Sie sind auf Seite 1von 13

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 degradation of the Classic
concept of author. He states that Surrealism, along
with the study of linguistics of a given text, helped
contribute to the death of the author. He claims that
language knows a subject not a person. So the
person studying the language of a text will concern
themselves more with the subject and less with the
person behind the words.

His definition of the word “text” – “a multi-


dimensional space in which a variety of writings,
none of them original, blend and clash.” -
emphasizes that the writer of such text is never
completely original (demoting the God-like Author
to a “modern scriptor” ). Bathes is saying that the
author or narrator who is really the voice of the
author himself is becoming less of an entity within
the text itself. By drawing a contrast between the
author and the narrative voice and language he
succeeds in distancing the author from his work and
adding to his disappearance. Barthes stresses that
the author is the past to his own book. These things
have already happened to the author therefore
creating a gap between the author now and the
narrator of the text as it occurs (the “scriptor”).
Therefore, the difference between the text and the
work itself becomes an issue. The text would be
what would be happening to the author right then
and there, as the work as a whole would be
associated with the author. The distancing between
the author and the narrator grows because of this
and adds to Barthes argument.

The final paragraph states that reading is the true


“place of writing” , using the example of the Greek
tragedies with texts that contain words with double
meanings that appear one-sided to the characters.
However, the reader (the audience) is aware of the
double meanings, implying the “multiplicity of
writing” rests on the reader for open interpretation.
“A text’s unity lies not on its origin but on its
destination.” Pointing out the importance of the
reader in literary analysis, Barthes shows that
Classic criticism was “imposing a limit” on texts by
only focusing on the author themselves. Content
In his essay, Barthes criticizes the method of reading and criticism that relies on aspects
of the author's identity — his or her political views, historical context, religion, ethnicity,
psychology, or other biographical or personal attributes — to distill meaning from the
author's work. In this type of criticism, the experiences and biases of the author serve as a
definitive "explanation" of the text. For Barthes, this method of reading may be
apparently tidy and convenient but is actually sloppy and flawed:

"To give a text an Author" and assign a single, corresponding interpretation to it


"is to impose a limit on that text."

Readers must thus separate a literary work from its creator in order to liberate the text
from interpretive tyranny (a notion similar to Erich Auerbach's discussion of narrative
tyranny in Biblical parables). Each piece of writing contains multiple layers and
meanings. In a well-known quotation, Barthes draws an analogy between text and
textiles, declaring that a "text is a tissue [or fabric] of quotations," drawn from
"innumerable centers of culture," rather than from one, individual experience. The
essential meaning of a work depends on the impressions of the reader, rather than the
"passions" or "tastes" of the writer; "a text's unity lies not in its origins," or its creator,
"but in its destination," or its audience.

No longer the focus of creative influence, the author is merely a "scriptor" (a word
Barthes uses expressly to disrupt the traditional continuity of power between the terms
"author" and "authority"). The scriptor exists to produce but not to explain the work and
"is born simultaneously with the text, is in no way equipped with a being preceding or
exceeding the writing, [and] is not the subject with the book as predicate." Every work is
"eternally written here and now," with each re-reading, because the "origin" of meaning
lies exclusively in "language itself" and its impressions on the reader.

Barthes notes that the traditional critical approach to literature raises a thorny problem:
how can we detect precisely what the writer intended? His answer is that we cannot. He
introduces this notion in the epigraph to the essay, taken from Honoré de Balzac's story
Sarrasine in which a male protagonist mistakes a castrato for a woman and falls in love
with her. When, in the passage, the character dotes over her perceived womanliness,
Barthes challenges his own readers to determine who is speaking, and about what. "Is it
Balzac the author professing 'literary' ideas on femininity? Is it universal wisdom?
Romantic psychology? … We can never know." Writing, "the destruction of every
voice," defies adherence to a single interpretation or perspective. (Barthes returned to
Sarrasine in his book S/Z, where he gave the story a rigorous close reading.)
Acknowledging the presence of this idea (or variations of it) in the works of previous
writers, Barthes cited in his essay the poet Stéphane Mallarmé, who said that "it is
language which speaks." He also recognized Marcel Proust as being "concerned with the
task of inexorably blurring…the relation between the writer and his characters"; the
Surrealist movement for employing the practice of "automatic writing" to express "what
the head itself is unaware of"; and the field of linguistics as a discipline for "showing that
the whole of enunciation is an empty process." Barthes' articulation of the death of the
author is a radical and drastic recognition of this severing of authority and authorship.
Instead of discovering a "single 'theological' meaning (the 'message' of the Author-God),"
readers of text discover that writing, in reality, constitutes "a multi-dimensional space,"
which cannot be "deciphered," only "disentangled." "Refusing to assign a 'secret,'
ultimate meaning" to text "liberates what may be called an anti-theological activity, an
activity that is truly revolutionary since to refuse meaning is, in the end, to refuse God
and his hypostases—reason, science, law."

