Main Death Of The Author Discussion

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08:48:30 PM Jun 18th 2016
edited by Grignr
This entire article and conversation should be filed under "The intentional fallacy", not "The death of the author."

Roland Barth's main point in "The death of the author" is that we should return to the Dark Age attitude towards art, which is that "art" is not creative, but is mere craft (which is the meaning of the Latin word "ars" which we now translate as "art"). Remember that in post-modern philosophy, everything of value is socially constructed. That includes stories. Barthes is claiming that stories are social constructions, beyond the power of an individual to create. "The Death of the Author" argues that the creation of a story requires just the same sort of mysterious, transcendent origin that post-modernists say the creation of meaning or of value would require (e.g., a God, or an infinitely-deferred chain of signification). Barthes segues into reader-response theory at the end, but that's only as a by-product of the post-modern theory of language, which says language can't communicate meaning, and so a statement's meaning must originate in the listener or reader.

"The Author, when believed in, is always conceived of as the past of his own book... which is to say that he exists before it... In complete contrast, the modern scriptor [read: the medieval scribe] is born simultaneously with the text, is in no way equipped with a being preceding or exceeding the writing... every text is eternally written here and now. The fact is... that writing can no longer designate an operation of recording, notation, representation, 'depiction'...; rather, it designates... a performative." That is, Barthes denies that a book is the product of a person.

"A text is not a line of words releasing a single 'theological' meaning (the 'message' of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. ... The writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them." This is precisely the medieval theory of art, which denied humans the power of creativity, an attribute said to be reserved for God.

Barthes elaborates on this same theme in "From Work to Text". The important point is his claim that stories /don't have/ authors because it is impossible for one person to write a story. Intentionality is tangential.
02:35:06 AM Dec 1st 2012
01:35:43 PM Sep 1st 2012
"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."

So this trope is like trying to find meaning and things to take away from a fictional story that the author did not intend like you can try to find meaning and things to take away from real events where obviously there is no intended meaning? Because thatís the impression I get from this quote and I can get behind that. what people seem to be saying this is in here is that if the author fails to convey his intended meaning you can look for your own, which makes little sense to me because surly if the authorís meaning is not present then that just means no meaning is present? Like if I try to do a painting of a duck but I do it so badly it doesnít look like duck then surly that means itís just a painting of nothing, not that it becomes a painting of something else?

01:44:40 PM Sep 1st 2012
edited by NimmerStill
I don't see any difference between the version you "can get behind" and the one that you think "makes little sense"; they seem to be the same thing to me. So, are you fer it or agin' it?

As for the duck painting, if you draw the duck badly in a way that it looks like a dog, then hell yeah you can say it's a painting of a dog.
08:33:07 AM Sep 2nd 2012
edited by dragonslip
What Iím talking about is something likeÖ.. Ok suppose a writer writes a novel about an Egyptian women and a Mexican man who get married and then split up over reconcilable differences. The authorís point may just have been something to do with how a relationship can brake up just because of differences in view point but if those differences in view point where the result of the coupleís different backgrounds then you could take something away from it about the problems mix marriages are likely to face

What you seem to be talking about is something likeÖÖ. Ok I once heard a guy say that the monolith in 2001 could be taken to be representative of a cinema screen turned around and on it side even though Stanley Kubrick says itís not suppose to be. The difference between the two is that in the later case you are not getting any information or viewpoint from which to create your interpretation from any intelligent source other then your own mind and if youíre going to view films and stories that way I donít see why there even needs to be a film maker or a writer involved? Why not just stick a film camera in front of your house and interpret the random footage from it?

