Friday, October 24, 2008

If No Author, Anarchy?

Of the points discussed in Barthes's "The Death of the Author," I am most interested in the religious ideas that permeate the essay. The ideas of the Author-God and theological meaning create a strong image by which to contrast Barthes's thoughts, which become in this context atheistic. For most of literary history, the writer of a text has been regarded as a strong intellectual being with total control over said text, hence the title author. It is Barthes's rejection of this idea of a God-like authority presiding over a text, that leads to many questions regarding the source of meaning within the text.

This blog entry discusses the authority of the blogger. It discusses that people tend to perceive the writer as the authority. This is interesting because it reiterates the idea of a natural and/or cultural tendency to look at writer as authority. The post also examines ways for a blogger to increase authority, which gets at an idea of authority as a commodity for which the writer should strive rather than a concept that should be assigned (as Barthes assigns authority to text).

The blog post taken into consideration along with "The Death of the Author" seems to present a power struggle wherein Barthes presents truly revolutionary ideas by denouncing the authority that the writer is both given and fights for. The author attempts to create order while Barthes, as a post-structuralist, looks to collapse this order and find new sources of meaning. In ways, Barthes is arguing for textual anarchy or chaos, from which new order can emerge.

Because I do a decent amount of creative writing myself, the concept of a writer sans authority is interesting and, in some ways, crucial to me. Am I to understand that what I wish to accomplish in a work is without merit and that the text itself overshadows me? That the text I create denies me? It is perhaps a tough pill to swallow, but it's tough for me not to acknowledge this given the amount of times I have read a book or seen a movie and gotten a different, but just as logical, meaning out of it than a peer. With regards to obtaining meaning from my own text, maybe I'm just another reader and my only responsibility is to put the words together and come up with a story with legs. The meaning behind it is not my responsibility (as much as I'd like it to be), because that can only come from the text itself. If the order I've assigned as Author-God is to be denied, then anybody's order is as relevant as mine. I suppose that for the development of ideas and theory, this is good. However, the blog entry referenced above makes one correct assumption, at least about me, and that is that I want that authority, and I wish I lived in a period in which I could have it, no questions asked.

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