Starting with the Death of the Author

Interesting new column at The Guardian that is an “occasional series about the most influential literary theory.” So they start with some Barthes:

La nouvelle critique was flavour of the month, much like its culinary counterpart, nouvelle cuisine, albeit more of a mouthful. Critics-cum-thinkers such as Barthes himself – who was equally at home at the lofty Collège de France or down the trendy Le Palace nightclub – achieved bona fide celebrity status. Their works often became bestsellers in spite of their demanding and iconoclastic nature. Soon, NME journalists were peppering their articles with arcane references to Baudrillard while Scritti Politti dedicated a postmodern ditty to Jacques Derrida. The whole movement seemed as provocative, and indeed exciting, as Brigitte Bardot in her slinky, sex kitten heyday. Its defining moment was the publication of a racy little number called “The Death of the Author”.

As if mimicking one of its central themes, Roland Barthes’s article first featured in an American journal in 1967: the original (an English translation of a French text) was thus, in effect, already a copy. With a nice sense of historical timing, it appeared in the critic’s homeland in the quasi-insurrectionary context of the 1968 student protests. As it was only anthologised much later (first in Image-Music-Text in 1977 and then in The Rustle of Language in 1984), the essay was photocopied and distributed samizdat-fashion on campuses all over the world, which enhanced its subversive appeal.

Great start. The series looks promising.



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Wow, this does look promising. Barthes is an excellent way to begin. I will definitely look forward to more articles from The Guardian.

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