The Death of the Author

First, the piece offers an uncompromising argument for the 'death' (or redundancy, to use
an equally frightening metaphor) of the concept of the author. It begins by noticing the
disappearance of the narrator in modern writing . Balzac's Sarrassine is the example here,
later to be the subject of a much larger piece by Barthes (1975) (the dates refer to
different English editions of Barthes' work, and are not reliable as a guide to the actual
sequence of the writing). Perhaps something like Martin Amis's London Fields, with its
switches between different narrators, might be more appropriate an example for the
modern reader? The effects of surrealist or Brechtian experimentation are also cited, as
steps on the way, so to speak. There is an insistence that even autobiography is not about
real life coded in writing but the other way around -- e.g. Proust reconceptualised his life
after or during writing in order to make it a 'work for which his own book is the model'
(Barthes 1977:144). As Sturrock (1979) reminds us, Barthes wrote his own
autobiography in the third person.

Secondly, as structuralist linguistics tells us, texts do not express the subjectivity of their
authors -- they are better thought of as 'fields without origin', 'multi-dimensional spaces',
'tissues of quotations', 'never original' (Barthes 1977: 146). This point applies to all kinds
of mundane feelings of 'authorship' as well as actual novel-writing. The inner self that we
experience as the 'real us' so to speak, is 'only a ready-formed dictionary' -- so life
imitates books.

There are no fixed meanings or privileged ones: 'writing ceaselessly posits meaning
ceaselessly to evaporate it' (147). We should see the act of writing as 'performative'. As a
result, conventional literary criticism, designed to uncover the 'real' meanings of novels,
expressed by 'real' authors, is also abolished and that's good, because, in its arrogance,
such criticism used to ignore the reader and also selectively overlook the 'phatic' bits of
texts (designed to involve the reader).
The reader is the missing term in conventional criticism -- the multiplicity of the text is
focused in the reader, not the author, the unity of the text is in its destination. '[T]he birth
of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author'. Yet, to raise a point which we
will discuss below, 'the reader' is also an abstraction 'without history, biography,
psychology' (148). Really, of course, it could not be otherwise for Barthes: it would be
inconsistent to abolish the (actual) author while retaining the (actual) reader.

From Work to Text

This piece begins with an interesting comment about the effects of a move towards
interdisciplinarity 'when the solidarity of the old disciplines breaks down -- perhaps even
violently' (Barthes 1977: 155). We now have an escalating pattern of change, where the
classic 'breaks' (attempts to re-found marxism, Lacanian freudianism, and structuralism)
have relativised our knowledge of the world, and changed our notions of the relations
between writers, readers and observers. There will be further changes in the basis of
knowledge, a new 'epistemological slide' rather than a break (155). (Althusser had
claimed to have found an 'epistemological break' between humanist and structuralist
marxism in Marx himself, a break that inaugurates a new 'scientific' marxism).

For Barthes, the new (literary and cultural) analysis will not be a new, tightly ordered
discipline, but should be seen as necessarily speculative, employing 'not argumentations
but enunciations, "touches", approaches that consent to remain metaphorical' (156), rather
than an attempt to read off meaning from a metalanguage. Methodologically, we are told
(164):

'the discourse on the Text should itself be nothing other than text, research, textual
activity, since the Text...leaves no language safe outside, nor any subject of the
enunciation in position as judge, master, confessor, decoder. The theory of the Text can
coincide only with a practice of writing.'
We see here one of the ways in which Barthes is shifting to a radical kind of textuality,
then, one which 'goes all the way down' as Norris (1992) puts it, and one where Barthes,
like Lyotard heads into a denial of any other criteria by which to judge events or accounts
of them. We get to the heart of Barthes' argument when he tries to distinguish 'texts' and
'works'. The distinction is not a matter of location in time or of value or quality. Works
might have different qualities among themselves, but this is not the proper topic for a
critic: -- 'there is no difference between "cultured" reading and casual reading in trains'
(162). By implication, for Norris, there is also no difference between such works and
those in history or economics either.

