On authorship - Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes

The ambiguity of the text



The author cannot make the words express exactly what he means in all instances, thus the constant "quibbling and confrontations that a writer generates between himself and his text" (Foucault, 117).

Furthermore, the text takes on a life of its own once written; it "becomes its own end" (Barthes, 187) - the meaning becomes encompassed in the words themselves. What the reader takes away from the the text therefore becomes 2 folds away - he takes his understanding from the text, which in turn is a version of the author's meaning and intentions.

There are important implications to this. Because of the dissimilarity of the author and his text, there is an effective "effacement of the individual characteristics of the writer" and a cancelling of "the signs of his particular individuality" (Foucault, 117). The author thus becomes a "victim of his own writing" (Foucault, 117) - he and his ideas disappear in the ambiguity of the text.


Diary extract