In his first paragraph Barthes uses Balzac's Sarrasine's castrato character's inner voice to examine who's really doing the talking in a written work, since there are layers of meaning in the identity within the particular quote. One of my favorite aspects of post-modernist literature is its playfulness with the notion of authorship and recursive identity within a given work. John Barth's "Giles Goat Boy," a favorite and seminal work for me, starts with a forward deliberately attempting to put the authorship of the book into question (it is supposedly a 'discovered' manuscript of debatable origin). But Barthes claim "We shall never know (the author), for the good reason that writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin." It's a good point in a theoretical way, like the idea within Information Theory that the maximum amount of information that can be carried is with white noise (which by the way, is only a single construct within Information Theory, necessary to build other constructs on the formation of information within a signal). However, contending that we can never know, and that the text exists in a "negative oblique space where" everything slips away stands at odds with the practical reality that if the author and the author's creative genius wasn't there, the text would not exist in the first place. One could allow that Barthes' point of view is suggestive and not absolute, or that it promotes a point of view to help shade meanings on traditional critical methods, but he's constantly painting himself into corners with absolute statements. He doesn't limit his point of view to contemporary authorship, or even to the author as a modern figure emerging from the middle ages. He states that "No doubt it (the loss of identity of the author in a negative oblique space) has always been this way", that as soon as narration occurs "the author enters into his own death". Barthes' claims that the author is a modern construct that emerges from the Middle Ages, implying that before that time authorship was assumed by a mediator, shaman or performer, and not coming from genius. But what about the ancient Greek Tragidians, like Aeschylus, or Roman pornographers, like Patronius and his Satyricon? As a form, the novel may be modern but not the author nor the notion of a genius within the author. Barthes makes a valid and important point that Capitalism's relationship with the author is as a unique commodifiable object. It make me think of the profoundly capitalist notion of "branding", as in the Mickey Mouse brand to Walt Disney. It's also reasonable to place classical criticism at the service of Capitalism, which provides an excellent motive for placing the "branded" author at the center of a critical approach. And is it correct to see a creative work as existing solely in the context of the author, even to the extent of not placing the content of the work outside of the context of the author's personal life up to that point. It makes sense that some authors have become recluses, like Salinger and Pynchon, who prefer to let their work stand on its own. In fact the notion of a creative work "standing on its own" is what strikes me to be the appropriate post-modernist attitude to take regarding a creative work relative to its creator, and as an approach does not require the destruction of the author. Barthes states that "it goes without saying that certain writers have long since attempted to loosen" the sway of the Author. No doubt, but if you destroy the validity of the author as a creative center, one who either brings works into the world from some unconscious place of 'genius' as I believe, or out of a "tissue of signs" or quotations and a "mosaic of other activated texts' or drawn from an "immense dictionary" as Barthes contends, you still don't have to kill off the creator. Who constructed the "tissue of signs" or the "mosaic" or read the "immense dictionary" to begin with?...
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