Quotes: Death of the Author

Book! you lie there; the fact is, you books must know your places. You'll do to give us the bare words and facts, but we come in to supply the thoughts.

King: I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet; these words are not mine.
Hamlet: No, nor mine now.

When I left the politicians, I went to the poets; tragic, dithyrambic, and all sorts. And there, I said to myself, you will be detected; now you will find out that you are more ignorant than they are. Accordingly, I took them some of the most elaborate passages in their own writings, and asked what was the meaning of them - thinking that they would teach me something. Will you believe me? I am almost ashamed to speak of this, but still I must say that there is hardly a person present who would not have talked better about their poetry than they did themselves. That showed me in an instant that not by wisdom do poets write poetry, but by a sort of genius and inspiration; they are like diviners or soothsayers who also say many fine things, but do not understand the meaning of them.

Every fiction should have a moral; and, what is more to the purpose, the critics have discovered that every fiction has.

For the Third World to have allowed itself drifted by such pontification as Barthes’ would have meant the production of literature without the values of meaning. (…) if colonial texts propagated justification of the sentiments of colonialism, it would just be logical in the imagining of the colonized, say India, to express its own counter-sentiments. Therefore, origin, which implies history, memory, representation, passion as well as society─ all features denied by Barthes─ must play an important role in the identification of the Third World literature. The import of this is simply that the author from this part of the world must remain alive to convey meaning to his people.
Senayon Olaolua in the essay, The Author Never Dies: Roland Barthes and the Postcolonial Project

There is an impression abroad that literary folk are fast readers. Wine tasters are not heavy drinkers. Literary people read slowly because they sample the complex dimensions and flavors of words and phrases. They strive for totality not lineality. They are well aware that the words on the page have to be decanted with the utmost skill. Those who imagine they read only for "content" are illusioned.
Marshall McLuhan

I don't know who wrote this essay, but he obviously doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut!
Dr. Turner on an essay written by Kurt Vonnegut, Back to School

All worthy work is open to interpretations the author did not intend. Art isn't your pet — it's your kid. It grows up and talks back to you.

As for our intentions, well, that's all bunk. We may intend our music for one person or another, but who's to say? I can't decide who reads my novel or buys my record. Look what that did for Jonathon Franzen, who snubbed Oprah for liking his book. It's an arrogant, imperialist motive to try to determine who will receive you and who won't.

The artist usually sets out — or used to — to point a moral and adorn a tale. The tale, however, points the other way, as a rule. Two blankly opposing morals, the artist's and the tale's. Never trust the artist. Trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it.
D.H. Lawrence

...authors seldom understand what they write. That is why we have critics.
James Hurst, on being asked what his short story "The Scarlet Ibis" was about.

The critic on the morning paper said of my first play: "Inept." The critic on the afternoon paper said: "Drivel." Both reviews totally misunderstood the play. The critic on the morning paper said of my second play: "Pretentious." The critic on the afternoon paper said: "Abhorrent." Both reviews totally misunderstood the play. The critic on the morning paper said of my third play: "A Smash Hit!" The critic on the afternoon paper said: "A Triumph!" Both reviews totally misunderstood the play.

They are now misunderstanding to my advantage. In the arts, that's known as success.
Jules Feiffer cartoon.

What it comes down to is my interpretation of my work is really immaterial. I'm not really a believer in art or music being institutionalized or put in galleries and stuff like that. I think art is something for the use of the public. It's for the public to interpret it, and to use it almost like a sustenance to life. It's the interpretation of the listener or the viewer which is all-important.

The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.
Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author"

I love it when someone tells ME what goes on in SotS... I find it so educational.
Martin "Mecron" Cirulis

The beauty of music is that it's so open to the interpretation of the listener. I've said over and over again that the intent of the writer is so much less important than the interpretation of the listener.
Michael Stipe, R.E.M.

Books belong to their readers.
John Green, often enough that he's started abbreviating it to BBTTR.

I think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.

Personally, I take no satisfaction in imagining meaning where there is none. I’m not the type to stare at orange blotches on a canvas and ponder the universe. Either it’s got solid, intelligent ideas embedded in it, or it’s nonsense. Subjectivity isn’t a virtue. If my theories are wrong — if Kojima would fully acknowledge and shoot down what I’ve written – I would lose most of my respect for the game. The interpretation is key, because there’s a world of difference between a masterful metafiction disguised as an incoherent mess, and an incoherent mess that tries and fails to be a masterful metafiction.
Terry Wolf on the MGS2 "VR Theory"

"While you might be right, it doesn't invalidate any of the analyzing being done. Creator's intent doesn't matter that much in such matters. Everyone is free to interpret art as they want."
— A comment in {Errant Signal}'s review of Hotline Miami

The bard leaned back, retrieving his tankard. 'It begins with you,' he said. 'And it ends with you. Your eyes to witness, your thoughts alone. Tell me of no one's mind, presume nothing of their workings. You and I, we tell nothing, we but show.'
Steven Erikson, upon being asked how to interpret his Magnum Opus, answered that the cypher to it was hidden in Toll The Hounds, which is presumed to be this passage.

"I would love to live in a world where Dancer Taking A Bow wasn't painted by a vicious anti-semite, where Imagine wasn't written by an inveterate wife beater, and where Annie Hall wasn't directed by a monstrous child rapist!"
Kyle Kallgren, encouraging this trope during his vicious take-down of the "Authorship Question" and it's instigators in his review of Anonymous

(...) I think that's especially important with a film like Blade Runner, which is, as a work full of symbolism and style, much more than just about, ´´What does this mean?´´, but rather, ´´What does this mean to me?´´ To you, when the windows blocks out the sun it might symbolize another aspect of Tyrell's godlike powers. To me, he just prefers Smart Windows over blinds.
As a film just shy of thirty years old there's also the fact that changes in culture can affect what we see and interpret. As time moves on any work of art can say something to us today that differs greatly from what the author way trying to say at the time. Does that mean that we're mistaken in what we hear or is it valid to say that the echoes of our own thoughts, values and fears is as much a part of what we take away from art as the imagery itself. If what was said is not the same as what was heard, does that mean that the emotion felt, the thought provoked, the impetuous planted, are wrong?
I don't think so. As long as we distinguish between what the artist said and what the art said to me, the difference between: ´´I see this as a representation of femininity´´ versus ´´Thus the artist is a misogynist´´.

Sf Debris, discussing this trope in his review of Blade Runner

''What I remember most vividly was the time I had the temerity during one of the rehersals to suggest a different phrasing to one of the pros. She lowered her violin, turned to me and said icily, ´´We usually prefer it when the composer is dead.´´

Peter Schickele on his early composing days at Swarthmore.