Book Reviews

Capitalist Society of West and Roland Barthes: “Death of the Author”

This essay by Roland Barthes is a direct critique of the sturdy thought of the west. It is provoking the idea against the unification of the west in comparison with other countries.

Introduction and Background of the essay

The essay is a condensed expression of Barthes developing a post-structuralist expression for the matter of reading, writing, and the connection between texts and signs which comprise them. Barthes’s focus on the reading system has aligned his essay with the significant works of post-structuralism. Another aspect that makes this essay a part of post-structuralism is the presence of theory of the text and intertextuality.

The ideas of this essay reflects the radical theoretical journal, Tel Quel. In this journal, he argues that utilizing the figure of the author to alleviate meaning is to join the idea of the modern west for itself. This modern western society presents itself as a unified, irrefutable meaning or truth.

The method of reading

Barthes begins this essay by taking the instance of the Sarrasine. It is a novel by Balzac about a take of the sculptor and his loved one. Barthes claims that this text contains a series of expletives about femininity. Still, the writers cannot contribute to the conscious intentions of the narrator, character, and author and even to the universal wisdom.

His work “From Work to Text” consists of a vibrant definition of his post-structuralist theory of text. He regards work as the fragment of the subject occupying space of books. However, the British essay writers assert that the text is the composition of meanings that a reader abstract from work.

Ideas of Foucault on the same subject

According to Jonathan Culler, Barthes was the thinker of contradictory reasons. Michael Foucault has argued in his essay “What is an Author?” that author is the ideological figure through which one can learn how readers are afraid of the proliferation of the meaning of the text. It is a thematical essay published in the same year of Barthes’ publication of his essay. Hence, the critique of Barthes for the existence of the author is also concerned with how he imparts limitation and subjugates the meaning.

Barthes wrote Death of the Author in a very effective tone. However, there were allegations by Jean-Luc Picard that affects the reputation of the work. Barthes wrote this enormous work during the anti-establishment uprisings in 1968.

The quality of reading

Barthes argued about the quality of reading that its effectiveness depends upon human psychology and deferment of predetermined ideas about a particular character. The text itself pretends to be a set of assumptions that it will reveal to be imprudent. For Barthes, it is a language that speaks with the reader, not the author. Hence for him, the universe’s system composes the author, the text, and the reader.

According to this point of view, Barthes, the author, works as an anchor of the literary works signifier in the capitalist society. The author’s position is at the centre of the work. He is the figure towards which all the understanding of material aims itself. Hence, Barthes writes the explanation of the work is still sought in the person of its producer. Thus, whether it is a transparent material of fiction, it will always have the author’s assurance.

The Birth of a critic

This philosopher is rejoicing the Birth of the reader in his innovative essay. He explores the significance of freeing the reading process from the constraints of devotion to an origin, identity, or any other internal or external realization. The explanation of textuality present in this work reflects the transition between structuralism and post-structuralism.

For Barthes and his companions of the vanguard, the text deserves no value. The reason for this attribution is that it can be “manhandled” or disrupted. Hence, The Death of the Author turns out to be based on elimination rather than the murder of the author’s life. However, experts critiqued that the work is a product to be “consumed,” and the text is an invention that is “produced.”

Authority of the Author

Barthes provides his idea for the author’s authority upon the text by asserting that he has a similar sort of antecedence with the text as the child has with his father. As Barthes claims in his essay, the author is supposed to feed the book, i.e., he lives before it, thinks, suffers, lives for it. Hence the figure of the author is designed to provide a precise meaning to the text, through which his works can be decrypted.

It is a myth about the author, which is appropriate for the capitalist ideas of reading. The author designs text in a way that a reader must explores the text to get its meaning. However, one cannot belittle the work of the author. The essay, Death of the Author is different from academic essay writing, however, it is considered the best work of Barthes life.


This text is a radical celebration of plurality and infinite play meaning. In this essay, the author demonstrates the reading of western thought from an utterly innovative perspective. It is upon the readers from which perspective they will perceive the text. This article will be helpful for booklovers to determine whether this essay is worth it for readers.


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