Notes on The Death of the Author

Some passages that struck me as I reviewed the influential Roland Barthes essay.

[I]n ethnographic societies the responsibility for a narrative is never assumed by a person but by a mediator, shaman or relator whose ‘performance’ — the mastery of the narrative code — may possibly be admired but never his ‘genius’.T he author is a modern figure, a product of our society insofar as…it discovered the prestige of the individual, of, as it is more nobly put, the ‘human person’.

The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture.

To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing. Such a conception suits criticism very well, the latter then allotting itself the important task of discovering the Author (or its hypostases: society, history, psyche, liberty) beneath the work: when the Author has been found, the text is ‘explained’- victory to the critic.

The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost; a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination. Yet this destination cannot any longer be personal: the reader is without history, biography, psychology; he is simply that someone who holds together in a single field all the traces by which the written text is constituted.

[T]o give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.

via Barthes, “The Death of the Author