“The Author, when believed in, is always conceived of as the past of his own book: book and author stand automatically on a single line divided into a before and an after” (1324).
I think the relationship between an author and a text is mutual. For a brief example – when I’ve heard quotes from ‘unknown authors’ I have admittedly wondered who fathered such poignant/compelling/brilliant words – in an effort, or so I thought – to attribute credit to the correct source. It seems to me, particularly in today’s society, an underlying anxiety exists to properly credit an author with due respect for their work. As Barthes astutely notes, imposing an author on a text does create limits – it binds us as readers to the work of an individual – the author and the work become inextricably linked. Yet, when reading anything, I find myself questioning the penmanship of the piece – what did the author(s) experience to foster this piece of writing?
I agree with elements of the overall argument; grounding a reading of a text through the lens of the author’s historical background, biography, and intentions runs the risk of severely restricting the work itself. However, in the same facet, completely severing the author from a work also destabilizes the text. Situating a work in a broader context offers beneficial background that may function to enhance and clarify the piece.
Something invaluable exists through the ability of text to allow us to peek into different slots of time, to experience – however fleeting – a brief glimmer of life beyond one’s own. I think in these moments the author is both present and not – the experience is entirely that of the reader’s, exploring a new world for the first time, yet the attachment to the author enables that very moment to happen. Removing the author, though beneficial through detaching the text from preconceptions and implications, may ultimately hinder the work as a whole.
The assertion Barthes makes holds some weight and merits significant consideration, though accepting the theory as a whole inherently creates problems – the inverse of the problems his theory tries to avoid. Basing a work on the author imposes limits; removing the author from a text creates a new set of limits – envelopment and detachment both carry such rigidity that each inadvertently undermines the work as a whole.