Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Death of the Author

In Roland Barthes's The Death of the Author {1977} essay, Barthes argues that an author should not be considered in the value of the text he/she produces. The language itself speaks to us, and not the writer, and so it's detrimental to the reader and to critics to start trying to think of what the author is leaving behind of him/herself in the writing.

I can't say that I fully agree with him, because sometimes it's very important to know the author when you're reading a text. It might have helped if the Germans in the 30s knew Mein Kampf's author while reading what he has written.

1. So does Barthes claim this analysis for all forms of writing, including personal biographies where the author is being taken into consideration quite purposefully?

Then I started to wonder how the idea might apply to art, and how pleasant I found it when I did. It would be nice for people to look at your work and stop trying to figure out the mind behind the piece. The piece should speak for itself, as should any writing ever made. But in the end the artist gets credit for his/her work, just as the author does for his/hers.

2. So does that mean an author shouldn't get credit for their text if technically it's just an arrangement of language?

Maybe the people who invented the language should get credited for everything! Or the inventor of the paint you used to make that portrait! Or the discoverer of bronze that makes up your sculpture!

To forget the author completely isn't a bad idea while you're reading something, but it's good to know after you're done at least for the sake of accreditation. Just like one doesn't just pull the information they find on some subject from any source because it could be a complete fabrication or the person providing the information doesn't know what they're talking about, one shouldn't just take everything they read for face value. They should understand the intentions of the author behind the work if it's supposed to be non-fictional. Or else who are you putting your faith in?

3. So is this article a little too extreme?

In my opinion, I believe it is. Sure you should enjoy what you're reading for what it is, and not who it was that wrote it, but sometimes it's important to know the mind behind the arrangement of language that is that book you're reading, or that article on the internet.

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