Discuss the critical ideas of Ronald Barthes as expressed in The Death of Author

Ronald Barthes, French literary critic and theorist of structuralism and post-structuralism announces the death of the author in order to have birth of the reader. Barthes prolific output is consistently innovative and inventive to make him one of the most important and influential critics of the twentieth century. It is as assertion that struck at the very heart of traditional literary studies and that has remained one of the most controversial tenets of post-structuralism. He was a writer who disconcerted his disciples as well as his opponents by continually rejecting one kind of discourse in favor of another, and to this extent lived the assertion simultaneously with the text.

 As for Bathes, writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin. It is neutral, composite and oblique space where subject disappears and where all identity is lost. As soon as a fact is narrated with a view to acting no longer directly but intransitively on reality, the disconnection between the author and the writing occurs. The voice loses its origin, the author enters into his own death, and writing begins.

Actually, the idea of giving a text to the authority of an author is a long term process. Barthes argues that the traditional notion of the author is a product of the rationalist and empiricist thought of the Middle Ages that ascribes a central importance to the individual human being- for a text. It is the person of the author that is more important than the text. So, we see the author still reigns in histories of literature, biographies of writers, interviews, magazines etc. We also see in men of letters as anxiousness to unite their person and their work through diaries and memories. Thus the image of literature centers round the author, his person, his life, his tastes, his ideas and criticism also is directed to that end. It is usually thought that the “explanation” of the text is found in the man or woman who has written it. Thus the author becomes the creator, God, and thus a theological entity who knows only about his creation, his work.

Though the influence of the author remains powerful, many pre modern writers have tried to challenge the centrality of the author. In France, Stephen Mallerme was undoubtedly the first whose poetry reaches the point at which language can be said to be “speaking itself” through an impersonal writing. For him, it is language which speaks, not he author. It ceases to be either a psychological expression of the poet’s subjectivity or a representation of something external to its own workings. Mallermie’s entire poetics consists in suppressing the author in the interests of writing. Despite the supposed acuity of his psychological analyses, Proust has, according to Barthes, written the epic of modern writing. Surrealism and linguistic ideas also tried to remove the author from the fixed and ever-occupying place.

The removal of the author is more than an historical fact or an act of writing. But it means to transform the modern text in such a level that it seems the Author is totally absent. Here the temporality is different. When we believe that the Author is present, we conceive him as the past of his own book; book and author stand automatically on a single line divided into a before and an after. Here the author is father, the book is his child, thought, and nourished by his father. But the idea of the modern scriptor of is different. The modern scriptor is born simultaneously with the text but no linear relation, no preceding or exceeding, no “here and now” with the immediate enunciation of it. It follows that “writing does not mean an operation of recording, notation, representation and depiction.” But it is a “performative”, a rare verbal form in which the enunciation has no other content than the act by which it is uttered. Thus the modern scriptor buries the Author and traces a field without origin- or which, at least, has no other origin than language itself, language which ceaselessly calls into question all origins.
Thus a text is not a line of words with a single theological meaning or the message of the Author- God but a multi- dimensional space in which a variety of non- original writings blends and clash.(Like Collase). The text is a combination quotations drawn from the innumerable centers of culture. The writer actually can not writer, but to mix writings, to place the ones with the others, as never to rest on any one of them.  He should know that his “wish to express himself” is a grotesque one because the “inner thing” that he wishes to translate is only a ready-formed dictionary; its words have man synonyms and can express indefinitely his thinking through those words. So, the modern scriptor, succeeding the Author, has no passions, humors, feelings, impressions but rather this immense dictionary (is) the source of his writing. To Barthes, life is only the imitation of the book which itself is only a tissue of signs infinitely deferred.

 According to Barthes, to give a text an Author opens the path of victory for the critic and a critic may easily explain the text. Thus the critic finding out the Author “explained” the text. But modern idea wants to suppress the critic along with the Author. When the author is removed, the claim to decipher a text is futile. So in the crowd of writings, nothing is to be “deciphered” but to be “disentangled”. The space of writing is to be ranged over; writing ceaselessly posits meaning. In precisely this way literature, by refusing to assign an ultimate meaning to the text, liberates what may be called an anti theological activity, an activity that is truly revolutionary, because it refuses to fix the meaning in God and his hypostases- reason, science and law.

According to Barthes, a text is made up of multiple writings drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogues, parody, contestation. But there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not the author. The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up writing are inscribed without any of them being, lost; a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination. But this destination can not be personal. The reader is without history, biography, psychology; he is simply that someone who holds together in a single field all the traces by which the written text is constituted. Classic criticism has never paid an attention to the reader, for it, the writer is the only person in literature. To give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth. In short, the death of the Author signals the liberation of the reader by the by the very assertion that “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.”