The Author





The Author

In Death of the Author, Barthes argues that the author of a text does not consciously create the masterpiece. Rather, authors only reproduce emotional patterns about which they have little knowledge. He further suggests that authors ought not to be interpreted according to what we think they are doing, which means their biographies carry little significance to work. By this argument, he suggests that the author is not the subject of the topic. Rather, he/she is just a means through which a story is told. He also argues that for the reader to be independent, the author has to be dead. This is because if the reader were to view the work from an author’s view, he/she would not benefit by reading the text.

On the other hand, Foucault counters these arguments in his essay, What is an Author, by saying that, “the author is a certain functional principle by which, in our culture, one limits, excludes and chooses… the author is therefore the ideological figure by which one marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning,” (137). In this text, Foucault asks several questions. For instance, what is constituted in a work, or should we view everything written by the author as part of the text? In my opinion, Foucault suggests that one cannot read a text without considering the author as part of it. I do agree with this argument considering authors influence how we interpret a text.

However, I also agree with Barthes that, for a reader to be independent, the author has to be out of existence. Both Barthes and Foucault are right to some extent. However, I think their arguments would not fit in all literary works. For instance, when one is writing opinions in first person, it is no different from listening to the author’s thoughts. However, when one is reporting an event that happened, the author is distanced because the event is not a creation of his/her mind. To the latter regard, the reader is not influenced by the author’s thoughts, which means they can independently interpret the text and relate it to their own experiences. In the former argument, it would be hard to have an independent interpretation because the author does that, which influences the reader’s thoughts.

Barthes suggests that death of the author means allowing the independence of the reader, in which he/she can relate past experiences. Therefore, when the author writes a topic that a reader has many experiences, independence is achieved. This is because the reader will use these experiences to interpret and derive meaning, which achieves the death of the author. “The birth of the reader must be requited by the death of the Author” (Barthes 55). In contrast, when the author writes about a topic or work the reader has no experiences, the writer becomes an influential part of the work. In this case, the author is a functional part of the text through which the reader derives meaning.

In conclusion, I feel that, despite the arguments presented in these essays being agreeable, they cannot apply to all situations. In Barthes’ argument, there is no need of knowing the author. I find this not true when it comes to reading some tests. Many readers will go to a library to get a book by a certain author while some will look for some certain genre. Knowing the author helps one anticipate what to get in the book. This makes his argument on independence come true because the author is already influenced. On the other hand, the Foucault is right that an author is a functional part of the writing, especially where the author may not have past experiences to relate. Therefore, the two essays suggest two opposing arguments that are true in different situations.



Works Cited

Barthes, Roland. “Death of the Author.” Image Music Text, New York, N.Y: Hill and Wang, 1977.

Foucault, Michael. “What Is an Author?” Twentieth-Century Literary Theory. New York, N.Y: State University Press, 1987: 124-142.

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