I have never found Barthes works particularly accessible, although I persevered with Camera Lucida and enjoyed it very much. For this reason I felt I should read his short essay La mort de l’auteur, a pun I beleive on Le Morte d’Arthur.
Referred to in the course materials by its English name, The Death of the Author, this appeared to be an important text in understanding a postmodern approach to narrative.
I have explored the idea of the postmodern in the past and have a rudimentary understanding around the notions of postmodernism, particularly with regard to architecture, is an entirely but postmodern literature is a new concept to me.
Well I have to say it wasn’t an easy read and I wonder whether this is down to the translation. It has a particularly dynamic and fast paced cadence that overloaded me with concepts and ideas in sharp succession which frankly left me floundering. In part because I was still trying to comprehend what had just been said when along came another concept or idea!
I did persevere and read it several times and I have come to what is probably a superficial and personal interpretation of what I think Barthes is saying.
An important theme for me was the idea of the primacy of the reader rather than the ‘authority of the author’. Barthes suggests that too often the biography, politics and wider knowledge of the author has an influence on the reader and how a work is interpreted.
‘ the explanation of the work is always sought in the man who produced it’ (pp2)
There is a sort of liberation for the reader if the author is merely seen as a ‘scriptor’, with authority removed. There are also references to a non linear narrative and the idea that writing can be a multifaceted medium.
‘We know a text does not consist of a line of words, releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning(the message of the Author-God) but is a space of many dimensions, in which are wedge and contested various kinds of writing’ (pp4)
There is clearly much more to this work but I took from this that within a text there can be layers of meaning which are independent of the author and their intent.
I guess my big questions is how can I think about this in terms of making images. I would argue that a photograph however well constructed by the photographer can be widely interpreted by the viewer. Text can anchor a work, but even then a viewer can choose not to read or agree with the text!
I need to consider the ideas of the non linear, layered narrative as I make sets of images that I want to be coherent, but might not need to conform to serial thinking!
Barthes, R. (1967) The Death of the Author. Found at: http://www.tbook.constantvzw.org/wp-content/death_authorbarthes.pdf (Accessed June 2016)