Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I don't believe in books but I read them all the time.

In Barthes The Death of the Author states that once a text is written it loses its origin. It becomes a series of words in a book that is set to be deciphered. In this way the author is dead, all the thoughts he but into the book no longer matter, what matters is the text and how it is deconstructed by the readers. He goes as far as to start referring to authors as scriptures saying, “Succeeding the Author the scriptor no longer bears within him passions, humours, feelings, impressions, but rather this immense dictionary from which he draws a writing that can know no halt: life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred” he later goes on to claim that having an author puts limitations on the text.

This seems weird to me, I mean, I understand what is being said and that we cannot look into a text and only look for what the author was intending, that is a little limited. But without the author what is there? Is the author just a tool that magically produces words that go on a piece of paper? We just use them because they are quicker and more convenient than the chimps that are locked in a room trying to type up some Shakespeare. Is there a more reasonable way to put this? Can we divorce the work from the author? Can she have the work legally seceded? This seems a little fairer to the author. I don’t think it completely destroys the point that he is trying to make, but can we play with language a little bit more.

Connecting the ideas from Death of the Author and Foucault’s What is an Author to I cite’s blog post Making Readers in her post I cite thinks about the symbiotic relationship between a blogger and the readers. She says “I thought that folks interested in technology and democracy would read this blog. That was a mistake… …When I blogged about Zizek, then I got readers. But this suggests more that readers create the blog, that they impact what is written. To be sure, it's not unidirectional, but there is a difficulty in trying to talk about blog readers without going back to the writer. This quotation is a way of spinning Barthes theory around and thinks about the readers. There are no readers without the writers, and although in a way they have dictated what she writes, she also dictates what they discuss. She can shape her blog on any topic of any theorist and it forces all the readers to think and discuss Zizek on her terms. This creates a whole new power for the author. I understand that this is slightly different than a book because blogging is meant to be much more accessible and interactive. But texts have always been talked about in reviews, scholarly journals, and in classrooms and to a certain degree we are limited in what we talk about because we are reading a text, that was written….. by an author.


Unknown said...

I like the passage you chose. I read that one and debated long and hard whether or not to use it. I feel that it is dense with information and you did a good job explaining it. I can relate on how you feel about the absence of the author. I too feel that it is hard to let he or she go. They did write it after all...but then again I'm more of a reader than a writer so anything that's good for me is just plain good.

Richard said...

Of course authors are just tools.