Write a note on the essay "The Death of the Author" by Roland Barthes. 

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Roland Barthes in his essay “The Death of the Author” presents the idea that a literary work should be judged without the influence of the author’s life, loves, and desires.  The literature is what should be evaluated and not the author himself. By eliminating this facet of the work, the written work comes to the forefront and can be assessed solely on its own merits.  

When appraising a literary work, the focus should be on the writing itself.  When the interpretation of the work includes extraneous information, the interpretation of the text is limited; and the reader is constricted in understanding and appreciating the written words.  

The reader and the text are the two most important elements in the interpretation of a literary piece.  The connotations that should be elucidated in the reading should come from the reader and not the author. When the reader is able to come to a written work with no bias, true interpretation takes place.

For example, so much is known about Edgar Allan Poe’s use of addictive drugs.  When the reader looks at his material, he brings a muddled approach to Poe’s stories or poems. Poe was a brilliant man who had many struggles in his life.

Think about the impact of drugs or alcohol.  Is it possible to write the elegant and fascinating stories under the influence of them? Poe suffered from depression, financial problems, family problems and addiction problems. Therefore, the reader’s interpretation will be clouded.

According to Barthes, “To give a text an author is to impose a limit on the text, to furnish it with a final signified, and to close the writing. …when the author has been found, the text is ‘explained’…”

The origin of the work may be the author, but the final experience belongs solely to the reader.

By taking away the author and all unnecessary information, the story’s possibilities become unlimited. The reader assumes the powerful place of interpretation and criticism. 

Reading and interjecting the views and connotations of the reader should be the ultimate goal of literature. Before reading the text, the reader should have nothing to interfere with his delving in and bringing his personality and views to the work.