In his essay, Barthes criticizes the method of reading and criticism that relies on aspects of the author’s identity. Barthes says that that to give a text an author it imposes a limit on that text. In other words, if we look at a text and say that so and so wrote it then we automatically limit our perceptions of that text. We limit ourselves to what we let ourselves take away from the text and what we allow ourselves to imagine.
This being said, what he reader has to do is take away any and all ownership they have led to believe of that text, forget that they were told who wrote and in what time period, and read the text that way. Each piece of writing contains multiple layers and meanings. Barthes draws an analogy between texts and textiles saying that a “text is a tissue, or fabric, of quotations drawn from innumerable centers of culture rather than from one, individual experience.” The essential meaning of a work depends on the impressions of the reader rather than the passions or beliefs and tastes of the writer. A text’s unity lies not in its creator or origins but in its audience and its destination.
Barthes goes on to say that the author is no longer in charge, taking away its “authority” and is renamed the “scriptor”. The scriptor exists only to produce the work, not to explain it. The scriptor is born simultaneously with the text and is in no way equipped with a being preceding or exceeding the writing. Every text is written in the here and now and is eternal because every time it is read it is alive once again because the meaning lies exclusively in the language itself and its impression on the reader. Many critics ask the question, “How can we figure out what the writer intended?” The answer is we cannot. We can never know what the writer specifically intended because we are not the writer; we do not know what was going in their head when they sat in front of a desk and wrote the story. The purpose of “killing” the author is for the sole purpose of removing the restraints that it creates on the reader and their interpretations of the text. For example: When I read the books in the series of novels written by Sherrilyn Kenyon, I don’t know what Kenyon’s intentions were. Was it to give the reader a new grasp on mythology? Was it to give the reader a sense of self confidence? Was it to turn the reader into a crazed lunatic thinking that they can become vampire hunters and get into fights, thus eventually killing themselves? Who knows? To each reader they moral of the story is different. Each and every individual takes away something else from the text. The language of the text “speaks” to the reader a different story and lets them conceive their own ideals.
By destroying the author we open up a whole new world of reading and interpreting a text. High school English classes drill the students to analyze a text based on what they know and what research they have done on the text’s author. Although this allows for limited answers in a classroom and guides the students to certain definite answers, it doesn’t allow for interpretations beyond what the teacher has said. This method doesn’t allow the students to further examine what the text could possibly mean, therefore barring their development into how their individual minds work and how they as individuals perceive things.
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