U75184 Subject to Culture The Writing Subject Barthes, R. (1977). The Death of the Author. In: Image-Music-Text. Heath, S., trans. London: Fontana, pp. 142-48. (1) What is the original French title of Barthes’ essay? (2) Barthes opens his essay with the following quotation from the nineteenth century novelist Balzac: “This was woman herself, with her sudden fears, her irrational whims, her instinctive worries, her impetuous boldness, her fussings, and her delicious sensibility.” Barthes suggests five possibilities as to who is making this statement. Who are they (p. 142)? (3) What does Barthes mean when he says that “in ethnographic societies the responsibility for a narrative is never assumed by a person” (p. 142)? (4) How do we think about the origins of texts today (p. 143)? (5) How is the temporal relation between author and book ordinarily conceived (p. 145)? (6) How are things different now, according to Barthes? How is writing, temporally at least, like a performative (pp. 145-46)? (7) In what sense, then, have we moved from expression to inscription (p. 146)? (8) What does Barthes mean when he says that “a text is ... a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture.” (p. 146-47) (9) What role has literary criticism traditionally assigned to itself (p. 147)? (10) What does Barthes mean when he says that “in the multiplicity of writing, everything is to be disentangled, nothing deciphered”, that “the space of writing is to be ranged over, not pierced” (p. 147)? (11) In what sense is this an “anti-theological activity” (p. 147)? (12) In what sense does “the death of the Author” permit “the birth of the reader” (p. 148)? What does Barthes mean by this? (13) Finally, what are the implications of Barthes’ essay for our selves? What kind of subjectivity do writers and readers have? What are the implications of Barthes’ essay for someone writing or reading a Hypomnemata or Life in a Day?
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