader.

According to this theory, any given text consists not of one authorial voice but of multiple genres, outside influences, subconscious drives, and preexisting texts that constantly shape and inform all communication. For this reason, Barthes argues, critics should use texts as a space for free "play" that cannot be defined by any univocal statement of right or wrong with regard to the author. Rather, interaction with the text generates its own pleasure in an act that, for Barthes, closely mirrors sexual intercourse.

Breaking away from the rigid and moralistic confines of formalism, Barthes hints at the savory imperfections, gaps, and opportunities for creative revision and interplay that textual analysis entails. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_the_author [Apr 2006]

Barthes, Roland. 1968. "La mort de l'auteur" (The death of the author). Manteia, vol. 5. Translated by Stephen Heath in Image, Music, Text (1977) - Roland Barthes [Amazon US].

La « mort de l'auteur »

Roland Barthes, personnage haut en couleur, aimait raconter cette blague à ses étudiants : un infirme se plonge dans l’eau de Lourdes pour que sa situation s’améliore et en ressort avec une chaise roulante toute neuve. Passé maître dans les discours aux multiples sens, qu’il s’amusera à démystifier, Barthes accouche en 1968 de cet article bizarre qu’est La mort de l’auteur. --http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_Barthes#La_.C2.AB_mort_de_l.27auteur_.C2.BB [Jan 2005]


  1. In his story "Sarrasine" Balzac, describing a castrato disguised as a woman, writes the following sentence: "This was woman herself, with her sudden fears, her irrational whims, her instinctive worries, her impetuous boldness, her fussings, and her delicious sensibility." Who is speaking thus? Is it the hero of the story bent on remaining ignorant of the castrato hidden beneath the woman? Is it Balzac the individual, furnished by his personal experience with a philosophy of Woman? Is it Balzac the author professing "literary" ideas on femininity? Is it universal wisdom? Romantic psychology? We shall never know, for the good reason that writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of 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. --The Death of the Author (1968) - Roland Barthes via http://social.chass.ncsu.edu/wyrick/debclass/whatis.htm [Jan 2005]

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