Roland Barthes as Post-Structuralist

From the beginning, Barthes has been critical of the view that bourgeoisie ideology holds that language is natural and transparent. In his structuralism he accentuates on the same point; however, his turn from a structuralist theorist to poststructuralist takes place with his belief that structuralism is not the end but can be further explained in a way that may lead to contradictory positions.  

Similar to an already famous statement that is attributed to Nietzsche, “The God is Dead,” Barthes brings his concept of the author not being the origin of the text in his famous essay: “The Death of the Author,” which also marks the beginning of his poststructuralist phase. 

Talking about his claim that author has no relation with the text once it has been written and that the text is independent and has autonomy, it seems that Barthes is reclaiming the position maintained by New Critics that the text must be analyzed by not considering author’s intention but the structure of the text.

It might seem so and, yes, up to an extent Barthes is arguing that but it is the understanding of the author where the misunderstanding begins for Barthes’ treatment of the author is entirely different than that of New Critics.

While New Critics completely remove the space of the author from their humanistic viewpoint about the reading of the text, Barthes maintains the place for the author by making him/her a junction where language meets, crosses, transmits, converts, etc.

That is also to say, in other words, that the author is treated as being a medium, to commit the mistake of simplifying it, which translates/transforms the, let’s say, culture into the text through language.

After this the author is dead and, therefore, the reader becomes the sole owner of the text, having access to interpret the text as he/she wishes. The author becomes a free agent who is independent to treat and, also, alter the process of the signification of signifier and signified.

The working of the process between signifier and signified found structuralism get further bereft of signified as the reader has the option of connecting the signifier to his own signified once the author’s intentions are removed from the analysis.