Also thereís a difference in the way you and I are using terms. When I said ďmeaningĒ in my first comment I was using it in the sense that you say a specific cause ďmeansĒ a specific effect like how you say being kicked in the leg means pain, or to go back to my example how if the problems the couple face are the result of common cultural differences then it means any mix race couple could have the same issues. You lot however seem to be talking about the kind of meaning I would have thought could only be present in a work of art if itís maker imbues it with it, or in other words the painting canít be of a dog for the same reason you canít call a rock formation a sculpture

08:55:02 AM Jul 13th 2014
An interesting interaction happened at work last week. A psychiatrist had bought my novel. In the hallway between clients, she was telling me how much that she liked it and mentioned the allegory that "Faith is dead." I just nodded. The truth is that Faith is the name of a main character, a child's ghost — a victim of child abuse. While I didn't intend the allegory, maybe it was subliminal. Cool beans!
08:11:03 PM Aug 28th 2012
It doesn't say that examples aren't allowed, and one person asks what happened to them, telling me that there were examples, but they were removed. Can we put up some examples? If not, could someone at least put "No Examples, Please!" in this article? Either way, I think it would be more helpful than putting nothing there to indicate an answer.
08:26:34 AM Aug 29th 2012
Why do we need examples here?
11:02:04 PM Jun 14th 2013
Examples often help to clarify what exactly the trope means or what it's supposed to be trying to get across in the article, there have often been times where I skip or just skim the article part itself and go straight to the list of media the trope is in so I can get an understanding of it. This particular article has always been one that's been confusing to me as to what it's actually trying to say. I think this article should at least have a made up example in the text of the article itself in order to help make things as clear as they can possibly be.
10:58:58 PM Jul 7th 2012
edited by IronAnimation
Could we add a segment to this page explaining how tropes are tropes even if the author disagrees;or says a trope is present when it isn't? That author opinions have no say in trope applying (outside of bonus info in Word of God ). Maybe connect it with why subjectives aren't called tropes. Does that not belong here?
04:08:17 PM Aug 13th 2012
Sounds good. It would be clearer with a couple examples.
12:00:54 PM Apr 24th 2012
From the main page: "There are also Unfortunate Implications to the fact that the death of the author was proclaimed just as critical attention was finally being turned towards the female author, the Queer author, and the author of colour."

Why so? Death of the Author doesn't mean that the author's achievement as the creator of his or her work isn't recognized, or that their responsibility for it is minimized. It just means that they can't dictate what it means. I don't think that when people disagree with an author about the meaning of their own work, they are denigrating the skill or importance of that author. So why should it be any different with authors from historically disadvantaged groups?
12:06:13 PM Apr 24th 2012
I just took it out. It seems a lot like an agenda'd non sequitur from someone who didn't really understand the trope's meaning.
12:48:34 PM Aug 13th 2012
edited by Stoogebie
Isn't that a case of Ad Hominem or reverse Ad Hominem? (The statement is basically calling anyone who invokes Death of the Author racist/sexist/whatever if the author happens to be a minority, essentially putting the focus on the person, not their argument...if I'm understanding the statement correctly). It doesn't seem to matter much though, and it's been taken out anyway, so...
04:17:01 PM Jan 4th 2012
I keep reading this article over and over and yet I can never understand it. Why would a writer "interpret" his own work? That's like trying to solve a riddle you invented yourself. What does "interpret" even mean in this context?
04:30:07 PM Jan 4th 2012
edited by CrypticMirror
Authors make mistakes. Take JK Rowling, she has said that Dumbledore represented pure goodness, yet what she wrote was a manipulative old git who admittedly did try to be nice, but was still willing to sell everyone else up the Swannee if it suited him. Authors have a vision in their head, but that isn't always what they write down on the page. Or they write down what they think is the vision, but then find it is open to multiple interpretations that they had not considered when writing.
07:36:38 AM Jan 7th 2012
edited by Goremand
Ok, when you use the word "interpret", what is it you mean? I always thought it meant to "uncover the intended conveyed meaning" of something, like how an archaeologist might try to interpret an ancient text. But according to Death of the Author, the intended meaning is irrelevant, so how is there even a point in interpreting anything? What is left to understand, if not what the author tried to convey?
10:43:13 AM Jan 10th 2012
Not all meanings are intended.
07:57:54 AM Jan 13th 2012
Aren't they? Unintended meaning sounds like an oxymoron to me. Can you make a statement that means something other than what you intend it to mean? Of course any reader can make up a meaning if he wants to, but why would he want that? What's the point?
09:59:59 AM Jan 13th 2012
"Can you make a statement that means something other than what you intend it to mean?" - Frequently, if not almost constantly.
11:31:49 AM Jan 13th 2012
Authors are human too, and it's often said that they're only writing down the stories, not deciding what happens. Unintended meanings happen all the time. That's an inescapable fact of human communication, and I'm honestly surprised anyone would think otherwise.
03:24:49 PM Jan 13th 2012
You mean when I say one thing and someone interprets it in a way I didn't mean? Personally, I'd call that a "misunderstanding" not an "unintended meaning" (although technically I suppose it is). So are you saying that when a work is misunderstood, the misunderstanding should be considered a "valid interpretation" (whatever that means) alongside the "correct" interpretation intended by the author? If so, what point is there to these interpretations? If you're not trying to figure out what the author meant, then what are you trying to accomplish?
06:49:41 AM Mar 27th 2012
Argh, please would someone answer my questions? I'm not just trying to be clever or start an argument or anything like that. I just genuinely and obsessively wish to understand the concept. It's getting so bad I can't sleep at night!
02:52:04 PM Apr 9th 2012
Say an author writes a book with a scene in it with two people, John and Bob. Bob is acting all suspicious and drops hints that he is being evil. Later someone gets murdered and no one knows who did it. Some people reading the book might assume that bob is evil and committed the murder. Now let's say the author finds out about it and in an interview claims that bob is not evil and a murderer at all. "he just had a really lousy day"

