Monday, March 8, 2010

Roland Barthes' The Death of the Author

The Death of the Author serves as a bridge between The Intentional Fallacy and The Expressive Fallacy. While it acknowledges the fallacy of the supreme idea of the author’s intention, as Wimsatt and Beardsley do, he takes it a step further and acknowledges the fallacy of the supreme idea of The Author. To steal from my summary, “the text is a tissue of quotations from centuries.” Basically, the point Barthes in making with this, and overall, is that, as we—ourselves—are the product of many ideas and environments, so too is the personality of the author, the personality that is doing the writing. It follows from here then that if the author is a subjective being made of experiences and the same histories the rest of us share, then his “text is a tissue of quotations,” and as such he holds no authority over our own, the reader’s. in short, “The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author.”

What I find interesting about this is the idea of a shared and constructed history. In modernism there is an idea of universiality of a cultural path; the common view is that all civilizations are on the same cultural path of development and some are at different stages of it. While this is solely western construction describing its own cultural history and ultimately (universally) false, what is true is that true history is universal. Not subjective, written and noted history, but objective history, as it happened outside of subjective experience. Getting back on track, objective history is what constructs us through way of subjective experience which blend together in a unique subjective individual, and through intentionality, our (subjective) consciousness is added to the objective world (history) through way of language, writing and action. As Merleau-Ponty says, our body is a “ground zero,” existing in the physical, objective world, yet housing and expressing our own inner subjective consciousness. What I’m trying to get at is that objective history and reality shapes us, our subjectivity, and ultimately that constructed subjectivity puts back into the physical, objective reality (history). We construct objective history with our actions and the passing of time, and yet this objective history is what constructs us.

So, if we construct an objectivity that constructs our own subjectivity, this objective history becomes, in essence, an essence, an entity. An entity which does exist outside of us, but exists as the sum of us. It is an entity which reaches into us as we reach into it, and is ultimately the ether that connects us all. I want to reiterate that history can indeed be subjective, as it exists in history books that are rewritten and re-interpreted, and this subjective form of history exists in all of us, in our personal history and personal view of history. But objective history exists in the realm of passing time, in what happened simultaneously everywhere at one precise moment in time after another and after another. For example, the web 2.0 is an entity which exists as a product constructed entirely by us, yet the information input to it from different people ultimately reaches and affects us. We then in turn are changed, and input more data, which changes the web 2.0 and all other users, and so on and back and forth, vice versa, etc in a incessant cycle. Yet if we take the internet in its entirety, it is an entity, an objective entity made up of facts(and not facts) which is ever evolving as (and with) us.

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