Barthes creates a distinction between authors and writers by saying that "the author performs a function, the writer an activity (A & W, 186)." The distinction is a subtle one, but an important one. In very simple terms, the author is something more profound than a writer. Barthes even creates such an analogy by positing the author onto the role of priest and and the writer onto that of the clerk.
Language is key for Barthes, as it is with Bakhtin and Derrida, and it is language that helps Barthes to distinguish between authorship and writing. The author identifies his being with that of language. The writer, who has a goal (as Barthes says, "to give evidence, to explain, to instruct"), uses language as a means (A & W, 189). The writer does not focus on language; he merely uses it. The writer "does not admit that his message is reflexive, that it closes over itself, and that we can read in it, diacritically anything else but what he means" (A & W, 189-90). The writer writes to solve such ambiguities. The author, on the other hand, is aware of the ambiguities inherent in his language, and is thus prepared for the multiple readings and meanings that his writing will no doubt spawn.
See the Opening Remarks
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