"death of the author" means that the writers comment doesn't matter, if he didn't want bob to appear as evil he shouldn't have written him that way. The author can claim that it's not true but his opinion is just as valid as that of anyone else. And if the mainstream way of looking at the book concludes that bob is evil, the author cannot change that.
01:56:15 PM Apr 13th 2012
But that doesn't make sense. The mainstream can not "conclude" anything, it's not a real world and it can't be examined like it is one. Bob can't be evil because Bob doesn't exist.

When the mainstream says "Bob is evil", what are they saying? Are they saying "Bob seems evil to us" (which is entirely true, of course), or are they literally saying "it is an objective fact that Bob is evil" (which makes no sense at all because it's fiction)?

When I talk about fiction like it was fact, I'm always really referring to authorial intent, because what else is there?
04:23:01 PM Apr 13th 2012
The words on the page.

Death of the Author exists because there is no one correct way to interpret a text. The author can write a story, but they can't decide what it means. They can certainly say what they intended the story to mean, but their opinion does not make all other opinions wrong.
11:37:26 AM Apr 15th 2012
I think, in a sense, Goremand you are reading "interpret" to mean a secondary process the text can go through usually in the mind of the audience- more of a re-interpretation. In the case of this article, "interpret" is more anologous with "meaning." The original meaning they were thinking of when they scripted the text. That counts as an interpretation, even if it was there from the start.

"So are you saying that when a work is misunderstood, the misunderstanding should be considered a "valid interpretation" (whatever that means) alongside the "correct" interpretation intended by the author? If so, what point is there to these interpretations? If you're not trying to figure out what the author meant, then what are you trying to accomplish?"

In a very post-modern sense, there is no such thing a correct or incorrect interpretation. They are all equally valid and the author's intention is no more important or right than the readers interpretation. The text stands alone, the author is so disconnected from it, they can't possibly have the authority to give it meaning. So, the reader's interpretation is as "correct" as anything the author was intending when they wrote it.

Is this any help? :)
03:48:28 PM Apr 24th 2012
I think this is really more of an extension of how common sense would guide you to view any other product that someone creates. Take technology, for example. If Steve Jobs creates a computer (pretend it's single-handedly, for the sake of argument), does it matter what Steve intended for the computer to do? Of course not. It only matters what it does, or more specifically, what people can use it for. If Steve never imagined the computer being used to play chess or do taxes, it doesn't mean you shouldn't use it to do those things.

