From Lodge, David (ED). ‘Death of the Author’.
Modern Criticism and Theory. London:
In S/Z, Barthes makes a
distinction between the ‘readerly’ classic text, which make its readers
passive consumers and the writerly classic text, which invites its readers to an
active participation in the production of meanings that are infinite and
inexhaustible. The image of literature to be found in ordinary culture is
tyrannically centered on the author. Criticism on a work is to criticize the
author himself. The explanation of a work is always sought in the man or woman
who produced it.
sway of the Author remains powerful. Certain writers have long since attempted
to loosen it. In France, Mallarme was the first person to see the full extent
the necessity to substitute language itself for the person who until then had
been supposed to be its owner. For him, it is the language that speaks not the
author. Mallarme’s entire poetics consists in suppressing the author in
interest of writing.
the Author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile. To
give a text an Author is to impose a limit on the text, to furnish it with a
signified, to close the writing....when the Author has been found, the text is
‘explained’ - victory to the critic. In the multiplicity of writing,
everything is disentangled, nothing deciphered; the structure can be followed,
at every point and at every level, but there is nothing beneath.
I read Barthes article on Death of the Author, it never occurred to me that
readers were actually the producers of meaning and not the author. Its true that
the author may have intended it to have a certain meaning but we as readers
could always read the text and get a different interpretation other than the
author’s. People who argue about what a particular text mean when an ambiguity
arises will always attempt look for the writer of the text and thus the text is
explained. So it is true that classical text are tyrannically focused on the
author. With the advent of hypertext, it realizes Barthes’ writerly text,
where readers are active readers and producers meaning. Who the author of a text
is, is not important anymore. In a hypertext environment, a reader follows his
or her own path of interest. The text is decentered and open-ended, like how
Barthes envisioned modern text, everything is disentangled, nothing deciphered
and the structure can be followed at every point and every level, but there is
From Lodge, David (ED). Death of the Author. Modern
Criticism and Theory. London: Longman 1988.
of Iser’s most useful ideas is his discussion of the way in which gaps or
blanks in literary texts stimulate the reader to construct meaning which would
not otherwise come into existence. Once we are immersed in the flow of
sentence-thought, we would think of a continuation, also in the form of a
sentence. If by chance the following sentence does not connect with the sentence
we have just thought of, there then comes a blockage in the stream of thought.
It is only through inevitable omissions that a story will gain dynamism.
Whenever the flow is interrupted, we are led off in unexpected directions, the
opportunity arises for us to fill in the gaps left by the text ourselves. With
‘traditional’ texts, the process of making decisions of how a gap is to be
filled was more or less conscious but modern texts frequently exploit it quite
deliberately. They are often fragmentary that one’s attention is almost
exclusively occupied with the search for connections between the fragments. This
makes us aware of the nature of our own capacity for providing links.
conceive a literary text as an arena in which the author and reader participate
in a game of imagination. Reading is only a pleasure when it is active and
creative. In this process of creativity, the text may either not go far enough,
or may go too far, so we may say that boredom and overstrain from the boundaries
beyond which the reader will leave the field of play.
agree that in order to hold a reader’s interest, the author should stimulate
the reader to supply what is not there encouraging creative participation. Texts
are fragmentary in the electronic writing and readers have to search for
connections by clicking on a desired hyperlink. The reader is thus making
connections to fill in the gap of the fragmentary texts. By clicking on the
desired hyperlinks, a story unfolds and the reader is constructing meaning with
each text that comes onto the screen. A reader is capable of making links, and
hypertext empowers the reader to exercise this capability, therefore, readers
have greater freedom in hypertext compared to a book. The reader can add links
or make comments after the text too. These two methods of active reading is not
manipulated by the author as compared to choosing your own path to read.
Therefore, whether the readers actually produce the meaning of a text or an
author depends on the degree of manipulation by the author on the text.