Roland Barthes: The Post-Structuralist Perspective

Roland Barthes as Post-Structuralist

From the beginning, Roland Barthes has been critical of the view that bourgeois ideology holds, which asserts that language is natural and transparent. In his structuralist phase, he emphasizes this point. However, his transition from a structuralist theorist to a poststructuralist takes place with his belief that structuralism is not the endpoint but can be further explored, leading to contradictory positions.

The Death of the Author

Similar to the famous statement attributed to Nietzsche, "God is Dead," Barthes introduces his concept of "The Death of the Author" in his renowned essay. This marks the beginning of his poststructuralist phase.

Challenging the Role of the Author

Barthes contests the notion that the author is the sole origin and authority of the text after it has been written. He asserts that the text is independent and possesses autonomy. This idea may seem aligned with the stance maintained by New Critics, who emphasize analyzing the structure of the text rather than considering the author's intention.

Redefining the Author's Role

However, Barthes' treatment of the author differs significantly from that of the New Critics. While the New Critics completely remove the author's space from their humanistic viewpoint of reading a text, Barthes acknowledges the author's presence by considering them as a junction where language meets, crosses, transmits, and converts.

In other words, Barthes views the author as a medium that translates and transforms culture into the text through language.

Empowering the Reader

After this transformative process, the author becomes "dead," and the reader emerges as the sole owner of the text, having the freedom to interpret it as they wish. The author becomes a free agent, independent of the text, and capable of altering the process of signification between signifier and signified.

Reimagining the Relationship Between Signifier and Signified

Barthes' poststructuralist perspective challenges structuralism further by asserting that the relationship between signifier and signified loses its fixed meaning. In the absence of the author's intentions, readers can connect the signifier to their own signified, leading to multiple interpretations of the text.

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