Text as said by Roland Barthes is not a line of words releasing a single theological meaning but a multi-dimensions space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. It is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture. A text is woven and draws to what we have as text and juxtaposes work with the text. Work is completed by the author whereas text by the scribe. The author has an ownership and a copyright and it together associates the idea of "author" which coincides with the birth of the capitalist.
Barthe gives us a shift from work to text where he says that there is no author. In place of author "reader" is born. Reading creates meaning and then author becomes the source of that meaning. Once the author is removed reference is given to the writer. If we take out the author the scripter remains. The word "author" like other words "father" "mother" etc. only performs a function. These notions have a meaning attached to it. Once the author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes futile. If there is no author then there is no meaning of the text. The reign of the author has been the reign of the critic. A critic's role was to discover what was originally intended by the author and consequently the death of the author is the death of the critic as well. In the multiplicity of writing, everything has to be disentangled and not deciphered. In precisely this way literature, by refusing to assign a "secret" or an ultimate meaning to text, liberates what may be called an anti-theological activity, an activity that is truly revolutionary as it refuses god for science law and religion.
Barthes essay deals with the addresses the power of the author in reading and analysing writing. The total existence of writing is focused on the reader and not the writer. The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up the writing are inscribed without any of them being lost. The reader holds more responsibility to the text than the author. The complexity of different connotations and experiences that come from the author to the text are flattened by the time it reaches the reader. The reader comes empty handed and is impersonalized with the text. Barthe makes a point that the origin of the work may lie with the author but its destination is with the reader.
Classic criticism has never paid any attention to the reader; writer is only person in literature. Barthe concludes by saying that the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author.
Class notes by Anil Pinto taken on 19th December 2013
Roland Barthe: The Death of the Author
Notes prepared by Ayushi Malhotra