The individual thought is open to manifold possibilities the written words can evoke or drive away. If we imagine the reader’s thought as the big full light of a reflector, then every reading is a black sheet wherein some spaces are open, and after the sheet is put on the light, a part only of the thoughts remains possible. Changing reading is changing the sheet. Instead, writing an interpretation is putting a second sheet in addition to the first; less thoughts will remain possible: only the ones that will find the coincidence between the holes in the two sheets. It’s in this way that the interpretation of a work can shut its horizons, dimishing the possibilities it can match. In this sense, shutting a text is in itself neither good nor evil. If one likes the chances remained open then he will be happy they are more evident, and vice versa.

A competent functionary of the power, equipped with a long term vision, will be concerned about promoting global visions coherent with his interests, choosing the interpretations suitable with friendly thoughts. And the literary critic will be welcome to the political parts of which he shares the values scheme. Barthes, who has no liking for “the system”, takes a stand opposed to this lie of the land.

I can’t say whether the historical premises Barthes makes use of suffice for supporting his reasoning, or if they are valid as an introduction only, but even with these doubts about the roots of his reflection, it’s clearly possible to see its effect: the death of the author works as a slogan for disconnecting the author’s past from the tissue of the text, in order to contest the literary criticism and foster a synchronic reading.[2]
Literary criticism that Barthes takes aim to produces interpretations of a diachronic type:[3] they bring back the value of the literary work to the past dynamycs that generated it, with a route that traces back from the writing to the author’s supposed purposes. Then, if the ground where the critic browses are the author’s will routes, here is Barthes building a scriptor equipped with a Here and Now only, lacking any intention; a sort of bare procedural skill. Making the author die, Barthes breaks the critic’s toy.


Beyond the premises and the consequences of the death of the author, it is worth while to make some observations about the way it structures itself. The author’s elimination is first of all articulated as a refuse of the time before writing, during which the author conceives the work, making the scriptor’s existence coincident with the writing act.

“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.”

“In complete contrast, the modern scriptor is born simultaneously with the text, is in no way equipped with a being preceding or exceeding the writing, is not the subject with the book as predicate; there is no other time than that of the enunciation and every text is eternally written here and now.”

This emphasis put on the writing moment can even produce a certain enthusiasm into the reader, who can project himself in a writing modality grazing the sacred dimension, but this excitement is doomed to lessen when we see Barthes reducing the writer’s skills to a mere recombination of pre-existing elements, expressly depriving him of any personal emotional content.

“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.”

“Succeeding the Author, the scriptor no longer bears within him passions, humours, feelings, impressions…”

Barthes is capable in preparing its entering in the scene, but the concept of scriptor is unbearable when one compares it with the historical complexity of the real individual who produced the work. The refuse of the duration can be ascribed (forcing a bit the hand) to the moment only when it occurs the definition of the exact words forming the text, but not to the entire creation process, that, besides, sees the author becoming the reader of himself with the purpose of accomplishing a validation or a self-criticism. In the process of setting up the literary device the author can’t be considered independent from his own history. The only way for having a likely scriptor, is intending him as a subpart of the real author, as a sort of mental microclimate typical of the writing moment.


Reading Barthes’ article, one perceives the need for a major impersonality; this term can be intended as the replacement of a cumbersome and monolithic I with a fleeting and manifold creature. As a consequence, the author does no more enter intrusively in the writing, but occupies himself handling a variety of mechanisms that will give rise to the beauty of the words tissue, accompanied by  the awareness of his own specific identity acquired by experience.
But in Barthes’ writing i see a corrupt version of impersonality, asking us to throw away our history, both as writers and as readers. It’s a request that hardly can get a positive answer.


Unfolding the death of the author, Barthes maintains that narrated stories are other than the stories of the author’s life, and that the main narration line is not close fitting the author’s lived. Consequently he values inconsistent the practice, made by the literary critic, of deciphering the narrative line, leading it back to that lived.
But, even if there is no direct transfer of author’s stories into the text, there must be an author’s specificity passing into the work. Otherwise, the authors would be barely equal one each other. Therefore, strictly speaking, it always subsists the possibility to set up an interpretation of the writing tracing back to the specific features of its origin.


Altogether the death of the author seems to me a controversial issue[4]. As readers, the best use we can make of this image, is conceiving it as an invitation to temporarily set aside the causes of the past, symbolized by the author.
In doing so one creates the premises for losing himself in the present time, interpreting the writing according to the relations between the parts, avoiding any reference to an elsewhere. This way of giving trust to the text favours creativeness, in the same extent that the reflection works on fully available structures and is not broken off for the need of a search in the traces of the past, to verify the causal lines. The disadvantage, obvious, is that one gives up with certifying and enriching the analysis with the information content of the past.
About me, progress consists in finding the qualitative factors that can point out the right moment for breaking the synchronic analysis switching to a diachronic check. Eager to make immersions in the various localities of Here and Now, we need a method that indicates when it’s time for going back to the global context of History.[5] [6] Registered & Protected

  1. [1]This article contains my reflections about “The Death of the Author” by Roland Barthes, 1968. “Image, music, text” 1977 Pagg 142-148 publisher: Fontana, Londra – ISBN/ISSN: 0006861350 – Translated by S. Heath. You can find the pdf here:
  2. [2]That examines the present time without recurring to the past events, and hence to the becoming.
  3. [3]Extended in time; considering the present in relation to how it originated itself from the past.
  4. [4]In example I, as an author, am not very inclined to commit suicide.
  5. [5]It’s clear the movement between History and Here and Now localities happens many times; it’s not a single isolated event.
  6. [6]This reflection has been introduced referring to the reader role, but it does not exhaust itself in this compass.