Another way in which the author's death theme has gained acceptance is through the proliferation of commentary on the power of the reader. Critics from Landow to Barthes have noted how readers increasingly are given powers formerly thought to be the sole right of the author--making choices about how and what to read, and what an author's words mean.
Theories (or movements) like reader response theory, which focuses on the reader as creator, not only of meaning but of reality, have furthered the attack on the traditional author. Reader response theory links inextricably the work to the reader, perhaps going as far as to say the work will not exist without a reader, an audience. This movement, which "became recognized as a distinct critical movement only in the 1970s, when it found a particularly congenial political climate in the growing anti-authoritarianism within the academy"(Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism) became in reality not just anti-authoritarian, but anti-author. But, to borrow Derrida's critique on binary oppositions, why must a powerful reader preclude the author's existence? Cannot both exist and indeed aid each other?
return to author's death
move on to author's life