Works are designed to be consumed with plaisir (roughly, a rather conformist pleasure
delivered by a work, gained from following the narrative to its delivery point and
responding as intended). Works are 'filiated', closely connected with social practices like
those in the world of commercial writing, including literary criticism and notions of
authorship, ownership, copyright and the law. (This point is made in Foucault's own
announcements of the 'death of the author' --collected in Bocock and Thompson 1992).
By contrast, texts are distinguished by their 'methodological fields' rather than by
anything substantially or concretely different about them or their contents. They are
performances, 'limit works', existing at the limits of 'enunciation, rationality, readability
etc.' (157). Texts are radically symbolic, 'off-centre, without closure (159), playful,
offering jouissance (an ecstatic pleasure in language that escapes the devices of the
narrative and rejoices in the experience itself, a kind of literary orgasmic release -- see
Heath's discussion in the introduction to Barthes 1977). Texts help us glimpse a 'social
Utopia...[a]...transparence of linguistic relations if not social ones', a 'space where no
language has a hold over any other' (164). Texts operate via 'serial movements of
disconnections, overlappings, variations' (158).

Texts are networks (rather than discrete entities or 'organisms' with a history and
parentage like works), opening out to readings well outside the author's intentions. Such
openness blurs the conventional differences between reading and writing (162). The
reader and the text both play with meaning, rather as a musician plays with a score, both
to reproduce it and to embellish, to perform. There is here a clear preference for texts, of
course, and a way of denying any claims to sufficiency advanced by any mere works

Change the Object Itself

The old critical project, as in Barthes' earlier classic Mythologies (Barthes 1973) has to be
altered. That earlier work followed an 'inversion model' (common in marxism, but
subsequently attacked by the Althusserians -- see file), which saw connoted ideological
meanings as a base for the denoted literal meanings of cultural phenomena. In this way
the meanings of advertisements, performances, cultural activities of various kinds
naturalised capitalist ideology.

As an aside, it is worth looking at some of the pieces in Mythologies, perhaps. My


personal favourite concerns a very brief analysis of what became known as the 'structure
of apology'. At the most specific level, the piece, entitled Operation Margarine, features
an analysis of an advertising campaign for margarine which cleverly acknowledged and
then incorporated the consumers' perceptions of margarine as an inferior product (modern
readers might think of substituting junk food, say, for margarine in order to locate
themselves in the politics of the piece).

Apparently, the advertisement began with a 'cry of indignation against margarine: "A
mousse? Made with margarine? Unthinkable!"' (1973: 42). A narrative then developed
which revealed these perceptions as misguided and ill-informed: 'And then one's eyes are
opened, one's conscience becomes more pliable...The moral at the end is well known:
"Here you are, rid of a prejudice which cost you dearly!"' (42). Barthes sees this sort of
structure operating in the wider society: 'It is in the same way that the Established Order
relieves you of your progressive prejudices' (42). He finds the principles at work with
discussing the Army or the Church, for example (41) (and implicates some popular
novels in the process):
'...[on] the Church: speak with burning zeal about its self-righteousness, the narrow-
mindedness of its bigots, indicate that all of this can be murderous, hide none of the
weaknesses of the faith. And then, in extremis, hint that the letter of the law, however
unattractive, is a way to salvation for its very victims, and so justify moral austerity by
the saintliness of those whom it crushes (The Living Room, by Graham Greene).'
This sort of analysis had made Barthes very influential, and perhaps it is easy to see why
from the example above: a mundane advertisement is made to yield some concealed truth
about capitalism following a skilled and sceptical reading which refuses to simply follow
the account of the world on offer, but which imposes its own. Now, to return to Change
the Object Itself, Barthes feels it is time to move beyond this sort of analysis of
mythology as a mystified or an upside-down world, as inversion. This analysis was
drawn from themes in the young Marx, but we can now progress to those in the mature
Marx (another specific reference to Althusser's project here, Barthes 1977: 169).

