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Analysis of The Death of the Author

Analysis of "The Death of the Author"

In his essay “The Death of the Author”, Roland Barthes attacks the tradition of “Classic criticism” (which he describes as being “tyrannically centred on the author” ), presenting the argument that there is no such thing as the “Author” of a text, but merely a “scriptor” whose ideas are not entirely original; the author is subject to several influences when writing, and as Barthes says we can never know the true influence because writing destructs “every point of origin” . It is not the author (whose voice vanishes at the point of writing), but language that speaks, therefore, the text requires an analysis of language and linguistics, rather than a speaking voice. Barthes emphasises that once the author is removed, it is within the reader of the text that any meaning lies, as the text is open to multiple interpretations by the reader, that the author may not have originally intended (deeming the reader as the more creative force), making the author seem an insignificant figure in literature.


Barthes enhances his theory by presenting several examples to illustrate his reasons for believing that the author is “dead”, before finally delivering his main declaration. Beginning the essay by pointing out the disappearance of the narrator in modern literature, Barthes uses the example of the story Sarrasine by Balzac to illustrate the claim that the author disappears at the point of writing, for the reader is able to distinguish more than just a solitary voice in the lines of the text. The notion of the author being merely the “medium” through which writing is presented (it is not the author’s “genius” but “mastery of narration” which is admired) is first examined in the following paragraph, as well as the conflicting Classic criticism - “The explanation is always sought in the person who produced the text…” where the belief has always been that the work is the sole responsibility of the author.

Barthes then goes on to refute this by presenting the example of Mallarme, who stressed the importance of linguistic analysis (“it is language that speaks, not the author”) , as well as Proust’s contribution to modern writing, showing the reversal of the roles of author and writing; author creates text becomes text creates author. The lack of meaning in a text (found in Surrealist works, which Barthes mentions) also emphasizes the...

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