Why does Barthes Want to Liberate the Text from Authorial Control in The Death of the Author?

Roland Barthes, a critic and an advocate of structuralism and post structuralism, proclaims that “the birth of the reader must be at the most of the death of the author”. It is his point of turning towards post structuralism. It is such an assert that struck at the very heart of traditional literary studies and that has remained one of the most controversial tenets of post- structuralism.

Barthes most important work of literary criticism is probably S/Z (1970), an exhaustive commentary on a Balzac short story “Sarasine.” Barthes aims to show how they carry many different meanings simultaneously on different levels. In S/Z, this demonstration is linked to a distinction between the         “Lisible”            or readerly classic text and the “Seriptible” or “writerly” modern text. Readerly classic text makes its readers passive consumers, writerly modern text invites its readers to an active participation in the production of meanings that are infinite and inexhaustible.

As Barthes, writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin. Writing is that neutral composite, oblique space where subject disappears, and where all identity is lost. The author enters into his death and writing begins.

Actually, the idea of giving a text to the authority of an author is a long term process. It has been related to Middle Ages, English empiricism, French rationalism and the personal faith of the Reformation. All these revolutions give credit to the “human person” an individual for a text. The author still reigns in histories of literature, biographies of writers, interviews, magazines. 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. The explanation of a work is usually sought in the man or woman who produced it. Thus the author becomes creator, God.

Though the sway of the author remains powerful, it goes without saying that certain writers have long since attempted to loosen it. Stéphane Malarme, French symbolist poet, felt the necessity to substitute language itself for the person. For him, it is language, which speaks, not the author. Only language acts and performs. His entire poetics consists in suppressing the author in the interests of writing. It is seen to restore the place of the reader.

Proust himself was visibly concerned with the relation between the writer and his characters. Proust gave modern writing its epic. By a radical reversal, he made of his very life a work for which his own book was the model.

The removal of the author is not merely a historical fact or an act of writing. It utterly transforms the modern texts. The text is hence-forth made and read in such a way that at all its levels the author is absent. The temporality is different. When we believe that 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 after. The author is thought to nourish the book as a father of his child.

In complete contrast, the modern scriptor is born simultaneously with the text. The scriptor exists to produce but not to explain the work. Here is no linear relation, no preceding or exceeding, no subject or predicate. The modern scriptor has no other origin than the language itself. The writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others in such a way as ever rest on anyone of them. Succeeding the author, the scriptor no longer bears within him passions, humors, feelings and impression but rather this immense dictionary the source of writing. Thus the modern scriptor buries the author and traces a field without origin. 

To attribute an author to a text is to impose a limit on that text. When the author has been found, beneath his work, the text is explained. A text is made up of multiple writings drawn from many cultures. But its multiplicity is focused & that place is the reader not the author. The reader is the space where all quotations making up the text are inscribed without any of them being lost. The author is dead here at the cost of the readers birth. However the reader is without history, biography, psychology. He is not personal; rather he is “someone” who holds the traces together in a single field by which the text is constituted.

Barthes rightly says that a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination. The destination is the reader where the author is absent completely. Classic critics has never paid attention to the reader, & always emphasized on the author. Barthes argues that we should now come out of the arrogant antiphrastical so called society & give writing its future overthrowing the myth, “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author.”