“Similar to Bouvard and Pechet, those eternal copyists, at once sublime and comic and whose profound ridiculousness indicates precisely the truth of writing, the writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them” (1324).
An interesting aspect to this section, I felt, was how Barthes is first labeling those writers who copy other writers as “ridiculous,” but then goes against this and says that all writers are essential “copyists,” and are channeling a sense of what other writers had done before them. It seems, in a sense, he is saying there is absolutely no creativity and that every writer is only writing down information they had once heard or already know from other people and channeling it onto the page.
I take qualms with a few of Barthes’ claims, and at the same time, see how his assertions can be used constructively with theory and reading literature. In a sense, I feel that in a contemporary academic sense, students of literature have been trained to read in this fashion. Reading the text apart from the authorial intent, considering we will never fully know authorial intent, allows us to attach meaning to the text apart from social or historical context (unless you want to). But, I would venture to say you can never fully detach the author from the text in the sense that you have to know some aspects of historical and social context that the book is placed in order to attach meaning. This type of post-structural reading of texts allows a variety of meaning to influence the reader while taking up a piece of literature and attach their own meaning to the literature.
Also, I would venture to say that Barthes’s theory is just that, a theory. If he truly wanted to convince everyone of this concept he would have published the essay blank so that no author could be attached to his theory. I would really be impressed if that were the case.