Category: Roland Barthes

The view from within the hall of mirrorsThe view from within the hall of mirrors

“The writer can only imitate a gesture forever anterior, never original; his only power is to combine the different kinds of writing, to oppose some by others, so as never to sustain himself by just one of them; if he wants to express himself, at least he should know that the internal ‘thing’ he claims to ‘translate’ is itself only a readymade dictionary whose words can be explained (defined) only by other words, and so on ad infinitum.” – Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” (trans. Richard Howard)

Tissue of a certain kind of lie, tooTissue of a certain kind of lie, too

“We know that a text does not consist of a line of words, releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message’ of the Author-God), but is a space of many dimensions, in which are wedded and contested various kinds of writing, no one of which is original: the text is a tissue of citations, resulting from the thousand sources of culture.” – Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” (trans. Richard Howard)

Face-down in a shallow graveFace-down in a shallow grave

“Once the Author is gone, the claim to ‘decipher’ a text becomes quite useless. To give an Author to a text is to impose upon that text a stop clause, to furnish it with a final signification, to close the writing. This conception perfectly suits criticism, which can then take as its major task the discovery of the Author (or his hypostases: society, history, the psyche, freedom) beneath the work: once the Author is discovered, the text is ‘explained’:  the critic has conquered; hence it is scarcely surprising not only that, historically, the reign of the Author should also have been that of the Critic, but that criticism (even ‘new criticism’) should be overthrown along with the Author. In a multiple writing, indeed, everything is to be distinguished, but nothing deciphered; structure can be followed, ‘threaded’ (like a stocking that has run) in all its recurrences and all its stages, but there is no underlying ground; the space of the writing is to be traversed, not penetrated: writing ceaselessly posits meaning but always in order to evaporate it: it proceeds to a systematic exemption of meaning. Thus literature (it would be better, henceforth, to say writing), by refusing to assign to the text (and to the world as text) a ‘secret’: that is, an ultimate meaning, liberates an activity which we might call counter-theological, properly revolutionary, for to refuse to arrest meaning is finally to refuse God and his hypostases, reason, science, the law.” – Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” (trans. Richard Howard)