Essay on The Echo in the Wilderness: The Destruction of the Author

Submitted By cutiepitchu
Words: 2294
Pages: 10

The Echo in the Wilderness: The Destruction of the Author One of the most controversial and consistently debated elements in literature is the presence of the author. More specifically, literary critics have come to analyze the characteristics of the author in both fictional and non-fictional works, the effects that his supposed existence brings to the interpretation and understanding of the written work and his overall purpose and function in the text. The average reader, while reading texts such as a novel or a newspaper would most likely presume that the author serves the most basic function of relaying information to the reader such as the topic of discussion or the setting and characters (if any) involved in the text. Furthermore, others would consider, if for example a literary work were being examined, that the author may attempt go as far as to convey a specific message or universal overarching truth to the reader that is either hidden or plainly stated. These initial observations and assertions regarding the author-text and author-reader relationship are too simplistic however, and only serve to further question the true value and necessity of the author’s presence in any written work. Through the comparison and analysis of literary scholars Roland Barthes and his essay “The Death of the Author” as well as Michel Foucault’s “What is an Author” the role of the author will be examined. More specifically the study of the origins and traditional understanding of the author, an exploration of the element of writing in relation to the author-text relationship and the effects of the existence and absence of the author in the text, the two essays have come to the conclusion that the presence and influence of the author, although traditionally thought of as crucial to the text, is no longer effective and hence insignificant in modern literary theory. The traditional characteristics and effects of the author is one that is deeply rooted in society and culture and whose evolution is likewise heavily influenced and dependent on history. Barthes agrees with this concept when he states that the death of the author, although occurring through the act of narrating text, differs widely in the character that delivers it (Barthes, 186). He emphasizes the role of culture and societies on the person of the author through an ethnographic perspective, implying that certain societies may rely on a “mediator, shaman or relator” to depict the text (Barthes, 186). Society is responsible for developing and shaping the concept of the author which has remained a transformative and malleable figure throughout history, “emerging from the Middle Ages and English empiricism, French rationalism and personal faith” ( Barthes, 186). Barthes is implying that it is not only the physical persona of the author that is influenced by different ethnographic societies but also his theories, concepts, and ideologies that were prevalent in history, and to which, the specific areas and cultures from where they originated are attached ( the concept of “English” empiricism, and “French” rationalism). In this way, the physical author, the person constructing the text was “tyrannically centred” in literature and remained a dominant figure in history (Barthes, 186). Therefore, any criticism or praise pertaining to the text would automatically be associated and compared with the character of the writer himself. In this way, the author is seen to supersede his text. Foucault takes a similar stance regarding the traditional understanding of the author. Although the gist of the essay does not discuss the “sociohistorical analysis” of the author’s character (which is largely influenced by culture and history he was exposed to) it is has helped shape the traditional view of the author that centres on the writer rather than the text itself (Foucault, 281). On a similar level, Foucault expands on the persona of the traditional author when describing the third