Tag Archives: Authorship

The Death of the Author?

40 years ago, in his essay on “The Death of the Author,” Roland Barthes argued that “Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing.” Further, Barthes went on to suggest: “We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message’ of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture….[T]he writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them.”

Roland Barthes

 What is the status of Barthes’s claims four decades later? With benefit of hindsight, how does his essay measure up against Foucault’s contemporaneous study, “What Is An Author?” More generally, what are some of the problems and possibilities of efforts to reclaim authorial agency in the wake of poststructuralism?(Note: comments are welcome. If you would like to be able to author separate posts–recognizing, of course, the charged theoretical implications involved in the idea of authorship–please e-mail smith.5378@osu.edu)