So should it be with literature and other forms of story-telling (and other forms of art in general). Literature is created to be consumed, or "used", by people. This includes raw enjoyment, as well as seeing symbolism, allegories, lessons, mystery-solving, etc. And the capacity of the work to do this depends only on what's in the text (or dialogue, or whatever), coupled with the user's own proclivities. So again, say a user derives a lesson on, say, not cheating, from what's on the page. Of course the author has no business saying they "shouldn't" have derived that lesson.

To take the analogy further, in the computer case, Steve may well be in a position to guide people as to how to use the computer he designed effectively, since he made it after all. But other people with experience using it might be able to give advice too, and in some cases superior advice, if they've been using it in different ways than Steve imagined.

Likewise for literature. There's nothing wrong with listening to commentary by the author to guide you in how to read the work, but there's equally nothing wrong with listening to other commentators for guidance in a possibly different direction. Nor, of course, is there anything wrong with ignoring what anyone else thinks completely.
03:51:40 AM May 10th 2012
"In a very post-modern sense, there is no such thing a correct or incorrect interpretation." That seems like a mildly insane notion. Isn't it logically impossible (law of non-contradiction considered) for an interpretation to be "neither correct nor incorrect"?

I liked the computer analogy. It seems you are saying that a work of literature is less like a message that should be deciphered, and more like a tool or a toy to be "used" as the reader sees fit. I understand how reading it this way can be enjoyable or interesting, but I don't see how you can actually learn anything from it.

I actually had as a basic premise that by "interpreting" a text you are trying to learn objective facts about reality, not just indulging your own mind with interesting ideas. Perhaps this was a mistake?

Thanks to all who've aided my quest of understanding so far (are we allowed to take up this much space?)
09:20:49 AM May 10th 2012
edited by NimmerStill
I have a middle-of-the-road approach to this trope; I think the author's original intentions don't matter, but what's in the text does. Kindof like (one view of) the US Constitution. The difference, of course, is that with literature, you can get more out of the text than just its literal interpretation: symbolism, metaphor, An Aesop, etc., but they still should be derivable in some way from what's on the page.

The bad extreme is if someone tries to hijack a popular piece of literature (or other medium) to promote their own pre-conceived agenda by claiming that the work advocates that agenda, even if that can't by any stretch of the imagination be found in the text, and it was in the reader's head all along. A reader can derive a different message than the author intended, but it should be a genuine realization the reader got from the text, not just something they're inclined to believe anyway.

The computer analogy works here too; if you claim that a computer can be put to a cool new use that its designer never intended, you have to have actually used the computer to do that, and in a way that makes the computer somewhat special as a tool. If you say you used a computer to get good at boxing, but all you did was use it as a weight-training weight, you're being dishonest.

But since we're talking about fiction here, then you're generally NOT trying to learn objective facts about reality, right?
10:14:20 PM Jun 20th 2012
I think it becomes clearer if you use different mediums. Take computer games. The designer likely has a concept in his head for what the game will involve, and how people will play it. The game gets released, and it's a piece of junk because the tech doesn't support what he's trying to do.

Do you judge the game as is, or do you play/critique/review the version in the designer's head?

Fundamentally the question here is if the reader is under any obligation to try to piece together the version of the story that exists in the author's head, or if it's the responsibility of the author to accurately translate his vision into words. It's not a matter of whether or not there is a ONE TRUE interpretation or not, but what exactly constitutes the thing you're trying to interpret in the first place.

This concept seems to be muddied all out of proportion, really. It's just asking if you're allowed to analyze the version of the work in the author's head or not. Whether or not you can accurately recreate what's in the author's head is a separate issue; however, that -is- effectively the reason why postmodern analysis generally says you aren't allowed to analyze the version in the author's head: it's hard or impossible to do with any accuracy and it's the author's responsibility to put it down correctly in the first place. Not being able to do that correctly is part of being a bad writer. Note that in some cases a imprecise translation of a bad idea might result in something good (a possible explanation for one hit wonders, i.e. Sixth Sense).

tl;dr - We can't read authors' minds. We can read what they write. Therefore, we restrict ourselves to what's written and not what is in the author's head when judging something.
03:26:36 PM Sep 13th 2012
Nimmer Still: "But since we're talking about fiction here, then you're generally NOT trying to learn objective facts about reality, right?"