Mythology still works in the same way, but we now have a new science of reading it.
Also: 'any student can and does denounce the bourgeois or petit bourgeois character of
such and such a form' (166). Denunciatory discourse and demystification have been
routinised, have become a mere 'stock of phrases', orthodox, even mythological
themselves. As a result, properly academic and critical analysis must go further and
'shake the sign' itself, just as French psychology has moved on: that began by listing the
symbolic contents of dreams and so on, and 're-inverting' them, only to find that being
done these days by mere dabblers, the 'psychological vulgate' (167).

The task now is not to reveal latent meanings but to 'fissure' meaning and its
representation, not to destroy myths ('mythoclasm'), but to splinter the smooth
connections between signs ('semioclasm'), not to critique just French society but the
whole of Western civilisation and its unifying 'regime of meaning' (167). This is a project
to dissolve any 'works' back into 'textuality', in other words.

Apart from being made possible by the new methodological work available, this shift is
necessary because the signs of advertisements no longer point to products nor to political
ideologies as simply as they did. The whole world is already playing with signs:
'endlessly deferring their foundations, transforming signifieds into new signifiers,
infinitely citing one another' (167--8). The issue now is not one of 'critical decipherment'
but of estimating the 'levels of reification of various languages, their 'phraseological
density' .

We have an interest, then, in the extent to which these different 'languages' can appear as
fixed, immutable, natural and compelling, as 'works' making claims to be sufficient, to
use the terms we developed above.

This is a shift from a more obviously 'denunciatory' stance, with its problems of
separating out the error of the myth from the truth of its analysis. In a way, Barthes here
is anticipating the failure of the Althusserian project, perhaps, which was the last great
attempt to clarify the basis for marxism's claims to be able to offer a 'science' to help us
identify 'ideology' or 'myth' (one of the last great metanarratives in Lyotard's terms).
Myth is still universal in our societies, affecting 'inner speech, newspaper articles ...
political sermons, [running] from the novel to the advertising image (i.e. all the
imaginary)' (169). We need new concepts to grasp it, not the old ones of sign, signifier,
signified, connotation and denotation, but 'citation, reference, stereotype'. We need to
offer an 'antidote to myth', and its reifications, languages which are 'airy, light, spaced,
open, uncentred, noble and free' (168), a 'new semiology'.

READER'S GUIDE TO FOUCAULT'S "WHAT IS AN AUTHOR"?

The title

Even with his title, Foucault is being provocative, taking a given and turning it into a
problem. His question ("What is an Author?") might even seem pointless at first, so
accustomed have we all become to thinking about authors and authorship.

Section 1: 101-5

In the first few paragraphs, Foucault responds to some of our most basic assumptions
about authorship. In the first paragraph, for example, Foucault reminds us that although
we regard the concept of authorship as "solid and fundamental," that concept hasn't
always existed. It "came into being," Foucault explains, at a particular moment in history,
and it may pass out of being at some future moment.

In addition to touching on our tendency to view the concept of authorship as "solid,"


Foucault also seems to take up our habit of thinking about authors as individuals, heroic
figures who somehow transcend or step outside history. Why, he wonders, are we so
strongly inclined to view authors in that way? Why are we often so resistant to the notion
that authors are products of their times? (As I make these points, incidentally, I'm not by
any means trying to imply that you should be picking up on them as you read Foucault.
He is moving very quickly here, leaving much unsaid.)

On pages 103-5, Foucault does some jousting. First, he mixes it up with Roland Barthes,
a very famous literary critic, who had recently proclaimed the "death of the author."
According to Foucault, Barthes had urged other critics to realize that they could "do
without [the author] and study the work itself" (104). This urging, Foucault implies,
sounds a lot more radical than it really is. (If you'd like to see for yourself, there's a copy
of "Death of the Author" on reserve.)

Next, on 104-5, Foucault turns his attention to Derrida-- without ever mentioning his
rival by name. Foucault claims that although Derrida (like Barthes) presents his views as
radical, they are in truth quite conventional. Indeed, Foucault suggests, Derrida never
really gets rid of the author, but instead merely reassigns the author's powers and
privileges to "writing" or to "language itself."

