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Showing posts with label Roland Barthes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roland Barthes. Show all posts

Saturday, November 10, 2012

THE DEATH OF THE AUTHOR-Key Ideas

THE DEATH OF THE AUTHOR

BY ROLAND BARTHES
TRANSLATED BY RICHARD HOWARD
(FROM IMAGE, MUSIC, TEXT, 1977)

Key Ideas:

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.'

Writing is that 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.

As soon as a fact is narrated…this disconnection occurs, the voice loses its origin, the author enters into his own death, writing begins.

The author is a modern figure, a product of our society insofar as, emerging from the Middle Ages with English empiricism, French rationalism and the personal faith of the Reformation, it discovered the prestige of the individual, of, as it is more nobly put, the 'human person'.

The culmination of capitalist ideology, which has attached the greatest importance to the 'person' of the author.

The author still reigns in histories of literature, biographies of writers, interviews, magazines, as in the very consciousness of men of letters anxious to unite their person and their work through diaries and memoirs.

The image of literature is tyrannically centred on the author, his person, his life, his tastes, his passions, while criticism still consists for the most part in saying that Baudelaire's work is the failure of Baudelaire the man, Van Gogh's his madness, Tchaikovsky's his vice. The explanation of a work is always sought in the man or woman who produced it, as if it were always in the end, through the more or less transparent allegory of the fiction, the voice of a single person, the author 'confiding' in us.

Mallarme was doubtless the first to see the necessity to substitute language itself for the person who until then had been supposed to be its owner. For him, for us too, it is language which speaks, not the author; to write is, through a prerequisite impersonality , to reach that point where only language acts, 'performs', and not 'me'. Mallarme's entire poetics consists in suppressing the author in the interests of writing (which is, as will be seen, to restore the place of the reader).

Linguistics has recently provided the destruction of the Author with a valuable analytical tool by showing that the author is never more than the instance writing, just as I is nothing other than the instance saying I: language knows a 'subject', not a 'person', and this subject, empty outside of the very enunciation which defines it, suffices to make language 'hold together', suffices, that is to say, to exhaust it.

The removal of the Author utterly transforms the modern text. The Author, when believed in, is always conceived of as the past of his own book: book and author stand automatically on a single line divided into a before and an after. The Author is thought to nourish the book, which is to say that he exists before it, thinks, suffers, lives for it, is in the same relation of antecedence to his work as a father to his child. In complete contrast, the modern scriptor is born simultaneously with the text, is in no way equipped with a being preceding or exceeding the writing, is not the subject with the book as predicate; there is no other time than that of the enunciation and every text is eternally written here and now.

Having buried the Author, the modern scriptor can thus no longer believe, as according to the pathetic view of his predecessors, that this hand is too slow for his thought or passion and that consequently, making a law of necessity, he must emphasize this delay and indefinitely 'polish' his form. For him, on the contrary, the hand, cut off from any voice, borne by a pure gesture of inscription (and not of expression), traces a field without origin-or which, at least, has no other origin than language itself, language which ceaselessly calls into question all origins.

We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single 'theological' meaning (the 'message' of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash.

The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture.

Succeeding the Author, the scriptor no longer bears within him passions, humours, feelings, impressions, but rather this immense dictionary from which he draws a writing that can know no halt: life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred.

Once the Author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile. To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing. Such a conception suits criticism very well. When the Author has been found, the text is 'explained'- victory to the critic. Hence there is no surprise in the fact that, historically, the reign of the Author has also been that of the Critic. In the multiplicity of writing, everything is to be disentangled, nothing deciphered. In precisely this way literature (it would be better from now on to say writing), by refusing to assign a 'secret', an ultimate meaning, to the text , liberates what may be called an anti-theological activity, an activity that is truly revolutionary since to refuse to fix meaning is, in the end, to refuse God and his hypostases-reason, science, law.

A text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not, as was hitherto said, the author. 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. Yet this destination cannot any longer 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 any attention to the reader; for it, the writer is the only person in literature. We are now beginning to let ourselves be fooled no longer by the arrogant antiphrastical recriminations of good society in favour of the very thing it sets aside, ignores, smothers, or destroys; we know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.
  

Friday, May 4, 2012

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. St├ęphane 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.”

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.”

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