“The Death of the Author” – Roland Barthes (1967)

1960s: Days of Rage


Ecclesiastes famously warns us that ‘Of making many books there is no end’ – the same, of course, applies to book commentaries. George Steiner has long denounced the ‘mandarin madness of secondary discourse’ which increasingly interposes itself between readers and works of fiction. For better or worse, the internet – with its myriad book sites – has taken this phenomenon to a whole new level. Since Aristotle’s Poetics, literature has always given rise to its exegesis, but now that no scrap of literary gossip goes untweeted, it may be time to reflect a little on the activity of literary criticism. I have chosen to inaugurate this series with a few considerations on ‘The Death of the Author’ because of its truly iconic nature: it symbolises the rise of what would come to be known as “theory”. Even if he never names them, Roland Barthes (like Proust before…

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