Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Author, My Friend, is Blowing in the Wind

*Note: No particularly specific link from title to post (other than the fact that the author is dead and he or she could be blowing in the wind if he or she went out Hunter S. Thompson style- )

In Barthes essay "The Death of the Author" he discusses the role of the author in the search for meaning behind a text. Historically, the author served as an individual subject who can, through individual thoughts, beliefs, and experiences, develop a whole and transcendental understanding that is then transmitted to the masses through a literary text. Barthes refutes this tradition by suggesting that the author does not exist in this format. He terms the individual who actually transcribes/produces the text as the scriptor and strips this individual of the transcendental 'powers' he or she once had. Most importantly, the power of limitations is taken away when the author is removed. This allows the criticism to flourish because there is no need to understand the Author nor the context of his or her life. For post-structuralist this is a party not a funeral procession. This absence allows for further explication. Without the concreteness of referring to the author, there is the possibility to stray from one ultimate meaning. Unfortunately for the liberal humanists in the world, the death of the author allows for multiple meanings that derive from the text itself versus originating from the ideas of the author.

This is where the reader is born. "The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost... the reader is without history, biography, psychology; he is simply that someone who hold together in a single field all the traces by which the written text is constituted (Rice and Waugh, Modern Literary Theory, 2nd ed.)." I would like to consider myself a reader but by nature I suppose I am not; is there a chance that I can transform myself into a reader? Disassociate myself fro my self and what I know it to that what you want from me Barthes?

*My attempts to put the link in as suggested in the Critical Theory and Academy blog have failed so here it is old school style:

In this blog (link above) the blogger discusses his recent frustrations in a literature class. The blogger feels an obligation to explain the biographical information of an author in order to place the text in a historical context. Unfortunately, his/her students are proponents of Barthe's biggest fear (and apparently a fear shared by this professor): limited analysis because of the author! NO! But, it happens. It can seem daunting to eradicate the role of the author his/her life and historical context in which the text was written. Barthe's and this blogger (and myself) think that there is a need to remove the limitations the author's position imposes. At the same time there is a need to understand in some way the context, is there not? I welcome arguments because I really do not know for sure the way to be a buffet-pick-n-choose deconstructionist. Is there such thing? Aside from understanding Barthe's theory about the author and the not so tragic death of said author, this blog touches upon the practicality of applying these and other theories of analysis to literary studies.


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