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Discuss how Roland Barthes defines the role of the reader in constructing meaning of a...

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shiveshjnu | Honors

Posted February 11, 2013 at 8:17 PM via web

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Discuss how Roland Barthes defines the role of the reader in constructing meaning of a literary text.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 18, 2013 at 12:53 AM (Answer #1)

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In "Death of the Author," Barthes argues that literary critics have placed too much emphasis on the author in evaluating written texts. Barthes, always the provocateur, takes aim in the essay at the importance of the author. The author, Barthes argued, is not the sovereign source of the text he or she creates. The author is a historically and culturally created concept, and Barthes says that they do not create language, but the other way around. The author draws on language, tropes, and meanings already established in order to produce their text, and Barthes says critics must see the "necessity to substitute language itself for the for the person...supposed to be its owner." Because of this, the role of the reader is paramount, though it has been consistently (and, Barthes seems to think, a bit snobbishly) by critics. It is the reader that gives a text its meaning, not the author. A text, Barthes says, is made of "multiple writings," drawn from a number of different sources and sensible within a number of different traditions. It is within the reader that these meanings are put together into a unity:

The reader is the space on which all of 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.

The reader, then, is the center of the creative process of writing.

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