Nevertheless, the crucial New Critical precept of the “Intentional Fallacy” declares that a poem does not belong to its author; rather, “it is detached from the author at birth and goes about the world beyond his power to intend about it or control it.The poem belongs to the public.” William Wimsatt and Monroe C. Revised and republished in The Verbal Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry, U of Kentucky P, 1954: 3-18.) From the perspective of authorship, Barthes’s “Death of the Author” concept breaks little new ground in denying the possibility of any stable, collectively agreed-upon readings.He maintains that authors such as Racine and Balzac often reproduce emotional patterns about which they have no conscious knowledge.
The essential meaning of a work depends on the impressions of the reader, rather than the “passions” or “tastes” of the writer; “a text’s unity lies not in its origins,” or its creator, “but in its destination,” or its audience.
No longer the locus of creative influence, the author is merely a “scriptor” (a word Barthes uses expressly to disrupt the traditional continuity of power between the terms “author” and “authority”).
The scriptor exists to produce but not to explain the work and “is born simultaneously with the text, is in no way equipped with a being preceding or exceeding the writing, [and] is not the subject with the book as predicate.” Every work is “eternally written here and now,” with each re-reading, because the “origin” of meaning lies exclusively in “language itself” and its impressions on the reader.
Barthes notes that the traditional critical approach to literature raises a thorny problem: how can we detect precisely what the writer intended? He introduces this notion in the epigraph to the essay, taken from Honoré de Balzac’s story Sarrasine (a text that receives a more rigorous close-reading treatment in his influential post-structuralist book S/Z), in which a male protagonist mistakes a castrato for a woman and falls in love with her. We can never know.” Writing, “the destruction of every voice,” defies adherence to a single interpretation or perspective.
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.
Alternative readings of Barthes’s essay – such as the idea that the essay is really a satire upon the very notions he “advocates” in the text (i.e., that “Death of the Author” actually defends traditional notions of authorship) – remain in the critical minority.
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Death of the Author Many of Barthes’s works focus on literature.