Barthes, Roland "Death of the Author"

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“Death of the Author” by Roland Barthes discusses and criticizes the emphasis literary critics place on the author while offering an alternative emphasis. The article cites those who have tried to break with traditional criticism practices, such as Mallarme’s attempt to suppress the author in poetics and Valery’s stress on linguistics and the text. Barthes proposes that criticism placing the author at the center of originality and creation are false because words and concepts are inherited, and thus unable to be created by the individual; instead, the author only exerts power in organization. The words and concepts used by humanity exist in culturally specific dictionaries, which he describes as a “tissue of signs imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred.” For Barthes, “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” (5). Ultimately, Barthes claims the author's identity limits text and its potential interpretations. Instead, the reader should be seen as the sole agent in interpretation since only he can aline the words on the page with his own understanding of reality. Barthes boldly states, “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.”

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