Actually, yes I am. When I attempt to interpret a text (or other media, fictitious or otherwise) I am trying to find out WHY the author wrote what he did. Not just what he wanted to write, but his emotional state and motivational forces as well (perhaps he was insane at the time of writing?) I believe this would qualify as pursuing objective facts. If you're not trying to learn objective facts, then what are you trying to do?

Seloun: "I think it becomes clearer if you use different mediums. Take computer games."

Hm, I wouldn't say a game necessarily qualifies as a piece of fiction (though they often do qualify, since games these days tend to have a story). Either way, judging a game for it's quality and interpreting a work of fiction is two very different things, I would say.

"Fundamentally the question here is if the reader is under any obligation to try to piece together the version of the story that exists in the author's head"

Well, if you're analyzing a piece of fiction, I'd say it sorta is. Are you saying Do A exists mainly too make things easier for critics by giving them less things to study? Isn't that self-deceptive? I mean, a natural scientist can't get around having to study things in nature by saying "nature communicates too poorly". And he definitely can't just make up theories on his own.
03:36:56 PM Sep 13th 2012
edited by NimmerStill
Well if the only, or the main, reason you read fiction is to get at the psychology of the author, then yeah. This trope is not for you. But that's a bit of a bizarre goal, a bit of a bizarre reason for doing it. Why exactly do you care about the emotional state or motivational forces on some particular person who happened to write stories for a living (or for whatever reason)? Why do you care about their psychology more than your local plumber, or bartender, or people in any other profession?

Most people read or watch fiction to see the story unfold, to experience the emotions it invokes, to appreciate the art. That has nothing directly to do with the psychological state of the author when writing it.

As for the computer game, did you realize that it's an analogy? A computer game doesn't have to be fiction; the point is that a computer game is *for* something, just like a piece of fiction is for something, and that something is not as a medium to understand the emotional state of its author or creator. That's what their therapy session is for.

"Well, if you're analyzing a piece of fiction, I'd say it sorta is. Are you saying Do A exists mainly too make things easier for critics by giving them less things to study?"

No. We're saying that analyzing a piece of fiction does not have anything to do with the study of the emotional state of its creator.
04:57:40 AM Sep 15th 2012
edited by Bloodseeker
The reader doesn't always see things the way that the author intended. It's as simple as that.

Look at Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced. People widely consider Marche to be a villain protagonist, even though he's clearly not written to be one.

Is the audience wrong for coming to their own conclusions about the morality of Marche and his actions, which differ from the writing team's intent?

If the writing team tried to say "yes", I think that would be one of the highest forms of a false sense of entitlement that a creator can possibly have. If they didn't want the audience to view Marche as the story's villain, then they shouldn't have written a character who's main goal in the story is something that a large part of the audience views as nonsensical and mean-spirited. It's not their place to tell the audience that "Marche was the sympathetic figure, the people who disagreed with him were morally wrong, end of story". They could try, but it wouldn't make them correct.

It's the same with finding your own meaning to a story or character, or having your own rational theories about what happened in a particular scenario. (especially if what the author says doesn't make a lot of sense)

Once the scenario is penned, it's not the writer's place to tell the reader what to do with it.
07:54:22 AM Oct 3rd 2012
Sorry, Nimmer Still it appears I have communicated poorly. I know people who simply read fiction for their own enjoyment rarely care about who wrote the said fiction or why they wrote it. Similarly, people who enjoy food don't necessarily care about the chemical composition of foodstuff, because it isn't relevant to their enjoyment.

When I said "analyze" or "interpret" I meant something other than simply "read". If you are truly analyzing fiction, not just indulging yourself in it but trying to fully understand it, wouldn't you want to know everything about it, including where it came from and how it came to be?

