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However, Barthes denied being a literary critic, because he did not assess and provide verdicts on works.Instead, he interpreted their semiotic significance. Barthes’s structuralist style of literary analysis has influenced cultural studies, to the chagrin of adherents of traditional literary approaches.
It argues against incorporating the intentions and biographical context of an author in an interpretation of text; writing and creator are unrelated.
In his essay, Barthes criticizes the reader’s tendency to consider aspects of the author’s identity—his political views, historical context, religion, ethnicity, psychology, or other biographical or personal attributes—to distill meaning from his work.
New Criticism dominated American literary criticism during the forties, fifties and sixties.
New Criticism differs significantly from Barthes’s theory of critical reading because it attempts to arrive at more authoritative interpretations of texts.
Drawing on Freudian psychoanalysis – particularly in its Lacanian conception – and Saussurean linguistics, post-structuralist scepticism about the notion of the singular identity of the self has also been important for feminist and queer theorists, who find in Barthes’s work an anti-patriarchal, anti-traditional strain sympathetic to their own critical work.
They read the “Death of the Author” as a work that obliterates stable identity above and beyond the obliteration of stable critical interpretation.
In this critical schematic, the experiences and biases of the author serve as its definitive “explanation.” For Barthes, this is a tidy, convenient method of reading and is 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 separate a literary work from its creator in order to liberate it from interpretive tyranny (a notion similar to Erich Auerbach’s discussion of narrative tyranny in Biblical parables), for each piece of writing contains multiple layers and meanings.
In a famous 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.
Like the dethroning of a monarchy, the “death of the author” clears political space for the multi-voiced populace at large, ushering in the long-awaited “birth of the reader.” A post-structuralist text, “Death of the Author” influenced French continental philosophy, particularly those of Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault (who also addressed the subject of the author in critical interpretation in a similar fashion in his 1969 essay, “What Is an Author?
”, which argues that works of literature are collective cultural products and do not arise from singular, individual beings).