Death of the Author

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See also: Authorial Intent, Word of God, Transformational Fandom
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The Death of the Author is a concept from mid-20th Century literary criticism; it holds that an author's intentions and biographical facts (the author's politics, religion, etc), or those of The Powers That Be, should hold no special weight in determining an interpretation of their writing. This is usually understood as meaning that a writer's views about their own work are no more or less valid than the interpretations of any given reader. Intentions are one thing. What was actually accomplished might be something very different. The logic behind the concept is fairly simple: Books are meant to be read, not written, so the ways readers interpret them are as important and "real" as the author's intention. On the flip side, a lot of authors are unavailable or unwilling to comment on their intentions, and even when they are, they don't always make choices for reasons that make sense or are easily explainable to others (or sometimes even to themselves).

In some ways, Death of the Author is the opposite of Affirmational Fandom. It is different from Resistant Reading.

Background

The term originated with an essay written in 1967 by "the French literary critic and theorist Roland Barthes (1915–1980)".[1]

Barthes' essay argues against traditional literary criticism's practice of incorporating the intentions and biographical context of an author in an interpretation of a text, and instead argues that writing and creator are unrelated.[1]

The essay's title "The Death of the Author (French: La mort de l'auteur) is a pun on Le Morte d'Arthur (The Death of Arthur)", the title of the Arthurian work by Sir Thomas Malory.[1]

Fandoms

Harry Potter

J.K. Rowling

The following excerpt (emphasis added) is from a statement released by Daniel Radcliffe (who played the character Harry Potter in the films) via the Trevor Project, in response to J.K. Rowling's transphobic Tweets. It seems clear that Radcliffe has a good handle on Barthe's theory and how it works in practice. The theory is straightforward and can be seen as an ideal solution in such situations. It is not always easy for a reader to separate the text from the author, but of course those who wish to are entitled to do so.

To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you. If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe, capable of overcoming anything; if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups; if you believe that a particular character is trans, nonbinary, or gender fluid, or that they are gay or bisexual; if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred. And in my opinion nobody can touch that. It means to you what it means to you and I hope that these comments will not taint that too much.[2]

Father Ted, The IT Crowd

Graham Linehan

Following his support for J.K. Rowling in June 2020, and his transphobic comments made in response to a tweet by musician Hozier in support of Trans rights, many fans of his series disassociated Linehan from the texts he had written. This included claims that Hozier wrote Father Ted.[3]

Further Reading

References

  1. ^ a b c Wikipedia page.
  2. ^ The Trevor Project: DANIEL RADCLIFFE RESPONDS TO J.K. ROWLING’S TWEETS ON GENDER IDENTITY, blog post (emphasis added) (June 8, 2020); archived link
  3. ^ Tweet - Hozier wrote Father Ted now. June 10 2020. Influenced by Linehan attacking Hozier for his tweet in support of Trans people and Hozier's response