Now, why does he bother to do all this? Well, partly because he enjoys a fight, and partly
because he doesn't want his readers to assume that authorship is a "dead issue," a problem
that's already been solved by Barthes and Derrida. His aim here is to show that, despite
all of their bombast, neither Barthes nor Derrida has broken away from the question of
the author--much less solved it.

Section 2: 105-8

In this section, Foucault asks us to think about the ways in which an author's name
"functions" in our society. After raising questions about the functions of proper names, he
goes on to say that the names of authors often serve a "classifactory" function.

To get a sense of what he means, just think about how the average bookstore is laid out.
If you were to go to the fiction section at Conkey's, looking for a copy of Oliver Twist,
chances are that you wouldn't search for books about workhouses, or books written in
1837, or books that are 489 pages long. You'd search for books written by Charles
Dickens. It probably wouldn't even occur to you to make your search in any other way.

Now, Foucault asks, why do you--why do most of us--assume that it's "natural" for
Conkey's to classify books according to the names of their authors? While you're mulling
over that one, think about this: What would happen to Oliver Twist if scholars were to
discover that it hadn't been written by Charles Dickens? Wouldn't most bookstores, and
wouldn't most of us, feel that the novel would have to be reclassified in light of that
discovery? Why should we feel that way? After all, the words of the novel wouldn't have
changed, would they?

Foucault closes this section by introducing his concept of the "author function." Note that
the "author function" is not a person and is not to be confused with either the "author" or
the "writer." The "author function" is more like a set of beliefs or assumptions governing
the production, circulation, classification and consumption of texts. (Put another way, it's
the thing that makes us want to know about the author of a poem--and never think of
asking about the author of a commercial or a contract.)

Section 3: 108-13

Here, Foucault identifies and describes four characteristics of the "author function." The
characteristics are, briefly:

1. The "author function" is linked to the legal system and arises as a result of the
need to punish those responsible for transgressive statements.

2. The "author function" does not affect all texts in the same way. For example, it
doesn't seem to affect scientific texts as much as it affects literary texts. If a
chemistry teacher is talking about the periodic table, you probably wouldn't stop
her and say, "Wait a minute--who's the author of this table?" If I'm talking about a
poem, however, you might very well stop me and ask me about its author.
3. The "author function" is more complex than it seems to be. This is one of the
most difficult points in the essay, and in thinking about it, you might want to
consider what Foucault says about the editorial problem of attribution-- the
problem of deciding whether or not a given text should be attributed to a
particular author.

This problem may seem rather trivial, since most of the literary texts that
we study have already been reliably attributed to an author. Imagine,
however, a case in which a scholar discovered a long-forgotten poem
whose author was completely unknown. Imagine, furthermore, that the
scholar had a hunch that the author of the poem was William Shakespeare.
What would the scholar have to do, what rules would she have to observe,
what standards would she have to meet, in order to convince everyone else
that she was right?

A few years ago, this imaginary situation became a reality, when a scholar
named Gary Taylor suddenly announced that he had rediscovered a long-
long Shakespeare poem. Many, many people viewed Taylor's
announcement with skepticism, and in arguing against Taylor, they did
resort (without realizing it, of course) to the "criteria of authenticity"
proposed by St. Jerome and listed by Foucault on page 111. They argued,
for instance, that the poem wasn't good enough to have been authored by
Shakespeare--on the assumption, I gather, that Shakespeare was somehow
incapable of sinking below a certain level of literary excellence. It may
help to keep this sort of situation in mind, as you try to make sense of this
third characteristic of the "author function."

4. The term "author" doesn't refer purely and simply to a real individual. The
"author" is much like the "narrator," Foucault suggests, in that he or she can be an
"alter ego" for the actual flesh-and-blood "writer."

If you're unsure of what Foucault means by any of this, check out his own summary on
page 113. And if you're unclear about a little point here or there, don't worry. The main
thing is that you understand his main goal for this section--which is to describe four main
characteristics of the "author function."

Section 4: 113-7

Here, Foucault takes off in a different direction, and his aim now is to show that the
"author function" applies not just to individual works, but also to larger discourses. This,
then, is the famous section on "founders of discursivity"--guys like Marx or Freud who
produce their own texts, plus "the possibilities or the rules for the formation of other
texts." I don't think that this issue is particularly difficult, so I won't belabor it.