On the computer game, basically you're saying a piece of fiction and game are both just tools that exist for the sake of enjoyment, and people in general can't be expected learn things about were the game came from in order to enjoy it properly (sorry if I got that wrong). But, again, if I (unlike most people) wanted to truly UNDERSTAND the game, not just play or otherwise use it, I would care about how the game was developed, and I'd probably check the source code and read all the little hidden footnotes left by the programmers.
10:51:41 AM Oct 3rd 2012
@Goremand, I realized later that I had failed to make the distinction between just utilizing the product versus analyzing and understanding it. But I still say that it is no inherent part of analyzing and understanding a work of fiction to understand the author and why they wrote it.

Analyzing a work of fiction means picking it apart, seeing what makes it up, seeing which devices are used well, which are used poorly, and what they communicate, and how they communicate it. There is nothing in there that requires understanding the author or where they are coming from.

Of course, picking apart the work may give you clues as to what was in the author's head. But that's just an extra bonus, not the goal of the enterprise itself, which is just to understand the work. And if you want to know more about the author than can be hinted at from their work, that's fine too, but it that's a separate goal; it's not inherent to the search for meaning in the work, and you can't be said to understand the work better if you know more about the author than someone who doesn't, all else being equal at least.

Going for the game analogy: if you wanted to analyze and understand a game, then you might indeed check the source code, but how the game was developed is irrelevant. Knowing that may *help* you understand how the game ticks, but it is not the same thing as knowing how it ticks, which can in theory be learned simply from the product itself. (Reverse engineering, if you will, which is a good analogy for what a literary critic does.)

I still argue that "learning about the world" is not really the goal of analyzing fiction, even carefully, or games for that matter. You're learning something, but it's not factual, or at least the factual stuff isn't the point. Rather, what it teaches you is new ways to think, new ways to question assumptions.
06:24:57 AM Apr 29th 2011
this paragraph: In the fan community, this has changed into the idea that something is only canon if it appears in the original source material, and thus any Word of God has no more weight to it than any piece of fanon cooked up by the fans. Though some fans honestly hold this opinion, many only use this as an excuse to ignore any Word of God that they don't like. Some fans can even take this further, and use this to ignore parts of original source material they don't like, per the Fiction Identity Postulate. A recent example would be the Harry Potter fans who ignored or even protested J. K. Rowling's comment that she thought of Dumbledore as gay.

Is just about criticising people who do not accept Word of God as unshakeable truth, which is not a valid part of this concept. So I've excised it from the main article and placed it here.
02:38:52 PM Nov 11th 2010
Okay what happened to the examples?
03:42:38 PM Sep 19th 2010
How about J. K. Rowling's Dumbledore announcement? I'm pretty sure she made some converts to Death of the Author that day...
01:54:52 PM Feb 7th 2011
She certainly did, but what she actually said was the she "thought of Dumbledore as gay." That's interesting, and surely leads to a certain amount of Alternate Character Interpretation, but it seems to me that, since Dumbledore doesn't do anything in the series that could only be explained by his being gay, it doesn't honestly matter to the narrative how she thought of him while writing him, only what she wrote. This is not to say that her giving us her insight into her writing is futile. Not at all. It sheds a light on the character's inner life that simply isn't there in the text, and that's fun to think about. It' practically a whole new book. But no one is obliged to consider it if it squicks them, because it's simply not there in the text. / And I normally HATE the whole Death of the Author thing.
04:42:47 PM Feb 7th 2011
Jo pretends she is so brave for outing DD AFTER the series is over. 1) She would not have lost a penny, we all queued at midnight. 2) DD is the only gay in the Potterverse and like all Hollywood gays, he is evil and dead.
08:39:42 AM Feb 8th 2011
Wow, that's so stupid and offensive I'm not sure where to start.
02:42:14 PM Aug 22nd 2011
Evil Dumbledore? Making a mentor figure gay, while maybe making certain people think of him as a memetic Molester, doesn't make him evil.
06:36:09 PM Jul 6th 2013
Since Dumbledore's romance never comes up in the text, Death of the Author would imply that his sexuality is unknown.
09:00:21 PM Apr 25th 2010
What about the animator's sudden and convenient heart attack that served as Deus ex Machina for getting rid of the Legendary Black Beast of Aaaaaaaaargh?
02:40:07 PM Aug 22nd 2011
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