I do want to comment, however, on what Foucault has to say about science. According to
Foucault, scientists can't really be "founders of discursivity." In making that statement,
Foucault seems to be distinguishing scientific discourses (in which there are, he suggests,
a limited number of possible statements) from discourses like that of psychoanalysis (in
which the number of possible statements is not and cannot be limited). I'm not sure that I
understand everything he has to say about this issue, but I do feel pretty sure of that
much.

Section 5: 117-20

In this section, Foucault wraps things up and points out a few reasons why he's bothered
with this particular subject in the first place. He raises the possibility of doing a
"historical analysis of discourse," and he notes that the "author function" has operated
differently in different places and at different times.

His comments about the "subject" are hard to decipher, and I'm not sure that they need to
be decoded in full. Just remember that he began this essay by questioning our tendency to
imagine "authors" as individuals isolated from the rest of society. He's raising the same
sort of question here--and also taking a further step, suggesting that if we stop thinking of
authors as isolated individuals, we may also be able to stop thinking of other people and
kinds of people in that way. (Here, one might hear a faint echo of Marxism, which often
tends to see individual preferences and tastes as products of larger social forces.)

Near the end of the essay, Foucault argues that the author is not a source of infinite
meaning, as we often like to imagine, but rather part of a larger system of beliefs that
serve to limit and restrict meaning. In pondering this idea, think about how we might
appeal to ideas of "authorial intention" in order to limit what someone might say about a
text, or mark some interpretations and commentaries as illegitimate.

At the very end, Foucault returns to Barthes and agrees that the "author function" may
soon "disappear." He does not suggest, however, that the limiting and restrictive "author
function," we will have some kind of absolute freedom. One set of restrictions and limits
will give way to another set, Foucault insists, since there must and will always be some
"system of constraint" working upon us.

In his The Death of the Author, Roland Barthes argues that critics up until his time have
been not the sages, but the ruiners of Literature. His essay could have been easily called
The Death of the Critic, or even The Rape of the Text. He describes Critics as a
destructive force to texts, and that their inclusion of information beyond (or rather,
beneath) the texts to which these critics cast their own pens is destructive to the very texts
they examine.

When describing the work of the Critic, Barthes repeatedly uses language which brings
destruction to mind, including the words "decipher" (or code-breaking), "pierce," and
"evaporate." He further describes a text as a delicate, even ephemeral thing, comparing it
first to a tissue, and then to the threads of a stocking. It is as if a text is a membrane that a
writer holds before him for examination (reading, not criticism), and that these Critics, in
their search for the author, must tear their way through the text in order to examine him.
In contrast, although Barthes calls this idea "the death of the author," the language used to
describe the process of this death is far more gentle, even passive. The author is not in
fact, torn, pierced, or destroyed, he simply "diminishes like a figurine at the far end of the
literary stage." Since the text stands between the author and the reader, the author is not
harmed by his "death". He simply goes unseen.

Barthes, in fact, lays no guilt at all on the writer for this destruction of text. It is the Critic
upon whom culpability is set. It is the Critic who has brought the writer (who upon
publication is as immediately distanced from the text as any other reader) into the realm
of examination. The reason, Barthes explains, for the inclusion of the Author into
analysis of his work, is that when the actual life experiences, attitudes, and emotions of
the Author are included in an analysis, the Critic can claim that these attitudes and
emotions represent the True Meaning of the text. This penetration of the text deflates it
and closes it to further scrutiny. It seems then to Barthes that either the Author or the text
must be removed from the process for this destructive scrutiny to end.

In removing the Author from analysis of a text, Barthes simultaneously preserves all texts
for further study, reopening the closed books, and also overturns the idea of the "Critic",
authorizing (forgive the pun) all readers to be critical of what they read. Since without an
Author there can no longer be an "authoritative viewpoint", all viewpoints are valid, and
texts are therefore not only reassembled, but broadened to limitless "disentanglings" by
any number of Readers.

It is this new figure, that of the Reader, which can emerge after the removal of the Author
and the Critic, and it is to this Reader that all texts are directed. Barthes says "the true
place of writing is reading," and this, to him, seems as important as any other idea about a
Text. It is is the reading (not in the person who in some unseen and distant place and time
put the text to paper), that the text comes to life. A text still tied to its Author is either
unfinished or not to be read by the public. A text to be read by the public is therefore
severed from the hand of the Author by necessity, and the Reader is born.